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

    Record warm summers cause extreme ice melt in Greenland: an international team of scientists, led by Dr Edward Hanna at the University of Sheffield, has found that recent warm summers have caused the most extreme Greenland ice melting in 50 years. The new research provides further evidence of a key impact of global warming and helps scientists place recent satellite observations of Greenland´s shrinking ice mass in a longer-term climatic context. Findings are published in the 15 January 2008 issue of Journal of Climate. University of Sheffield - January 15, 2007.

    Japan's Tsukishima Kikai Co. and Marubeni Corp. have together clinched an order from Oenon Holdings Inc. for a plant that will make bioethanol from rice. The Oenon group will invest around 4.4 billion yen (US$40.17 million) in the project, half of which will be covered by a subsidy from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The plant will initially produce bioethanol from imported rice, with plans to use Hokkaido-grown rice in the future. It will produce 5 million liters per year starting in 2009, increasing output to 15m liters in 2011. The facility will be able to produce as much as 50,000 liters of bioethanol from 125 tons of rice each day. Trading Markets - January 11, 2007.

    PetroSun, Inc. announced today that its subsidiary, PetroSun BioFuels Refining, has entered into a JV to construct and operate a biodiesel refinery near Coolidge, Arizona. The feedstock for the refinery will be algal oil produced by PetroSun BioFuels at algae farms to be located in Arizona. The refinery will have a capacity of thirty million gallons and will produce 100% renewable biodiesel. PetroSun BioFuels will process the residual algae biomass into ethanol. MarketWire - January 10, 2007.

    BlueFire Ethanol Fuels Inc, which develops and operates carbohydrate-based transportation fuel production facilities, has secured capital liquidity for corporate overhead and continued project development in the value of US$15 million with Quercus, an environmentally focused trust. BlueFire Ethanol Fuels - January 09, 2007.

    Some $170 billion in new technology development projects, infrastructure equipment and construction, and biofuel refineries will result from the ethanol production standards contained the new U.S. Energy Bill, says BIO, the global Biotechnology Industry Organization. According to Brent Erickson, BIO's executive vice president "Such a new energy infrastructure has not occurred in more than 100 years. We are at the point where we were in the 1850s when kerosene was first distilled and began to replace whale oil. This technology will be coming so fast that what we say today won't be true in two years." Chemical & Engineering News - January 07, 2007.

    Scottish and Southern Energy plc, the UK's second largest power company, has completed the acquisition of Slough Heat and Power Ltd from SEGRO plc for a total cash consideration of £49.25m. The 101MW CHP plant is the UK’s largest dedicated biomass energy facility fueled by wood chips, biomass and waste paper. Part of the plant is contracted under the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation and part of it produces over 200GWH of output qualifying for Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), which is equivalent to around 90MW of wind generation. Scottish & Southern Energy - January 2, 2007.

    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.

Creative Commons License

Monday, January 21, 2008

Africa does not exist - moving on to new lands

On the basis of what has happened over the past year in the bioenergy and biofuels debate, Biopact concludes that to many European organisations Africa does simply not exist. We regret this, because last time we checked, the continent did exist. We have been there. Sub-Saharan Africa is a continent with great potential, but in urgent need of concrete opportunities to develop.

Biopact has tried to present a case that would allow Europe to help African agriculture achieve its much needed revival and expansion, through biofuels (or through food production, which comes down to the same thing). But this proposition is too complex and obviously too idealistic. It presupposes too many preconditions that have to be met, from trade reform and subsidy reform, to policy assistance and tech transfers. Moreover, the opponents to such an idea are powerful: the oil sector, environmentalists, subsidised farmers in Europe...

Sub-Saharan Africa has a very large potential to produce agricultural products in a sustainable way - be it biomass, liquid biofuels, or food. In fact, the continent is only beginning to experience its own Green Revolution and will take center stage in agriculture over the coming decades. We are optimistic about its chances to become a major producer that feeds and fuels its own populations, and exports to world markets instead of being perpetually dependent on fuel and food imports from Europe, the US or the Middle East.

To African farming communities, it doesn't matter whether the excess they produce to get out of poverty, is used to feed animals, cars, power plants or people. As long as the community succeeds in improving its resilience, its own security and prosperity. This is true for all farming communities, which make up the vast bulk of Africa's population. Producing highly efficient biofuels that cut greenhouse gas emissions would have been an interesting option for them to speed up this transition from subsistence farming to commercial production.

Sadly, some very powerful forces in Europe - the subsidized farm lobby, the oil sector, some environmental groups, and segments of the development community -, have succeeded in ignoring this potential and logic. On the one hand, some of these groups (especially development NGOs) have been asking the public in Europe to help African rural populations gain more means to modernise and access markets. They have been asking this for years, and heavily campaigned on it. But when the most obvious opportunity to do so emerged, they ignored it.

A few years ago, Biopact launched a simple idea: African countries could utilize their comparative advantages to produce highly efficient agricultural products for a new global market (biofuels, or food, which is the same thing). Europe and other industrialised markets could import these fuels, which are far more efficient and environmentally friendly than the ones they produce themselves - a 'pact' that would allow African economies to boost rural development and that would benefit the climate fight.

Such a trade relationship would at last break with the current perverse and shameful situation, which keeps African countries with a large farming potential dependent on subsidised agricultural imports from Europe and America and catastrophically expensive imported oil products. Any proposal should be welcomed that helps them to become efficient producers, instead of dependent and powerless consumers who ruin the development chances of their own rural populations. Regrettably, the war against biofuels has destroyed one such opportunity.

Biopact's vision remains unchanged, though, but will now be applied to food production, instead of biomass production for fuels. This is less controversial, even though it comes down to exactly the same thing and requires largely the same agricultural expertise. The logic behind the venture remains simple: finding market opportunities for rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa to develop, without relying on handouts or charity, and by addressing the key issues of trade, subsidies, sustainability and social justice. We have been developing a very concrete project that assists the very poorest farmers on the continent in boosting their production of staple crops like maize, rice and cassava. The project will be presented soon but can be compared to initiatives like the OneAcreFund, which bundle access to inputs and markets. This much can be said, though: the project is not based on government funding or charity, but will use markets, local resources, science, and inventiveness only.

This new direction does not mean an end to the biofuels adventure in any way. The green fuels will be produced for a long time to come in countries like Brazil, where they are being manufactured in a highly efficient manner. But this South American nation will also help African nations build their own bioenergy sectors, and possibly open an era of South-South driven development in which energy security plays a key role - simply because access to abundant and affordable energy is the sine qua non for sustainable development. High oil prices and a reliance on the internal combustion engine in developing countries, make this future unavoidable. Likewise, countries like China and India will enter the African continent to tap into its very large unrealised potential for both food and fuel production. In fact, all these rapidly emerging economies are already building a presence on the continent with a swiftness that has surprised many.

Biopact thought the EU too had an obligation to enter the African biomass sector, so as to set high social and economic standards that would become an example for others to follow. Sadly, European public opinion and especially its environmentalist segment, does not see the need for such a presence. What is more, in a sense, it thinks Africa does not really exist. Or that its development is not that important. We think this is a mistake. For this reason we will be building our own very concrete project there, in that non-existing, blind spot on the map. The time to act has come [entry ends here].
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also feel its time Africa took developmental issues into its own hands not to wait for foreign aid, but for Africa to do that
(i)coruption has to be done away with.
(ii) we also need leaders who care about their people, not those who want to feel their pockets.

9:46 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home