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    Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc. and the U.S. National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) today announced a partnership to speed the growth of alternative fuel technology. The 10-year agreement between the center and Siemens represents transfers of equipment, software and on-site simulation training. The NCERC facilitates the commercialization of new technologies for producing ethanol more effectively and plays a key role in the Bio-Fuels Industry for Workforce Training to assist in the growing need for qualified personnel to operate and manage bio-fuel refineries across the country. Business Wire - June 29, 2007.

    A paper published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Ceramic Society proposes a new method of producing hydrogen for portable fuel cells that can work steadily for 10-20 times the length of equivalently sized Lithium-ion batteries. Zhen-Yan Deng, lead author, found that modified aluminum powder can be used to react with water to produce hydrogen at room temperature and under normal atmospheric pressure. The result is a cost-efficient method for powering fuel cells that can be used in portable applications and hybrid vehicles. More soon. Blackwell Publishing - June 29, 2007.

    An NGO called Grains publishes a report that highlights some of the potentially negative effects associated with the global biofuels sector. The findings are a bit one-sided because based uniquely on negative news stories. Moreover, the report does not show much of a long-term vision on the world's energy crisis, climate change, North-South relations, and the unique role biofuels can play in addressing these issues. Grain - June 29, 2007.

    Researchers at the Universidad de Tarapacá in Arica plan to grow Jatropha curcas in the arid north of Chile. The trial in the desert, is carried out to test the drought-tolerance of the biodiesel crop, and to see whether it can utilize the desert's scarce water resources which contain high amounts of salt minerals and boron, lethal to other crops. Santiago Times - June 28, 2007.

    India and Thailand sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that envisages cooperation through joint research and development and exchange of information in areas of renewable sources of energy like, biogas, solar-thermal, small hydro, wind and biomass energy. Daily India - June 28, 2007.

    Portucel - Empresa Produtora de Pasta e Papel SA said it plans to install biomass plants with an expected production capacity of 200,000 megawatt hours per year at its paper factories in Setubal and Cacia. The European Commission gave the green light for state aid totaling €46.5 million, contributing to Portucel's plans to extend and modernise its plants. Forbes - June 28, 2007.

    Petro-Canada and GreenField Ethanol have inked a long-term deal that makes Petro-Canada the exclusive purchaser of all ethanol produced at GreenField Ethanol's new facility in Varennes, Quebec. The ethanol will be blended with gasoline destined for Petro-Canada retail sites in the Greater Montreal Area. Petro-Canada - June 27, 2007.

    According to a study by the Korean Energy Economics Institute, biodiesel produced in Korea will become cheaper than light crude oil from 2011 onwards (678 won/liter versus 717.2 won/liter). The study "Prospects on the Economic Feasibility of Biodiesel and Improving the Support System", advises to keep biodiesel tax-free until 2010, after which it can compete with oil. Dong-A Ilbo - June 27, 2007.

    Kreido Biofuels announced today that it has entered into a marketing and distribution agreement with Eco-Energy, an energy and chemical marketing and trading company. Eco-Energy will purchase Kreido Biofuels’ biodiesel output from Wilmington, North Carolina, and Argo, Illinois, for a minimum of 3 years at current commercial market prices, as well as provide Kreido transportation and logistics services. Business Wire - June 27, 2007.

    Beijing Tiandi Riyue Biomass Technology Corp. Ltd. has started construction on its new fuel ethanol project in the county of Naiman in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region's Chifeng City, the company's president told Interfax today. Interfax China - June 26, 2007.

    W2 Energy Inc. announces it will begin development of biobutanol from biomass. The biofuel will be manufactured from syngas derived from non-food biomass and waste products using the company's plasma reactor system. Market Wire - June 26, 2007.

    Finland based Metso Corporation, a global engineering firm has received an order worth €60 million to supply two biomass-fired power boilers to Portugal's EDP Producao - Bioeléctrica, S.A. The first boiler (83 MWth) will be installed at Celbi’s Figueira da Foz pulp mill and the second boiler (35 MWth) at Caima’s pulp mill near the city of Constância. Both power plants will mainly use biomass, like eucalyptus bark and forest residues, as fuel to produce together approximately 40 MWe electricity to the national grid. Both boilers utilize bubbling fluidized bed technology. Metso Corporation - June 26, 2007.

    Canada's New Government is investing more than $416,000 in three southern Alberta projects to help the emerging biofuels industry. The communities of Lethbridge, Drumheller and Coalhurst will benefit from the projects. Through the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI), the three firms will receive funding to prepare feasibility studies and business plans to study the suitability of biofuels production according to location and needs in the industry. MarketWire - June 26, 2007.

    U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman is expected to announce today that Michigan State and other universities have been selected to share $375 million in federal funding to develop new bioenergy centers for research on cellulosic ethanol and biomass plants. More info soon. Detroit Free Press - June 26, 2007.

    A Kerala based NGO has won an Ashden Award for installing biogas plants in the state to convert organic waste into a clean and renewable source of energy at the household level. Former US vice president Al Gore gave away the award - cash prize of 30,000 pounds - to Biotech chief A. Saji at a ceremony in London on Friday. New Kerala - June 25, 2007.

    AltraBiofuels, a California-based producer of renewable biofuels, announced that it has secured an additional US$165.5 million of debt financing for the construction and completion of two plants located in Coshocton, Ohio and Cloverdale, Indiana. The Coshocton plant's capacity is anticipated to reach 60million gallons/year while the Cloverdale plant is expected to reach 100 million gallons/year. Business Wire - June 23, 2007.

    Brazil and the Dominican Republic have inked a biofuel cooperation agreement aimed at alleviating poverty and creating economic opportunity. The agreement initially focuses on the production of biodiesel in the Dominican Republic. Dominican Today - June 21, 2007.

    Malaysian company Ecofuture Bhd makes renewable products from palm oil residues such as empty fruit bunches and fibers (more here). It expects the revenue contribution of these products to grow by 10% this year, due to growing overseas demand, says executive chairman Jang Lim Kuang. 95% of the group's export earnings come from these products which include natural oil palm fibre strands and biodegradable mulching and soil erosion geotextile mats. Bernama - June 20, 2007.

    Argent Energy, a British producer of waste-oil based biodiesel, announced its intention to seek a listing on London's AIM via a placing of new and existing ordinary shares with institutional investors. Argent plans to use the proceeds to construct the first phase of its proposed 150,000 tonnes (170 million litres) plant at Ellesmere Port, near Chester, and to develop further plans for a 75,000 tonnes (85 million litres) plant in New Zealand. Argent Energy - June 20, 2007.

    The first conference of the European Biomass Co-firing Network will be held in Budapest, Hungary, from 2 to 4 July 2007. The purpose of the conference is to bring together scientists, engineers and members of public institutions to present the current state-of-the-art on biomass co-firing. Participants will also discuss future trends and directions in order to promote awareness of this technology as a sustainable energy supply, which could decrease the dependency on fossil fuels and guarantee a decentralised source of energy in Europe. The conference is supported by the EU-funded NETBIOCOF (Integrated European Network for Biomass Co-firing) project. NetBioCof - June 19, 2007.

    Green Energy Resources predicts US$50 per ton biomass woodchip prices within the next twelve months. The current US price level is between $25-32 per ton. Demand caused by the 25-30 new power plants planned in New England by 2010 does not include industry, institutions, universities, hospitals or conversions from natural gas, or cellulostic ethanol. Procurement of woodchips will be based on the delivery capacity of suppliers not local prices for the first time in history. Green Energy has been positioning in New England with rail and port locations to meet the anticipated sector expansion. MarketWire - June 19, 2007.

    In the first major initiative in the US to build a grassroots communications network for the advancement of biofuels adoption, a new national association called The American Biofuels Council (ABC) has been formed. American Biofuels Council - June 19, 2007.

    The Novi Sad-based Jerković Group, in partnership with the Austrian Christof Group, are to invest about €48 million (US$64.3m) in a biodiesel plant in Serbia. Property Xpress - June 19, 2007.

    Biodiesel producer D1 Oils, known for its vast jatropha plantations in Africa and Asia, is to invest CNY 500 to 700 million (€48.9-68.4 / US$65.5-91.7) to build a refinery in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, in what is expected to be the first biodiesel plant in the country using jatropha oil as a feedstock. South China Morning Post - June 18, 2007.

    After Brazil announced a record sugar crop for this year, with a decline in both ethanol and sugar prices as a result, India too is now preparing for a bumper harvest, a senior economist with the International Sugar Organization said. Raw sugar prices could fall further towards 8 cents per lb in coming months, after their 30% drop so far this year. Converting the global surplus, estimated to be 4 million tonnes, into ethanol may offer a way out of the downward trend. Economic Times India - June 18, 2007.

    After Brazil announced a record sugar crop for this year, with a decline in both ethanol and sugar prices as a result, India too is now preparing for a bumper harvest, a senior economist with the International Sugar Organization said. Raw sugar prices could fall further towards 8 cents per lb in coming months, after their 30% drop so far this year. Converting the global surplus, estimated to be 4 million tonnes, into ethanol may offer a way out of the downward trend. Economic Times India - June 18, 2007.

    A report from the US Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Services (USDA FAS) estimates that the production of ethanol in China will reach 1.45 million tonnes (484 million gallons US) in 2007, up 12% from 1.3 million tonnes in 2006. Plans are to increase ethanol feedstocks from non-arable lands making the use of tuber crops such as cassava and sweet sorghum. USDA-FAS - June 17, 2007.

    The Iowa State University's Extension Bioeconomy Task Force carried out a round of discussions on the bioeconomy with citizens of the state. Results indicate most people see a bright future for the new economy, others are cautious and take on a distanced, more objective view. The potential for jobs and economic development were the most important opportunities identified by the panels. Iowa is the leading producer of corn based ethanol in the US. Iowa State University - June 16, 2007.

    Biofuel producer D1 Oils Plc, known for establishing large jatropha plantations on (degraded land) in Africa and Asia, said it was in advanced talks with an unnamed party regarding a strategic collaboration, sending its shares up 7 percent, after press reports linking it with BP. Firms like BP and other large petroleum companies are keen to secure a supply of biofuel to meet UK government regulations that 5 percent of automotive fuel must be made up of biofuels by 2010. Reuters UK - June 15, 2007.

    Jean Ziegler, a U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, told a news briefing held on the sidelines of the U.N. Human Rights Council that "there is a great danger for the right to food by the development of biofuels". His comments contradict a report published earlier by a consortium of UN agencies, which said biofuels could boost the food security of the poor. Reuters - June 15, 2007.

    The county of Chicheng in China's Hebei Province recently signed a cooperative contract with the Australian investment and advisory firm Babcock & Brown to invest RMB480 million (€47.2/US$62.9 million) in a biomass power project, state media reported today. Interfax China - June 14, 2007.

    A new two-stroke ICE engine developed by NEVIS Engine Company Ltd. may nearly double fuel efficiency and lower emissions. Moreover, the engine's versatile design means it can be configured to be fuelled not only by gasoline but also by diesel, hydrogen and biofuels. PRWeb - June 14, 2007.

    Houston-based Gulf Ethanol Corp., announced it will develop sorghum as an alternative feedstock for the production of cellulosic ethanol. Scientists have developed drought tolerant, high-yield varieties of the crop that would grow well in the drier parts of the U.S. and reduce reliance on corn. Business Wire - June 14, 2007.

    Bulgaria's Rompetrol Rafinare is to start delivering Euro 4 grade diesel fuel with a 2% biodiesel content to its domestic market starting June 25, 2007. The same company recently started to distributing Super Ethanol E85 from its own brand and Dyneff brand filling stations in France. It is building a 2500 ton/month, €13.5/US$18 million biodiesel facility at its Petromidia refinery. BBJ - June 13, 2007.

    San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), a utility serving 3.4 million customers, announced it has signed a supply contract with Envirepel Energy, Inc. for renewable biomass energy that will be online by October 2007. Bioenergy is part of a 300MW fraction of SDG&E's portfolio of renewable resources. San Diego Gas & Electric - June 13, 2007.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Lula: a new global energy paradigm that helps tackle poverty

The agreement between the U.S. and Brazil on advancing biofuels cooperation was lauded as a step towards a new paradigm that is set to transform the world's energy system in the 21st century.

Brazil's left-leaning President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva highlighted the benefits of the green energy pact. A selection of quotes both from Lula's speech as from his answers to the media:

On the global impact of the agreement
The accord signed today is not a mere economic deal, it opens the potential to democratise access to energy. The agreement on biofuels will help tackle global poverty, in countries in Latin America, Central America, the Caribbean and Africa.

The world is not always ready and prepared for major changes unless we have untiring debates and people are convinced that Planet Earth needs to be de-polluted. And it's in our hands, we who have polluted it, must de-pollute it.
On access to energy as a democratic principle and right
Our ethanol program is the result of 30 years of hard work. It has had a great social impact, with increased access to energy for all layers of the population.

Today the entire society is reaping the fruit of these efforts, and other countries want to share Brazil's experience. The memorandum is an important step in that direction. But it's not just an economic partnership between Brazil and the U.S.
A close relationship and cooperation between the two leaders in ethanol production will make it possible to democratize access to energy further. The growing use of biofuel will be an inestimable contribution to the generation of income, social inclusion and reduction of poverty in many poor countries of the world.
On the chance to alleviate poverty, redistribute wealth
Our biodiesel program has a major social impact. It is aimed at small farmers to family farmers. It will help create jobs and income in the poorest regions of our country, especially in the northeastern semi-arid region, where many of these crops are actually native.

The global switch to biofuels offers tremendous opportunities for companies to become cleaner and more efficient, for the redistribution of wealth, for the enhancement of social inclusion [of rural populations] and for the reduction of poverty in the poorest countries of the world.

In addition to doing good for humanity with biofuels, we will also be, for the first time, using biofuels as a way to distribute income and create jobs on an unprecedented scale in the history of humanity. Above all, if we analyze what can be done for countries in Africa, if we analyze what can be done in poorer countries of South America, and when we look at what we can do in Central America and the Caribbean, where the United States has a partnership with all those countries, then I believe that the partnership between the U.S. and Brazil can, beginning today, really be a new moment for the global car industry, a new moment for a new energy paradigm in the world, and possibly a new moment for humanity.
On energy independence, climate change and efficiency
Biofuels allow us to reduce our dependence of fossil fuels, at a moment when we feel a sense of urgency for global action against climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. Biofuels offer an economically and sustainable alternative.

We want to see biomass generating sustainable development, above all in South America, Central America, in the Caribbean and in Africa. Brazil and the United States should create alliances with other countries to achieve global diversification of the production of biofuels. To that end, we must lay the basis for a global market of biofuels.

We have more than tripled the yields of sugarcane plantations, which are the main source of ethanol. And we have demonstrated that it is possible to increase the production of biofuels without harming the production of food, and also reducing deforestation of the Amazon region.

I am convinced that this strategic alliance will allow the world to change its energy matrix for the future. We, who polluted this planet so much during the 20th century, can now make a start with cleaning it up during the 21st.
Quotes gathered from a range of sources. A translation of President Lula's speech can be found here. Other sources consulted:
Entry ends here.
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Brazil and U.S. sign biofuels cooperation agreement

The long-awaited agreement between the U.S. and Brazil to cooperate on biofuels, was signed today by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The memorandum of understanding highlights the importance of biofuels as a transformative force in the region to diversify energy supplies, bolster economic prosperity, advance sustainable development, and protect the environment.

As the world's two largest producers of ethanol, the United States and Brazil intend to advance the research and development of new technologies to promote biofuels use. Reducing the cost of biofuels production, land use demands and price pressures on feedstocks, are key to increasing global adoption of biofuels.

The United States and Brazil already are working through existing mechanisms such as the U.S.-Brazil Commercial Dialogue launched in 2006, the U.S.-Brazil Consultative Committee on Agriculture established in 2003, the 1999 U.S.-Brazil Memorandum of Understanding on Energy, the U.S.-Brazil Common Agenda for the Environment established in 1995, and a 1984 Framework Agreement on Science and Technology.

  • Regionally, the two nations intend to help third countries, beginning in Central America and the Caribbean, to stimulate private investment for local production and consumption of biofuels. The United States and Brazil expect to support feasibility studies and technical assistance in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (earlier post), the United Nations Foundation, and the Organization of the American States.
  • Multilaterally, the United States and Brazil intend to work through the International Biofuels Forum (earlier post) to examine development of common biofuels standards and codes to facilitate commoditization of biofuels. Greater cooperation with Brazil is complementary to existing United States efforts in the Global Bio-Energy Partnership endorsed by the Group of Eight and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum's Biofuels Task Force (earlier post).
  • Bilateral cooperation on research, promotion of greater biofuels use in the region, and discussion of biofuels standards and codes advance energy security, reduce dependency on fossil fuels, lower greenhouse gases, and foster prosperity. Working together with Brazil to encourage greater adoption of biofuels has the potential to spur renewable energy investment, facilitate technology transfer, stimulate rural development, and boost job creation in countries around the world
The initiative does not include discussion of United States trade, tariffs or quotas. The U.S. currently has a US$0.54 per gallon tariff on imported ethanol, which Brazil would like to see lifted.

Ethanol, biodiesel and other biofuels are part of a larger strategy to address energy security, cleaner air, and climate change at home and in the region:
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Domestically, President Bush has set a goal of reducing America's projected annual gasoline use by 20 percent in 10 years by increasing alternative energy and improving energy efficiency. A key pillar of achieving the President's goal is diversification of supply, including the promotion of alternative fuels such as biofuels. The President's plan will help confront climate change by stopping the projected growth of carbon dioxide emissions from cars, light trucks, and SUVs within 10 years.

Internationally, the United States is working with governments, private sector, and multilateral organizations to advance energy security by encouraging market-led development, transparency, integration, and investment in the energy sector. The Mesoamerican Energy Initiative is a key example of regional energy integration that the United States supports through assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Trade and Development Agency and the United States Agency for International Development.

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International project launched to study tropical peatlands

An international, EU-sponsored project has been launched to study the interactions between climate change and tropical peatlands which store up to 70 billion tonnes of carbon.

Dr Susan Page of Leicester University's Department of Geography will be leading the team and has been awarded €458,000 funding from the European Commission for the project involving partners from Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Holland, Finland and the UK.

The CARBOPEAT project will investigate the complex interactions between the carbon sinks, climate change and land use change. Dr Page describes the peatlands as carbon-dense ecosystems that are extremely vulnerable to destabilisation through human and climate induced changes.

Located mainly in Southeast Asia, they store 50-70 billion tonnes of carbon (3% global soil carbon) but poor land management practices and fire, mainly associated with plantation development and logging, are releasing some of this carbon and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. The CARBOPEAT project will identify key issues and critical gaps in the understanding of tropical peatland carbon dynamics, analyse implications for policy, and formulate guidelines for optimizing the tropical peat carbon store that can be understood readily by policy makers and decision takers in both European and Southeast Asian countries.

It is an important undertaking in the context of biofuels, since some of the palm and sago (earlier post) plantations in the region are established on drained peatlands. The carbon dioxide that is released during the establishment of such plantations is only gradually taken up by the energy crop as it grows. However, some researchers have found that palm plantations in fact store more carbon and methane than peatland forests systems.

This controversial assessment is often taken up by palm oil sector in South East Asia to counter allegations over its contribution to climate change. The sector argues that biofuels from palm oil are only made from the oil in the palm fruits, which are harvested, whereas the standing trees act as strong carbon sinks and that the plantation soils store more methane than the original ecosystem. The CARBOPEAT project will now shed more light on this controversy:
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It is anticipated that the project will contribute to future UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) discussions on reducing global carbon emissions.

At a kick-off meeting of the project partners held in the University of Leicester, Dr Page said: "I have been involved in several research projects investigating the ecology of tropical peat swamps, but with the CARBOPEAT project we now have the opportunity to present our findings to a wider audience.

"Tropical peatlands are a globally significant source of carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Hopefully, through this project, we can promote urgent international action to enable Southeast Asian countries to conserve their peat resources better".

Prof. Harri Vasander from the University of Helsinki, Finland agreed: "Now is the time to utilise our research data to demonstrate how globally important tropical peatland really is, especially in terms of its impact on the global climate. Over the last ten years many people have only been aware of this ecosystem when choking haze from peatland fires has engulfed Southeast Asia. We want to bring the value of tropical peatlands to the forefront of policy makers' thinking, even after the peatland fires have died down."

His colleague, Dr Jyrki Jauhiainen, also from the University of Helsinki, added: "The CARBOPEAT project can make an important contribution by informing land managers on the best ways to prevent further carbon losses".

Colleagues from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam will be organising several major events at which the profile of tropical peatlands will be raised. Prof. Bostang Radjagukguk, a soil scientist from Universiti Gadjah Mada, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, is preparing for the first project congress, which will be held at the end of August this year. "We have just received information that the congress may be attended by the Vice-President of Indonesia. This demonstrates the high level of commitment that the Government of Indonesia is paying to the environmental value of its natural resources, including peatlands."

In 2008, the CARBOPEAT project will be organising a second regional congress hosted by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. Representing his university, Professor Wan Sulaiman said "We are engaged in a number of research and educational activities to raise the profile of our country's peatland resources. We look forward to hosting a major international event on the dynamics of the tropical peatland carbon-climate-human system at which we can investigate the opportunities for improved land management. Information disseminated through CARBOPEAT will not only provide valuable guidelines but also reinforce some of the initiatives undertaken by Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia in the rehabilitation and restoration of degraded peatlands. One exciting dimension is the commitment to increase stakeholder awareness on how wise use and restoration efforts contribute to increased carbon sequestration that in turn will have a positive effect on global climate. It also brings to the forefront information on current and future international conventions that can influence government policy directions on peatlands".

Dr Henk Wosten, from Wageningen University and Research Centre, said: "With CARBOPEAT we are in an excellent position to propel the necessary actions so that informed decisions on the management of tropical peatlands can be taken by policy makers".

Detailed studies carried out by Dr Page and others over more than 10 years have shown that tropical peat swamp forest has an abundance of plants and animals, including the endangered orang-utan, and that the peatlands perform a range of valuable services, such as water storage, flood prevention and carbon storage.

The forest contains a number of valuable timber-producing trees plus a range of other products of value to local communities, such as bark, resins and latex. Tropical peatlands are, however, being deforested and drained at a rapid rate. The problems that result from development of tropical peatland stem mainly from a lack of understanding of the complexities of this ecosystem and the fragility of the relationship between peat and forest. In its natural state tropical peatland is a vast, globally-important carbon sink which locks away the greenhouse gas CO2. But once the carbon allocation to the system is discontinued by forest removal and the peat is drained, the surface peat oxidises and loses stored carbon rapidly to the atmosphere. This results in progressive subsidence of the peat surface, leading to flooding, and contributes to climate change.

The CARBOPEAT project will play a critical role in bringing this information to a wider audience by providing sufficient information and insight on tropical peat and peatland to enable stakeholders to understand this ecosystem and its derivatives better, to anticipate problems before they arise and to put principles of wise use into effect. It will bring together international peatland scientists, policy makers and decision takers from the EU and DCs and other stakeholders in Southeast Asia to analyse the problems and potential of peat carbon globally, with an emphasis on Southeast Asia where most tropical peatland is located and the biggest problems are occurring.

Professor Jack Rieley of the University of Nottingham, who has studied the ecology and natural resource functions of tropical peatlands, commented that: "Peat swamp forests in Southeast Asia are one of the last wildernesses on this planet with a large reservoir of biodiversity and carbon, both of which are being destroyed needlessly without producing socio-economic benefits.

More information:
University of Leicester: Carbopeat Project, homepage.

CIRAD (Centre International de Recherche au Dévelopement): Oil palm, a candidate for carbon storage

More general, about the carbon sequestration capacity of tropical plantations, see: Olivier Roupsard, Yann Nouvellon, Christophe Jourdan, Laurent-Saint-André, Philippe Thaler, Emmanuelle Lamade, Recherches sur la séquestration de C dans les plantations de cocotiers & d’eucalyptus [*.pdf], CIRAD, - the text is in English.

Lulie Melling, Ryusuke Hatano, Kah Joo Goh, and Takashi Inoue, Greenhouse Gas Fluxes from Three Ecosystems in Tropical Peatland of Sarawak, Malaysia, 18th World Congress of Soil Science (July 9-15, 2006).

Lulie Melling, Ryusuke Hatano, Kah Joo Goh, Soil CO2 flux from three ecosystems in tropical peatland of Sarawak, Malaysia, Tellus B, Volume 57 Issue 1, page 1-11, February 2005.

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EU reaches historic deal on renewables, biofuels and carbon emissions

At the European Council Summit, hosted by Germany which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, heads of state of EU member-states have reached a historic agreement to adopt targets for renewables, biofuels and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The Council has thus endorsed the EU Commission's ambitious climate and energy plan (earlier post) which is to put the Union in a world leadership position on climate change and which will make the block a low carbon economy.

The Summit resulted in the following outcomes [*.pdf]:
  1. renewables: a binding target on the use of renewable energy, such as biomass, wind and solar power. The 27 EU states will each decide how they contribute to meeting a 20% boost overall in renewable fuel use by 2020.
  2. greenhouse gas emissions: EU leaders agreed to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by the year 2020, and by 30% if other nations (mainly the US and China) put in a similar effort.
  3. biofuels: the EU member states have also agreed to set a 10% minimum target on the use of biofuels in transport by 2020.
Even though the targets are binding, the final text allayed the fears of Eastern European countries - whose energy intensive industries heavily rely on coal - and of nuclear power France - which obtains 70% of its energy from atomic sources - by stating that the targets for renewables are "differentiated national overall targets", set "with due regard to a fair and adequate allocation taking account of different national starting points".

In what is viewed as a concession to France, the text recognises the contribution of nuclear energy in "meeting the growing concerns about safety of energy supply and carbon dioxide emissions reductions". However, it also highlights safety concerns, stating that "nuclear safety and security" should be "paramount in the decision-making process".

Other points to note are the agreement to invest in so-called carbon capture and storage technologies, with 12 concrete projects being endorsed.

We will be following up on the reactions to this historic agreement as they pour in. But a comment by the president of the EU Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, already illustrates how policy makers see the deal as a revolutionary agreement with global dimensions: "These decisions are very important for the future of our planet, for the future generations, for the global community" [entry ends here].
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Malaysian palm oil industry launches charm offensive in the EU

The head of Malaysia’s palm oil industry has called for a closer working relationship between the EU and the producers of vegetable oils used in biofuels.

In a statement on March 9, Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) chief executive officer Tan Sri Yusof Basiron said: "Malaysia wants to pursue a continued dialogue on sustainability and biodiversity.

"We recognise the importance of standards to ensure sustainability, and believe that the best way to achieve them is to engage directly with those who have to implement and enforce them on the ground."

Yusof, speaking at the World Biofuels Market Congress taking place in Brussels, said he was keen for Malaysia’s 100-year experience of tropical agriculture to be used to help set sustainability benchmarks for the future.

The chairman's charm offensive comes at a time when Western NGOs have voiced concern about deforestation and the loss of biodiversity through an expanding palm oil sector. The orrganisations are lobbying the EU to take the entire life-cycle of biofuels into account, in order to ascertain that they are produced in a sustainable manner (earlier post).

Earlier, Europarliamentarians joined the criticism and said they would look into the true environmental impact of palm based biofuels (previous post).

Yusof: "We have learned many lessons about maintaining biodiversity and the balance between the needs of man and the needs of the environment, but we recognise that there is still more we can do. There is an unfounded fear that palm bio-diesel demand in the EU will prompt uncontrolled expansion of oil palm plantations in Malaysia, and thus further erode tropical forests. This is not the case."

"The country has a stringent land use policy backed by legislation, and in fact Malaysia does a huge service in reducing global warming by having 60% of its land under permanent forests, and keeping less than 20% for agriculture," he said.

Yusof added that Malaysia has its own code of Sustainable Forest Management, and that it helps drive the progressive work being done by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) which brings together growers, processors, investors, trades, retailers and NGOs to create an internationally-recognised certification scheme for sustainably-produced palm oil:
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He also addressed the economics of the fast-growing biofuels industry in Europe, and highlighted palm oil's role in the sector.

"The EU has set a 2010 target of 5.75% bio-diesel in its fuel mix to reduce over-dependence on fossil fuels. This target translates into some ten million tonnes of bio-diesel that will be needed by 2010."

"The availability of bio-diesel in the EU and other potential importing countries offers mutual benefits, including palm oil’s ability to deliver more carbon sequestration than other vegetable oils."

"Palm oil has an important role to play, but it is clear that palm oil on its own cannot solve the prevailing shortage of fuel supply and high petroleum prices, because of the limited availability of palm oil compared to the large volumes needed for fuel."

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German companies create joint venture for biogas production, to invest €50 million

Local energy player REWAG and the world's largest biogas firm Schmack Energie Holding's subsidiary Schmack Biogas AG have partnered to create [*German] a joint-venture that will supply the German region of Regensburg with renewable, carbon-neutral biogas. Through a new company, called RENION Biogas GmbH, both partners will invest up to €50 (US$65.7) million into new infrastructures, biogas plants and distribution chains.

The biogas will be produced from dedicated energy crops (such as special biogas maize, and purpose-bred grass species such as Sudan grass, Sorghum and their hybrids), and provide a feedstock for the production of electricity, heat, and fuel for cars. Part of the biogas stream will be used on-site, whereas another part will be fed into the natural gas grid of the region.

It is the largest investment of its kind.

"With this venture we stimulate the creation of added value for the local economy."says Norbert Breidenbach, CEO of REWAG. Ulrich Schmack, CEO of Schmack Biogas AG adds: "Moreover, this way we considerably reduce our dependence on gas imports from abroad."

Ulrich Schmack aqcuired some notoriety last year, when he, as an energy advisor to the German government, said the country could replace all natural gas imports from Russia, by investing in biogas (earlier post). Later, he was proven right by a report that indeed showed the enormous potential for biogas production in Europe: at current investment rates, by 2020 Europe could become entirely independent from Russian gas (earlier post). With the foundation of RENION, Schmack now indicates he's willing to back his own vision with the necessary funds.

Biogas blossoms
Biogas has seen a real boom in Germany: last year, some 3500 large biogas plants were online, producing more energy than the country's famed wind industry (earlier post). Of these biogas plants, Schmack operates 171 with a combined capacity of 41MW. The German government supports the renewable energy sector, and especially the segment based on the utilisation of biomass resources:
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The potential of the green gas is gradually being recognized outside Europe, with U.S. analysts predicting 2007 will be the year biogas makes its definte breakthrough accross the pond (earlier post).

"As a utility, we have the political duty to tap into new energy sources, in order to ensure our independence from fossil fuels, the supplies of which have become problematic, and to create a diversified energy mix," says Breidenbach. Both companies want to rely on each other's expertise and competences to create synergies with which it will become possible to market the heat from the biogas cogeneration plants in an efficient manner.

Schmack: "Through the joint-venture with REWAG, we speed up the creation of our own companies, a committment we made to our shareholders. REWAG is a strong partner in the region. Together, we can find suitable sites for biogas plants much easier, and tap the opportunities to feed biogas into the regional natural gas grid. Moreover, together we will be in a position to bring the generated heat to market in an efficient way. We are very pleased to have the local government on board, which fully backs this project."

Regional advantages
Up to two thirds of all productive activity carried out by the joint-venture will be located in the Regensburg region. This way, employment is generated and locally grounded chains of added value are created, as the activities, from the source to the consumer, are all anchored in and around Regensburg.

The local government's role is seen as crucial and beneficial. The institution has initiated information sessions for stakeholders and for the public at large - an important step towards the long-term success of this kind of projects, which often hinges on public acceptance and transparent information. The local government will also be directly involved in concrete planning steps for the establishment of the biogas plants.

Biogas - the most efficient of all biofuels
Both partners stress that biogas is the most efficient of all green fuels, as it yields the highest amount of energy when the entire farm-to-fuel chain is analysed (earlier post).

Crude, unnpurified biogas can be used directly, on-site in combined heat-and-power plants, but after scrubbing the CO2 out, it can be fed into the natural gas grid (earlier post). This way it reaches consumers without them noticing it.

REWAG has extensive experience with the transport and distribution of natural gas, and with contract models for the distribution of heat. The company also co-operates with the construction sector and offers efficient concepts for heat systems that are integrated in building plans from the start. Biogas plants neatly fit into this activity.

Biogas is used most efficiently in combined heat-and-power plants, with the generated heat distributed on a district level.

But the renewable gas also makes for a green fuel to be used in CNG-capable cars. German energy companies are marketing the green gas as such and are building dedicated highway fuel stations for it (earlier post). As such, biomethane has the highest energy efficiency and the lowest carbon footprint of all renewable transport fuels. Seen in this context, RENION's investment will result in an amount of energy capable of fueling 20,000 cars per year.

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