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

    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.

    An NGO called Grains publishes a report that highlights some of the potentially negative effects associated with the global biofuels sector. The findings are a bit one-sided because based uniquely on negative news stories. Moreover, the report does not show much of a long-term vision on the world's energy crisis, climate change, North-South relations, and the unique role biofuels can play in addressing these issues. Grain - June 29, 2007.

    Researchers at the Universidad de Tarapacá in Arica plan to grow Jatropha curcas in the arid north of Chile. The trial in the desert, is carried out to test the drought-tolerance of the biodiesel crop, and to see whether it can utilize the desert's scarce water resources which contain high amounts of salt minerals and boron, lethal to other crops. Santiago Times - June 28, 2007.

    India and Thailand sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that envisages cooperation through joint research and development and exchange of information in areas of renewable sources of energy like, biogas, solar-thermal, small hydro, wind and biomass energy. Daily India - June 28, 2007.

    Portucel - Empresa Produtora de Pasta e Papel SA said it plans to install biomass plants with an expected production capacity of 200,000 megawatt hours per year at its paper factories in Setubal and Cacia. The European Commission gave the green light for state aid totaling €46.5 million, contributing to Portucel's plans to extend and modernise its plants. Forbes - June 28, 2007.

    Petro-Canada and GreenField Ethanol have inked a long-term deal that makes Petro-Canada the exclusive purchaser of all ethanol produced at GreenField Ethanol's new facility in Varennes, Quebec. The ethanol will be blended with gasoline destined for Petro-Canada retail sites in the Greater Montreal Area. Petro-Canada - June 27, 2007.

    According to a study by the Korean Energy Economics Institute, biodiesel produced in Korea will become cheaper than light crude oil from 2011 onwards (678 won/liter versus 717.2 won/liter). The study "Prospects on the Economic Feasibility of Biodiesel and Improving the Support System", advises to keep biodiesel tax-free until 2010, after which it can compete with oil. Dong-A Ilbo - June 27, 2007.

    Kreido Biofuels announced today that it has entered into a marketing and distribution agreement with Eco-Energy, an energy and chemical marketing and trading company. Eco-Energy will purchase Kreido Biofuels’ biodiesel output from Wilmington, North Carolina, and Argo, Illinois, for a minimum of 3 years at current commercial market prices, as well as provide Kreido transportation and logistics services. Business Wire - June 27, 2007.

    Beijing Tiandi Riyue Biomass Technology Corp. Ltd. has started construction on its new fuel ethanol project in the county of Naiman in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region's Chifeng City, the company's president told Interfax today. Interfax China - June 26, 2007.

    W2 Energy Inc. announces it will begin development of biobutanol from biomass. The biofuel will be manufactured from syngas derived from non-food biomass and waste products using the company's plasma reactor system. Market Wire - June 26, 2007.

    Finland based Metso Corporation, a global engineering firm has received an order worth €60 million to supply two biomass-fired power boilers to Portugal's EDP Producao - Bioeléctrica, S.A. The first boiler (83 MWth) will be installed at Celbi’s Figueira da Foz pulp mill and the second boiler (35 MWth) at Caima’s pulp mill near the city of Constância. Both power plants will mainly use biomass, like eucalyptus bark and forest residues, as fuel to produce together approximately 40 MWe electricity to the national grid. Both boilers utilize bubbling fluidized bed technology. Metso Corporation - June 26, 2007.

    Canada's New Government is investing more than $416,000 in three southern Alberta projects to help the emerging biofuels industry. The communities of Lethbridge, Drumheller and Coalhurst will benefit from the projects. Through the Biofuels Opportunities for Producers Initiative (BOPI), the three firms will receive funding to prepare feasibility studies and business plans to study the suitability of biofuels production according to location and needs in the industry. MarketWire - June 26, 2007.

    U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman is expected to announce today that Michigan State and other universities have been selected to share $375 million in federal funding to develop new bioenergy centers for research on cellulosic ethanol and biomass plants. More info soon. Detroit Free Press - June 26, 2007.

    A Kerala based NGO has won an Ashden Award for installing biogas plants in the state to convert organic waste into a clean and renewable source of energy at the household level. Former US vice president Al Gore gave away the award - cash prize of 30,000 pounds - to Biotech chief A. Saji at a ceremony in London on Friday. New Kerala - June 25, 2007.

    AltraBiofuels, a California-based producer of renewable biofuels, announced that it has secured an additional US$165.5 million of debt financing for the construction and completion of two plants located in Coshocton, Ohio and Cloverdale, Indiana. The Coshocton plant's capacity is anticipated to reach 60million gallons/year while the Cloverdale plant is expected to reach 100 million gallons/year. Business Wire - June 23, 2007.

    Brazil and the Dominican Republic have inked a biofuel cooperation agreement aimed at alleviating poverty and creating economic opportunity. The agreement initially focuses on the production of biodiesel in the Dominican Republic. Dominican Today - June 21, 2007.

    Malaysian company Ecofuture Bhd makes renewable products from palm oil residues such as empty fruit bunches and fibers (more here). It expects the revenue contribution of these products to grow by 10% this year, due to growing overseas demand, says executive chairman Jang Lim Kuang. 95% of the group's export earnings come from these products which include natural oil palm fibre strands and biodegradable mulching and soil erosion geotextile mats. Bernama - June 20, 2007.

    Argent Energy, a British producer of waste-oil based biodiesel, announced its intention to seek a listing on London's AIM via a placing of new and existing ordinary shares with institutional investors. Argent plans to use the proceeds to construct the first phase of its proposed 150,000 tonnes (170 million litres) plant at Ellesmere Port, near Chester, and to develop further plans for a 75,000 tonnes (85 million litres) plant in New Zealand. Argent Energy - June 20, 2007.

Creative Commons License

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Emigration of unskilled workers increases child labor

In a provocative new study appearing in the July issue of the Journal of Labor Economics, economists Elias Dinopoulous (University of Florida) and Laixun Zhao (Kobe University) formally analyze the effects of globalization on child labor. The authors find [*abstract] that emigration of unskilled adult workers from poor countries to rich countries increases the incidence of child labor. Surprisingly, the authors also found that child-wage subsidies, such as subsidized meals, increase the incidence of child labor by lowering the costs of child labor to employers.

The topic is of interest to the Biopact, because some African countries, like Senegal, as well as EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Development, Louis Michel, have stressed that bioenergy production may offer an opportunity to reduce emigration pressures. Tens of thousands of Africans try to reach Europe each year, at the risk of losing their lives in the process, and Senegal is key transit point (map, click to enlarge). The country's president, Abdoulaye Wade, is one of the staunchest advocates of utilising biofuels as a way to secure jobs on the continent and thus to reduce emigration flows. Their potential to generate employment and wealth amongst rural communities makes that biofuels can contribute to relieving two waves typical of this exodus: poverty-driven internal migration from rural areas to the cities, and the poverty encountered there by unskilled workers who then decide to migrate further (earlier post).

The researchers say that the problem of child labor is arguably one of the most important issues of our time:
Excessive effort, hazardous work, bonded labor, armed conflict, prostitution and pornography, long work hours, unhealthy working conditions, absence of schooling, malnutrition, and sexual harassment acquire a different meaning when applied to children. The phenomenon of child labor has been viewed as an epidemic of the global economy that must eventually be eliminated.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), about 15 percent of children worldwide between the ages of 5 and 14 are classified as child laborers. Of these working children, about 171 million children work in hazardous conditions and 5.7 million are forced to work against their will.
Analyzing the economic effects of globalization on the incidence of child labor constitutes a high research and policy priority. Lower migration barriers that induce unskilled adult workers to migrate from poor to rich countries, alone or with their children, increase the incidence of child labor.
In contrast to prior economic models about child labor that assume altruistic parents reluctant to part with their children, Dinopoulos and Zhao propose a model that incorporates the idea that at least some children go to work because their parents are eager for the additional income:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The study also assumes that while skilled and educated adults can do things children cannot do - working as foremen, supervisors or machine operators - children can perform similar work as unskilled adult workers, especially in the agrarian sector.

The analysis further shows other conditions under which globalization-related changes can affect the incidence of child labor, including trade policies that encourage the production of child-labor intensive products and taxes that discourage foreign investment in child-labor-free sectors in developing countries.

When it comes to the poverty-alleviating power of bioenergy, it is clear that the sector is no panacea. As Dinopoulous and Zhao show, child labor often occurs in the agrarian sector. So in the context of biofuels, the issue remains highly complex and carries risks:
  • biofuel production may offer jobs and additional incomes for rural populations, reducing emigration pressures, and thus indirectly lead to a reduction of child labor
  • but biofuel production may just as well entice parents who see the opportunity for additional incomes to push their children into farm labor directly
As for all products, national governments must be encouraged to monitor and fight child labor, in biofuel production as well; wealthy nations and consumers can contribute by demanding full transparency from companies who produce exportable goods in developing countries. When it comes to biofuels, social sustainability criteria will obviously have to include clear provisions aimed at monitoring and preventing child labor.

Picture: Bitter chocolate: An African child drying cacao beans in West Africa's plantations. Credit: Project Hope and Fairness.

Map: Key migrant routes from Africa to Europe. Courtesy: BBC.

Elias Dinopoulos and Laixun Zhao, "Child Labor and Globalization" [*abstract], Journal of Labor Economics, 2007, vol. 25, no. 3.

BBC: Destination Europe: Key facts: Africa to Europe migration.

Article continues

Chile and the U.S. to cooperate on biofuels development

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and his delegation of U.S. Department of Energy officials conclude their tour of South America by signing [*Spanish] a biofuels research and development cooperation agreement with Chile. Earlier they visited Brazil where the previously signed U.S.-Brazil ethanol agreement was further discussed. However, Brazil did not succeed in persuading the American delegation to plea for a reduction of U.S. farm subsidies.

Paulson met with Chilean president Michelle Bachelet and stressed that the U.S. bioenergy initiative is focused on the entire Latin-American region. It will be managed by the Department of Energy (USDOE).

Noting that a number of Latin American nations struggle to meet energy demand, Paulson said the region has a common interest in sharing technology and developing new energy sources - especially clean and renewable ones.

In Chile, the U.S. wants to help develop biofuel research and production from new, non-food crops that thrive in arid environments. Both countries could greatly benefit from this, as both in Chile and the U.S., new farmland is scarce, but semi-arid zones are plenty. Technologies will be shared to convert biomass into liquid fuels and other biomaterials.
This initiative is aimed at cooperating and jointly researching biofuel development. We will focus on biofuels that have the following characteristics: they are clearly 'clean' [i.e. they help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution], energy efficient and at the same time are derived from new, non-food crops. - Andres Velasco, Chile's Finance Minister
The cooperation will be coordinated by a consortium of universities, research organisations and industry, united in the Corporación de Fomento de la Producción (CORFO), already active in researching renewable energies.

Chile currently suffers under a great energy deficit, and has had to take emergency measures to get both natural gas and liquid fuels supplied from neighboring countries. Lack of investment in energy infrastructures during previous governments is partly to blame. High energy costs and energy dependence are factors as well.

For the U.S., Paulson stressed, energy security is not only a national issue; the security of supplies in other countries is important for geostrategic reasons. "All of us stand to benefit from security of energy supplies", Paulson said.

Some analysts see Washington's biofuels initiative in the region as a way to counter the rising influence of Venezuala's Hugo Chávez, who is an outspoken critic of the U.S. and who uses petroleum as a geopolitical weapon:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Meeting with Finance Minister Andres Velasco, Paulson praised Chile's committment to neo-liberal market economics, despite Bachelet being a social-democrat and despite the region's turn to the left.

The Secretary further visited Urugay and Brazil, where new bilateral relations were discussed. The Brazilian government, who leads the G20 group of developing nations in trade negotiations, aims to get the U.S. to reduce its annual farm subsidies from the current $17billion to $12 billion - a precondition for the G20 to accept any Doha deal. The American delegation did not signal any way forward on this longstanding issue.

The U.S. delegation met in Montevideo with Uruguay's president Tabaré Vázquez, and with the Ministers of Economy of Uruguay, Mexio and Chile to discuss bilateral and multilateral cooperation on other fronts. Paulson stressed the U.S. is willing to cooperate with Latin American countries, on the condition that they are clearly committed to free market economics.

Ministerio de Hacienda: Chile y Estados Unidos anuncian colaboración energética centrada en desarrollo de biocombustibles - July 13, 2007.

Gobierno de Chile: Presidenta Bachelet se reunió con secretario del tesoro de Estados Unidos - July 13, 2007.

U.S. Dept. of the Treasury: Treasury Secretary Paulson Visits Brazil, Uruguay and Chile This Week - July 11, 2007.

Article continues

The Talk of Paris: Lula answers some tough questions on biofuels and social justice

Before he addressed the International Conference on Biofuels that shifted the EU's vision on biofuels production and trade, Brazil's president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signed a strategic partnership with the Union. It is the first Latin-American country to do so. Biofuels formed an essential part of the partnership, with the EU accepting the vision that the green fuels may contribute to poverty alleviation in the South and that they are one of the few pragmatic options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. France24 interviewed Lula, and asked him some tough questions on the sustainability of these green fuels, on social justice in Brazil and the Global South, and on economic and trade issues.

Ulysse Gosset hosts the 'The Talk of Paris', and asks Brazil's leader whether biofuels don't threaten the Amazon, and what their impact will be on food production. Lula is also presented with the criticisms on biofuels expressed by his left-wing collegues, Ugo Chavez and Fidel Castro (earlier post and here).
When it comes to food versus fuel, Lula responds that high oil prices have a much more serious impact not only on agricultural production, but on the economy as a whole. Biofuels may soften these impacts. A few years ago, oil cost $28 a barrel, today it is well above $70. This presents a challenge for energy intensive developing countries whose entire economy is affected. Brazil's biofuels alternative saves large sums of oil expenditures and could offer a pathway out of oil dependence for other countries, especially in Africa. With part of the savings, Brazil implements social programmes aimed at alleviating poverty.

The talk further includes a short biographical sketch showing how the 'president of the poor' made it from being a steel worker and union leader, to becoming the pragmatic left-wing president of Latin-America's largest and fastest growing nation. Other topics discussed are the development of Mercosur - the South American common market - and the different perspectives on how to consolidate Latin America's recent swing to the left. The difficult Doha round of trade negotiations receives some attention, with Lula calling for more global solidarity and economic justice. Spreading Brazil's biofuels model to Africa, with wealthy countries contributing to kickstarting a green revolution on the continent, is part of this international agenda. On a more general level, Lula sees a shift in power from the 'West' to the Global South, and to a more multi-polar world. This has implications for geopolitics and international relations [entry ends here].
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Article continues