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    Sarnia-Lambton lands a $15million federal grant for biofuel innovation at the Western Ontario Research and Development Park. The funds come on top of a $10 million provincial grant. The "Bioindustrial Innovation Centre" project competed successfully against 110 other proposals for new research money. London Free Press - February 18, 2007.

    An organisation that has established a large Pongamia pinnata plantation on barren land owned by small & marginal farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India is looking for a biogas and CHP consultant to help research the use of de-oiled cake for the production of biogas. The organisation plans to set up a biogas plant of 20,000 cubic meter capacity and wants to use it for power generation. Contact us - February 15, 2007.

    The Andersons, Inc. and Marathon Oil Corporation today jointly announced ethanol production has begun at their 110-million gallon ethanol plant located in Greenville, Ohio. Along with the 110 million gallons of ethanol, the plant annually will produce 350,000 tons of distillers dried grains, an animal feed ingredient. Marathon Oil - February 14, 2007.

    Austrian bioenergy group Cycleenergy acquired controlling interest in Greenpower Projektentwicklungs GmbH, expanding its biomass operational portfolio by 16 MW to a total of 22 MW. In the transaction Cycleenergy took over 51% of the company and thereby formed a joint venture with Porr Infrastruktur GmbH, a subsidiary of Austrian construction company Porr AG. Greenpower operates two wood chip CHP facilities in Upper and Lower Austria, each with an electric capacity of 2 MW. The plants have been in operation since the middle of last year and consume more than 30,000 tonnes of wood chips and are expected to generate over €5 million in additional revenue. Cycleenergy - February 6, 2007.

    The 2008 edition of Bioenergy World Europe will take place in Verona, Italy, from 7 to 10 February. Gathering a broad range of international exhibitors covering gaseous, liquid and solid bioenergy, the event aims to offer participants the possibility of developing their business through meetings with professionals, thematic study tours and an international forum focusing on market and regulatory issues, as well as industry expertise. Bioenergy World Europe - February 5, 2007.

    The World GTL Summit will take place between 12 – 14th May 2008 in London. Key topics to be discussed include: the true value of Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) projects, well-to-wheels analyses of the GTL value chain; construction, logistics and procurement challenges; the future for small-scale Fischer-Tropsch (FT) projects; Technology, economics, politics and logistics of Coal-to-Liquids (CTL); latest Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL) commercialisation initiatives. CWC Exhibitions - February 4, 2007.

    The 4th Annual Brussels Climate Change Conference is announced for 26 - 27 February 2008. This joint CEPS/Epsilon conference will explore the key issues for a post-Kyoto agreement on climate change. The conference focuses on EU and global issues relating to global warming, and in particular looks at the following issues: - Post-2012 after Bali and before the Hokkaido G8 summit; Progress of EU integrated energy and climate package, burden-sharing renewables and technology; EU Emissions Trading Review with a focus on investment; Transport Climatepolicy.eu - January 28, 2007.

    Japan's Marubeni Corp. plans to begin importing a bioethanol compound from Brazil for use in biogasoline sold by petroleum wholesalers in Japan. The trading firm will import ETBE, which is synthesized from petroleum products and ethanol derived from sugar cane. The compound will be purchased from Brazilian petrochemical company Companhia Petroquimica do Sul and in February, Marubeni will supply 6,500 kilolitres of the ETBE, worth around US$7 million, to a biogasoline group made up of petroleum wholesalers. Wholesalers have been introducing biofuels since last April by mixing 7 per cent ETBE into gasoline. Plans call for 840 million liters of ETBE to be procured annually from domestic and foreign suppliers by 2010. Trading Markets - January 24, 2007.

    Toyota Tsusho Corp., Ohta Oil Mill Co. and Toyota Chemical Engineering Co., say it and two other firms have jointly developed a technology to produce biodiesel fuel at lower cost. Biodiesel is made by blending methanol into plant-derived oil. The new technology requires smaller amounts of methanol and alkali catalysts than conventional technologies. In addition, the new technology makes water removal facilities unnecessary. JCN Network - January 22, 2007.

    Finland's Metso Paper and SWISS COMBI - W. Kunz dryTec A.G. have entered a licence agreement for the SWISS COMBI belt dryer KUVO, which allows biomass to be dried in a low temperature environment and at high capacity, both for pulp & paper and bioenergy applications. Kauppalehti - January 22, 2007.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Scientists: conservationists' studies about biofuel emissions "misleading" and "bad science"

Scientists from several universities, from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and scientists from the DOE Biomass Program are questioning the conclusions and assumptions of two reports that were published recently in the journal Science. The reports about the carbon footprint of biofuels resulting from land use changes - written by conservationists - were "narrowly constructed" to demonstrate "worst-case scenarios" only and did not examine all the facts of biofuel production. The basic facts are now put into question by scientists who see the studies as "misleading" and "bad science". This fact brings into question the role conservationists can play in the bioenergy debate.

The studies made claims that land-use change from biofuels results in large greenhouse gas emissions (previous post). While this is true for highly exceptional forms of land-use change, such as the conversion of peat swamps that store high amounts of carbon, scientists doubt whether this is true for the vast bulk of other types of land used to grow energy or food crops. Peat swamps occur in selected sites on Borneo Island, for example. But Borneo's peat swamps are hardly representative for the rest of the world's land base. Likewise, the data about land use emissions in other types of land are seriously put into question. Lastly, new land use techniques eliminate the problem alltogether (more here).

The bioenergy community accepts that the entire lifecycle of biofuel and biomass production must be taken into account. But conservationists' attempts to narrow down the debate and make it look as if all biofuels are based on deforestation or the destruction of special types of high carbon land, is not helpful. It damages their case, as their views on biofuels lose credibility each time they publish such misleading material.

Conservationists have launched a hard campaign against bioenergy, and they will not hesitate to distort realities, by extrapolating exceptional excesses and representing them as the rule. Just recently, a group made headlines by claiming that "biofuels fuel human rights abuses" - another report based on practises in Indonesia that are much less clear cut, but that are being presented as the rule. Cultural anthropologists cautioned against this practise of simplifying debates, because they are not only bad science, they also result in paternalistic and even racist representations of 'indigenous communities' (previous post).

In short, conservationists are quickly losing their legitimacy to play a role in the bioenergy debate - both when it comes to their view on the environmental and the social impacts of biofuels. They are potentially destroying an opportunity to help fight climate change. Worse, they are also potentially eliminating the possibility for poor people in developing countries to make a living from participating in bioenergy production. Even more, smart biofuels can actually help conserve ecosystems, but surprisingly conservationists are not willing to recognise this important aspect of an emerging sector.

Dr. Michael Wang of Argonne’s Transportation Technology R&D Center and Zia Haq of the DOE’s Office of Biomass Program spoke out against the study about the indirect land use change effects of ethanol production in the U.S. They say that there has been no indication that production has so far caused land use changes in other countries because U.S. corn exports have been maintained at about 2 billion bushels a year.

While scientific assessment of land use change is needed, Wang and Haq say conclusions about green house gas emissions and biofuels based on "speculative, limited land use change modeling is misguiding".

Dr. Lou Honary, Director of the National Ag-Based Lubricants Center at the University of Northern Iowa says the reports are "overly simplistic", "don't take in many related factors", and "cause misconceptions":
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

Michigan State University's Dr. Bruce Dale agrees with Honary and says there are strong reasons to question the assumptions, data and comparisons made in these two papers.

David Morris of the Institute of Self-Reliance, a former member of the Advisory Committee for Biomass to the Departments of Energy and Agriculture, finds many contradictions in the reports.

"The report notes that the vast majority of today’s ethanol production comes from corn cultivated on land that has been in corn production for generations," Morris says. "Since little new land has come into production, either directly or indirectly, the current use of ethanol clearly reduces greenhouse gas emissions."

Farm Futures: Doubts Raised About Recent Global Warming Studies - February 18, 2008.

Argonne National Laboratory: Transportation Technology R & D Center.

U.S. DOE, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy: Biomass Program.

Biopact: New land use techniques boost benefits of biofuels - February 08, 2008

Biopact: Two studies state the obvious: clearing high carbon land for first-generation biofuels can lead to higher emissions - February 08, 2008

Biopact: Anthropologists caution against essentialism in discussion about social sustainability of biofuels - February 13, 2008


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