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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Mediterranean countries face dangerous increases in heat stress, if GHG emissions are not reduced

A a team of researchers from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (Trieste, Italy) projects a 200 percent to 500 percent increase in the number of dangerously hot days in the Mediterranean by the end of the 21st century if the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions continues. The study found France would be subjected to the largest projected increase of high-temperature extremes.

The analysis also shows a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions could reduce the intensification of dangerously hot days projected in the scenario by up to 50 percent. The research covered the entire Mediterranean area, which includes 21 countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. Major cities covered in the study include: Prague, Zurich, Bucharest, Athens, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Algiers and Casablanca.

The results of the study have been published in the June 15 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
"Rare events today, like the 2003 heat wave in Europe, will become much more common as greenhouse gas concentrations increase. The frequency at which that scale of event occurs at high greenhouse gas concentrations is staggering. Rare events become the norm, and the extreme events of the future are unprecedented in their severity." - Noah Diffenbaugh, lead author, Purdue assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences
Impacts on health, energy, agriculture, water, economy
A 2003 heat wave led to 15,000 deaths in France and almost 3,000 in Italy. The researchers found that global warming causes summer temperatures to dramatically exceed the range that was correlated with the increased number of deaths.

The thresholds of the 2003 event are substantially exceeded in the future in both of the research scenarios that were created (image, click to enlarge), says Diffenbaugh, who is a member of Purdue's Climate Change Research Center. The research is about understanding the response to different emissions levels. It finds that decreases in greenhouse gas emissions greatly reduce the impact, but also sees negative effects even with reduced emissions. Technological and behavioral changes that are made now will have a big influence on what actually happens in the future.

In addition to the human health risks, extremely high temperatures could impact the economy of this region, which includes metropolitan areas such as Rome, Paris and Barcelona, says Jeremy Pal, co-researcher and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Loyola Marymount University:
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When high temperature extremes increase, it could have significant negative impacts on human health, water resources, agriculture and energy demand.

In addition to Diffenbaugh and Pal, Filippo Giorgi of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics and Xuejie Gao of the National Climate Center in Beijing are co-authors of the paper. The researchers used a supercomputer in the National Climate Center in Beijing to run the climate model.

High resolution model
The model offers a resolution of 20 kilometers, about 12.5 miles, and is believed to have the highest spatial resolution available for the Mediterranean region. Much like increased resolution in a photo makes a clearer picture and allows one to zoom in without blurring the image, the powerful resolution of the climate model allows researchers to gather detailed information about particular areas.

Giorgi, who is head of the Earth System Physics Section of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics, said the Mediterranean is of interest because it is one of the most susceptible areas to climate changes - both climatically and socially.

"In the global warming scenario, there is more warming and drying in the Mediterranean than in other regions of the world, which makes the Mediterranean a climate change 'hotspot,'" Giorgi said. "The Mediterranean also is a very vulnerable region to climate change in terms of the impacts to the way of life of those who live there."

The researchers found that this warming and reduced precipitation contribute to a preferential warming of the hottest days of the year.

"We found that the hottest days of the year, or the 'hot tail,' warm more than the typical summer days warm," Diffenbaugh said. "One might expect that an average warming of four degrees would equate to each day warming by four degrees, but in fact the hottest days warm quite a bit more."

This is due, in large part, to a surface moisture feedback. The surface gets dryer as it gets hotter and the dry soil leads to less moisture in the area and less evaporative cooling. The locations of intensified warming on hottest days of the year matched the locations where surface drying occurred, Diffenbaugh said.

With the projected shift to more severe temperatures, the daily temperatures currently found in the hottest two weeks of the summer instead are found in the coldest two weeks of the summer in the future climate scenario, Diffenbaugh said.

Hot to become 'normal'
"The hottest temperatures we are used to experiencing will become the normal temperatures of the summer, and the hot periods will be magnified," Diffenbaugh said. "Take Paris: If we look at the temperatures that occurred there during the heat wave in 2003, when 15,000 people died, those temperatures are exceeded a couple dozen times every year in the future projection. That means that severe heat waves, such as those rare events that have occurred in the past couple of years, are likely to become far more common."

The study used the National Weather Service Heat Index in the analysis of the heat stress response to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. The researchers found that areas most likely to face substantial increases in the dangerous heat index were concentrated largely in coastal areas.

"Coastal regions were more affected than inland regions, which is of particular importance because many large cities in the Mediterranean are on the coast," Giorgi said. "This is the first time this amplification signal over coastal areas could be seen and quantified. Coastal regions are particularly vulnerable because they will likely be affected by other important climate change related stresses, such as a rising sea level."

Diffenbaugh said without the high resolution of the climate model, the researchers would not have been able to identify the coastal effects.

"This underscores the importance of advancing our technology and examining a number of scenarios in great detail," he said. "If we want to quantify the risks associated with climate change, it is critical to understand the local and regional impacts as well as the global impacts."

For the study's standard future scenario, the research group used a commonly accepted emissions scenario from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that assumes greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase exponentially. The reduced emissions scenario incorporated a reduction in population growth and greater environmental concern, Diffenbaugh said.

The researchers are currently using the high-resolution model to further evaluate the effects that increased temperatures and surface drying could have on agriculture and energy and water resources.

Image: heat stress in the 21st century for two greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. The top panel shows the expected intensification of the severity of extreme hot days given accelerating increases in greenhouse gas concentrations. The bottom panel shows the expected decrease in intensification associated with decelerated increases in greenhouse gas concentrations. Credit: Purdue University image/Diffenbaugh Laboratory.

More information:
Noah S. Diffenbaugh, Jeremy S. Pal, Filippo Giorgi, Xuejie Gao, "Heat stress intensification in the Mediterranean climate change hotspot" [*abstract], Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 34, L11706, doi:10.1029/2007GL030000, published June 15, 2007.

Purdue University: Reduced greenhouse gas emissions required to avoid dangerous increases in heat stress, researchers say - June 14, 2007.

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Chinese group to build three ethanol plants in the Philippines

Investments in the Philippines' biofuels industry are speeding up. The country has been identified by consultants as one of the countries in the South that both have the agro-ecological resources (land, climate, suitable crops) and the right the social, economic and policy frameworks as well as an excellent geographic location needed to become a highly successful biofuel production center that can supply East Asia (earlier post).

For this reason, a growing number of companies from Asia (especially China and Japan) and the US are establishing energy plantations and biofuel plants in the island state, often teaming up with local companies and farmers. The latest in the series is Nanning Yong Kai Industry Group Co Ltd, a Chinese agricultural firm that will spend a total of US$105 million to build three ethanol refineries in partnership with three Philippine companies, official documents from the agriculture department show.

The company will start work on the refineries this year, with the three facilities expected to be completed in 18 to 24 months, according to documents obtained by reporters from the Philippine Agriculture Department.

The three ethanol plants would be built at a cost of US$35 million each, making it medium scale plants with a capacity of 150,000 liters per day. Feedstocks will be cassava and sugarcane . The Chinese firm has signed agreements with two agricultural firms based in southern Negros Occidental province, namely BM SB Integrated Biofuels Co and Negros Southern Integrated Biofuels for the production of ethanol:
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Nanning Yong Kai also signed a separate agreement with One Cagayan Resource Development Inc based in northen Cagayan Valley province. Under the deal, One Cagayan would provide the land and cultivate sugar cane or cassava which would be converted into ethanol at the new facility to be built by Nanning, which has a production capacity of not less than 150,000 liters per day.

There has been a rush to build ethanol facilities after the Philippines’ biofuels law took effect in May. The law requires a 1 per cent ethanol blend in diesel, while gasoline should have a 5 per cent blend within two years. The mandated ethanol blend will increase to 10 per cent after four year.

Amongst the most recent investors are Japan's Cosmo Oil (earlier post), Eastern Petroleum Corp. which teamed up with Guanxi Group of China for an ethanol project using cassava as feedstock while PNOC-Alternative Fuels Corp. is planning an ethanol plant project worth US$ 1.3 billion (on Chinese investments, see here, on PNOC's biofuel activities, here).

US firm E-Cane Fuel Corp. recently entered the sector by investing €111/US$150 million to put up a fully integrated ethanol processing facility in Central Luzon based on sugarcane (previous post).

And the latest in the series is the joint FE Global/Asia Clean Energy Services Fund L.P. and FEGACE Asia Sub-Fund L.P. investment in Biofuels Resources Inc. (BRI). The Funds will investwith BronzeOak Philippines Inc. in a series of four special purpose companies focused on ethanol production in the Philippines.

San Carlos Bioethanol Inc. is the first in this series of investments. The project will produce and sell 125,000 liters of ethanol daily, using sugar cane juice from local growers as a raw material. One of the most interesting aspects of the project relates to the project’s use of contracts with multiple sugar cane suppliers to secure a stable price for approximately 50% of the raw material needs of the plant.

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South African algae biofuels company breaks down

Over the long to very long term, algae may offer an interesting potential for the production of biomass and biofuels. But much fundamental research is first needed to make algaeculture systems competitive and feasible, with some estimating that costs will have to come down 20 times before algae can compete with ordinary biofuels. Since algae research programs were discontinued in the early 1990s, no major biotech or engineering breakthroughs have been made in the sector, so we must assume that algal biomass yields remain the same as at that time, that is, between 30 and 50 tonnes per hectare - below the productivity of most tropical terrestrial crops (earlier post).

However, many entrepreneurs have quickly established algae companies, hoping they could profit from the hype that surrounds the technology. They have acquired the questionable habit of distributing optimistic but unsubstantiated press releases full of absurd yield projections. Very few of these companies have demonstrated their technologies (the ones that have used photobioreactors, which many researchers have dismissed as unfeasible because way too costly). None of the companies has ever shown a large-scale working system based on open ponds (the only system thought to have a future). And with all of them, yield projections are up to 100 times those of actual results obtained in field trials. In short, a hype has been created around algae that has not the slightest basis in science and reality.

With this background in mind, it does not come as a surprise that investors from South Africa feel betrayed by one such an algae company that kept issueing press releases with false numbers and that created absurd expectations. The virtual collapse of De Beers Fuel (no connection with the diamond-mining giant), which had promised South Africa vast quantities of cheap biodiesel produced from algae, has left a stink in the biofuels industry there.

The company had teamed up with US-based GreenFuel Technology - another algae company - whose technology it licensed. But in what is a blow to the algae hype, the licensing agreement has been terminated owing to “nonperformance” by De Beers.

The algae company was recently 'exposed' by an investigative programme as a scam (earlier post) and Engineering News now finds that investors in the company, who invested up to 6 million Rand each in biodiesel plants, in what was trumpeted to be the world’s first fuel-franchising scheme, today have nothing but paper to show for their money. Not one plant has been built and the company has been spewing fake numbers on the technology's potential and outright false statements about its order book:
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The amount of money lost by investors, and the number of investors who have lost money, could not be determined owing to conflicting information on the value and number of plants sold.

De Beers Fuel marketed the concept under the Infiniti Biodiesel brand name. Shareholders were promised plants capable of producing tens of thousands of litres of biodiesel every day, and exclusive offset areas. These plants would initially process conventional vegetable oils, like sunflower oil.

However, from the company’s public launch onwards, a more exciting, if somewhat strange, source of alternative feedstock was punted – algae. De Beers Fuel started a relationship with Green- Fuel Technology Corporation, of the US, which had been working on the development of a strain of algae suited to the production of biofuels.

One of the founders of GreenFuel Technology, Dr Isaac Berzin, researched the use of algae on the International Space Station and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Berzin and GreenFuel Technology inter- national MD Paul Rodzianko visited South Africa in November.

De Beers Fuel founder Frik de Beer and adviser to the company’s board, Hendy Schoon-bee, sang the praises of algae as a feedstock for biofuels production during a media visit to the company’s demonstration algae bioreactor in Mookgopong (formerly Naboomspruit), which coincided with Berzin and Rodzianko’s visit.

Also accompanying the group was Stretch Fowler, of Green Star Products, the US company contracted by De Beers to build 90 high-pressure biodiesel reactors, and Matthias Wackerbauer, of MWK Biogas, of Germany.

The experts expanded on the potential of algae technology to provide large volumes of algae feedstock for biofuels production in South Africa. The fact that De Beers was the first company to receive a licence for commercial biofuels production from the South African Revenue Service was also mentioned frequently.

At the time of the visit, the media was told about De Beers Fuel’s ambitious plans to produce feedstock for between 16-billion litres and 24-billion litres of biofuels a year.

Moreover, by enabling the propagation of large volumes of relatively cheap renewable algae feedstock, De Beers would limit the use of food-crop feedstocks, such as sunflower and soy, in local biofuels production.

Besides giving South Africa biofuels, algae technology would consume carbon dioxide, as algae depended on large amounts of carbon dioxide for its rapid growth. Plans were made known to deploy a fuel- assessment unit at the Kelvin power station, in Johannesburg.

The technology would also be tested in other locations in South Africa. To prove De Beers’ abilities, visitors were shown a production plant that, according to De Beer, produced 144,000 liters/day of biodiesel and was being run 25 days a month, and had 50-million litres of diesel on its order book every month.

However, on April 1, popular investigative programme Carte Blanche ‘exposed’ the company when it aired a programme on De Beers Fuel. When questioned by Carte Blanche, De Beer said that the company had only sold 41,000 liters of biodiesel and had 39,000 liters in its tanks, ready to be sold.

And, while investors in De Beers and Infiniti Biodiesel were given the impression that algae was an almost immediate solution to the antici- pated shortage of vegetable oil for biofuels production, in truth, the production of algae feedstock is viewed as a third-generation technology.

Rodzianko then said that, “on an accelerated schedule, the earliest that a commercial-scale facility would be available [would] probably be the end of next year, to the beginning of 2009”.

Even after being exposed, De Beers continued to publish on its website unrealistic claims about its abilities. The company also continued to point out its relationship with GreenFuel Technology, which had received the prestigious Frost and Sullivan technology innovation award of the year.

GreenFuel has since terminated the licensing agreement with De Beers Fuel owing to “nonperformance”. It also requested that the company remove any reference to the agreement from its website.

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Scientists debate benefits of low-input high-diversity grassland bioenergy systems

An interesting technical exchange on bioenergy production systems is underway in the top journal Science. Late last year a team of ecologists led by David Tilman, Regents Professor of Ecology in the University of Minnesota's College of Biological Sciences, described a biofuel production system based on polycultures of multiple grass species that can be carbon-negative and may provide a substantial portion of global energy needs in a sustainable and environmentally beneficial manner without competing with food production for fertile lands (earlier post). The system is diametrically opposed to that of monocultures such as corn.

The authors argued that such a 'Low-Input High-Diversity (LIHD)' grassland biomass system needed far less inputs (fertilizers, water) and is far more environmentally benign than monocultures of corn. Moreover, it can be established on degraded land, of which some 710 million hectares are available for biofuel production. In total, roughly a seventh of the world's transportation and electricity needs could be met with such a system on degraded lands.

Another group of researchers led by Michael P. Russelle, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, defends the corn system and recently disputed Tilman's conclusions arguing they were not substantiated by the experimental protocol. According to Russelle's team, Tilman's group understated the management inputs required to establish prairies, extrapolated globally from site-specific results, and presented potentially misleading energy accounting.

Now, Tilman's team replies, defending the research.
Russelle's group raises several technical concerns that lead them to question our conclusions about the energetic and environmental advantages of biofuels derived from diverse mixtures of native perennial prairie plant species over biofuels from high-input annual food crops such as corn. The nature of their comments suggests that research results well known in ecology may be less familiar to those outside the discipline. Indeed, our approach stands in marked contrast to that of conventional high-input agriculture. Each of their concerns, addressed below, is refuted by published studies of the ecology of high-diversity grasslands, and none of them has substantive effect on our original conclusions.
Nutrient inputs
Russelle's team questions the ability of low-input high-diversity (LIHD) prairie biomass to grow sustainably with low nutrient inputs. U.S. corn, in contrast, requires substantial inputs: 148 kg/ha of nitrogen, 23 kg/ha of phosphorus, and 50 kg/ha of potassium annually.

Leaching and erosional nutrient losses are much lower for perennial grasslands than for annually tilled row crops such as corn; hence, much lower inputs are needed. Moreover, Tilman recommended harvesting prairie biomass when senescent in late autumn because this would "both yield greater biomass and decrease ecosystem loss of N, P, and other nutrients".

Replacing nutrients removed by harvesting would require about 4 kg/ha of P and 6 kg/ha of K, should they be limiting. LIHD mixtures needed no N fertilization because N fixation by legumes more than compensated for N exports in harvested biomass. Also, unlike some cultivated legumes, native legumes grow well and fix N on acidic soils without liming.

Moreover, several studies have shown that biomass yields of high-diversity grasslands are sustainable with low inputs. Annual hay yields from high-diversity Kansas prairie showed no declines over 55 years despite no fertilization. Similarly, hay yields increased slightly during 150 years of twice-annual biomass removal in high-diversity unfertilized plots of the Park Grass experiment. In total, nutrient inputs sufficient to sustain LIHD biomass production are an order of magnitude lower than for corn.

Carbon sequestration
Tilman says his team showed that the dense root mass of LIHD prairie led to high rates of soil carbon sequestration. Russelle's team expresses concern that fire may have caused carbon storage through charcoal formation. However, published studies show that annual accumulation of charcoal carbon in frequently burned grasslands was smaller than 1% of the observed rate of soil carbon accumulation. Similarly, fire had no effect on soil black carbon levels in a 6-year study of mixed-grass savanna. The concern about effects of late autumn mowing versus burning is also unfounded. Annual mowing and burning have similar effects on prairie biomass production, and mowing does not cause prairie yields to decrease:
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Resistance to invaders and disease
Tilman's group proposed using mixtures of native prairie perennials for biofuels in part because, contrary to the assertion of Russelle, such mixtures are easily established and require low or no inputs for maintenance. Indeed, prairie readily reestablishes itself from seed and displaces exotic plant species during natural succession on many degraded agricultural lands in the Great Plains. Prairie restoration, such as on the 6000 ha restored recently in Minnesota by The Nature Conservancy, is performed using agricultural machinery, not manual labor as Russelle et al. suggest. Our hand-weeding was done to maintain monoculture and low-diversity treatments. In contrast, the LIHD treatment led to rapid competitive displacement of exotic weedy and pasture species. LIHD plots were strikingly resistant to subsequent plant invasion and disease. In portions of LIHD plots for which weeding had been stopped for 3 years, only 1.7% of total biomass came from invaders, which themselves were mainly native prairie perennials, and this invasion did not impact energy production.

Global production potential

Tilman's one-sentence on the "rough global estimate" of the energy LIHD biomass might potentially provide was brief, but well-supported and conservative. As to his estimated land base, 9 x 108 ha of global agricultural lands have been degraded so as to have "great reductions" in agricultural productivity, and an additional 3 x 108 ha are "severely degraded" and offer no agricultural utility. A review of 17 studies found a median value of 710 million ha of degraded land available globally for biofuel production. Tilman's suggestion of 5 x 108 ha is 30% lower and is therefore a conservative estimate.

In the Tilman experiment, severely degraded land planted to LIHD mixtures had biomass production that was 46% as much as its native biome, temperate grassland. To be conservative, they assumed that LIHD mixtures of native species planted on degraded land would produce 20% less than they observed, i.e., just 37% of the average of its native biome. Weighting this LIHD production estimate by the global area for each biome produced our estimate of 90 GJ ha–1 year–1 globally and of degraded lands potentially providing—through the integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC)/Fischer-Tropsch process — about one-seventh of the global transportation and electricity demand. Tilman's group says they stand by that estimate. Further, they urge that the energy and carbon sequestration potential of low-input high-diversity mixtures of locally native plant species be explored for degraded lands around the world.

Tilman's energy accounting was thorough and correct, the group says. They reported actual energy balances for U.S. corn ethanol and soybean biodiesel as currently produced (both of which cause net increases in greenhouse gases), and compared them to three ways that LIHD prairie biomass might be used to produce carbon-negative biofuels (i.e., biofuels that, in total for their life cycle, decrease greenhouse gas levels). They showed that these new carbon-negative biofuels could provide similar or greater net energy gains per hectare than current biofuels.

The concerns of Russelle et al. are refuted by a thorough consideration of the published literature. As to current biofuels, we agree that the energy and greenhouse gas benefits of corn ethanol could be improved, but we disagree about methods. First, burning the high-protein co-product of corn ethanol production to power ethanol production facilities, as Russelle et al. suggest, seems unwise because greater protein production is required to meet global nutritional needs. Burning this protein is not an industry standard, nor is it discussed in any recent ethanol energy balance reviews. Second, harvest and use of corn stover (the senescent stalks and leaves of corn plants) to power ethanol plants would likely cause soil organic carbon levels to fall, and increase both carbon dioxide release and soil erosion. A better alternative would be powering corn ethanol plants with LIHD biomass, likely by gasification. If done properly, the ethanol produced could be carbon-neutral and have a markedly higher net energy gain than current corn ethanol.

Tilman's group concludes:
The world's energy and climate problems are likely to be solved only by a combination of approaches and technologies, including wind and solar energy, increased energy efficiency, and renewable biofuels. Our research found that biofuels from LIHD biomass grown on degraded lands have substantial energy and greenhouse gas advantages over current U.S. biofuels. Moreover, LIHD production of renewable energy on agriculturally marginal lands could help ameliorate what might otherwise be an escalating conflict between food production, bioenergy production, and preservation of the world's remaining natural ecosystems. LIHD biofuels merit further exploration.

Image: test plot of mixed prairie grasses. Credit: Cedar Creek LTER Site.
More information:
The discussion is published in two access articles in Science:

David Tilman, Jason Hill and Clarence Lehman, "Response to Comment on 'Carbon-Negative Biofuels from Low-Input High-Diversity Grassland Biomass'", Science 15 June 2007, Vol. 316. no. 5831, p. 1567, DOI: 10.1126/science.1140365

Michael P. Russelle, R. Vance Morey, John M. Baker, Paul M. Porter, Hans-Joachim G. Jung, "Comment on 'Carbon-Negative Biofuels from Low-Input High-Diversity Grassland Biomass'", Science 15 June 2007: Vol. 316. no. 5831, p. 1567, DOI: 10.1126/science.1139388

The original study
David Tilman, Jason Hill and Clarence Lehman, "Carbon-Negative Biofuels from Low-Input High-Diversity Grassland Biomass" [*.abstract], Science 8 December 2006: Vol. 314. no. 5805, pp. 1598 - 1600, DOI: 10.1126/science.1133306

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EU greenhouse gas emissions decreased 0.8% in 2005

Emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases (GHG) decreased between 2004 and 2005, according to the annual GHG inventory report of the European Community prepared by the European Environment Agency (EEA), in Copenhagen. The report, 'Annual European Community Greenhouse gas inventory 1990-2005 and inventory report 2007', was submitted to the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as the European Community's official submission. The EEA released the main, preliminary, messages of the report in May 2007 because of public and political interest in the issue of climate change. The final version of this report was submitted to the UNFCCC on 27 May 2007.

Interactive GHG dataviewers allow the user to compile and compare emissions data per sector and per country over a given time-frame.

The key points of the final report are:
  • EU-15: Emissions of GHGs decreased by 0.8% (35.2 million tonnes CO2 equivalents) between 2004 and 2005 - mainly due to decreasing CO2 emissions of 0.7 % (26 million tonnes).
  • EU-15: Emissions of GHGs decreased by 2.0% in 2005 compared to the base year under the Kyoto Protocol (graph, click to enlarge).
  • EU-15: Emissions of GHGs decreased by 1.5% between 1990 and 2005
  • EU-27: Emissions of GHGs decreased by 0.7% (37.9 million tonnes CO2 equivalents) between 2004 and 2005
  • EU-27: Emissions of GHGs decreased by 7.9% compared to 1990 levels
The EU-15 consists of countries from Western Europe, the EU-27 includes the new member-states from Eastern Europe.

Emissions per sector
In absolute terms, the main sectors contributing to emissions reductions between 2004 and 2005 in the EU-15 were public electricity and heat production, households and services, and road transport.
  • CO2 emissions from public electricity and heat production decreased by 0.9% (-9.6 million tonnes) mainly due to a reduction in the reliance on coal.
  • CO2 emissions from households and services decreased by 1.7 % (7.0 million tonnes). Important decreases in emissions from household and services were reported by Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. One general reason for the decrease is the warmer weather conditions (milder winter) compared to the previous year.
  • CO2 emissions from road transport decreased by 0.8% (6 million tonnes). This is mainly attributed to Germany, and is due to increased amounts of diesel oil driven cars, the effects of the eco-tax and fuel buying from outside Germany (fuel tourism).
Emissions per country
In absolute terms, Spain increased greenhouse gas emissions the most between 2004 and 2005.

In Spain, the increase in greenhouse gas emissions by 3.6% or 15.4 million tonnes CO2 equivalents came mainly from public electricity and heat production. This is due to a rise in electricity generation from fossil thermal power stations (17 %) and a decrease in electricity generation from hydropower plants (-33 %).

Other EU-15 countries which saw emissions increase between 2004 and 2005 are: Austria, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Portugal:
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Role of the EU Emission Trading Scheme
In 2005 the EU Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) covered approximately 47% of the total CO2 emissions and around 39% of total greenhouse gas emissions in EU-15. The EU ETS covered 49% of the total CO2 emission and 41% of total greenhouse gas emissions in EU-25. In general, EU ETS information has been used by EU Member States as one input for calculating total CO2 emissions for the Energy and Industrial Processes sectors in this report. However, an explicit quantification of the contribution of the EU ETS to total CO2 emissions at sectoral and sub-sectoral level is not yet available for EU-15 or EU-25.

Significance for Kyoto Protocol obligations

The EU-15 has a common target under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions by 8 %, compared to the base year. The EU-27 does not have a common Kyoto target. Official reporting of emissions for compliance purposes under the Kyoto Protocol does not begin until 2010 – when emissions will be reported for the year 2008. In the meantime, this report is the most relevant and accurate source of information on greenhouse gas emissions for the EU. It can be used for tracking the EU's performance when it comes to reducing domestic greenhouse emissions (i.e. emissions within its territory) towards meeting the Kyoto targets. Parties to the Kyoto Protocol are allowed to use carbon sinks as well as the so called 'flexible mechanisms' to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions outside their national territories - as a supplement to domestic reductions. Hence, domestic action is the primary method of achieving the Kyoto targets. This inventory report suggests that domestic emissions of GHGs decreased by approximately 2.0 % compared to the base year under the Kyoto Protocol.

More information:
European Environment Agency: Annual European Community greenhouse gas inventory 1990-2005 and inventory report 2007, Technical report No 7/2007, June 17, 2007.

European Environment Agency GHG data viewers.

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