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    Bioprocess Control signs agreement with Svensk Biogas and forms closer ties with Swedish Biogas International. Bioprocess Control develops high-tech applications that optimise the commercial production of biogas. It won Sweden's prestigious national clean-tech innovations competition MiljöInnovation 2007 for its 'Biogas Optimizer' that accelerates the biogas production process and ensures greater process stability. NewsDesk Sweden - April 17, 2007.

    A joint Bioenergy project of Purdue University and Archer Daniels Midland Company has been selected to receive funding by the U.S. Department of Energy to further the commercialization of highly-efficient yeast which converts cellulosic materials into ethanol through fermentation. ADM - April 17, 2007.

    Researchers at Iowa State University and the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Services (ARS) have found that glycerin, a biodiesel by-product, is as effective as conventional corn-soymeal diets for pigs. AllAboutFeed - April 16, 2007.

    U.S. demand for uranium may surge by a third amid a revival in atomic power projects, increasing concern that imports will increase and that limited supplies may push prices higher, the Nuclear Energy Institute says. Prices touched all time highs of US$113 a pound in an auction last week by a U.S producer amid plans by China and India to expand their nuclear power capacity. International Herald Tribune - April 16, 2007.

    Taiwan mandates a 1% biodiesel and ethanol blend for all diesel and gasoline sold in the country, to become effective next year. By 2010, the ratio will be increased to 2%. WisconsinAg Connection - April 16, 2007.

    Vietnam has won the prestigious EU-sponsored Energy Globe award for 2006 for a community biogas program, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development announced. ThanhNien News - April 13, 2007.

    Given unstable fossil fuel prices and their negative effects on the economy, Tanzania envisages large-scale agriculture of energy crops Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Cooperatives, Mr Christopher Chiza has said. A 600 hectare jatropha seed production effort is underway, with the seeds expected to be distributed to farmers during the 2009/2010 growing season. Daily News (Dar es Salaam) - April 12, 2007.

    Renault has announced it will launch a flex-fuel version of its Logan in Brazil in July. Brazilian autosales rose 28% to 1,834,581 in 2006 from 2004. GreenCarCongress - April 12, 2007.

    Chevron and Weyerhouser, one of the largest forest products companies, are joining forces to research next generation biofuels. The companies will focus on developing technology that can transform wood fiber and other nonfood sources of cellulose into economical, clean-burning biofuels for cars and trucks. PRNewswire - April 12, 2007.

    BioConversion Blog's C. Scott Miller discusses the publication of 'The BioTown Source Book', which offers a very accessible introduction to the many different bioconversion technologies currently driving the bioenergy sector. BioConversion Blog - April 11, 2007.

    China's State Forestry Administration (SFA) and the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Import & Export Corp., Ltd. (COFCO) have signed a framework agreement over plans to cooperatively develop forest bioenergy resources, COFCO announced on its web site. Interfax China - April 11, 2007.

    The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of El Salvador is speeding up writing the country's biofuels law in order to take advantage of the US-Brazil cooperation agreement which identified the country as one where projects can be launched fairly quickly. The bill is expected to be presented to parliament in the coming weeks. El Porvenir - April 11, 2007.

    ConocoPhillips will establish an eight-year, $22.5 million research program at Iowa State University dedicated to developing technologies that produce biofuels. The grant is part of ConocoPhillips' plan to create joint research programs with major universities to produce viable solutions to diversify America's energy sources. Iowa State University - April 11, 2007.

    Interstate Power and Light has decided to utilize super-critical pulverized coal boiler technology at its large (600MW) new generation facility planned for Marshalltown, Iowa. The plant is designed to co-fire biomass and has a cogeneration component. The investment tops US$1billion. PRNewswire - April 10, 2007.

    One of India's largest sugar companies, the Birla group will invest 8 billion rupees (US$187 million) to expand sugar and biofuel ethanol output and produce renewable electricity from bagasse, to generate more revenue streams from its sugar business. Reuters India - April 9, 2007.

    An Iranian firm, Mashal Khazar Darya, is to build a cellulosic ethanol plant that will utilise switchgrass as its feedstock at a site it owns in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The investment is estimated to be worth €112/US$150 million. The plant's capacity will be 378 million liters (100 million gallons), supplied by switchgrass grown on 4400 hectares of land. PressTv (Iran) - April 9, 2007.

    The Africa Power & Electricity Congress and Exhibition, to take place from 16 - 20 April 2007, in the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa, will focus on bioenergy and biofuels. The Statesman - April 7, 2007.

    Petrobras and Petroecuador have signed a joint performance MOU for a technical, economic and legal viability study to develop joint projects in biofuel production and distribution in Ecuador. The project includes possible joint Petroecuador and Petrobras investments, in addition to qualifying the Ecuadorian staff that is directly involved in biofuel-related activities with the exchange of professionals and technical training. PetroBras - April 5, 2007.

    The Société de Transport de Montréal is to buy 8 biodiesel-electric hybrid buses that will use 20% less fuel and cut 330 tons of GHG emissions per annum. Courrier Ahuntsic - April 3, 2007.

    Thailand mandates B2, a mixture of 2% biodiesel and 98% diesel. According to Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amranand, the mandate comes into effect by April next year. Bangkok Post - April 3, 2007.

    In what is described as a defeat for the Bush administration, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled [*.pdf] today that environmental officials have the power to regulate greenhouse gas emissions that spur global warming. By a 5-4 vote, the nation's highest court told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its refusal to regulate carbon dioxide and other emissions from new cars and trucks that contribute to climate change. Reuters - April 2, 2007.

    Goldman Sachs estimates that, in the absence of current trade barriers, Latin America could supply all the ethanol required in the US and Europe at a cost of $45 per barrel – just over half the cost of US-made ethanol. EuroToday - April 2, 2007.

    The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative signed a long-term purchase power agreement last week with Green Energy Team, LLC. The 20-year agreement enables KIUC to purchase power from Green Energy's proposed 6.4 megawatt biomass-to-energy facility, which will use agricultural waste to generate power. Honolulu Advertiser - April 2, 2007.

    The market trend to heavier, more powerful hybrids is eroding the fuel consumption advantage of hybrid technology, according to a study done by researchers at the University of British Columbia. GreenCarCongress - March 30, 2007.

    Hungarian privately-owned bio-ethanol project firm Mabio is planning to complete an €80-85 million ethanol plant in Southeast Hungary's Csabacsud by end-2008. Onet/Interfax - March 29, 2007.

    Energy and engineering group Abengoa announces it has applied for planning permission to build a bioethanol plant in north-east England with a capacity of about 400,000 tonnes a year. Reuters - March 29, 2007.

    The second European Summer School on Renewable Motor Fuels will be held in Warsaw, Poland, from 29 to 31 August 2007. The goal of the event is to disseminate the knowledge generated within the EU-funded RENEW (Renewable Fuels for Advanced Powertrains) project and present it to the European academic audience and stakeholders. Topics on the agenda include generation of synthetic gas from biomass and gas cleaning; transport fuel synthesis from synthetic gas; biofuel use in different motors; biomass potentials, supply and logistics, and technology, cost and life-cycle assessment of BtL pathways. Cordis News - March 27, 2007.

    Green Swedes want even more renewables, according to a study from Gothenburg University. Support for hydroelectricity and biofuels has increased, whereas three-quarters of people want Sweden to concentrate more on wind and solar too. Swedes still back the nuclear phase-out plans. The country is Europe's largest ethanol user. It imports 75% of the biofuel from Brazil. Sveriges Radio International - March 27, 2007.

    Fiat will launch its Brazilian-built flex-fuel Uno in South Africa later this year. The flex-fuel Uno, which can run on gasoline, ethanol or any combination of the two fuels, was displayed at the Durban Auto Show, and is set to become popular as South Africa enters the ethanol era. Automotive World - March 27, 2007.

    Siemens Power Generation (PG) is to supply two steam turbine gensets to a biomass-fired plant in Três Lagoas, 600 kilometers northwest of São Paulo. The order, valued at €22 million, was placed by the Brazilian company Pöyry Empreendimentos, part of VCP (Votorantim Celulose e Papel), one of the biggest cellulose producers in the Americas. PRDomain - March 25, 2007.

    Asia’s demand for oil will nearly double over the next 25 years and will account for 85% of the increased demand in 2007, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) officials forecast yesterday at a Bangkok-hosted energy conference. Daily Times - March 24, 2007.

    Portugal's government expects total investment in biomass energy will reach €500 million in 2012, when its target of 250MW capacity is reached. By that date, biomass will reduce 700,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. By 2010, biomass will represent 5% of the country's energy production. Forbes - March 22, 2007.

    The Scottish Executive has announced a biomass action plan for Scotland, through which dozens of green energy projects across the region are set to benefit from an additional £3 million of funding. The plan includes greater use of the forestry and agriculture sectors, together with grant support to encourage greater use of biomass products. Energy Business Review Online - March 21, 2007.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Climate change is a national security issue - report

Political instability, failed states, wars over scarce resources and millions of climate refugees are some of the 'doom-and-gloom' scenarios in a report published by a leading US military think-tank.

The recently published analysis entitled "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change" [*.pdf] was written by a military advisory board of 11 retired admirals and generals. It focuses on how climate change may affect US national security and military operations over the next 30 to 40 years.

Some of its sobering findings are:
  • that, in the national and international security environment, climate change threatens to add new hostile and stressing factors. On the simplest level, it has the potential to create sustained natural and humanitarian disasters on a scale far beyond those we see today. The consequences will likely foster political instability where societal demands exceed the capacity of governments to cope.
  • climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world. Projected climate change will seriously exacerbate already marginal living standards in many Asian, African, and Middle Eastern nations, causing widespread political instability and the likelihood of failed states. Weakened and failing governments, with an already thin margin for survival, foster the conditions for internal conflicts, extremism, and movement toward increased authoritarianism and radical ideologies.
  • projected climate change will add to tensions even in stable regions of the world. The U.S. and Europe may experience mounting pressure to accept large numbers of immigrant and refugee populations as drought increases and food production declines in Latin America and Africa. Extreme weather events and natural disasters, as the U.S. experienced with Hurricane Katrina, may lead to increased missions for a number of U.S. agencies, including state and local governments, the Department of Homeland Security, and our already stretched military, including our Guard and Reserve forces.
  • climate change, national security, and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges. Dependence on foreign oil leaves the US more vulnerable to hostile regimes and terrorists, and clean domestic energy alternatives help us confront the serious challenge of global climate change. Because the issues are linked, solutions to one affect the other. Technologies that improve energy efficiency also reduce carbon intensity and carbon emissions.
In order to mitigate the multiple national security risks related to climate change, the senior military thinkers make a clear set of recommentations that need timely implementation:
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1. The national security consequences of climate change should be fully integrated into national security and national defense strategies.

2. The U.S. should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate change at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability.

3. The U.S. should commit to global partnerships that help less developed nations build the capacity and resiliency to better manage climate impacts.

4. The Department of Defense should enhance its operational capability by accelerating the adoption of improved business processes and innovative technologies that result in improved U.S. combat power through energy efficiency.

5. The Department of Defense should conduct an assessment of the impact on U.S. military installations worldwide of rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and other projected climate change impacts over the next 30 to 40 years.

The report further underlines the growing awareness of political leaders that climate change is more than an environmental issue. On 17 April, the United Nations Security Council will deal with the same security dimension of global warming in its first debate on climate change. The UK government has written a special Energy, security and climate concept paper for the meeting.

More information:
The CNA Corporation: "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change" [*.pdf] - April 2007.
UK government: "Energy, security and climate" - March 2007

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Swiss technology institute launches ‘Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels'

With their potential to reduce carbon emissions, help solve global warming, and create economic opportunities for rural areas, biofuels can be an important part of the energy mix of the future. Governments worldwide are rapidly requiring oil companies to blend biofuels with fossil fuels, and the biofuels industry is booming from Guatemala to Mauritius to Thailand. But without safeguards, some biofuels can have negative impacts, including clearing valuable forests for cropland, using scarce water, and reducing the amount of land available for food production. Consumers, producers, governments, and environmental and social groups are calling for global rules to ensure that biofuels represent an environmental solution, not another problem.

The Energy Center at the École Polytechnique Féférale de Lausanne (EPFL), in Switzerland announced today a multi-stakeholder process, the 'Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels', to create draft global standards for sustainable biofuels production and processing.

Founding Steering Board members include, among others, the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), Toyota, BP, the Mali Folkecenter, the National Wildlife Federation, Shell, the Dutch and Swiss governments, the UN Foundation, Petrobras, the World Economic Forum, the University of California at Berkeley, Bunge, TERI India, and Amigos da Terra - Amazônia Brasileira (Friends of the Earth Brazil).

The roundatble's Steering Board will draft principles of sustainable biofuels production, which will then be open for public comment on its website. The criteria for measuring performance against these principles will be drafted by four Working Groups, open to any interested party:
  • GHG - greenhouse gas lifecycle efficiency analysis. This group will recommend methodologies to use to calculate the efficiency of particular production and processing techniques in terms of replacing greenhouse gas emissions as compared to fossil fuels.
  • ENV - environmental concerns. This group will draft minimum criteria for sustainable biofuels on their impact on biodiversity, soil and water resources, and other environmental issues.
  • SOC - social concerns. This group will outline the criteria for the labor rights, food security, poverty alleviation, and other social elements of sustainable biofuels production.
  • IMP - implementation. This group will review the recommendations of the other working groups to ensure that the standards are easy to implement and measure so that they are accessible by small-scale and other low-income farmers.
The Roundtable's multi-stakeholder Steering Board will be responsible for overseeing the standards drafting process, and uses the ISEAL 'Alliance Code of Good Practice for Standard Setting' to do so:
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"Many people are worried about biofuels contributing to deforestation and air pollution in the name of protecting the planet," said Claude Martin, former Director-General of WWF International and Chair of the Roundtable's Steering Board. "Companies and farmers want global rules that they can follow. The Roundtable will bring together all of these actors to start writing these rules together, to ensure that biofuels deliver on their promise of sustainability."

The Steering Board will invite affected parties to join working groups or otherwise participate in developing and commenting on principles and criteria related to biofuels' environmental and social impacts, as well as overall greenhouse gas benefits.

Areas of interest will include protecting biodiversity, water resources, and labor and land rights, as well as encouraging biofuels' contribution to economic development in rural areas. The Roundtable will gather opinions and feedback through online technology, conference calls, and regional meetings, to ensure that developing countries and disadvantaged groups have a meaningful opportunity to contribute to the elaboration of the standards.

"As Switzerland is not a major importer or exporter of biofuels, it represents a neutral platform to host these discussions," said Dr. Patrick Aebischer, President of the EPFL. "Our hope is that in an academic setting, companies, governments, and civil organizations will be able to come to consensus on how to ensure biofuels are produced sustainably."

The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels aims to develop draft standards through a global feedback process by early 2008. Already over 80 organizations from the US to Argentina to Kenya to Malaysia have signed up to participate.

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Fortum to build €60 million biomass cogeneration plant in Järvenpää, Finland

Leading bioenergy firm Fortum is planning to invest about €60/US$81.3 million in a new power plant in the Ristinummi district of Järvenpää, southern Finland, where it will deliver both heat and power to households, commercial and municipal buildings. Thanks to the high proportion of biofuels that will be used in the combined heat and power plant, the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will decrease by 50 percent compared to a fossil fuel powered plant of a similar capacity.

The cogeneration plant will use solid biofuels (80 percent) and peat (20 percent) as fuels, making emissions from the electricity production very low. The district heating capacity of the plant will be approximately 50 megawatts (MW) and electricity production capacity 25 MW. Furthermore, a new natural gas based reserve heat boiler (45 MW) will be build adjacent to the power plant. Heat from the cogeneration plant is transported in the form of hot water via pipelines.

The highly efficient biomass power facility is planned to be completed for production by 2010. Its capacity will cover the increasing need for district heating in Järvenpää and Tuusula, twin-cities experiencing solid economic growth. Järvenpää and Tuusula are located alongside the Helsinki-Riihimäki railway track, some 37 kilometers north of Helsinki:
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The biomass power plant will replace a number of heat boilers that operate on heavy fuel oil and natural gas, some of which will be decomissioned and a few left to serve as peak and reserve capacity. The intention is to build a connecting pipe between the district heating networks in the Järvenpää town centre and Hyrylä.

Fortum has filed an application for a town plan amendment to allow the construction of the power plant and started the preparations to apply for an environmental permit.

Image: district heating is highly efficient because it makes use of the heat generated in a cogeneration plant. This heat is transported from the biomass plant to households, commercial and municipal buildings, in the form of hot water that is distributed via pipelines.

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Netherlands okays €3.7 million to build 140,000 biogas plants in Vietnam

The Government of Netherlands has agreed to continue financing its highly successful rural biogas program, by releasing another €3.7/US$5 million. The funds will be used to build 140,000 more small biogas units for rural households nationwide.

Dutch Ambassador Andre Haspels announced his government's intentions in Hanoi at a ceremony to announce that Vietnam's Dutch-sponsored biogas project for animal husbandry won the Energy Globe Award, one of the world's prestigious environmental prizes.

The biogas for animal husbandry programme, part of a cooperative agreement between the governments of Vietnam and the Netherlands, helped build 27,000 household-based biogas units in 24 cities and provinces nationwide between 2003 and 2006. The biogas units convert animal waste into fuel that is immediately useable for cooking, heating, lighting and generating electricity. This way, the pressure to harvest wood fuel is reduced, and indoor air pollution - a true killer in the kitchen - is avoided.

Vietnam's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cao Duc Phat emphasised the project has helped boost rural development while at the same time dealt with environmental pollution issues to contribute to the improvement of the living conditions of rural people.

The awards, handed out to 10 projects from around the world, were selected from a short list of over 700 entries and were presented at a special gala event at the European Parliament in Brussels, on April 11 [entry ends here].
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Top FAO and UN experts to weigh benefits and perils of bioenergy

Amid growing debate over the possible consequences of large-scale bioenergy production, top international experts meet at Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) headquarters in Rome for three days to review present knowledge of the issue and suggest a road map for the way ahead.

Experts from various countries, as well as specialists in energy, climate and the environment from the FAO and other UN agencies will assess the overall potential for bioenergy and weigh the fast-growing industry’s possible effects on food security.

"Bioenergy holds out enormous opportunities for farmers, especially in the developing world" says Gustavo Best, FAO’s Senior Energy Coordinator. "But there are dangers too, and we want to be very clear about them". In the past, FAO experts have seen bioenergy production as key in the fight against hunger.

The FAO recently launched the International Bioenergy Platform (IBEP) as a mechanism for organizing and facilitating a multidisciplinary and global approach to study the benefits and problems associated with bioenergy. IBEP is expected to provide analysis and information for policy and decision-making support; to build and strengthen institutional capacity at all levels; to enhance access to energy services from sustainable bioenergy systems; and to facilitate opportunities for effective international exchange and collaboration.

Another initiative, the UN's Global Bioenergy Partnership, has a mandate to facilitate a global political forum to promote bioenergy and to encourage the production, marketing and use of green fuels, with particular focus on developing countries. Experts from this Partnership will attend the top-level meeting too.

Biofuels, currently made from feedstock such as sugar cane, palm oil and maize, promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as they substitute for fossil energy and to create new jobs and infrastructure in rural areas:
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But critics warn they could cause environmental damage and loss of biodiversity as vast tracts of land are cleared for monocultures. Concern is also being voiced about the wisdom of diverting food crops away from human or animal consumption to make fuel for cars and trucks.

To address these challenges, the FAO Bioenergy and Food Security project was launched in January 2007, which will work to mainstream food security concerns into assessments of bioenergy potential. Analysis and field activities will be targeted to support sustainable rural development and food security initiatives.

A core project team, a Task Force, and an inter-disciplinary group of FAO technical staff will provide expertise and guidance over the three-year life of the project in collaboration with a number of external partners.

Country selection criteria are currently under development based on country typology, food security context, biomass potential and farming systems, agro-ecological zones.

Work is also underway to to provide longer-term technical guidance, particularly in terms of land and resource use modelling, as well as incorporate inputs on commodity markets and trade from FAO experts. These will assist countries to assess their comparative advantage in the field of bioenergy.

The experts in Rome will be called on to assess potentials for bioenergy production and identify ways of producing biofuels that are sustainable in terms of the environment and food security.

The meeting is expected to issue a set of recommendations when it ends on Wednesday.

More information:
UN News Center: Experts gather for UN meeting to discuss benefits and perils of bioenergy - April 16, 2007

FAO: Top experts to weigh impact of bioenergy - April 17, 2007

FAO, Natural Resources Management and Environment Department: International Bioenergy Platform.

UN: Global Bioenergy Partnership.

FAO: Bioenergy and food security project - January 2007.

FAO: FAO sees major shift to bioenergy - April 25, 2006

FAO: Bioenergy, key to the fight against hunger - April 14, 2005.

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