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    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) kicks off the meeting in Valencia, Spain, which will result in the production of the Synthesis Report on climate change. The report will summarize the core findings of the three volumes published earlier by the separate working groups. IPCC - November 12, 2007.

    Biopact's Laurens Rademakers is interviewed by Mongabay on the risks of large-scale bioenergy with carbon storage (BECS) proposals. Even though Biopact remains positive about BECS, because it offers one of the few safe systems to mitigate climate change in a drastic way, care must be take to avoid negative impacts on tropical forests. Mongabay - November 10, 2007.

    According to the latest annual ranking produced by The Scientist, Belgium is the world's best country for academic research, followed by the U.S. and Canada. Belgium's top position is especially relevant for plant, biology, biotechnology and bioenergy research, as these are amongst the science fields on which it scores best. The Scientist - November 8, 2007.

    Mascoma Corporation, a cellulosic ethanol company, today announced the acquisition of Celsys BioFuels, Inc. Celsys BioFuels was formed in 2006 to commercialize cellulosic ethanol production technology developed in the Laboratory of Renewable Resources Engineering at Purdue University. The Celsys technology is based on proprietary pretreatment processes for multiple biomass feedstocks, including corn fiber and distiller grains. The technology was developed by Dr. Michael Ladisch, an internationally known leader in the field of renewable fuels and cellulosic biofuels. He will be taking a two-year leave of absence from Purdue University to join Mascoma as the company’s Chief Technology Officer. Business Wire - November 7, 2007.

    Bemis Company, Inc. announced today that it will partner with Plantic Technologies Limited, an Australian company specializing in starch-based biopolymers, to develop and sell renewably resourced flexible films using patented Plantic technology. Bemis - November 7, 2007.

    Hungary's Kalocsa Hõerõmû Kft is to build a HUF 40 billion (€158.2 million) straw-fired biomass power plant with a maximum capacity of 49.9 megawatts near Kalocsa in southern Hungary. Portfolio Hungary - November 7, 2007.

    Canada's Gemini Corporation has received approval to proceed into the detailed engineering, fabrication and construction phases of a biogas cogeneration facility located in the Lethbridge, Alberta area, the first of its kind whereby biogas production is enhanced through the use of Thermal Hydrolysis technology, a high temperature, high pressure process for the safe destruction of SRM material from the beef industry. The technology enables a facility to redirect waste material, previously shipped to landfills, into a valuable feedstock for the generation of electricity and thermal energy. This eliminates the release of methane into the environment and the resultant solids are approved for use as a land amendment rather than re-entering the waste stream. In addition, it enhances the biogas production process by more than 25%. Market Wire - November 7, 2007.

    A new Agency to manage Britain's commitment to biofuels was established today by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. The Renewable Fuels Agency will be responsible for the day to day running of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, coming into force in April next year. By 2010, the Obligation will mean that 5% of all the fuels sold in the UK should come from biofuels, which could save 2.6m to 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. eGov Monitor - November 5, 2007.

    Prices for prompt loading South African coal cargoes reached a new record last week with a trade at $85.00 a tonne free-on-board (FOB) for a February cargo. Strong Indian demand and tight supply has pushed South African prices up to record levels from around $47.00 at the beginning of the year. European DES/CIF ARA coal prices have remained fairly stable over the past few days, having traded up to a record $130.00 a tonne DES ARA late last week. Fair value is probably just below $130.00 a tonne, traders said. At this price, some forms of biomass become directly competitive with coal. Reuters Africa - November 4, 2007.

    The government of India's Harayana state has decided to promote biomass power projects based on gasification in a move to help rural communities replace costly diesel and furnace oil. The news was announced during a meeting of the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA). Six pilot plants have demonstrated the efficiency and practicability of small-scale biomass gasification. Capital subsidies will now be made available to similar projects at the rate of Rs 2.5 lakh (€4400) per 100 KW for electrical applications and Rs 2 lakh (€3500) per 300 KW for thermal applications. New Kerala - November 1, 2007.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

GBEP calls for a Biopact: US/EU must open markets for biofuels from the South

The Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP) which released its comprehensive report on the current status of bioenergy today, says the conflict between growing crops for food versus biofuels is artificial and can be resolved if the United States, Europe and other rich countries drop protectionist policies and work with developing nations to increase the use of the eco-friendly fuels. The GBEP thus joins a growing group of organisations calling for a win-win 'Biopact' between the wealthy and the developing countries.

Fears that the rising demand for biofuels is contributing to a global surge in food prices are founded, but such pitfalls can be avoided if top energy consumers invest in efficient crops grown in tropical nations, promote research and encourage the biofuel trade, said Corrado Clini, chairman of the GBEP.

FAO Assistant Director-General Alexander Muller joined Clini in pinpointing the core of the problem:
In Europe and the United States the production of biofuels is only possible because there are tariffs. What data shows us is that the biggest potential is in the developing world. - FAO Assistant Director-General Alexander Muller
Indeed, both Africa and Latin America have a vast potential to produce biofuels sustainably. These data are well known by now. According to the International Energy Agency's Bioenergy Task 40, these two regions alone can produce more than 500 Exajoules of bioenergy for exports by 2050, in an explicitly sustainable way; that is, after all the food, fiber and fodder needs for rapidly growing populations are met, and without any deforestation (previous post, here and a look at Africa's sustainable potential). In theory, there is no reason whatsoever for a conflict between food and fuel production.

Internationally shared rules on production could thus ensure that biofuel crops do not damage the environment by substituting forests and other sensitive ecosystems, Clini said at the World Energy Congress in Rome, a brainstorming forum that runs through Thursday. With oil prices soaring, biofuels from corn, palm oil, sugar cane and other agricultural products are increasingly seen as a cheap and cleaner alternative to fossil fuels.

Clini said that food prices are rising in part due to unfavorable climate conditions, an increasing population and a growing demand for meat and animal feed. Biofuels also are contributing to the hikes but mainly because the EU and the United States are subsidizing domestic production of crops like corn that offer low efficiency when turned into fuel and compete with other foodstuffs for large swathes of land in these already densely populated areas, Clini said.

Sugarcane-based biofuel, an approach favored by other big biofuel producers like Brazil, offers greater energy efficiency and is made with a crop that can be grown in unused lands in many tropical countries, contributing to their development, he told reporters. "It takes four times more maize than sugar cane to produce the same amount of energy," the GBEP chairman added.

Trade barriers key problem
Rich countries should invest in biofuel production in developing nations and liberalize the international trade, which is still burdened by high tariffs put in place to protect European and American farmers from the cheaper fuel produced abroad, the chairman said:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The United States and the EU are blocking attempts to significantly reduce tariffs on biofuels by including them among "environmental goods" as part of the stalled Doha round talks at the World Trade Organization.

Amid stiff opposition from farmers, American and European officials have rejected the proposal, saying that the special environmental tariff rules were reserved solely for industrial goods, and not agricultural products.

Clini noted that the EU and the United States will need imports if they are to meet ambitious goals set for biofuel use as part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. Congress is examining a proposal mandating the use of 35 billion gallons, or 132 billion liters a year of "alternative" fuels, mostly ethanol, by 2017 and European leaders have decided that at least 10 percent of fuels in the bloc will come from biofuels by 2020.

Clini heads the GBEP, a group that works to develop bioenergy in G-8 countries and in five other big producers. On Tuesday, the group presented a joint report on the state of bioenergy with the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, one of the most vocal agencies in calling attention to the potential downsides of biofuels.

"In Europe and the United States the production of biofuels is only possible because there are tariffs," said FAO Assistant Director-General Alexander Muller. "What data shows us is that the biggest potential is in the developing world."

Clini said that besides opening up to trade, rich countries should invest money used for subsidies in research on so called second-generation biofuels. He said these cellulose-based fuels can be made with a variety of plants and organic waste, eliminating at the root the conflict with food production.

International Herald Tribune: Bioenergy group criticizes U.S., European approach to biofuels - November 13, 2007.

Biopact: FAO chief calls for a 'Biopact' between the North and the South - August 15, 2007

Biopact: IEA chief economist: EU, US should scrap tariffs and subsidies, import biofuels from the South - March 06, 2007

Biopact: IEA report: bioenergy can meet 20 to 50% of world's future energy demand - September 12, 2007

Biopact: IEA study: large potential for biomass trade, under different scenarios - May 13, 2007

Biopact: A look at Africa's biofuels potential - July 30, 2006


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