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    A new Agency to manage Britain's commitment to biofuels was established today by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. The Renewable Fuels Agency will be responsible for the day to day running of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, coming into force in April next year. By 2010, the Obligation will mean that 5% of all the fuels sold in the UK should come from biofuels, which could save 2.6m to 3m tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. eGov Monitor - November 5, 2007.

    Prices for prompt loading South African coal cargoes reached a new record last week with a trade at $85.00 a tonne free-on-board (FOB) for a February cargo. Strong Indian demand and tight supply has pushed South African prices up to record levels from around $47.00 at the beginning of the year. European DES/CIF ARA coal prices have remained fairly stable over the past few days, having traded up to a record $130.00 a tonne DES ARA late last week. Fair value is probably just below $130.00 a tonne, traders said. At this price, some forms of biomass become directly competitive with coal. Reuters Africa - November 4, 2007.

    The government of India's Harayana state has decided to promote biomass power projects based on gasification in a move to help rural communities replace costly diesel and furnace oil. The news was announced during a meeting of the Haryana Renewable Energy Development Agency (HAREDA). Six pilot plants have demonstrated the efficiency and practicability of small-scale biomass gasification. Capital subsidies will now be made available to similar projects at the rate of Rs 2.5 lakh (€4400) per 100 KW for electrical applications and Rs 2 lakh (€3500) per 300 KW for thermal applications. New Kerala - November 1, 2007.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Harvard Center for International Development: "Biofuels can match oil production"

Even though some vested interests are trying to downplay the potential of biofuels, energy analysts and scientists know that their potential is truly vast - at least in theory. The director of Harvard University’s Center for International Development (John F. Kennedy School of Government), professor Ricardo Hausmann, joins those analysts and presents a well argued view on what would be needed for a sustainable bioenergy future to emerge. Writing in the Financial Times, he goes so far as to state that 'biofuels can match oil production'.

Biopact readers will recognize several points made by Hausmann, especially those dealing with the major policy and market transformations needed which must allow the 'biofuel super powers' of the future to supply world markets. Like many others, he too stresses that, with the right policies, the bioeconomy offers major chances for social and rural development in the Global South. Moreover, the author outlines the possible effects of biofuels on OPEC's monopolistic power.

Because prof Hausmann is a well known analyst of development economics and has served in major international development organisations (World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and as a minister in the Venezuelan government) and thus his insight carries some authority, we republish his essay here in full:

Peering into the future seldom produces a clear picture, Hausmann writes. But this is not the case with bio-energy. Its long-term impacts on the global economy appear to be pretty clear, making many long-term predictions quite compelling, including the demise of the price-setting power of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the end of agricultural protectionism.

First, technology is bound to deliver a biofuel that will be competitive with fossil energy at something like current prices. It probably already has. Brazil has been exporting ethanol to the US at an average delivery price of $1.45 for an amount with the energy equivalence of a gallon of petrol. It is doing so profitably and in increasing amounts, in spite of a 54 cents a gallon tariff to protect American maize-based ethanol producers. Many countries are following suit.

But ethanol is an inconvenient chemical compound that is corrosive and soluble in water, thus limiting its immediate market to that of a gasoline additive. However, this is just the Betamax phase of the industry. There is plenty of private venture capital money being poured into finding more efficient ways of extracting energy from biomass and delivering it to transport and power systems. Over time, the technology will also become more flexible, allowing more crops to be used as feedstock, not just the current choice of sugarcane, maize and palm oil. New technologies will be able to extract energy from cellulose, allowing the use of pastures such as switch grass as well as the refuse of current food production. The cheque is in the mail.

Second, the world is full of under-utilised land that can grow the biomass that the new technology will require. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world has a bit less than 1.4bn hectares under cultivation. But using the Geographic Information System database, Rodrigo Wagner and I have estimated that there are some 95 countries that have more than 700m hectares of good quality land that is not being cultivated. Depending on assumptions about productivity per hectare, today’s oil production represents the equivalent of some 500m to 1bn hectares of biofuels. So the production potential of biofuels is in the same ball park as oil production today.

Third, even if only partially used, this large potential biofuels supply will cap the price of oil because its supply is much more elastic than the supply of oil. This will cause the price of oil to be set at the marginal cost of bio-energy, independently of the production decisions of Opec. If Opec tries to raise prices above the price at which biofuels become highly profitable, it will only crowd in more biofuels. Oil producers will still be rich, but they will not have incentives to form a cartel:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Fourth, the price of agricultural land will be influenced by its potential use for bio-energy. As farmers choose what crop would suit them best, they will change what they produce and hence the whole system of relative prices of agricultural produce. This will imply a very large increase in the demand for agricultural land. Its price and that of the products that use it intensively – such as food and cotton – will go up. By how much? This will depend not only on the cost of bio-energy but also on how much additional land is put to use and the degree to which food crops will be complements or substitutes of bio-energy: they would be substitutes if switch grass were planted instead of soybeans; they will be complements if biofuels are made out of wheat stalk. My bet is that they will tend to be more substitutes than complements and the relative price of food will go up.

Fifth, the increase in the price of agricultural land and of food will relieve governments from the current political pressure to protect the agricultural sector. Governments that, as a consequence of the land glut, have been protecting and subsidising farmers will see them grow rich either because they “plant” biofuels themselves or because other producers switch into them, lowering the supply and increasing the price of other crops.

By contrast, consumers will be less enthusiastic and demand that something be done about the price of food.

The obvious solution will be to cut back on protectionism and liberalise trade in agriculture.

Sixth, the countries that have the largest endowment of under-utilised lands are in the developing world, especially Africa and Latin America. Putting that land into production will require a type of infrastructure that – as opposed to the dedicated variety required by extractive industries – usually crowds in other forms of investment by lowering transport costs in ample regions of the country.

Bio-energy will make those infrastructure investments socially profitable, creating a possible stepping stone into other industries.

Some policy action in industrialised countries will be required to make this world possible. Biofuels policy needs to stop being seen through the prism of agricultural support policy – which justifies a 54 cents a gallon US tariff on Brazilian ethanol – and instead become the purview of energy and environmental policies. Standards will have to be developed to allow the energy and automotive industries to co-ordinate technologies. To make this scenario appealing, the impact of the expansion of the agricultural frontier on the environment and biodiversity, and the distributive effects of the rise in food prices will have to be addressed.

But these problems seem solvable given the expected political benefits in terms of lower net carbon emissions, more energy security, more efficient agricultural policies and greater opportunities for sustainable development.

Ricardo Hausmann is Professor of the Practice of Economic Development and Director of the Center for International Development. Previously, he served as the first Chief Economist of the Inter-American Development Bank (1994 to 2000), where he created the Research Department. He has served as Minister of Planning of Venezuela (1992 to 1993) and as a member of the Board of the Central Bank of Venezuela. He also served as Chair of the IMF-World Bank Development Committee. He was Professor of Economics at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administracion (IESA) (1985 to 1991) in Caracas, where he founded the Center for Public Policy. He also was a Visiting Fellow at Oxford University (1988 to 1991). His research interests include issues of growth, macroeconomic stability, international finance, and the social dimensions of development. He holds a PhD in economics from Cornell University.

Financial Times: Biofuels can match oil production - November 6, 2007.

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

Biopact: IEA study: large potential for biomass trade, under different scenarios - May 13, 2007

Biopact: A look at Africa's biofuels potential - July 30, 2006

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French research consortium in biomass-to-liquids project - analyses three gasification technologies

France's chief research agency concerned with agronomy and development in the developing world (CIRAD) announces [*French] that a consortium of research organisations is finalizing a project aimed at developing an industrial process capable of transforming any type of lignocellulosic biomass into liquid biofuel that can be used in today's automotive engines, at a competitive cost. The technical pathway selected is thermochemical conversion by steam and liquefaction via the Fischer-Tropsch process - this 'biomass-to-liquids' (BtL) chain results in so-called 'synthetic biofuels'.

The project, known as 'GASPAR' is funded by the French Agency for Environment and Energy Management (ADEME), and is part of a larger national program which focuses on producing ultra-clean next generation biofuels for aviation, road and marine transport from France's abundant biomass resources. But results are transferable to biomass rich developing countries in the tropics and subtropics (see below), hence the participation of scientists from the Biomass Unit of the CIRAD (Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement). Other GASPAR researchers include scientists from Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA, nuclear energy agency), the Institut Français du Pétrole (IFP) and the Groupe de recherche sur l'Environnement et la Chimie Atmosphérique (GRECA) at the Université Joseph Fourier in Grenoble.

The consortium currently estimates that BtL fuels can replace 15% of France's liquid fossil fuel consumption 'easily' and at 'highly competitive' prices (with oil at $96 per barrel), even though a 45% substitution over the longer term would be feasible.

Via a range of pilot programs, GASPAR will analyse different gasification methods and technologies with the goal to obtain the most optimal types of syngas useable for further transformation into liquid fuels.

Biomass gasification is beginning to take a considerable share in co-generation plants that produce both heat and power, with several large facilities currently operational in France. For the production of synthetic biofuels, these gasification processes are currently unsatisfactory. The quality of the gas must be improved so that a hydrogen and carbon monoxide rich syngas is produced in a cleaner and more straightforward manner. The synthesis steps (Fischer-Tropsch) have progressed further and need less research.

In search for a better syngas, GASPAR looks at four different technologies: (1) gasification in fixed bed reactors, (2) gasification in entrained bed reactors, (3) in fluidized bed reactors and (4) at the treatment of tars at a temperature of 1000 degrees celsius:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Phases 1 to 3 are aimed at comparing the three gasification processes and to determine their optimal operational conditions for the production of a syngas, without analysing the resulting tars. The pilot trials will be conducted at the relatively large scale reactors at the CIRAD and the CEA.

The fourth phase consists of analysing the cracking of tars which result from the biomass gasification. In this step, experiments in a gas treatment reactor will be conducted to lower the tar contents of syngases which must allow for a more efficient production of biofuels.

The research consortium is optimistic about the potential of the technology for France, estimating that synthetic biofuels can replace around 25 million tons of oil equivalent per year, with a first objective of replacing 8 million tons (which is 15% of France's liquid fossil fuel consumption) deemed 'very feasible'. GASPAR will result in fuels that can be utilized immediately in existing infrastructures and engines without any adaptation - synfuels can replace 100% of gasoline/diesel in a fuel tank (unlike first generation biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel). The BtL process thus promises to substitute a very significant part of France's transportation fuel needs.

Key CIRAD researchers in the project are Laurent Van de Steene, Eric Martin, Ghislaine Volle, François Broust, Ferdinand Fassinou, Jean-Philippe Tagutchou.

Developing countries
Interest in this technology is growing, because it could allow developing countries with a large biomass potential to export Fischer-Tropsch fuels easily. A recent article in Energy & Fuels, to cite just one example, documents the potential and hurdles of this vision. In "The impact of biomass pretreatment on the feasibility of overseas biomass conversion to Fischer-Tropsch products" researchers compare different biomass densification options (pelletisation, pyrolysis into bio-oil, or local BtL production).

The study concludes that large-scale, central, overseas BtL synthesis plants would be the most attractive route for the export of biomass. However, local logistic aspects require the construction of several small-scale synthesis plants, causing significant economical disadvantages due to economy of scale. The FT product can be produced from overseas biomass for 15 euro/GJ (or 55 euro ct/L of diesel equivalent). At the crude oil prices of late 2005 (around $60/bbl), large-scale BtL was considered as an economically feasible technology. WIth oil prices currently at US$96 per barrel, the option has become quite attractive.

Picture: one of the biomass gasification reactors utilized for GASPAR. Credit: CIRAD.

CIRAD: "Gazéification de la biomasse pour la synthèse et la production de carburants renouvelables" - project overview.

Zwart Robin, Boerrigter Harold, Van Der Drift Abraham, "The impact of biomass pretreatment on the feasibility of overseas biomass conversion to Fischer-Tropsch products", Energy & Fuels , 2006, vol. 20, no5, pp. 2192-2197

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Diesel exhaust associated with higher heart attack, stroke risk in men

Increased roadway pollution produced by diesel fuel in vehicles is leading to a cascade of conditions that could result in heart attack or stroke, researchers suggested in the report of a study presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2007. Results are published in Circulation.

United Kingdom and Swedish researchers found that diesel exhaust increased clot formation and blood platelet activity in healthy volunteers - which could lead to heart attack and stroke.
The study results are closely tied with previous observational and epidemiological studies showing that shortly after exposure to traffic air pollution, individuals are more likely to suffer a heart attack. This study shows that when a person is exposed to relatively high levels of diesel exhaust for a short time, the blood is more likely to clot. This could lead to a blocked vessel resulting in heart attack or stroke. - Andrew Lucking, M.D., lead author of the study and a cardiology fellow at the University of Edinburgh
The double-blind, randomized, cross-over study included 20 healthy men, 21 to 44 years old. They were separately exposed to filtered air (serving as a control) and to diluted diesel exhaust at 300 micrograms per meter cubed (mcg/m3), a level comparable to curbside exposure on a busy street.

Researchers performed the exposures in a specially built diesel exposure chamber. At two hours and at six hours after exposure, researchers allowed a small amount of participants' blood to flow through a perfusion chamber. They measured clot formation, coagulation, platelet activation and inflammatory markers after each exposure.

To measure clot formation, researchers used low and high shear rates, recreating flow conditions inside the body's blood vessels. Compared to filtered air, breathing air with diluted diesel exhaust increased clot formation in the low shear chamber by 24.2 percent and the high shear chamber by 19.1 percent. This was seen at both two and six hours after diesel exposure (stat, click to enlarge):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

The researchers also found an increase in platelet activation, assessed by measuring the number of platelets associated with white blood cells. Platelets play a central role in blood clotting, and when they are activated, they associate with white blood cells such as neutrophils and monocytes, Lucking said. Diluted diesel exhaust inhalation increased platelet-neutrophil aggregates from 6.5 percent to 9.2 percent and platelet-monocyte aggregates from 21 percent to 25 percent at two hours after exposure. At six hours, researchers found a trend toward platelet activation, but it was not statistically significant.

After exposure to diesel exhaust, the participants had increased levels of activated platelets that became attached to white blood cells. When activated, the platelets can stick together and form a clot.

High levels of traffic pollution are known to increase the risk of heart attack in the immediate hours or days after exposure. These findings provide a potential mechanism that could link exposure to traffic-derived air pollution with acute heart attack. It's unclear whether these findings would apply to gasoline-powered engines, Lucking said. Diesel engines generate many times more fine pollutant particles than comparable-sized gasoline engines.

Diesel engines are becoming very popular because of increased fuel economy, Lucking added. While diesel engines burn more efficiently, they also put more fine particulate matter into the air.

Lucking encourages physical activity but suggested that people with existing cardiovascular disease try to exercise away from traffic congestion.

The researchers plan to collaborate again with researchers at the University of Umea, Sweden, to test particle traps retrofitted on diesel engines to determine whether these devices are effective in reducing diesel particles.

Exposure to air pollution clearly is detrimental and we must look at ways to reduce pollution in the environment, Lucking said. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced its 1997 National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to educate the public about daily air quality levels, including information about ozone and particulate matter levels. These daily updates can be found on the EPA Web site, here, and in many newspapers across the country.

The American Heart Association supports these EPA guidelines for activity restriction for people with heart disease or those who have certain cardiovascular risk factors, for people with pulmonary disease or diabetes and for the elderly.

The British Heart Foundation funded the study.

Andrew J Lucking; Magnus Lundback; Nicholas L Mills; Dana Faratian; Fleming Cassee; Ken Donaldson; Nicholas Boon; Juan J Badimon; Thomas Sandstrom; Anders Blomberg; David E Newby, "Regulation of Blood Coagulation and Fibrinolysis. Abstract 803: Diesel Exhaust Inhalation Enhances Thrombus Formation In Man", Circulation, 2007, 116:II_155

Eurekalert: Diesel exhaust associated with higher heart attack, stroke risk in men - November 6, 2007.

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Shell and Codexis expand collaboration to explore new 'super' enzymes for next-generation biofuels

The development of sustainable biofuel took a step forward today as Royal Dutch Shell plc expanded its collaboration with Codexis Inc. to develop new 'super' enzymes to convert biomass to fuel.

The new agreement covers five years of research collaboration and includes Shell making an equity investment in Codexis - a biocatalyst, synthetic biology and green chemistry company, - and taking a seat on the company’s board. Research will focus on adapting enzymes to improve the conversion of a range of raw materials into high-performance fuels. It will assist Shell in developing the next generation of biofuels as it explores a number of non-food bio materials, new conversion processes and alternative fuel products.

Codexis scientists create super enzymes capable of outperforming naturally occurring varieties. The company has successfully applied this pioneering technology to improve manufacturing processes for leading pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer and Merck. The company has worked with Shell on biofuels since November 2006 and positive early results, including achievement of milestones ahead of schedule, have led to this new agreement and the broader collaboration announced today.
Breaking down and converting alternative, non-food bio material into high quality fuels for transport is complex. Processing efficiently at scale, in terms of both cost and C02 production, is challenging. This exciting research work into new powerful enzymes for more efficient conversion and better biofuels is part of Shell accelerating its drive to make next-generation biofuels a commercial reality. - Dr Graeme Sweeney, Shell Executive Vice President Future Fuels and C02
Codexis’ technology makes it possible to customize 'super' enzymes capable of selectively and efficiently performing a desired chemical process. This technology, referred to as 'DNA shuffling', is part of a directed evolution program to manipulate the DNA blueprint of an enzyme.

DNA shuffling is research technique that takes select genes or gene variants and then recombines or “shuffles” the DNA to create new hybrid genes (schematic, click to enlarge; an interactive overview here). The resulting gene library is then screened for novel biocatalysts that possess desired properties:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Starting with a diverse set of genes that encode for variations of the enzyme catalyst, Codexis recombines, or shuffles these DNA sequences to create new variants. Using sophisticated high-throughput screening methods, novel biocatalysts with desired improvements are selected and these improved variants can then be put through the process again until a highly efficient biocatalyst is created that meets or exceeds targeted performance characteristics.
Codexis’ proven biocatalytic technology provides a powerful discovery pathway for development of next generation biofuels from renewable resources. In the first year of our collaboration, we have demonstrated the ability to solve complex technical challenges critical to successful biofuels development and commercialization. We look forward to continuing our work with Shell to bring clean, renewable liquid transportation fuels to the marketplace. - Alan Shaw, Ph.D., Codexis President and Chief Executive Officer
Codexis Inc., is a leading developer of clean biocatalytic process technologies that can substantially reduce the cost of manufacturing across a broad range of industries. Codexis’ proprietary directed evolution technologies enable novel solutions for efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly processes for pharmaceutical, energy and industrial chemical applications. In 2006, the company was recognised by the U.S. EPA with a Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award.

Royal Dutch Shell plc is working to meet government mandates for biofuel and, with its experience, expertise and assets, has become the world’s largest distributor of biofuels. The company is working with biofuel manufacturers to secure cost-effective supply and press for social and environmental safeguards. A constraint on the potential of conventional biofuels is that they use food crops. Shell is a leader in the development of next generation biofuels, using non-food bio materials, alternative processes and high-performance fuels.

Codexis: Shell And Codexis Expand Collaboration To Explore New Super Enzymes For Next-Generation Biofuels - November 6, 2007.

Shell: media kit covering the new partnership, with videos and pics - November 6, 2007.

Shell: Quick guide to biofuels [*.pdf].

Shell: Shell Biofuels [*.pdf].

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African countries begin to recognize their vast biofuels potential

Reporters from the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) have visited African countries to see how they are positioning themselves in the biofuels debate. Visitors to the poor south-east African country of Mozambique are often taken aback at the cost of getting around, they write. "Petrol is the problem," taxi drivers in the capital Maputo retort when challenged over fares that begin at 100 meticais (close to 4 dollars) for a journey of no more than a couple of blocks.

Spiralling oil prices, which have resulted in a more than three-fold jump in fuel prices in Mozambique this year, are one factor fuelling the scramble among African countries with no reserves of 'black gold' to corner the market for greener alternatives. High oil prices have catastrophic effects on energy intensive developing countries (earlier post), but biofuels may mitigate some of these disastrous impacts.

From Mali to Madagascar, Senegal to South Africa, biofuels is the buzzword as African countries wake up to the possibility of using their vast land resources to grow crops that reduce their fossil fuel bill.

Some NGOs from the West, like Oxfam, have warned against land in developing countries being gobbled up by sprawling biofuels plantations. But Africans themselves, like Mozambique's director for 'new and renewable energy', Antonio Saide, rebuff those concerns: "We have enough land for enough food." And indeed, many of the sceptical NGOs do not take into account that Africa has vast unused land resources on which energy crops can be grown sustainably.

Projections by the International Energy Agency's Bioenergy Task forces show the continent can grow around 350EJ of bioenergy by 2050 in a high scenario, after the rising food, fiber and fodder needs for growing populations and livestock have been met, and under a 'no-deforestation' scenario. 300EJ is equivalent to twice the amount of the entire world's current petroleum consumption (see map, click to enlarge).

According to the UN's FAO, the effort could bring a rural renaissance and combat poverty and hunger in Africa. The Global South's staunchest biofuels proponent, Brazil's president Lula, sees bioenergy as more than just a weapon to fight poverty: it is a way to boost the sovereignty and economic independence of developing countries.

Biofuels carry the promise of much sought after foreign exchange as industrialized countries look to bioethanol and biodiesel to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from transport. The European Union has decreed that 10 per cent of motor fuel used within its 27 member states must be biofuel by 2020. But European farmers have been slow to convert their operations from food to fuel crops leading EU officials to estimate they will have to import at least one-fifth of their biofuel needs. The world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States, has also announced plans to reduce its carbon footprint by increasing the use of renewable and alternative fuels nearly five-fold over the next 10 years.

These commitments are music to the ears of poor African countries that account for only a tiny proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions but are expected to be hardest hit by climate change, through increased flooding and drought.

A biofuel superpower in the making is how the vast former Portuguese colony of Mozambique is being talked up, where millions of hectares of unused land have been identified as suitable for the production of fuel crops. Some 700 million dollars has already been committed to biofuel production in Mozambique, including 510 million dollars from British-based Central Africa Mining and Exploration Company to produce ethanol from sugarcane in southern Gaza province.
The state has also received requests to open up more than 5 million hectares of land for the production of biodiesel, with coconuts, sunflowers and the weed-like jatropha plant being tested as possible feedstock. While energy independence is the primary goal, the small size of Mozambique's economy means that domestic energy needs could be quickly met by biofuels, Antonio Saide said. "We can very quickly satisfy the domestic market and begin to export," said Saide:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Another African country with big plans for biofuels is Senegal, whose President Abdoulaye Wade has enthused about an African "biofuels revolution" and placed fuel crops at the heart of an agriculture renewal programme focussing on small farmers.

Not to be outdone African powerhouse South Africa is also preparing to plough money into biofuels, with construction already underway on one out of eight planned maize-to-ethanol refineries.

These Johnny-come-latelys in a biofuels industry dominated by Brazil have a number of aces up their sleeve. Many are United Nations Least Developed Countries that enjoy tariff-free access to the EU for their goods under the Everything But Arms initiative. The US African Growth and Opportunity Act also gives African countries preferential access to the US for a number of goods, that could be extended to include biofuels.

But growing fuel instead of food crops on a continent that is plagued by food insecurity has had its critics. Mindful of these concerns, drought-prone countries like Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, Madagascar and Mali are championing jatropha as a non-edible bio-oil plant that grows in almost any soil.

"Life-changing," was the verdict of rock star turned anti-poverty campaigner Bob Geldof on a jatropha plantation employing hundreds of workers in southern Swaziland, although questions remain around the plant's yield in sub-optimal conditions and the toxicity of its seeds.

Map: World's sustainable bioenergy potential by 2050 under four scenarios. Credit: IEA Bioenergy Task 40.

Deutsche-Presse Agentur: Africa's big plans for biofuels - November 6, 2007.

IEA Bioenergy Task 40: Quickscan bio-energy potentials to 2050.

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Global survey: most people willing to make 'green sacrifices' to tackle climate change

In what may be seen as a message to politicians, a large survey [*.pdf] of 22,000 people in 21 countries reveals that most are ready to make personal sacrifices to address climate change, including paying more for polluting forms of energy. The poll, conducted by GlobeScan and the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) for the BBC World Service, asked questions about lifestyle choices and changes, carbon and energy taxes, and the need for more efficiency. U.S. citizens are just as climate conscious and willing to act than their European counterparts. Likewise, majorities of people in some developing countries - especially China, the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases - are ready to spend money on climate mitigation.

A total of 22,182 citizens in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and the United States were interviewed face to face or by telephone between May 29 and July 26, 2007. In eight of the 21 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/-2.4 to 3.5 percent.

Lifestyle changes
The countries with the largest percentages saying that lifestyle and behavioural changes needed to tackle climate change will be definitely necessary are Spain (68%), Mexico (64%), Canada (63%), Italy (62%), and China (59%). The countries with the largest numbers saying that such changes will not be necessary are Nigeria (33%), Egypt (29%), Kenya (25%), the United States (19%) and India (18%).

Energy Costs

Large majorities in most of Europe and the Americas believe that it will also be necessary to “increase the cost of the types of energy that most cause climate change, such as coal and oil, in order to encourage individuals and industry to use less:” Chile (79%), Great Britain (77%), Canada (72%), Germany (70%), United States (65%), Brazil (64%), Mexico (61%), France (61%) and Spain (53%). Australia is the developed country where the largest majority (81%) believe energy costs will need to increase.

There are two exceptions, with 50 percent of Italians and 50 percent of Russians leaning toward the belief that such increases will not be necessary. Italy’s energy costs are already among the highest in Europe in part because it bans nuclear technology. Although Russia is a major oil producer, its consumershave faced rising energy prices in recent years.

Attitudes to increased energy costs in Asia range from the overwhelming 83 percent majorities in China and Indonesia to the divided views in South Korea and the Philippines. Indians lean toward the view that higher costs are needed: half (50%) say that increasing the cost of energy will be necessary and only 27 percent say it will not, though large numbers (23%) do not answer.

The only country with a majority (52%) against increasing the cost of fuels that produce greenhouse gases is Nigeria.

Tax Increases
Reactions are mixed on whether people would favour the raising of taxes on energy sources that contribute to climate change. Overall, only 50 percent are in favour and 44 percent opposed.

Urban Chinese have the largest majority (85%) who would support raising taxes on the fuels that contribute most to climate change.

The proportion of Chinese favouring higher energy taxes is 24 points greater than the next largest majorities in Australia and Chile (61% in both). This is followed by Germans (59%), Canadians (57%), Indonesians (56%), Britons (54%) and Nigerians (52%):
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Publics lean toward this measure in Mexico (50% to 46%) and are divided in Kenya (50% to 48%), Spain (49% to 47%), France (47% to 48%), Turkey (42% to 43%) and India (38% to 36%).

Majorities in Italy (62%), South Korea (59%), the Philippines (58%), Brazil (55%), Egypt (52%) and the United States (51%) are initially opposed to higher energy taxes. The poll then tested the relative influence of two different design options for an energy tax by asking those who initially did not support a higher energy tax whether they would favour this tax under one of two different conditions: if the revenues were “devoted only to increasing energy efficiency and developing energy sources that do not produce climate change” and if at “the same time as your other taxes were reduced by the same amount, keeping your total taxes at the current level.”

Combined with those who initially supported an energy tax, the percentage who change their position under each condition produces a large majority in every country ready to favour an energy tax.

In the six countries where majorities initially oppose higher fuel taxes, adding the condition of devoting revenues to improving efficiency and seeking out new sources produces large majorities in favour: Italy (78%), South Korea (70%), the Philippines (69%), Brazil (65%), Egypt (73%) and the United States (74%).

The six countries that were somewhat divided about tax increases also become supporters if revenues would be earmarked for energy programs: Mexico (74%), Kenya (81%), Spain (86%), France (79%), Turkey (75%) and India (60%).

The same holds true, but to a slightly lesser extent, if those initially against higher energy taxes are told their other taxes would be reduced so their total tax bill would remain the same. Countries that were opposed to tax increases then become supporters: Italy (69%), South Korea (70%), the Philippines (66%), Brazil (65%), Egypt (82%) and the United States (64%). And countries that were divided also show large majorities in favour: Mexico (64%), Kenya (78%), Spain (73%), France (79%), Turkey (78%) and India (66%).

Again, China stands out as exceptionally willing to consider higher taxes as a means of combating climate change. When those against or uncertain about higher taxes are asked whether they would support them to increase efficiency or develop new sources, the total in favour of tax increases becomes a nearly unanimous 97 percent. And when asked whether they would favour such increases if their total tax bill remained the same, 93 percent say yes.

GlobeScan Incorporated is a global public opinion and stakeholder research consultancy with offices in Toronto, London, and Washington. GlobeScan conducts custom research and annual tracking studies on global issues. With a research network spanning 50+ countries, GlobeScan works with global companies, multilateral agencies, national governments, and non-government organizations to deliver research-based insights for successful strategies.

The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) is a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes and the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland. PIPA undertakes research on attitudes in publics around the world on a variety of international issues and publishes the website/webzine WorldPublicOpinion.org.

BBC World Service is an international radio and online broadcaster delivering programmes and services in 33 languages. The radio output reaches 183 million weekly listeners around the globe, on platforms that include SW, AM, FM, digital satellite and cable channels. It has around 2,000 partner radio stations which take BBC content, and numerous partnerships supplying content to mobile phones. Its international online sites include audio and video content and offer opportunities to feedback directly and discuss world events. They receive over 704 million page impressions monthly, attracting 38.5 million unique users per month.

BBC World Service: Climate change poll - detailed results [*.pdf] - November 2, 2007.

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