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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    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.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Indian government sets indicative biofuels target: 20% by 2017

The Indian Government today announced its ambitious new national biofuels policy: by 2017 all petrol sold in the country should be mixed with 20% ethanol and diesel should be doped with 20% biodiesel made from non-edible oils. The policy aims to cut the nation's dependence on expensive oil imports, which are damaging the economy and are fueling inflation.

The new rules include a provision that discourages imports of biofuels and instead stimulates the creation of plantations in India as way to boost employment opportunties amongst the rural poor. The policy-making and implementation process includes input from a wide range of stakeholders, including representatives of India's lowest government level (the Panchayat Raj, i.e. the village).

India currently blends all gasoline with 5% ethanol (E5), and pilot projects are on to check the viability of biodiesel based on non-edible oils. The percentage of ethanol in petrol is to double from next month onwards (E10).

The Indian cabinet has now approved the implementation of a new National Biofuel Policy that has set an indicative target of blending 20 per cent ethanol in petrol and 20 per cent biodiesel from non-edible oil (e.g. from jatropha) in diesel, by 2017.

The policy calls for scrapping taxes and duties on biodiesel, and 'declared goods status' will be conferred on biodiesel and bioethanol. The 'declared goods status' means that the two fuels will be taxed at a uniform central sales tax or VAT rate rather than at the varied sales tax rates prevalent in India's states. (Oil firms currently buy ethanol at a fixed price of Rs 21.50 per litre [€0.33/liter - US$3.78/gallon], but non-edible oil for biodiesel is purchased at a price linked to prevailing diesel prices.)

Instead of setting up a National Bio-Fuel Development Board, as had been recommended by a Group of Ministers headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, the Cabinet constituted a new National Biofuel Coordination Committee headed by the Prime Minister.

Before the biofuels are blended with the fossil fuels, they should go through a series of protocols and certifications, for which the industry and oil marketing companies (OMCs) should jointly set up an appropriate mechanism and the required facilities.

Imports of free fatty acids are prohibited and no import of duty rebate would be provided, as it hinders promotion of indigenous plantations of non-edible oil seeds. The Indian government sees the establishment of local plantations as a way to generate employment opportunities in rural areas.

While biodiesel plantations on community or government wastelands are encouraged, the government now discourages the establishment of plantations on fertile or irrigated land areas:
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The cabinet also approved the creation of a National Biofuel Coordination Committee which would be chaired by the Prime Minister and which will seven member ministers, while also giving its nod for setting up Biofuel Steering Committee.

The Steering Committee would be chaired by the Cabinet Secretary which, along with the National Biofuel Coordination Committee would be serviced by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. The Panchayati Raj (a decentralized government body representing the village level) would also be included as member in the Steering Committee.

A sub-committee, comprising the Department of Biotechnology and the Ministries of Agriculture, New and Renewable Energy and that of Rural Development under the Steering Committee would aid research on biofuels.

A minimum support price (MSP) for oil seeds will be determined and ensured with provisions for its periodic revision to provide a fair price to farmers, which would be looked into by the Steering Committee.

A Statutory Minimum Price (SMP) mechanism similar to that currently operating for sugarcane will be examined and possibly extended to the oil seeds processing industry which will produce the feedstock for biodiesel.


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