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

    According to Salvador Rivas, the director for Non-Conventional Energy at the Dominican Republic's Industry and Commerce Ministry, a group of companies from Brazil wants to invest more than 100 million dollars to produce ethanol in the country, both for local consumption and export to the United States. Dominican Today - May 16, 2007.

    EWE AG, a German multi-service energy company, has started construction on a plant aimed at purifying biogas so that it can be fed into the natural gas grid. Before the end of the year, EWE AG will be selling the biogas to end users via its subsidiary EWE Naturwatt. Solarthemen [*German] - May 16, 2007.

    Scania will introduce an ethanol-fueled hybrid bus concept at the UITP public transport congress in Helsinki 21-24 May 2007. The full-size low-floor city bus is designed to cut fossil CO2 emissions by up to 90% when running on the ethanol blend and reduce fuel consumption by at least 25%. GreenCarCongress - May 16, 2007.

    A report by the NGO Christian Aid predicts there may be 1 billion climate refugees and migrants by 2050. It shows the effects of conflicts on populations in poor countries and draws parallels with the situation as it could develop because of climate change. Christian Aid - May 14, 2007.

    Dutch multinational oil group Rompetrol, also known as TRG, has entered the biofuel market in France in conjunction with its French subsidiary Dyneff. It hopes to equip approximately 30 filling stations to provide superethanol E85 distribution to French consumers by the end of 2007. Energy Business Review - May 13, 2007.

    A group of British organisations launches the National Forum on Bio-Methane as a Road Transport Fuel. Bio-methane or biogas is widely regarded as the cleanest of all transport fuels, even cleaner than hydrogen or electric vehicles. Several EU projects across the Union have shown its viability. The UK forum was lauched at the Naturally Gas conference on 1st May 2007 in Loughborough, which was hosted by Cenex in partnership with the NSCA and the Natural Gas Vehicle Association. NSCA - May 11, 2007.

    We reported earlier on Dynamotive and Tecna SA's initiative to build 6 bio-oil plants in the Argentinian province of Corrientes (here). Dynamotive has now officially confirmed this news. Dynamotive - May 11, 2007.

    Nigeria launches a national biofuels feasibility study that will look at the potential to link the agricultural sector to the automotive fuels sector. Tim Gbugu, project leader, said "if we are able to link agriculture, we will have large employment opportunity for the sustenance of this country, we have vast land that can be utilised". This Day Onlin (Lagos) - May 9, 2007.

    Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva meets with the CEO of Portuguese energy company Galp Energia, which will sign a biofuel cooperation agreement with Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras. GP1 (*Portuguese) - May 9, 2007.

    The BBC has an interesting story on how biodiesel made from coconut oil is taking the pacific island of Bougainville by storm. Small refineries turn the oil into an affordable fuel that replaces costly imported petroleum products. BBC - May 8, 2007.

    Indian car manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra is set to launch its first B100-powered vehicles for commercial use by this year-end. The company is confident of fitting the new engines in all its existing models. Sify - May 8, 2007.

    The Biofuels Act of the Philippines has come into effect today. The law requires all oil firms in the country to blend 2% biodiesel (most often coconut-methyl ester) in their diesel products. AHN - May 7, 2007.

    Successful tests based on EU-criteria result in approval of 5 new maize hybrids that were developed as dedicated biogas crops [*German]. Veredlungsproduktion - May 6, 2007.

    With funding from the U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Innovation for Regional Economic Development (WIRED), Michigan State University intends to open a training facility dedicated to students and workers who want to start a career in the State's growing bioeconomy. Michigan State University - May 4, 2007.

    Researchers from the Texas A&M University have presented a "giant" sorghum variety for the production of ethanol. The crop is drought-tolerant and yields high amounts of ethanol. Texas A & M - May 3, 2007.

    C-Tran, the public transportation system serving Southwest Washington and parts of Portland, has converted its 97-bus fleet and other diesel vehicles to run on a blend of 20% biodiesel beginning 1 May from its current fleet-wide use of B5. Automotive World - May 3, 2007.

    The Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP) and France's largest research organisation, the CNRS, have signed a framework-agreement to cooperate on the development of new energy technologies, including research into biomass based fuels and products, as well as carbon capture and storage technologies. CNRS - April 30, 2007.

    One of India's largest state-owned bus companies, the Andra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation is to use biodiesel in one depot of each of the 23 districts of the state. The company operates some 22,000 buses that use 330 million liters of diesel per year. Times of India - April 30, 2007.

    Indian sugar producers face surpluses after a bumper harvest and low prices. Diverting excess sugar into the ethanol industry now becomes more attractive. India is the world's second largest sugar producer. NDTVProfit - April 30, 2007.

    Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his Chilean counterpart Michelle Bachelet on Thursday signed a biofuel cooperation agreement designed to share Brazil's experience in ethanol production and help Chile develop biofuels and fuel which Lula seeks to promote in other countries. More info to follow. People's Daily Online - April 27, 2007.

    Italy's Benetton plans to build a €61 million wood processing and biomass pellet production factory Nagyatád (southwest Hungary). The plant will be powered by biogas. Budapest Sun - April 27, 2007.

    Cargill is to build an ethanol plant in the Magdeburger Börde, located on the river Elbe, Germany. The facility, which will be integrated into existing starch processing plant, will have an annual capacity of 100,000 cubic meters and use grain as its feedstock. FIF - April 26, 2007.

    Wärtsilä Corporation was awarded a contract by the Belgian independent power producer Renogen S.A. to supply a second biomass-fuelled combined heat and power plant in the municipality of Amel in the Ardennes, Belgium. The new plant will have a net electrical power output of 3.29 MWe, and a thermal output of up to 10 MWth for district heating. The electrical output in condensing operation is 5.3 MWe. Kauppalehti - April 25, 2007.

Creative Commons License

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Dedini achieves breakthrough: cellulosic ethanol from bagasse at $27cents per liter ($1/gallon)

At a seminar on ethanol technologies organised by São Paulo's Industry Federation (FIESP), Brazil's Dedini SA, the leading manufacturer of sugar and biofuel equipment, has announced [*Portuguese] it has come up with a way to produce cellulosic ethanol on an industrial scale from plant waste, a development that could revolutionize the industry by boosting the competitiveness and energy balance of biofuels. Dedini has commercial ties with all of Brazil's 357 sugar and ethanol mills and is the main supplier of co-generation plants, sugar refineries and ethanol distilleries.

Dedini's São Luiz Mill in São Paulo state began producing cellulose bioethanol from bagasse - the leftover cane stalk after the sucrose is pressed out - at about US$ 40 cents a liter in 2002. But production costs have now fallen with improvements in processing technologies to below €20/US$ 27 cents a liter (US$ 1.02 per gallon). "This means the fuel is cost-competitive with oil at US$42 a barrel," said Dedini Operations Vice President José Luiz Olivério at the seminar.

The technology is based on a combination of two processing steps that convert bagasse, the lignocellulose-rich byproduct from cane processing, into ethanol: (1) pretreatment of the biomass with organic solvents, and (2) dilute acid hydrolysis. The innovation consists of the pretreatment phase which allows the diluted acids to do their work much faster and more efficiently. The liquid hydrolyzates are then easily fermented and distilled into ethanol. Because of the speed of the process, the proprietary technique was dubbed 'Dedini Rapid Hydrolysis' (DHR) [*Portuguese, *.pdf] (see below).

Efficiency leaps
Brazil has the world's most advanced biofuels market, with 30 years of experience in national ethanol production. The state-of-the-art ethanol mills can produce the biofuel from cane sucrose at or below €13/US$18 cents a liter (US$0.68/gallon), experts say. This makes the fuel competitive when oil is at around US$35-40 per barrel.

During the production of sugar cane ethanol, a large stream of bagasse is released. Bagasse is a fibrous, cellulose rich biomass material that is most often burned in co-generation electric power plants on site to run operations at the mill. Excess is sold as green and renewable electricity to nearby cities and industries. To cope with the bagasse residue, many of Brazil's cane mills have even installed out-of-date, inefficient blast furnaces so they would not be left with excess biomass, for which they would otherwise have to pay for disposal. But Dedini's breakthrough may now change all this.

Analysts have predicted that the efficiency and productivity of Brazil's ethanol sector may double within two decades (previous post). This would be a repeat of the achievements made over the past 25 years, when Brazilian producers achieved a 75% cost reduction in the production of the biofuel (earlier post). Sugar cane based ethanol is by far the most efficient biofuel available. One hectare of cane now yields an average of around 6000 liters of ethanol, but if bagasse were to be converted efficiently this could increase to 12,000 liters. Likewise, the average energy balance of cane ethanol currently stands at around 8 to 1 (compared to corn's 1.5 to 1) and would reach well into the ten-point mark with the advent of cellulosic ethanol. This would put the energy balance of this type of biofuel on a par with that of petroleum production.

Commenting on the efficiency and productivity leap, Oliverio said "this will be able to boost a mill's ethanol output by 30 percent without planting one more cane stalk". In short, a hectare of sugar cane will deliver a third more ethanol and now yield up to 9000 liters, three to four times more than corn. In other words: with the technique, less land is needed to obtain a similar amount of liquid biofuel.

The technology: rapid acid hydrolysis
Cellulosic ethanol production comes under three broad conversion pathways: a thermochemical route (gasification, pyrolysis) , a biochemical route and a purely chemical conversion known as dilute acid hydrolysis. The biochemical pathway makes use of special enzymes to break down the cellulose to release its sugars, whereas the chemical pathway relies on an hydrolyzing lignocellulosic biomass by means of acids. The liquid hydrolyzates are then fermented into ethanol. Dedini's breakthrough is based on this latter technique:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The chemical acid wash (acid hydrolysis) of the biomass breaks up the protective lignin fibers in the cane stalk and allows a type of sugar cell to be washed out. "This type of acid method typically inhibits fermentation of the syrup that comes from the sugars in the bagasse, so mills will have to figure out how to overcome this," said Professor Carlos Rossell at the State University of Campinas, or UNICAMP. But Olivério says Dedini has overcome the problem as the company's system uses a very diluted acid to free the sugars in the cane. The trick is to use high dilution levels on a pretreated slurry of dissolved lignocellulose.

The process was dubbed 'DHR' - 'Dedini Hidrólise Rápida' - and was developed in collaboration with the Centro de Tecnologia Copersucar (CTC) and with the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (Fapesp). Carlos Rossel was the lead researcher who achieved the breakthrough.

The DHR technology relies on a combination of two steps: the acid hydrolysis and a pretreatment with organic solvents. The technique was developed specifically for the conversion of bagasse. By pretreating the biomass with organic solvents, the lignocellulose is decomposed, which allows for a much faster attack of the acids. The hydrolyzed fraction that is then to be turned into ethanol is easily fermentable because it consists of hexoses - a monosaccharide consisting of 6 carbon atoms.

Dedini's first large scale demonstration facility produced 5000 liters per day. The objective is now to optimize the technique by means of process integration, automatisation and by increasing the stability and safety of the sensitive conversion process. Olivério thinks it must be possible to go beyond the current 30% increase in sugar cane ethanol production per hectare, and achieve a doubling within a few years.

Enzyme research continues
Meawhile, many researchers in the area of cellulose technology believe enzymes, or natural proteins that accelerate the breakdown of the lignin fibers, will be used in future cellulose ethanol production too.

But Rossell and Professor Elba Bom at Rio de Janeiro's UFRJ University pointed at to two challenges: reducing the exorbitantly high cost of industrial production of enzymes and shortening the time required for the enzymes to act on the lignin.

Bom said her research team has been developing methods of leaving shredded bagasse outside in something like a large compost heap to allow naturally occurring enzymes to go to work in a pretreatment stage to loosen the lignin's hold on the sugar, but this requires as much as a week. "We've already identified the best brews of enzymes, the challenge is bringing down production costs which are currently two to three times the cost of conventional ethanol," Bom said. "We're shooting for 1.5 times the cost of standard ethanol."

More information:
FIESP: Etanol brasileiro: novas tecnologias, perspectivas e competitividade - May 15, 2007.

Dedini: Dedini Hidrólise Rápida [*Portuguese/*.pdf], overview of the process.

Article continues

Brazil demonstrating that reducing tropical deforestation is possible while expanding biofuels

Brazil is not only a success story when it comes to biofuels, it is also an example of how a smart series of policies and economic incentives can reduce tropical deforestation, while at the same time increasing biofuel production. Despite what some campaigners claim, Brazil's energy crops do not grow in tropical rainforest zones, and deforestation is not automatically fuelled by the expansion of these crops. Land-use change and deforestation resulting from agricultural production for food is not simply causally related to land-use changes from expanded energy cropping. For this reason, Brazil has been able to steadily increase its biofuels output, while at the same cutting deforestation rates by half, in less than 5 years. A major achievement of the left-wing government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva that has been noted by climate scientists and policy makers alike.

Tropical deforestation is the source of nearly a fifth of annual, human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere. Recent studies by Woods Hole Research Center scientists demonstrate that during years of severe drought, tropical rainforest fires can double emissions from tropical forests. Now, an international team of forest and climate researchers has found that halving deforestation rates by mid-century would account for 12 percent of total emissions reductions needed to keep concentrations of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere at safe levels - and they take Brazil's efforts as an example of the way forward. The scientists' work [*abstract] is profiled in a recent issue of Science.

"Compensated reduction"
A policy mechanism is needed that rewards those tropical nations that succeed in lowering their emissions of heat-trapping gases from deforestation and forest degradation. This is a particularly urgent need since most of these emissions are associated with only modest economic gains, but provoke high losses of biodiversity. Such a policy mechanism is now under discussion in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The "Compensated Reduction" (CR) (earlier post) of greenhouse gas emissions from tropical forests would provide payments to those tropical nations that succeed in lowering their emissions from deforestation and tropical degradation, beginning during the second compensation period of the UNFCCC (beginning 2013). This proposal has now been endorsed by the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, which currently represents 29 tropical countries who support the CR proposal, and which formally advanced the CR proposal during the Conference of the Parties in Montreal, 2005, and will be voted on by the UNFCCC delegation in Bali Conference of the Parties in December.

Brazil's example
"More than any other country, Brazil has demonstrated that it is feasible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from tropical deforestation", says co-author Daniel Nepstad, Senior Scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center. He, along with colleague Marina Campos, showed that since the beginning of 2004, Brazil has created more than 20 million hectares of parks, extractive reserve, and national forests in the Amazon region, and many of these protected areas are located in the agricultural frontier. These protected areas, if fully enforced, will prevent one billion tons of carbon from being transferred to the atmosphere through deforestation by the year 2015. Brazil's deforestation rates have been cut nearly in half in recent years through a combination of government intervention and economic trends:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"We are encouraging the Brazilian government to fully endorse the Compensated Reduction proposal", states Paulo Moutinho, Scientist and Coordinator of the Climate Change Program of the Amazon Institute for Environmental Research (IPAM), a non-governmental research institute in Brazil. CR would help Brazil offset the costs of slowing deforestation rates. In Brazil, the cost of reducing deforestation emissions by half will be less than $5 per ton of carbon dioxide, as estimated in an unpublished study of IPAM and the Woods Hole Research Center.

"Slowing tropical deforestation won't, by itself, solve the climate problem," said Dr. Peter Frumhoff, co-author and organizer of the study and Director of Science and Policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "But for many developing countries, it is their largest source of emissions. Climate policymakers have a historic opportunity to help developing countries find economically viable alternatives to deforestation and participate in the global effort to address climate change."

Biofuels expansion
The Brazilian government has been trying to decouple the problem of deforestation and biofuel production, and stresses that increased use of tropical biofuels over fossil fuels offers an equally potent strategy to mitigate climate change. Energy crops grown in Brazil for liquid fuels like ethanol (sugar cane and cassava), biodiesel (jatropha, palm oil and castor beans), and biomass (eucalyptus), do not thrive in former rainforest zones. Land-use changes resulting from agricultural production for food and agricultural production for energy are different and not simply causally related. Pressures on land from the biofuels sector are not straightforwardly translated into pressures on land for food cropping, because both systems require different climates, growing conditions and soils. Some organisations however have launched an uninformed campaign against biofuels, by coupling both forms of land-use change and claiming that biofuel production fuels deforestation.

Brazil's biofuels efforts explicitly take sustainability into account. Strict zoning rules and land use management policies are under development, organic energy farming is becoming more common, and policies aimed at strengthening the social sustainability of biofuels have been implemented. Moreover, the country has over 100 million hectares of degraded pasture-land that could be recovered and restored by planting biofuel crops. In this context, the Brazilian government has launched a financing mechanism making it easier for ranchers and land-owners to convert their pastures into land suitable for energy plantations.

More information:

Eurekalert: Brazil demonstrating that reducing tropical deforestation is key win-win global warming solution - May 15, 2007.

Raymond E. Gullison, Peter C. Frumhoff, Josep G. Canadell, Christopher B. Field, Daniel C. Nepstad, Katharine Hayhoe, Roni Avissar, Lisa M. Curran, Pierre Friedlingstein, Chris D. Jones, Carlos Nobre, "Tropical Forests and Climate Policy" [*abstract], Science, May 10, 2007, DOI: 10.1126/science.1136163

Article continues

EU launches platform to promote bioenergy in semi-arid Africa

The EU has launched an ambitious project to study and implement bioenergy projects in the semi-arid and arid regions of Africa, aimed at bringing modern biofuels to local populations, as well as exporting green fuels to world markets. Dubbed 'COMPETE' (Competence Platform on Energy Crop and Agroforestry Systems for Arid and Semi-arid Ecosystems - Africa), the platform's aim is to stimulate the creation of a forum for policy dialogue and capacity building in the major multi- and bi-lateral funding organisations and key stakeholders throughout the bioenergy provision and supply chains. COMPETE is formed by a consortium of 44 partners from 5 continents, coordinated by WIP-Renewable Energies, Germany, and runs from January 2007 to December 2009, co-funded by the European Commission's 6th Framework Programme.

In order to ensure the sustainable production of biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel for transport, solid biomass for electricity and heating, and gaseous fuels for transport, electricity and household energy, COMPETE brings together world-leading scientists, researchers, funders and practitioners from different fields and across the world to create a platform for knowledge exchange, policy and methodology development. It will use this concentrated expertise to provide strategic and practical guidance and tools on the provision of modern bioenergy for the sustainable and optimal usage of these special ecosystems.

The main objective of COMPETE is to identify pathways for the provision of bioenergy, which will:
  • improve the quality of life for the inhabitants e.g. poverty alleviation, value added activities, alternative means of income generation and providing options to reduce vulnerability whilst, in parallel;
  • aid the preservation of the critical functions of arid and semi-arid regions in Africa as intact ecosystems e.g. maintaining biodiversity and providing ecosystem services, and;
  • enhance the equitable exchange of knowledge between EU and developing countries in this critical area of activity
A number of sub-objectives which represent the highly cross-sectoral nature of bioenergy provision and the breadth and depth of the scientific and technological objectives that COMPETE will integrate into providing useful decision making and implementation tools.

The long-term provision of secure supplies of bioenergy will require the evaluation of a large range of inter-related factors within a comprehensive analytical framework and associated decision making tools leading to a holistic policy development process.

Bioenergy deals with many interrelated factors, such as the optimal and socially acceptable allocation of land between food, infrastructure, bioenergy and other uses; soil degradation; the impacts of, and on, climate change; water use; and, the potential for political conflict. These factors are closely linked to the problems that many regions in Africa are confronted with. A multi-sectoral cross-disciplinary approach is therefor urgently needed to cope with these problems and the likely demands generated by high oil prices.

Science, technology, trade, cooperation
The complexity of bioenergy makes that the project work of the COMPETE competence network is divided into seven major co-ordination activities (work-packages, WP) comprising a specified number of tasks (diagram, click to enlarge). These co-ordination activities have been identified in a way to ensure that all important aspects connected to an improved and sustainable management of natural resources in arid and semi-arid regions of developing countries are addressed. An overview of these work-packages:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Current Land Use
This work package will synthesise information from a range of high quality sources that have categorised and evaluated land use patterns in Africa with a view to (a) identifying land suitable for biomass production for energy, (b) suitable for conversion from other uses, and; (c) filtering out land that is not available or not suitable for inclusion in future bioenergy land use scenarios.

Traditional uses of biomass for energy, food and medicines (plant and animal-derived) have significant impacts on land and water use and availability which need to be understood, quantified and integrated into future land-use management scenarios. Almost all communities in the rural areas of Africa are involved in this type of traditional collection and use of biomass and modern bioenergy systems must provide those affected with alternative sources of income or resources to cover these needs. Therefore, this work package will include an evaluation of the impacts of mitigating these traditional needs in the light of the land use estimations discussed above.

Information on the land will include: (a) specific climatic, terrain, soil and ecological opportunities and constraints, (b) legal and social status, and (c) economic framework conditions as related to proximity and access to water resources, transportation infrastructure, population nodes, potential markets etc. The sustainability of the resource management practices of indigenous people will be a key focus.

Improved Land Use
The overall objective of this work package is to provide an overview of experiences and concepts for sustainable production (and use) of biomass for energy. This includes improvements in conventional agricultural production, since productivity improvement is vital for making land available for new crops without increasing pressure on existing land resources. Following sub-objectives are identified:
  1. To provide an overview of known agricultural practices (arable land, cattle farming/use of pasture land and agro-forestry) that lead to improvements in (sustainable) yields compared to common practice in varying contexts in Southern Africa.
  2. To provide an overview of experience with different existing biomass production systems for energy markets and use and their environmental and socio-economic impacts. This includes bio-ethanol production from e.g. sugar cane, biodiesel production from oil crops and production of heat and power from woody biomass.
  3. To provide an overview of promising new (or improved) biomass production and utilisation schemes including their expected environmental and socio-economic impacts.
  4. To provide insights in possible introduction schemes for sustainable biomass production, integrated in current agricultural practices (including pasture lands) and provide estimates for the potential contributions to sustainable energy supply, income and employment generation as well as ecological impacts (and benefits) for the South African region.
This work package is closely interlinked with work package 1 (current land use patterns) and work package 3 (sustainability analysis of alternative land-use) and results are to be produced in close collaboration.

Furthermore, three working groups are defined dealing specifically with 1. Energy crops for ethanol production, 2. Energy crops for biodiesel production and 3. Biomass production and supply for production of electricity and heat.

An essential prerequisite for the implementation of alternative energy crop and agroforestry schemes is to ensure their ecological, economic and social sustainability. Practical mechanisms for defining, monitoring and rewarding good sustainability practice are beginning to emerge both locally and globally. Ensuring the ‘renewable’ status of bioenergy will mean tailoring these mechanisms to each bioenergy production system, irrespective of location, scale or technology.

Work package 3 will coordinate activities on the sustainability analysis of alternative land use. It will integrate the most recent understanding of the social and environmental management sciences to ensure sustainable use of resources while providing optimum economic and community benefits.

International Cooperation

South-South Cooperation
The implementation of alternative energy crops and agro forestry schemes has recently gained large interest worldwide, especially in developing countries in Asia and Latin America.
The objective of this work package is to link the project activities in Africa with on-going successful research and demonstration efforts in the field of energy crops and agroforestry systems in Latin America and Asia. This will be achieved by exchanging information, especially learning from initiatives that are directly related to the themes under the COMPETE project. Specific objectives include:
  • To document and exchange information on a broad range of issues covering improved agriculture and sustainable agro-forestry systems that have been successfully demonstrated / implemented in Asia and Latin America.
  • To identify best practices that have the potential for application in Africa and carry out impact assessment of the selected schemes / approaches
  • To prepare a draft strategy document for implementation of the best practices in Africa

This work package also aims to provide effective links with Work Packages (WP) 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7.

North-South Cooperation
Furthermore WP4 will be concerned with the transfer of knowledge and technical know-how between developed and developing countries as well as the promotion of joint ventures for common activities in the field of new energy crop and agroforestry systems.


The overall objectives of this Work Package are to:
  • Identify the existing financing mechanisms that are currently used for energy crop and agroforestry activities with emphasis on carbon financing, multilateral and bilateral donors, and trading and commercial options (a usable inventory of current projects should be made available from Work Packages 1 and 2.)
  • Provide an overview of the opportunities that exist for financing new and additional energy crop and agroforestry activities in arid and semi-arid Africa (emphasis on financing for sustainable activities as identified in WP3)
  • Identify the main barriers associated with each financing mechanism (some general barriers to implementation should be identified in WP4)
  • Develop a strategy to improve financing for energy crops and agroforestry activities.
  • To identify opportunities and barriers for linking bio-energy production in Africa to international (export) markets, both within the region as to the global market.

Policy Development

The objective of this work package is to coordinate policy research activities in African countries aimed at facilitating the efficient implementation of improved energy crop and agroforestry systems in order to enhance economic productivity and sustain rural and peri-urban livelihoods. It is also aimed at avoiding adverse environmental and social degradation that could arise from faulty policy development and implementation.

Policy initiatives will be evaluated and developed in close cooperation with African multinational organisations (SADC, UEMOA, NEPAD) and national Governments. By ensuring that this work package is Africa-led, local site, climate, soil and cultural aspects will be inherent to policy development. This will also help to inform EU developmental policy about the objectives on ‘Africa’ and ‘Bioenergy’ specific issues in this critical development sector.

Furthermore, the nexus of these policy research activities with agricultural policies will be addressed through involvement of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

The consortium
The COMPETE consortium includes universities, institutes and associations from all continents. African partners are from Botswana, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia. European partners are from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Norway, The Netherlands, Sweden, and United Kingdom. Asian partners are from China, India, and Thailand. Latin American partners are from Brazil and Mexico. International partners are the AFDB, CI, and FAO. A detailed list with members can be found here [*.pdf].

So far, COMPETE has published a small number of interesting texts, including a general "Biofuel SWOT-Analysis", a "Biofuel Technology Handbook", and a "Testing framework for sustainable biomass".

Biopact is currently in the process of applying for Associate Membership of COMPETE.

More information:
Competence Platform on Energy Crop and Agroforestry Systems for Arid and Semi-arid Ecosystems- Africa, homepage.

The European Commission's Sixth Framework Programme.

Article continues

Brazil's Lula to take biofuels to the G8 as a geopolitical weapon

Agência Brasil reports [*Portuguese] that the G8 Summit which unites the world's seven most industrialised and 'developed' countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States) along with Russia has reserved a place for the Brazilian government to present its plans for the development of a global ethanol and biodiesel industry aimed at fighting climate change. The summit takes place in June of this year and is hosted by Germany, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, and which has put global warming and energy security at the top of the agenda.

Combative, president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told reporters at the Palácio do Planalto that biofuels have become a geopolitical weapon for the Global South:
"At this forum, the G8 will discuss climate change. We are going urge delegates to help develop ethanol and biodiesel on a planetary scale. We will plant sunflower, jatropha, and a range of other crops across the globe, that will sequester carbon dioxide [in the form of low carbon fuels]. We will do so to capture the money that was promised to poor countries but that was never delivered."
Brazil's main contribution to climate change comes from deforestation, but in the industrialised world greenhouse gas emissions come from the massive use of fossil fuels - coal, natural gas and oil - in transport and industry. Bioenergy and biofuels are carbon neutral and non-polluting. Lula said that for this reason global energy politics cannot remain static; switching fuels is part of the future:
"We do not want people abandon the use of oil. But what we want to say is the following: do we want to clean up the planet? Do want to diminish warming of the planet? Do we want to improve air quality? Then use renewable fuels - Brazil will be your partner."
The president said he will act as a "propaganda boy" for biofuels amongst the big boys from the countries who pollute many times more than Brazil, and who have been polluting for more than 200 years:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"I am going to the G8, and from the first second they start to talk about climate change, I will be sitting there with my portfolio of biofuels, and I will say: here they are, you want to tackle global warming? Here are castor seeds, jatropha nuts, soybeans, cotton seed, oil palm fruits. Global energy politics will not lack the motivation to utilise these resources."
Sugar cane and labor conditions
Asked about the actions the government will take to prevent the exploitation of slave labor on sugar cane plantations, the President said there will be two steps taken towards that aim. The first one is to consolidate and promote ethanol's position - at least conceptually - as a viable and exceptional fuel source in the global energy matrix, that can be produced by countries in the South.

"In a second step, the question of the humanisation of the sugar cane sector in this country will be tackled, by opening a dialogue between the private companies and the workers, in order to improve labor conditions so that they can become professional citizens who can make the most of their lives."

President Lula did not exclude the possibility of sending a draft law to Congress aimed at rooting out manual slave labor once and for all. [Note: compared to previous governments, the current Brazilian executive has already made considerable progress on this front, by legislating working hours and by implementing a registration program that forces all companies to identify its workers, so the government knows who, when and where anyone is working.] "If it takes a law, we will make one ourselves, in collaboration with the labor union movement", the president concluded.

Image: Brazil's Lula harvesting castor beans for biodiesel.

More information:
Agência Brasil: Brasil vai apresentar em reunião do G 8 formas de incentivar biodiesel e etanol - May 15, 2007.

Article continues

National African Farmers' Union hails South Africa's biofuel plan as victory for the poor

The government of South Africa is speeding up its plans to kickstart a biofuels industry that is set to benefit small farmers across the country. Once home to millions of displaced black South Africans, the former socalled 'Homelands' are expected to become the heart of the country's biofuels production.

Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs Lulama Xingwana said the presidential commercial agricultural working group meeting held at Tuynhuys in Cape Town had mapped out about 3 million hectares of land on which crops would be grown for the production of biofuels.

The meeting, which was attended by President Thabo Mbeki, several ministers and representatives from agricultural organisations, had developed a biofuels strategy that aimed to produce 1 billion litres of biofuel a year (4.5 percent of the country's fuel consumption).

Attending the discussions, National African Farmers' Union (NAFU) president Motsepe Matlala, whose organisation represents over 45,000 small farmers across the country, heralded the meeting as a victory for the poor. Many small producers would benefit the most because of the low start-up costs involved. He said discussions had also brought land ownership for the poor one step closer to becoming a reality:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Matlala was referring to the development of a mechanism that would see existing government finance programmes brought under one roof.

This, Xingwana said, would create "one-stop shopping" for farmers who were struggling to get started. Matlala said it would also speed up the process of getting finance and support from the government, which was critical for new farmers battling to find their feet.

Also present at the meeting was AgriSA president Lourie Bosman, whose organisation represents 70,000 small and large scale commercial farmers. He welcomed the move but said final planning had to be done quickly. "We need to be ready by July, otherwise farmers will lose out on another growing season."

He said while some farmers were already growing crops such as maize, sugarcane, sugar beet, soya and sunflowers for biofuel production, it was still largely for their own domestic use. Bosman said the addition of 3-million hectares of land for the purpose of growing biofuel crops would turn it into a recognised industry.

Article continues