Thursday, April 30, 2009

biofuelwatch - NASA study on Asian fires; The Independent feature on palm oil




Quote from article 1.: "Peat material in Borneo, for example, stores the equivalent of about nine years worth of global fossil fuel emissions."


1. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-04/nsfc-nss043009.php

Public release date: 30-Apr-2009


Contact: Sarah DeWitt
sarah.l.dewitt@nasa.gov
301-286-0535
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA study says climate adds fuel to Asian wildfire emissions

In the last decade, Asian farmers have cleared tens of thousands of square miles of forests to accommodate the world's growing demand for palm oil, an increasingly popular food ingredient. Ancient peatlands have been drained and lush tropical forests have been cut down. As a result, the landscape of equatorial Asia now lies vulnerable to fires, which are growing more frequent and having a serious impact on the air as well as the land.

A team of NASA-sponsored researchers have used satellites to make the first series of estimates of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from these fires -- both wildfires and fires started by people -- in Malaysia, Indonesia, Borneo, and Papua New Guinea. They are now working to understand how climate influences the spread and intensity of the fires.

Using data from a carbon-detecting NASA satellite and computer models, the researchers found that seasonal fires from 2000 to 2006 doubled the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released from the Earth to the atmosphere above the region. The scientists also observed through satellite remote sensing that fires in regional peatlands and forests burned longer and emitted ten times more carbon when rainfall declined by one third the normal amount. The results were presented in December 2008 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Tropical Asian fires first grabbed the attention of government officials, media, and conservationists in 1997, when fires set to clear land for palm oil and rice plantations burned out of control. The fires turned wild and spread to dry, flammable peatlands during one of the region's driest seasons on record. By the time the flames subsided in early 1998, emissions from the fires had reached 40 percent of the global carbon emissions for the period.

"In this region, decision makers are facing a dichotomy of demands, as expanding commercial crop production is competing with efforts to ease the environmental impact of fires," said Jim Collatz, an Earth scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and a co-author of the study. "The science is telling us that we need strategies to reduce the occurrence of deforestation fires and peatlands wildfires. Without some new strategies, emissions from the region could rise substantially in a drier, warmer future."

Since the 1997 event, the region has been hit by two major dry spells and a steady upswing in fires, threatening biodiversity and air quality and contributing to the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere. As more CO2 is emitted, the global atmosphere traps more heat near Earth's surface, leading to more drying and more fires.

Until recently, scientists knew little about what drives changes in how fires spread and how long they burn. Collatz, along with lead author Guido van der Werf of Vrije University, Amsterdam, and other colleagues sought to estimate the emissions since the devastating 1997-98 fires and to analyze the interplay between the fires and drought.

They used the carbon monoxide detecting Measurements of Pollution in the Troposphere (MOPITT) instrument on NASA's Terra satellite -- as well as 1997-2006 fire data and research computer models -- to screen for and differentiate between carbon emissions from deforestation versus general emissions. Carbon monoxide is a good indicator of the occurrence of fire, and the amounts of carbon monoxide in fire emissions are related to the amount of carbon dioxide. They also compared the emissions from different types of plant life (peat land vs. typical forest) by examining changes in land cover and land use as viewed by Terra's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectradiometer (MODIS) and by Landsat 7.

Collatz explained that two climate phenomena drive regional drought. El Niño's warm waters in the Eastern Pacific change weather patterns around the world every few years and cause cooler water temperatures in the western Pacific near equatorial Asia that suppress the convection necessary for rainfall. Previously, scientists have used measurements from NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission satellite to correlate rainfall with carbon losses and burned land data, finding that wildfire emissions rose during dry El Niño seasons. The Indian Ocean dipole phenomenon affects climate in the Indian Ocean region with oscillating ocean temperatures characterized by warmer waters merging with colder waters to inhibit rainfall over Indonesia, Borneo, and their neighbors.

"This link between drought and emissions should be of concern to all of us," said co-author Ruth DeFries, an ecologist at Columbia University in New York. "If drought becomes more frequent with climate change, we can expect more fires."

Collatz, DeFries, and their colleagues found that between 2000 and 2006, the average carbon dioxide emissions from equatorial Asia accounted for about 2 percent of global fossil fuel emissions and 3 percent of the global increase in atmospheric CO2. But during moderate El Niño years in 2002 and 2006, when dry season rainfall was half of normal, fire emissions rose by a factor of 10. During the severe El Niño of 1997-1998, fire emissions from this region comprised 15 percent of global fossil fuel emissions and 31 percent of the global atmospheric increase over that period.

"This study not only updates our measurements of carbon losses from these fires, but also highlights an increasingly important factor driving change in equatorial Asia," explained DeFries. "In this part of Asia, human-ignited forest and peat fires are emitting excessive carbon into the atmosphere. In climate-sensitive areas like Borneo, human response to drought is a new dynamic affecting feedbacks between climate and the carbon cycle."

In addition to climate influences, human activities contribute to the growing fire emissions. Palm oil is increasingly grown for use as a cooking oil and biofuel, while also replacing trans fats in processed foods. It has become the most widely produced edible oil in the world, and production has swelled in recent years to surpass that of soybean oil. More than 30 million metric tons of palm oil are produced in Malaysia and Indonesia alone, and the two countries now supply more than 85 percent of global demand.

The environmental effects of such growth have been significant. Land has to be cleared to grow the crop, and the preferred method is fire. The clearing often occurs in drained peatlands that are otherwise swampy forests where the remains of past plant life have been submerged for centuries in as much as 60 feet of water. Peat material in Borneo, for example, stores the equivalent of about nine years worth of global fossil fuel emissions.

"Indonesia has become the third largest greenhouse gas emitter after the United States and China, due primarily to these fire emissions," Collatz said. "With an extended dry season, the peat surface dries out, catches fire, and the lack of rainfall can keep the fires going for months."

Besides emitting carbon, the agricultural fires and related wildfires also ravage delicate ecosystems in conservation hotspots like the western Pacific island of Borneo, home to more than 15,000 species of plants, 240 species of trees, and an abundance of endangered animals.

Smoke and other fire emissions also regularly taint regional air quality to such a degree that officials have to close schools and airports out of concern for public health and safety. Peat fires also aggravate air pollution problems in this region because they release four times more carbon monoxide than forest fires. In 1997, air pollution from the fires cost the region an estimated $4.5 billion in tourism and business.
###


http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/asian_fires.html
Written by: Gretchen Cook-Anderson
NASA Earth Science News team


2. http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/leading-articles/leading-article-an-oil-shock-we-cannot-ignore-1677070.html

Leading article: An oil shock we cannot ignore


Friday, 1 May 2009

There is no shortage of ways to measure the cost of palm oil. First there is the catastrophic impact on the wildlife of Malaysia and Indonesia, whose rainforests are being cleared to grow the crop. The habitat of endangered species, from orangutans to Sumatran tigers, is being torn down at a terrifying rate to make room for the fertile oil palms.

Then there is the destruction on the livelihoods of those tribes which have traditionally lived in these ancient forests. Last, but far from least, the forest clearances, to make room for palm oil plantations, are a significant contributor to the dangerous warming of the planet. The destruction of the planet's rainforests is responsible for a fifth of global carbon dioxide emissions. The unsustainable expansion of the palm oil industry might seem like a problem about which we in faraway Britain have no connection. But now an investigation by this newspaper has demonstrated how closely we are involved. The Independent has established that a host of the food products on sale in our supermarkets are made using the cheap vegetable oil.

The seminal 2006 Stern report into the economics of climate change argued that the first policy response of all governments to the threat of rising carbon emissions should be to stop deforestation. Most of the measures proposed to combat change in the West, from carbon capture to electric cars, will prove meaningless if we fail to deal with this fundamental source of carbon emissions. The only hope is for the richer half of the world to transfer resources to countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil to encourage forms of development that do not involve rainforests clearances.

Such a plan will be on the table at the United Nations climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December; another reason that meeting needs to succeed. But it would also help, in the meantime, if those of us in the developed world avoid the food products that are made with palm oil. The destruction wrought by the palm oil industry is no longer a distant problem. Its bitter fruits can be found in our shopping trolleys. We need to send a clear message to the food industry by removing them without delay.

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3. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/victims-of-the-oil-rush-1677096.html

Victims of the oil rush

British consumers are fuelling the rising demand for palm oil, speeding up the destruction of rainforests and killing off orangutans

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Friday, 1 May 2009

Rescued orangutans Peanut and Pickle at the Nyaru Menteng orphanage in Borneo

BBC

Rescued orangutans Peanut and Pickle at the Nyaru Menteng orphanage in Borneo

A cooking oil that is driving the destruction of the rainforests, displacing native people and threatening the survival of the orangutan is present in dozens of Britain's leading grocery brands, an investigation by The Independent has found.

Palm oil – blamed for a tree-felling rampage in south-east Asia – is present or suspected in 43 of 100 best-selling brands in UK, far more than the one in 10 products estimated by Friends of the Earth four years ago.

Palm oil is present in Hovis and Kingsmill bread, the country's best-selling margarine Flora, KitKat and Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bars, as well as Dove soap, Comfort fabric conditioner and Persil washing powder.

The research – the first time palm oil, which is usually labelled as "vegetable oil", has been definitively quantified in British products – comes amid a surge in demand for the world's cheapest cooking oil.

The United Nations Environment Programme believes palm oil is the major driver of deforestation in the vast islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Hundreds of thousands of acres of forest are cleared to make way for plantations from which 90 per cent of wildlife disappear, including the orangutan, which is fighting a losing battle against extinction. Orangutan numbers have dwindled by 90 per cent since 1900, with the rate of loss accelerating in recent decades.

Emissions from the chainsawed peat-rich forests of Indonesia (which owns Sumatra and half of Borneo) are also thought to generate 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

At present only 4 per cent of palm oil production is certified sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (Rspo), meaning that the vast majority of global supply is linked to the forest gold rush. All companies contacted by The Independent said they were talking to suppliers about moving to a sustainable supply.

However most of them – including Cadbury, Kellogg's Nestlé, Mars and Heinz – have set no date for the process. Nestlé said: "Nestlé shares concerns about the serious environmental threat to rainforests in south-east Asia and supports an end to deforestation. Palm oil is not a major raw material and... the company's use of palm oil has been declining somewhat."

Mars said: "We do use palm oil in our chocolate, but only work with suppliers who respect the environment and are committed to working with all stakeholders to make progress towards sustainable production."

WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund, called on manufacturers to start matching rhetoric with reality by buying sustainable oil, which costs between 10 and 35 per cent more than ordinary supplies which are mixed at refineries.

Jan Kees Vis, Rspo chairman, said that manufacturers did not want to pay more for a hidden ingredient. "The volume of certified palm oil traded is disappointingly low so far, the reason for this being that many companies are not prepared to pay a premium for certified oil," he told The Independent.

Originating in West Africa, palm oil has become a £14bn-a-year industry. Some 38 million tonnes are produced annually. Manufacturers use the oil to bind and bulk out chocolate, biscuits, bread and margarine and to give a creamy consistency to soaps.

About 85 per cent of the global supply comes from Borneo and Sumatra, where corruption is rife and where incursions into the forests are enforced by gun-toting security guards.

Satellite pictures have shown the rapid loss of the islands' rainforests, which, in addition to the orangutan, contain endangered species such as the clouded leopard, Sumatran tiger, and sun bear. Survival International, the London-based human rights group, says that palm oil producers supplying world markets are evicting indigenous people such as the Penan in Borneo from their land. In an interview taped earlier this year in Borneo, a Penan villager recalled:

"There were no official discussions. The company just moved in and put up signs saying the government had given them permission to plant oil palm on our land. The manager promised he would pay us whatever we wanted. But we already know that the companies lie... If oil palm is planted, we will lose our land... there will be no more forest."

Global demand for palm oil is rising at between 6 and 10 per cent a year. Although yields could be raised to meet the demand, suppliers have a financial incentive to chop down forest for hardwoods for furniture, which subsidises the plantations before the first oil is produced.

If current rates of logging continue, the UN Environment Programme estimates that 98 per cent of forests in Indonesia may be destroyed by 2020.

Around 16 per cent of global palm oil arrives in the EU. Companies often refuse to disclose whether their products contain palm oil.

However, after piecing together information from the companies, The Independent has established that palm oil is contained or suspected in 43 of the Top 100 grocery brands. Of the nation's £16bn spending on the top 100 brands, £5.5bn goes on brands which contain, or are suspected to contain, the oil. Thirty-three out of 62 food brands contain palm oil.

Only a few British firms, including Unilever and Sainsbury's, have bought large amounts of Rspo-certified oil.

Green Palm, a Hull-based company which trades Rspo certificates, says it has struggled to find corporate buyers. The Food and Drink Federation said the UK was "a small player in the complex global market for palm oil", importing only 1.2 per cent of the annual crop for manufacture here.

Andy Tait, Greenpeace's forests campaigner, said: "If you buy products from Unilever or Nestlé, ask what measures they are taking to remove unsustainable palm oil from their supply chain. Public pressure makes companies change."

Ancient oil: Modern uses
* Palm oil is made from the fruit and seeds of the oil palm (elaeis guineensis), an edible plant long used as a cooking oil by villagers in West Africa, which now has a wide range of industrial applications.

* Palm oil is so prized because in addition to being the world's cheapest, it is "uniquely fractionable". Chemical processes can separate solid (stearin) and liquid (olein). Manufacturers use the versatile oil in a wide range of foods and household products and, increasingly and controversially, it is used as a biofuel.

Household names: Big brands and palm oil
Kellogg's (US) Uses palm oil in 50 products, mostly cereal bars but also cereals such as Special K and Crunchy Nut, where it binds together clusters. Does not buy sustainable palm oil.
Cadbury (UK) Pours palm oil into chocolate bars, including Cadbury Dairy Milk, where it is listed as vegetable oil. Uses 40,000 tonnes a year, none certified as sustainable.

Mars (US/UK) Uses palm oil in Mars Bars, Galaxy and Maltesers, where it is labelled "vegetable fat". Does not buy sustainable palm oil. Says it wants to.

Procter & Gamble (US) Makes Ariel, Daz and Fairy Liquid, where use of palm oil is suspected but unproven. Says it will have a sustainable supply by 2015.

Unilever (UK) World's biggest user of palm oil, which is found in Flora margarine, Pot Noodle, Comfort and Persil. Buys 1.6m tonnes a year – 4.2 per cent of global production. Acknowledging the damage to its reputation and the environment, Unilever set up the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

Kraft (US) Says it does not use palm oil in Dairylea cheese but does in other products. Buys half a per cent of global supply. Says it will move to sustainable palm oil by 2015.

Heinz (US) Uses palm oil to fry potatoes for Aunt Bessie's Potatoes, which it makes under licence.

United Biscuits (UK) Uses palm oil across its range including McVitie's Digestives and McCoy's crisps. Says it is reducing quantities.

Nestle (Swiss) Palm oil in KitKat, Quality Street, Aero and other brands.

Premier Food (UK) Uses in Hovis, Mr Kipling Cakes, Bisto Gravy and Cadbury cakes (made under licence). Hopes to move to a certified sustainable supply by 2011.

Pepsico (US) Makes Walker's crisps. Has one of the best corporate policies, only using palm oil in Quaker Oat Granola and Nobby's Nuts. Intends to phase out use on those two products.

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4. http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/lone-droschernielsen-the-destruction-of-the-rainforests-amounts-to-orangutan-genocide-1677095.html

Lone Droscher-Nielsen: The destruction of the rainforests amounts to orangutan genocide


Friday, 1 May 2009

My biggest wish is that people in the western world could understand what is happening here in Borneo, and how the demand for palm oil is devastating the rainforests and contributing to the extinction of the orangutan. Forests are being destroyed at the rate of an area roughly the size of two football fields every minute in the country, contributing massively to climate change and driving the orangutan closer to extinction with the loss of every acre. Orangutans are so much like us, yet we humans are killing them by the thousand. To me that is genocide and it has to stop.

Orangutans are among our closest relatives. They demonstrate a high level of intelligence and an ability to solve problems, and there is an immensely strong bond between mother and child that lasts for the first eight years of a baby orangutan's life. They are also key indicators to the health of the rainforests. Their place in the ecosystem is vital and yet still the demand for palm oil continues. Is nobody listening?

There is no need for this continual destruction of the rainforests for oil-palm plantations. There is already open grassland that can be used for this purpose, but we need pressure from the international community and to educate people about the dangers to our environment that is being caused by the world's consumption of palm oil.

Rainforests aren't just beautiful, they are there for a purpose. They help control the climate by absorbing carbon dioxide, prevent drought because they're an important part of the water cycle, and help put a check on soil erosion. But they are also home to 420 species of birds, 210 species of mammals, 254 species of reptiles, and 368 species of freshwater fish.

At Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) we are doing our utmost to prevent the extinction of the orangutan. A century ago there were 300,000 wild Bornean orangutans. Today there are approximately 30,000 to 40,000 and extinction in the wild is predicted within 5 to 10 years if nothing is done.

Here at Nyaru Menteng, we're dealing with the fall-out from the destruction of the rainforests. We have over 600 orangutans in our care, most of them orphans whose mothers were slaughtered while searching for food by workers in the oil palm plantations.

Babies and young orangutans who are brought to the centre are cared for 24 hours a day by our team of "babysitters". At the age of about eight years, they are relocated in groups of around 25 to a neighbouring island for the first stage in their release. Here, they live a semi-wild existence but they're fed daily and monitored, to check for illness, injury or an inability to adapt to their new lifestyle. A couple of years later, those who are ready for total freedom will be taken to an area of protected rainforest – deep in the heart of Borneo – and released back into the wild to contribute to the propagation of their species. No rehabbed orangutans have yet been released, but we're hoping the first of these releases will take place this year.

We also take in a number of wild-caught adult orangutans, most of whom are found starving, injured or ill, and who are released back into the wild once we're sure that they're fit enough to survive on their own. To date, around 150 such orangutans have been released, and a further 219 have passed through the centre.

The palm oil issue is complex. Many communities in Borneo depend on these plantations for their existence, so we can't just condemn the industry outright. This is why we at BOS are working with the Indonesian government and local communities to find a solution to a problem that will ultimately affect every human being on earth. Progress is being made, but consumers can also play their part by putting pressure on those companies that use palm oil in their products, and to persuade them to source oil which has been produced by environmentally friendly methods.

The most important thing though, is that we don't give up the fight to protect the rainforests, the orangutans, and, ultimately, ourselves.

Lone Droscher-Nielsen is the founder and manager of the Nyaru Menteng rescue and rehabilitation centre of Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation which operates the largest primate rescue project in the world, with nearly 1000 orangutans in their care. They rescue both wild and captive orangutans which have been displaced by poaching and the devastation of their rainforest habitat for logging and the production of palm oil. The ultimate goal is the release of healthy and rehabilitated orangutans back into protected forest. Borneo Orangutan Survival is a registered charity committed to the protection of the orangutan and its rainforest habitat, and we rely entirely on donations to fund our work. Visit: www.savetheorangutan.org.uk

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biofuelwatch - Food Scare Sparks Developing World Land Rush: Think Tank




[For more on this see http://ifpri.org/pubs/bp/bp013.asp]

http://planetark.org/wen/52668

Food Scare Sparks Developing World Land Rush: Think Tank
Date: 30-Apr-09
Country: US
Author: Charles Abbott

WASHINGTON - High food prices fueled a land-buying spree in developing nations, particularly in Africa, by countries and private investors wanting to assure food supplies for themselves, a think tank said on Wednesday.

The International Food Policy Research Institute said 15 million to 20 million hectares of farmland in poor nations were sold since 2006, or were under negotiation for sale to foreign entities.

Global recession may slow, but not end, the drive for farmland as a safeguard, said IFPRI Director General Joachim von Braun.

"Food prices will rise again and investment opportunities from a commercial perspective will increase again," he said during a telephone news conference.

The spate of land purchases "is truly a consequence" of the abrupt increase in food prices in 2007 and 2008, and by fears that stockpiles would run short, von Braun said.

The purchases increased local land prices, he said, because comparatively small amounts of land go on sale each year.

IFPRI listed more than four dozen land deals in a report about the "land grabbing." Most were in Africa and some in Asia.

"Food-importing countries with land and water constraints but rich in capital, such as the Gulf states, are at the forefront of new investments in farmland abroad," the report said.

"In addition, countries with large populations and food security concerns such as China, South Korea and India are seeking opportunities to produce food overseas," it said.

Foreign investment may result in improved productivity and more income for residents, said the report, but it also can be seen as an intrusion and a threat to local food output.

An attempt by a South Korean company to buy 1.3 million hectares in Madagascar "reportedly played a role in the political conflicts" before a government overthrow last month, the report said.

IFPRI recommended a code of conduct for investors and host governments.
"Free, prior and informed consent is the standard to be upheld" in deal-making, said the report, with "particular efforts" toward fair treatment of land users who have traditional access to land but do not own it.

The World Bank has said it will soon publish guidelines to help investors and countries make mutually beneficial deals.

"The majority of agricultural land in Africa is not titled," said Ruth Meinzen-Dick, a senior research fellow at IFPRI. "If these rights are not respected in these transactions, the livelihoods of millions of people will be put at risk."

(Editing by Christian Wiessner)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved




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biofuelwatch - Motorcycle Joins Brazil's Biofueled Fleet




http://planetark.org/wen/52675

Motorcycle Joins Brazil's Biofueled Fleet
Date: 30-Apr-09
Country: BRAZIL
Author: Peter Murphy

Motorcycle Joins Brazil's Biofueled Fleet Photo: Sergio Moraes
The gas cap of a car that can run on either gasoline or ethanol is pictured at a showroom in Rio de Janeiro April 30, 2008.
Photo: Sergio Moraes

MONTES CLAROS - A motorcycle that can run solely on sugar cane ethanol, gasoline or a mixture of both has gone on sale in Brazil, where biofuel cars already dominate the roads, burning cheaper home-grown energy.

Named the "Mix", the bike is a modified version of Honda's CG, a small motorcycle popular with couriers and commuters. The original gasoline-only version has been the firm's biggest seller in Brazil, with sales of more than 30,000 each month.

"For motorcycle couriers and motorcycle taxi riders, this can be an economical alternative because depending on the price of ethanol, (the extra cost) can be recovered very quickly the more you ride," said Alfredo Guedes, a spokesman at Honda in Brazil.

Brazil is expanding sugar cane planting rapidly to make ethanol for its fast-growing fleet of flex-fuel cars, which already account for more than 90 percent of new car sales and have helped cut pollution in the country of 190 million.

Flex-fuel cars, marketed in Brazil since 2003, have electronics that detect the type of fuel being burned. An oxygen sensor in the Mix's exhaust determines what fuel is being burned and adjusts the action of the fuel injection unit appropriately.

Ethanol-only cars marketed in Brazil since the 1970s lost popularity because the price of the fuel rose, temporarily erasing any savings, and they were hard to fire up in cold weather. But flex-fuel allows for any mix of gasoline and ethanol and has performance similar to gasoline vehicles.

The biofuel can cost half the price of gasoline depending on the outlet, though the actual volume of ethanol consumed is about 30 percent higher over the same distance because of its lower calorific value of the fuel.

As with flex cars, which all have a small gasoline reserve in the engine bay to start up in cold weather, the Mix requires about 20 percent gasoline in the tank in colder regions to make it easier to start.

LEANER AND GREENER
"I would switch," said Ricardo Ferreira, sat on his gasoline-powered CG at a motorcycle taxi office where telephone attendants shouted out addresses of fares waiting to be picked up as riders made U-turns through the open-fronted shop.

Ferreira works around 12 hours a day in Montes Claros, a small town in Minas Gerais state, covering around 745 miles a week, filling his 16-liter tank two or three times.

He said with that mileage he would quickly recover the 300 reais ($137) premium for the Mix over the gasoline bike.

"(Fuel) is your biggest expense ... There is also the other aspect that ethanol pollutes less," he said as the rasp of motorcycles riding into the shop boomed off its cement walls.

Brazil's Sugar Cane Industry Association (Unica) says that use of ethanol in flex-fuel cars has sequestered 45 million tonnes of greenhouse gases - the equivalent of planting 144 million trees in 20 years.

But motorcycles are some of the worst polluters on the roads here for certain gases and particles.
Ethanol costs around 1.70 reais a liter in Montes Claros, compared with around 2.63 reais for gasoline -- more than consumers in Sao Paulo city pay for either but the price difference is still big enough to give the Mix appeal.

Brazil is Honda's third-biggest motorcycle market. Droves of "motoboy" couriers move deftly through Sao Paulo's daily rush-hour traffic jams with documents and parcels, often galling motorists with their risky driving.

Flex engines also produce more power running on ethanol than gasoline and that is despite its 7 percent water content.

"You can feel it has stronger acceleration when filled with ethanol," said Honda's Guedes who has ridden the bike.

(Editing by Reese Ewing and Lisa Shumaker)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved




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biofuelwatch - Brazil slave labor complaints rise



http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090429/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/lt_brazil_slave_labor

By BRADLEY BROOKS, Associated Press Writers Bradley Brooks, Associated Press Writers – Wed Apr 29

RIO DE JANEIRO – Reports of debt slavery reached record numbers in Brazil last year, and most of the cases were connected to the nation's booming sugarcane ethanol sector, according to a report released Wednesday by a watchdog group.

The report from the Catholic Land Pastoral, indicated there were 280 cases debt slavery reported in 2008, a 6 percent increase over 2007.

The report — relying on government data — also showed that 36 percent of those cases were linked to sugarcane production, which drives Brazil's much-lauded production of ethanol.

Debt slavery is common in Brazil's Amazon, where poor laborers are lured to remote spots where they rack up debts to plantation owners who charge exorbitant prices for everything from food to transportation and force the workers to sleep in cramped quarters.

While the number of reported cases of debt slavery jumped, so did the number of people freed by government agents who raid remote plantations in Brazil's most sparsely populated areas.

At least 5,266 people were freed by authorities last year — 48 percent of whom were working on sugarcane farms, according to the Catholic Land Pastoral.

Brazil's association of sugar and ethanol producers, declined to comment on the report. Brazil's Agriculture Ministry had no immediate comment.

The work of the elite Mobile Verification Task Force, which raids farms and frees workers mired in debt slavery, has been a political hot-button in the past. In 2007, the unit went on a two-week strike to protest congressional criticism and interference in its work on leading ethanol producers.

Since its creation in 1995, the task force has freed more than 30,000 workers nationwide from debt slavery. The CPT has estimated that at least 25,000 Brazilians continue to toil in debt slavery conditions.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

biofuelwatch - Report and presentation about Biofuels for Aviation





We have got a new report on the biofuels for aviation which you can find at

www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/docs/aviation_biofuels_article.pdf

and also a power point presentation on the topic which can be downloaded from

www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/reports.php#aviation

Almuth



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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

biofuelwatch - Al Gore calls on world to burn less wood, fuel that emits soot




http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/apr/28/black-carbon-emissions

Al Gore calls on world to burn less wood and fuel to curb 'black carbon'

Soot from engines, forest fires and partly burned fuel is collecting in Arctic and causing north pole to warm at alarming rate

Arctic ice cave

View from ice Cave on Ellesmere Island Canada towards the Arctic Ocean and the North Pole. Photograph: Alexandra Kobalenko/Getty


The world must burn less diesel and wood, Nobel peace prize-winner Al Gore said yesterday, as the soot produced is accelerating the melting of ice in polar and mountainous regions.

Gore, backed by government ministers and scientists, said that the soot, also known as "black carbon", from engines, forest fires and partially burned fuel was collecting in the Arctic where it was creating a haze of pollution that absorbs sunlight and warms the air. It was also being deposited on snow, darkening its surface and reducing the snow's ability to reflect sunlight back into space.

"The principle [climate change] problem is carbon dioxide, but a new understanding is emerging of soot," said Gore. "Black carbon is settling in the Himalayas. The air pollution levels in the upper Himalayas are now similar to those in Los Angeles."

The impact of the soot is as significant as it is surprising — it was not mentioned as a warming factor in the UN's major 2007 report on climate change. A study this month indicated that soot from industry, cars, farming and wood fuel burning has been responsible for half the total temperature increases in the Arctic between 1890 to 2007. Temperatures there are rising twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet, making it the region worst affected by climate change.

Gore warned that all the world's icy regions were experiencing rapid and dangerous global warming. "The cryosphere – the frozen water part of the Earth – is disappearing. Global warming is causing the permafrost to thaw. It contains more carbon than anywhere else and the risk is that it releases methane. That has the potential to double the global warming potential in the atmosphere," he said.

Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Store said action on black carbon was even more urgent than that on CO2: "Even if we turn the rising curve of greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years, the reduction will not occur quickly enough to preserve the polar and alpine environments. We must address short lived climate pollutants such as black carbon."

Glaciologists working in Latin America, Nepal, China and Greenland all reported at the meeting in Tromso that glaciers were losing ice more rapidly and becoming less thick as a result of global warming.

Dorthe Jensen, from the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark, said: "In the last five years we have seen many ice streams double in speed. Their floating snouts have moved back 30km. We never imagined the ice discharge would change so much."



Glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan plateau, from which 40% of the world derives its fresh water, are retreating fast, said Yao Tandong, a researcher with the Chinese academy of sciences. "This is causing severe social problems as lakes get bigger and people are forced to move. Himalayan glaciers are mostly retreating at an accelerating rate."

The meeting also heard, in a new report from the international Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (Amap), that climate change was now affecting every aspect of life in the Arctic. Norwegian, Canadian, Russian, US and other polar scientists reported that, in the last four years, air temperatures have increased, sea ice has declined sharply, surface waters in the Arctic ocean have warmed and permafrost is in some areas rapidly thawing, releasing methane.

The report's main findings are:

Land

Permafrost is warming fast and at its margins thawing. Plants are growing more vigorously and densely. In northern Alaska, temperatures have been rising since the 1970s. In Russia, the tree line has advanced up hills and mountains at 10 metres a year. Nearly all glaciers are decreasing in mass, resulting in rising sea levels as the water drains to the ocean.

Summer sea ice

The most striking change in the Arctic in recent years has been the reduction in summer sea ice in 2007. This was 23% less than the previous record low of 5.6m sq kilometres in 2005, and 39% below the 1979-2000 average. New satellite data suggests the ice is much thinner than it used to be. For the first time in existing records, both the north-west and north-east passages were ice-free in summer 2008. However, the 2008 winter ice extent was near the year long-term average.

Greenland

The Greenland ice sheet has continued to melt in the past four years with summer temperatures consistently above the long-term average since the mid 1990s. In 2007, the area experiencing melt was 60% greater than in 1998. Melting lasted 20 days longer than usual at sea level and 53 days longer at 2-3,000m heights.

Warmer waters

In 2007, some ice-free areas were as much as 5C warmer than the long-term average. Arctic waters appear to have warmed as a result of the influx of warmer waters from the Pacific and Atlantic. The loss of reflective, white sea ice also means that more solar radiation is absorbed by the dark water, heating surface layers further.

[Ends]




My Privacy...

biofuelwatch - CLIMATE ALERT: Forest and Crop Biomass Can Never Ecologically Sustainably Power Industrial Society



ACTION ALERT PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY!

Forest and Crop Biomass Can Never Ecologically Sustainably Power
Industrial Society

By Rainforest Rescue with Ecological Internet
http://www.regenwald.org/international/englisch/ &
http://www.ecoearth.info/
April 28, 2009

TAKE ACTION HERE NOW:
http://www.climateark.org/shared/alerts/send.aspx?id=no_biomass_energy

No Biomass/No Burning! Truly renewable energy must be defined as including no energy production or climate mitigation claims from food based agrofuels, live plants and ecosystems, or burning biomass of any type.

BRIEF BACKGROUND:
As the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is belatedly gaining recognition within the United States, a suite of policy initiatives, including the Markey-Waxman "American Climate and Energy Security Act 2009" (ACESA), are being considered to promote biomass such as tree plantations, and forest and agricultural 'waste', as renewable energy. Given well known issues of sustainability regarding industrial agriculture and land mismanagement, the need to more clearly define just what "renewable" means is clearly shown. It is vitally important that renewable energy be defined, within the context of federal energy and climate policy, in strictly ecological sustainability terms, including renewable energy and low carbon fuel standards.

In an alarming trend, burning and refining of plant biomass and also toxic municipal waste (or for that matter anything that burns) is being falsely promoted as renewable and of benefit to reducing emissions that cause climate change. Humans already consume a large amount of the energy represented in annual biological growth. To try to consume more of Earth's primary productivity is clearly unsustainable land use. Even partial replacement of fossil fuels with fresh plant biomass energy is absolutely impossible for more than a few years. Trying will denude
Earth and make a very different planet, that is hostile and uninhabitable to human life.

TAKE ACTION NOW:
http://www.climateark.org/shared/alerts/send.aspx?id=no_biomass_energy

DISCUSS THIS ALERT:
http://www.climateark.org/blog/2009/04/alert-forest-and-crop-biomass.asp

--
Dr. Glen Barry
President
Ecological Internet, Inc.
USA
GlenBarry@EcologicalInternet.org
Facebook: http://www.new.facebook.com/pages/Ecological-Internet/84943913664
Twitter: http://twitter.com/ecointernet


Ecological Internet's projects include:

EcoEarth.Info -- http://www.EcoEarth.Info/
Climate Ark -- http://www.climateark.org/
Forests.org
-- http://forests.org/
Water Conserve -- http://www.waterconserve.org/
Rainforest Portal -- http://www.rainforestportal.org/
Ocean Conserve -- http://www.oceanconserve.org/
My.EcoEarth.Info -- http://My.EcoEarth.info/
New Earth Rising e-zine -- http://www.newearthrising.org/


------------------------------------

My Privacy...

biofuelwatch - Agrofuels in the AMericas online book



CHeck out a new book on Agrofuels in the Americas! great resource.


http://www.foodfirst.org/files/pdf/Agrofuels_in_the_Americas.pdf
--


Rachel Smolker
Research Biologist
Hinesburg, Vermont, U.S.A.
office: (802) 482 2848
mobile: (802) 735-7794
skype: rachel smolker


------------------------------------



From that book:

Acknowledgements:
This project began a little over a year ago with five of the authors sitting around a table at Food First in Oakland, CA.

They included Annie Shattuck, Isabella Kenfield, Jessica Aguirre, Gretchen Gordon, Ellen Tarby, and myself. Beyond the wonderful work of the authors herein, we would like to thank Eric Holt Gimenez for providing his insights and many key paragraphs to most of the pieces herein. Marilyn Borchardt has provided tremendous support, humor, and feedback, and commentary through this whole process, and the rest of staff here at Food First for keeping things running. Martha and Rowena shared their kindness and their mung beans. There have been a number of people here who have stepped in to help with research, fact checking, translation, proofreading, citation hunting, and general commentary. These include: Jody Zaitlyn, Leo Hurtado, Loren Peabody, Zack Zimbalist, Matt Dintenfass, Angie Rodriguez, Maria Barrera, Ellen Tyler, Amanda El-Khoury, Mihir Mankad, Jasmine Tilley, Carla Pena, Tamara Wattnem, William Roblewski, and Matt King.

My Privacy...

biofuelwatch - US groups demand "no biomass/no burn" definition of renewable




(US Markey Waxman climate legislation currently in progress. THis was delivered earlier in week)


Chairman Henry Waxman
2204 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Chairman Edward Markey
2108 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515


April 23, 2009

Dear Chairman Waxman and Chairman Markey,

We are writing to encourage you to prohibit the inclusion of any sort of biomass as a renewable energy source in the American Climate and Energy Security Act of 2009 (ACESA)'s Renewable Energy Standard (RES). While we are thankful that biomass sourcing safeguards were included, and that the use of municipal solid waste was explicitly prohibited, the proposed biomass safeguards in the RES are nowhere near strong enough to protect our forests, ecosystems and communities. We do not support the inclusion of any biomass derived energy, including burning or refining of wood, agricultural products, wastes, manures or landfill gases for electricity, biofuels, or other purposes in definitions of renewable energy.


According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessments 60% of the world's ecosystems are in decline and the IUCN reports 2 out of every 5 species known to science may face extinction. Soil degradation and diminishing freshwater resources threaten the future of agriculture. This unfortunate state of affairs sets the context for determining our future energy course. Increasing evidence points to the fact that forests and other ecosystems, including soils, store far more carbon than previously assumed. For example, a recent study of old growth temperate forest carbon flux showed that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) figures had underestimated this measure by 75 percent. Additionally, new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) illustrates the historical contribution of deforestation to carbon emissions and points out the potential for regeneration to re-sequester large amounts of carbon.

Given the above, protecting and regenerating forests, ecosystems and soils is the most important step we must take if we are to stabilize the global climate, not to mention other ecosystem benefits this would provide, including protecting future freshwater supplies and biodiversity conservation. Providing policy and financial incentives to use plant biomass for energy runs counter to the goal of protecting and regenerating ecosystems and thus threatens to greatly exacerbate global warming rather than mitigate it.

Biomass should not be considered renewable because the removal of biomass, even "residues and wastes" from forests, grasslands or soils, depletes nutrients and results in declining fertility and biodiversity. While it is possible to re-grow trees and other plant matter, it is not possible to recreate healthy ecosystems, and the demand for electricity from biomass facilities requires more biomass materials than can be sustainably harvested.

We cannot produce biomass energy on a large scale without serious environmental consequences. The oft quoted "billion ton" study, by Dr. Robert Perlack of Oak Ridge National Laboratory is unrealistic. A recent analysis from Cornell University shows that total biomass production in the U.S., including all forests, grasslands and agricultural crops combined, amounts to just two billion tons. Producing 36 billion gallons of agrofuel annually would therefore require the monopolization of 80% of all biomass grown in the US every year (crops, grasses and forest). Industrial tree plantations, such as those now covering much of the previously forested southeastern U.S. are ecologically compromised, supporting only a fraction of their former diversity, and depend on large inputs of fertilizers and agrichemicals.

Industrial monoculture of trees (including genetically engineered trees) or other crops grown for energy are not "clean, renewable or sustainable." Sustained harvesting of any biomass will require large inputs of nitrogen and other fertilizers; nitrogen fertilizer is a major cause of biodiversity decline and increasingly N2O emissions are recognized as a major contributor to climate change. Nearly half of the nitrogen fertilizers used in the U.S. are imported, hence undermining the goal of energy security. In addition, burning biomass results in toxic air emissions and the production of toxic ash, which threatens to worsen air and water quality. Additional emissions result from massive transportation requirements to provide adequate quantities of biomass to operating facilities.

While we have focused here on biomass derived from forests and farmlands, we extend our concerns to all the numerous other biomass-derived energy technologies, including incineration of wastes, poultry manure and landfill gases as well as refining of biomass for liquid "cellulosic" transportation fuels. All of these "burn and refine" technologies deplete resources, rely on the perpetuation of unsustainable practices, and therefore cannot be considered "renewable".

We do support the RES' exclusion of toxin-containing municipal solid waste or construction and demolition debris within the definition of biomass (although there are incentives still remaining that should be addressed ). We do support ACESA's focus on efficiency measures for which there is broad latitude to massively decrease energy consumption. We do support investment in truly clean energy technologies such as wind, solar and ocean-based energy that do not involve any form of combustion. We must pursue truly clean, renewable and "zero waste" technologies immediately. Given the above considerations we ask that you remove eligibility of biomass from definitions of "renewable".

We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you in person to further discuss this matter and will be contacting your office to set up a time.

Sincerely,


Organizations
Action Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania), Mike Ewall

Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, David Mickey

Caney Fork Headwaters Association, (Tennessee) Rev. Charles Lord

Concerned Citizens of Russell, (Massachussetts) John Chicoine

Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice, (Tennessee), Rev. Walter Stark

Dogwood Alliance, (North Carolina) Scott Quaranda

Ecological Internet (USA), Dr Glen Barry

Energy Justice Network (Pennsylvania) Mike Ewall

Environmental Alliance of North Florida, (Florida) Rick Causey

Family Farm Defenders, (Wisconsin) John Peck

Florida League of Conservation Voters, (Florida) Joy Towles Ezell

Floridians Against Incinerators in Disguise,(Florida) Susie Caplowe

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (Global) Ananda Tan

Global Justice Ecology Project (Vermont), Anne Petermann

Grassroots International (Global), Maria Aguiar

Green Delaware (Delaware), Alan Mueller

Heartwood Forest Council (Illinois), Ernie Reed

HOPE (Florida), Rebecca Edwards

Kentucky Environmental Foundation (Kentucky), Elizabeth Crowe

Massachussetts Forest Watch (Massachussetts), Chris Matera

Native Forest Council (U.S.) Tim Hermach

Neighbors Against the Burner (Minnesota), Nancy Hohn

Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility (Tennessee) Donald B. Clark

Sound Resource Management (Washington), Jeffrey Morris, Ph.D.

Wild Watershed (New Mexico) Sam Hitt


Individuals

William J. Blackley, MD.

Ficalora, R.A., Montauk, N.Y.

Ging, Kathy, Eugene, OR.

Silberman, Jerry, Philadelphia, PA.

Tome, Karin, Brunswick, MD.

Wund, John C., Crossville, TN.
--  


Rachel Smolker
Research Biologist
Hinesburg, Vermont, U.S.A.
office: (802) 482 2848
mobile: (802) 735-7794
skype: rachel smolker


__._,_.___

My Privacy...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Re: biofuelwatch - California fuel standard testing on ethanol, may violate NAFTA



The main thing it achieved is for the first time getting indirect land uses of all fuels incorporated into their carbon calculations by law.

This hits the corn ethanol industry very hard, they were fighting it deperately, and it was a risk of being stripped out.

And in fact it was somewhat delayed. But it did pass.

The main problem for further work is that as of now their indirect land use calculations do not consider celulosic ethanol to have very significant impacts. But the measure does include constant reviews of these calculations. All in all good news as important precedent has been set.

Dr. Glen Barry



Jim Roland wrote:
1. http://planetark.org/wen/52614 http://planetark.org/wen/52614

ANALYSIS - California Rule Could End Ethanol's Honeymoon

*Date:* /27-Apr-09/
*Country:* US
*Author:* Timothy Gardner

NEW YORK - California's newly adopted low-carbon fuel standard may mark the beginning of the end of ethanol's coveted status as the sole US alternative motor fuel.

The US state with the most cars late on Thursday approved the world's first-ever regulations to slash emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide from vehicle fuels.

The ruling, which will be subject to further studies, will not kill the ethanol industry. But it sets the bar higher for cleaner development of corn ethanol, which enjoyed an investment boost over the last few years thanks to generous federal incentives and mandates calling for increasing amounts of the fuel to be blended into gasoline. The measure also sets the stage for emerging alternative fuels -- such as cars that run on compressed natural gas and electric vehicles like plug-in hybrids that run on both gasoline and rechargeable batteries -- to compete with second-generation ethanol.

That fuel, known as cellulosic ethanol, is expected to be made in commercial amounts from non-food feedstocks like switchgrass and fast-growing trees.

"The ruling is the first sign that the ethanol industry could be brought out of its honeymoon phase," said Sander Cohan, an alternative motor fuels analyst with Energy Security Analysis Inc in Boston.

"First-generation ethanol, especially corn ethanol, is a poster child for who might be put at a disadvantage." To give fuel producers time to adjust, the bulk of the carbon limits required under the regulation do not go into effect until 2015. But analysts said California has fired the first shot in a battle that could widen in coming years. At least 11 other states in the US East are considering adopting a low-carbon fuel standard for cars by the end of the year. In addition, the main climate bill being considered in the US Congress seeks to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from fuels.

California's regulators ranked 11 different ways of making corn ethanol. They found that traditional distilling methods used in the Midwest, accounting for the bulk of US supplies, emit the most carbon over a lifecycle measured from production to combustion.

The state gave much better carbon savings scores to corn ethanol made in California with a distillery fired by a blend of natural gas and crop waste, also known as biomass.

In the race to make ethanol, little regard has been paid to emissions of the distillery itself. A handful of nearly 200 plants are fired by coal, the most carbon-heavy fossil fuel, while many others have been slow to convert to biomass.

Cellulosic ethanol faired better.
"The standard is favourable to cellulosic and to plug-in hybrid development, but not favourable to US-produced corn ethanol," said Divya Reddy, an analyst with the Eurasia Group in Washington. Cars fuelled by compressed natural gas, which are not yet widely available, scored slightly better than California-made ethanol, and vehicles that run on batteries, which also are just beginning to be made in the United States, scored much better.

LAND USE
The ethanol industry challenged California's findings, and said it would fight the regulations.

The ethanol industry's biggest objection is that the standard calculates an indirect carbon footprint attributed to land-use changes from the clearing of grasslands and forests to cultivate corn. Nathan Shock, a spokesman for private company Poet, the largest US ethanol producer, said those land-use calculations are unfair because the rule as currently written applies to biofuels alone, putting ethanol at a relative disadvantage.

Bob Dineen, head of ethanol industry group the Renewable Fuels Association, said the ruling could hurt investments in the development of next-generation ethanol. Paul Winters, a spokesman for the Biotechnology Industry Association, said the ruling could hit investments by the biggest producers of corn ethanol into cellulosic. Some traditional ethanol makers have plans to make cellulose-based fuel using readily available crop waste like corn cobs and stalks.

But as the ethanol industry argues its case, natural gas and battery-powered cars will likely make inroads in replacing petroleum, Cohan said.

"The strength of the low-carbon standard ... is that it forces attention toward non-agricultural alternative fuels that will likely play a role in any sort of alternative fuel mix," he said.

(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
http://www.reuters.com/info/copyright


2. http://planetark.org/wen/52612 http://planetark.org/wen/52612

New California Fuel Rule May Violate NAFTA - Lawyer
*Date:* /27-Apr-09/
*Country:* US
*Author:* Scott Haggett

CALGARY - California's new low-carbon fuel rules may be a violation of NAFTA and World Trade Organization provisions because they would unfairly limit exports of crude from Canada's oil sands to the state, a prominent Canadian trade lawyer said on Friday.

California adopted a first-ever rule on Thursday requiring refineries, producers and importers of motor fuels sold in the state to reduce the "carbon intensity" of their products by 10 percent by 2020, with greater cuts thereafter.

The measures to slash such emissions would force refiners to consider the carbon footprint of the fuels they produce, a potential blow to synthetic crude upgraded from Alberta's oil sands, whose production emits more carbon-dioxide than conventional oil.

However, the state may have no business imposing such rules on oil produced in other countries, a Canadian lawyer said, and the provisions may violate international trade treaties.

"There's definitely a NAFTA case and a WTO case. There's no doubt in my mind about it," said Simon Potter, a partner at the McCarthy Tetrault law firm whose practice includes trade and competition law.

"This is California deciding they are going to treat oil differently depending on ... where it comes from. It's an obvious violation of the requirement for national treatment."

NAFTA provisions guarantee that companies and products from Canada, the United States and Mexico are not discriminated against on the basis of nationality or origin.

"Once you get across the border, you have to be treated like everybody else," said Potter, a former president of the Canadian Bar Association. "To the extent that these measures make oil from one part of the world that they consider dirty more expensive than identical oil from another part of the world they consider clean, they've got a discriminatory treatment issue."

Canadian trade officials said in an e-mailed statement that the new California rules may amount to discrimination against the country's crude oil.

"Canada's overall energy integration with the United States and our common goal of reducing green house gas emissions makes it all the more important that our individual efforts to address climate change do not lead to the creation of unnecessary barriers," the statement said.

"We are continuing to examine the potential consequences for trade of California's LCFS regulations."

While little or no oil sands crude is currently exported to California, the Alberta government said it considers the provision a threat because the state is a potential market. Also, other US states are considering similar regulations.

"Does it have a possibility of a negative effect on Alberta's bitumen future? I would suggest I'd be very naive if I thought anything other than 'yes' is the proper answer to that," Alberta Energy Minister Mel Knight said on Friday in Houston.

(Additional reporting by Bruce Nichols and Jeffrey Hodgson; Editing by
Alex Richardson)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
http://www.reuters.com/info/copyright



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--
Dr. Glen Barry
President
Ecological Internet, Inc.
USA
GlenBarry@EcologicalInternet.org
Facebook: http://www.new.facebook.com/pages/Ecological-Internet/84943913664
Twitter: http://twitter.com/ecointernet


Ecological Internet's projects include:

EcoEarth.Info -- http://www.EcoEarth.Info/
Climate Ark -- http://www.climateark.org/
Forests.org -- http://forests.org/
Water Conserve -- http://www.waterconserve.org/
Rainforest Portal -- http://www.rainforestportal.org/
Ocean Conserve -- http://www.oceanconserve.org/
My.EcoEarth.Info -- http://My.EcoEarth.info/
New Earth Rising e-zine -- http://www.newearthrising.org/


------------------------------------

My Privacy...

biofuelwatch - California fuel standard testing on ethanol, may violate NAFTA




1. http://planetark.org/wen/52614

ANALYSIS - California Rule Could End Ethanol's Honeymoon
Date: 27-Apr-09
Country: US
Author: Timothy Gardner

NEW YORK - California's newly adopted low-carbon fuel standard may mark the beginning of the end of ethanol's coveted status as the sole US alternative motor fuel.

The US state with the most cars late on Thursday approved the world's first-ever regulations to slash emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide from vehicle fuels.

The ruling, which will be subject to further studies, will not kill the ethanol industry. But it sets the bar higher for cleaner development of corn ethanol, which enjoyed an investment boost over the last few years thanks to generous federal incentives and mandates calling for increasing amounts of the fuel to be blended into gasoline.

The measure also sets the stage for emerging alternative fuels -- such as cars that run on compressed natural gas and electric vehicles like plug-in hybrids that run on both gasoline and rechargeable batteries -- to compete with second-generation ethanol.

That fuel, known as cellulosic ethanol, is expected to be made in commercial amounts from non-food feedstocks like switchgrass and fast-growing trees.

"The ruling is the first sign that the ethanol industry could be brought out of its honeymoon phase," said Sander Cohan, an alternative motor fuels analyst with Energy Security Analysis Inc in Boston.

"First-generation ethanol, especially corn ethanol, is a poster child for who might be put at a disadvantage."

To give fuel producers time to adjust, the bulk of the carbon limits required under the regulation do not go into effect until 2015.

But analysts said California has fired the first shot in a battle that could widen in coming years. At least 11 other states in the US East are considering adopting a low-carbon fuel standard for cars by the end of the year. In addition, the main climate bill being considered in the US Congress seeks to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from fuels.

California's regulators ranked 11 different ways of making corn ethanol. They found that traditional distilling methods used in the Midwest, accounting for the bulk of US supplies, emit the most carbon over a lifecycle measured from production to combustion.

The state gave much better carbon savings scores to corn ethanol made in California with a distillery fired by a blend of natural gas and crop waste, also known as biomass.

In the race to make ethanol, little regard has been paid to emissions of the distillery itself. A handful of nearly 200 plants are fired by coal, the most carbon-heavy fossil fuel, while many others have been slow to convert to biomass.

Cellulosic ethanol faired better.

"The standard is favourable to cellulosic and to plug-in hybrid development, but not favourable to US-produced corn ethanol," said Divya Reddy, an analyst with the Eurasia Group in Washington.

Cars fuelled by compressed natural gas, which are not yet widely available, scored slightly better than California-made ethanol, and vehicles that run on batteries, which also are just beginning to be made in the United States, scored much better.

LAND USE
The ethanol industry challenged California's findings, and said it would fight the regulations.
The ethanol industry's biggest objection is that the standard calculates an indirect carbon footprint attributed to land-use changes from the clearing of grasslands and forests to cultivate corn.

Nathan Shock, a spokesman for private company Poet, the largest US ethanol producer, said those land-use calculations are unfair because the rule as currently written applies to biofuels alone, putting ethanol at a relative disadvantage.

Bob Dineen, head of ethanol industry group the Renewable Fuels Association, said the ruling could hurt investments in the development of next-generation ethanol.

Paul Winters, a spokesman for the Biotechnology Industry Association, said the ruling could hit investments by the biggest producers of corn ethanol into cellulosic. Some traditional ethanol makers have plans to make cellulose-based fuel using readily available crop waste like corn cobs and stalks.

But as the ethanol industry argues its case, natural gas and battery-powered cars will likely make inroads in replacing petroleum, Cohan said.

"The strength of the low-carbon standard ... is that it forces attention toward non-agricultural alternative fuels that will likely play a role in any sort of alternative fuel mix," he said.

(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved


2. http://planetark.org/wen/52612

New California Fuel Rule May Violate NAFTA - Lawyer
Date: 27-Apr-09
Country: US
Author: Scott Haggett

CALGARY - California's new low-carbon fuel rules may be a violation of NAFTA and World Trade Organization provisions because they would unfairly limit exports of crude from Canada's oil sands to the state, a prominent Canadian trade lawyer said on Friday.

California adopted a first-ever rule on Thursday requiring refineries, producers and importers of motor fuels sold in the state to reduce the "carbon intensity" of their products by 10 percent by 2020, with greater cuts thereafter.

The measures to slash such emissions would force refiners to consider the carbon footprint of the fuels they produce, a potential blow to synthetic crude upgraded from Alberta's oil sands, whose production emits more carbon-dioxide than conventional oil.

However, the state may have no business imposing such rules on oil produced in other countries, a Canadian lawyer said, and the provisions may violate international trade treaties.

"There's definitely a NAFTA case and a WTO case. There's no doubt in my mind about it," said Simon Potter, a partner at the McCarthy Tetrault law firm whose practice includes trade and competition law.

"This is California deciding they are going to treat oil differently depending on ... where it comes from. It's an obvious violation of the requirement for national treatment."

NAFTA provisions guarantee that companies and products from Canada, the United States and Mexico are not discriminated against on the basis of nationality or origin.

"Once you get across the border, you have to be treated like everybody else," said Potter, a former president of the Canadian Bar Association.

"To the extent that these measures make oil from one part of the world that they consider dirty more expensive than identical oil from another part of the world they consider clean, they've got a discriminatory treatment issue."

Canadian trade officials said in an e-mailed statement that the new California rules may amount to discrimination against the country's crude oil.

"Canada's overall energy integration with the United States and our common goal of reducing green house gas emissions makes it all the more important that our individual efforts to address climate change do not lead to the creation of unnecessary barriers," the statement said.

"We are continuing to examine the potential consequences for trade of California's LCFS regulations."

While little or no oil sands crude is currently exported to California, the Alberta government said it considers the provision a threat because the state is a potential market. Also, other US states are considering similar regulations.

"Does it have a possibility of a negative effect on Alberta's bitumen future? I would suggest I'd be very naive if I thought anything other than 'yes' is the proper answer to that," Alberta Energy Minister Mel Knight said on Friday in Houston.

(Additional reporting by Bruce Nichols and Jeffrey Hodgson; Editing by Alex Richardson)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved




My Privacy...

biofuelwatch - Syracuse Charter on biodiversity agreed by 'G8 plus'




The new Syracuse Charter can be read at: http://www.g8.utoronto.ca/environment/env090424-biodiversity.pdf


1. http://planetark.org/wen/52605

G8 And Poor Nations Vow To Tackle Species Loss
Date: 27-Apr-09
Country: ITALY
Author: Daniel Flynn and Massimiliano di Giorgio

SYRACUSE - Environment ministers from major rich and developing nations signed a deal on Friday to try to slow species loss, but failed to make progress in crucial climate change talks despite US pledges of commitment.

Almost every country in the world in 2002 agreed to a "significant reduction" in the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, but scientists say extinctions are gathering pace.

The Group of Eight (G8) industrial countries and major developing economies, meeting on the island of Sicily, signed a charter pledging to tackle deforestation, trade in illegal wildlife, and to boost research into the rate of species loss.

"We set objectives on biodiversity for 2010 ... but unfortunately we have all recognised they have not been met," said Italian Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo, who hosted the summit.

"We are all convinced of the urgency ... of intervening to safeguard our biodiversity."
By some calculations extinction rates are running at 1,000 times their natural pace, due to human influence. Three species disappear every hour, according to UN figures.

The Syracuse Charter emphasised the economic value of biodiversity, particularly for developing countries. It was adopted after Washington dropped opposition to a reference to the future need to pay for the use of wildlife, such as plants employed in medical and scientific research, delegates said.

The meeting in Syracuse had generated excitement as it was the first ministerial summit involving the new administration of US President Barack Obama, who has reversed his predecessor's opposition to an international deal to cut carbon emissions.

Rich and poor nations are embarking on complex negotiations to clinch a deal on carbon emissions in December in Copenhagen, with developing countries calling on the West to make steep cuts and pay billions of dollars a year for clean fuel technology.

US URGED TO TAKE FIRST STEP
Obama has promised to reduce US greenhouse gas output to 1990 levels by 2020. Developing nations welcomed the positive US approach at Syracuse but expressed disappointment Washington did not take the first step in negotiations.

"If the US does not say clearly what it wants, then we cannot move forward," said Brazil's Environment Minister Carlos Minc.

"Developing countries, like China, are willing to make cuts, I believe, but there is a climate of mistrust ... The US has still not put anything concrete on the table."

G8 countries have suggested $100 billion a year be put aside globally to help poorer nations adapt to a low-carbon technology and face the effects of climate change, but Brazil has said that at least twice this amount is required, Minc said.

Obama has asked Congress to approve a cap-and-trade law to address climate change and is to host a summit of leaders from the 17 largest carbon emitting nations in Washington next week.
The Syracuse meeting grouped for the first time ministers from Australia, Brazil, China,

Denmark, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Korea, South Africa and Sweden, in an effort to forge a broad consensus. The Czech Republic was also present as the rotating head of the European Union.

The United Nations has set a goal of halving emissions by 2050, in order to keep global warming to below 2 degrees centigrade, but has not set a base year for the comparison.

"We need to see the US go further ... both in terms of its own emission reduction target and what it is going to contribute to emissions reductions targets and adaptation overseas," said Kim Carstensen, director of the WWF's global climate initiative.

(Editing by Andrew Roche)
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved


2. http://uk.news.yahoo.com/18/20090424/tsc-g8-plus-adopts-charter-to-protect-bi-c2ff8aa.html

'G8-Plus' adopts charter to protect biodiversity

Environment ministers of leading wealthy and emerging nations Friday adopted a "charter" on protecting biodiversity as they concluded climate change talks in Italy.

The 25-point Syracuse Charter explicitly links safeguarding biodiversity to the fight against global warming, saying: "Biodiversity and ecosystem services are critical for regulating our climate."

The charter also urges raised awareness that "ecosystems provide a steady flow of goods and services" -- by providing clean drinking water, pollinating crops and decomposing waste, for example -- "and the costs of their loss."

Climate change is a growing threat to biodiversity at a time when a quarter of all animal and plant species may be at risk of extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Species are becoming extinct at a dizzying rate -- between 100 and 1,000 times the natural pace of extinction -- scientists say.

The cost of bailing out financial institutions during the economic meltdown, while huge, pales in comparison to the lost value caused every year by ecological damage to the environment, they say.

The Syracuse Charter underscores "the key role that biodiversity and ecosystem services play in underpinning human well-being and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals," urging action to protect biodiversity in the forestry, fishery and agriculture sectors.

It also urges "investents in biodiversity as a driving force to overcome the economic crisis, to promote job creation and to generate long-term benefits."

The charter seeks to spell out ways to reinforce and extend goals for 2010 that were set in 2002, calling for "an achievable post-2010 common framework on biodiversity."

The three-day meeting in Sicily brought together countries responsible for more than 40 percent of the world's carbon gas emissions.

The United States and China each use up about a fifth of total global biocapacity, but US per capita consumption is much higher.

G8 environment ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States were joined at the talks by their counterparts from China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea and Egypt.

[Ends]



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Sunday, April 26, 2009

biofuelwatch - Richard Leakey talk tomorrow; dispute over how to save orang-utans



1. There is a free talk by Dr Richard Leakey in London tomorrow with live webcast, also viewable 48 hours later, on "Climate change and extinction":

http://royalsociety.org/event.asp?id=8287

Richard Leakey has warned of the threat from biofuels to all the great apes: see post #611 and also Daily Telegraph, http://tinyurl.com/chksr3


2. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/apr/26/orang-utans-extinction-conservationists

Experts feud over how to save apes

Orang-utans are facing extinction as farmers wipe out their last habitats. Hundreds of rescued youngsters could be the best hope of survival, but there are fears the orphans may not adapt to release back into the wild

    A battle has broken out between conservationists over attempts to save the orang-utan. The groups are divided over the issue of reintroducing to the wild orphaned animals that are now living in refuges in Borneo and Sumatra.

    On one side, experts say such attempts can no longer be considered important and that all efforts must be directed to saving the apes' last rainforest homes. "If we cannot protect animals in the wild, there is no point in reintroducing rescued apes to rainforests," said Ashley Leiman, of the Orangutan Foundation.

    But this view is disputed by campaigners who say refuges are today bursting with almost a thousand orang-utans. "It is a simple matter of welfare," said Cambridge biologist David Chivers "We are keeping these animals in artificial environments, in enclosures. Their rehabilitation should not be sneered at."

    The issue will form the core of the Great Ape Debate to be held at the Linnean Society in London on Thursday when conservationists will argue over the growing controversy surrounding measures to save the orang-utan. At stake is the survival of one of humanity's closest evolutionary cousins, a creature whose numbers are now plummeting alarmingly. In Sumatra there are only 7,000 individuals of the species, Pongo abelii, which is now "critically endangered", while in Borneo, there are 40,000 members of the Pongo pygmaeus species. Its status is "endangered".

    All great apes - chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans - are suffering from dramatic declines in numbers. Chimps and gorillas are victims of several forms of human activity, including their hunting for bushmeat. However, the orang-utan is affected by a single threat: habitat loss. Across Borneo and Sumatra, swaths of rainforest are being chopped down for wood and to provide land for farmers wishing to plant oil palm and acacia trees (for wood pulp). More than 1% of this forest is destroyed every year.

    For orang-utans, the impact is devastating. Driven from their rainforests, adults are often shot by loggers or farmers when they stray into fields. Young orang-utans - who accompany their mothers until they reach the age of seven - are often caught and kept by villagers before being taken to a refuge.

    Conservationists estimate that there are at least 800 orang-utans, most of them young, living in refuges in Borneo and Sumatra. Mary Tibbett, of the World Land Trust, said her group was committed to protecting orang-utan communities and was attempting to buy land around the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Borneo to provide homes for them. "Reintroductions sound fine but carry risks: of bringing in diseases that orang-utans have picked up from humans or letting loose animals who simply do not have the skills to look after themselves in the wild," she added.

    But David Chivers warned that, in the long term, keeping orphaned animals in refuges could harm wild populations. "Keeping hundreds of animals in refuges, separated from wild animals, means you are isolating a large chunk of the orang-utan gene pool. That is ultimately harmful to the species. We need to reintroduce these animals."

    Most experts now believe that by the year 2020 there may be so few animals left in the wild that populations there will no longer be viable. Hence the emphasis placed by organisations such as the Orangutan Foundation on protecting rainforests at all costs. However, Leiman added that she did accept orang-utan refuges had helped the overall plight of the species in one way. "The animals here have got used to humans and will often play at ground level, sometimes with their babies. Until we had these refuges, neither scientists nor tourists could see very much of orang-utans because, in the wild, they spend their lives in tree-tops. We didn't realise how intelligent they were."

    At the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve in Borneo, some orang-utans have revealed themselves to be startlingly intelligent performers. "They can pick any lock you give them and can copy the refuge's carpenters by banging nails into bits of wood with hammers," added Leiman. "They even imitate the way the carpenters hold their nails in their mouths."

    The discovery that orang-utans are sharp social observers has come as a surprise to many experts. While chimps and gorillas are relatively gregarious, orang-utans live isolated lives and were not thought to have any social prowess. But recently scientists have found that orang-utans have their own cultures. For example, some groups have developed special techniques for using leaves to scoop ants from nests, others for using twigs to get honey from bees' nests. "These cultures are important for orang-utan survival," added Leiman. "However, if we allow our rainforests to be destroyed those cultures will be lost. Refuges won't help.

    "This crisis has arisen because we have failed to protect the orang-utan for the past three decades. Rehabilitation will not save them now. We must do everything to protect them in the wild."

    • Watch the debate on www.worldlandtrust.org/videos/great-ape-debate.htm

    Violet gets ready for forest freedom

    Violet the orang-utan was 18 months old when her mother was shot by loggers in Borneo, in May 2004. She was found by local villagers who kept Violet for several months before volunteers working for the Orang-utan Foundation brought her to their refuge at Lemandau. Several hundred orang-utans, some only a few months old, are kept at the centre. Originally built to provide homes for around 150 animals, there are now more than 350 living there. "We are being swamped," said Ashley Leiman.

    Once at the refuge, a young orang-utan is kept in quarantine - diseases such as hepatitis and diarrhoea are particular problems for the species - for a few weeks before they are allowed to have contact with other animals. Violet (seen here with one of the centre's volunteer carers) has now spent almost five years at the refuge and is approaching her seventh birthday, an age when orang-utans in the wild leave their mothers and fend for themselves.

    To prepare Violet for a release into the wild, carers have been taking her and other orang-utan youngsters for forest training every day for the past few years. Each animal is looked after by an individual carer who tries to sharpen its survival skills. Bananas are hidden on tree branches, for example, so that youngsters have to learn to search for themselves.

    Apart from the problem of habitat loss triggered by the clearing of plantations for oil palm and acacia plantations, forest fires have devastated the territories of hundreds of Borneo's and Sumatra's orang-utans and piled further pressure on the refuges which care for orphaned creatures. These currently provide homes for more than 800 apes, it is estimated.

    "We are now stretched and are running up a backlog of animals that we are trying to prepare for release into the wild," added Leiman.

    [Ends]




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    biofuelwatch - Call for papers: Biofuels, Land and Agrarian Change



    http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/cfp/fjpscfp1.pdf

    Call for papers

    A workshop on

    Biofuels, Land and Agrarian Change

    The Journal of Peasant Studies (JPS), in collaboration with the International Development Studies (IDS) Program at Saint Mary's University, is organizing a global academic workshop on 'Biofuels, Land and Agrarian Change', to be held 16-17 October 2009 at Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

    The recent convergence of food, fuel, finance and environmental crises has far-reaching implications for the lives and livelihoods of poor people in the countryside of the global South and North. It has aggravated, and will aggravate, the already precarious conditions of the rural poor and the problematic condition of the agriculture sector. By 2008, three out of four poor people are rural poor. To date, there are a billion people living in hunger, despite technological advancement in food production and dramatic increases in the volume of global food trade. At the height of the recent food price crisis, the FAO announced that in order to meet the growing global food need, food production would need to double by 2050. Much of this needed increase would have to happen in developing countries where majority of the world's rural poor live and where 95 per cent of the estimated population increase during this period is expected to occur. One-third of the total carbon emission in the world comes from the (industrial) agriculture sector.

    Despite numerous workshops and conferences on the food crisis in particular, which also in some ways address the issue of biofuels, we feel there is a need for a distinct 'energy crisis/biofuels-focused' academic workshop. It is our belief that the energy crisis and the question of biofuels is a strategic issue that, while linked to the issue of food, has its distinct importance in the context of peasants and agrarian change. We are not alone in this assumption.

    There are several research initiatives today that attempt to deepen understanding of the energy crisis and biofuels and theirimplications for the peasantry and agrarian change worldwide. Many of the earliest researchinitiatives and studies have come from agrarian and environment- oriented research think tanks, NGOs and social movements, whose efforts have been crucial in offering a critical perspective on the biofuels boom. By contrast, that section of the academic community working on critical perspectives has been relatively slow to respond on this research front, but it is catching up.

    Scientific research initiatives are underway and initial academic write-ups and publications are starting to come out.

    It is at this juncture and in particular context that The Journal of Peasant Studies and the IDS Program of Saint Mary's University are joining forces to organize a workshop on: 'Biofuels, Land and Agrarian Change'. The main purpose of the workshop is to provide an academic venue to bring together scholars and researchers who have completed or are completing theoretical, policy-oriented and/or empirical studies on the politics of biofuels, land and agrarian change. By doing so, we hope to be able to contribute to ongoing theoretical, policy-oriented and political discussions about biofuels and its implications for peasants and agrarian change by deepening
    and sharpening the debates, stretching the boundaries of our knowledge on the issue, and identifying further research frontiers.

    The particular focus of the workshop will be on the politics of biofuels, land and agrarian change.

    Papers to be presented at the workshop will cover topics including: biofuels and land use change, biofuels and land (re)distribution and (re)allocation change, biofuels and land property rights change, biofuels/land use/allocation/property rights changes and their impact on peasant production/food/subsistence/livelihoods, politics of policymaking around biofuels and
    land/peasant production, struggles around biofuels/land by communities/social movements,
    among others.

    In deciding to invite or accept papers, we will use the main objectives of The Journal of Peasant Studies as a general guide:

    The Journal of Peasant Studies will provoke and promote critical thinking about social structures, institutions, actors and processes of change in and in relation to the rural world. It will encourage inquiry into how agrarian power relations between classes and other social groups are created, understood, contested and transformed. The Journal pays special attention to questions of 'agency' of marginalized groups in agrarian societies, particularly their autonomy and capacity to interpret – and change – their conditions. The Journal promotes theoretical and empirical contributions that question mainstream prescriptions or interrogate orthodoxies in radical thinking.

    We will invite or accept papers that offer rigorous analysis of the identified issues from various critical perspectives including agrarian political economy, political sociology and political ecology.

    We encourage systematic comparative studies. We also encourage analytical 'state of the art' survey articles on the key themes identified.

    The deadline for the Call for Papers is 31 July 2009. Please submit abstracts to jpsworkshop@gmail.com. We will be able to provide travel and accommodation fund support only to a handful keynote speakers.

    Some papers presented at the workshop will be selected and considered for publication in The Journal of Peasant Studies.

    Organizers:

    Jun Borras Editor of The Journal of Peasant Studies and Canada Research Chair in International Development Studies, Saint Mary's University, Canada

    Ian Scoones Editorial Collective member of The Journal of Peasant Studies and Professorial Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK

    For further information, or for submitting abstracts, please email: jpsworkshop@gmail.com.

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