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    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.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

U.S. Senate passes weakened energy bill: six-fold increase in ethanol target

The U.S. Senate has passed a weakened energy bill that, for the first time in 32 years, contains higher fuel economy standards for cars and boosts the country's ethanol production target for the coming decade to a staggering 36 billion gallons a year by 2022 - a nearly six-fold increase. The smarter and more ambitious original version contained an obligation for power producers to purchase or generate a 15% share of their output from renewables, a reduction of the large tax breaks enjoyed by big oil and incentives to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies.

Biopact thinks the ambitious ethanol target is highly problematic because initially it could lead to a further increase in international corn prices, a staple for much of the developing world. The target calls for 21 billion gallons of future biofuels to be produced from cellulosic biomass obtained from non-food energy crops and waste. This is an encouraging provision, but that leaves 15 billion gallons which could come from food. The U.S. currently consumes around 6.5 billion gallons of mainly corn based ethanol.

Moreover, given that biofuels will keep receiving a large amount of subsidies and will be proteced by import tariffs, the U.S. will not easily import more efficiently produced ethanol from the South. Finally, the lack of tax breaks for renewables like biomass, solar or wind, the abandonment of the obligation for utilities to source 15% of their output from renewables, and the weak fuel economy target means a transition towards more efficient and cleaner electric transport will be more difficult.

Biopact strongly favors the development of all-electric and hydrogen powered transport in highly industrialised countries, because it is more efficient, can draw on a wide variety of renewables, and still keeps open the option to trade bioenergy with the South. A transition to electric vehicles or (bio)hydrogen would even allow for the introduction of carbon-negative bioenergy and thus reduce carbon emissions from transport much more than can be achieved from liquid biofuels or from other renewables (earlier post).

Carbon-negative bioenergy - resulting in negative emissions energy - requires the development of efficient and cost-effective carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. The original energy bill would have promoted these, but the watered-down version has removed the incentives.

The trimmed-back bill was approved with bipartisan support 86-8 after Democrats abandoned efforts to impose billions of dollars in new taxes on the biggest oil companies, unable by one vote to overcome a Republican filibuster against the new taxes.

The bill now goes to the House, where a vote is expected next week. The White House issued a statement saying President Bush will sign the legislation if it reaches his desk, as is expected. Bush had promised a veto if the oil industry taxes were not removed.

The bill calls for the first major increase by Congress in required automobile fuel efficiency in 32 years, something the auto companies have fought for two decades. The car companies will have to achieve an industrywide average 35 mile per gallon for cars, small trucks and SUVs over the next 13 years, an increase of 10 mpg over what the entire fleet averages today:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The legislation calls for a boost to the use of ethanol to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022, a nearly sixfold increase, and impose an array of new requirements to promote efficiency in appliances, lighting and buildings.

Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada says this bill will begin to reverse America's addiction to oil. And that is is "a step to fight global warming".

The increased auto efficiency by 2020 will save 1.1 million barrels of oil a day, equal to half the oil now imported from the Persian Gulf, save consumers $22 billion at the pump, and reduce annual greenhouse gases emissions by 200 million tons, said Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii., whose committee crafted the measure. According to Inouye, the text demonstrates to the world that America is a leader in fighting global warming.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., a longtime protector of the auto industry that is so important to his state, called the fuel economy measure "ambitious but achievable."

For consumers, the legislation will mean that over the next dozen years auto companies will likely build more diesel-powered SUVs and gas-electric hybrid cars as well as vehicles that can run on 85 percent ethanol. They will push engineers to develop new technologies to save fuel.

According to David Friedman, research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists Clean Vehicle Program, automakers can meet the new standards with today's technology. Cars and trucks will be the same size and perform the same way they do today. But they may be using a different fuel.

The energy legislation would require that ethanol use as a motor fuel be ramped up at an unprecedented pace to 36 billion gallons a year by 2022. And at least 21 billion gallons will have to be ethanol from feedstock other than corn such as prairie grasses, switchgrass and wood chips. About 6.5 billion gallons of ethanol were expected to be used as a gasoline additive this year, according to the Renewable Fuels Association, which represents ethanol producers.

The legislation also would increase energy efficiency requirements for appliances and federal and commercial buildings and require faster approval of federal energy efficiency standards.

These measures, said Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., will eventually save more energy than all our previous energy efficiency measures combined.

Tax breaks for a wide range of clean energy industries, including biomass, wind, solar and carbon capture from coal plants, were part of the tax package that was dropped. Senate Democrats earlier also abandoned a House-passed provision that would have required investor-owned utilities nationwide to generate 15 percent of their electricity from solar, wind and biomass.

While many environmentalists viewed almost certain approval of the automobile fuel economy increase as a major victory, some were critical of the Democrats' inability to push through taxes on major oil companies, which have been making huge profits in recent years.

The Senate Democrats should show some backbone, said Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth. If Republicans want to block progress on clean energy and global warming, they should be forced to mount a real filibuster — for weeks if necessary, he added.

Republicans had made it clear they would require the Democrats to find 60 votes on the oil taxes and the White House had said repeatedly the $13.5 billion in taxes on the five largest oil companies over 10 years would assure a veto.

On the 59-40 vote that failed to overcome a GOP filibuster, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., whose state's economy is dominated by oil and energy activities, was the only Democrat to break ranks. Nine Republicans supported the tax measures.

The White House has said the taxes would lead to higher energy costs and unfairly single out the oil industry for punishment. A Democratic analysis showed that the $13.5 billion over 10 years amounted to 1.1 percent of the net profits that five largest oil companies would be expected to earn given today's oil prices.

U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources: Senate Votes to Save Energy Bill - December 13, 2007.

AP: Senate Approves Trimmed-Back Energy Bill - December 14, 2007.

Biopact: The strange world of carbon-negative bioenergy: the more you drive your car, the more you tackle climate change - October 29, 2007


Blogger rufus said...

You're missing the "Forest."

This bill is GOOD for Brazilian Ethanol. We can't possibly produce 21 Billion Gal/yr from Cellulosic by 2020. We will be forced to import a LOT of Brazilian Cane Ethanol. Two things:

1) Brazil can profitably export ethanol at today's market prices, even with the tariff; and,

2) This will, almost certainly, lead to a "revisiting" of the tariffs in 2010.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Biopact team said...

But wthen why has the tariff been extended? It was supposed to be removed in 2009.

But let's say the tariff is at last removed in 2010, then we still have the huge distorting problem of mass subsidies - both in the EU and the US.

This will make it difficult for countries outside of Brazil, who are only beginning to create their biofuels sector, to enter the market.

Moreover, we would have liked it more if the bill included the incentives for renewables and the targets for the utilities to generate 15% from renewables. Sadly this was dropped.

Finally, the US has always been a technology leader; it could have decided, like the French, to give a signal that it is ready to make a transition to electric vehicles.

We think electric cars should be a strong part of the future of mobility in the highly industrialized world. They are more efficient than ICE's and can *really* break the dependence on oil.

Rufus, don't you have mixed feelings about this bill?

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is everyone leaving biodiesel out of the solution? I've been running my car on it for 2 yrs now. It is by far the most readily applicable method... tried and proven (diesel technology). Someone needs to push the auto industry to get away from gas powered cars.

9:04 PM  

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