Saturday, January 31, 2009

[biofuelwatch] Indonesia says plans to subsidise biofuel in 2009



http://uk.reuters.com/article/oilRpt/idUKJAK41381320090130

JAKARTA, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Indonesia's government is planning to pay
a subsidy to biofuel producers starting this year to encourage them
to remain in the business and promote widespread use of the
alternative energy source, an energy ministry official said on Friday.

The government wants to make the use of biofuel mandatory from this
year to ensure the survival of the fledgling industry, an aim made
more urgent since biofuel became more expensive than crude oil-based
fuel after oil prices dived more than 70 percent from their peak in
July last year.

"We will only pay the subsidy if biofuel prices are higher than crude
oil-based fuels," Evita Legowo, director general of oil and gas at
the energy ministry told Reuters.

Under the plan, if prices of biofuel products are higher than crude
oil-based fuels, the government will pay subsidy of 1,000 rupiah
($0.08) per litre on average.

"At the moment, palm-based biodiesel is more expensive than crude oil-
based diesel, but prices of bioethanol are not," Legowo said.

Bioethanol is made using both cassava and cane molasses.

Palm biofuel and bioethanol compete with cheap domestic petrol diesel
in Indonesia, one of the lowest priced in Asia because of generous
government subsidies.

Palm-based biodiesel prices were around 5,800 rupiah per litre on
Friday, or about 1,500 rupiah higher than diesel, said Paulus
Tjakrawan, secretary general of Indoesian Biofuel Producers
Association.

State run PT Pertamina, which sells subsidised fuel products, is
estimated to blend 194,444 kilo litres of bioethanol and 580,025
kiloliters of palm-based biodiesel in 2009, a government document
showed.

Based on such an estimate, the government may have to allocate 774.5
billion rupiah in biofuel subsidies this year.

A ministerial decree issued last November stated that for biodiesel
used in transportation, there must use a blend of 1 percent palm-
based biodiesel and 99 percent diesel oil, while industry and power
plants should use a blend containing 2.5 percent and 0.25 percent
palm-based biodiesel respectively.

By 2010, the palm-biodiesel content will be increased to between 2.5-
3 percent for transportation, 5 percent for industry, and 1 percent
for power plants.

For bioethanol, the use of a 1-5 percent blend of bioethanol and 99-
95 percent of gasoline for transportation become mandatory this year.

"Currently, the biodiesel blend for transportation has reached 5
percent," Legowo said.

Indonesia, the world's top producer of palm oil, used in a wide range
of products from soap to biodiesel, is estimated to turn out 20.25
million tonnes of palm oil in 2009, up from 18.8 million in 2008, the
industry association has estimated.

The increased use of palm oil for biodiesel is important to help ease
the country's palm oil stocks, a key factor supporting palm prices
despite the gloomy global demand outlook. (Reporting by Aloysius
Bhui; Editing by Ben Tan)


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Friday, January 30, 2009

[biofuelwatch] Cattle ranching and jatropha agrofuels threaten Ayoreo Indigenous People



World Rainforest Movement Bulletin, January 2009, www.wrm.org.uy

Paraguay: Action to protect Indigenous Peoples in voluntary isolation
cannot be delayed

The Ayoreo Indigenous People are one of an estimated 100 uncontacted
tribes around the world and the only uncontacted people in South
America outside the Amazon basin. The Totobiegosode (`people from the
place of the wild pigs') are the most isolated sub-group of the
Ayoreo and live in the Chaco, a vast expanse of dense, scrubby forest
stretching from Paraguay to Bolivia and Argentina. They are extremely
vulnerable to any form of contact with outsiders because of their
lack of immunity to diseases, warns an emergency submission sent in
November 2008 by Survival International to the United Nations. (1)

Though some have still managed to avoid all contact with outsiders,
since 1969 many of them have been forced out of the forest harassed
by deforestation carried out by land speculators and ranchers. Two
Brazilian companies -Yaguarete Pora SA and River Plate SA- are
currently devastating the Totobiegosode's ancestral territory and
livelihood to make way mainly for grazing cattle for beef.

Widespread condemnation and pressure from the public in Paraguay has
come as a result of satellite photos that revealed the destruction of
the Indigenous Peoples' land, as well as increasing media coverage of
the issue around the world and a letter campaign from Survival
International. (2) Paraguay's National Environment Council (CONAM)
announced the decision to withdraw Yaguarete's licence to work in the
area. Still, when a government team went to investigate the
activities of the Brazilian Yaguarete Pora SA in the area, it was
barred from doing so by the company's employees.

The Global Forest Coalition (3) reports that "This tragedy is
occurring in Paraguay's largest reservoir of carbon and is happening
in a department where deforestation is banned by the Department's
Law."

The amount of Totobiegosode's land bulldozed in the northern Chaco
has almost tripled since May last year. The push for agrofuels has
added to the traditional land grab to graze cattle for beef. The
Minister of Agriculture of Paraguay was in the Chaco Region promoting
crops for agrofuels as a profitable scheme. The Argentinean firms
Carlos Casado and Patagonia Bioenergía joined to create a company to
produce in Paraguay Jatropha curcas for agrofuel.
(http://www.biodiesel.com.ar/?p=1001#more-1001).

According to GFC, "The Ayoreo's land is being deforested at a
tremendous rate. More than 200 hectares have been clear-cut and
another 1,000 hectares are slated to be cut by the end of the year.
The deforesters vow that they will meet this deadline `come what
may.' The lands will be designated for growing 5 species of
oleaginous plants for `bio-diesel' production including Jatropha
curcas." The GFC informs that "The company Carlos Casado already has
a `field trial' of 15,000 hectares in the western part of the Chaco".

Projects and policies that devastate the cultural diversity of the
society, the environment and the climate run counter to the discourse
of President Fernando Lugo, who has promised to protect Indigenous
Peoples' rights and the environment. As Survival International
warns: "Lugo must take action to protect the Ayoreo-Totobiegosode
now. Wait any longer and it may be too late."

(1) "Emergency report to UN about uncontacted tribe", Survival
International, http://www.survival-international.org/news/3938

(2) "Glimmer of hope for uncontacted tribe", Survival International,
http://www.survival-international.org/news/3929

(3) "Agrofuel Production Threatens the Life of last remaining
Indigenous Peoples Living in Voluntary Isolation South from the
Amazonian Basin," 11 December 2008, Global Forest Coalition, sent by
Rachel Smolker, Global Justice Ecology Project/Global Forest Coalition

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[biofuelwatch] The big land sell-off



[Note: This article has just been published on African Business,
however there are reports that that Daewoo deal in Madagascar has
been put on hold, following protests in Madagascar. See this article
in the Telegraph from 15th January:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/madagas
car/4240955/Land-rental-deal-collapses-after-backlash-against-
colonialism.html
]

http://www.africasia.com/africanbusiness/ab.php?ID=2069

With vast tracts of land being sold in Madagascar, and Sudan and
other African governments actively seeking investors in agricultural
land, are we witnessing a neo-colonial land grab or will the
investment result in greater food productivity to the long-term
benefit of recipient nations? M J Morgan ponders the possibilities.

In November, South Korea's Daewoo Logistics made the startling
announcement that the company had secured a 99-year lease on 1.3m
hectares of land, an area roughly half the size of Belgium, from the
government of Madagascar. Daewoo's investment of $6bn is intended to
produce 4m tonnes of corn and 500,000 tonnes of palm oil a year,
mostly for export. Investments in African land by foreign interests
are gathering pace. In August, Al-Qudra Holdings of Abu Dhabi said
that it was looking to acquire 400,000 hectares of land in Asia and
Africa, with Sudan a likely candidate, for the cultivation of corn,
rice and cattle. The company already farms 1,500 hectares in Morocco
and Algeria. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have already
acquired substantial holdings in Sudan. The Abu Dhabi Fund for
Development alone is set to cultivate some 30,000 hectares of land in
the north of Sudan and Hadco, of Saudi Arabia, is investing more than
$96m in the country to lease 10,000 hectares on the banks of the
Nile, near Khartoum, to produce wheat, vegetables and fodder. (See
box).

There have been similar investments in Mozambique, Uganda and
Zimbabwe, as well as globally in the Philippines, Cambodia, Pakistan
and Ukraine – amongst other nations.Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles
Zenawi, has been actively soliciting Middle East investment
countries, describing himself as "very eager" to attract further land
deals. Egypt too has been touting for such investment. A UK company
recently acquired 3,000 hectares in Ethiopia to grow Jatropha, a
plant whose non-edible seeds, if processed, can produce biodiesel.
This follows the lease by Flora EcoPower of Germany, through a local
subsidiary, of 8,000 hectares in Oromia province for the cultivation
of castor seeds. UK biofuel company, D1-BP Fuel Crops is also
actively planting Jatropha in Swaziland and Zambia, and also has
plantings in Madagascar. The growing of crops for biodiesel is
contentious. World Bank economists have pointed to the increase in
biodiesel crops as at least partly responsible for the spike in crop
prices last year. Others are concerned it may damage the soil or
environment. Western Australia has banned Jatropha as "invasive and
highly toxic to people and animals".
The companies involved say that as the hardy Jatropha grows on
marginal land unsuitable for crops, it does not compete with other
crops. They also argue that it can be intercropped with coffee,
sugar, fruits and vegetables. In many African countries it has been
planted around the perimeters of farmland. Jatropha, a native of
Central America, may also not have been adequately domesticated.
However, it yields four times as much fuel as soya bean and 10 times
more than maize. Its proponents argue that it can also improve soil
quality, as its leaves compost down.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

[biofuelwatch] Indonesian NGO backs villagers in fight against palm oil



http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090129/sc_afp/indonesiaenvironmentenergy
biofuel

Cecilia Castilla Cecilia Castilla – Thu Jan 29

PANGKALAN BUN, Indonesia (AFP) – Deep in the forests of Indonesian
Borneo, a small environmental group is using education and common
sense to arm villagers against the devastating onslaught of palm
plantations.

Yayasan Orangutan Indonesia (Yayorin) was founded in 1991 with the
goal of saving Indonesia's endangered orangutans and other wildlife
as well as the forests that those species need to survive.

Since then the spread of palm oil plantations into forests and
peatlands on Sumatra and Borneo islands have helped make Indonesia
the world's third-highest greenhouse gas emitter, thanks partly to
the craze for "eco-friendly" biofuels.

They have also wiped out habitats of threatened species like
orangutans and Bornean clouded leopards.

But the plantations are also hurting people whose traditional
communities depend on the forests and the biodiversity they contain,
and that is where Yayorin director and founder Togu Simorangkir sees
hope for change.

"We think that above all the problem of deforestation is human," said
the 32-year-old biologist in Pangkalan Bun village in the heart of
Central Kalimantan province.

"That's why 80 percent of our programme focuses on education. It's
not enough just to give the message 'stop cutting down trees'. You
have to explain the consequences of deforestation in the short and
long term."

Indonesia is the world's largest producer of palm oil, which is used
in a range of products including soap, cooking oil and biodiesel.

Vast tracts of forest have already disappeared under palm plantations
and the government is encouraging more despite its stated commitment
to lowering greenhouse gas emissions by preserving the carbon stored
in jungles.

In 1990 there were 1.1 million hectares (2.7 million acres) of land
under palm oil plantation in Indonesia, according to official
figures. This year there are 7.6 million hectares.

"We've heard some terrible stories," said Daryatmo, the chief of
Tumbang Tura village in Central Kalimantan.

"Our neighbours (who sold their forested land to palm planters) can't
grow ratan anymore or harvest rubber. Fishing is impossible because
the river is polluted," he said.

"These are our principal sources of income. What kind of legacy are
we going to leave our grandchildren?"

Lured by immediate "wealth" in the form of a few thousands dollars in
cash, people in forest-dependent communities often are not aware of
the consequences of selling out to the palm planters, Simorangkir
said.

"Last year a plantation company offered a village two billion rupiah
(176,000 dollars) to exploit its land. Every family calculated that
that would bring them 30 million (2,640 dollars) each," he said.

"The village authorities sought our advice and we told them the
consequences for the environment in the medium term. Despite the
bait, they concluded by refusing the project."

The NGO followed up by helping the villagers improve their
subsistence-level agriculture techniques, he said.

With projects spread across several villages as well as plantations,
companies, schools and government agencies, Simorangkir said he hoped
Yayorin could help make a difference in the battle to save
Indonesia's forests.

But will such initiatives be enough to save the "man of the forest,"
the orangutan?

There are currently an estimated 40,000 wild orangutans on Borneo but
the United Nations estimates there could be fewer than 1,000 by 2023.

Palm oil companies have been clearing orangutan habitats on Borneo
despite signing up to voluntary standards under the Roundtable on
Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a talking shop for industry and
environmental groups.

The Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association, in rejecting a
moratorium on new plantations proposed by Greenpeace last year,
argued that the RSPO standards were enough to protect the species.

But the Centre for Orangutan Protection says orangutans living
outside Central Kalimantan's conservation areas could be wiped out
within three years. Of the roughly 20,000 individuals in Central
Kalimantan province, close to 3,000 die every year, it says.

"Their future is in the north of the Central Kalimantan region, which
at the present time is preserved. The belt of palm oil plantations
must not extend to the north," said Stephen Brend of Orangutan
Foundation International.

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[biofuelwatch] Imported biofuel a risk to wildlife



http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/index.php/world/16920-imported-biofuel-a-risk-to-wildlife
 

Imported biofuel a risk to wildlife

SYDNEY, Jan 27 - Australia is contributing directly to the widespread destruction of tropical rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia by importing millions of tonnes of taxpayer-subsidised biodiesel made from palm oil.
Imports of the fuel are rising, undermining the Rudd Government's A$200 million (RM620 million) commitment to reduce deforestation in the region - a problem that globally contributes to 20 per cent of the world's carbon emissions.
The bulldozing of rainforests to make way for palm oil plantations is also putting further pressure on orangutans and other endangered wildlife throughout Southeast Asia.
And the Australian biofuels industry says it is struggling to compete with the cheap imports from Asia, which are touted as an environmentally friendly alternative to diesel. Without action, the problem will only get worse, with demand for biodiesel imports likely to rise sharply when NSW legislates to introduce Australia's first biodiesel mandate - 2 per cent this year, rising to 5 per cent when sufficient supplies become available.
But the Rudd Government is likely to come under pressure to follow the lead of other Western nations in banning imports of palm oil-based biodiesel. Biodiesel manufacturers in Australia
use primarily tallow from abattoirs and recycled cooking oil.
Caltex, the biggest biodiesel customer in Australia, refuses to use palm oil-based fuel on environmental grounds, but it is being imported by independent operators.
Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, who is conducting a review of government assistance to the biofuels industry, declined to comment on whether he was aware of the Asian biodiesel imports.
Unlike imported ethanol, imported biodiesel is not subject to the 38.14c-a-litre fuel excise, so the biodiesel imports from Asia are effectively subsidised by Australian taxpayers. Rex Wallace, the chief financial officer of the Adelaide-based Environmentally Friendly Fuels, said his company had purchased five million litres of palm oil-based biodiesel in recent years.
"We would not need to import it if people could produce a quality product on a regular basis in Australia,'' he said. "We would love to buy more local produce but it's just not there.''
Mr Wallace said his company imported from certified plantations in Malaysia that had been developed on land cleared historically for other purposes such as rubber plantations.
Australian Biodiesel Group chief executive Bevan Dooley said the industry estimated that 10million litres of palm oil-based biodiesel was imported a year.
"Europe and the US are closing the gates on this product, but Australian taxpayers are subsidising its import,'' Mr Dooley said.
He said it was difficult to establish if certified plantations were environmentally friendly, and Australian imports were helping to fuel demand worldwide for "environmentally destructive'' biodiesel from Malaysia and Indonesia.
"These imports are causing many Australian producers to suffer losses and are detrimental to the establishment of a biodiesel industry in Australia,'' Mr Dooley said.
"Australia is seen as a dumping ground for palm oil-based biodiesel as there is no requirement for the fuel to be derived from sustainable resources.'' He said there was ample capacity in Australia to meet demand.
The Australian industry produces about 50million litres of biodiesel a year, but has the capacity to produce much more.
About 80 million litres will be needed annually to meet a 2 per cent mandate in NSW.
Indonesia has about 6 million hectares of palm oil plantation and Malaysia 4.5 million ha. Indonesia plans to double palm oil production by 2025 and is developing a plantation of 1.8 million ha in east Kalimantan.
To make way for the plantation, the largest remaining area of lowland rainforest in Kalimantan is being bulldozed, with the loss of habitat for orangutans, clouded leopards and other rare animals. - The Australian
 
 


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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

[biofuelwatch] Biofuels Ignite Food Crisis Debate



http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090128074830.htm

Study highlights problems linked to converting crops into biofuels.
Taking up valuable land and growing edible crops for biofuels poses a
dilemma: Is it ethical to produce inefficient renewable energies at
the expense of an already malnourished population?

David Pimentel and his colleagues from Cornell University in New York
State highlight the problems linked to converting a variety of crops
into biofuels. Not only are these renewable energies inefficient, they
are also economically and environmentally costly and nowhere near as
productive as projected. Their findings are published online in
Springer's journal Human Ecology.

In the context of global shortages of fossil energy – oil and natural
gas in particular – governments worldwide are focusing on biofuels as
renewable energy alternatives. In parallel, almost 60 percent of the
world's population is malnourished increasing the need for grains and
other basic foods. Growing crops, including corn, sugarcane and
soybean, for fuel uses water and energy resources vital for the
production of food for human consumption.

Professor Pimentel and his team review the availability and use of
land, water and current energy resources globally, and then look at
the situation in the US specifically. They also analyze biomass
resources and show that there is insufficient US biomass for both
ethanol and biodiesel production to make the US oil independent.

Their paper then looks at the efficiency and costs associated with
converting a range of crops into energy and shows that in each case
more energy is required for this process than they actually produce as
fuel. The research finds a negative energy return of 46 percent for
corn ethanol, 50 percent for switchgrass, 63 percent for soybean
biodiesel and 58 percent for rapeseed. Even the most promising palm
oil production results in a minus 8 percent net energy return. There
are also a number of environmental problems linked to converting crops
for biofuels, including water pollution from fertilizers and
pesticides, global warming, soil erosion and air pollution.

In the researchers' opinion, there is simply not enough land, water
and energy to produce biofuels. They also argue that ironically, the
US is becoming more oil-dependent, not less, as was intended through
the production of biofuels. In most cases, more fossil energy is
required to produce a unit of biofuel compared with the energy that it
provides. As a result, the US is importing more oil and natural gas in
order to make the biofuels.

The authors conclude that "Growing crops for biofuels not only ignores
the need to reduce natural resource consumption, but exacerbates the
problem of malnourishment worldwide by turning food grain into
biofuels…Increased use of biofuels further damages the global
environment and especially the world food system."


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[biofuelwatch] Changing times for Brazil's landless



http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7845611.stm

By Gary Duffy
BBC News, Sao Paulo state

Police have tried to remove settlers from the Elizabeth Texeira camp
A small hut with a red flag flying above it marks the start of the
Elizabeth Texeira camp in the heart of the countryside in Sao Paulo
state.

Among fields of sugar cane, 120 landless rural families have taken
over an area of state-owned land as part of a campaign for agrarian
reform.

Accommodation is basic, consisting of shacks made of plastic, wood
and tin, and in the frequent tropical storms, the rain often comes
pouring through.

The families try to make what they can of the land, growing
vegetables and fruit, and raising small animals.

They say police tried to remove them using force in 2007, and 20
people were injured.

"We are scared, we are afraid, always afraid, because it is an
insecure situation for us," says resident Jovanildo Francisco de
Moura.

"We would very much like to have the right to the land, so we could
work and develop it."

Jovanildo says he wants permission to stay and develop the land

For 25 years, the landless movement in Brazil, spearheaded by a
social movement known as the MST, has carried out a wide range of
protests, including what it calls land occupations.

It plans to mark that anniversary this weekend with a demonstration
in the state of Rio Grande Do Sul.

The strategy has often been controversial, with protests leading to
hundreds of prosecutions - not against the organisation, which does
not exist as a legal entity, but against its activists.

MST activists have also been accused of violence and damaging
property, and there have been frequent clashes with the authorities.

The conflict has been costly in human terms: the MST says dozens of
its activists are among hundreds of people who have died in land
disputes in recent years.

In the most notorious incident, 19 people were shot dead by police
while taking part in a protest at Eldorado dos Carajas, in the state
of Para, in April 1996.

Success and failure

Agrarian reform is a divisive issue in Brazil, which is still said to
have one of the highest levels of inequality of land distribution in
the world.

While new official figures are hard to come by, one leading analyst
says that 10% of the largest farmers still hold about 85% of the
land.

"Fifty percent of what has been done in agrarian reform in the
history of Brazil has been done in the last six years."
Guilherme Cassel, Agrarian Reform Minister

Given that high level of inequality, has the MST reason to be
satisfied with what the movement has achieved over 25 years?

"Yes and no," says Prof Antonio Marcio Buainain, of Campinas state
university.

"They brought the issue [of agrarian reform] onto the political
agenda. Today, there are roughly one million families settled. That
is the largest agrarian reform settlement in peace time," said Prof
Buainain.

"But they should be very unhappy, because the results for people are
not very good," he says.

"People in settlements are still poor. They still rely on public
funds to survive, and they are not autonomous farmers. As farmers,
they are not very successful," he adds.

Government respect

There are also tensions between the landless movement and the
government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been a
long-term supporter of the MST.

His government turned down a proposal to settle one million people,
and adopted instead a counter-proposal of 450,000, says Jose Batista
de Oliveira, of the MST.

"In the first year [of his presidency] he didn't keep to his plan,
and in the middle of his first term he gave up. In the second term he
hasn't even raised the issue," he tells the BBC News website.

But the government insists it is on the right track.

Agrarian Reform Minister Guilherme Cassel says that in total more
than one million families have been settled in Brazil.

"Of these, 520,000 were settled during this government. Therefore 50%
of what has been done in agrarian reform in the history of Brazil has
been done in the past six years."

Analysts say the motivation for involvement in the MST is usually
economic, and the wide availability of the government's family income
support has weakened the movement's appeal.

Bolsa Familia, as it is known, now reaches 11 million families.

"The government cannot just take productive land off farmers who
lawfully own it and redistribute it to people who are poor or
landless."
Prof Antoni Marcio Buainain

Mr Cassel says he has enormous respect for the MST, but he also
believes changes in Brazilian society are having an impact on the
landless movement.

"The country has started to grow again, to create work and social
programmes again, inequality has diminished and the minimum wage has
been raised," he says.

"All this has clearly had a positive impact on society, with fewer
people on the margins and this has had wide implications, including
for the MST," he tells the BBC news website.

Critics also say the MST is fighting battles on too many fronts.

"It lost focus and it cannot be said it is a landless movement in the
sense that it's fighting for land," says Prof Buainain.

"They are fighting for a social transformation, they are fighting
against globalisation, they are fighting against the multi-nationals,
and they are fighting against the Doha agreement on trade.

"They lost focus and the movement lost strength, and that is
visible," he says.

Reform rethink

The MST says it only adapted to changing times.

"What changed was not the MST, what changed were the enemies of
agrarian reform," says Jose Batista de Oliveira.

"What has changed was the posture of the Brazilian government in
supporting the enemies of agrarian reform."

Prof Buainain argues that the time is right for the government to
rethink its approach to reform - in particular the idea of placing
poor settlers on "unproductive land" that farmers are said not to
need.

"If it is not good for production for a farmer, it will not be good
for production with a poor peasant. On the other hand, the government
cannot just take productive land off farmers who lawfully own it and
redistribute it to people who are poor or landless," he says.

"Alternatives to punitive expropriation need to be discussed in our
society as the public will have to pay for it."

But he says there is still an urgent need to address the issue of
unequal land distribution.

"I think agrarian reform is still needed in Brazil. Obviously, this
high land concentration is something that will be eased over the
generations, but we should try to intervene to speed it up," says
Prof Buainain.

It has been a long journey for the landless movement, which over the
years has taken its protests to the capital, Brasilia, many times.

The MST says the economic crisis will reinforce the need to promote
agrarian reform - and it is clear the road ahead will be difficult
and uncertain.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

[biofuelwatch] WORLD SOCIAL FORUM: "Wake Up, World!" - SOS from the Amazon



http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=45575
By Mario Osava

BELÉM, Brazil, Jan 27 (IPS) - A human banner made up of more than
1,000 people, seen and photographed from the air, sent the message
"SOS Amazon" to the world, in the first action taken by indigenous
people hours before the opening in northern Brazil on Tuesday of the
2009 World Social Forum (WSF).

The mass message reflects "our concern about global warming, whose
impact we will be the first to feel, although we, the peoples of the
Amazon, have protected and cared for the forests," Francisco Avelino
Batista, an Apurinán Indian from the Purus river valley in the
Brazilian Amazon, told IPS.

"We are raising our voices as a wake-up call to the world, especially
the rich countries that are hastening its destruction," said Edmundo
Omoré, a member of the Xavante indigenous community from the
west-central state of Mato Grosso on the border between the Amazon
region and the Cerrado, a vast savannah region in the centre of the
country.

Both men belong to the Coordinating Committee of Indigenous
Organisations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), which joined the
Quito-based Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organisations of the
Amazon Basin (COICA) to create their "message from the heart of the
Amazon."

Nearly 1,300 indigenous people from about 50 countries, although
mainly from Brazil, plan to raise the issues of their rights as
original peoples and environmental preservation at this year's edition
of the WSF, which runs through Sunday in Belém, a city of 1.4 million
people and the northeastern gateway to the Amazon.

Indigenous people have participated in the WSF in previous years, but
this time a much larger presence was sought. The aim was for 2,000 to
take part, but transport costs and financial difficulties prevented
many participants from coming from other countries and from remote
areas within Brazil itself.

In addition to indigenous groups, original peoples at the WSF include
Quilombolas (members of communities of Afro-Brazilian descendants of
escaped slaves) and other native peoples.

The key location chosen for the WSF, and the various global crises
that are occurring, have created "a special moment" for original
peoples to take a leading role, according to Roberto Espinoza, an
adviser to the Andean Coordination of Indigenous Organisations (CAOI).

"A crisis of civilisation" is under way, said Espinoza, who described
the serious economic, energy and food problems, as well as climate
change, as part of the same phenomenon.

In this situation, indigenous people should have political
participation as of right, not "as folklore or as a merely cultural
contribution," Espinoza, one of the coordinators of the indigenous
peoples' presence at the WSF, told IPS.

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, approved by the
United Nations General Assembly, is of paramount importance here, he
said. It should not be seen as a "utopian" document; rather, its
provisions should be binding, like those of the International Labour
Organisation's Convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples.

Espinoza said he hoped this WSF would produce an agreement for global
demonstrations similar to those held in 2003 against the United
States' invasion of Iraq.

This time around, the goal would be to mobilise "in defence of Mother
Earth and against the commercialisation of life," added to specific
causes championed by each nation, such as the fight against
hydroelectric power stations in Brazil that flood vast areas of Amazon
rainforest and displace riverbank dwellers, he said.

The voices of indigenous people are bound to have a greater impact on
environmental matters when "the risk of catastrophic climate change in
the near future and disputes over natural resources are threatening
the survival not only of indigenous peoples, but of humanity itself,"
Espinoza said.

Indigenous and environmental issues will be even more visible on
Wednesday, which is to be dedicated entirely to the Amazon region in
an attempt to revitalise the PanAmazon Social Forum, inactive since 2005.

Launching a campaign led by the peoples of the Amazon, who "want a
society that values them and understands the value that the land has
for them," is a proposal for discussion at the WSF, according to
Miquelina Machado, a COIAB leader belonging to the Tukano ethnic group.

This is necessary for "a greater balance with nature," at a time when
Brazil's plans for economic growth and the physical integration of
South America are fuelling projects which have "strong negative
impacts on the Amazon and Andean regions," she told IPS.

"The hydroelectric dams flood the land and destroy biodiversity," she
said, while lamenting the fact that attempts to block the building of
highways, that cause immense deforestation, have been frustrated in
the courts, "which have more power."

The presence at the WSF of presidents of Amazon region countries like
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and Hugo
Chávez of Venezuela, as well as Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo,
should increase the impact of the event, hopefully benefiting the
peoples of the Amazon, Machado concluded.

Indigenous peoples' voices should be heard, because "we are the ones
who were born and raised in the middle of the forest, and who lead a
lifestyle that contrasts with the ambition of capitalism, which does
not bring benefits to all," said Omoré.

Furthermore, "we are the first to suffer the effects" of climate
change. Rich people can cool themselves down with air conditioners and
buy food in supermarkets, but "we depend on the fish in the river and
the animals in the forest, so we are concerned about the future that
belongs to everyone," added Batista. (END/2009)


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[biofuelwatch] More coverage of £27m BBSRC 2nd gen. project; press releases



1.  BBC News regional coverage:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/tayside_and_central/7853329.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/mid/7852906.stm
 
 
2.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jan/27/biofuels-second-generation
 

Pier-munching gribble may provide breakthrough for biofuels

Wood-boring crustacean uses enzymes in its gut which could be used to create biofuels from willow and straw, say scientists

Limnoria quadripunctata

Limnoria quadripunctata, otherwise known as the gribble. Photograph: Auguste Le Roux

A wood-boring crustacean that spends much of its time munching through the wooden supports that hold up piers could help provide the next breakthrough in green energy. The gribble uses enzymes in its gut to break down wood and scientists want to employ it to produce climate-friendly biofuels from natural products such as willow and straw.
The work will form part of a £27m project to make second-generation biofuels a commercial reality within 10 years. The new biofuels would not lead to a net release of carbon dioxide but also won't compete with land for edible crops. The money will come from the government-backed Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and a coalition of 15 industrial partners including BP and Ceres.
The cash is aimed at funding research to use plants more efficiently as fuel. The cell walls of plants are made of a complex sugar called cellulose, which is usually mixed with a polymer called lignin. Second-generation biofuels are made by breaking down the cellulose and fermenting it to produce fuels such as ethanol or butanol.
One of the major challenges for biologists is to find chemical enzymes that can efficiently break down cell walls which contain cellulose and lignin. The gribble, a tiny shrimp-like crustacean, seems particularly good at this task. "It's single-handedly responsible for gnawing away at several piers on our south coast and, within its intestinal tract, are enzymes that can unlock some of the polymers [in wood-based materials]," said Professor Katherine Smart, a plant scientist at University of Nottingham and one of the leaders of the project.
First generation biofuels are made from crops that store sugars and starches in their grains. "This has two main problems – it diverts away from the food chain but also it's very energy intensive to grow the crops," said Dr Angela Karp of Rothamsted Research. "You have to grow them every year and it requires a lot of nitrogen fertilisers to grow those grains."
Instead, the BBSRC money will be concentrated on waste materials from normal food crops – wheat straw, spent grain – and also plants that are not grown for food production but still produce a large amount of biomass quickly, such as willows and grasses.
Karp said: "When you look at the overall energy balance of getting energy out of this kind of second-generation system, the gains in terms of energy and reductions in terms of greenhouse gases you can achieve and the waste of food crops far exceed the biofuels you can get from maize."
Smart said there was much to be done in improving the efficiency in extracting a plant's cellulose and then converting it into alcohol. "At the moment we can produce 19g of ethanol from 100g of straw. Based on the current amount of straw not used currently that means we have between 8-10bn tonnes of straw available in the UK for this kind of conversion. That could produce about a 10% of current use of petrol."
Karp said the research would additionally focus on finding ways to grow these plants on the marginal land – Karp said there were at least 3m hectares in the UK that could be turned over for this purpose – and also in selecting varieties that grew the most biomass in the quickest time.
The government's target is to source 10% of UK's energy needs from biofuels by 2010, part of an ambition to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Announcing the money at a briefing today, the government's science minister Paul Drayson, who races cars powered by second generation biofuels, said: "Investment in science and innovation are going to be what gets us out of the global economic downturn. This £27m investment represents a real example of where research has the potential to address one of the biggest challenges of our time, climate change, but also an area where the UK has real strength."
 
 
3.  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article5600646.ece
 
From
January 28, 2009

Wood-boring marine bug the four-spotted gribble aids biofuel research

A marine bug that eats boat bottoms and pier supports has been identified as the likely key to improving the efficiency of biofuel production.
Four-spotted gribbles are able to break down cellulose in wood to make sugar. Scientists are convinced that by mimicking the process they will be able to produce better biofuel.
Research is under way to pinpoint the enzymes produced in the bug's stomach, and the genes that control them, so that the process can be applied to woody biofuel crops such as willow.
The investigation is being carried out as part of research by the Sustainable Bioenergy Centre, a £27million initiative announced yesterday that is the biggest public investment in bioenergy research.
Getting at and breaking down the cellulose in woody plant material, such as wheat husks, straw and miscanthus grass, is a difficult task for biofuel producers. At present they lose more than 30 per cent of the potential energy and are anxious to identify how it is achieved in the natural world by organisms such as gribbles, termites, bacteria and fungi.
Gribbles, which live in pairs in holes bored into wood, were identified as ideal subjects for study because while many other creatures digest wood, such as shipworms, they are the only ones which have guts devoid of microbes.
The absence of microbes is expected to make the hunt for the enzymes and genes easier because the digestive system should be easier to understand.
Professor Simon McQueen-Mason, of the University of York, said of the gribble: "It's an isopod — it's like a marine woodlouse. It's a few millimetres long and bores into wood. The reason we focus on the gribble is that it is very unusual in that it has a sterile digestive tract.
"The gut is like a reactor with wood. We can go straight to the gribble itself and isolate the genes and enzymes that are involved in that wood degredation."
The four-spotted gribble, Limnoria quadripunctata, is one of four species of gribble native to British waters, and is found mainly on the South Coast. More than 50 species are found worldwide.
Four-spotted gribbles are known to have caused damage to Yarmouth Pier in the Isle of Wight and to underwater wooden structures at Portsmouth Harbour, where it is collected for research.
Professor McQueen-Mason said that before becoming a scientist he was a fisherman in the Isle of Wight, where he had to clean the bottoms of wooden boats and became aware of the wood-boring abilities of the creature.
The study is being carried out on behalf of the Sustainable Bioenergy Centre, which was set up by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The role of the centre, which will have bases at several universities, is to improve biofuel production so that dependence on fossil fuels can be reduced.
Second-generation biofuel crops include willow and other woody vegetation that is more difficult to break down into sugars and then to into ethanol than the first-generation crops.
Unlike first-generation biofuel crops, they can be grown without competing against food crops because they can thrive on marginal land. They can also include unwanted agricultural materials such as waste straw and husks.
Lord Drayson, the Science and Innovation Minister, said in London that the centre should play a significant role in helping Britain to reduce its fossil fuel consumption.
Professor Douglas Kell, the BBSRC chief executive, said of the creation of the research centre: "This is a huge breakthrough for second-generation biofuels. It's the way forward — one day our cars could be run by fuel obtained from straw."
 
 
4.  http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/how-the-gribble-can-power-our-cars-1517838.html
 

How the gribble can power our cars


By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Wednesday, 28 January 2009

It sounds like a fantasy character created by Roald Dahl, or played by Jim Carrey – the gribble. But in fact it's a small marine creature resembling a woodlouse, and it may provide the key to a major breakthrough for biofuels in Britain.

For the gribble bores into the planks of boats and the pillars of piers and eats them, and its wood-consuming technique may be adapted by scientists to turn wood into sustainable motor fuel on a vast scale.
The gribble, or to be precise, the four-spot gribble, Limnoria quadripunctata, is one of the key elements in Britain's biggest-ever publicly-funded bioenergy research programme, announced yesterday. A total of £27m is to be spent over five years in creating so-called "second generation" biofuels, which are much more efficient and environmentally friendly than present biofuels, which are largely manufactured from food crops such as maize, wheat or sugar cane.
The second-generation compounds will be derived from non-food plant material, principally plant waste such as straw and wood, with willow being especially favoured. And if they can isolate the enzymes the gribble uses to extract the nutritious sugars from wood (from which biofuels such as ethanol can be made) scientists may be able to make the process much more efficient.
Simon McQueen-Mason, professor of materials biology at the University of York, who came across the gribble when he was a professional fisherman on the Isle of Wight for six years before beginning his academic career. "I used to clean the bottom of other people's boats, and gribble was a major problem," he said. Now his laboratory will investigate gribbles collected from rotting wood by staff from the University of Portsmouth, identifying their enzymes and trying to reproduce them synthetically.
Success is likely to mean an enormous expansion of willow as a biofuel crop in Britain, on some of the three million acres of lesser quality or marginal farmland countrywide, which would go a long way to meeting Britain's targets of drawing 5 per cent of motor fuel from biological sources by 2010 and 10 per cent by 2020.
 
 
5.  http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-01/babs-bep012709.php
 
Public release date: 27-Jan-2009
[ Print Article | E-mail Article | Close Window ]

Contact: Nancy Mendoza
press.office@bbsrc.ac.uk
01-793-413-355
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

Biggest ever public investment in bioenergy to help provide clean, green and sustainable fuels

The biggest ever single UK public investment in bioenergy research has been announced today (27 January) by the main funding agency for the biosciences – the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
The £27M BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre has been launched to provide the science to underpin and develop the important and emerging UK sustainable bioenergy sector – and to replace the petrol in our cars with fuels derived from plants.
Sustainable bioenergy offers the potential to provide a significant source of clean, low carbon and secure energy, and to generate thousands of new 'green collar' jobs. It uses non-food crops, such as willow, industrial and agricultural waste products and inedible parts of crops, such as straw, and so does not take products out of the food chain.
Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, said: "Investing £27 million in this new centre involves the single biggest UK public investment in bioenergy research. The centre is exactly the sort of initiative this country needs to lead the way in transforming the exciting potential of sustainable biofuels into a widespread technology that can replace fossil fuels.
"The centre is a great example of the UK investing in innovative areas which have the benefits of creating new green collar jobs as well as helping us to meet the global challenges of climate change and reducing carbon emissions."
The BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre is focussed on six research hubs of academic and industrial partners, based at each of the Universities of Cambridge, Dundee and York and Rothamsted Research and two at the University of Nottingham. Another 7 universities and institutes are involved and 15 industrial partners across the hubs are contributing around £7M of the funding.
The Centre's research activities will encompass many different stages of bioenergy production, from widening the range of materials that can be the starting point for bioenergy to improving the crops used by making them grow more efficiently to changing plant cell walls. The Centre will also analyse the complete economic and environmental life cycle of potential sources of bioenergy.
This means the researchers will be working to make sustainable bioenergy a practical solution by improving not only the yield and quality of non-food biomass and the processes used to convert this into biofuels but ensuring that the whole system is economically and socially viable.
BBSRC Chief Executive, Prof Douglas Kell, said: "The UK has a world leading research base in plant and microbial science. The BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre draws together some of these world beating scientists in order to help develop technology and understanding to support the sustainable bioenergy sector. The Centre is taking a holistic systems-level approach, examining all the relevant areas of science needed for sustainable bioenergy and studying the economic and social impact of the bioenergy process.
"By working closely with industrial partners the Centre's scientists will be able to quickly translate their progress into practical solutions to all our benefit – and ultimately, by supporting the sustainable bioenergy sector, help to create thousands of new 'green collar' jobs in the UK."
###


If covering this story please include a link to the Centre's website – http://www.bsbec.bbsrc.ac.uk
VIDEO FOOTAGE AVAILABLE ON REQUEST AND DOWNLOAD
- Video introducing BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre
- Interview footage of Centre scientists
- Footage of laboratory and energy crop fields
- B-roll available to courier of energy crop fields, harvesting, moving vehicles, Centre laboratories.
IMAGES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST AND DOWNLOAD
- Laboratories, energy crop fields, bioenergy images, microscope images of plant structures, plants, marine wood borers and fermentation systems.
DOWNLOAD RESOURCES FROM: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/media/releases/2009/090127_public_investment_bioenergy.html
CONTACTS
BBSRC External Relations
Matt Goode, Mobile: 07766 423 372, Tel: 01793 413299, email: matt.goode@bbsrc.ac.uk
Nancy Mendoza, Tel: 01793 413355, email: nancy.mendoza@bbsrc.ac.uk
Notes to Editors
The BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre (BSBEC) is an innovative £27M academic-industry partnership that will help to deliver the science to underpin development in this important and emerging sector. The funding of the Centre has been guided in part by the recommendations of a review of BBSRC's bioenergy research portfolio published in 2006. The review was chaired by then Council member, Prof Douglas Kell.
The new centre is based around six research hubs of academic and industrial partners.
BSBEC provides a focus for ensuring sustainability, widening the range of materials that can be used as feedstock (raw materials) for bioenergy, changing plant cell walls, making them more amenable to breakdown and optimising fermentation to release energy
BSBEC is made up of six hubs or programmes.
BSBEC Cell Wall Lignin Programme – Improving barley straw for lignin production and transferring the new knowledge to other crops. Lignin is a polymer in plants that makes it difficult to access sugars for bioenergy production. The programme aims to alter lignin properties in barley to make it easier to produce bioenergy without reducing the quality of the crop.

University of Dundee with associated programme members: University of York, SCRI and RERAD.
BSBEC Cell Wall Sugars Programme – developing strategies to improve plants and enzymes for increased sugar release from biomass. The programme aims to better understand how sugars are locked into plant cell walls. By doing this we can select the right plants and the right enzymes to release the maximum amount of sugars for conversion to biofuels.

University of Cambridge with associated programme members: Newcastle University, Shell and Novozymes.
BSBEC Lignocellulosic Conversion to Bioethanol (LACE) Programme – using agricultural and wood-industry wastes to create biofuels. The programme is aiming to optimise the release of sugars from plant cell walls to produce a fermentable material to produce fuels. It will also work on microbes to efficiently turn the material into fuel.

University of Nottingham with associated programme members: University of Bath, University of Surrey, BP, Bioethanol Ltd, Briggs of Burton, British Sugar, Coors Brewers, DSM, Ethanol Technology, HGCA, Pursuit Dynamics, SABMiller and Scottish Whisky Research Institute.
BSBEC Marine Wood Borer Enzyme Discovery Programme – New enzymes for the conversion of non-food plant biomass into biofuels from marine wood borers. Wood and straw contain polysaccharides that if converted to simple sugars could be fermented into biofuels. At the moment we do not have suitable enzymes to break down these woody materials. However, marine wood borers consume huge amounts of woody material and their guts have all the enzymes needed to break it down. The programme aims to exploit this.

University of York with associated programme members: University of Portsmouth and Syngenta Biomass Traits Group.
BSBEC Perennial Bioenergy Crops Programme – optimising biomass yield and composition for sustainable biofuels. The programme aims to improve yields of fast growing trees and grasses and to make more of the plants' carbon available for conversion into biofuels and to do this without increasing inputs such as fertilizers.
Rothamsted Research with associated programme members: Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), Imperial College London, University of Cambridge, Ceres and BP.
BSBEC Second Generation Sustainable, Bacterial Biofuels Programme – optimising production of the more effective second generation biofuel biobutanol from non-food biomass. Biobutanol is a superior biofuel to ethanol but currently available microbes used in biobutanol production processes are inefficient, produce unwanted by-products and cannot use plant cell walls directly as a feed material. The programme aims to generate and test new bacterial strains to overcome this.

University of Nottingham with associated programme members: Newcastle University and TMO Renewables.
About BBSRC
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £420 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.
The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.
For more information see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk
VIDEO FOOTAGE, IMAGES AND INFORMATION PACK AVAILABLE – SEE http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/media
 
 
6.  http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-01/uon-tfo012709.php
 
Public release date: 27-Jan-2009
[ Print Article | E-mail Article | Close Window ]

Contact: Professor Katherine Smart
katherine.smart@nottingham.ac.uk
44-011-595-16214
University of Nottingham

Transportation fuels of the future: Nottingham leads the way

Fruit and veg may be good for you but in 10 years time we could be replacing fossil fuels and helping to save our planet by using the inedible bits that we throw away to run our cars, boats and planes.
The University of Nottingham is to lead the way in the development of sustainable bioenergy fuels — Ethanol and Butanol. These sustainable bioenergy fuels use non-food crops, such as willow, industrial and agricultural waste products and inedible parts of crops, such as straw, so do not take products out of the food chain.
The University of Nottingham is leading two of six research projects being run by the national £27m BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre which was announced in London today — January 27 2009. This will be the biggest ever single UK public investment in bioenergy research. The centre has been funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
Experts in microbiology and brewing science at The University of Nottingham will be leading the two five-year research programmes.
Katherine Smart, Professor of Brewing Science in the School of Biosciences, and a world leading fermentation scientist, will lead a team of researchers hoping to develop yeast capable of breaking down plant cell walls. Scientists will then be able to break down the inedible and unusable parts of plants such as the skin and stalks to produce ethanol. They will be collaborating with University of Bath, University of Surrey, BP, Bioethanol Ltd, Briggs of Burton, British Sugar, Coors Brewers, DSM, Ethanol Technology, HGCA, Pursuit Dynamics, SABMiller and Scottish Whisky Research Institute.
Professor Katherine Smart said: "The government is committed to producing replacement transport fuels. We can already buy petrol with five per cent ethanol in it but this is imported and it is important that Britain has strong energy security. Our fuel will be produced through materials which currently end up in landfill or simply go to waste. The challenge is to break down the toughest part of the plant, unlock the sugars, and by developing the very best yeast find an extremely efficient way of converting these sugars into ethanol."
The green tops of carrots, straw that is currently ploughed back into the ground, wood shavings, the husks from barley grains, even the stalks from grapes can be used to produce ethanol.
The bacteria that produce butanol belong to an ancient group of bacteria called Clostridium.
Nigel Minton, a professor of Applied Molecular Microbiology, and a world expert in the genetic modification of Clostridium bacteria, will be developing a process for the large scale production of butanol by developing microbes capable of converting plant waste into this biofuel.
Butanol has significant advantages over ethanol. It has a higher energy content, is easier to transport, can be blended with petrol at much higher concentrations and even has potential for use as an aviation fuel
Professor Minton said: "We really are focussed on the holy grail of biofuel research — developing bacteria that are able to convert non-food, plant cell wall material into a superior petrol replacement, butanol. If you had asked me a couple of years ago, I would have said it was not possible. However, my team have now developed some world beating technologies which will allow us to generate the Clostridium strains required."
The research will be carried out in collaboration with Newcastle University and TMO Renewables Ltd.
Researchers from across the scientific spectrum — chemists, engineers, microbiologists, mathematicians and fermentation scientists — will be involved in the two research programmes.
Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, said: "Investing £27 million in this new centre involves the single biggest UK public investment in bioenergy research. The centre is exactly the sort of initiative this country needs to lead the way in transforming the exciting potential of sustainable biofuels into a widespread technology that can replace fossil fuels.
"The expertise and resources of The University of Nottingham makes it well placed to make a valuable contribution to the new BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre and help to make sustainable, environmentally-friendly bioenergy a reality."
The £27m BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre has been launched to provide the science to underpin and develop the important and emerging UK sustainable bioenergy sector.
The BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre is focussed on six research hubs of academic and industrial partners, based at each of the Universities of Cambridge, Dundee and York and Rothamsted Research and two at The University of Nottingham. Another seven universities and institutes are involved and 15 industrial partners across the hubs are contributing around £7m of the funding.
The Centre's research activities will encompass many different stages of bioenergy production, from widening the range of materials that can be the starting point for bioenergy to improving the crops used by making them grow more efficiently to changing plant cell walls. The Centre will also analyse the complete economic and environmental life cycle of potential sources of bioenergy.
Currently the fuels we use to provide electricity or to run cars and other vehicles is derived from coal, oil and gas. Their use is a major contributor to global warming through the production of carbon dioxide. And it is projected that in 50 years time these fossil fuels will be exhausted. So the search is on to find more environmentally friendly and renewable systems for producing liquid fuels to run cars and other vehicles.
###


Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent'. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named 'Entrepreneurial University of the Year' at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
The BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre (BSBEC) is an innovative £27m academic-industry partnership that will help to deliver the science to underpin development in this important and emerging sector. The new centre is based around six research hubs of academic and industrial partners. BSBEC provides a focus for ensuring sustainability, widening the range of materials that can be used as feedstock (raw materials) for bioenergy, changing plant cell walls, making them more amenable to breakdown and optimising fermentation to release energy. BSBEC is made up of six hubs or programmes. For more information go to — www.bsbec.bbsrc.ac.uk
Story Credits

More information is available from Professor Katherine Smart on +44 (0)115 951 6214, katherine.smart@nottingham.ac.uk; or Professor Nigel Minton on +44 (0) 115 846 7458, nigel.minton@nottingham.ac.uk; or Matt Goode, BBSRC External Relations on 07766 423 372 or +44 (0)1793 413299, matt.goode@bbsrc.ac.uk;
 
[Ends]
 
 


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[biofuelwatch] Chad charcoal ban enflames public



http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7853250.stm
 
Page last updated at 16:29 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Chad charcoal ban enflames public

People cooking in Chad

By Celeste Hicks
BBC News, N'Djamena

A ban on the use of charcoal in Chad is making life hard for people already struggling with high food prices.

Families are being forced to burn furniture, cow dung, rubbish and roots of plants in order to cook.

Since the clampdown was announced - officially in order to help the environment - charcoal has become almost impossible to find.

"I'm using wild products which I've harvested, such as palm fruits," said Nangali Helene, who lives in the capital N'Djamena.

We understand the need to protect the environment but we find it bizarre that the measures are so brutal and so sudden
Marie Larlem
Human rights activist

"But they make us ill - they don't burn properly and they give off a horrid smoke and smell. Last night we started burning the beams from the roof of our outhouse."

The price of a small bundle of dead wood has shot up from a few hundred CFA francs to 5,000F CFA ($12; £8).

Feelings are running high in the city, with the main opposition coalition organising a peaceful mass action over the next few days.

Desertification threat

"We want people to bang on their empty cooking pots every morning to show solidarity for one another," said Saleh Kebzabo, from the Coalition of Parties for the Defence of the Constitution.

For the moment, street demonstrations are out of the question - a planned rally by women was called off last week when they were denied permission.

One of about 20 burnt out charcoal vans  on the road just outside Chad's capital
The government denies blame for the torching of trucks carrying charcoal

Women who did show up claimed they were intimidated by a heavy police presence.

The government says the ban is to deal with an "extraordinary" threat of desertification in Chad, which straddles the Sahel, the semi-arid region bordering the Sahara.

At the forefront of climate change, the environment ministry says more than 60% of Chad's natural tree cover has been lost due to indiscriminate cutting of trees for charcoal.

"Chadians must be aware of this problem," said Environment Minister Ali Souleiman Dabye.

"If we don't do something soon, we will wake up one day and there will be no trees. Then what will people burn?"

Unrealistic

But although many people say they understand the need to protect the environment, it is the speed with which the ban has come into effect that has caused such anger.

Late last year, police began seizing trucks carrying charcoal, saying they were illegal.

The doum fruit people are using to cook
People have resorted to burning wild fruit for their cooking
Several trucks and their contents were set on fire on the outskirts of N'Djamena, but the government denies responsibility for the destruction.

Within weeks prices rocketed and then charcoal disappeared from the market.

The alternatives proposed by the government may seem unrealistic to the average Chadian.

"It's only in the last 10 years that Chadians have become reliant on charcoal, they can soon learn to adapt to something else," said the environment minister, keenly expounding the virtues of gas.

But 95% of people do not have gas appliances, and even those that do have to travel to Cameroon to find canisters.

Rumours abound in the local media of women setting themselves on fire because they do not know how to use gas properly.

A deal recently signed between the government and a Nigerian businessman to start cooking gas deliveries is too little too late for Marie Larlem, co-ordinator of the Chadian Association for the Promotion of Fundamental Liberty.

"We understand the need to protect the environment but we find it bizarre that the measures are so brutal and so sudden - no-one was given any warning.

"Why didn't they do this earlier? Our people have been through enough".

Chad's government says there are no plans to relax the ban.

[Ends]
 
 


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[biofuelwatch] Food versus jatropha: A Case for Small Scale Farmers in Kenya



http://www.regenwald.org/international/englisch/news.php?id=1111

23.11.2008

A Case for Small Scale Farmers in Kenya

MWAURA NDERITU
NECOFA – KENYA

Marginal lands

Defined as areas that receive low rainfall and are problematic sites
in terms of soil erosion because the little rainfall they receive
comes in heavy down pour. These regions have very fragile ecosystems.
Since they are fragile, these areas are subject to environment stress
of deforestation, prolonged draughts, decreasing soil and ground
water.

However the term marginal does not mean that these lands are
uninhabited or waste. They support very large human and animal
population. Most of Kenya falls under this category e.g. North Rift
districts of Turkana, Samburu, Mararal, Kapenguria, North Eastern
provinces, the upper Eastern province and South Rift.

The myth the west uses is that marginal lands are waste lands, this
can never be further from the truth. These areas also have food crops
that are adopted to these regions. However poor Agricultural
practices based on monocultures have introduced food crops that are
not site adopted in these areas e.g. the growth of maize varieties
that are not adapted to these regions increasing food insecurity and
leading to food aid dependency. To reclaim marginal lands "Scientific
Interventions" have been introduced, of such intervention is the
introduction of prosopis juliflora, locally known as Mathenge a weed
introduced in the 1970's in Baringo district, the home of minority
Illchamus community.

The Illchamus community occupies 2 divisions of Marigat and Lokutan.
These communities have gone to court and the court ruled that the
government be held liable for the loss visited on the community and
the environment.

The prosopis juliflora – a weed, was introduced to curb soil erosion,
based on the fact that it was draught resistant, hardy, establishes
easily because it grows relatively quickly. These were the only
factor considered then. The plant now occupies half of the
communities land and were it not for their efforts to try and fight
the plant, they would have no land by now. The weed is very invasive,
with seeds that are prolific in production, long life and high
germination rate. Seeds are dispersed by wind, the plant has a rapid
maturation to seed producing stage and strong vegetative growth all
signs of a nightmare for other plants.

The mathenge plant is a big danger to the people of Marigat and
Lokitan. The plant is toxic. If one is injured say by being pricked
by a thorn or piece of this plant the wound formed do not heal for a
long time. As is the case that went to court a goat was shown to have
been rendered partially toothless by the plant. The weed has maimed
people and livestock, the thorns cause paralysis of the limbs leading
to amputation. According to one resident Mr. Charles Nabori, the weed
was introduced by officials from the food and Agricultural
Organization (FAO) and the forestry department when he served in the
area as a chief. He told the court that he has shifted from his home
after it was invaded by the weed. Has the government learnt from this
lesson? The answer is no. Listen to jatropha case in Kenya.

JATROPHA
Myth – "Jatropha Curcus does very well in areas of low rainfall
and `problematic sites' because it is easy to establish, grows
relatively quickly, is hardy and draught resistant.
It can be used to reclaim eroded areas. It can be grown as a boundary
fence or live hedge in arid and semi arid areas."

What a nice argument obtained after a workshop sponsored by the
Rockfeller foundation and the Scientific and Industrial research
development center – Zimbambwe. This argument could have been the
same in the 1970's for prosopis juliflora. Now being replayed 20
years later, same argument, same people, different plant,
the "Margical jatropha Curcas." Hear this – jatropha is not browsed,
the leaves and stem are toxic to animals, but the cake
after "treatment" can be used as animals feed talk of sugar coated
poison.

Origin of jatropha in Kenya. I may not have the exact dates but
jatropha was introduced from central America by various players such
as the Green Africa foundations – founded by funds from Prince Albert
II De Manaco, Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology
through Help Self – Help Center based in Narumoro near Nanyuki town
currently producing 600-1000 liters of biodiesel per day funded by
the Japanese government.

Jatropha current position in Kenya
Through the Green Africa foundation, small scale farmers in the
Southern part of Eastern province i.e. Kitui, Mwingi, Makueni, Kutus
etc are being lured into contractual growing of jatropha, the myth is:

(1) A farmer can grow own diesel, decentralizing the energy source.
This will be a major boost for economic growth.
(2) One jatropha plant can produce 1 liter per year for 40 years.
(3) 90% of the work can be performed by the women therefore directly
helping their revenue earning potential
(4) Jatropha is a draught resistant crop that grows on "bad soils"
(call them marginal). More over it creates top soil and therefore
helps make land arable (reclaiming the "waste lands")
A rosy picture indeed but unfortunately what is actually happening
does not support this optimistic views with jatropha in Kenya.
Jatropha raises serious concerns about environment, food and social
impact.

(i) Countries like Western Australia banned its growth due to its
being toxic to animals and human beings – has this information been
made available to the farmers in Kenya? Definitely No.

(ii) The plant has the capacity to become a hard – to control.
Invasive weed just like mathenge (prosopis juliflora)

(iii) Myths – farmers can grow jatropha in dry areas without
irrigation and on poor soil. Technically this is true however the
yield will be so low under this condition and therefore non tenable.
Studies in India show that without irrigation, average yield in 5
years is 1.1 to 2.75 tons per hectare compared to5.25 to 12.1 ton per
hectare with irrigation.

Therefore, it seems that instead of being grown in the said marginal
areas' Jatropha in Kenya for production of agro fuels will compete
directly with production of food on the most fertile, irrigated land.
What a disaster on food production which is already experiencing
problems.

(iv) Who will grow jatropha in Kenya?
Proponents say the crop is ideal for small – scale farmers
In practice, the small scale farmers are being pushed aside for
corporate controlled production, either on large scale production
(monocultures)controlled by multi national or through stringent
contract agreement production where small scale farmers are USED.

The Minster for Agriculture – Hon Ruto in october announces that
500,000 acres of land will be set aside for cultivations of jatropha
the question that begs is. Who will give this land, will it be curved
from the existing forests? My wild guess is that this project could
have been behind the ethnic cleansing in some parts of Kenya to
create room for this multinational. Let us wait and see.

Like in most parts of the world jatropha has been converted into
another plantation based Agri-business commodity tightly controlled
from seed to fuel production by multinational corporation most of
them in the existing petroleum industry. E.g.

1. British petroleum – plans to establish
100,000 hectares in Indonesia
2. Van der Host – in Singapore is Building a 200,000 – type bio
diesel plant in Juran Islands
3. Mission Biofuels – Australia – hired Agro Diesel of India to
manage 10,000 hectares in India and Malaysia
4. DOl oil – in Philippines
5. NRG Chemicals in UK – Owns 70% state
In a joint venture in state owned Philippians' national oil company.
6. in Kenya Xenerga Inc a USA Based company and EUROFUEL – Technology
a German based company. are companies behind the plantations in Kenya.

From the above data, who in fooling who; is the small scale farmer
anywhere in the picture, are plantations being established in the
desert or semi-desert? Your guess is as good as mine.

Other statistic show that

1. DO1 has plantation in Ghana, Zambia, South Africa and Swaziland in
Africa or are using farmers to grow Jatropha for them through
contrast growing agreement managed by DO1's local partners such as
Williamsons major Group. in Kenya the system is used through Green
power East Africa, who are constructing a Biodiesel plant in Nairobi,
the Green Africa foundation is coordinating the plantation efforts on
Biwakos behalf – a Japanese firm. Under the Green Africa foundation
they claim to have planted over 500,000 seedling this season is
Eastern Rift valley, Coast and Nyanza provinces

2. Kenya Biodiesel Association (whose membership is questionable) was
formed to promote Jatrapha in Kenya as an outcome of the 2008
National Bio conference in Nairobi – Funded by who? Japans BIWAKO –
Bio laboratory. And will invest US Dollars 19.4 million in a Jatropha
biodisel facility and plantation in an undisclosed location in Kenya
(we will soon find out).

This is just the tip of the iceberg a monster; in fact what others
would call a vampire is in the making.

Bio diesel is being taunted as ALTERNATIVE fuels, how can they be
alternative while those in control are also the major players in the
petroleum Business?
These are sweet words to hood wink the people while they are slowly
being led down the slaughter house.

How the growths of Biofuels can improves the economic status of the
women and people who grow them? How will this improve their food
security? If – to quote a farmer Paul Maina (Daily Nation 2nd October
2008) "The alternative fuel has seen farmers in Narumoru abandoning
what they normally cultivate to turn to the new crop" – is this the
way to enhance food security? is it formed by research and good will
of the people?

Similar "green revolutions" have been tried in Africa in the
past .e.g. in the 1970s Kenya farmers were encourage to grow Coffee &
tea for export to improve their economics status ,this resulted in
food scarcity, and high food prices that have remained so. After the
world tea and coffee market crumbled. The farmers today feel cheated
but this was deliberately designed to be so. They grow the crops for
cartels whose main objectives revolve around profits and more
profits. Jatropha is the curse. Some thing has to be done to stop it

Way forward
The people – small scale farmers must know the myth and the truth.
Their economic empowerment is paramount otherwise they will easily
choose the wrong route – contractual agreements with the monster for
a quick and short term gain.

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