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    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

    Tasmania's first specialty biodiesel plant has been approved, to start operating as early as July. The Macquarie Oil Company will spend half a million dollars on a specially designed facility in Cressy, in Tasmania's Northern Midlands. The plant will produce more than five million litres of fuel each year for the transport and marine industries. A unique blend of feed stock, including poppy seed, is expected to make it more viable than most operations. ABC Rural - February 25, 2008.

    The 16th European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - From Research to Industry and Markets - will be held from 2nd to 6th June 2008, at the Convention and Exhibition Centre of FeriaValencia, Spain. Early bird fee registration ends 18th April 2008. European Biomass Conference & Exhibition - February 22, 2008.

    'Obesity Facts' – a new multidisciplinary journal for research and therapy published by Karger – was launched today as the official journal of the European Association for the Study of Obesity. The journal publishes articles covering all aspects of obesity, in particular epidemiology, etiology and pathogenesis, treatment, and the prevention of adiposity. As obesity is related to many disease processes, the journal is also dedicated to all topics pertaining to comorbidity and covers psychological and sociocultural aspects as well as influences of nutrition and exercise on body weight. Obesity is one of the world's most pressing health issues, expected to affect 700 million people by 2015. AlphaGalileo - February 21, 2008.

    A bioethanol plant with a capacity of 150 thousand tons per annum is to be constructed in Kuybishev, in the Novosibirsk region. Construction is to begin in 2009 with investments into the project estimated at €200 million. A 'wet' method of production will be used to make, in addition to bioethanol, gluten, fodder yeast and carbon dioxide for industrial use. The complex was developed by the Solev consulting company. FIS: Siberia - February 19, 2008.

    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, 2008.

    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, 2008.

    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, 2008.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

"We will never again kneel down for food aid" - Malawi's Mutharika

One of the world's poorest countries has vowed never again to kneel down for food aid, which it considers to be perverse because it ruins markets for local farmers. Malawi, where more than 80 percent of all people makes a living from agriculture, showed the world African countries can turn themselves from food aid dependent begging bowls, to regional food exporters instead, with a simple set of policies.

By ignoring international experts, Malawi decided to support its own local farmers instead of importing food from Europe and America, and instead of being dependent on the World Food Program's handouts. It did so by improving access to fertilizers to its own large rural population. With great success. In one season's time, Malawi turned from a begging bowl into a major net food exporter, sending hundreds of thousands of tonnes to its food insecure neighbors Zimbabwe and Zambia. It repeated the leap forward last year (previous post).

Critics may call Malawi's super harvests a matter of luck. But guess what? This year too, it again expects a third bumper maize harvest. Three times in a row - that isn't luck, that is policy.

Acting on the good news, Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, who is credited with the smart policy and who is also Minister of Agriculture, vowed he would never again "kneel down" for food aid.
I will not, as your president, ever again kneel down in front of the donor communities to ask for maize. Please don't allow me to do that.

We can ask for other assistance, but maize, for goodness sake, we can grow all the maize we want.

It's amazing the vast valleys which we can reclaim and grow all the food we want. Why do we suffer? We have valleys everywhere. Why do we Malawians have to suffer and ask for food somewhere else? - Bingu wa Mutharika
Because of the smart, simple fertiliser program, Malawi met its food needs in 2006 for the first time in seven years with a harvest of 2.2 million tons. About 45 percent of Malawians live below the poverty line and on less than a dollar a day. The vast majority of the poor are farmers.

The Malawian example offers hope for Africa and can be replicated across the continent, but many barriers remain: the food aid industry (which is a form of subsidy to producers in Europe and the US), trade barriers, high oil prices, subsidies in the EU and the US, corrupt officials and local elites who prefer to ignore their own rural populations and deal with wealthy Euro-American food producers instead... all these destructive forces must be tackled. Then Africa is ready to make its Green Revolution. Then, at last, it can begin to produce the vast amounts of food and biofuels analysts know can be produced there.

The intention to "never again kneel down" in front of the food aid industry, is a good start [entry ends here].
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks like Malawi has discovered a very advanced technology that Europe and the US explored some time during the 19th century:

- Functioning government that actually cares about its people.

Now, this is a new idea.

10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, what's going on in Malawi could be revolutionary in its simplicity. But it is a fragile situation, and many forces want to destroy the gains because they are losing lucrative deals.

Good governance and basic investments in African farmers can turn the world upside down. It can be done, provided the big interests of local elites and Euro-American development organisations are ignored.

10:54 PM  

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