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    According to the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), Brazil's production of sugarcane will increase from 514,1 million tonnes this season, to a record 561,8 million tonnes in the 2008/09 cyclus - an increase of 9.3%. New numbers are also out for the 2007 harvest in Brazil's main sugarcane growing region, the Central-South: a record 425 million tonnes compared to 372,7 million tonnes in 2006, or a 14% increase. The estimate was provided by Unica – the União da Indústria de Cana-de-Açúcar. Jornal Cana - December 16, 2007.

    The University of East Anglia and the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre have today released preliminary global temperature figures for 2007, which show the top 11 warmest years all occurring in the last 13 years. The provisional global figure for 2007 using data from January to November, currently places the year as the seventh warmest on records dating back to 1850. The announcement comes as the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud, speaks at the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bali. Eurekalert - December 13, 2007.

    The Royal Society of Chemistry has announced it will launch a new journal in summer 2008, Energy & Environmental Science, which will distinctly address both energy and environmental issues. In recognition of the importance of research in this subject, and the need for knowledge transfer between scientists throughout the world, from launch the RSC will make issues of Energy & Environmental Science available free of charge to readers via its website, for the first 18 months of publication. This journal will highlight the important role that the chemical sciences have in solving the energy problems we are facing today. It will link all aspects of energy and the environment by publishing research relating to energy conversion and storage, alternative fuel technologies, and environmental science. AlphaGalileo - December 10, 2007.

    Dutch researcher Bas Bougie has developed a laser system to investigate soot development in diesel engines. Small soot particles are not retained by a soot filter but are, however, more harmful than larger soot particles. Therefore, soot development needs to be tackled at the source. Laser Induced Incandescence is a technique that reveals exactly where soot is generated and can be used by project partners to develop cleaner diesel engines. Terry Meyer, an Iowa State University assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is using similar laser technology to develop advanced sensors capable of screening the combustion behavior and soot characteristics specifically of biofuels. Eurekalert - December 7, 2007.

    Lithuania's first dedicated biofuel terminal has started operating in Klaipeda port. At the end of November 2007, the stevedoring company Vakaru krova (VK) started activities to manage transshipments. The infrastructure of the biodiesel complex allows for storage of up to 4000 cubic meters of products. During the first year, the terminal plans to transship about 70.000 tonnes of methyl ether, after that the capacities of the terminal would be increased. Investments to the project totaled €2.3 million. Agrimarket - December 5, 2007.

    New Holland supports the use of B100 biodiesel in all equipment with New Holland-manufactured diesel engines, including electronic injection engines with common rail technology. Overall, nearly 80 percent of the tractor and equipment manufacturer's New Holland-branded products with diesel engines are now available to operate on B100 biodiesel. Tractor and equipment maker John Deere meanwhile clarified its position for customers that want to use biodiesel blends up to B20. Grainnet - December 5, 2007.

    According to Wetlands International, an NGO, the Kyoto Protocol as it currently stands does not take into account possible emissions from palm oil grown on a particular type of land found in Indonesia and Malaysia, namely peatlands. Mongabay - December 5, 2007.

    Malaysia's oil & gas giant Petronas considers entering the biofuels sector. Zamri Jusoh, senior manager of Petronas' petroleum development management unit told reporters "of course our focus is on oil and gas, but I think as we move into the future we cannot ignore the importance of biofuels." AFP - December 5, 2007.

    In just four months, the use of biodiesel in the transport sector has substantially improved air quality in Metro Manila, data from the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed. A blend of one percent coco-biodiesel is mandated by the Biofuels Act of 2007 which took effect last May. By 2009, it would be increased to two percent. Philippine Star - December 4, 2007.

    Kazakhstan will next year adopt laws to regulate its fledgling biofuel industry and plans to construct at least two more plants in the next 18 months to produce environmentally friendly fuel from crops, industry officials said. According to Akylbek Kurishbayev, vice-minister for agriculture, he Central Asian country has the potential to produce 300,000 tons a year of biodiesel and export half. Kazakhstan could also produce up to 1 billion liters of bioethanol, he said. "The potential is huge. If we use this potential wisely, we can become one of the world's top five producers of biofuels," Beisen Donenov, executive director of the Kazakhstan Biofuels Association, said on the sidelines of a grains forum. Reuters - November 30, 2007.

    SRI Consulting released a report on chemicals from biomass. The analysis highlights six major contributing sources of green and renewable chemicals: increasing production of biofuels will yield increasing amounts of biofuels by-products; partial decomposition of certain biomass fractions can yield organic chemicals or feedstocks for the manufacture of various chemicals; forestry has been and will continue to be a source of pine chemicals; evolving fermentation technology and new substrates will also produce an increasing number of chemicals. Chemical Online - November 27, 2007.

    German industrial conglomerate MAN AG plans to expand into renewable energies such as biofuels and solar power. Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said services unit Ferrostaal would lead the expansion. Reuters - November 24, 2007.

    Analysts think Vancouver-based Ballard Power Systems, which pumped hundreds of millions and decades of research into developing hydrogen fuel cells for cars, is going to sell its automotive division. Experts describe the development as "the death of the hydrogen highway". The problems with H2 fuel cell cars are manifold: hydrogen is a mere energy carrier and its production requires a primary energy input; production is expensive, as would be storage and distribution; finally, scaling fuel cells and storage tanks down to fit in cars remains a huge challenge. Meanwhile, critics have said that the primary energy for hydrogen can better be used for electricity and electric vehicles. On a well-to-wheel basis, the cleanest and most efficient way to produce hydrogen is via biomass, so the news is a set-back for the biohydrogen community. But then again, biomass can be used more efficiently as electricity for battery cars. Canada.com - November 21, 2007.

    South Korea plans to invest 20 billion won (€14.8/$21.8 million) by 2010 on securing technologies to develop synthetic fuels from biomass, coal and natural gas, as well as biobutanol. 29 private companies, research institutes and universities will join this first stage of the "next-generation clean energy development project" led by South Korea's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. Korea Times - November 19, 2007.

    OPEC leaders began a summit today with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez issuing a chilling warning that crude prices could double to US$200 from their already-record level if the United States attacked Iran or Venezuela. He urged assembled leaders from the OPEC, meeting for only the third time in the cartel's 47-year history, to club together for geopolitical reasons. But the cartel is split between an 'anti-US' block including Venezuela, Iran, and soon to return ex-member Ecuador, and a 'neutral' group comprising most Gulf States. France24 - November 17, 2007.

    The article "Biofuels: What a Biopact between North and South could achieve" published in the scientific journal Energy Policy (Volume 35, Issue 7, 1 July 2007, Pages 3550-3570) ranks number 1 in the 'Top 25 hottest articles'. The article was written by professor John A. Mathews, Macquarie University (Sydney, Autralia), and presents a case for a win-win bioenergy relationship between the industrialised and the developing world. Mathews holds the Chair of Strategic Management at the university, and is a leading expert in the analysis of the evolution and emergence of disruptive technologies and their global strategic management. ScienceDirect - November 16, 2007.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

German Greens want biomass instead of coal; Brown and Merkel urged to resist new fossil fuel plants

Germany and the United Kingdom are seen as leaders in the fight against climate change, with the one known for its heavy investments in renewables and the other for keeping the topic on the international agenda. Back from Bali, where delegates from over 180 countries found a compromise to work towards a post-Kyoto framework to cut greenhouse gas emissions, reality sets in: in both countries, plans are underway to build new coal-fired power plants. But resistance is growing rapidly, with a stark warning from renowned climate scientist Dr James Hansen urging both Chancellor Merkel and Britain's Brown to scrap the plans. Meanwhile in Germany, the Greens say biomass offers a realistic alternative to browncoal-fired power plants.

The UK is considering, for the first time since 1974, a new coal plant in Kent, while British Gas owner Centrica has revealed plans for a power station on Teesside, claiming it would be the UK's greenest fossil fuel station, using both clean-coal and carbon-capture technology at the same time. The plant would provide power to 1 million homes. Centrica said coal is needed to provide a 100% reliable power supply, because planned wind power only has about 30 to 35% reliability.

In Germany there are plans for new browncoal-fired power stations in Hamburg and in Egelner Mulde and Lützen (both in Saxony-Anhalt) by the lignite giant Mitteldeutschen Braunkohlengesellschaft (MIBRAG). The Greens are reacting angrily and have presented a comprenehsive alternative plan for the region in which energy efficiency and a switch to biomass are key. They call for a limit on the number of new wind turbines, because they rely on coal for baseloads and are facing growing resistance from local people. Instead, they want existing wind facilities to switch to 'repower' (new, more powerful, second generation turbines). Coupled with biomass which provides the base, the renewables can match coal.

Historic responsibility
Renowned climate scientist Dr James Hansen says both countries must resist the coal-fired power stations, basing his arguments on future as well as historic reasons. The leading Nasa researcher is writing to the leaders to explain why he believes their decisions to be crucial.
It appears that it is not recognised that we're going to have to phase out coal use except where we capture the carbon dioxide; or we're going to produce a different planet. It's going to include loss of all the Arctic sea ice, it's going to include large sea-level rise and large regional climate effects. - Dr James Hansen
Hansen held his plea at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, the largest gathering of the year for Earth scientists.

The US space agency researcher - who was one of the first to raise the issue of global warming back in the 1980s - believes the decisions taken by Britain and Germany could prove to be the 'tipping point' that persuaded other nations to follow cleaner technologies. They have the power to get the ball rolling.

Asked why the decisions of these two countries were so important when China is already said to be building the equivalent of two new coal-fired power-stations a week, he argued that the European countries had a historic responsibility to lead the way.

In support of this, in the letter he is drafting to Gordon Brown and Angela Merkel, he cites figures for 'per capita cumulative emissions' (graph, click to enlarge). These are the total emissions of carbon dioxide from the late 18th Century onwards. On this basis, even though other nations put out more CO2 today, the UK can be viewed as the world's 'biggest emitter' with Germany following. This is explained by the fact that Britain led the industrial revolution, and Germany completed it:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Dr Hansen applauds both European countries' CO2 commitments and targets, and says their leadership on the issue of coal could seed the transition that is needed to solve the global warming problem.

But concerns over energy security have led to demands in both countries for coal power to be expanded; and although there is much talk about the greening of coal through the capture and burial of CO2 emissions, the technology is seen unproven.

As director of the Nasa Goddard Institute of Space Studies, James Hansen has been a vocal critic of the US government's stance on climate change, and once complained that he was being prevented from making public statements on the issue by political appointees within Nasa.

He came to the AGU meeting to discuss the current state of climate science with other researchers.

He said the present concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere (380 parts per million by volume, ppmv) had already committed the Earth to large climate impacts, such as the loss of summer sea-ice in the Arctic and sea level rise greater than one metre.

'Not irreversible'
But Dr Hansen stressed that the point of no return had not been reached - that irreversible change had not taken place. He said that to get the Arctic ice to recover would require a reduction in CO2 concentrations down to about 300 or 350 ppmv.

He believed this was possible, and called for greater energy efficiency and corrective pricing of carbon to allow cleaner technologies to compete and take over from fossil fuels.

Green instead of browncoal
It is these cleaner technologies which Die Grünen of Sachsen-Anhalt, the state where most new German coal plants will be built, are promoting aggressively. Presenting their latest Energy Policy Paper at the party congress in Naumburg yesterday, they demand a state-wide reduction of per capita carbon emissions from 11 tons now to 7 tons in 2020. A sense of urgency can be read in the document.

Country and municipalities must set the example and lower their energy consumption by 30 per cent over that time period. In their paper the Greens suggest among other things sending means for promotion of economy development only such enterprises which are to 20 per cent with the energy consumption under the current state of the art or its past consumption. For public real estate properties they demand a 'consistent use of energy-saving and efficiency measures'.

But the main topic of the paper is the threat of new lignite fired power plants to be build by MIBRAG, a giant industrial conglomerate that wants to utilize the region's vast browncoal reserves - the cheapest and most abundant primary energy source available.

The Greens calculate that the new plants are a losing proposition because they include carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies which can just as well be applied to biomass, while the coal plants remain inefficient and provide a low number of jobs.

Their alternative to a planned 660 MW lignite fired power plant is based on the use of woody biomass, found abundantly in the state. Combined with repower wind, biomass can be used readily in large plants that provide a reliable baseload at competitive prices provided carbon emission prices trend slightly upwards. Moreover funds made available for CCS, should immediately be coupled to biomass, instead of coal plants.

An added advantage of renewables over coal is the large number of jobs the sector generates. The chairman of the Green Bundestag fraction, Fritz Kuhn, told the congress that renewables in Germany had developed into a 'job machine'. In Sachsen-Anhalt alone, already 230,000 jobs had been created in the sector.

This success is due in large part to the Greens, who earlier, when in power, got the nuclear phase out plans through and wrote the legislation in favor of the renewables that will close the energy supply gap to occur when the country shuts down its nuclear power plants.

But Kuhn accused to the new Federal Government (Christian Democrats & Social Democrats) of acting halfheartedly when it comes to climate policy. The parties in power, he says, are being reactionary in that they think a reduction of CO2 can go together with new so-called 'clean' coal-fired power plants. To the Greens, CCS, when applied to coal, is an industrial 'package of deception', untried and unproven.

Biopact would add that the main criticism against CCS - that potential leakage of CO2 could be catastrophic - is overcome when the technology is coupled to biomass. If ever CO2 were to leak from a geosequestration site that holds biogenic CO2 instead of fossil derived CO2, the net effect on the atmospheric concentration would be zero.

The great advantage of CCS coupled to biomass is that it results in negative emissions of up to -1000 grams of CO2 per kWh (compared to +800g/kWh for ordinary coal plants, +100g/kWh for coal coulped to CCS, and +30 to +100 for wind and solar).

Scientists have calculated that if carbon-negative bioenergy were to replace coal on a global scale, the system of negative emissions can reverse climate change and bring atmospheric CO2 levels back to pre-industrial levels by 2060.

Linie Eins: Biomasse statt Braunkohle - December 15, 2007.

Bundnis90/Die Grünen - Sachsen-Anhalt: Landesparteitag am 15. Dezember 2007 - December 15, 2007.

BBC: Brown urged to resist coal rush - December 15, 2007.

BBC: Centrica mulls clean coal option - November 14, 2007.


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