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    According to Dr Niphon Poapongsakorn, dean of Economics at Thammasat University in Thailand, cassava-based ethanol is competitive when oil is above $40 per barrel. Thailand is the world's largest producer and exporter of cassava for industrial use. Bangkok Post - September 14, 2007.

    German biogas and biodiesel developer BKN BioKraftstoff Nord AG has generated gross proceeds totaling €5.5 million as part of its capital increase from authorized capital. Ad Hoc News - September 13, 2007.

    NewGen Technologies, Inc. announced that it and Titan Global Holdings, Inc. completed a definitive Biofuels Supply Agreement which will become effective upon Titan’s acquisition of Appalachian Oil Company. Given APPCO’s current distribution of over 225 million gallons of fuel products per year, the initial expected ethanol supply to APPCO should exceed 1 million gallons a month. Charlotte dBusinessNews - September 13, 2007.

    Oil prices reach record highs as the U.S. Energy Information Agency releases a report that showed crude oil inventories fell by more than seven million barrels last week. The rise comes despite a decision by the international oil cartel, OPEC, to raise its output quota by 500,000 barrels. Reuters - September 12, 2007.

    OPEC decided today to increase the volume of crude supplied to the market by Member Countries (excluding Angola and Iraq) by 500,000 b/d, effective 1 November 2007. The decision comes after oil reached near record-highs and after Saudi Aramco announced that last year's crude oil production declined by 1.7 percent, while exports declined by 3.1 percent. OPEC - September 11, 2007.

    GreenField Ethanol and Monsanto Canada launch the 'Gro-ethanol' program which invites Ontario's farmers to grow corn seed containing Monsanto traits, specifically for the ethanol market. The corn hybrids eligible for the program include Monsanto traits that produce higher yielding corn for ethanol production. MarketWire - September 11, 2007.

    Ethanol Statistics, a new industry information resource, reports that U.S. petroleum refiners Citgo and Valero are the top 2 ethanol importing companies in the United States in the first 6 months of 2007. Overall imports were up 7.64% compared to the same period in 2006, from 193,620 gallons to 208,404 gallons. Chevron imported 43% less, whereas Noble and ConocoPhilips' imports were up 255% and 372% respectively. Data are reported in 'The United States Ethanol Market 2007’, which also provides a breakdown of U.S. ethanol production costs and a detailed analysis of U.S. consumption and production. Ethanol Statistics - September 10, 2007.

    The government of British Columbia launches a $100,000 study into the production of biogas, heat, power and clean water from household waste streams. Raw sewage water can be cleaned by microbial fuel cells that deliver electricity as they clean the water; other technologies include classic anaerobic fermentation. Canada.com - September 10, 2007.

    Saudi Aramco in its Annual Review 2006 said that last year the company's crude oil production declined by 1.7 percent, while exports declined by 3.1 percent, compared with the previous year. Crude oil production in 2006 averaged 8.9 million barrels of oil a day (b/d) and exports 6.9 million b/d. Saudi Aramco - September 9, 2007.

    Chinese packaging manufacturer Livan Biodegradable Product Co. Ltd. will build plants in Alsozsolca and Edeleny in eastern Hungary at a combined cost of €18 million by 2009, the Hungarian economics ministry says. The plants, which will employ 800 people, are planned to produce initially 50, 000 metric tons a year of environmentally-friendly packaging material, and double that amount by a later date. Livan will use corn to manufacture biodegradable packaging boxes with similar properties to petroleum-based plastic boxes used in the food industry. Dow Jones Newswires - September 7, 2007.

    South Korea aims to raise biodiesel content in domestic diesel to 3 percent from the current 0.5 percent by 2012, Seoul's energy ministry said today. The government was initially set last year to impose a mandatory 5 percent blend, in line with the level targeted by the European Union by 2010, but the country's powerful refining lobby opposed the move, forcing it to push back the target, according to market sources. Reuters - September 7, 2007.

    Virent Energy Systems, Inc. announced today that it has closed a US$21 million second round of venture financing. Investor interest in Virent was driven in large part by the Company’s continued development of its innovative BioForming process beyond its traditional hydrogen and fuel gas applications and toward the production of bio-based gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels. Virent Energy Systems - September 6, 2007.

    The U.S. National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC) announces that 31 models of motor vehicles will be offered in the U.S. with an E85 capable engine in 2008. Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Mercedes Benz will all offer flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) in the coming year. The NEVC expects 750,000 such FFVs will be produced in 2008. National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition - September 5, 2007.

    GreenHunter BioFuels, Inc., has begun commercial operations with the start-up of a 1,500 barrel per day methanol distillation system. Methanol is an alcohol used to transesterify vegetable oils into biodiesel. The methanol production facility is a key element of GreenHunter's 105 million gallon per year biodiesel refinery, the largest in the U.S., slated for initial operations during the first quarter of 2008. PRNewswire - September 5, 2007.

    GreenHunter BioFuels, Inc., has begun commercial operations with the start-up of a 1,500 barrel per day methanol distillation system. Methanol is an alcohol used to transesterify vegetable oils into biodiesel. The methanol production facility is a key element of GreenHunter's 105 million gallon per year biodiesel refinery, the largest in the U.S., slated for initial operations during the first quarter of 2008. PRNewswire - September 5, 2007.

    Spanish renewables group Abengoa released its results for the first half of 2007 financial year in which its consolidated sales were €1,393.6 million, which is a 27.9 percent increase on the previous year. Earnings after tax were €54.9 million, an 18.6 percent increase on the previous year's figure of 46.3 million euro. Abengoa is active in the bioenergy, solar and environmental services sector. Abengoa - September 4, 2007.

    Canadian hydro power developer Run of River Power Inc. has reached an agreement to buy privately owned Western Biomass Power Corp. in a $2.2 million share swap deal that could help finance development of new green sources of electricity in British Columbia. The Canadian Press - September 4, 2007.

    As of Sept. 1, a biodiesel blending mandate has come into force in the Czech Republic, requiring diesel suppliers to mix 2 per cent biodiesel into the fuel. The same rule will be obligatory for gasoline starting next year. In 2009 the biofuel ratio will grow to 3.5 percent in gasoline and 4.5 percent in diesel oil. CBW - September 3, 2007.

    Budapest's first biofuel station opens on Monday near the Pesterzsébet (District XX) Tesco hypermarket. This is the third station selling the E85 fuel containing bioethanol in Hungary, as two other stations are encouraging eco-friendly driving in Bábolna and Győr. Caboodle - September 3, 2007.

    Canadian forest products company Tembec announced that it has completed the acquisition of the assets of Chapleau Cogeneration Limited located in Chapleau, Ontario. The transaction includes a biomass fired boiler and steam turbine with an installed capacity of 7.2 megawatts. Consideration for the assets consists of a series of future annual payments to 2022, with a present value of approximately $1 million. Tembec - September 1, 2007.

    Innovative internet and cable/satellite channel CurrentTV is producing a documentary on Brazil's biofuel revolution. Biopact collegues and friends Marcelo Coelho (EthanolBrasil Blog), Henrique Oliveira (Ethablog) and Marcelo Alioti (E-Machine) provided consulting on the technical, economic, environmental and social aspects of Brazil's energy transformation. ProCana - August 31, 2007.

    Oil major BP Plc and Associated British Foods Plc won competition clearance from the European Commission on to build a plant to make transport fuel from wheat in Hull, northeast England. U.S. chemical company DuPont is also involved. Reuters UK - August 31, 2007.

    The government of the Indian state of Orissa announced its policy for biofuel production which includes a slew of incentives as well as measures to promote the establishment of energy plantations. The state aims to bring 600,000 hectares of barren and fallow land under Jatropha and Karanj. At least 2 million hectares degraded land are available in the State. The new policy's other objectives are to provide a platform for investors and entrepreneurs, market linkages and quality control measures. Newindpress - August 29, 2007.

    Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras said today it expects to reach large scale cellulosic ethanol production in 2015, with the first plant entering operations as early as 2011. Lignocellulosic biomass is the most abundant biological material on the planet, making up the bulk of the structure of wood and plants. In a first phase, Petrobras intends to use bagasse as a feedstock. Reuters / MacauHub- August 29, 2007.

    Seattle based Propel Biofuels, is announcing a $4.75 million first round of capital from @Ventures and Nth Power. The money will be used to help Propel set up and manage biodiesel fueling stations. BusinessWire - August 29, 2007.

    BioEnergy International, a science and technology company committed to developing biorefineries to produce fuels and specialty chemicals from renewable resources, announced today the closing of a major US$61.6 million investment that will provide funding for the Company’s three strategic initiatives: generating secure cash flow from its conventional ethanol platform, product diversification through the introduction of novel biocatalysts for the manufacture of green chemicals and biopolymers and the integration of its cellulose technology. BusinessWire - August 28, 2007.

    German company Verbio Vereinigte BioEnergie, the biggest biofuels producer in Europe, says it is considering plans to invest up to €100/US$136.5 million in a biofuel production facility in Bulgaria. The company wants the new facility to be located close to a port and Bulgaria's city of Varna on the Black Sea is one of the options under consideration. If Verbio goes through with the plan, it would produce both biodiesel and bioethanol, making Bulgaria a major source of biofuels in southeastern Europe. Verbi currently produces around 700,000 tonnes of biofuels per year. Sofia News Agency - August 27, 2007.

    Czech brown-coal-fired power plant Elektrárna Tisová (ETI), a unit of the energy producer ČEZ, could co-fire up to 40,000 tons of biomass this year, the biggest amount in the company’s history, said Martin Sobotka, ČEZ spokesman for West Bohemia. ETI burned more than 19,000 tons of biomass in the first half of 2007. The company’s plan reckoned with biomass consumption of up to 35,000 tons a year. Czech Business Weekly - August 27, 2007.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Satellites witness lowest Arctic ice coverage in history, Northwest Passage opens up

The European Space Agency (ESA) reports that the area covered by sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk to its lowest level this week since satellite measurements began nearly 30 years ago, opening up the Northwest Passage – a long-sought short cut between Europe and Asia that has been historically impassable.

In the mosaic image above (click to enlarge), created from nearly 200 images acquired in early September 2007 by the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) instrument aboard ESA’s Envisat satellite, the dark gray colour represents the ice-free areas while green represents areas with sea ice.
We have seen the ice-covered area drop to just around 3 million sq km which is about 1 million sq km less than the previous minima of 2005 and 2006. There has been a reduction of the ice cover over the last 10 years of about 100 000 sq km per year on average, so a drop of 1 million sq km in just one year is extreme. The strong reduction in just one year certainly raises flags that the ice (in summer) may disappear much sooner than expected and that we urgently need to understand better the processes involved. - Leif Toudal Pedersen, Danish National Space Centre
Arctic sea ice naturally extends its surface coverage each northern winter and recedes each northern summer, but the rate of overall loss since 1978 when satellite records began has accelerated.

This animation is comprised of Envisat ASAR mosaics of the Arctic Ocean for 2005, 2006 and 2007 and highlights the changes in sea ice. The ice-free areas appear as dark gray and the sea ice areas as light gray. Note the exceptionally large ice-free area extending from the Siberia coast up to the vicinity of the North Pole in the 2007 mosaic. Credit: ESA
The most direct route of the Northwest Passage (highlighted in the top mosaic by an orange line) across northern Canada is shown fully navigable, while the Northeast Passage (blue line) along the Siberian coast remains only partially blocked. To date, the Northwest Passage has been predicted to remain closed even during reduced ice cover by multi-year ice pack – sea ice that survives one or more summers. However, according to Pedersen, this year’s extreme event has shown the passage may well open sooner than expected. A major bottleneck of the Passage has become entirely ice free this year (image, click to enlarge):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The previous record low was in 2005 when the Arctic area covered by sea ice was just 4 million sq km. Even then, the most direct Northwest Passage did not fully open.

The Polar Regions are very sensitive indicators of climate change. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed these regions are highly vulnerable to rising temperatures and predicted the Arctic would be virtually ice free by the summer of 2070. Still other scientists predict it could become ice free as early as 2040 due to rising temperatures and sea ice decline.

Because sea ice has a bright surface, the majority of solar energy that hits it is reflected back into space. When sea ice melts, the dark-coloured ocean surface is exposed. Solar energy is then absorbed rather than reflected, so the oceans get warmer and temperatures rise, making it difficult for new ice to form.

The Arctic is one of Earth’s most inaccessible areas, so obtaining measurements of sea ice was difficult before the advent of satellites. For more than 20 years, ESA has been providing satellite data to the cryosphere communities. Currently, ESA is contributing to the International Polar Year (IPY) – a large worldwide science programme focused on the Arctic and Antarctic.

Since 2006, ESA has supported Polar View, a satellite remote-sensing programme funded through the Earthwatch GMES Service Element (GSE) that focuses on the Arctic and the Antarctic.

In 2009, ESA will make another significant contribution to cryosphere research with the launch of CryoSat-2. The observations made over the three-year lifetime of the mission will provide conclusive evidence on the rates at which ice cover is diminishing.

ESA: Satellites witness lowest Arctic ice coverage in history - September 14, 2007.

ESA: ESA contribution to International Polar Year 2007-2008 - March 1, 2007.

ESA: Arctic summer ice anomaly shocks scientists - September 19, 2007.

ESA: Earth Observation satellites contribute to International Polar Year 2007-2008 - June 30, 2007.

International Polar Year website.

Earth Observation for Polar Monitoring - Polar View website.

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World Resources Institute and Climate Group complete 100MW of renewable energy projects in Europe

The Green Power Market Development Group – Europe (GPMDG-EU) today announced the completion of its first 100 megawatts (MW) of green power projects at 50 corporate facilities across 16 European countries. GPMDG-EU, a coalition of leading European companies led by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and The Climate Group (CG), made the announcement at the 5th European Conference on Green Power Marketing in Lausanne. GPMDG-EU is coordinated by the WRI - a global non-profit environmental think tank that links analysis with engagement to protect the Earth and improve people's lives, and The Climate Group – an international organization working with government and business to advance leadership on climate change solutions.
Working together, some of Europe's largest energy users are demonstrating the business case for renewable energy, setting an example that other companies can follow. They are helping accelerate society's transition towards a diversified, sustainable and clean energy future. - Jonathan Lash, President of WRI
The projects draw upon a variety of renewable energy technologies, including 46 MW of utility-supplied green power purchases, 40 MW of on-site biomass thermal energy, 9 MW of on-site wind power, 2 MW of on-site solar thermal, 2 MW of biomass power, and 1 MW of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) and geothermal heat pumps. They total 100 MW in generation capacity and produce the equivalent of approximately 500 million kilowatt-hours per year—enough to power more than 110,000 European households.

Companies that have switched to renewable energy are reporting a number of bottom line advantages, including reduced corporate greenhouse gas emissions, diversification of energy sources to hedge against fluctuating fossil fuel prices, as well as strengthening customer relationships and brand differentiation:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"Renewable energy plays an important and growing role in helping companies reduce their environmental impact whilst boosting profitability and competitiveness," said Steve Howard, CEO of The Climate Group.

Members of GPMDG-EU include BT, Dow, DuPont, General Motors, Holcim, IBM Europe, IKEA, InterfaceFLOR, Johnson & Johnson, Michelin, Nike (Customer Service Centre), Staples, Tetra Pak and Unilever.

John Harris, IKEA Goes Renewable Project Manager, said, "To get this far has required lots of information sharing and inspiration. The Green Power Market Development Group – Europe has provided a good forum for this. Now we have to make renewable energy our first choice and use fossil fuels as the last resort. More of our co-workers need information and inspiration if we are to achieve this."

GPMDG-EU seeks to demonstrate the business case for renewable energy, evaluate and deploy a variety of renewable energy technologies, and engage the marketplace to take green power to scale. GPMDG-EU members explore opportunities to install renewable energy generation systems such as biomass, solar and wind at their corporate facilities and to purchase green power from their electricity suppliers, and are playing a role in building this emerging commercial and industrial market for renewable energy in Europe.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) is an independent, non-partisan and nonprofit organization with a staff of more than 100 scientists, economists, policy experts, business analysts, statistical analysts, mapmakers, and communicators developing and promoting policies that will help protect the Earth and improve people's lives. WRI's mission is to move human society to live in ways that protect Earth's environment for current and future generations. WRI’s program meets global challenges by using knowledge to catalyze public and private action:
  • To reverse damage to ecosystems. We protect the capacity of ecosystems to sustain life and prosperity.
  • To expand participation in environmental decisions. We collaborate with partners worldwide to increase people's access to information and influence over decisions about natural resources.
  • To avert dangerous climate change. To promote public and private action to ensure a safe climate and a sound world economy.
  • To increase prosperity while improving the environment. We challenge the private sector to grow by improving environmental and community well-being.
Since 2000, World Resources Institute has led a successful corporate green power buyers group in the United States that includes Alcoa, Dow, DuPont, FedEx, General Motors, Georgia Pacific, Google, IBM, Interface, Johnson & Johnson, Michelin, NatureWorks, Pitney Bowes, Staples, and Starbucks.

The Climate Group is an independent, non-profit organization which works with government and business to advance leadership on climate change solutions. The Climate Group has offices in the UK, USA, Australia, India and China.

Proactive companies, states, regions and cities around the world are demonstrating that the cuts in greenhouse gases required to stop climate change can be achieved while growing the bottom line. Using the work of these leaders as a catalyst, The Climate Group strives to accelerate international action on climate change with a new, strong focus on practical solutions.

Since launching in 2004, The Climate Group has developed an interlocking program of sectoral leadership groups, research and publications, media engagement, and high-impact events. Its coalition of members has demonstrated that emissions reductions, while essential, can also be profitable. The Climate Group inspires further action and outreach and mobilizes business and sub-national governments to implement and support effective strategies and policies that mitigate climate change.

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UN: biofuels not to blame for high food prices

One of the many myths profilating in the media claims that the rise in biofuel production is responsible for increased food prices. It is very difficult to debunk such popular myths once they are spread, but nonetheless the world's leading food and agriculture analysts do their best to analyse and if necessary debunk them.

According to Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, the linkage is mere speculation and it is even unlikely that biofuels play a role. Far more important factors are bad harvests in the major food producing regions, violent weather conditions induced by climate change, and rapidly growing demand from China. The UNEP chief said some people were getting 'single-minded' about biofuels and fail to see the complexitities of the world's agricultural markets.

While further study is needed to understand the impact of biofuels on crop markets, Steiner said it is unlikely that environmentally friendly biofuel crops are responsible for price increases of tortilla flour in Mexico or of pasta in Italy. But some journalists and those with an anti-biofuel agenda have quickly tried to make a link between these phenomena.
Global price fluctuations in the grain markets have always existed, although we are for some, like wheat, at historic highs at the moment. It would be somewhat premature to say that pasta costs more because there is biofuel grown in other parts of the world. There are speculative assumptions at the moment. We are working together with our colleagues in different institutions to assess whether that linkage can really be made. - Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program
Steiner spoke on the sidelines of a two-day national conference on climate change in Italy held at the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
We should ask ourselves: are we getting single-minded about the biofuels issue instead of looking at the full spectrum of issues? - Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program
On the other hand, increasingly violent weather does pose a real danger to crops and to food supplies, particularly for the world's poorest. This much greater threat to supply and price stability of food and agricultural products comes from climate change and the expected increase in floods, droughts and other crop-damaging weather. Biofuels, which reduce carbon dioxide emissions and reduce global warming, precisely offer an opportunity to mitigate this threat:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

It is clear that we will face a greater risk of variations in supply, which in turn will create much more price volatility, and that is a difficult consequence particularly for the poorest economies in the world, Steiner said.

Steiner also noted that farmers, particularly in the United States, are capable of increasing production to respond to a rise in demand.

While voicing his caution on the link to prices, Steiner echoed widespread concerns that, if left unregulated, the push to plant new biofuel crops could hurt the environment.

Regions like Europe, where the EU has pledged to replace 10 percent of transport fuel with biofuels by 2020, must ensure that imported biofuels are not grown by cutting down tropical rain forests or damaging other sensitive areas, Steiner said.

"Like with other products, there are sustainability criteria and the world is struggling at the moment to agree on those," he said.

One thing remains clear: the public at large needs to be better informed about the complexities and opportunities of the biofuels sector.

Forbes: UN Skeptical of Biofuel Price Hikes - September 13, 2007.

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Japan launches 'Green Cool Asia' plan: boosting food security through biofuels

In a very interesting development, the Japanese government has decided to launch a plan to assist Southeast Asian countries with measures to increase the output of agricultural products that can be used to make biofuels. The 'Green Cool Asia' plan aims to encourage highly developed Asian countries to buy biofuels from poor countries in order to alleviate poverty and boost the food security of small farmers across the region.

Cassava farmers in Thailand. Biofuel production and markets offer unique opportunities to fight rural poverty and to boost the food security of the world's small farmers
Rice, palms, sorghum, sugar cane, cassava and other crops commonly grown in Southeast Asian countries can be used to make efficient and sustainable biofuels that can help prevent global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Improving food security through biofuels
The plan is named 'Green Cool Asia', and the logic behind is similar to that of a 'biopact': it aims to prevent the shortage of food supplies in developing countries by prompting industrialized countries to procure more biofuel materials from those countries. In short, the plan reiterates the counter-intuitive idea that biofuel production can boost food security.

Food and agriculture analysts have repeatedly said that food insecurity is not the result of a physical shortage of food, but of a lack of income to buy food. By looking at farmers as biofuel producers, the creation of a global biofuels market could boost their incomes. The WorldWatch institute, the FAO and other organisations, have therefor said that the biofuels market can help bring about a rural renaissance, fight poverty, malnutrition and food insecurity. The vast bulk of the world's 800 million food insecure people are small farmers. They stand to benefit from the biofuel revolution (earlier post and here).

The Japanese government will make a report about this plan at the summit meeting of the Group of Eight major nations to be held at the Lake Toya resort in Toyakocho, Hokkaido, next July.

Tech and knowledge transfers
According to the plan, experts from the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry will advise local people on ways to enhance the cultivation of agricultural products used to make bioethanol for gasoline-fueled cars and biodiesel for diesel cars. The government will provide these countries with plant strains developed in Japan to improve harvests and measures to enhance irrigation systems.

Japan also will give those countries technical and financial assistance to build facilities to produce biofuels and ask for cooperation from Japanese manufacturers with biofuel production technology and major trading companies whose distribution networks include Southeast Asian countries:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The government intends to send a research team consisting of officials from the public and private sectors to Southeast Asia sometime in October to select appropriate countries. Candidates include Vietnam, which harvests rice three times a year; Thailand, which cultivates sugar cane, rice and cassava; and Malaysia and Indonesia, which plant palms.

Governmental organizations and companies in Europe have started arrangements to procure biofuel materials from Asian and African countries with cheap costs including cheap labor.

An official at the ministry is concerned that local people might put priority on agricultural products used for biofuels and then suffer from food shortages. To counter this trend, an expansion of agricultural production is indispensable in those developing countries, the official said.

Daily Yomiuri: Govt aims to boost output of biofuel in S.E. Asia - September 12, 2007.

Biopact: Worldwatch Institute chief: biofuels could end global malnourishment -
August 23, 2007

Biopact: FAO chief calls for a 'Biopact' between the North and the South - August 15, 2007

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Modern logistics allow swift construction of biofuel plants

The sustainable biofuels potential in developing countries is enormous. The International Energy Agency's Bioenergy Executive Committee projects that by 2050 these countries can produce more biobased fuels than the entire mineral oil output, without deforestation and while securing food, fiber and fodder supplies (earlier post). But in order to realize this potential swiftly, much is needed: infrastructures, good investment frameworks, stable governments and scientific and technological expertise.

One of the smaller problems - how to ship and build state of the art biofuel processing plants in remote locations - is being solved by modern logistics solutions. An example comes from Vance Bioenergy, one of Malaysia's leading biodiesel companies. A well-coordinated logistics plan and the use of airfreight helped it complete its second plant in just seven months, a fraction of the time it normally takes to build a factory of a similar capacity.

Partnering with TNT Express, one of the largest express services providers, Vance Bioenergy worked with the company to airfreight key components of the plant's equipment from various countries across Europe to Malaysia.

Built on an eight acre site in Pasir Gudang, Vance Bioenergy's latest plant will produce 100,000 tonnes of biodiesel a year, worth US$78 million based on current oil prices, once it comes on stream. The plant is Vance Bioenergy's second biofuel plant on the site, and both facilities combined contribute to an overall output capacity of 150,000 tonnes a year, worth US$117 million per annum.

The highly automated, state-of-the-art facility houses an on-site testing laboratory equipped with gas chromatographs and other dedicated biodiesel testing equipment to ensure that customers receive the highest quality biodiesel that meets EN 14241 or ASTM 6751 - industry specifications required by global biodiesel markets.

Having invested in the latest technology from Europe, Vance Bioenergy worked with TNT to airfreight over 17 thousand crucial parts with a total weight of 40 tonnes, from Europe to Malaysia.

Using TNT's Air Freight and Economy Express services among others for greater flexibility and efficiency, the components were first flown from suppliers across at least five countries, including Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Finland and Spain, before being consolidated and shipped to Malaysia:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Furthermore, TNT's Special Services team managed the entire delivery process from pickup to point of assembly, especially assisting with the application and obtainment of pre-customs clearance and approvals for the shipments, which further reduced the time normally taken to ship a similar consignment by about 50 per cent.

The well-organised air network infrastructure and expertise in customs procedures provided by TNT, which also air freighted parts for Vance Bioenergy's first plant, enabled the company to build its second plant in just seven months instead of the usual period of over one and a half years.

Vance Bioenergy is currently in the process of building a glycerine refinery next to its biodiesel plants that will produce pharmaceutical-grade refined glycerine from crude glycerine a by-product of the biodiesel production process. Once complete in October 2007, it will produce over 20,000 tonnes of pharmaceutical-grade glycerine per annum.

Supply Chain Market: Logistics Solution: Malaysian Biofuel Company Builds Plant In Record Time - September 14, 2007.

Biopact: IEA report: bioenergy can meet 20 to 50% of world's future energy demand - September 12, 2007

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Norway's Statoil and Brazil's Petrobras to cooperate on biofuels

Northern Europe's largest oil company Statoil and the Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobras have signed a long-term strategic collaboration agreement for exploration and production as well as biofuels.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed in Oslo on 14 September by Helge Lund and José Sergio Gabrielli de Azevedo, chief executives of Statoil and Petrobras respectively.

The two state-controlled companies signed the agreement during an official visit to Norway by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Brazil is the world's largest exporter of ethanol, and the head of state has been touring Nordic nations this week to promote his country's biofuels program.

Amongst his successes are a commitment by Sweden to remove import tariffs on ethanol (earlier post), a collaboration agreement with Finland to fight climate change through the increased use of bioenergy (here), and a research collaboration program by Denmark's Novozymes, a leading developer of enzymes, and the Center for Sugarcane Technology to produce second generation biofuels from sugar cane in Brazil (more here).

Statoil chief executive Helge Lund said the Norwegian company wants to develop specific projects with Petrobras on producing biofuels as a sustainable supplement to fossil fuels for the transportation sector. Through the partnership with Petrobras, Statoil hopes to gain new experience from the worlds most well-developed biofuel market.

The two companies are also working together on a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project in Brazil. They emphasise 'responsible behaviour' which safeguards society and the environment as well as creating value for the community at large, Lund says.

Brazil has been promoting its biofuels as a cheap, eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels amid soaring oil prices and global warming concerns. To make the production of the fuels part of a poverty alleviation effort, Brazil has implemented a policy of incentives for companies who source their biofuel feedstocks from certified small farmers. Some 60,000 small farmers are said to be benefiting from this 'Social Fuel' program (earlier post):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The companies presently have several partnership agreements within exploration and production in Brazil, Angola, Nigeria and the Gulf of Mexico. The partners also formed a technology partnership in 2003 that includes drilling, exploration and subsea operations.

Statoil currently distributes E85 biofuel with the bulk of the ethanol imported from Brazil, and sells it through 170 of its service stations in Sweden. It reported a sales growth of 270% on year to 19.5 million liters in 2006 (earlier post).

Statoil has only recently started building a presence in the production chain of the biofuels sector, by buying a 42.5% interest in UAB Mestilla. Mestilla is building the biggest biodiesel factory in the Baltic states (more here).

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WorldWatch Institute: window to prevent catastrophic climate change closing; EU should press for immediate U.S. action

Consumption of energy and many other critical resources is consistently breaking records, disrupting the climate and undermining life on the planet, according to the latest Worldwatch Institute report, Vital Signs 2007-2008.

The 44 trends tracked in Vital Signs illustrate the urgent need to check consumption of energy and other resources that are contributing to the climate crisis, starting with the largest polluter, the United States, which accounted for over 21 percent of global carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning in 2005. Europe, already feeling the effects of climate change, should pressure the U.S. to join international climate negotiations, according to Erik Assadourian, Vital Signs Project Director.
The world is running out of time to head off catastrophic climate change, and it is essential that Europe and the rest of the international community bring pressure to bear on U.S. policy makers to address the climate crisis. The United States must be held accountable for its emissions, double the per capita level in Europe, and should follow the EU lead by committing to reducing its total greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. - Erik Assadourian, Project Director
This summer, the European Union has become a showcase for how the world will be transformed by climate change, including tragic fires in Greece and the Canary Islands, dramatic floods in England, and heat waves across the Continent. Assadourian urged European leaders to push the U.S. to engage more constructively with the international community on climate change, starting at the United Nations late this month and in the Bali Climate negotiations at the end of the year.

With a global population of 6.6 billion and growing, the ecosystem services upon which life depends are being stretched to the limit due to record levels of consumption:
  • In 2006, the world used 3.9 billion tons of oil. Fossil fuel usage in 2005 produced 7.6 billion tons of carbon emissions, and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reached 380 parts per million (graph, click to enlarge).
  • More wood was removed from forests in 2005 than ever before.
  • Steel production grew 10 percent to a record 1.24 billion tons in 2006, while primary aluminum output increased to a record 33 million tons. Aluminum production accounted for roughly 3 percent of global electricity use.
  • Meat production hit a record 276 million tons (43 kg per person) in 2006.
  • Meat consumption is one of several factors driving soybean demand. Rapid South American expansion of soybean plantations could displace 22 million hectares of tropical forest and savanna in the next 20 years.
  • The rise in global seafood consumption comes even as many fish species become scarcer: in 2004, 156 million tons of seafood was eaten, an average of three times as much seafood per person than in 1950.
The expanding world population’s appetite for everything from everyday items such as eggs to major consumer goods such as automobiles is helping to drive climate change, which is endangering organisms on the land and in the sea:
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  • The warming climate is undermining biodiversity by accelerating habitat loss, altering the timing of animal migrations and plant flowerings, and shifting some species towards the poles and to higher altitudes.
  • The oceans have absorbed about half of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans in the last 200 years. Climate change is altering fish migration routes, pushing up sea levels, intensifying coastal erosion, raising ocean acidity, and interfering with currents that move vital nutrients upward from the deep sea.
  • Despite a relatively calm hurricane season in the U.S. in 2006, the world experienced more weather-related disasters than in any of the previous three years. Nearly 100 million people were affected.
While U.S. carbon emissions continue to grow, the fastest growth is occurring in Asia, particularly China and India. But without a U.S. commitment to emissions constraints, persuading China and India to commit to reductions is unlikely.
The only hope for reducing the world’s carbon emissions is for the U.S. to begin reducing its emissions and cooperating with other nations immediately. The EU may be the only entity that can make that happen With the U.S. Congress preparing to take up far-ranging climate legislation this fall, and with President Bush planning to hold an international climate change summit in Washington, now is the time to act. If the U.S. and other nations walk away without concrete plans to implement a binding agreement, the EU should not hesitate to use its diplomatic clout to press the issue. - Erik Assadourian, Project Director.
Already, the window to prevent catastrophic climate change appears to be closing. Some governments are starting to redirect their attention away from climate change mitigation and towards staking their claims in a warming world. “Canada is spending $3 billion to build eight new patrol boats to reinforce its claim over the Arctic waterways. Denmark and Russia are starting to vie for control over the Lomonosov Ridge, where new sources of oil and natural gas could be accessed if the Arctic Circle becomes ice free—fossil fuels that will further exacerbate climate change. These actions assume that a warming world is here,” said Assadourian.

WorldWatch Institute: Vital Signs Online.

WorldWatch Institute: Vital Signs 2007-2008 - September 2008.

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