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    Netherlands-based oil, gas, power and chemical industries service group Bateman Litwin N.V. announces it has signed an agreement to acquire Delta-T Corporation, a leading US-based bioethanol technology provider, with a fast growing engineering, procurement and construction division for a total consideration of US$45 million in cash and 11.8 million new ordinary shares in Bateman Litwin. Bateman Litwin - July 18, 2007.

    TexCom, Inc. announced today that it has signed a letter of intent to acquire Biodiesel International Corp. (BIC), and is developing a plan to build an integrated oilseed crushing and biodiesel production facility in Paraguay. The facility, as it is currently contemplated, would process 2,000 metric tons of oil seeds per day, yielding approximately 136,000 metric tons (approximately 39 Million Gallons) of biodiesel and 560,000 metric tons of soy meal pellets per year. Initial feedstock will consist mainly of soybeans that are grown in the immediate area of the proposed production plant in the Provinces of Itapua and Alto Parana. MarketWire - July 18, 2007.

    Spanish power company Elecnor announced that it will build Spain's biggest biodiesel production plant for €70 million (US$96.48 million). The plant, in the port of Gijon in northern Spain, will be ready in 22 months and will produce up to 500,000 tonnes of biodiesel a year from vegetable oil. The plant will be one of the world's biggest. Spain has decided to impose mandatory blending of biofuels with conventional fossil fuels as part of European Union efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Elecnor [*Spanish] - July 18, 2007.

    The University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) conducted a feasibility study to determine the most economical solutions to provide biomass energy to the isolated Chugachmiut Tribal Community in the village of Port Graham, Alaska, located on the Kenai Peninsula about 180 miles southwest of Anchorage. The village is only accessible by air or water, making traditional fossil fuel sources expensive to deliver and alternative forms of energy difficult to implement. The case study based on decentralised bioenergy offers interesting parallels to what would be needed to provide energy to the developing world's huge population that lives in similarly isolated conditions. EERC - July 18, 2007.

    According to a basic market report by Global Industries Inc., world biodiesel sales are expected to exceed 4.7 billion gallons (17.8 billion liters) by 2010. Though Europe, with a share estimated at 84.16% in 2006, constitutes the largest market, and will continue to do so for the coming years, major growth is expected to emanate from the United States. The automobile applications market for biodiesel, with an estimated share of 55.73% in 2006 constitutes the largest as well as the fastest growing end use application. Other applications independently analyzed include the Mining Applications market and the Marine Applications market. PRWeb - July 18, 2007.

    O2Diesel Corporation announced that it has received the regulatory approvals necessary to start delivering its proprietary diesel ethanol blended fuel, O2Diesel, in the French market. The approvals pave the way for O2Diesel to move forward into the next stage of its European market development strategy by commencing deliveries to a number of targeted fleets in France. MarketWire - July 17, 2007.

    The BBC World Service is hosting a series of programmes on the global obesity pandemic. Over the coming two weeks a range of documentaries and discussions will be held on the obesity time-bomb that is growing all over the West, but also in the developing world. In North America, a quarter of people are now morbidly obese, 60% is overweight, and one in three children will become obese. The epidemic is spreading rapidly to China and India. BBC World Service - July 16, 2007.

    A new report from Oregon State University shows the biofuels industry is on track to be a $2.5 billion chunk of the state's economy within 20 years. The study identifies 80 potential biodiesel, ethanol and biomass facilities which could produce a combined 400 million gallons (1.5 billion liters) per year of ethanol and another 315 million gallons (1.2 billion liters) of biodiesel. On an oil equivalent basis, this comes down to around 38,000 barrels per day. Oregon State University - July 16, 2007.

    Jatropha biodiesel manufacturer D1 Oils has appointed a leading plant scientist to its board of directors. Professor Christopher Leaver, Sibthorpian professor of plant science and head of the plant sciences department at Oxford University, has joined the Teesside company as a non-executive director. Professor Leaver, who was awarded a CBE in 2000, is a leading expert in the molecular and biochemical basis of plant growth and differentiation. D1Oils Plc - July 16, 2007.

    Panama and South Africa are set to cooperate on biofuels. A delegation consisting of vice-minister of Foreign Affairs Azis Pahad, of Finance, Jubulai Moreketi and of Finance, met with Panama's vice-chancellor Ricardo Durán to discuss joint biodiesel and ethanol production and distribution. Panama's goal is to become a hub for internationally traded bioenergy, making use of the strategic position of the Canal. La Prensa Gráfica [*Spanish] - July 14, 2007.

    Spanish investors are studying the opportunity to invest in agro-industrial projects in Morocco aimed at producing biofuel from the Jatropha plant. Morocco’s Minister for Energy and Mines, Mohammed Boutaleb, said Moroccan authorities are willing to provide the necessary land available to them, provided that the land is not agricultural, is located in semi-arid regions, and that the investors agree to use water-saving agricultural techniques, such as drip-feed irrigation. Magharebia - July 14, 2007.

    Philippine Basic Petroleum Corp. plans to raise as much as 2.8 billion pesos (€44.4/US$61.2 million) through a follow-on offering and loans to finance a 200,000 liter per day bio-ethanol plant in the province of Zamboanga del Norte. The move into biofuels comes in anticipation of the implementation of RA 9367 or the Philippines biofuels law. RA 9367 mandates five percent bioethanol blending into gasoline by 2009, and 10 percent by 2011. Manila Bulletin - July 14, 2007.

    The Michigan Economic Development Corporation last week awarded a $3.4 million grant to redevelop the former Pfizer research facility in Holland into a bioeconomy research and commercialization center. Michigan State University will use the facility to develop technologies that derive alternative energy from agri-based renewable resources. Michigan.org - July 13, 2007.

    Fuel prices increased three times in Mozambique this year due to high import costs. For this reason, the country is looking into biofuels as an alternative. Mozambique's ministries of agriculture and energy presented a study showing that more than five million hectares of land can be used sustainably in the production of crops that would produce biodiesel fuels. The first phase of a biofuel implementation plan was also presented, identifying the provinces of Inhambane, Zambezia, Nampula and Cabo Delgado as the first to benefit. News24 (Capetown) - July 12, 2007.

    The Malaysian Oleochemical Manufacturers Group (MOMG) has urged the government for incentives and grants to companies to encourage the development of new uses and applications for glycerine, the most important byproduct of biodiesel. Global production of glycerine is currently about one million tonnes. For every 10 tonnes of oil processed into biodiesel, one tonne of glycerine emerges as a by-product. Bernama - July 12, 2007.

    BioDiesel International AG has acquired 70 per cent of the shares in Lignosol, a Salzburg based company that is making promising progress in Biomass-to-Liquids conversion techniques. The purchase price is in the single-digit million Euro range. ACN - July 10, 2007.

    Gay & Robinson Inc. and Pacific West Energy LLC announced today a partnership to develop an ethanol plant in Hawaii based on sugarcane feedstocks. The plant's capacity is around 12 million gallons (45 million liters) per year. The partnership called Gay & Robinson Ag-Energy LLC, will also ensure the continuation of the Gay & Robinson agricultural enterprise, one of the oldest in Hawaii. Approximately 230 jobs will be preserved, and a large area of West Kauai will be maintained in sustainable agriculture. Business Wire - July 10, 2007.

    Water for Asian Cities (WAC), part of UN-Habitat, is extending partial financial support for the construction of several biogas plants across the Kathmandu valley and develop them as models for municipal waste management. The first biogas plants will be built in Khokna, Godavari, Kalimati, Patan, Tribhuvan University premises, Amrit Science College premises and Thimi. The Himalayan Times - July 09, 2007.

    EnviTec Biogas's planned initial public offering has roused 'enormous' interest among investors and the shares have been oversubscribed, according to sources. EnviTec has set the IPO price range at €42-52 a share, with the subscription period running until Wednesday. EnviTec last year generated sales of €100.7 million, with earnings before interest and tax of €18.5 million. Forbes - July 09, 2007.

    AthenaWeb, the EU's science media portal, is online with new functionalities and expanded video libraries. Check it out for video summaries of the latest European research activities in the fields of energy, the environment, renewables, biotech and much more. AthenaWeb - July 04, 2007.

    Biopact was invited to attend a European Union high-level meeting on international biofuels trade, to take place on Thursday and Friday in Brussels. Leaders from China, India, Africa and Brazil will discuss the opportunities and challenges arising in the emerging global biofuels sector. EU Commissioners for external relations, trade, energy, development & humanitarian aid as well as the directors of international organisations like the IEA, the FAO and the IFPRI will be present. Civil society and environmental NGOs complete the panorama of participants. Check back for exclusive stories from Friday onwards. Biopact - July 04, 2007.

    China's state-owned grain group COFCO says Beijing has stopped approving new fuel ethanol projects regardless of the raw materials, which has put a brake on its plan to build a sweet potato-based plant in Hebei. The Standard (Hong Kong) - July 03, 2007.

    Blue Diamond Ventures and the University of Texas A&M have formed a biofuels research alliance. The University will assist Blue Diamond with the production and conversion of non-food crops for manufacturing second-generation biofuels. MarketWire - July 03, 2007.

    African Union leaders are to discuss the idea of a single pan-African government, on the second day of their summit in Accra, Ghana. Libya's Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is championing the idea, but many African leaders are wary of the proposal. BBC - July 02, 2007.

    Triple Point Technology, a supplier of cross-industry software platforms for the supply, trading, marketing and movement of commodities, announced today the release and general availability of Commodity XL for Biofuels™. The software platform is engineered to address the rapidly escalating global market for renewable energy fuels and their feedstocks. Business Wire - July 02, 2007.

    Latin America's largest construction and engineering firm, Constructora Norberto Odebrecht SA, announced plans to invest some US$2.6 billion (€1.9 billion) to get into Brazil's booming ethanol business. It aims to reach a crushing capacity of 30 million to 40 million metric tons (33 million to 44 million tons) of cane per harvest over the next eight years. More soon. International Herald Tribune - June 30, 2007.

    QuestAir Technologies announces it has received an order valued at US$2.85 million for an M-3100 system to upgrade biogas created from organic waste to pipeline quality methane. QuestAir's multi-unit M-3100 system was purchased by Phase 3 Developments & Investments, LLC of Ohio, a developer of renewable energy projects in the agricultural sector. The plant is expected to be fully operational in the spring of 2008. Market Wire - June 30, 2007.

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

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

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Synthetic Genomics and Asiatic Centre for Genome Technology to sequence oil palm genome

In a very important development, Synthetic Genomics, a privately-held company dedicated to commercializing synthetic genomic processes and naturally occurring processes for alternative energy solutions, and the Asiatic Centre for Genome Technology Sdn Bhd (ACGT), a center that focuses on the application of genome technology to improve oil palm and other crops, today announced a multi-year, research and development joint venture to sequence and analyze the oil palm genome.

ACGT is a wholly owned subsidiary of Asiatic Development Berhad, an oil palm plantation company listed on Bursa Malaysia (Malaysian Stock Exchange) and a member of Genting Group. The research should enable improved yields and lessen the environmental impact of oil palm.

Synthetic Genomics was founded by J. Craig Venter who is also the company's CEO. Venter was one of the driving forces behind the sequencing of the human genome. His newest and controversial research projects involve the creation of synthetic organisms (earlier post).

The first phase of the agreement between Synthetic Genomics and ACGT focuses on the African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis). Synthetic Genomics will conduct in-depth genomic analyses of the oil palm genome which should result in the first full analysis of the crop's genome. In subsequent studies the groups will also analyze the oil palm’s root and leaf microbial communities, to identify biomarkers and metabolic pathways that affect the plant's growth and viability.
Increasing global demand for non-renewable fossil fuels is contributing to climate change and unsustainable development. Biofuels derived from oilseed plants by using genomic tools are a promising alternative that could alleviate our reliance on fossil fuels if they can be used in an environmentally sound way. We look forward to working with ACGT to advance the use of these energy crops. - J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Synthetic Genomics.
Oil palm is the most productive oilseed crop and is used in a wide variety of ways worldwide including in food and for biofuels. However, oil palm’s promise as a clean energy source has not yet been fully realized. Synthetic Genomics and ACGT believe that by understanding the oil palm’s genome, the groups can enable palm oil to be a better source of renewable fuel by breeding plants with useful traits.

These include:
  • traits that enable the plant to be grown in more arid locations
  • the development of plants with high oil yield
  • the design of plants with a low height increment (dwarf varieties) which make harvesting easier
The announcement to sequence the oil palm's genome comes at a time that other tropical energy crops are being sequenced. Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute launched an international effort to sequence the eucalyptus tree (earlier post). Cassava is being mapped by Norman Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution (here), sorghums are under the scanner of U.S. universities (previous post and here), whereas sugarcane's genome - the most complex genome of all crops - was largely mapped by Brazilian researchers in 2003:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The African oil palm is an extremely productive crop: it may yield up to 4500 liters of palm and palm kernel oil per hectare. In 2003 new hybrids were developed that mature earlier and that may yield 6000 liters. This new round of fundamental genetic research may result in similarly high or even better yields.

Improved cultivars are important because they allow plantations with a low productivity to be replanted, which improves production without taking up new land. However, on an estate level, replanting decisions are highly complex, whereas it is often difficult to convince smallholders to replant. Especially in Africa, the potential to replant is very high, as there are large badly maintained plantations with old and low-yielding trees there.

Besides oil, palm trees produce more useful biomass than any other crop. Currently, residues such as empty fruit bunches, leaves, fronds, fibers, trunks and press cakes are not yet used for the production of biofuels or bioenergy, but as a cellulosic feedstock, they represent an enormous potential for second-generation biofuels (graph, click to enlarge).

Synthetic Genomics and ACGT will also develop diagnostic tests for plant diseases that enhance natural resistance mechanisms for the breeding and maintenance of disease resistant energy crops. The resulting genomic solutions will help address the ecological concerns on biodiversity destruction through more efficient use of land with higher agricultural yield as well as sustainable development with improved stewardship of the plantation environment.

ACGT and its parent company’s chairman and chief executive, Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, made equity investments in Synthetic Genomics as part of the deal. Financial details were not disclosed.
We are eager to work with Synthetic Genomics as it opens up a new horizon in oil palm research which will result in unprecedented understanding of the oil palm and its surroundings and we are confident it will significantly increase oil palm’s productivity and competitive advantage. Our partnership consists of a world class scientific team with expertise in molecular biology, metagenomics, metabolic engineering, chemistry, plant science and agronomy who can greatly improve the selection and breeding of oil palm. - Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, Chief Executive of Asiatic.
Synthetic Genomics Inc., a privately-held company founded in 2005 and located in Rockville, Maryland and La Jolla, California, is dedicated to developing and commercializing synthetic genomic processes and naturally occurring processes for the production of clean, renewable alternative energy solutions. Recent advances in the field of synthetic genomics present seemingly limitless applications that could revolutionize production of energy, chemicals and pharmaceuticals and enable carbon sequestration and environmental remediation.

Asiatic Development Berhad, a 55%-owned subsidiary of Genting Berhad, commenced its operations in 1980 as the plantation arm of the Genting Group. Over the years, the Asiatic Group had embarked on several significant acquisitions in Malaysia, thus increasing its land bank from a mere 13,700 hectares in 1980 to nearly 66,000 hectares currently. In line with its long term strategy, the Asiatic Group had, in June 2005, further expanded its operations to Indonesia, on a joint venture basis, to develop some 98,300 hectares. The Asiatic Group also owns 5 oil mills with a total milling capacity of 235 tonnes per hour and is reputed to be one of the lowest cost palm oil producers with fresh fruit bunches production of over one million tonnes.

Handbook of Energy Crops: Elaeis guineensis Jacq.

Biopact: And the world's most productive ethanol crop is... oil palm - June 21, 2006

Biopact: Joint Genome Institute announces 2008 genome sequencing targets with focus on bioenergy and carbon cycle - June 12, 2007

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Japanese company to invest US$1 billion in Bangladesh biofuels and sugar sector

According to EnergyBangla, Japanese industrial giant Honda Denki Co. Ltd has expressed its interest to invest up to US$1 billion in Bangladesh's green power, biofuels and sugar sectors.

The investment offer came when the president of the Japanese firm Shin-ichi Honda met Bangladesh Industries Advisor Geetiara Safiya Chowdhury in the capital, Dhaka on Sunday. Bioethanol project manager Dr. Salem Monem was present on the occasion, an official statement says.

During the meeting, Shin-ichi said his company wants to invest in power generation and environment-friendly alternative energy bioethanol projects. He said his firm is also interested in providing pure drinking water to the poor and financing housing projects.

Shin-ichi informed the advisor that the Japanese industrial giant is also keen to extend its cooperation to the country's sugar mills. It would help in boosting production through providing training to the farmers, distributing high-yielding seeds and offering modern technologies for bioenergy production.

Together with Brazil, the Caribbean and Central Africa (DRCongo), Bangladesh belongs to the world's most suitable areas for growing sugarcane. Soils, temperatures, sunlight, precipitation levels and other agro-ecological factors combine in set of highly suitable conditions.

According to the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the FAO, following the Global Agro-Ecological Zones method, out of Bangladesh's 14 million hectares of land, some 10.1 million are very suitable, suitable and moderately suitable for sugarcane under rainfed cropping with high inputs (see map, and check the FAO's Land Suitability Maps).

In 2005, Bangladesh produced some 6.7 million tonnes of cane sugar, harvested from 175,000 hectares of land:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Commenting on the Japanese announcement, the Bangladeshi advisor said the ethanol investments could play an important role in developing sugar industries. Describing the investment proposal of the Japanese firm in sugar industry as a very positive one, the advisor urged Honda to set up urea fertilizer industries in Bangladesh.

The Honda Denki has a large investment portfolio in sugar cane ethanol industries and power generation in Cambodia, Brazil and Venezuela.

GAEZ database: datasets on land suitability for different crops under rainfed conditions (datasets are *.xls format).

FAO, Land and Water Development Division: Land Suitability Maps for Rainfed Cropping, database.

Sugarcane production data for Bangladesh can be found in the FAOStat database.

EnergyBangla: Japanese Company Honda to Invest $1b in Power Sector of Bangladesh - July 9, 2007.

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Global warring: study suggests climate change could be the root of armed conflicts

Climate change, and the resulting shortage of ecological resources, could be to blame for armed conflicts in the future, according to David Zhang from the University of Hong Kong and colleagues. Their research [*abstract], which highlights how temperature fluctuations and reduced agricultural production explain warfare frequency in eastern China in the past, has been published online in the journal Human Ecology.

Zhang and his team looked at the impact of climate change on warfare frequency over the last millennium in eastern China. The agricultural production in the region supports the majority of the Chinese population. The authors reviewed warfare data from 899 wars in eastern China between 1000 and 1911, documented in the Tabulation of Wars in Ancient China. They cross-referenced these data with Northern Hemispheric climate series temperature data for the same period.

They found that warfare frequency in eastern China, and the southern part in particular, significantly correlated with temperature oscillations. Almost all peaks of warfare and dynastic changes coincided with cold phases:
Strong and significant correlations were found between climatic change, war occurrence, harvest level, population size and dynastic transition. During cold phases, China suffered more often from frequent wars, population decline and dynastic changes. The quantitative analyses suggested that the reduction of thermal energy input during a cold phase would lower the land carrying capacity in the traditional agrarian society, and the population size, with significant accretions accrued in the previous warm phase, could not be sustained by the shrinking resource base.
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Temperature fluctuations directly impact agriculture and horticulture and, in societies with limited technology such as pre-industrial China, cooling temperatures hugely impact the availability of crops and herds. In times of such ecological stress, warfare could be the ultimate means of redistributing resources, according to Zhang and his team.

The authors conclude that “it was the oscillations of agricultural production brought by long-term climate change that drove China’s historical war-peace cycles.” They recommend that researchers consider climate change part of the equation when they consider the reasons behind wars in our history.

Looking to the future and applying their findings, Zhang and colleagues suggest that shortages of essential resources, such as fresh water, agricultural land, energy sources and minerals may trigger more armed conflicts among human societies.

Zhang DD, Zhang J, Lee HF, He Y (2007), "Climate change and war frequency in eastern China over the last millennium", Human Ecology, Volume 35, Number 4 / August, 2007, Pages 403-414, DOI: 10.1007/s10745-007-9115-8

Springer Science and Business media: Global warring - July 9, 2007.

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Ethanol tariffs and subsidies force Italians to spend more on pasta

From Italy comes an interesting case study showing the need for countries in the North to import biofuels from the South. Italian food manufacturers have warned that the price of pasta, one of the country's staple foods, will go up by about 20% in the coming months. Global warming and the growing use of durum wheat as a biofuel feedstock are blamed. But the deeper reason lies with European and American tariffs on imported ethanol, which allow durum wheat to be used as a raw material for ethanol in the first place.

Italian pasta tastes good because it is made from durum wheat, of which Italy is one of the world's main producers. But with strong demand at home and a growing export market, Italians are increasingly forced to import high quality durum wheat from abroad.

Much comes from Canada and Syria but, according to Mario Rummo, president of the Italian pasta manufacturers association, the Canadians have said they have no more durum wheat for sale until November, because much of it has been sold for the production of ethanol. Syria, meanwhile, has just banned the export of grain. The result will be a price hike of 20% for spaghetti and fettuccine by the autumn for Italians who have long been accustomed to cheap pasta in their supermarkets.

Don't blame biofuels, blame your trade negotiator
Mainstream media now paint this story with headlines such as 'Italians face tough choice: spaghetti or ethanol', 'Spaghetti is the latest victim of the biofuels boom' or 'Cheap biofuels, or dear pasta?', perpetuating the food versus fuel myth. Notice the 'or', as if we are faced with a choice between food 'or' fuel. We all know, of course, that we can have both food and biofuels (earlier post).

If the EU and the US were to drop their high import tariffs on ethanol, the problem would solve itself at once.

Brazil and other countries in the South would compete durum wheat - which makes for a very mediocre bioethanol feedstock - out of the market swiftly, by selling their much more efficient and competitive sugar cane ethanol. The Swedish government has understood this, and has launched an offensive to get rid of tariffs and subsidies that keep European consumers paying way too much for biofuels, and that perpetuates this false dilemma between food and fuel.

It's simply absurd to see that durum wheat is being used to make ethanol, while there are alternatives that are many times more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. The energy balance of durum wheat based ethanol is below 2 to 1, and the fuel obtained from it doesn't reduce greenhouse gases very much. Moreover, durum based ethanol is costly, and only possible with hefty subsidies and protectionist trade barriers.

Sugar cane ethanol's energy balance is between 8 to 1 and 10 to 1, competitive without subsidies and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80%. Clearly, there is no match.

In short, headlines should read: 'EU tariffs force Italians to spend more on spaghetti' or 'Arrivederci, farm subsidies', 'European consumers hijacked by unfair trade rules which make both food and fuel more expensive, and which keep millions of poor farmers in eternal poverty' or 'Don't blame biofuels, blame your trade negotiator':
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Canadian production of durum wheat has soared in recent years, but it is increasingly being sold as a biofuel to make ethanol which is why the wholesale price is going up. Global warming appears to be one of the main reasons for a decline in production in some traditional durum wheat-growing areas in the Mediterranean.

At present, Italy imports 40% of the durum wheat used to make pasta.

The country's expertise in the selection and blending of grains is the reason pasta manufacturers here give for the superiority of their product and their flourishing export trade.

: durum wheat, a crop that can only be used as an ethanol feedstock if it enjoys heavy subsidies and is protected by ethanol import tariffs. From a purely technical and environmental standpoint, durum wheat makes no sense as an ethanol crop: the energy balance of the fuel obtained from it is too low, and it doesn't reduce greenhouse gas emissions in any significant way.

BBC: Italians facing pasta price rise - July 10, 2007.

Gristmill: Cheap biofuels, or dear spaghetti? - July 10, 2007.

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U.S. farm bill draft allows and subsidizes sugar as ethanol feedstock

In the U.S. ethanol is primarily made from corn because both cane and beet sugar are treated by law solely as food. But under a new 111-page proposal by the House Agriculture Committee aimed at updating U.S. crop subsidies, American growers would now be allowed to sell cane and beet sugar for use in making ethanol. This is a signal change for the program that treated sugar as a commodity for human consumption only.

The package of support measures included in the Commodity Programs [*.pdf] was written at the direction of House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson, and is scheduled for committee debate next week.

Support rates for sugar would rise under the proposal to 18.5 cents per lb of raw cane sugar and 23.5 cents per lb of beet sugar for each of the 2008 through 2012 crop years (Section 156, Sugar Program, a and b). They now are 18 cents per lb for cane and 22.9 cents a lb for beet sugar.

By law, the government must run the sugar program at no net cost. The program relies on domestic marketing allotments, when needed, to balance the supply of domestic and imported sugar with U.S. consumption. Tariff-rate quotas control imports.

Under the Agriculture Committee text, the Agriculture Department would set marketing allotments "for domestic human consumption" of sugar for the 2008-12 crop years. Sugar sold "for uses other than domestic human consumption" would be excluded from the limits.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) would continue to update periodically its estimates of U.S. production, imports and demand so adjustments could be made as needed in the marketing allotments. By August 1 of each year, the USDA would make its first estimate of sugar supply and demand.

One provision of the proposed sugar program said if the USDA awards surplus sugar as a reward to growers who agree to reduce production of sugarcane and beets that are already planted, the sugar from those fields can only be used as a bioenergy feedstock (see (f) Avoiding forfeitures; corporation inventory disposition - (2) Inventory disposition (B) Bioenergy feedstock):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

A related measure would allow USDA to purchase raw, refined or in-process sugar from growers and sell it to bioenergy producers if it would help the sugar program operate at no net cost. The provision is part of a "wish list" of projects that may be added to the new farm law.

The purchases would be made only when necessary and USDA would use competitive bidding to get the best prices.

The American Sugar Alliance, a trade group for growers, says the committee proposal would make the sugar program "even stronger" with its "long overdue loan rate increase" and the ethanol provision.

U.S. House Committee on Agriculture: 2007 Farm Bill Discussion Draft: Title I: Commodity Programs [*.pdf] - Updated July 10, 2007.

Reuters: U.S. House draft allows sugar as ethanol feedstock - July 9, 2007.

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