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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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Thursday, August 07, 2008

EU crop yield forecast: 16% increase in cereals output

Favourable weather conditions and an increase in the planted area should lead to a total cereals harvest close to 301 million tonnes for this year in the European Union, 43 million tonnes more than in 2007. This represents an increase of 16% on the 2007 harvest and 9% on the past five years' average production. This forecast, published today by the European Commission, is based on an updated analysis by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), using an advanced crop yield forecasting system.

The year 2007 was an exceptional year with high agricultural prices. Reasons for the sharp increase were unfavorable weather conditions in key growing areas, high oil prices and speculation in the agricultural commodity markets. According to the Commission, biofuels, which take up less than 2% of all farm land in the EU, played a 'marginal' role.

The 2008 yield forecast for cereals is 5 tonnes per hectare across the EU and thus significantly higher than last year and the average over the past five years. The total EU27 area used for cereals in 2008 is estimated to have increased by 5 % compared to 2007, due to a 0 % set-aside rate and high cereals prices.

Looking at individual crop figures across the EU27 over the past five years and as of August 5th 2008, the latest yield forecasts show the following trends:
  • soft wheat:5.6 t/ha (+4.8%)
  • durum wheat: 3.1 t/ha (+12.8%)
  • barley: 4.4 t/ha (+5.7%)
  • grain maize: 6.9 t/ha (+9.5%)
  • rape seed: 2.9 t/ha (-2,1%)
  • sunflower: 1.6 t/ha (+1.7%)
  • potato: 26.5 t/ha (-1.1%)
  • sugar beet: 70.3 t/ha (+19.0%)
The greatest increase is for sugar beet, cultivated mainly in northern Europe, with the main producers Germany and France, which benefited from favourable meteorological conditions, increasing yield forecasts significantly.

Maize yield is expected to be 20.1% higher than last year and 9.5% higher than the past five years' average, with very high yield increases for Romania (+122%), Bulgaria (+193%) and Hungary (+94%), countries that had been suffering from drought last year:
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The winter of 2007/2008 was rather mild, especially in Central and Eastern Europe, but cooler than the exceptionally mild winter of 2006/07. Temperatures followed a seasonal course with warmer average temperatures compared to the long term average (period 1975–2007) for Central and Eastern Europe.

June and July have been slightly cooler for France, northern Spain and the United Kingdom, representing favorable conditions for still active crops.

Rainfall throughout the season has been abundant and well distributed for Spain but has led to over-wet situations in France and northern Italy. On the other hand, northern Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and Denmark experienced a long lasting dry period starting in spring and continuing into June 2008, coupled with some high temperatures. This situation has impacted primarily upon winter crops and led to lower production and local failures.

In spite of heavy rainfall at the end of July in Romania, overall weather conditions for the countries hit by last year's drought have been good.

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Scottish Center for Carbon Storage creates academic posts for biochar researchers

Carbon capture will have a crucial role in mitigating climate change through reduction of existing power plant emissions and improvements in management of biomass carbon. A large EPSRC grant award enables the creation of six new academic posts and the recruitment of 6 research associates and 10 to 20 doctoral students at the Universities which make up the Scottish Center for Carbon Storage (SCCS) to develop research excellence in the field.

The SCCS is a research collaboration between Edinburgh University, Heriot-Watt University and the British Geological Survey.

Two methods for CO2 capture have been targeted: intervention in power plant and industrial processes through physical capture systems, and intervention in natural biological processes exploited by forestry and agriculture, in particular biochar. Applications are now invited from innovative and enthusiastic researchers of proven high quality. You will develop and validate the science, engineering and socio-economic insights, which will create real operational capture systems. The six posts will be linked through the Centre for Carbon Storage, which already hosts a critical mass of expertise in geological carbon storage.

Four permanent posts at the University of Edinburgh will be in the areas of:
  • Engineering systems assessment for biochar
  • Soil science for biochar
  • Socio-economic technology assessment of biochar
  • Modelling and optimisation of adsorption processes at power plant scale
Two positions at Heriot-Watt University will be in the areas of:
  • Membrane technology for pre and post combustion capture systems, with interest in mixed mode membranes.
  • Novel CO2 separation systems, e.g. high efficiency gas/liquid contact.
Funding also exists for 6 Research Associates and 10-20 Doctoral students - with additional grants provided from Industry and the Scottish Funding Council. You will recruit these colleagues, and be mentored by established senior academics in each University:
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You should have a relevant PhD in science, engineering, or a specified social science. You must have ambition to create a centre of world significance, lead research strategy, develop funding opportunities, recruit students, as well as develop technologies, processes and procedures to meet the needs of industry - or enable creation of new industries.

You will be provided with support to create working links across the UK, EU and worldwide, develop industrial and stakeholder consortia, and MSc and CPD programmes.

All positions will be appointed in the range £27,466 - £41,545.

More information here: Renewable Energy Jobs.

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