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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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Monday, December 17, 2007

Zimbabwe embarks on large national biofuel program to cut catastrophic oil dependence

Zimbabwe's Minster of Science and Technology Development, Dr Olivia Muchena, announced the government has embarked on an ambitious programme that will see all the country's 10 provinces having biofuel plants by 2010. The program is expected to benefit farmers 'greatly' and cut Zimbabwe's catastrophic dependence on imported oil. The announcement was made at an Extra Ordinary meeting of the ZANU-PF.

Apart from producing biofuel to power the country's economy at low cost, the plants would also produce a range of by-products to substitute some commodities such as lubricants, fertilizer and soap among others that are being imported from other countries.

Dependence on extremely costly imported oil is draining the Zimbabwe's treasury. The country spends around 10% of its small GDP on importing fuel, and it feels shocks throughout its economy with each single dollar rise in the oil price. Zimbabwe is 100% dependent on oil imports.

What is more, physical fuel shortages (partly the result of economic sanctions) are having a dramatic effect not only on businesses, the transport sector and the urban poor's mobility, but especially on the country's many farmers. They cannot bring inputs to their farms, fail to harvest products, let alone transport them to market. The consequences of fuel shortages are an even greater reduction of food production and a further inflation of food prices.

A first large biodiesel plant, inaugurated earlier this month, is aimed at turning this catastrophic situation around. When fully operational, the 100 million liter/year plant, fed by cotton seed, soya beans, jatropha and sunflower seed, will replace 13% of the country's fuel imports. At the opening ceremony, president Robert Mugabe said on a combative tone:
As a nation we have once again demonstrated that the ill-fated sanctions against the innocent people of Zimbabwe can never subdue our resilience and inner propulsion to succeed and remain on our feet as a nation. Soon, our economy will be paying us back the dividends of the seedlings of progression we are planting across different productive sectors. - Robert Mugabe
Dr Muchena says she has now instructed all provinces through their governors to encourage farmers to increase the number of jatropha plantations further, ahead of the programme.
By 2010, we want to make sure that all the provinces have plants that produce biofuel. Dr Gideon Gono (RBZ Governor) informed me when we toured the construction site of a plant in Mutoko. The Governor of Matabeleland South, (Cde) Angeline Masuku, has already started work in her province. We want to prosper, let us grow these plants, which also produce fertilizer. - Dr Olivia Muchena, Minster of Science and Technology Development
Dr Muchena was briefing delegates during the ZANU-PF Extra Ordinary meeting in Harare on what the government was doing to harness local expertise to produce fuel for the country which is grappling with economic sanctions. The jatropha plant - locally referred to as 'black gold' - is grown in countries such as India, where trials with the biofuel in diesel locomotives are underway.

The plant grows well with limited inputs in dry areas such as Matabeleland South and North and Masvingo. However, it can be grown in other parts of the country as well. Dr Muchena said that in Mashonaland East, if all farmers were to produce jatropha communally around their farms as protective hedges (jatropha is toxic and keeps grazing animals off fields), at two hectares per each A1 farmer and 10 hectares per A2 farmer, the province had the potential to produce 860 million litres of fuel, more than the country's total fuel imports (4.7 million barrels per year). In theory, Mashonaland East's farmers could make Zimbabwe fully oil independent:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

According to Dr Gono, who also addressed the congress yesterday, the majority of farmers who produce strategic crops were going to be rewarded 'greatly' next year, while others would be paid in foreign currency.

Dr Muchena said it was unfortunate that huge quantities of jatropha seed given to farmers during the Goromonzi conference were destroyed.

She, however, said her ministry was going to send teams of experts to all districts in the country to educate farmers on how to grow jatropha. During the Umzingwani Conference in Matabeleland South in 2005, jatropha was declared tree of the year. Since then, it has been planted across the country, but in not in a coordinated way.

"The Ministry of Environment and Tourism, through the Forestry Company of Zimbabwe, has come up with a jatropha programme. So no one should say we have no idea about the plant. In January, we are actually going to step up production of the jatropha", she added.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe earlier this year announced it has so far disbursed 2.9 billion Zimbabwean dollars (€8.6/US$11.6 million) for the national biodiesel project out of a total of $3 billion availed by the country's government last year.

Roughly 66% of the country's population is employed in agriculture, mainly as subsistence farmers. Their livelihoods stand to benefit from the biodiesel program.

The Herald (Harrare, via AllAfrica): Govt Embarks On Biofuel Programme - December 15, 2007.

Biopact: Zimbabwe opens first biodiesel plant to ease catastrophic fuel shortages in farm sector - November 16, 2007

Biopact: Zimbabwe's jatropha project receives US$11.6 million - May 18, 2007


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