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    A large-scale biogas production project is on scheme in Vienna. 17,000 tonnes of organic municipal waste will be converted into biogas that will save up to 3000 tonnes of CO2. 1.7 million cubic meters of biogas will be generated that will be converted into 11.200 MWh of electricity per year in a CHP plant, the heat of which will be used by 600 Viennese households. The €13 million project will come online later this year. Wien Magazine [*German] - June 11, 2007.

    The annual biodiesel market in Bulgaria may grow to 400 000 tons in two to three years, a report by the Oxford Business Group says. The figure would represent a 300-per cent increase compared to 2006 when 140 000 tons of biodiesel were produced in Bulgaria. This also means that biofuel usage in Bulgaria will account for 5.75 per cent of all fuel consumption by 2010, as required by the European Commission. A total of 25 biofuel producing plants operate in Bulgaria at present. Sofia Echo - June 11, 2007.

    The Jordan Biogas Company in Ruseifa is currently conducting negotiations with the government of Finland to sell CER's under the UN's Clean Development Mechanism obtained from biogas generated at the Ruseifa landfill. Mena FN - June 11, 2007.

    Major European bank BNP Paribas will launch an investment company called Agrinvest this month to tap into the increased global demand for biofuels and rising consumption in Asia and emerging Europe. CityWire - June 8, 2007.

    Malaysian particleboard maker HeveaBoard Bhd expects to save some 12 million ringgit (€2.6/US$3.4 million) a year on fuel as its second plant is set to utilise biomass energy instead of fossil fuel. This would help improve operating margins, group managing director Tenson Yoong Tein Seng said. HeveaBoard, which commissioned the second plant last October, expects capacity utilisation to reach 70% by end of this year. The Star - June 8, 2007.

    Japan's Itochu Corp will team up with Brazilian state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA to produce sugar cane-based bioethanol for biofuels, with plans to start exporting the biofuel to Japan around 2010. Itochu and Petrobras will grow sugarcane as well as build five to seven refineries in the northeastern state of Pernambuco. The two aim to produce 270 million liters (71.3 million gallons) of bioethanol a year, and target sales of around 130 billion yen (€800million / US$1billion) from exports of the products to Japan. Forbes - June 8, 2007.

    Italian refining group Saras is building one of Spain's largest flexible biodiesel plants. The 200,000 ton per year factory in Cartagena can handle a variety of vegetable oils. The plant is due to start up in 2008 and will rely on European as well as imported feedstocks such as palm oil. Reuters - June 7, 2007.

    The University of New Hampshire's Biodiesel Group is to test a fully automated process to convert waste vegetable oil into biodiesel. It has partnered with MPB Bioenergy, whose small-scale processor will be used in the trials. UNH Biodiesel Group - June 7, 2007.

    According to the Barbados Agricultural Management Company (BAMC), the Caribbean island state has a large enough potential to meet both its domestic ethanol needs (E10) and to export to international markets. BAMC is working with state actors to develop an entirely green biofuel production process based on bagasse and biomass. The Barbados Advocate - June 6, 2007.

    Energea, BioDiesel International and the Christof Group - three biodiesel producers from Austria - are negotiating with a number of Indonesian agribusiness companies to cooperate on biodiesel production, Austrian Commercial Counselor Raymund Gradt says. The three Austrian companies are leading technology solution providers for biodiesel production and currently produce a total of 440,000 tons of biodiesel per annum in Austria, more than half of their country’s annual demand of around 700,000-800,000 tons. In order to meet EU targets, they want to produce biodiesel abroad, where feedstocks and production is more competitive. BBJ - June 6, 2007.

    China will develop 200 million mu (13.3 million hectares) of forests by 2020 in order to supply the raw materials necessary for producing 6 million tons of biodiesel and biomass per year, state media reported today. InterFax China - June 6, 2007.

    British Petroleum is planning a biofuel production project in Indonesia. The plan is at an early stage, but will involve the establishment of an ethanol or biodiesel plant based on sugarcane or jatropha. The company is currently in talks with state-owned plantation and trading firm Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia (RNI) as its potential local partner for the project. Antara - June 6, 2007.

    A pilot project to produce biodiesel from used domestic vegetable oil is underway at the Canary Technological Institute in Gran Canaria. Marta Rodrigo, the woman heading up the team, said the project is part of the EU-wide Eramac scheme to encourage energy saving and the use of renewable energy. Tenerife News - June 6, 2007.

    Royal Dutch Shell Plc is expanding its fuel distribution infrastructure in Thailand by buying local petrol stations. The company will continue to provide premium petrol until market demand for gasohol (an petrol-ethanol mixture) climbs to 70-90%, which will prove customers are willing to switch to the biofuel. "What we focus on now is proving that our biofuel production technology is very friendly to engines", a company spokesman said. Bangkok Post - June 5, 2007.

    Abraaj, a Dubai-based firm, has bought the company Egyptian Fertilizers in order to benefit from rising demand for crops used to make biofuels. The Abraaj acquisition of all the shares of Egyptian Fertilizers values the company based in Suez at US$1.41 billion. Egyptian Fertilizers produces about 1.25 million tons a year of urea, a nitrogen-rich crystal used to enrich soils. The company plans to expand its production capacity by as much as 20 percent in the next two years on the expected global growth in biofuel production. International Herald Tribune - June 4, 2007.

    China and the US will soon sign a biofuel cooperation agreement involving second-generation fuels, a senior government official said. Ma Kai, director of the National Development and Reform Commission, said at a media briefing that vice premier Wu Yi discussed the pact with US Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and other US officials during the strategic economic dialogue last month. Forbes - June 4, 2007.

    German biogas company Schmack Biogas AG reports a 372% increase in revenue for the first quarter of the year, demonstrating its fast growth. Part of it is derived from takeovers. Solarserver [*German] - June 3, 2007.

    Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC has suspended the export of 150,000 barrels per day of crude oil because of community unrest in southern Nigeria, a company spokesman said. Villagers from K-Dere in the restive Ogoniland had stormed the facility that feeds the Bonny export terminal, disrupting supply of crude. It was the second seizure in two weeks. Shell reported on May 15 that protesters occupied the same facility, causing a daily output loss of 170,000 barrels. Rigzone - June 2, 2007.

    Heathrow Airport has won approval to plan for the construction of a new 'green terminal', the buildings of which will be powered, heated and cooled by biomass. The new terminal, Heathrow East, should be completed in time for the 2012 London Olympics. The new buildings form part of operator BAA's £6.2bn 10-year investment programme to upgrade Heathrow. Transport Briefing - June 1, 2007.

    A new algae-biofuel company called LiveFuels Inc. secures US$10 million in series A financing. LiveFuels is a privately-backed company working towards the goal of creating commercially competitive biocrude oil from algae by 2010. PRNewswire - June 1, 2007.

    Covanta Holding Corp., a developer and operator of large-scale renewable energy projects, has agreed to purchase two biomass energy facilities and a biomass energy fuel management business from The AES Corp. According to the companies, the facilities are located in California's Central Valley and will add 75 MW to Covanta's portfolio of renewable energy plants. Alternative Energy Retailer - May 31, 2007.

    Two members of Iowa’s congressional delegation are proposing a study designed to increase the availability of ethanol across the country. Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Ia., held a news conference Tuesday to announce that he has introduced a bill in the U.S. House, asking for a US$2 million study of the feasibility of transporting ethanol by pipeline. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., has introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Des Moines Register - May 30, 2007.

    A new market study by Frost & Sullivan Green Energy shows that the renewables industry in the EU is expanding at an extraordinary rate. Today biofuels and other renewables represent about 2.1 per cent of the EU's gross domestic product and account for 3.5 million jobs. The study forecasts that revenues from renewables in the world's largest economy are set to double, triple or increase even more over the next few years. Engineer Live - May 29, 2007.

    A project to evaluate barley’s potential in Canada’s rapidly evolving biofuels industry has received funding of $262,000 from the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI). Western Barley Growers Association [*.pdf] - May 27, 2007.

    PNOC-Alternative Fuels Corporation (PNOC-AFC), the biofuel unit of Philippine National Oil Company, is planning to undertake an initial public offering next year or in 2009 so it can have its own cash and no longer rely on its parent for funding of biofuels projects. Manila Bulletin - May 27, 2007.

    TMO Renewables Limited, a producer of ethanol from biomass, has licensed the ERGO bioinformatics software developed and maintained by Integrated Genomics. TMO will utilize the genome analysis tools for gene annotation, metabolic reconstruction and enzyme data-mining as well as comparative genomics. The platform will enable the company to further understand and exploit its thermophilic strains used for the conversion of biomass into fuel. CheckBiotech - May 25, 2007.

    Melbourne-based Plantic Technologies Ltd., a company that makes biodegradable plastics from plants, said 20 million pounds (€29/US$39 million) it raised by selling shares on London's AIM will help pay for its first production line in Europe. Plantic Technologies [*.pdf] - May 25, 2007.

    Shell Hydrogen LLC and Virent Energy Systems have announced a five-year joint development agreement to develop further and commercialize Virent's BioForming technology platform for the production of hydrogen from biomass. Virent Energy Systems [*.pdf] - May 24, 2007.

    Spanish energy and engineering group Abengoa will spend more than €1 billion (US$1.35 billion) over the next three years to boost its bioethanol production, Chairman Javier Salgado said on Tuesday. The firm is studying building four new plants in Europe and another four in the United States. Reuters - May 23, 2007.

    According to The Nikkei, Toyota is about to introduce flex-fuel cars in Brazil, at a time when 8 out of 10 new cars sold in the country are already flex fuel. Brazilians prefer ethanol because it is about half the price of gasoline. Forbes - May 22, 2007.

    Virgin Trains is conducting biodiesel tests with one of its diesel engines and will be running a Voyager train on a 20 percent biodiesel blend in the summer. Virgin Trains Media Room - May 22, 2007.

    Australian mining and earthmoving contractor Piacentini & Son will use biodiesel from South Perth's Australian Renewable Fuels across its entire fleet, with plans to purchase up to 8 million litres from the company in the next 12 months. Tests with B20 began in October 2006 and Piacentinis reports very positive results for economy, power and maintenance. Western Australia Business News - May 22, 2007.

    Malaysia's Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui announces he will head a delegation to the EU in June, "to counter European anti-palm oil activists on their own home ground". The South East Asian palm oil industry is seen by many European civil society organisations and policy makers as unsustainable and responsible for heavy deforestation. Malaysia Star - May 20, 2007.

    Paraguay and Brazil kick off a top-level seminar on biofuels, cooperation on which they see as 'strategic' from an energy security perspective. 'Biocombustiveis Paraguai-Brasil: Integração, Produção e Oportunidade de Negócios' is a top-level meeting bringing together the leaders of both countries as well as energy and agricultural experts. The aim is to internationalise the biofuels industry and to use it as a tool to strengthen regional integration and South-South cooperation. PanoramaBrasil [*Portuguese] - May 19, 2007.

    Portugal's Galp Energia SGPS and Petrobras SA have signed a memorandum of understanding to set up a biofuels joint venture. The joint venture will undertake technical and financial feasibility studies to set up a plant in Brazil to export biofuels to Portugal. Forbes - May 19, 2007.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Carbon negative biofuels and biochar win UN World Environment Day Award

Biomass pyrolysis and carbon sequestration technology developed by Australian researchers along with Best Energies - hailed as one of the most important technologies available for stabilizing the world’s climate - has been chosen by the United Nations Association of Australia as the winner of their World Environment Day Awards category, ‘Meeting the Greenhouse Challenge’, along with project partners, the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries.

A revolutionary synergy
The group of researchers demonstrated (earlier post) that biofuels can help mitigate climate change by making use of a carbon sequestration technique known as 'terra preta'. The idea is relatively simple: a stream of biomass is converted into liquid biofuels (bio-oil and their refined products) via pyrolysis, whereas the biochar (agrichar) that is co-produced in the process is ploughed into agricultural soils, which get a boost in fertility and water absorption capacities.

The result is that the biofuels become carbon negative - which means their use can take historic CO2 emissions out of the atmosphere - while the (energy) crops grown on biochar improved soils that now act as carbon sinks see their yields increase. The team's research showed a spectacular doubling and even tripling of yields from crops grown on such 'dark earth' soils.

Adriana Downie, who accepted the award for Best Energies, said the commercial uptake of the Best pyrolysis technology will result in significant carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas mitigation. “Adoption of the technology will deliver long-term sustainability benefits of increased soil health and therefore agricultural productivity.”

The slow pyrolysis technology developed by Best Energies is particularly exciting because it not only produces a renewable energy to displace the use of fossil fuels, but it also produces a very stable form of solid carbon which can be sequestered over the long term in soils.

This process has been developed by Best Energies with support from the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change and involves heating green waste or other biomass without oxygen to generate renewable energy and a high carbon char product. Best Energies has a fully integrated pilot plant operating at their demonstration site at Somersby, on the Central Coast of NSW:
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“Once the high carbon char product, agrichar, is added as an amendment to agricultural soils, some of the most remarkable and promising benefits of this technology become apparent,” said Adriana Downie, Technical Manager for BEST Energies Australia. Experiments conducted by the NSW Department of Primary Industries have demonstrated that the char product can improve several soil health indicators as well as increase crop yields and productivity.

NSW DPI research scientist, Dr Lukas Van Zwieten, has found that when applied at 10 tonnes per hectare, the biomass of wheat was tripled and of soybeans was more than doubled. Van Zwieten said the char product also decreases emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas nitrous oxide from soils and increases the efficiency of nitrogen fertilizers.

NSW Primary Industries Minister, Ian Macdonald said this new process offers hope for using soils as a carbon “sink”.

Tim Flannery, Australian of the Year, renowned scientist, environmentalist, and author of The Weather Makers, is a major advocate of char and pyrolysis. In The Bulletin magazine, Flannery recently listed “fostering pyrolysis-based technologies” fourth among his five steps for saving the planet.

The UN Association award winners for World Environment Day were announced at a ceremony in Melbourne, Australia on Friday June 1.

Based in Madison, Wisconsin, Best Energies is focused on leading the development of clean energy solutions all based on renewable bio-resources. Best has formed a family of companies that provide integrated bioenergy solutions around the world where biomass is available and energy is needed.

In a similar development, biomass-to-liquids company Dynamotive earlier announced it is taking part in a comparable project. In contrast to Best Energies, Dynamotive develops fast-pyrolysis conversion technologies, which use higher temperatures. But like its counter-part, slow pyrolysis, an agrichar is obtained in this process too, making it possible to produce carbon negative biofuels by sequestring that biochar into soils (earlier post).

Large potential
A major advantage of the 'terra preta' technique is that it is quite low-tech. In contrast to other carbon sequestration technologies - such as 'carbon capture and storage' (CCS) from coal plants - the technique can be implemented on a vast scale in the developing world. Especially in the tropics and the subtropics, where soils are often nutrient-deficient, the application of biochar could yield multiple benefits.

Farmers in the South would thus become producers of carbon negative biofuels, while at the same time using their soils as carbon sinks that stimulate crop growth.

In contrast to CCS, which requires large and expensive infrastructures and are coupled to large, centralised power stations, biomass pyrolysis plants can be taken up in a decentralised biofuel production strategy and coupled to local soil improvement plans.

NSW DPI environmental scientist Steve Kimber shows one of the chambers used to monitor greenhouse gases emitted from the Wollongbar trial plot. Credit: NSW DPI.

More information:
Pollution Online: BEST Energies Wins UN World Environment Day Award - June 11, 2007.

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China mulls switch to non-food crops for ethanol

China may entirely switch to non-food energy crops such as cassava, sweet potato, sorghum and cellulose crops (grasses, trees) for the production of ethanol fuel as a substitute for petroleum, a government official said, reiterating considerations expressed earlier. The development of second-generation biofuel technologies will be encouraged, whereas first-generation fuels will be phased out gradually.

The People's Republic considers a moratorium on approvals for ethanol projects that rely on the use of food grains such as corn, an official of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) told a seminar on China's fuel ethanol development held in Beijing on Saturday. "Food-based ethanol fuel will not be the direction for China," said Xu Dingming, vice director of the Office of the National Energy Leading Group, who was also at the seminar. At the same event, an official of the NDRC also announced the country may discontinue coal-to-liquids projects because they are energy intensive and contribute greatly to carbon dioxide emissions (earlier post).

China has been trying to avoid occupation of arable land, consumption of large amounts of grain and damages to the environment in developing the renewable energies. This is in line with expectations. Scientists have found that, contrary to Latin America, Africa and South East Asia & the Pacific (with Australia), China has a small biofuel production potential (previous post). Given the large potential for international biofuels trade, the People's Republic may thus become an importer of sustainable biofuels produced in other countries.

Currently there are four enterprises engaged in producing corn-based ethanol in China. They would be asked to switch to non-food materials gradually, according to the NDRC official who declined to be named:
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The four enterprises are located in Jilin, Heilongjiang, Henan and Anhui and have a combined production capacity of 1.02 million tons of corn-based ethanol per year.

The country has become a big producer and consumer of ethanol fuel in the world after the United States, Brazil and European Union, according to the NDRC official.

China Oil and Food Corporation (COFCO), the country's largest oil and food importer and exporter, would focus on sorghum in the production of non-food-based ethanol fuel, said Yu Xubo, president of COFCO at the seminar.

COFCO, which owns the Heilongjiang enterprise and has a twenty-percent stake in the Anhui enterprise, aims to produce five million tons of ethanol fuel based on sorghum in the near future.

COFCO is also leading the way in developing cellulosic ethanol fuel under a cooperation agreement with Denmark-based Novozymes, world leader on research into the key enzymes needed in large-scale production of cellulosic ethanol. The current cost for producing ethanol fuel from cellulosic biomass, often residues which are discarded by farmers, is still too high. Novozymes is working on the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol both in the United States and China.

"We are optimistic about China's prospect of making it work ahead of the U.S., as the cost of collecting the stalks of corn are much cheaper in China," said Steen Riisgaard, president and CEO of Novozymes.

There is much opposition both in China and in the world to corn-based ethanol fuel, which is believed will lead to higher corn price. Many non-food crops are available for the production of biofuels, as well as vast tracts of land in the subtropics and the tropics that can be used to grow energy crops.

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Researchers make biodegradable films from biofuel and dairy byproducts

The search for innovative uses of biofuel byproducts continues. This is crucial to ensure biobased fuels become more commercially viable. Scientists from the U.S. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) announce they have developed biodegradable protective films from combining both dairy and biofuel production residues.

The technology was developed by research leader Peggy M. Tomasula and her colleagues at the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center's Dairy Processing and Products Research Unit in Wyndmoor. They found that combining the milk protein casein with water and glycerol, a byproduct of biodiesel production, produces a water-resistant film that can be used as an edible coating for food products.

Because of increased biodiesel production, glycerol (glycerine) is beginning to flood the market, and urgently needs new uses. For each liter of biodiesel produced, some 10% glycerine is obtained. Researchers are examining its use as a cattle and poultry feed, but also found it makes for a good feedstock for biogas production. It may also be a starting product for the manufacture of green specialty chemicals such as propylene glycol.

Its use as an ingredient in edible bioplastic films is the latest application in this series. To make the films, the scientists used carbon dioxide as an environmentally friendly solvent to isolate dairy proteins from milk, instead of harsh chemicals or acids that can be difficult to dispose of, according to Tomasula. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is another byproduct of the glucose fermentation that is used to make ethanol. Using CO2 makes the edible film more water-resistant and biodegradable.

The resulting food coatings are glossy, transparent and completely edible. Like conventional food packaging, edible films can extend the shelf life of many foods, protect products from damage, prevent exposure to moisture and oxygen and improve appearance. By using renewable resources instead of petrochemicals, the scientists can create more biodegradable products and reduce waste:
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Tomasula has been working with food technologist Kirsten L. Dangaran and chemist Phoebe X. Qi to improve the appearance and protective properties of the casein films.

At one point in the production process, CO2 dissolves into the milk, decreasing its pH level and causing casein to form particles of a substance known as CO2-casein. The researchers found that decreasing the size of the CO2-casein particles improved the films' ability to block moisture and increased their glossiness.

They also found that coating a low-density polyethylene film with the CO2-casein increased the film's ability to block oxygen permeation. Adjustments like these could make the films more competitive with existing, less eco-friendly products.

Bioplastics from whey
Earlier other researchers from the ARS patented a bioplastic production process based on the utilization of whey, the liquid byproduct that remains after curds from cheesemaking coagulate. Whey is used in a range of products such as candy, pasta, baked goods, animal feed—and even pharmaceuticals. Some 1 billion pounds of the byproduct are produced each year in the U.S. alone.

ARS’s Dairy Processing and Products Research Unit at the Eastern Regional Research Center (ERRC) showed that whey can also be used to create eco-friendly products. For example, using a process called 'reactive extrusion', food technologist Charles Onwulata supplements polyethylene—a common nonbiodegradable plastic—with whey proteins.

Reactive extrusion involves forcing plastic material through a heating chamber, where it melts and combines with a chemical agent that strengthens it before it’s molded into a new shape. Onwulata showed that by combining dairy proteins with starch during this process, it’s possible to create a biodegradable plastic product that can be mixed with polyethylene and molded into utensils.

Working with laboratory chief Seiichiro Isobe, of the Japanese National Food Research Institute, Onwulata created a bioplastic blend by combining whey protein isolate, cornstarch, glycerol, cellulose fiber, acetic acid, and the milk protein casein and molded the material into cups. Onwulata observed that dairy-based bioplastics were more pliable than other bioplastics, making them easier to mold.

Bioplastic blends can replace only about 20 percent of the polyethylene in a product, so resulting materials are only partially biodegradable. But Onwulata and his colleagues are currently applying this process to polylactide (PLA), a biodegradable polymer.

“Blending dairy-based bioplastics with PLA could eventually allow producers to make completely biodegradable materials,” he says.

Biofuels from whey
In another development, researchers from Germany announced a while ago they collaborated with a dairy products company to make ethanol from whey, the byproduct of cheese and casein.

This means milk and its byproducts, in combination or not with a biodiesel byproduct, opens up a new series of bioplastics and renewable, green fuels.

Image 1: A continuous biodegradable protein film begins to form using the new ARS film-making process. Photo by Paul Pierlott, USDA-ERRC/VGT.

Image 2: Food technologist Charles Onwulata inspects molded dairy bioplastic made from surplus whey proteins. Photo by Peggy Greb.

More information:
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, ARS: Edible Films Made From Dairy, Biofuel Byproducts - June 5, 2007.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, ARS: Make Whey for Progress New Uses for Dairy Byproducts - June 8, 2007.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, ARS: Dairy Byproducts Can Supplement Plastic - May 1, 2007.

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European ministers outline new energy strategy for transport

At their recent Council (June 8), European Transport Ministers announced [*.pdf] the transport sector is going to feel the heat of stringent EU regulation in order to combat climate change. A new strategy is aimed at drastically reducing the environmental footprint of the sector. For the first time ministers expanded the proposal to use biofuels to all modes of mobility, including air and maritime transport.

Given the expected growth rates in transport in the EU – approximately 50% between 2000 and 2020 in the freight sector alone – the Council believes that the priorities for a European energy strategy for transport are as follows:
  • improving the energy efficiency of all modes of transport
  • increasing the use of alternative and renewable fuels along with efficient drive trains
  • designing instruments to promote transport user behaviour that is energy conscious and climate change conscious
  • promoting integrated transport systems and planning to minimise energy use in transport
In addition to enhancing efficiency within the individual modes of transport, and with a view to achieving shifts, where appropriate, to more environmentally friendly modes of transport, the Council also considers intermodal measures necessary.

With these strategies in mind, the transport sector "has to make its significant contribution" to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and slashing energy consumption by 20% by 2020 the European transport ministers stressed.

Sustainable biofuels key
For all modes of transport - road, rail, air and marine - the Council supports the introduction of renewable and biogenic fuels such as biodiesel, ethanol, biogas and next-generation fuels made from biomass. On biofuels in general, the ministers said:
  • they support the amendment of the Fuel Quality Directive (earlier post) so that the blending of certain biogenic components in conventional fuel can be extended
  • they welcome the dynamic development of the biofuels market, but they do point out that this development must not lead to consequences that are undesirable in terms of the environment, climate change, the economy or society, and therefore request the Commission to submit, as soon as possible, a proposal on the certification of biofuels on the basis of sustainability criteria and their contribution to reducing overall greenhouse gas emissions
  • such criteria should be designed in a simple, operational manner that avoids any side-effects in the form of unjustified barriers to trade
  • in view of the ambitious EU targets for biofuels, the council considered that further Community focus should be given to the demonstration of second-generation production technologies and therefore urges the Commission to investigate ways to stimulate such demonstration plants. Transport ministers reaffirmed the need for a sizeable portion of the research funds of the Commission’s 7th Framework Research Programme to be used for such developments
Note the recognition by the Council of the tension between sustainability criteria for biofuels and barriers to trade.

Biofuels are only part of the strategies announced to reduce greenhouse gases from the trasport sector. Alongside the need (to fund) increased efficiency and measures to cap CO2 emissions from cars and ships, and to include aviation in its carbon emissions-trading scheme, the Council also called for maritime shipping, inland waterways and railways to take up a larger share of freight transport and said that further efforts were necessary to strengthen these modes of transport against road and air.

Air transport and biofuels
In a new development, the Council for the first time suggested "that thorough consideration be given to assessing the technical and economic feasibility and the environmental implications of using alternative and renewable fuels." Alternative jet fuels have only recently gained attention from researchers, producers, and airlines, with bio-jet fuel ('biokerosene') taking growing importance:
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The ministers stressed however that "ensuring safety should be the key issue when considering the feasibility of such fuels for air transport."

Maritime transport and biofuels
Likewise, cleaner fuels are encouraged for use in the maritime sector. The reduction of sulphur, NOX and particulate emissions is also required in the inland waterway transport sector to ensure that, in the future, it has better opportunities in the competition between modes, not only as an energy-efficient but also as an environmentally sound alternative.

Ministers welcomed the fact that the Commission has proposed a further reduction of the percentage of sulphur as part of the amendment to the Fuels Directive, but suggests that consideration should be given to whether this should take place in several stages.

"At the same time, the possibility of blending biogenic fuels with "conventional" fuels should also be examined."

Efficiency and competitiveness
Notwithstanding the critical role of biofuels in all transport modes, trains and ships will also have to become more efficient as such said ministers, adding that infrastructure-charging will be key to ensuring that each individual transport mode bears the full cost of its "ecological footprint". The Commission is due to present a general model to calculate this by June 2008.

The energy strategy for transport should not lead to a significant impact on mobility within Europe, stressed ministers, adding that "only fair and cost-efficient measures will be realised" and that, in the long run, they will make European industry even more competitive.

Nevertheless, large swathes of the industry remain to be convinced, fearing that Europe’s solitary fight against climate change could in fact reduce the continent's competitiveness by raising the price of cars and air travel, shattering these all-important industries for the European economy.

More information:
Transport Council: Conclusions on a European energy strategy for transport, June 8, 2007.

Euractiv: Ministers place transport in the eye of climate-change storm - June 11, 2007.

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