<body> --------------
Contact Us       Consulting       Projects       Our Goals       About Us
home » Archive »
Nature Blog Network

    Oxford Catalysts has placed an order worth approximately €700,000 (US$1 million) with the German company Amtec for the purchase of two Spider16 high throughput screening reactors. The first will be used to speed up the development of catalysts for hydrodesulphurisation (HDS). The second will be used to further the development of catalysts for use in gas to liquid (GTL) and Fischer-Tropsch processes which can be applied to next generation biofuels. AlphaGalileo - December 18, 2007.

    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.

Creative Commons License

Thursday, December 20, 2007

ISU survey: Iowa farmland prices keep breaking records on biofuels

The Iowa State University Extension's annual survey on land prices shows that because of a surging demand for corn and soybeans for a rapidly expanding biofuels industry farmland prices in Iowa keep breaking records. The average value of an acre of farmland in Iowa - the heart of America's 'Grain Belt' - increased by just over $700 during the past year, to an all-time high of $3,908 ($9,656 per hectare). The trend confirmed that of last year's survey, when cropland in Iowa rose to a record US$3,204 per acre (US$7917 per hectare) (previous post).

The land boom is being driven by the developing biofuel economy, according to Mike Duffy, ISU Extension farm economist who conducts the survey. Duffy said the 22 percent increase recorded this year is the greatest one-year increase since 1976, and marks a new record for the fifth year in a row. Since the year 2000, Iowa land values have increased an average of $2,051 per acre, more than a 100 percent increase over the 2000 average value of $1,857.

The increases in values were reported statewide, with the survey recording averages above $5,000 an acre in five counties, and between $4,000 and $5,000 an acre in 51 counties. Nineteen counties reported increases of more than 25 percent, and 59 counties had increases between 20 and 25 percent (map, click to enlarge).

Duffy noted that some of the smaller percentage increases occurred in the counties and crop reporting districts along Iowa’s eastern and western borders. He said this reflects the impact of local demand for corn from ethanol plants. Counties along the border rivers previously received the best prices for crops due to low transportation costs to gulf port markets, but now those crops are being used locally by the ethanol plants, which is driving up prices in interior counties.

Duffy said he frequently is asked whether the land market will crash, and how high it might go before it tops out. He also is questioned about the impact of the weakening dollar, the new farm bill, and the current subprime mortgage crisis.
The world of agriculture as we know it here in Iowa has changed. Where the changes will settle out and when is not known. My general feeling is that the land market will remain strong for at least the next five years. We have seen a fundamental shift in demand for corn due to ethanol production. I don’t think this demand will diminish in the near future. - Mike Duffy, ISU Extension farm economist
Of the nine crop reporting districts in the state, northwest Iowa reported the highest average value at $4,699 per acre. The lowest average in the state was in south central Iowa at $2,325 per acre. North central Iowa was the leader in percentage increase at 25.3 percent, while east central Iowa had the lowest percentage increase at 14.7 percent:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The highest county average in the state was Scott County at $5,699 per acre, while Decatur County was lowest at $1,828 per acre. Sioux County led the state with the largest dollar increase at $1,142 per acre, while Floyd County had the largest percentage increase at 30.3 percent.

Low grade land in the state averaged $2,655 per acre, an increase of $460 or 21 percent over the 2006 survey. Medium grade land averaged $3,666 per acre, a $655 increase or 21.8 percent. High grade land averaged $4,686 per acre, an increase of $851 or 22.2 percent.

Survey participants were asked to indicate positive and negative factors that affected land prices during 2007. Good grain prices was by far the most frequently mentioned positive factor, listed by 35 percent of the respondents. Another 10 percent mentioned low interest rates as a major factor.

Three negative factors impacting land values were listed by more than 10 percent of the respondents. They included high costs for the inputs needed to grow crops, listed by 25 percent; high land prices in general, listed by 12 percent; and a concern over how long the market would remain at high levels, listed by 11 percent.

Thirty-seven percent of the respondents to this year’s survey reported more land sales in 2007 than in the previous year. That was the highest percentage since 1988. Buyers were existing farmers in 60 percent of the sales, and investors in 34 percent of the sales, essentially unchanged from the previous year, but down considerably from a decade ago when existing farmers represented nearly 75 percent of the buyers.

Data on farmland sales has been collected by Iowa State University annually since 1941. About 1,100 copies of the survey are mailed each year to licensed real estate brokers, ag lenders, and others knowledgeable of Iowa land values. Respondents are asked to report values as of Nov. 1. Average response is 500 to 600 completed surveys, with 499 usable surveys returned this year. Respondents provided 668 individual county estimates, including land values in nearby counties if they had knowledge of values in those counties.

Crossing the pond
Farmland will become a very valuable resource in the future global bio-economy. Industrial countries have already used up most of their suitable acreage and can expect a continuous rise in prices. Some have warned that new farmers will find it increasingly difficult to start a business because of this. However, in both Africa and Latin America, farmland is abundant and far less costly.

Some adventurous people will want to cross the Atlantic or the Mediterranean to start up in the bioenergy and agriculture sector in Africa. Tens of thousands of landless Chinese farmers are already doing this, encouraged by their government, with rising land prices in the People's Republic playing a key role (previous post).

The price of land is only one of many factors determining the viability of an agricultural enterprise. In increasingly science and tech driven agriculture its relative importance has declined over the decades. But the trend is now reversing. For farmers in emerging economies with scarce land resources (China, India) and whose farm practises are not comparable to the highly mechanised, intensive practises of their collegues in the West, venturing abroad might be an option.

So how much does farmland cost in African countries? Data are scarce and not kept up to date. But from what little data we have, the sheer difference in value can be sketched.

The World Bank Global Approach to Environmental Analyses (GAEA) made land price estimates back in 2000. The GAEA study attempts to build on earlier World Bank work that suggested that national land prices would be roughly equal to a multiple of per capita income. Estimates of land value calculated in this way were then adjusted to incorporate broader factors, such as proportions of pasture, cropland, forestland and arid land in the total land area, to arrive at indicative national land prices. In short, the land price data are very rough and only useful for broad comparative purposes.

The following tables were compiled from these data:

More on these data can be found here.

Iowa State University Extension: 2007 Iowa Land Value Survey.

Iowa State University Extension: Average Value of Iowa Farmland Tops $3,900 an Acre in 2007 Survey - December 18, 2007.

Biopact: Ethanol boosts farmland prices in the US - December 22, 2006

Biopact: Landless Chinese farmers migrate to Africa in search of agricultural opportunities - December 02, 2007

Biopact: Land prices in Africa - September 15, 2006


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home