Monday, June 29, 2009

biofuelwatch - Dow Chemical's algae fuel project-NY Times



Algae Farm Aims to Turn Carbon Dioxide Into Fuel
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/29/business/energy-environment/
29biofuel.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

By MATTHEW L. WALD
Published: June 28, 2009

Dow Chemical and Algenol Biofuels, a start-up company, are set to announce Monday that they will build a demonstration plant that, if successful, would use algae to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol as a vehicle fuel or an ingredient in plastics.

Because algae does not require any farmland or much space, many energy companies are trying to use it to make commercial quantities of hydrocarbons for fuel and chemicals. But harvesting the hydrocarbons has proved difficult so far.

The ethanol would be sold as fuel, the companies said, but Dow's long- term interest is in using it as an ingredient for plastics, replacing natural gas. The process also produces oxygen, which could be used to burn coal in a power plant cleanly, said Paul Woods, chief executive
of Algenol, which is based in Bonita Springs, Fla. The exhaust from such a plant would be mostly carbon dioxide, which could be reused to make more algae.

"We give them the oxygen, we get very pure carbon dioxide, and the output is very cheap ethanol," said Mr. Woods, who said the target price was $1 a gallon.

Algenol grows algae in "bioreactors," troughs covered with flexible plastic and filled with saltwater. The water is saturated with carbon dioxide, to encourage growth of the algae. "It looks like a long hot dog balloon," Mr. Woods said.

Dow, a maker of specialty plastics, will provide the "balloon" material.

The algae, through photosynthesis, convert the carbon dioxide and water into ethanol, which is a hydrocarbon, oxygen and fresh water.

The company has 40 bioreactors in Florida, and as part of the demonstration project plans 3,100 of them on a 24-acre site at Dow's Freeport, Tex., site. Among the steps still being improved is the separation of the oxygen and water from the ethanol. The Georgia Institute of Technology will work on that process, as will Membrane Technology and Research, a company in Menlo Park, Calif. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, an Energy Department lab, will study carbon dioxide sources and their impact on the algae samples.

Algenol and its partners are planning a demonstration plant that could produce 100,000 gallons a year. The company and its partners were spending more than $50 million, said Mr. Woods, but not all of that was going into the pilot plant. The company had applied to the Energy Department for financing under the stimulus bill, but would build a pilot plant with or without a grant, he said.

With a stimulus grant, he said, the division of spending would be slightly more than 50 percent from the private sector, although the normal level was 20 percent. The project would create 300 jobs, he said, adding that Algenol and Dow were "incredibly hopeful" of getting the grant, partly because they had a combination of an innovative start-up company, a major company with extensive experience in industrial processes, a university and a national laboratory.

At Dow, Peter A. Molinaro, a spokesman, said that the ethanol was "intriguing to us as a feedstock, because the chemistry is simple." Dow is already working on using ethanol from Brazilian sugar cane as a replacement for natural gas as an ingredient in plastics.

When Congress created a tax subsidy for ethanol, it raised the price for nonfuel users like Dow, he said. "We're looking at options, and this is one," he said.

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Brian Tokar
Institute for Social Ecology
P.O. Box 93
Plainfield, VT 05667

* See our brand new website at social-ecology.org.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

biofuelwatch - Seattle Halts Use Of Soybean-Based Biofuels




http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105988831&ft=1&f=1001

Seattle Halts Use Of Soybean-Based Biofuels

Biofuel sign at a gas station.

The main argument against biodiesel is that it increases demand for vegetable oils, which in turn may increase deforestation in soybean-growing countries such as Brazil. iStockphoto.com

All Things Considered, June 26, 2009 · There's one piece of America's climate-change strategy that's coming increasingly under fire: biofuels. Just a couple of years ago, ethanol and biodiesel were celebrated as homegrown alternatives to foreign oil. But now, not so much. Policymakers are starting to pay attention to long-standing criticisms of crop-based fuels, and even green-minded cities like Seattle are backing away.

Duff Badgley is the kind of hard-core environmental activist who loves making a nuisance of himself.

"I jumped on the stage, and I succeeded in handing [Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels] this warrant for his arrest," Badgley says. "And Nickels had time to look very startled before his big police guard grabbed me and dragged me off the stage."

Mayor Nickels is hardly an enemy of the environmental movement. Seattle city government is so green, the toilets in City Hall flush brown because they use recycled rainwater. But for people like Badgley, that's just window dressing — considering that the city has been running its trucks and other vehicles on soybean-based biodiesel.

"Biofuels are a global scourge," Badgley says. "They're rapidly ruining our livable planet."

The Impact Of Biofuels Abroad

The main rap against biodiesel is that it increases demand for vegetable oils. That, in turn, may increase deforestation in soybean-growing countries such as Brazil. It's a view that was reinforced in a recent report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That was enough to change the mind of Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin. This month, he got the city to stop buying soybean-based biodiesel.

"Decisions should be driven by science," Conlin says. "They shouldn't be based just on what feels good. Feeling good is great, but the science needs to be part of it as well."

The thing is, this science isn't really new. There's long been a legitimate debate over whether biofuels really reduce global warming gases. The two sides of the debate calculate things differently, and what's changed is that the skeptics' calculations are now getting more attention.

The Biofuel Industry

"It feels like our industry is being Swift-boated by our opponents," says John Plaza, who likens the situation to a political mugging. Plaza is the founder of Imperium Renewables, a Seattle-based biodiesel company.

On the wall behind Plaza is an autographed photo of Hillary Clinton, a souvenir from a happier time — when politicians vied for photo ops in Plaza's startup biodiesel distillery. Now the big new refinery on the Washington state coast sits idle: Imperium hasn't produced biodiesel since February. Plaza says demand has just dried up.

"It's frustrating," Plaza says. "Biofuel is obviously better for the environment, obviously better for our national security and obviously better for the economics of our country."

Plaza says companies like his want to move on to more sustainable crops, but they won't get that far if they can't count on local governments to buy the biodiesel they're making now. Last year, King County, where Seattle is located, also quit using biodiesel in its buses, and Washington state has failed to implement a requirement to mix biodiesel into the diesel supply. Now, with this new EPA report, Plaza is worried that federal support is eroding, too.

Seattle Looks At Other Options

In the city motor pool, Brenda Bauer, director of the Fleets and Facilities Department, says Seattle is not abandoning its dedication to alternative energy.

"We have to move away from petroleum," Bauer says. "We just have to."
She's already looking into biodiesel made from waste grease from food production. And in the meantime, there are other ways to stay on the alternative energy vanguard, such as using a hybrid car.

Seattle's Priuses are plugged into an outlet; a sign on the car advertises 100 miles per gallon. Actually, it's getting more like 55 mpg. But city officials aren't discouraged — by this, or the experience with biodiesel. To use less oil, they say, it is important to keep trying new things.

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biofuelwatch - Biofuels could clean up Chernobyl 'badlands'





New Scientist:

Biofuels could clean up Chernobyl 'badlands' / 27 June 2009 by Fred Pearce

CONTAMINATED lands, blighted by fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, could be cleaned up in a clever way: by growing biofuels. Belarus, the country affected by much of the fallout, is planning to use the crops to suck up the radioactive strontium and caesium and make the soil fit to grow food again within decades rather than hundreds of years.

More at:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20227144.500-biofuels-could-clean-up-chernobyl-badlands.html

More from the company involved at:

http://www.greenfieldpartners.eu/Frankfurt/Greenfield_Info_Pack/Greenfield_Frankfurt.pdf

article says:

possibly 10 * €500million plants

covering area up to 40,000 square kilometre

sugar beet possible feedstock

plus GM research for 'modified crops able to clean the soil more quickly'.



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biofuelwatch - BIDCO oil palm plantation expansion in Uganda



[From World Rainforest Movement Bulletin, June 2009, www.wrm.org.uy ]

Uganda: BIDCO Oil palm plantation expansion will further put at risk local communities livelihoods

BIDCO, the largest and fastest growing manufacturer of vegetable oils, fats, margarine, soaps and protein concentrates in East and Central Africa is investing in a multi-million dollar oil palm plantation on Bugala islands in Kalangala. The company counts with investment partners including Archer Daniels Midlands of America, Wilmar Group of Malaysia and Josovina of Singapore. Within Uganda's Vegetable Oil Development Project (VODP) scheme, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank granted a $10m loan to support the plantations and supporting infrastructure, while the Government will contribute $12m in the form of land, electricity and roads, and BIDCO will invest $120m (see WRM Bulletin 100).

The project was intended to grow 10,000 ha of palm on Bugala Island. So far nearly all the planned area has been planted. Of the total project area, 6500 ha were planted under the nucleus estate and 3500 ha by out growers/small holders.

According to the project's proponents it was designed to improve the livelihood of the people of Uganda and Kalangala in particular, more so on the nutrition status of the poor and reduction on the national cost burden of importation of vegetable oils.

To this date, Oil Palm Uganda Limited (BIDCO's subsidiary company) has already cleared more than 6,500ha of forest and grassland and replaced most of it with palms that will be ready for processing this year.

Despite the promises made by the government and the company, the oil palm project has not been able to come up to the promises made. According to a recent report undertaken by the Kalangala District NGO Forum (KADINGO), local people are facing serious negative impacts.

The establishment of the plantations has had high environmental impacts starting from deforestation and water depletion; and local people can no longer obtain a large number of products and services from the forest environment which disappeared as a result of the plantation. However, the most serious impact local communities are facing is the appropriation of their land by the plantation companies. In Kalangala district, local people do not have formal ownership of the land. Plantation companies are awarded concessions or land titles to that land and receive government support to repress whatever opposition they may face from local communities.

There have been eruptions of land wrangles between BIDCO and the community over who owns land. Some residents cannot precisely tell how their tomorrow will be simply because the land they are settled on is being claimed by BIDCO.

Coupled with the above, many communities have been displaced from the areas they were cultivating, and grazing, whereby some of them have been forced to sell off their animals. Although some landless people in Bwendero, Buguzi and Mulabana were said to have been facilitated to acquire land for re-settlement, the displaced communities in Buswa and Mugela were reportedly either not compensated for their losses at all or received a totally inadequate compensation.

The give-away of public land has affected the local communities who have been living on those lands and depended on it for their livelihoods. In addition, the land market boom on the Island has attracted many rich men to buy off private land. More of the indigenous and local communities that have for years lived on such land have either been fenced off or evicted.

Consequently, local communities living on both private and public land have lost their livelihood. Even those who have not been affected yet are worried about their future and cannot make long-term investments on land. In Mugoye village, more than 100 people are currently living on a land enclave surrounded by oil palm plantations. Local people are worried about what will happen if the land "owners" decide to sell off the land to the Project owners or convert it to oil palm tree growing under the out-growers scheme.

Land including natural resources such as forests has been providing a safety net for victims of social changes, displacement, unemployment, lost opportunities in the urban areas etc. Its loss has increased the vulnerability of the communities to such changes/shocks over which they have no control.

Furthermore, there are many conflicts between the communities and the Project arising from denied access to:

- Use of the project road network for livestock movements/transportation;
- Water points located in the project area formerly used by the communities; some were destroyed during the clearing of land for project activities especially the wells in Kibaale;
- Grazing lands within the project area leading to confiscation of "trespassing" animals with either an exorbitant fine of about 50,000 Shs (Ugandan shillings) per animal, or risk of having the animals slaughtered and eaten free of charge, which discourages animal rearing in most areas of the project.

One particularly severe problem resulted from the project taking over sand mining areas and denying the indigenous and local community access to building materials as in the case of Bukuzzindu. The area was a community utility where sand for building and construction was obtained but when the project took over, the indigenous and local people were denied access to this vital material. The area was put under oil palm plantation and accommodation structure for the top staff and workers. The refusal by BIDCO to vacate the area is creating friction between BIDCO and the community, to the extent that the community is reacting by digging sand ditches along the roadside so as to cause accidents to BIDCO's vehicles.

In the company's race to have more land for plantations, even the children's play ground of the community of Kasenyi – Bamungi was converted into oil palm plantation!

Given that BIDCO is planning to establish 30,000 more hectares of oil palm on the mainland, it is important to inform local communities living in the area targeted for plantations about the negative impacts of the 10,000 hectares already planted in the islands. The proposed expansion will not only not improve but will worsen people's livelihoods –and the impacted communities of the Buggala islands in Kalangala can provide more than ample evidence on this.

Article based on information from: "A study to identify key issues for engagement about the oil palm project in Ssese islands Kalangala district: A case study of Buggala and Bunyama island in Kalangala district" sent by David Mwayafu - a Programme Officer of Uganda Coalition for Sustainable Development (UCSD),Website: www.ugandacoalition.or.ug The full report is available at: Kalangala District NGO Forum Email: Kalangalango@yahoo.com

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

biofuelwatch - US climate leg and biofuel and Agriculture issues



sorry this is not the greatest, but some key points...

Climate Bill- Additional Analysis
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton reported yesterday that, "[A]griculture is exempted from the greenhouse-gas emission requirements. Another key provision would effectively shelf the Environmental Protection Agency-proposed rule that factors in land-use changes overseas when calculating the carbon reduction of biofuels. The EPA would not be allowed to consider indirect land-use change under the bill for at least five years and any future consideration of ILUC would also require approval from USDA and the Department of Energy."

Mr. Clayton noted that, "While the ag language appears strong, House Energy & Commerce Committee Ranking Member Joe Barton, D-Texas, said in debate that there was still a provision in the bill that could allow the EPA administrator to designate any emission as harmful to the public and thus subject to the bill's regulatory oversight.

"'As far as I can tell, that paragraph trumps everything Chairman Peterson has negotiated with Chairman Waxman,' Barton said on the House floor."

Stephen Power reported in today's Wall Street Journal that, "One way the Waxman-Markey bill tries to guard against bogus offsets is to delegate decisions on what kinds of activities qualify to the EPA and an 'Offsets Integrity Advisory Board,' composed of scientific experts. But that just shifts the lobbying elsewhere.

"Farm groups and their congressional allies won a deal to put the Department of Agriculture - rather than the EPA - in charge of determining which domestic agricultural activities qualify as offsets. That is great news for farmers who stand to make money from the bill, but a source of anxiety for environmentalists.

"'We expect them to be somewhat farmer-friendly,' Rep. Collin Peterson (D., Minn.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said of the USDA.

"In the end, it is probably unrealistic to think any offset system Congress designs will be perfect. The real question facing the Waxman-Markey bill's supporters is how imperfect the system will be."

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Rachel Smolker
Biofuelwatch
Hinesburg, Vermont, U.S.A.
office: (802) 482 2848
mobile: (802) 735-7794
skype: rachel smolker
http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/


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Friday, June 26, 2009

biofuelwatch - Colombian bio-energy boom is a bust for farmers



http://colombiareports.com/opinion/89-from-the-editor/4672-colombian-bio-energy-boom-is-a-bust-for-farmers.html

Colombian bio-energy boom is a bust for farmers <http://colombiareports.com/opinion/89-from-the-editor/4672-colombian-bio-energy-boom-is-a-bust-for-farmers.html>

Tuesday, 23 June 2009, Elyssa Pachico

Colombia's biofuel industry is increasingly coming under scrutiny <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8084735.stm> for human rights abuses. Palm tree oil companies in particular have been accused of using using illegal militias to seize land from thousands of primarily Afro-Colombian and indigenous farmers. The Washington Post has reported that as many as 3,000 farmers have been forced to abandon a total of 247,000 acres of land.

After launching an investigation against 27 palm oil companies in 2007, last March Colombia's Attorney General ordered nine of them to return thousands of acres of land to rural households. This territory was allegedly obtained through methods like doctored records, false land titles or slightly messier strategies, like cutting off people's arms and using the fingerprints to forge signatures <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article1875709.ece>.

So far, three palm oil companies have agreed to return 3,200 acres to their rightful owners. But more needs to be done to ensure that Colombia's bio-energy boom is actually beneficial for the rural poor, rather than yet another cause of terror and displacement.

At the moment, most of the production and processing of biofuels is done through large-scale producers, such as the five sugarcane mills in Valle del Cauca that reportedly pump out one million liters of ethanol a day <http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=35088>. The State needs to better promote and develop small-scale bioenergy technologies that campesinos could use to tangibly improve their lives. In countries like Zambia, Tanzania and Mali, local farmers'co-ops – often headed by women – have turned biodiesel-producing-plants into their village's new cash crop. In Costa Rica, one non-profit helps foster local sustainable energy use by assisting rural women in building and using their own solar stoves <http://solarcooking.wikia.com/wiki/Sol_de_Vida>.

If small-scale farmers in Colombia could sell seeds and produce tobiofuel processors in the same way that small-scale coffee farmers already do with coffee buyers, this would also help cut down on the damage caused by large-scale biofuel farming. Massive monoculture plantations are used to cultivate palm oil, sugar cane and cassava, which not only threatens local biodiversity, but also necessitates heavy duty use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Microlevel banking has already been proved a huge success around the world. Similarly for Colombia's bio-energy business, bigger is not always better.

The State also needs to do more to address the disgrace which is Urapalma. There is strong evidence that this particular palm oil company has seized approximately 52,000 acres of land in Choco since 2001, with paramilitary thugs doing the dirty work <http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090615/ballve>. Both Jens Mesa, president of the national palm growers' federation, and Prosecutor General Mario Iguaran need to stop complaining that these charges are blown out of proportion and actually conduct a transparent, thorough investigation.

This is no easy task in Colombia, but Uribe's government should realize that it desperately needs to clean up its image. For better or worse, Uribe is hoping that the Obama administration soon ratifies the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The U.S.A. will remain iffy about doing so, as long as it appears that paramilitary groups are terrorizing the countryside without so much a slap on the wrist.

Colombia can demonstrate its commitment to stopping human rights abuses by coming down hard on biofuel-related violence.

The U.S. government also needs to pull its own weight. There is some evidence that U.S. dollars may potentially have ended up funding at least two palm oil companies with paramilitary and drug trafficking links. $161,000 worth of USAID money allegedly went to Coproagrosur and another $650,000 to Gradesa, two companies that reportedly had known 'paras' sitting on their board of directors <http://www.eltiempo.com/colombia/justicia/ARTICULO-WEB-PLANTILLA_NOTA_INTERIOR-5327467.html>.


The U.S. can make good when the Senate votes on Plan Colombia, slated for 2010. Earlier this week, a subcommittee of the House of Representatives approved $520 million in aid. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont has added an amendment to the plan that would pull funding
from palm oil companies shown to have forcibly seized land and displaced farmers. As of now, this Senate amendment is slated for removal by 2010 <http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090615/ballve>. Quick, painless advice: don't delete it!

Colombia may yet see a green revolution within its borders. But let's ensure it's a revolution without blood on its hands.

--
Guadalupe Rodríguez
Salva la Selva /Rettet den Regenwald

www.salvalaselva.org
www.regenwald.org
www.stop-agrocombustibles.nireblog.com

Oficina Berlin
Hasenheide, 56
10967 Berlin, Alemania
Tel.: +49 (0)30- 51736879


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biofuelwatch - Beetle infestations a good excuse for bioenergy





Beetle-infested wood beneficial to biomass industry
http://www.biomassmagazine.com/article.jsp?article_id=2828&q=&page=all
By Anna Austin

Posted June 24, 2009, at 2:28 p.m. CST

The millions of acres of dead, downed and diseased timber infected by pine beetles in Colorado and the Western U.S. could be put to beneficial use by the biomass industry, and also help with forest fire mitigation and suppression, according to Mark Mathis, Pellet Fuels Institute Government Affairs and Commercial Fuel Committee member.

Last week, Mathis, a number of congressmen from western states, representatives of the U.S. departments of agriculture and the interior, state and local officials, and business owners testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water and Power and Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. All stressed how important it is for the biomass industry to gain access the pine-beetle-damaged wood, and to help Congress formulate a strategic plan to manage the materials.

Mathis is also president of Confluence Energy LLC, which currently is removing affected timber in Colorado and using it to produce wood pellets. The company operates a manufacturing facility in Kremmling, Colo., 70 miles northwest of Denver.

"The utilization of this material from U.S. forests and parks will put value on the material, which is currently considered a substantial liability to U.S. taxpayers," Mathis said. "Confluence Energy has viewed documents created by U.S. Forest Service personnel that suggest that the cost to treat some of the existing area in USFS Region 2 would exceed $220 million over the next three years. Confluence Energy suggests that by lowering some of the existing hurdles in accessing the dead and dying trees, private industry can add value to the material and dramatically reduce the cost to the taxpayers." Mathis said the company estimated the possible savings at about $75 million over five years.

A decision needs to be made quickly, however, as the dead and dying trees have a limited shelf life, Mathis said. "It is estimated that once the trees die and turn red they have eight to 15 years before they blow over," he said. "When trees blow over, they rot dramatically faster and any value from the wood is removed. Every minute we talk and do not act, not only are we are losing value, but we are reducing the time private industry has to get a return on their money to justify investing in these types of projects."

Mathis presented a plan that would require $10 million in grant funding and an additional $20 million in USDA-backed loans. He suggested Confluence Energy build an 8 MMgy to 10 MMgy ethanol plant and said the company has a partnership with a large U.S. fossil fuel company that is interested in a joint venture.

The plan also includes the construction of a 5-megawatt power generation system to satisfy the facility's and Kremmling's energy needs; the retrofit and remodel of the company's existing facility to manufacture high-value wood products; the renovation of an existing rail loading facility to transport finished products to market, and the expansion of Confluence Energy's pellet facility to maximize potential output.

Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., in his testimony, said the amount of diseased trees in Colorado is more than 2 million acres and growing. "We have over 633 miles of electrical transmission lines just in Colorado that are in areas of dead or dying trees," Salazar said. "We also have over 1,300 miles of electrical distribution lines at risk from falling trees or fire. A large fire could destroy many of these lines, causing power outages for months. While a wildfire is just a matter of when, falling trees are occurring now on trails, rancher's fences, camp grounds and power lines."

Seth Voyles, PFI manager of government affairs, said the main thing on the agenda was to evaluate strategies to address the pine beetle wood problem. "For us, the pellet industry is part the solution," he said. Aside from pellets, Voyles said there are many other possible uses for the wood. "When these trees die, they get a blue tinge to them, so there is blue furniture being made out of them as well," he said. "There are a lot of things that can be done--in New Mexico they're allowing people to go in and cut wood for home heating at a very limited price for the permit. This helps with fire suppression and the beetle kill epidemic."

As far as covering the cost of retrieving the wood, Voyles said that varies, depending on whether the damaged wood is on federal, state or private land. Jennifer Hedrick, manager of PFI, said one of the major hang-ups right now is the release of the land by the government and allow access for people to retrieve the materials. "There are some barriers," Voyles agreed. "Especially on federal lands out West, there's always some bureaucratic red tape to go through. There's sensitivity about going into these lands, and sometimes there are no roads to get to them; some roads have limited access and you can't get logging trucks in there; sometimes you'll have timber sales approved by the government and the purchaser and suddenly someone files a lawsuit against it and it stops. There's a whole mess of things that could prevent going in and getting the stuff out-even though everyone's pretty gung-ho about doing it."

Voyles said congress will likely utilize testimony from the hearing to determine what can be done on the federal side and in future legislation to help expedite the process. "There are certain things they don't want to do though, such as short-shift any environmental protocol or standards out there," he said. "They held this hearing to get the best possible strategies that they can to help make decisions, so hopefully something will be done sooner rather than later."

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Rachel Smolker
Biofuelwatch
Hinesburg, Vermont, U.S.A.
office: (802) 482 2848
mobile: (802) 735-7794
skype: rachel smolker
http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/


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Thursday, June 25, 2009

biofuelwatch - A fight for the Amazon that should inspire the world




A fight for the Amazon that should inspire the world

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-a-fight-for-the-amazon-that-should-inspire-the-world-1715927.html

In the depths of the Amazon rainforest, the poorest people in the world have taken on the richest people in the world to defend a part of the ecosystem none of us can live without. They had nothing but wooden spears and moral force to defeat the oil companies – and, for today, they have won.

Here's the story of how it happened – and how we all need to pick up this fight. Earlier this year, Peru's right-wing President, Alan Garcia, sold the rights to explore, log and drill 70 per cent of his country's swathe of the Amazon to a slew of international oil companies. Garcia seems to see rainforest as a waste of good resources, saying of the Amazon's trees: "There are millions of hectares of timber there lying idle."


There was only one pesky flaw in Garcia's plan: the indigenous people who live in the Amazon. They are the first people of the Americas, subject to wave after wave of genocide since the arrival of the Conquistadors. They are weak. They have no guns. They barely have electricity. The government didn't bother to consult them: what are a bunch of Indians going to do anyway?

But the indigenous people have seen what has happened elsewhere in the Amazon when the oil companies arrive.


Occidental Petroleum are facing charges in US courts of dumping an estimated nine billion barrels of toxic waste in the regions of the Amazon where they operated from 1972 to 2000. Andres Sandi Mucushua, the spiritual leader of the area known to the oil companies as Block (12A)B, said in 2007: "My people are sick and dying because of Oxy. The water in our streams is not fit to drink and we can no longer eat the fish in our rivers or the animals in our forests." The company denies liability, saying they are "aware of no credible data of negative community health impacts".

In the Ecuadorian Amazon, according to an independent report, toxic waste allegedly dumped after Chevron-Texaco's drilling has been blamed by an independent scientific investigation for 1,401 deaths,mostly of children from cancer. When the BBC investigator Greg Palast put these charges to Chevron's lawyer, he replied: "And it's the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States?... They have to prove it's our crude, [which] is absolutely impossible."


The people of the Amazon do not want to see their forests felled and their lands poisoned. And here, the need of the indigenous peoples to preserve their habitat has collided with your need to preserve your habitat. The rainforstes inhale massive amounts of warming gases and keep them stored away from the atmosphere. Already, we are chopping them down so fast that it is causing 25 per cent of man-made carbon emissions every year – more than planes, trains and automobiles combined. But it is doubly destructive to cut them down to get to fossil fuels, which then cook the planet yet more. Garcia's plan was to turn the Amazon from the planet's air con into its fireplace.


Why is he doing this? He was responding to intense pressure from the US, whose new Free Trade Pact requires this "opening up",and from the International Monetary Fund, paid for by our taxes. In Peru, it has also been alleged that the ruling party, APRA, is motivated by oil bribes. Some of Garcia's associates have been caught on tape talking about how to sell off the Amazon to their cronies. The head of the parliamentary committee investigating the affair, Rep. Daniel Abugattas, says: "The government has been giving away our natural resources to the lowest bidders. This has not benefited Peru, but the administration's friends."


So the indigenous peoples acted in their own self-defence, and ours. Using their own bodies and weapons made from wood, they blockaded the rivers and roads to stop the oil companies getting anything in or out. They captured two valves of Peru's sole pipeline between the country's gas field and the coast, which could have led to fuel-rationing. Their leaders issued a statement explaining: "We will fight together with our parents and children to take care of the forest, to save the life of the equator and the entire world."

Garcia responded by sending in the military. He declared a "state of emergency" in the Amazon, suspending almost all constitutional rights.


Army helicopters opened fire on the protesters with live ammunition and stun-grenades. More than a dozen were killed. But the indigenous peoples did not run away. Even though they were risking their lives, they stood their ground. One of their leaders, Davi Yanomami, said simply: "The earth has no price. It cannot be bought, or sold or exchanged. It is very important that white people, black people and indigenous peoples fight together to save the life of the forest and the earth. If we don't fight together, what will our future be?"


And then something extraordinary happened. The indigenous peoples won. The Peruvian Congress repealed the laws that allowed oil company drilling, by a margin of 82 votes to 12. Garcia was forced to apologise for his "serious errors and exaggerations". The protesters have celebrated and returned to their homes deep in the Amazon.


Of course, the oil companies will regroup and return – but this is an inspirational victory for the forces of sanity that will be hard to reverse.

Human beings need to make far more decisions like this: to leave fossil fuels in the ground, and to leave rainforests standing. In microcosm, this rumble in the jungle is the fight we all face now. Will we allow a small number of rich people to make a short-term profit from seizing and burning resources, at the expense of our collective ability to survive?


If this sounds like hyperbole, listen to Professor Jim Hansen, the world's leading climatologist, whose predictions have consistently turned out to be correct. He says: "Clearly, if we burn all fossil fuels, we will destroy the planet we know". We would set the planet on a course to the ice-free state, with a sea level 75 metres higher. Coastal disasters would occur continually. The only uncertainty is the time it would take for complete ice sheet disintegration."


Of course, fossil fools will argue that the only alternative to burning up our remaining oil and gas supplies is for us all to live like the indigenous peoples in the Amazon. But next door to Peru, you can see a very different, environmentally sane model to lift up the poor emerging – if only we will grasp it.


Ecuador is a poor country with large oil resources underneath its rainforests - but its president, Rafael Correa, is offering us the opposite of Garcia's plan. He has announced that he is willing to leave his country's largest oil reserve under the soil, if the rest of the world will match the $9.2bn in revenues it would provide.


If we don't start reaching for these alternatives, we will render this month's victory in the Amazon meaningless. The Hadley Centre in Exeter, one of the most sophisticated scientific centres for studying the impacts of global warming, has warned that if we carry on belching out greenhouse gases at the current rate, the humid Amazon will dry up and burn down – and soon.


Their study earlier this year explained: "The Amazonian rainforest is likely to suffer catastrophic damage even with the lowest temperature rises forecast under climate change. Up to 40 per cent of the rainforest will be lost if temperature rises are restricted to C, which most climatologists regard as the least that can be expected by 2050. A 3C rise is likely to result in 75 per cent of the forest disappearing while a 4C rise, regarded as the most likely increase this century unless greenhouse gas emissions are slashed, will kill off 85 per cent of the forest." That would send gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere – making the world even more inhabitable.


There is something thrilling about the fight in the Amazon, yet also something shaming. These people had nothing, but they stood up to the oil companies. We have everything, yet too many of us sit limp and passive, filling up our tanks with stolen oil without a thought for tomorrow. The people of the Amazon have shown they are up for the fight to save our ecosystem. Are we?






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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

biofuelwatch - Waxman-Markey Bill to exempt ethanol indirect land-use change




1. http://planetark.org/enviro-news/item/53498

Climate Bill Could Reward Farmers
Date: 25-Jun-09
Country: US
Author: Charles Abbott

WASHINGTON - The climate bill nearing a vote in the U.S. House will reward farmers who plant trees or take other steps to control greenhouse gases and it will remove for five years an obstacle to corn-based ethanol, said the House Agriculture Committee chairman on Wednesday.

Chairman Collin Peterson said negotiators hoped by the end of the day to agree on a broader definition of "renewable biomass" for alternative fuels. U.S. biofuel output could be larger if more material is available.

"We think we have something that can work for agriculture," Peterson told reporters after summarizing a compromise with House Energy chairman Henry Waxman. Some four dozen rural lawmakers sided with Peterson in seeking revisions in the bill.
Under the compromise:

--The Agriculture Department would oversee projects by farmers and ranchers to lock carbon into the soil by reduced tillage or planting trees. USDA is more popular in farm country than the Environmental Protection Agency, which runs most pollution control programs. Work dating from 2001 would be eligible for credit for carbon reduction, said Peterson. Inclusion of "early adopters" will broaden the appeal of the bill, said an agricultural lobbyist.

--A proposed EPA regulation, which would make U.S. ethanol makers responsible for greenhouse gas emissions from conversion of forests and grasslands overseas to cropland, would be sidetracked for five years during a study of the so-called indirect land use change. It could take effect only if three federal agencies agree and Congress could intervene to block a rule.

Corn-based ethanol and some feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol would have trouble under EPA's current scoring of land-use change to meet targets for greenhouse gas savings.

--Agriculture would not be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The sector is a small producer of the gases.

Waxman and Peterson met conservative House Democrats on Tuesday evening while working out the compromise. Earlier talks resulted in an agreement to give small rural electric operators a larger portion of credits toward meeting carbon reductions.

In addition, Peterson said Waxman would accept language allowing rural utilities to use federal funds to buy a stake in nuclear power plants.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission would oversee futures markets that trade carbon contract while the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would oversee the cash market.

"My initial reaction to this deal is it doesn't fix the real problems with the bill," said Frank Lucas, Oklahoma Republican. Lucas and other Republican lawmakers say the climate bill will drive up energy costs in rural America.

Rural Americans drive longer distances than city dwellers and the farm sector is a large user of fuel and of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides derived from petroleum.

Farm groups said the Waxman-Peterson compromise was a step in the right direction but they have reservations about the overall bill. Some groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council, have announced opposition the bill. The National Farmers Union, which backs a carbon-trading program, has called for changes.
© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved


2. [For all Andrew Leonard/Salon's foibles, good and informative in this one]

http://www.salon.com/tech/htww/2009/06/24/waxman_markey_compromises/index.html

The Waxman-Markey energy bill, a.k.a. "American Clean Energy and Security Act," now appears headed for a Friday vote in the House of Representatives -- but only after a few more compromises aimed at getting "Farm Belt" Democrats to fall in line.

The New Republic's Brad Plumer reports that one of the concessions had to do with how the downstream impact of biofuel agriculture on greenhouse gas emissions is calculated.
Waxman also agreed to exempt ethanol from indirect-land-use analysis for five years. In other words, if corn or soy in the United States is grown for fuel and that, in turn, prompts farmers elsewhere to clear a patch of forest and grow their own corn, well, the EPA can't consider that in its assessment of the impacts of ethanol. Joe Romm deems this a minimal concession, since corn-based ethanol is already exempt from this sort of scrutiny, and newer biofuels like cellulosic ethanol -- where this rule could do a lot of damage -- are more than five years away anyway. That's the optimistic take, at least.
How the World Works is in the camp that accepts that the legislative process, in general, rarely results in in what anyone, on any side, would regard as an ideal solution. Compromises are by definition unsatisfying. But it's still distressing, nonetheless, to see the greenhouse gas land-use impacts of ethanol shoved to the side for five years.

As U.C. Berkeley researchers Alex Farrell and Michael O'Hare told the California Air Resources Board in January 2008:
Simply said, ethanol production today using U.S. corn contributes to the conversion of grasslands and rainforest to agriculture, causing very large GHG emissions... Even if only a small fraction of the emissions calculated in this crude way [through land use change] are added to estimates of direct emissions for corn ethanol, total emissions for corn ethanol are higher than for fossil fuels.
Congress may not be ready to listen to science, but Berkeley, which, ironically, has already been attempting to use biodiesel as much as possible in city-owned vehicles, is paying attention. Earlier this month, city officials axed the program.
From the Contra Costa Times:
Berkeley has ended its six-year attempt to save the world by burning biodiesel in its trucks and machinery amid concerns it actually increases greenhouse gases worldwide and exacerbates hunger....

Robert Clear, a member of the city's Community Environmental Advisory Commission. ... said American farmers who are now converting their crops to grow soy beans to meet the biodiesel demand are decreasing the amount of land used to grow food for people and cattle.

That in turn has caused an increase in demand for land to grow food in South America and South East Asia where farmers are burning down virgin forests. The burning of the forests releases carbon into the atmosphere and there is a decrease in the amount of carbon the plants suck out of the atmosphere: two big negatives for global warming.
Saving the world is tricky business, that's for sure.


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biofuelwatch - Russians plan to plant 300,000 GM trees



Another reason to be alarmed about the new push for GE trees here in
the US. More widely adaptive species are on their way.

Please post your comments to the USDA/APHIS Eucalyptus docket before
the July 6th deadline, or (if it's all your able to do) sign on to
the public letter at http://www.globaljusticeecology.org/petition.php.

----------------------------------------------
Brian Tokar
Institute for Social Ecology
P.O. Box 93
Plainfield, VT 05667

* See our brand new website at social-ecology.org.

Begin forwarded message:

Russians plan to plant mutant trees with with super fast growth rate
17 Jun, 04:34 PM (From http://mosnews.com/world/2009/06/17/transgenic/)

Russian biologists plan to plant 300,000 genetically modified aspens and birch trees at two experimental fields, Informnauka news agency reports.

In the autumn of 2009 the trees, currently in greenhouses, will be planted in the open air near the cities of St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod.

The trees' DNA has been modified by researchers at the Institute for Bioorganic Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences to provide for faster growth and harder wood pulp.

Every year the forest area of the Earth shrinks by 9.5 million hectares. At the moment the transgenic plantations only make up five percent of the world's forests, but already produce 25 percent of the world's lumber. Researchers hope that growing genetically modified trees will help preserve natural forests from devastation.

The tests will take three years, and if they are succesful researchers hope to start spreading the transgenic trees on an industrial scale.

However it would require a change in Russian legislation, currently banning large plantations of transgenic plants.


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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

biofuelwatch - food vs fuel to everything vs fuel




http://www.altenergystocks.com/archives/2009/06/investment_ideas_from_the_advanced_biofuels_workshop.html

this of interest

Dr. Tom Konrad looks at lessons learned from first generation biofuels and in particular looks at the potential that a "everything vs. fuel" may replace the "food vs fuel" debate.

He notes that noting that "the advent of biofuels from wood chips will mean that the price of your wood pellets will start to track the price of petroleum, just like the price of vegetable oils are already doing. From an economic perspective, heating with wood pellets may become not much different than using heating oil."


Cellulosic Ethanol and Advanced Biofuels Investments

There's much excitement about second generation biofuels made from cellulosic feedstocks and algae, be they cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, biocrude, or electricity from biomass. There will be winners, but they may not be the technology companies.

Tom Konrad, Ph.D., CFA

At the 2009 Advanced Biofuels Workshop, there were two major themes: developing new feedstocks, especially algae, and the development of new pathways to take biomass into products such as biocrude, which can be used in exiting oil refineries.

Big Market, Many Competitors

The current federal Renewable Fuel Standard requires the use of 36 million gallons of biofuels, including at least 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels by 2022. Advanced biofuels are defined as fuels other than corn-based ethanol and with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions half that of the fuel they replace. This creates a gigantic market, so large that some industry observers doubt if it can be met.

Many of these fuels will not be ethanol, a fuel which poses problems with the current fuel transport and distribution infrastructure. Even for cellulosic ethanol, there are several different processes that different companies are pursuing: Acid hydrolysis, Thermochemical conversion, Biochemical conversion, and Consolidated Bioprocessing, and combinations of these three used in various combinations by various companies.

Potential products not only include fuels such as ethanol, butanol and higher-carbon alcohols, but biocrude which can be fed into existing refineries. Other potential products include plastics, and many other products currently produced by the petroleum based energy industry.

The bewildering array of potential pathways and products make for a very challenging investment landscape. An investor in any company would need a lot of confidence that the company they are investing in will be able to take their chosen feedstocks to a potential salable product at lower cost than all the competitors out there. Unsurprisingly, nearly every company feels it has the best process.

Lessons From the First Generation

With so many variables, I find it's often better to take a step back to see what impact the development of the advanced biofuels market will have on the larger economy. Will there be impacts on the broader economy which will be independent of the eventual mix of products and processes in the advanced biofuels market?

We can learn from the experience of first generation biofuels.

Below is a chart from William Thurmond, President of Emerging Markets Online and author of Algae 2020: Biofuels Commercialization Outlook, and Biodiesel 2020: A Global Market Survey:

Click to Enlarge

It shows how biodiesel feedstocks (Palm oil, rapeseed oil, and soybean oil) are increasingly following diesel prices. There is a massive overcapacity for biodiesel production in the EU, as shown in the shown in the following graph, also from Thurmond:

Click to Enlarge

With this excess capacity, if biodiesel feedstock prices were to fall relative to diesel prices, biodiesel producers would purchase feedstock either until they fill their excess capacity, or until feedstock prices rise again to a point where it is no longer profitable to run additional biodiesel capacity. Put another way, biodiesel producers cannot be more than marginally profitable (and may be unprofitable) so long as there is significant excess capacity. Excess capacity can only be filled if additional feedstock can be found, or plants permanently shut down.

What does this mean for advanced biofuels? As advanced biofuel technologies advance, feedstocks prices are likely to rise.

Why Advanced Biofuels are Different

Unlike with biodiesel and starch based ethanol, many second generation feedstocks are not generally internationally traded; many are actually waste streams from other processes, such as yellow and brown grease (the restaurant industry), corn stover, forest trimmings (the lumber industry,) and even municipal waste. The more that these feedstocks are internationally traded and easy to transport (such as yellow and brown grease), the more likely they are to follow the patterns seen in the feedstocks for first generation biofuels. According to Thurmond, this has already happened with yellow grease, and the rise in price was a surprise to most biodiesel industry participants.

Many emerging biofuels companies have learned this lesson. ZeaChem's strategy specifically includes setting up a long term contract to purchase feedstock from dedicated energy plantations because "the availability of sustainable, cost effective raw materials is essential for an economically viable cellulosic biofuel facility," according to Andy Vietor, ZeaChem's CFO, who spoke at the workshop. BioFuelBox Corporation is tackling the same problem from a different direction: by developing a biorefinery that they expect can produce biodiesel from a zero-cost waste stream (trap grease), but I'm not sure that they have completely absorbed the lesson. Even trap grease will acquire some value if they can consistently make fuel from it. I think they could improve their business model by selling their technology as a turnkey solution to the waste stream owner.

Investments and the "Everything vs. Fuel" debate

Investors who expect advanced biofuels to be successful should pay close attention to feedstocks. Just as supply constraints for batteries will shape the electric and hybrid electric auto market, limited supplies of biomass will shape the advance biofuels industry.

If an advanced biofuel company expects to make biofuel from an easily shippable commodity, such as wood chips, they'd be advised to stay away, unless that company also plans to contract for their supply of feedstock well ahead of time, and such agreements will probably constrain a company's ability to react to changing conditions. Lack of flexibility can be fatal to start-up companies.

Companies which produce easily transportable feedstocks being considered by advanced biofuel companies stand to benefit from new markets for their products. These include forestry companies (wood chips), waste management companies, and most owners of arable or marginal land. Wood chips are likely to see price escalation even without the advent of advanced biofuels based on them. Wood chips and pellets can be cofired in many existing coal power plants with only relatively inexpensive modifications, a process which offsets large amounts of carbon emissions at very low cost. Biomass cofiring was the cheapest renewable energy opportunity identified in California's RETI study last year. For an apples-to-apples comparison, the greater efficiency of electric motors means that electricity produced from biomass can propel an electric vehicle 81% farther than an otherwise comparable ethanol-fueled vehicle running on cellulosic ethanol produced from the same amount of biomass.

Furthermore, the existing biofuel industry may also find better uses for cellulosic feedstocks than turning them into biofuels. I attended a session at the 2009 Fuel Ethanol Workshop the following day where gasification of cellulosic waste streams such as corn cobs or stover was presented as an economical way to reduce the carbon footprint of corn ethanol by displacing natural gas used in the production process.

The flip side of the feedstock equation is that industries which compete for feedstock with the biofuels industry are likely to be hurt by rising prices. Advanced Biofuels may resolve the "Food vs. Fuel" debate, but they will be doing so by, at least in part, replacing it with a new "Everything vs. Fuel" debate. For instance, the paper industry (especially those companies which do not own forestry assets) will likely be hurt by rising pulp prices, like Mexicans who found they could not buy tortillas. Recycled paper pulp is an excellent cellulosic feedstock as well. On the other hand, businesses which produce or collect paper waste may find more robust markets for their products.

This line of reasoning might also give you pause if you're considering warming your home with a wood pellet stove. The advent of biofuels from wood chips will mean that the price of your wood pellets will start to track the price of petroleum, just like the price of vegetable oils are already doing. From an economic perspective, heating with wood pellets may become not much different than using heating oil. We saw the start of this trend last year with wood pellet factories starting to price dairy farmers out of the market for sawdust in the Pacific Northwest.

Algae to the Rescue?

Algae is the only feedstock that has the potential to be productive enough to supply most of our current liquid fuel demand, but it is still unproven. Most current algae to biofuel production methods cost an order of magnitude more than the fossil fuels they hope to displace. This is why most algae biofuel companies are currently targeting higher-value synthetic bioproducts, such as animal feed additives. But Will Thurmond believes that some algae companies may be cost competitive with fossil fuels as early as 2012, but only in his most optimistic scenario; the process of bringing down costs could take much longer.

There are now three publicly traded Algae companies. I've previously written skeptically about PetroSun (PSUD.PK,) and Thurmond told me, "Petrosun appears to doing well in the news, but if you examine their financial statements, it's a different story." More recently OriginOil (OOIL.OB) and PetroAlgae, (PALG.OB) have also gone public. PetroAlgae is the industry high flyer, and is doing some interesting work growing duckweed, at least according to a hallway conversation. Unfortunately, the stock is so thinly traded that it would be difficult for even a small investor to get in without significant price impact. OriginOil shows better volumes, but they, too, are early in their technological development.

Algae has great promise, but the only investments currently available to the retail investor are very early stage. Even if we were to assume that the algae industry will quickly meet its potential, these three companies only amount to a tenth of the current players, and the rigors of being a public company are not the best environment in which to develop an emerging technology. Algae could well be a monumental success story, but that does not mean that any of these three companies will participate in that success.

DISCLOSURE: None.

DISCLAIMER: The information and trades provided here and in the comments are for informational purposes only and are not a solicitation to buy or sell any of these securities. Investing involves substantial risk and you should evaluate your own risk levels before you make any investment. Past results are not an indication of future performance. Please take the time to read the full disclaimer here.


--  


Rachel Smolker
Biofuelwatch
Hinesburg, Vermont, U.S.A.
office: (802) 482 2848
mobile: (802) 735-7794
skype: rachel smolker
http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/


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biofuelwatch - British Firm Accused of Bankrolling Rainforest Destruction



BRITISH FIRM ACCUSED OF BANKROLLING INDONESIAN RAINFOREST DESTRUCTION

Hundreds of endangered Orangutans at risk; vital tsunami buffer zone under threat

Tuesday 23rd June 2009

A coalition of environmental groups has accused a British company of funding the imminent destruction of a critical area of Indonesian rainforest. The groups claim that, if allowed to proceed, the process would destroy a fragile tsunami buffer zone (1) as well as accelerate global climate change.

The Scottish firm Jardine Matheson Holdings is the majority shareholder of AAL, the palm oil company behind plans to decimate the untouched forests of Tripa in Aceh Province, northern Sumatra. Jardine's chairman, Sir Henry Keswick, was knighted this month in the Queen's birthday honours list.

The environmental coalition – including groups such as the Sumatran Orangutan Society, Wetlands International and Greenpeace – accused the firm of turning a blind eye to a massive rainforest crime and driving the destruction of an entire ecosystem.

The region, on the northwestern coast of Sumatra, is home to the highest concentration of Sumatran orangutans in the world. Less than twenty years ago the Tripa swamp forests harboured around 1,500 orangutans. Today there are just a handful left.

The dense peat swamp soils also house a huge store of buried carbon, which will be released into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change if the planned conversion of this area to palm oil plantations goes ahead. The 13,000 hectare plot also provides a critical forest barrier against natural disasters such as the 2004 tsunami, which killed more than 225,000 people.

The coalition includes Greenpeace, the Sumatran Orangutan Society, Wetlands international, The Orangutan Foundation and the Orangutan Land Trust.

For more information, photo and video please call Greenpeace on +44 207 865 8255


Quotes:

Reacting to the news, Greenpeace forest campaigner James Turner said:

"It's scandalous that a British company is bankrolling the destruction of this vital part of Indonesian rainforest. If the executives at Jardines don't stop this they will be rightly accused of speeding up climate change, destroying a vital tsunami buffer zone and driving the Sumatran orangutan to the brink of extinction."

Helen Buckland, UK Director, Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) said:

"It is frankly shocking that the Chairman of Jardine Matheson has been knighted for services to British business interests overseas, while his company is actively contributing to the demise of the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan. British businesses must be held accountable for their part in the destruction of this globally important area of forest. "

Alex Kaat from Wetlands International said:

"This case in unfortunately just one example. Throughout Indonesia and Malaysia, we see that the last remaining peatswamp forests are cleared for palm oil production to meet the growing demands for vegetable oils and biofuels."

Michelle Desilets, Director of the Orangutan Land Trust said:

"The crisis facing Tripa Swamp Forest demonstrates just how ruthless this industry can be. A UK-based company, chaired by an individual recently knighted for services to British business interests overseas and charitable activities in the UK, provides the investment for such destruction, and as such, surely cannot claim to have any interest in Corporate Social Responsibility."

Denis Ruysschaert from PanEco (2) said:

"The latest Tripa monitoring flight, on 11 June 2009, showed a gloomy picture of the on-going destruction, worse than expected".

For more information, photo and video please call Greenpeace on +44 207 865 8255

FOOTNOTES

(1) A 2005 post-tsunami master plan for the rehabilitation and reconstruction for the region and people of the province of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and Nias Island, agreed by the Indonesian people and authorities, emphasises the need for the development of a coastal greenbelt buffer zone.

(2) PanEco Foundation is a scientific organisation that monitors the area for more than 10 years to protect S. ourangutan population and to provide local livelihood, has never seen such a dramatic scale of destruction. PanEco last year released "Tripa value report". It explained that Tripa destruction was putting local people at greater vulnerability to tsunami-like disasters, was contributing to climate change and was driving a unique Sumatra orangoutan population to extinction. But, destruction is accelerating.


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Monday, June 22, 2009

biofuelwatch - Oil boom threatens the last orang-utans



http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/oil-boom-threatens-the-last-orangutans-1714157.html

A famous British company, Jardines, is profiting as the lowland forest – which shelters the few remaining orang-utans – is razed to make way for massive palm oil plantations, reports Kathy Marks in Tripa, Indonesia

Perched halfway up a tree near a bend in the Seumayan River, a young orang-utan lounges on a branch, eating fruit. In the distance, smoke rises from an illegal fire, one of dozens lit to wipe out the virgin rainforest and replace it with oil palm plantations.

It's burning season on Indonesia's Sumatra island, where vast tracts of vegetation are being torched and clear-felled to meet the soaring global demand for palm oil. The pace is especially frenzied in the peat swamp forests of the Tripa region, one of the final refuges of the critically endangered orang-utan – and a company owned by one of Britain's most venerable trading groups is among those leading the destructive charge.

Prized for its productiveness and versatility, palm oil is used in everything from lipstick and detergent to chocolate, crisps and biofuels. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world's biggest palm oil producers – but they also shelter the last remaining orang-utans, found only on Sumatra and Borneo islands in the same lowland forests that are being razed to make way for massive plantations.

In Indonesia, one of the largest palm oil companies is Astra Agro Lestari, a subsidiary of Astra International, a Jakarta-based conglomerate which is itself part of Jardine Matheson, a 177-year-old group that made a fortune from the Chinese opium trade and is still controlled by a Scottish family, the Keswicks, descendants of the original founders.

Conservation groups are targeting supermarkets in Britain to alert consumers to the effects of the palm oil explosion. But The Independent can reveal that Jardines, registered in Bermuda and listed on the London Stock Exchange, is implicated through Astra Agro in ripping out the final vestiges of orang-utan habitat.

Environmentalists are dismayed by the activities of Astra Agro, one of the main companies operating in Tripa under permits that were awarded during the 1990s by the notoriously corrupt Suharto government. They point out that Tripa belongs to the nominally protected Leuser Eco-System, renowned for its exceptional biodiversity, and claim that the plantation businesses are contravening a logging moratorium as well as engaging in illegal practices including burning land.

Greenpeace UK says: "It's scandalous that a British company is bankrolling the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests and peatlands. We need to see big firms like Jardines withdrawing investment from companies involved in rainforest clearance."

Orang-utans are vanishing at an alarming rate in Borneo but in Sumatra their situation is even more precarious. The Sumatran orang-utan – more intelligent and sociable than its Borneo cousin and with a unique culture of tool use – is likely to be the first great ape species to go extinct.

There are believed to be just 6,600 individuals left, mostly living in unprotected areas of Aceh province. Their lowland forests remained relatively undisturbed during the long-running separatist war in Aceh, but since a peace agreement was signed in 2005, it has been open season.

The primates are now splintered across 11 pockets of jungle, with only three populations considered viable. Another three, including Tripa, are borderline viable. Elsewhere, the orang-utans – which use sticks to extract insects from trees and seeds from fruit – are effectively extinct. As their territory shrinks, along with their food supplies, the apes are increasingly coming into conflict with humans. Farmers shoot those caught raiding crops; babies are captured and sold as pets. Adults discovered in oil palm plantations may be hacked to death with machetes.

In Tripa, more than half of the 62,000 hectares of ancient forest has gone. As well as being home to endangered species including the sun bear and clouded leopard, the peat swamps acted as a protective buffer during the 2004 tsunami. They also hold gigantic carbon stocks which are now being released, exacerbating climate change. "If you can't save Tripa, what can you save?" asks Denis Ruysschaert, forest co-ordinator for PanEco, a Swiss environmental organisation.

Sumatra is a beautiful island, with jungle-clad mountains and picturesque villages where long-horned water buffalo wander. But it is difficult not to be shocked by the colonisation of the landscape by one short, stumpy tree: oil palm. The monoculture is a desolate sight, stretching for miles, relieved only by charred hillsides dotted with tree stumps – cleared land awaiting yet more oil palms. Trucks rattle past, laden with the prickly red fruit from which oil is extracted. In Aceh, they call it the "golden plant" – the cash crop that is lifting the province out of poverty and helping it rebuild after the tsunami. "Recently there's a frenzy to plant oil palm," says Fransisca Ariantiningsih, who works for Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (Yel), an Indonesian conservation group.

On Sumatra's west coast, a small-time farmer, Raluwan, is nursing his seedlings. Ten families, he explains, have logged and burnt 100 hectares of land. Each hectare will yield four tonnes of fruit, fetching 800 Rupiah (47 pence) a kilo."I used to grow chilli, but palm oil is a very economical crop," he declares. "You don't need much pesticide or fertiliser." Raluwan knows orang-utans live in the nearby forests. "I don't care," he says. "I've got to feed my family."

However, many are missing out as the industry grows to meet demand from Europe, the US, China and India. Most plantation workers are migrants from Java and in Tripa, communities that depend on the swamps for water, fish and medicinal plants are suffering.

Kuala Seumayan is hemmed in by plantations. Villagers say they no longer have space even to bury their dead. "Since the forest has been chopped down, it's difficult to get food," says one elder, Darmizi. In the Seumayan River, youngsters dive for freshwater clams while children squeal and splash in the placid brown waters. It's an idyllic scene, but something is missing: the sights and sounds of the forest. The only wildlife consists of a hornbill and two long-tailed macaques. Indrianto, a forestry manager, says: "This used to be all peat swamp, with many trees and animals. Now it's all oil palm. Before, I heard animal calls. Now I hear only chainsaws."

By chance, we spot an orang-utan in a solitary tree. Tripa has just 280 apes left. The young male, its fur glowing in the afternoon sun, curls one arm lazily over an upper branch.

A black slick floats on the water: sludge from one of many canals dug to drain the swamps. The arduous procedure is considered preferable to planting on fallow land, which would require negotiations with landowners. This way, the companies also get to sell the timber. As you fly over Tripa, the scale of destruction becomes clear. The green tangle of the forest, in all its riotous variety, abruptly gives way to giant rectangles, laid out with geometrical precision and studded with thousands of palms.

Riswan Zen, a spatial analyst for Yel, last flew over in 2007. "So much forest gone, and all in two years, my God," he says, gesticulating at a satellite imaging map. "If nothing is done, there'll be no forest left in one to two years."

Tripa, designated a priority conservation site by the UN, could hold 1,500 orang-utans if the forest was allowed to regenerate. Prospects seem slim, although Indonesia – one of the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, thanks to deforestation – claims to be committed both to saving the orang-utan and combating climate change.

Fewer than a quarter of Indonesian producers have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a global organisation promoting sustainable practices. (Astra Agro is not among them.) Even in Aceh, where Governor Irwandi Yusuf, a former rebel leader, has proclaimed a "Green Vision", authorities seem unwilling to crack down on the powerful oil palm companies.

So far, Jardines, whose colourful history inspired a series of novels by James Clavell, has resisted pressure to rein in its Indonesian subsidiary. In a statement to The Independent, Jardines – whose interests include the Mandarin Oriental hotels and Asian branches of Starbucks and IKEA – said Astra Agro's plantations "function in full compliance with ... environmental impact studies".

Astra Agro says it plans to develop only half of its 13,000 hectares in Tripa because of conservation concerns, and it denies any illegal activity.

Ian Singleton, a Briton who heads PanEco's Sumatran Orang-utan Conservation Programme, has no doubt that oil palm is the biggest threat to the orang-utan: "I see the orang-utan as a test case. Are we serious about trying to conserve the planet's eco-systems? If we are, let's prove it by saving a species like the orang-utan. We know where the orang-utans are; all we have to do is protect the forests. If we're serious about conservation, this is where we start."

At a glance: Jardine Matheson

*Founded by two Scottish traders in Canton, China in 1832, it was the first British trading company to smash the East India Company's Asian monopoly.

*Founder William Jardine was known as "the iron-headed old rat" for his toughness and asperity.

*The company's fortunes were founded on smuggling huge quantities of opium into China, creating millions of addicts.

*When the Chinese fought back, Jardine persuaded the British government to launch the First Opium War against China.

*Astra Agro, a subsidiary of the company, claims that "concern for the environment" is "an integral part of all the company's activities".

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biofuelwatch - Jardine Matheson subsidiary palm oil in Tripa swamp forests, Sumatra



http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/oil-boom-threatens-the-last-orangutans-1714157.html

Oil boom threatens the last orang-utans

A famous British company, Jardines, is profiting as the lowland forest – which shelters the few remaining orang-utans – is razed to make way for massive palm oil plantations, reports Kathy Marks in Tripa, Indonesia

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Razed lowland forest on Sumatra island awaits a palm oil plantation

Kathy Marks

Razed lowland forest on Sumatra island awaits a palm oil plantation

Perched halfway up a tree near a bend in the Seumayan River, a young orang-utan lounges on a branch, eating fruit. In the distance, smoke rises from an illegal fire, one of dozens lit to wipe out the virgin rainforest and replace it with oil palm plantations.

It's burning season on Indonesia's Sumatra island, where vast tracts of vegetation are being torched and clear-felled to meet the soaring global demand for palm oil. The pace is especially frenzied in the peat swamp forests of the Tripa region, one of the final refuges of the critically endangered orang-utan – and a company owned by one of Britain's most venerable trading groups is among those leading the destructive charge.

Prized for its productiveness and versatility, palm oil is used in everything from lipstick and detergent to chocolate, crisps and biofuels. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world's biggest palm oil producers – but they also shelter the last remaining orang-utans, found only on Sumatra and Borneo islands in the same lowland forests that are being razed to make way for massive plantations.

In Indonesia, one of the largest palm oil companies is Astra Agro Lestari, a subsidiary of Astra International, a Jakarta-based conglomerate which is itself part of Jardine Matheson, a 177-year-old group that made a fortune from the Chinese opium trade and is still controlled by a Scottish family, the Keswicks, descendants of the original founders.

Conservation groups are targeting supermarkets in Britain to alert consumers to the effects of the palm oil explosion. But The Independent can reveal that Jardines, registered in Bermuda and listed on the London Stock Exchange, is implicated through Astra Agro in ripping out the final vestiges of orang-utan habitat.

Environmentalists are dismayed by the activities of Astra Agro, one of the main companies operating in Tripa under permits that were awarded during the 1990s by the notoriously corrupt Suharto government. They point out that Tripa belongs to the nominally protected Leuser Eco-System, renowned for its exceptional biodiversity, and claim that the plantation businesses are contravening a logging moratorium as well as engaging in illegal practices including burning land.

Greenpeace UK says: "It's scandalous that a British company is bankrolling the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests and peatlands. We need to see big firms like Jardines withdrawing investment from companies involved in rainforest clearance."

Orang-utans are vanishing at an alarming rate in Borneo but in Sumatra their situation is even more precarious. The Sumatran orang-utan – more intelligent and sociable than its Borneo cousin and with a unique culture of tool use – is likely to be the first great ape species to go extinct.

There are believed to be just 6,600 individuals left, mostly living in unprotected areas of Aceh province. Their lowland forests remained relatively undisturbed during the long-running separatist war in Aceh, but since a peace agreement was signed in 2005, it has been open season.

The primates are now splintered across 11 pockets of jungle, with only three populations considered viable. Another three, including Tripa, are borderline viable. Elsewhere, the orang-utans – which use sticks to extract insects from trees and seeds from fruit – are effectively extinct. As their territory shrinks, along with their food supplies, the apes are increasingly coming into conflict with humans. Farmers shoot those caught raiding crops; babies are captured and sold as pets. Adults discovered in oil palm plantations may be hacked to death with machetes.

In Tripa, more than half of the 62,000 hectares of ancient forest has gone. As well as being home to endangered species including the sun bear and clouded leopard, the peat swamps acted as a protective buffer during the 2004 tsunami. They also hold gigantic carbon stocks which are now being released, exacerbating climate change. "If you can't save Tripa, what can you save?" asks Denis Ruysschaert, forest co-ordinator for PanEco, a Swiss environmental organisation.

Sumatra is a beautiful island, with jungle-clad mountains and picturesque villages where long-horned water buffalo wander. But it is difficult not to be shocked by the colonisation of the landscape by one short, stumpy tree: oil palm. The monoculture is a desolate sight, stretching for miles, relieved only by charred hillsides dotted with tree stumps – cleared land awaiting yet more oil palms. Trucks rattle past, laden with the prickly red fruit from which oil is extracted. In Aceh, they call it the "golden plant" – the cash crop that is lifting the province out of poverty and helping it rebuild after the tsunami. "Recently there's a frenzy to plant oil palm," says Fransisca Ariantiningsih, who works for Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (Yel), an Indonesian conservation group.

On Sumatra's west coast, a small-time farmer, Raluwan, is nursing his seedlings. Ten families, he explains, have logged and burnt 100 hectares of land. Each hectare will yield four tonnes of fruit, fetching 800 Rupiah (47 pence) a kilo."I used to grow chilli, but palm oil is a very economical crop," he declares. "You don't need much pesticide or fertiliser." Raluwan knows orang-utans live in the nearby forests. "I don't care," he says. "I've got to feed my family."

However, many are missing out as the industry grows to meet demand from Europe, the US, China and India. Most plantation workers are migrants from Java and in Tripa, communities that depend on the swamps for water, fish and medicinal plants are suffering.

Kuala Seumayan is hemmed in by plantations. Villagers say they no longer have space even to bury their dead. "Since the forest has been chopped down, it's difficult to get food," says one elder, Darmizi. In the Seumayan River, youngsters dive for freshwater clams while children squeal and splash in the placid brown waters. It's an idyllic scene, but something is missing: the sights and sounds of the forest. The only wildlife consists of a hornbill and two long-tailed macaques. Indrianto, a forestry manager, says: "This used to be all peat swamp, with many trees and animals. Now it's all oil palm. Before, I heard animal calls. Now I hear only chainsaws."
By chance, we spot an orang-utan in a solitary tree. Tripa has just 280 apes left. The young male, its fur glowing in the afternoon sun, curls one arm lazily over an upper branch.

A black slick floats on the water: sludge from one of many canals dug to drain the swamps. The arduous procedure is considered preferable to planting on fallow land, which would require negotiations with landowners. This way, the companies also get to sell the timber. As you fly over Tripa, the scale of destruction becomes clear. The green tangle of the forest, in all its riotous variety, abruptly gives way to giant rectangles, laid out with geometrical precision and studded with thousands of palms.

Riswan Zen, a spatial analyst for Yel, last flew over in 2007. "So much forest gone, and all in two years, my God," he says, gesticulating at a satellite imaging map. "If nothing is done, there'll be no forest left in one to two years."

Tripa, designated a priority conservation site by the UN, could hold 1,500 orang-utans if the forest was allowed to regenerate. Prospects seem slim, although Indonesia – one of the world's biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, thanks to deforestation – claims to be committed both to saving the orang-utan and combating climate change.

Fewer than a quarter of Indonesian producers have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a global organisation promoting sustainable practices. (Astra Agro is not among them.) Even in Aceh, where Governor Irwandi Yusuf, a former rebel leader, has proclaimed a "Green Vision", authorities seem unwilling to crack down on the powerful oil palm companies.

So far, Jardines, whose colourful history inspired a series of novels by James Clavell, has resisted pressure to rein in its Indonesian subsidiary. In a statement to The Independent, Jardines – whose interests include the Mandarin Oriental hotels and Asian branches of Starbucks and IKEA – said Astra Agro's plantations "function in full compliance with ... environmental impact studies".

Astra Agro says it plans to develop only half of its 13,000 hectares in Tripa because of conservation concerns, and it denies any illegal activity.

Ian Singleton, a Briton who heads PanEco's Sumatran Orang-utan Conservation Programme, has no doubt that oil palm is the biggest threat to the orang-utan: "I see the orang-utan as a test case. Are we serious about trying to conserve the planet's eco-systems? If we are, let's prove it by saving a species like the orang-utan. We know where the orang-utans are; all we have to do is protect the forests. If we're serious about conservation, this is where we start."

At a glance: Jardine Matheson
*Founded by two Scottish traders in Canton, China in 1832, it was the first British trading company to smash the East India Company's Asian monopoly.
*Founder William Jardine was known as "the iron-headed old rat" for his toughness and asperity.
*The company's fortunes were founded on smuggling huge quantities of opium into China, creating millions of addicts.
*When the Chinese fought back, Jardine persuaded the British government to launch the First Opium War against China.
*Astra Agro, a subsidiary of the company, claims that "concern for the environment" is "an integral part of all the company's activities".

[Ends]




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