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    PetroChina Co Ltd, the country's largest oil and gas producer, plans to invest 800 million yuan to build an ethanol plant in Nanchong, in the southwestern province of Sichuan, its parent China National Petroleum Corp said. The ethanol plant has a designed annual capacity of 100,000 tons. ABCMoneyNews - December 21, 2007.

    Mexico passed legislation to promote biofuels last week, offering unspecified support to farmers that grow crops for the production of any renewable fuel. Agriculture Minister Alberto Cardenas said Mexico could expand biodiesel faster than ethanol. More soon. Reuters - December 20, 2007.

    Oxford Catalysts has placed an order worth approximately €700,000 (US$1 million) with the German company Amtec for the purchase of two Spider16 high throughput screening reactors. The first will be used to speed up the development of catalysts for hydrodesulphurisation (HDS). The second will be used to further the development of catalysts for use in gas to liquid (GTL) and Fischer-Tropsch processes which can be applied to next generation biofuels. AlphaGalileo - December 18, 2007.

    According to the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE), Brazil's production of sugarcane will increase from 514,1 million tonnes this season, to a record 561,8 million tonnes in the 2008/09 cyclus - an increase of 9.3%. New numbers are also out for the 2007 harvest in Brazil's main sugarcane growing region, the Central-South: a record 425 million tonnes compared to 372,7 million tonnes in 2006, or a 14% increase. The estimate was provided by Unica – the União da Indústria de Cana-de-Açúcar. Jornal Cana - December 16, 2007.

    The University of East Anglia and the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre have today released preliminary global temperature figures for 2007, which show the top 11 warmest years all occurring in the last 13 years. The provisional global figure for 2007 using data from January to November, currently places the year as the seventh warmest on records dating back to 1850. The announcement comes as the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud, speaks at the Conference of the Parties (COP) in Bali. Eurekalert - December 13, 2007.

    The Royal Society of Chemistry has announced it will launch a new journal in summer 2008, Energy & Environmental Science, which will distinctly address both energy and environmental issues. In recognition of the importance of research in this subject, and the need for knowledge transfer between scientists throughout the world, from launch the RSC will make issues of Energy & Environmental Science available free of charge to readers via its website, for the first 18 months of publication. This journal will highlight the important role that the chemical sciences have in solving the energy problems we are facing today. It will link all aspects of energy and the environment by publishing research relating to energy conversion and storage, alternative fuel technologies, and environmental science. AlphaGalileo - December 10, 2007.

    Dutch researcher Bas Bougie has developed a laser system to investigate soot development in diesel engines. Small soot particles are not retained by a soot filter but are, however, more harmful than larger soot particles. Therefore, soot development needs to be tackled at the source. Laser Induced Incandescence is a technique that reveals exactly where soot is generated and can be used by project partners to develop cleaner diesel engines. Terry Meyer, an Iowa State University assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is using similar laser technology to develop advanced sensors capable of screening the combustion behavior and soot characteristics specifically of biofuels. Eurekalert - December 7, 2007.

    Lithuania's first dedicated biofuel terminal has started operating in Klaipeda port. At the end of November 2007, the stevedoring company Vakaru krova (VK) started activities to manage transshipments. The infrastructure of the biodiesel complex allows for storage of up to 4000 cubic meters of products. During the first year, the terminal plans to transship about 70.000 tonnes of methyl ether, after that the capacities of the terminal would be increased. Investments to the project totaled €2.3 million. Agrimarket - December 5, 2007.

    New Holland supports the use of B100 biodiesel in all equipment with New Holland-manufactured diesel engines, including electronic injection engines with common rail technology. Overall, nearly 80 percent of the tractor and equipment manufacturer's New Holland-branded products with diesel engines are now available to operate on B100 biodiesel. Tractor and equipment maker John Deere meanwhile clarified its position for customers that want to use biodiesel blends up to B20. Grainnet - December 5, 2007.

    According to Wetlands International, an NGO, the Kyoto Protocol as it currently stands does not take into account possible emissions from palm oil grown on a particular type of land found in Indonesia and Malaysia, namely peatlands. Mongabay - December 5, 2007.

    Malaysia's oil & gas giant Petronas considers entering the biofuels sector. Zamri Jusoh, senior manager of Petronas' petroleum development management unit told reporters "of course our focus is on oil and gas, but I think as we move into the future we cannot ignore the importance of biofuels." AFP - December 5, 2007.

    In just four months, the use of biodiesel in the transport sector has substantially improved air quality in Metro Manila, data from the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed. A blend of one percent coco-biodiesel is mandated by the Biofuels Act of 2007 which took effect last May. By 2009, it would be increased to two percent. Philippine Star - December 4, 2007.

    Kazakhstan will next year adopt laws to regulate its fledgling biofuel industry and plans to construct at least two more plants in the next 18 months to produce environmentally friendly fuel from crops, industry officials said. According to Akylbek Kurishbayev, vice-minister for agriculture, he Central Asian country has the potential to produce 300,000 tons a year of biodiesel and export half. Kazakhstan could also produce up to 1 billion liters of bioethanol, he said. "The potential is huge. If we use this potential wisely, we can become one of the world's top five producers of biofuels," Beisen Donenov, executive director of the Kazakhstan Biofuels Association, said on the sidelines of a grains forum. Reuters - November 30, 2007.

    SRI Consulting released a report on chemicals from biomass. The analysis highlights six major contributing sources of green and renewable chemicals: increasing production of biofuels will yield increasing amounts of biofuels by-products; partial decomposition of certain biomass fractions can yield organic chemicals or feedstocks for the manufacture of various chemicals; forestry has been and will continue to be a source of pine chemicals; evolving fermentation technology and new substrates will also produce an increasing number of chemicals. Chemical Online - November 27, 2007.

    German industrial conglomerate MAN AG plans to expand into renewable energies such as biofuels and solar power. Chief Executive Hakan Samuelsson said services unit Ferrostaal would lead the expansion. Reuters - November 24, 2007.

    Analysts think Vancouver-based Ballard Power Systems, which pumped hundreds of millions and decades of research into developing hydrogen fuel cells for cars, is going to sell its automotive division. Experts describe the development as "the death of the hydrogen highway". The problems with H2 fuel cell cars are manifold: hydrogen is a mere energy carrier and its production requires a primary energy input; production is expensive, as would be storage and distribution; finally, scaling fuel cells and storage tanks down to fit in cars remains a huge challenge. Meanwhile, critics have said that the primary energy for hydrogen can better be used for electricity and electric vehicles. On a well-to-wheel basis, the cleanest and most efficient way to produce hydrogen is via biomass, so the news is a set-back for the biohydrogen community. But then again, biomass can be used more efficiently as electricity for battery cars. Canada.com - November 21, 2007.

    South Korea plans to invest 20 billion won (€14.8/$21.8 million) by 2010 on securing technologies to develop synthetic fuels from biomass, coal and natural gas, as well as biobutanol. 29 private companies, research institutes and universities will join this first stage of the "next-generation clean energy development project" led by South Korea's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy. Korea Times - November 19, 2007.

    OPEC leaders began a summit today with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez issuing a chilling warning that crude prices could double to US$200 from their already-record level if the United States attacked Iran or Venezuela. He urged assembled leaders from the OPEC, meeting for only the third time in the cartel's 47-year history, to club together for geopolitical reasons. But the cartel is split between an 'anti-US' block including Venezuela, Iran, and soon to return ex-member Ecuador, and a 'neutral' group comprising most Gulf States. France24 - November 17, 2007.

    The article "Biofuels: What a Biopact between North and South could achieve" published in the scientific journal Energy Policy (Volume 35, Issue 7, 1 July 2007, Pages 3550-3570) ranks number 1 in the 'Top 25 hottest articles'. The article was written by professor John A. Mathews, Macquarie University (Sydney, Autralia), and presents a case for a win-win bioenergy relationship between the industrialised and the developing world. Mathews holds the Chair of Strategic Management at the university, and is a leading expert in the analysis of the evolution and emergence of disruptive technologies and their global strategic management. ScienceDirect - November 16, 2007.

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Monday, December 31, 2007

China to put tax on grain exports to ease high food prices

China's Ministry of Finance announced on Sunday that it would levy export taxes on wheat, corn, rice, soybeans and various processed grains in 2008. The move is aimed at limiting grain exports and to reign in surging domestic prices, which have driven up the inflation rate. The measures come just a week after China scrapped tax rebates for grain exports. Those rebates, together with high international grain prices and a bumper harvest, have boosted Chinese grain exports this year. But the benefits of incomes from exports are now outweighed by the threats of social unrest as a result of high domestic prices.

The chinese government is therefor intervening with the following actions, is keeping earlier ones in place and hopes the expected bumper harvest next year will help ease the burden:
  • export taxes on 57 types of grain and grain products, with rates ranging from 5 to 25 percent The rates for wheat and wheat products are 20 percent and 25 percent, respectively. The rate for corn, rice and soybean is 5 percent, while that for processed corn, rice and soybean products is 10 percent.
  • quintupling the tax on arable land used for non-farm purposes, a measure taken on December 1; the tax system is playing a larger role in protecting the area of land under cultivation, which has shrunk to about 122.6 million hectares, only slightly above the baseline of 120 million ha that has been designated by the government as necessary to provide sufficient food. South-east coastal regions, which used to be major grain producers, have become major consumers as that region of the country has industrialized.
  • China also began to charge foreign-invested companies, which had been exempt from the land use tax, as much as their domestic peers
  • an end the no-fee policy for the construction of railways, airport runways and parking lots and a charge of 2 yuan per square meter on such projects.
  • water supply, which affects the harvest, has risen high on the agenda of Chinese leaders, especially with drought affecting more of the country. Last week, workers began tunneling beneath the Yellow River in eastern Shandong Province as part of the massive south-to-north water diversion project. The 7,870-meter tunnel was designed to annually divert 442 million cubic meters of water from the Yangtze River to the northern banks of the Yellow River. Upon completion, the northern areas, which produce one-third of the country's grain output and gross domestic product, with about 20 percent of the country's average per capita water resource, would benefit.
  • China's top legislature on Saturday adopted an amendment to raise the individual income tax threshold from 1,600 yuan (about 220 U.S. dollars) a month to 2,000 yuan, because lower income household are hit hardest by rising food prices.
  • also on Saturday, the Ministry of Finance announced that it would offer provisional meal subsidies totaling 50.76 million yuan to college students to help stabilize school canteen prices.
According to Cheng Guoqiang, a senior researcher with the Institute of Market Economy, a State Council think tank under the Development Research Center of China's cabinet the grain export taxes "will contribute to preventing the country from importing high international grain prices and will lower price expectations in the domestic market".

Several factors have driven up global grain prices this year: rising demand, adverse weather in key growing nations and increased use of grains for first generation biofuels:
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

On the prospect of rising global demand, soybean prices have surged by about 75 percent since the beginning of the year. Wheat prices hit a record high in Chicago on strong global demand and shrunken output after bad weather hit the world's major producers such as Australia and Canada.

Buoyed by demand from the ethanol industry, prices of corn have also risen. By Friday on the Chicago Board of Trade, the price of corn for March delivery rose to 4.55 U.S. dollars a bushel from 4.43 dollars the previous week.

A week ago, the ministry said that it would scrap a 13 percent export tax rebate on 84 categories of grain and grain products, effective Dec. 20. Those rebates, together with high international grain prices, have boosted Chinese grain exports this year.

The nation exported 4.87 million tons of corn and 400,000 tons of soybeans in the first 11 months of 2007, up 85.3 percent and 23.8 percent, respectively, from the previous year. Exports of rice rose 5.8 percent to 1.13 million tons and exports of wheat soared 206.51 percent to 1.85 million tons.

Bumper grain crops this year, however, offer hope of slower price hikes in the world's most populous nation. Grain production, which has increased continuously since 2004, is expected to exceed500 million tons this year.

Analysts said discouraging grain exports would be a new option to limit domestic grain prices since the lengthy grain production cycle could not be changed.

Soaring food prices drove the consumer price index (CPI) to an 11-year high of 6.9 percent in November. The prices of food, which has a 33 percent weighting in the CPI, soared 18.2 percent last month.

The high inflation rate, well above the target of 3 percent set by the government for 2007, has become a major issue for the government, which is concerned about its impact on low- and medium-income households.

: Wheat farmers in Huaibei area, east China's Anhui Province, dry wheat after a bumper harvest. Credit: ChinaDaily.

Xinhua: China to slap export taxes on grains - December 30, 2007.

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