Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wilmar: US, EU Biofuels Laws Favor Domestic Producers

biofuel watch -Wilmar: US, EU Biofuels Laws Favor Domestic Producers

Asia's Largest Ag-Firm Discusses the Global Biodiesel Market

Wilmar International, the world's largest palm oil producer and trader, started out a mere 20 years ago as a simple brokering office in Singapore. Since then, it has grown into a major industrial
force—Asia's largest agricultural firm.

New Diesel Magazine spoke with an official from Wilmar, on the condition of anonymity, about the implementation of the EU's Renewable Energy Directive and the efforts to ensure that palm-based diesel qualifies as a sustainable biofuel under the United States' Renewable Fuels Standard.

New Diesel Magazine: The EU is aiming to ensure that its biofuels program is sustainable does not contribute to the destruction of tropical rain forests by creating a market for palm-based biodiesel, which has been accused of contributing to this problem?

Wilmar: I'm sure that there are couple of bad actors (in the palm oil industry), but the way that Greenpeace and the other non-governmental organizations (NGO)s portray [this industry] is sickening, it's outrageous. Palm oil is the only vegetable oil industry in the world that even has a sustainability certification process in place.

New Diesel Magazine: Some say that the RED isn't anything more than 'green protectionism' meant to compromise the competitiveness of international fuel exporters?

Wilmar: It's the same in the United States. RFS-2 certainly favors the primary feedstock of the United States' domestic producers—soy oil.

New Diesel Magazine: What would be the ultimate consequence for Wilmar if palm-based diesel fuel is not economical to export to the U.S. or Europe?

Wilmar: Besides what happens with biofuels, Wilmar is still one of the largest producers of oleochemicals in the world and many of the other market segments that we are associated with just do not have the regulations that we have to comply with.

New Diesel Magazine: What's your opinion of indirect land use change, the subject that has caused so much controversy first in the U.S. and now in Europe?

Wilmar: Everyone is coming up with their own modeling systems for indirect land use change and even combinations of models, which then uses different variables and combinations of variables. It's basically a big sausage machine — everything's getting thrown in.

New Diesel Magazine: Palm oil does not currently qualify as a sustainable biofuel under the United States' renewable fuel standard?

Wilmar: We've been lobbying hard to change this, and working very closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that PME is granted the status as an advanced biofuel under RFS-2. I feel fairly positive that the EPA will eventually accept palm as an advanced biofuel, but in Europe it's much more complicated.

New Diesel Magazine: Wilmar rarely publishes photos of its facilities and seems to release only information that they are required under law to do. This characteristic may give its opponents, like the Netherlands' Wetlands International and Greenpeace, an advantage in the battle for public opinion.

Wilmar: Opposing NGOs and their critiques of the palm industry is just a big mess of communication and miscommunication, but the palm industry could do a better job at public relations.


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US and China trade war over distillers grain

biofuelwatch - US and China trade war over distillers grain

China Investigating DDG Dumping

12/29/2010 10:13AM

BEIJING (Dow Jones)--China's Ministry of Commerce said Tuesday it has opened an anti-dumping investigation into U.S. exports of distiller's dried grains, a livestock feed that the U.S. farm industry lobby has sought to promote among Chinese feed mills.

U.S. farm interests had viewed the commodity, commonly known as DDG or DDGS, as a tremendous new trade opportunity in China. Imports rose strongly this year amid expectations that the commodity would find favor among Chinese mills over corn as a feedmeal. DDGS are a byproduct of the process of turning corn into ethanol.

Chinese imports of the commodity rose nearly five times this year over 2009, at a time when the U.S. has just cleared a record $1 billion in corn and co-product exports to China.

The ministry plans to look for any evidence of dumping of DDGS, with and without solubles, between last July and June this year, but may widen the window to see if there was any harm to China's industry from 2007 to June this year, it said in a statement.

The investigation will likely be completed by Dec. 28 next year, but the end-date could be extended to June 28, 2012, under special circumstances, the ministry added.

Private sector estimates show China is on track to import about 3 million metric tons of the commodity this year, up from around 640,000 tons last year.

"The government may be focusing on a period when large import volumes were undercutting domestic prices," said Li Dongfa, an analyst with Shanghai JC Intelligence.

Imports mid-year were CNY300-CNY400/ton cheaper than domestic DDGS, Li estimated.

While prices have since leveled, the government may still be moving on the investigation with an eye on assisting domestic DDG mills, said Xu Wenjie, an analyst with Zheshang Futures.

DDGS with or without solubles are used as livestock feed; the solubles refer to additions of sugars to the feed.

The U.S. farm lobby has been aggressively promoting DDGS worldwide as a feedmeal, taking the commodity on a roadshow to Europe and Asia in recent months.

In a November newsletter the U.S. Grains Council had described DDGS as a key trade opportunity for the U.S. in China, crucial at a time when China is expanding meat production as consumption shifts to a higher-protein intake.

The Chinese ministry's latest investigation widens tensions in bilateral food trade, coming at a time when Beijing is keen to retain self-sufficiency in agriculture.

"It's not inconsistent with their anti-dumping action against poultry, but the good news is that they're (potentially) extending the investigation into 2012," an industry participant with links to U.S. trade said Tuesday.

China slapped anti-dumping duties on U.S. chicken this year, accusing the U.S. of subsidizing its poultry industry and "hurting China's domestic industry."

Also this year, China broke with years-long convention to become a massive new net importer of U.S. corn, shipping 1.5 million tons of the grain.

While China announced a robust corn harvest later in the season, the market still expects China may be in the market for more imports.

However, tensions have also arisen on that front. Chinese quarantine authorities last month rejected a U.S. cargo of 54,000 tons of genetically modified corn of an unacceptable strain, China's largest grain trader Cofco Ltd. said.

Industry participants said the cargo still remains in "technical limbo," and that China could still accept it after clearance is obtained.

-By Chuin-Wei Yap and Stefanie Qi, Dow Jones Newswires; 8610 8400 7704;

Rachel Smolker
Biofuelwatch/Energy Justice Network
802.482.2848 (o)
802.735 7794 (m)
skype: Rachel Smolker

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Oil Palm Plantations Expand on Degraded Land in Amazon

biofuel watch - Oil Palm Plantations Expand on Degraded Land in Amazon

Oil Palm Plantations Expand on Degraded Land in Amazon
By Mario Osava

BELÉM, Brazil, Dec 30, 2010 (IPS) - Brazil hopes to eventually become a major producer of palm oil, thanks to the expansion of this new exotic monoculture crop in the eastern Amazon jungle, where eucalyptus plantations are also mushrooming on broad swaths of already deforested land.

The northern Brazilian state of Pará is becoming the land of the African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), after earning a reputation as the Amazon jungle state to lose the largest amount of native forest to agriculture, livestock, logging and the production of charcoal used in local iron foundries. 

The biofuels subsidiary of Brazil's state-owned oil giant Petrobras has set a goal of producing 420,000 tonnes a year of palm oil, double the country's current output, with two projects in Pará. Seventy percent of the company's production will go to Portugal, where it will be turned into biodiesel to supply Europe, in a partnership with the Portuguese state-run oil company Galp Energía. 

The subsidiary, Petrobras Biocombustível, is planting oil palm on 6,000 hectares of land, and growing seedlings to cover a total of 74,000 hectares. 

"Our focus is the growing biodiesel market," despite the good prices paid by the food and cosmetics industries, Janio Rosa, Petrobras Biocombustível's director of agricultural supplies, told IPS. 

The Brazilian mining company Vale, the world's largest producer and exporter of iron ore, launched a project in 2009 to produce 160,000 tonnes a year of biodiesel as of 2014, to reduce transportation costs in its railways and ports by switching from conventional diesel. 

To that end the company, which was privatised in 1997, is planting 60,000 hectares of oil palm in six different areas of the state of Pará, where its main mineral reserves are located, in the Serra do Carajás. 

But it will take Brazil many years to make significant headway into foreign markets. This year it produced a mere 0.5 percent of the world total of 46 million tonnes. And it takes oil palms three years to begin to produce fruit, and eight years to reach full maturity. 

In May, the government launched a sustainable oil palm production programme, which offers incentives like soft loans, and technical support. 

An agro ecological survey identified 31.8 million hectares of abandoned and degraded agricultural areas suitable for oil palm production in the country, nearly equivalent to the size of Germany. But it only authorised plantations on 4.3 million hectares, most of which are in Pará. 

The high levels of productivity of oil palm in land near the equator opens up the possibility of diversifying the raw materials used to produce biodiesel in Brazil, where 85 percent of the biofuel is now produced with soy, and of making this country a major exporter of the fuel. 

Brazil now imports half of the 450,000 tonnes a year of biodiesel that it consumes. 

With a projected annual yield of six tonnes per hectare of oil palm, which has an average productive life span of 25-28 years and is harvested year-round, combined with a growing market for biofuels, the profit margin is ensured, Rosa said. Because of this, investment in biodiesel projects makes sense, even though palm oil fetches higher prices today in the food and chemical industries. 

But Agropalma, the only large palm oil producer in Brazil today, "temporarily" stopped producing biodiesel in August, because its prices were not competitive in the public tenders for supply contracts, even though it was making use of the waste products from the oil refining process. 

In Colombia, Latin America's leading producer of biodiesel, it took subsidies to get the industry going. When the government purchases biodiesel, it pays the market price for vegetable oil plus the costs of conversion, explained Jens Mesa, executive president of that country's National Federation of Oil Palm Growers (Fedepalma). 

With its output of 800,000 tonnes a year, Colombia also leads the production of palm oil in Latin America, thanks to the persistence of the private sector, organised in Fedepalma since 1962, Mesa told IPS. 

The government's support was "intermittent" until the adoption of a 2004 law stipulating a minimum blend requirement in diesel fuel of 10 percent biodiesel by 2010, he said. 

In Brazil, diesel fuel vehicles will have to run on a five percent biodiesel blend as of January. That target had originally been set for 2013. 

Colombia has "three million hectares of land highly suitable for the cultivation" of oil palm, as well as the 365,000 hectares already planted, Mesa said. 

Oil palm cultivation is "the only rural activity for which an environmental permit is required" in Colombia, and it benefits 6,000 families of small farmers, he said, refuting criticism by environmentalists. 

Central and South America have emerged as a new frontier for African oil palm, in response to growing demand. 

But Latin America is seeking to avoid the deforestation and social impacts seen in Indonesia and Malaysia, which together account for 85 percent of global production of palm oil. 

The Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 by a diverse group of stakeholders -- oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, and environmental and social NGOs -- to promote sustainable agriculture, address the environmental impact of palm oil and certify products as environmentally and socially sustainable. 

To that end, the RSPO has established environmental, social and legal requirements to curb deforestation, allowing expansion of oil palm plantations only on land that has already been degraded. 

Petrobras Biocombustível also puts a priority on social inclusion, setting a goal of contracting 2,250 family farmers to produce half of the raw material in one project and 20 percent in its second project, which is focused on export. 

Adherence to the laws, reforestation with native fruit trees, education and awareness-raising, and environmental research will form part of the projects, Rosa said. 

"Diversity builds," he said, stressing Petrobras Biocombustível's commitment to cooperating with small and large farmers and to restoring forests where the land cleared has exceeded the legal limit. 

Under Brazilian law, 80 percent of the forest must be preserved on any property in the Amazon. 

Despite these safeguards, environmentalists and social activists are critical of the expansion of oil palm plantations. 

"We are opposed to any large-scale monoculture, even trees," in defence of biodiversity and a more balanced climate, said João Pedro Stédile, one of the leaders of the Landless Workers' Movement (MST) and the Via Campesino international peasant movement. 

The native rainforest in Pará is vital to the climate in South America, because of the circulation of humid North Atlantic easterly trade winds in the eastern Amazon, which provide a large part of the rain in the jungle, scientists point out. 

In addition, the evaporation from the Amazon jungle, diverted to the south by the Andes mountains, irrigates the most productive agricultural lands in Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

Another risk involves plant health. Turning Pará into "a sea of palm trees" will make it very difficult to control pests, warned José Stanley de Oliveira, Agropalma's phytosanitary manager, who with a team of assistants has so far been able to control the numerous enemies of the oil palm. 

There are two especially dangerous pests: the Eupalamides cyparissias borer, which bores into different parts of the tree, and the Rhynchophorus palmarum palm weevil, the main vector of the red ring syndrome in coconut and oil palm, which is "incurable," Oliveira said. 

Biological pest control is the chosen method due to environmental concerns and because "there are only two insecticides" registered for oil palm plantations in Brazil, he added. 

Demand for vegetable oils will continue growing faster than the world population and economy, and 13 million additional hectares of oil palm will be needed to meet demand in 2050, according to projections by Conservation International researcher Timothy Killeen. Demand for soy, meanwhile, will require an additional 93 million hectares of the crop. 

The high oil yield of oil palm trees and the fact that palm oil does not contain unhealthy trans fats explain the dizzying growth of global palm oil production, which has increased more than nine-fold since 1980. 

But it will be hard to come up with a surplus for the production of biodiesel. (END)


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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Agricultural lending jumps in Brazil, will Amazon deforestation follow?

biofuel watch - Agricultural lending jumps in Brazil, will Amazon deforestation follow?

Agricultural lending jumps in Brazil, will Amazon deforestation follow?
December 27, 2010

With commodity prices surging, lending to Brazilian farmers for tractors, harvesters and plows reached 8.2 billion reais ($4.8 billion) for the July through November 2010 period, a 64 percent increase since the same period last year and the fastest pace since 2004, reports Bloomberg.

Banco do Brasil, the country's biggest state-owned bank and the largest farm lender, boosted lending for agricultural capital equipment 38 percent for the first five months of the harvest season. The increase was also the biggest since 2004. Overall, commercial farm lending grew 29 percent to $49.8 billion this harvest season.

The news that agricultural lending is rising does not come as a surprise. Commodity markets are booming: soy and sugar prices have climbed more than 30 percent in the past year, while beef is up by 25 percent and coffee prices jumped 60 percent. Brazil is the world's largest producer of sugarcane, coffee, and cattle, and trails only the United States in soybean production.

But increased lending to the agricultural sector may raise environmental concerns, particularly in the Amazon rainforest and cerrado, a vast savanna that borders the Amazon and is the primary area of expansion for agriculture.

Commodity production is a key driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and the last time lending rose this fast was 2004, a year when deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon reached 27,772 square kilometers, the second highest level on record (in 1995 29,059 square kilometers were cleared). Analysis released earlier this month by Imazon, an NGO, found that forest degradation, which is often a pre-cursor to outright deforestation, has risen sharply in recent months. Degradation this year has been exacerbated by a severe drought, which has caused rivers in the Amazon Basin to fall to record lows. The drought has turned vast tracts of the Amazon into a tinderbox, worsening the impact of land-clearing fires set by ranchers and farmers.

Nevertheless, Brazilian lending institutions have put some safeguards in place since 2004. Last year, BNDES, Brazil's national development bank, mandated a zero-deforestation policy for cattle production. The bank, which lends more money than the World Bank, now requires meatpackers to have a traceability system to ensure cattle production does not result in deforestation. BNDES has also launched a 1 billion reais ($588 million) fund to finance projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture. Meanwhile, Banco do Brasil earlier this month announced it will now require farmers applying for credit to certify the origin of their soybeans to ensure production does not come at the expense of ecologically sensitive areas. Private banks like Rabobank have also implemented stricter environmental criteria for lending to the agricultural sector.


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Friday, December 24, 2010

Researchers develop reactor to make fuel from sunlight

biofuel watch Researchers develop reactor to make fuel from sunlight

Scientists raise hopes for a large-scale renewable source of liquid fuel with a simple reactor that mimics plants

23 December 2010

The key component is made from the metal cerium, which is almost as abundant as copper, unlike other rare and expensive metals frequently used as catalysts, such as platinum...

The device, reported in the journal Science, uses a standard parabolic mirror to focus the sun's rays into a reaction chamber where the cerium oxide catalyst breaks down water and carbon dioxide. It does this because heating cerium oxide drives oxygen atoms out of its crystal lattice. When cooled the lattice strips oxygen from surrounding chemicals, including water and CO2 in the reactor. That produces hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which can be converted to a liquid fuel.

Read more:

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Invasiveness of biofuels - release and related report

biofuel watch - Invasiveness of biofuels - release and related report


Invasiveness of biofuel crops and potential harm
to natural habitats and native species

Several factors prompted the development of biofuel cropping within agroecosystems. These
include a growth in population and energy demand, geopolitical instability linked to demand for fossil
fuels, concerns about global warming and calls for 'carbon neutral' energy. In anthropogenic
manipulated agroecosystem, many factors multiply the creation of newly available niches.
Consequently, the occurrence and establishment of invasive alien species with the potential to spread
and cause harm, or constrain elements of semi-natural habitat or vegetation remnants may increase.
The invasiveness of weedy germplasm may also be accelerated by the presence of cultivated species,
escaping from fields through crop movement or on livestock. This risk of invasion is likely to rise in
the future use of agricultural land for widespread and intensive cultivation of crops for energy
production. In fact, in the recent past, many government reports, including the Convention on
Biological Diversity and scientific literature have highlighted the potential impact that biofuel crops
may have on natural, semi-natural and agriculture ecosystems. The characteristics of energy crop
species, of their habitats, of cropping systems and of farm subsidies are a “weedy merging
combination” that could transform farmland into a source of new invasive species that may spread into
vegetation remnant, ultimately harming the functionality and biodiversity within agroecosystems.
Being the crop escape a consequence of the farming system a precautionary principle must be taken
into account even if no immediate evidence of halt to native habitats is present.

Media release 21.12.2010 <>

Biofuels potential harm to biodiversity. A European report and recommendation to hamper crop invasiveness

Biofuels and their invasive potential is a problem being address worldwide. A report was written for the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (known as the Council of Europe-Bern Convention) by the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA) - an agency led by the Italian Ministry for the Environment.
Following the report the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention, worried that the increase of biofuel cropping systems may lead to cultivation escapes of invasive taxa with subsequent negative effect on native biological diversity, adopted advices to reduce impacts, of potentially invasive alien plants being used as biofuel crops, on species biodiversity and natural ecosystems.
The Recommendation, warns that some biofuel crops may invade areas outside cultivated fields, and in so doing may impact on native biodiversity. The Council of Europe, made advices to reduce potential invasiveness of alien plants being used as biofuel crops. It is important, stated the group of experts, to bring in pre-cultivation screening for each proposed genotype and region. In addition new cultivation criteria to limit the dispersal and recruitment capacity of the invasive crops need to be introduced. Without these measures, escaped biofuel crops may cause loss of native biodiversity and farmland functionality.
Click here <>  to read the report 'Invasiveness of Biofuel Crops and Potential Harm to Natural Habitats and Native Species Report'.
Click here <>  to read the Bern Convention published “Recommendation No 141 (2009) of the Standing Committee, adopted on 26 November 2009, on potentially invasive alien plants being used as biofuel crops”.



Report <>



Recommendation 141/2009 <>




Sweet Sorghum crops within Mediterranean Landscape

European Consumers

for the promotion of
sustainable energy in Europe

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Oil palm in Nigeria: shifting from smallholders and women to mass production

biofuel watch - Oil palm in Nigeria: shifting from smallholders and women to mass production

Oil palm in Nigeria: shifting from smallholders and women to mass production 

From World Rainforest Movement Bulletin, December 2010, 

West Africa used to be the centre of the palm oil industry. The export of palm kernels began in 1832 and by 1911 "British" West Africa alone exported 157,000 tonnes of which about 75 percent came from Nigeria. In the 1870s, British administrators took the plant to Malaysia and in 1934 that country surpassed Nigeria as the largest exporter of the product. By 1966, Malaysia and Indonesia had surpassed Africa's total palm oil production. 

In Nigeria, oil palm is indigenous to the coastal plain, having migrated inland as a staple crop. 80% of production comes from several million smallholders spread over an estimated area ranging from 1.65 million hectares to a maximum of 3 million hectares. For millions of Nigerians, oil palm cultivation is part of their way of life –indeed it is part of their culture. 

As reported by Chima Uzoma Darlington, an Ngwa man from Abia State of Nigeria, "in Ngwa land and most parts of eastern Nigeria, the palm tree is highly valued. It contributes so much to the rural economy that we call it `Osisi na ami ego' in my dialect, which literally means `the tree that produces money'. Apart from the oil, virtually every part of the tree contributes to rural livelihood. From the palm fronds, we get materials for making baskets and brooms. The tree is tapped for palm wine especially in Enugu State; and many young men in the rural areas earn their living as palm fruit harvesters while many women (married and unmarried) trade on the fruits. 

In my place of origin, many of our prominent sons today, were trained using proceeds from palm trees. Up till today, many community developmental projects are financed using proceeds from the sale of oil palm fruits. In view of any developmental project, the Head of the Village or Community places a ban on individual harvesting of oil palm fruits for a specified period. When it is time for harvesting, individual members of the village or community are mandated to pay a specified amount of money to qualify them to partake in the harvest, which takes place collectively on an agreed date. This was also how they were able to train some of our prominent sons. Even as at today, indigent rural dwellers still pledge their palm trees to others in order to get money to take care of some needs like sending their children to school."

As documented in the case of Akwa Ibom State, a southeastern coastal state in Nigeria and one of the areas where oil is produced in large quantities, women play an important role in the production, storage and commercialization of red palm oil, a common ingredient in the cooking of almost every type of dish prepared in Nigeria. 

The processing of the fruits into vegetable oil is most commonly carried out by women. It begins with harvesting the ripe fruits which grows in clusters weighing between 20-30 kilos. The women work communally in groups of 2 or 3. The harvested fruits are cut into smaller clusters and sprinkled with water, and then, covered with thick jute bags or banana leaves to aid fermentation and make it easy for the seeds to be picked easily from its spiky stalks.

Two or three days after, the seeds are picked, washed and packed in to iron drums and boiled. Fire kindled from gathered fire-wood is usually prepared a night before and at intervals, rekindled to keep the fire cooking constantly hot. As early as 4 or 5 a.m. the boiled seeds whose fleshy pericarp has become soft and tender are scooped with a small basket or sieve bowl into an earth dug-out mortar, which has been fitted with a metal drum. The boiled seeds are then pounded with a wooden pestle to separate the fleshy pericarp from its hard kernel seeds.

The next stage involves scooping this mixture onto a flat trough or onto the ground which had been covered with banana leaves. The kernel seeds are then separated from the fibrous mash. This is then scooped into a cylindrical hollow press. The wrench is then turned slowly and gradually, as this is being done, the extracted oil from the holes in the press is guided through a duct at the bottom of the press into a large bowl, trough or container. This process is carried out several times until oil is drained from the marshy mixture.

The next stage is carefully draining the oil into containers; in doing so, the women are careful not to allow dirt, fiber or other foreign matter into the oil. The finished product if in large quantity may be further stored in larger metal drums awaiting buyers who come to buy them off these women and transported to other towns. If the oil is not so large in quantity they are then taken to the local market for sale; either way, the Akwa Ibom woman earns her money. 

"These palm trees", informs Chima, "are mostly the ones occurring naturally on their pockets of land and not monoculture plantations. Most parts of the eastern Nigeria bear secondary regrowth forests with the oil palm tree being the dominant tree species."

In the past, the Nigerian government had tried to implement large-scale oil palm plantations, most of which resulted in complete failures. Such were the cases of the 1960′s Cross River State project and of the European Union-funded "Oil palm belt rural development programme" in the 1990′s. This project included the plantation of 6,750 hectares of oil palm within an area thought to be one of the largest remnants of tropical rainforest in Nigeria and it was implemented by a company called Risonpalm Ltd., partly owned by the government. In spite of local opposition, the project moved forward and EU funding was only discontinued in 1995, seven years after its approval. The plantation was abandoned in 1999 and reactivated in 2003. In 2010, the local governor announced his intention to privatize it.

The World Bank played an important role in the promotion of the oil palm business in Nigeria. According to a recent World Bank document, Nigeria has been "the second largest recipient of World Bank palm oil sector projects, with six projects over the 1975 to 2009 period. One project is still under implementation. Results achieved included the plantation of 42,658 ha of oil palm, as well as road improvement and increased milling capacity." 

The Federal Government appears to be now willing to revitalise oil palm production. In April 2010, the government launched a Common Fund for Commodities "in order to improve the income generating potential of oil palm in West and Central Africa." The initiative was developed by UNIDO and funding is shared between Nigeria, Cameroon, UNIDO and the private sector. 

In line with the above, officials of Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) have recently said that "promotion of private sector participation in oil palm plantation holds the ace in effective revival of the produce business in the country." Director of NIFOR, Dr Dere Okiy has stated that "the land tenure system in the country" is a "limiting factor against private mass production of palm oil by individuals" and "called on local and state governments to provide land areas to oil palm farmers to encourage mass production of palm oil." 

Everything seems to point at the possible expansion of oil palm plantations in Nigeria - revitalizing old ones and establishing new ones - both aimed at the national and international market. But, as Chima warns, "The establishment of monoculture plantations usually involves the destruction of the existing vegetation, and this will amount to the felling of the naturally occurring oil palm trees on which the people depend for their livelihood." And he concludes: "Land grabbing from rural people to encourage large scale monoculture oil palm plantations will impoverish them the more and cause hardship." 

Source: "Oil palm in Nigeria", WRM draft at and comments from Chima, Uzoma Darlington.

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Amazon Basin: IIRSA opens the way for rainforest invasion

biofuelwatch - Amazon Basin: IIRSA opens the way for rainforest invasion

Amazon Basin: IIRSA opens the way for rainforest invasion

From World Rainforest Movement Bulletin, December 2010, 

As the neo-extractivist and development policies of the region's governments continue to move forward, they come hand in hand with the destruction of the natural environment and the genocidal ethnocide of the indigenous peoples who inhabit it. The crossroads we are facing is more critical than ever: if the capitalist invasion is not stopped, the indigenous peoples and the rainforests will disappear. If the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA) – so zealously promoted by the governments of Brazil and other countries in the region, the multilateral financial institutions and transnational corporations – is not stopped, then the rainforest and the indigenous peoples will be nothing more than pictures and artefacts in the museum of horror chronicling the violent conquest of the last internal continental frontier to open the way for the plunder of its natural resources, the irreversible alteration of its ecosystems, and the extinction of its cultures. 

Brazil has become one of the world's ten largest economies, and accounts for more than one half of South American economic activity. Brazil's GDP represents 55% of the GDP of South America as a whole. The new capitalist monster has fixed its sights on a specific goal: to open up the Amazon basin to the large-scale exploitation of natural resources, thus completing its territorial domination and inexorable westward march.

A complementary requirement for fulfilling this goal was to break down the geographic barrier that the vast rainforests and wide rivers have historically represented, serving to hold off the penetration of transportation, machinery, markets and big corporations. As a result, opening up the Amazon region and physically linking it with export ports on the world's two most important oceans, the Atlantic and Pacific, and through them with the rest of the globalized world, is the main objective of the IIRSA initiative, launched in August 2000 in Brasilia. And now, just ten years and a few months later, IIRSA is on the verge of achieving its objective.

When construction is finished on the Billinghurst Bridge over the Madre de Dios River, which will connect the city of Puerto Maldonado with the village of El Triunfo, both in the department (state) of Madre de Dios in southeastern Peru, it will mark the completion of the so-called Peru-Brazil Inter-Oceanic Highway Corridor, and South American history will change forever.

Until now, river navigation was the most effective way of penetrating the rainforest. During the rubber boom between the years of 1870 and 1914, which marked the first forcible incorporation of the Amazon basin into the world market, the rivers became the means of entry of thousands and thousands of outsiders into the rainforest, leading to a genocide of indigenous peoples that continues to be hidden and silenced today.

The current borders between Brazil, Peru and Bolivia in the territories now crossed by the Inter-Oceanic Highway Corridor and its area of influence were established during this violent invasion, in which entire peoples were enslaved and forced to work as rubber tappers, leading to the death of a great many. Some took refuge deep in the rainforest, around the headwaters of the rivers where they were no longer navigable, and were thus able to avoid total extermination. These are the peoples currently known as "uncontacted indigenous tribes" or "indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation".

A century after this ethnic slaughter, many of these peoples who chose freedom over annihilation have since been forced by Christian missionaries to leave their isolation and currently live in a state known as "initial contact" with the hegemonic society of the countries in which they live. This is a situation in which the survival of their way of life and culture is extremely vulnerable and in danger of slowly disappearing, a tragedy known as ethnocide.

Today, an interconnection like the one to be created by this bridge, no matter how remote or isolated the regions affected are considered from a national point of view, is possible for the new world order based on the development of productive forces on a global scale, and in which, for this very reason, the aggression and threats have reached a planetary scale. The bridge, we must stress, is the perfect symbol for IIRSA, which is just another name for globalization in South America.

Its inauguration will merely speed up the historical processes of genocide and ethnocide against indigenous peoples, leading to the permanent extinction of the last uncontacted indigenous peoples of the Amazon rainforest, once their lands are invaded as a result of the aggressive new dynamics ushered in by the highway corridor.

Indigenous communities today are already caught up in ongoing conflicts over the defence of their territories. What will happen when there are no longer any obstacles to stop the corporations from entering anywhere they want, wherever there is a natural resource to be exploited?

If the capitalist invasion is not stopped, the indigenous peoples will disappear, their communities will disappear, along with their ways of life, their customs, their traditions. And once the peoples who defended the rainforest – because it was essential to their survival and their culture – have disappeared, then the rainforest itself will disappear, burned down, deforested and wiped off the face of the earth to make way for permanent occupation by agribusiness and large-scale cattle farming.

Extracted from: "IIRSA y los pueblos indígenas aislados y vulnerables. El Puente Billinghurst y la Interoceánica: punto de no retorno para el genocidio y la devastación de la Amazonía", by Pablo Cingolani, 21/11/10, which was sent to us by the author. The full text is available - in Spanish- at: 

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Guatemala: Oil palm and sugar cane plantations hurt local communities

biofuel watch - Guatemala: Oil palm and sugar cane plantations hurt local communities

From World Rainforest Movement Bulletin, December 2010,

Guatemala: Oil palm and sugar cane monoculture plantations hurt local communities on the Coyolate River

The Pacific watershed of Guatemala comprises 17 river basins. Most of the rivers in this region have a relatively short length of around 100 kilometres, from their source in the upper reaches of mountains and volcanoes to their mouths on the Pacific coast. One of these rivers is the Coyolate, which begins in the mountains of the department (state) of Chimaltenango and flows through numerous municipalities and communities. In the middle portion of the Coyolate river basin there are large areas of land used for monoculture plantations and livestock raising.

Sugar cane and oil palm plantations have been established in the region for decades, due to its fertile volcanic soil and abundant water resources. But the sugar cane and oil palm production system, like that of many other monoculture crops, requires huge amounts of water, which is obtained by partially or totally diverting rivers towards the plantations. This is done by building a series of walls and dikes to create channels that carry and distribute the river water to the plantations for irrigation. This practice has serious consequences for local communities: during the dry season, the rivers can dry up completely, affecting small and medium-sized livestock producers, local farmers, and the more than 15,000 people who live in the Coyolate River area and depend on its waters for their daily needs.

During the rainy season, the open channels can overflow and flood local communities, leading to states of emergency, evacuations and serious losses and damages. The diversion and over-use of the waters of the Coyolate modify and alter the natural course of the river, affecting the people and ecosystems that depend on it. This situation is combined with other impacts caused by large-scale sugar cane production, such as aerial spraying of chemical products to speed up the growth of sugar cane which also affect crops of beans, corn, peppers and coconuts, among others.

The drive for expansion has led sugar cane plantations and refineries to cut down large numbers of trees, which are also used as fuel for the refinery furnaces. Riverine forests are also affected by deforestation and the impact of soil erosion. The river banks have become increasingly fragile and cannot tolerate the abrupt changes and poor use of the soil in general.

The Coyolate also carries and supplies water to a mangrove system at its mouth. When water is diverted from the river, it does not reach the mangroves, which could lead to the systematic death of this ecosystem.

The case of the Coyolate River illustrates something that is happening to almost all the rivers on the southern coast of Guatemala, where the common denominators are the irrational exploitation of the area's resources, including water resources, and the widespread contamination caused by agro-industrial production.

The communities affected, such as Santa Odilia, have denounced this situation for years, but no real solution has been offered to them. Although they are grateful for the humanitarian aid provided to them, they are tired of depending on it. The solution to their problems is for agro-industries to respect the rivers, to stop diverting them, to use the water they need without depriving communities downriver of water and subjecting them to disastrous situations.

The diversion of the rivers and the environmental degradation caused by oil palm and banana companies have also been denounced by organizations like the Committee for Peasant Unity (CUC), which forms part of the Vía Campesina network. They have submitted complaints and demands for action to the corresponding Guatemalan government authorities with regard to the diversion of rivers in Ocós and Coatepeque, municipalities in the department of San Marcos. As a result of these demands, a high-level commission was created and has participated in monitoring activities in the plantations operated by the companies Bananera Sociedad Anónima and Palma del Horizonte. The CUC has called on the high-level commission to urgently issue a report on the inspections carried out, and to ensure that the report is objective, unbiased and fair. They have also asked the commission to propose effective solutions to deal with these problems.

Recently, a delegation from the Latin American Network Against Monoculture Tree Plantations (RECOMA) visited the community of Santa Odilia and gathered testimonies from the local population. Together with RECOMA, the community drafted a letter that will be sent to government representatives. The people of Santa Odilia hope to raise awareness among the international community, and especially the participants in negotiations around the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, of the local impacts of the false solutions to climate change being promoted as clean fuels or "biofuels", as in the case of palm oil. The letter is available in Spanish at, and can be signed by sending an email message to

The government of Guatemala must take swift action to confront this situation, which affects thousands of Guatemalan citizens and violates their most basic human rights. Local communities are demanding that the rivers be saved, because saving the rivers will save thousands of peoples.

By Carlos Salvatierra

With the support of Savia – Escuela de Pensamiento Ecologista and Comité de Unidad Campesina (CUC)


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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nepalese 'forest' communities grow Jatropha

biofuel watch - Nepalese 'forest' communities grow Jatropha

<optimistic assumption that they will be harvesting after one year. And only 30,000 plants on 10,000 hectares sounds like an error>

Kanchanfur forests farm Jatropha for bio-diesel

KANCHANPUR: Two community forests of Kanchanpur district have started growing Jatropha (Sajeevan) from which biofuel can be produced.

Basanta Community Forest and Sri Krishna Community Forest are into sajeevan farming with the technical and financial assistance of Crystal Bio Energy Nepal Ltd. Scientific studies have shown that sajeevan oil can be used to operate diesel engine such as tractor, mill and cooking stove.

Both the community forests have planted more than 30,000 plants of sajeevan on around 10,000 hectares. It is said that Jatropha seeds contain 30 percent oil that can be processed to produce a high-quality biodiesel fuel, usable in a standard diesel engine.

Nar Bahadur Rana Magar, field surveyor of Bio Energy, said jatropha farming is being done to make the country self-reliant on diesel within the next 10 years and raise income of local people. He said sajeevan plantation will be ready for harvest after one year.

According to Magar, the company is thinking to install a processing plant in the community forests and start commercial business of diesel.

It is also said that Sajeevan is found widely in more than 70 districts in the country. In many places, jatropha seeds are going to waste as local people are not aware of its benefits and applications.


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Saturday, December 18, 2010

DECC Youth Panel report on Energy Fairness

biofuel watch - DECC Youth Panel report on Energy Fairness

DECC Youth Advisory Panel
Energy: How Fair is it Anyway? Nov 2010

<Extracts from comments about bio-energy. Full report is 70 pages>

Bioenergy Recommendations

• To apply a holistic approach to decision making surrounding biofuels and ask
"before I decide that a biofuel should be used I must first consider the butterfly effect of that decision";
• To not allow biofuel palm oil to be used as an energy crop;
• To not allow any biofuel crop to be grown where a (rain)forest has been cleared or agricultural land used;
• Biofuels must only form a small part of the energy mix and comes from sustainable sources.

• To develop a sustainability certification process for biomass material;
• Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) should be the absolute minimum certification and the Government should not allow importing of non – FSC material for biomass;
• Biomass co-firing in coal power stations must not be an excuse to extend the life of coal power stations and allow unabated coal to be burned. The Government must introduce regulations to ensure that co-firing is used only to reduce carbon emissions as coal is phased out.

• DEFRA should continue to help landfill sites install gas generation and user facilities, and the implementation of biogas production facilities using landfill waste should be investigated;
• Efforts to reduce the amount of waste going into landfill should be ensured to take precedent, however.

Are biofuels fair?
26.3% of participants in our survey thought burning biofuels was fair.
39.3% thought it was not so fair,
21.5% unfair
13% a raw deal.

Is Biomass fair?
Opinions are somewhat divided on whether burning biomass is a fair form of energy
33.7% of people who responded to our survey thought it was fair
39.4% thought it was not so fair.
21.2% thought it was unfair
5.7% a raw deal.

for further information please email


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Friday, December 17, 2010

"Commercial Scale" Jatropha shipment


<an indication of the realism in the jatropha industry? This is hailed as a large shipment, but at 60 tonnes it would run a power station like W4B Bristol for only about 7 hours: annual consumption = 90,000 tonnes,

Global aviation consumes over 200 million tonnes of kerosene a year. Virgin's "biofuel test flight" in 2008 burnt 22 tonnes of which 1.1 tonne was biofuel>

<useful also to get an idea of the market price of jatropha>

Mission NewEnergy Limited (ASX:MBT), a vertically integrated biodiesel producer and one of the world's largest Jatropha plantation companies, announced today that it completed its second commercial sale and shipment of Jatropha oil to a major European customer, for use as a sustainable fuel.

This shipment, comprising 444 barrels (60 tonnes) of unrefined Jatropha oil, was three times the size of our last Jatropha oil sale. At approximately US$119 per barrel CIF Europe, the sale price represented a 34% premium to prevailing crude oil prices.

"Over the next 30 years, the acreage cultivated by Mission's farmers is expected to produce an estimated 20 million barrels of sustainable non food oil supply." said Nathan Mahalingam. "If sold at the same price, the market value of our Jatropha oil supply is over US$2.4 billion."

Mission expects to make further sales of CJO or Jatropha-based biodiesel after the 2010/2011 harvest season.


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Honduras: Campesinos Expelled Like 'Vermin'


Honduras: Campesinos Expelled Like 'Vermin'

Written by Giorgio Trucchi, Translated by Peter Lackowski, 15th December 2010

Soldiers and police armed to the teeth violently evict defenseless peasant families. The presence of human rights organizations and national and international journalists prevents, this time, a new blood bath in the Bajo Aguan.

The dawning of Thursday, December 9, brought terror to dozens of campesino families of the Bajo (Lower) Aguan River Valley. Several contingents of soldiers and police, armed to the teeth, evicted them without any judicial order, nor the presence of an administrative judge, from the settlement of Paso Aguan, on the left bank of the Aguan River.

The delegation of human rights organizations and national and international journalists arrived at the place just as the the repressive forces of the state were finishing their "work."

Dozens of troops, armed with M16 rifles and even with an M60 machine gun were forcing men, women, and children to abandon the place that they had recovered some months ago from the hands of Miguel Facusse, a wealthy landholder who grows oil palms.

A scene of war declared against the struggle of campesinos who ask for, demand, land in order to work and to survive.

An absurd war that has broken out under the branches of thousands of African oil palm trees that is bringing exploitation, violence, and bloodshed, putting an end to food security for the majority of the people who live in those fertile lands of the Bajo Aguan.

Before our eyes there was a scene from Dante: The humble huts made of plastic sheets and palm leaves being destroyed and burned. Air mattresses, cooking utensils, and clothing strewn all around on the ground, muddy from the violent rainstorm of the night before.

The lost looks of the women holding their children in their arms. The angry men shouting their truths, faced by the impassive looks of the uniformed men who tried to justify the unjustifiable.
The dislocated families marched in a line. Every member carried something on his or her shoulders, toward nowhere. They had nowhere to go.

At the end of the day, it was the solidarity of the Campesino Movement of the Aguan (MCA, its initials in Spanish), and the community of Guadalupe Carney, also under siege by the soldiers, that partially mitigated this dramatic situation by offering them a place of refuge.

The Law of the Jungle

"We are following orders given by the judge. We are doing our work, and you should not distort what occurred. There was not a single person injured here, nor were there prisoners, and it was the the campesinos themselves who set fire to their huts," said Alex Madrid, the public relations agent of the police, trying uselessly to justify himself, while he was taking photos of the journalists and human rights activists.

"They arrived at 5 in the morning, wearing balaclavas--ski masks. The threw us face down on the ground and threatened us. They destroyed and burned our shelters as if we were vermin, they took away our machetes, and now they won't even let us leave with our things," one of the dislocated campesinos, who preferred to remain anonymous said angrily.
"We already can't live, and we are resigned to being killed by the soldiers. We are abandoned in the Bajo Aguan. They burned our houses, we are left with nothing, and we have not the slightest doubt that this is the work of Miguel Facusse."

"In Honduras the law no longer exists. The only law that is carried out is the whim of the powerful, and the defenseless people are under this deadly law. You have to go to people's houses and see how they are living. It is total misery. The idea that is destroying the world is that money is more important than life. We can't go on like this," said the priest Fausto Milla, member of the Truth Commission, as we walked, leaving behind the disgrace of this attack on a people in resistance and in a struggle for their lives.


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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Forget about "green" - its all about "energy security"


(note: the current mandate for biofuels in US is for 36 b G, This "demand" from military, is 336 b G additional!)

Military signals advanced biofuels demand: 336 million gallons by 2020

D-E-M-A-N-D spells demand as the Navy signals its need for advanced biofuels to the investment community

In the annals of advanced biofuels, much has been written of the US Department of Energy's role in fostering research, and the US Department of Agriculture's role in fostering commercialization. Less has been written about the US Department of Defense's role in buying, testing and using fuel. But of all the agencies of the US federal government, their role in stepping up as a buyer, and communicating buying signals to the makers of advanced biofuels and their financiers, has been the one of the biggest stories of 2010.

This week in Honolulu, Chris Tindal of the US Navy joined advanced biofuels CEOs Jason Pyle of Sapphire Energy and Jonathan Wolfson of Solazyme at BIO's Pacific Rim Summit, to discuss the scope and scale of the effort to provide the US Navy annually with 336 million gallons of drop-in advanced biofuels by 2020.

Chris Tindal, US Navy

"We are trying to be out in front. Why? We are worrying about getting oil to the front line. For example, the majority of convoys going to forward areas are bringing fuel and water. Fuel ops are very vulnerable to attack. At present, 75 percent of our energy is consumed by our tactical groups, and only 25 percent by our shore installations.

(note: Biofuels Digest has elsewhere estimated that as many as 10 percent of US military casualties occur in the delivery of fuel to forward areas).

"So, the Secretary of the Navy has ordered that we will demonstrate a green strike group in local operations by 2012, and deploy a Great Green Fleet by 2016. The destroyers, cruisers and air wing will be using biofuels, and will be accompanied by nuclear-powered carriers and submarines.

"By 2020, our target is fifty percent of energy from alternative sources, and we have a mandate to reduce petroleum use 50 percent by 2015.

"We need drop in replacements – we don't have the time to do engine reconfigurations, so we are working on a series of tests to ensure green strike group certification by 2012 and across our fleet. Which is why we conducted, this past Earth Day, a 1.2 Mach supersonic test of our F-18 Hornet, which we renamed the Green Hornet of course, using camelina-based jet fuel. The Green hornet tested through its full range of operations and throughout the test it didn't realize it had 50 percent biofuels in the tank. We also tested our Riverine patrol boats with algae based fuels.

"We are feedstock agnostic, and will comply with Section 526 of the EISA ACt with respect to meeting greenhouse gas emissions targets. Our need? Jp-5 jet fuel and F-76 military diesel. By 2020 we need 8 million barrels of biofuel (336 million gallons), 4 million of each of F76 and JP-5.

"We signed a strategic alliance between the DLA (Defense Logistics Agency) and the USDA in March 2010, with one of our goals being to create a demand signal for the biofuels industry, for venture capital, for all those people standing up a biofuel industry. USDA's Sarah Biddleman recently said that standing up an advanced biofuels industry was like standing up a pop up book, everything has to stand up at the same time. So Bill Hagy of USDA and I have worked hard in structuring a way forward in moving the MOU forward. The first region chosen was Hawaii. If we can stand it up here we can get it done elsewhere.

"In Hawaii, the Department of Defense requires 64 million gallons, there is 215 million gallons of advanced biofuels demand at Hawaii Electric (HECO), we need 4 million gallons for the DOD's own power generation, and the Air Transport Association reports a demand for 230 million gallons of advanced biofuels. That's over 500 million gallons in demand here in the islands."

Jason Pyle, Sapphire Energy

"Think about it, in 2007 no one was talking about drop in fuels, but we have woken up in the United States to the fact that we have 14 trillion dollars in liquid hydrocarbon infrastructure, and replacing that in a short period of time is a fantasy, and unnecessary, as we have all discovered. What we are asking for is to alter the energy mix, which has never been done without a national government's intervention. We have to be thinking about delivering hundreds of millions of gallons, how to achieve that scale.

"In the commercial demonstration that we are undertaking in New Mexico, we will be producing 1 million gallons of jet, 1 million gallons of diesel from algae, but at the end of the day there are lots of ways make a 1000 barrels per day. It is when we think about a million barrels per day, that's we have to think about the big resource problem. That's why we've identified a series of locations along the US SOutheast coast and in the Southwest where we see the combination of sunlight and brackish or saline water.

"In looking to agriculture to provide us the answers, we saw that there are 375 million acres of water based agriculture. 27 percent of worlds dietary energy comes from rice, and rice is the model system we aspire to. We believe that we can achieve, with our algae-based biofuels systems, at 5,000 gallons of drop-in biofuels per acre, $12,500 in revenues per acre – compared to around $940 per acre for tree farming activities and around $600 per acre for corn.

"We think it is not only the right way to produce fuels, but economically effective. It's worth noting that the most cost-effective energy product in the world is corn, at $9 per million BTUs. It's cheaper than oil.

Jonathan Wolfson, CEO, Solazyme

"Let's look at Hawaii. There are 123000 barrels per day coming into Hawaii from Asia and the Middle East. No one wants a repeat of things that happened in the past, but remember that here, Hawaii, is the front line, Pearl Harbor is the center of US defense against any threat that would ever come from the East.

"There has been real serious forward thinking at the Navy on this subject, which has led to some of the contracts that we have signed to date with the Navy. We signed a contract for 20000 gallons of HR76, which we have completed, and 1500 gallon contract for HRJ5 which we have completed, and we have a contract for 150,000 gallons of HR76 which we are now in the process of delivering.

"What is Solazyme? We are a renewable oil production company that can go into fuels or chemicals. We can tailor our delivery using a standard fermentation platform. What we have developed is the first substantial biomass sugars to oil platform – that's our core technology. Why? The planet grows carbohydrates better than natural oils. 87 percent of arable land today in farm production is producing carbohydrates, and only 13 percent is oil seeds. Plus, that's overstating the oil seeds because half of that is soy, grown for protein. So we take a standard fermenter and put algae in there, and grow them in the dark using a wide variety if cellulosic sugars – canes for fuels and chemicals, corn when using foods. Our microalgae produce oil and we harvest that oil."

Questions from the crowd

Wolfson was asked about subsidies for renewable fuels. When people say no subsidies they mean no parity. An 80 dollar barrel of petroleum is not an 80 dollar barrel of petroleum. The oil companies have had 100 years to bury subsidies everywhere. There's a shocking amount of support the current platform, and respected think tanks who lookm at the full cost of oil have concluded that the real cost is 7 to 12 dollars, not the fraction of that you are paying at the pump.

Tindal was asked about the amount the Navy was willing to pay for fuels. He said that "there's no magic dollar value, but we recognize that, for example, a concept car costs 2 million when you make one. Later on you'll get the cost down to $10,000 with scale, and with the engineering improvements that come along the way.

Asked what was the most important need in terms of delivering military fuel, Tindal was clear. "We want a 20 year contract for fuel delivery, so that these fuel developers can get project finance, and we need that in order to move forward. Otherwise it's going to take VC with really deep pockets, because we don't want to own and operate a biofuel company."

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More EC secrecy about agrofuel certification


More EC secrecy agrofuel certification
15 December 2010

The European Commission continues its secrecy regarding the accreditation of voluntary schemes under the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). At least eleven voluntary agrofuel accreditation schemes are currently seeking approval - but the EU Commission has refused to release details of which schemes and companies are involved. In October, CEO, ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth and FERN have sent the Commission an access to document request demanding full and ongoing disclosure of both the names and the content of these schemes.

However, on 7 December 2010, DG ENERGY responded with an effective denial of the request. The groups have now challenged this denial. Although technically a partial denial, DG ENERGY substantially denied the application by withholding all consequential information, releasing instead just one document, Assessment Framework for Voluntary Schemes. For all other categories of documents—applications, paperwork, email communications, minutes, among others—DG ENERGY denied the request outright. The organisations have now submitted a confirmatory application for reconsideration of the denial to the Secretary General of the European Commission...

[For the whole article and further information, see ]

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Finnair Set to Fly with Biofuel


<note the comment that "airlines have demanded that palm oil is not used" - although there is no response recorded here from Neste.... And the proposal to use "logging waste">

Finnair is set to become the first airline in the world to use fuel produced from renewable sources on regular flights. The airline aims to start fuelling its planes with biofuel next spring.

Finnair airplanes could soon be powered by lard or logging waste, as the airline moves to adopt a new biofuel. Such fuel, which is a mixture of fossil and biofuel produced from renewable sources, should pass certification by next spring. As soon as this happens, Finnair is prepared to use the new fuel on a significant proportion of its flights.

Expecting the new product to bring it international business, the Finnish company Neste Oil will start producing the fuel with bio-kerosene in Porvoo as well as in Rotterdam and Singapore. Up to now, there have been only half a dozen refineries in the world that produce such biofuel.

According to Neste Oil CEO Matti Leivonen, this is the first time that cutting edge Finnish technology will be used in commercial traffic.

Airlines have demanded that the new fuel should not contain palm oil, which has been linked to rain forest destruction. Finnair is especially interested in utilising logging waste from forests at home in Finland.

The new biofuels will also figure prominently in emissions trading, set to be implemented in the air industry in two years' time.


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Africa Renewables targets European markets


Africa Renewables Ltd (AfriRen), a UK biomass producer and exporter, has entered into a long-term agreement with GREL, a subsidiary of African agribusiness group SIFCA.

The biomass partnership could see US$16 million worth of initial investment. The deal positions AfriRen as a platform to access European biomass buyers, the company says.

Almost all biomass currently imported into the EU comes from the Americas, AfriRen says, but with this partnership African biomass businesses will be put in touch with European energy firms.

AfriRen will develop "renewable energy projects in Africa in line with latest technology, economic trends and utmost respect for the environment and local communities."

The biomass company expects to export 120,000 tonnes of woodchips per year from 2011 onwards from its operations in Ghana alone.

For this first project AfriRen has finalised an 8-year agreement with SIFCA-subsidiary Ghana Rubber Estates Ltd (GREL) covering the extraction and export of woodchip biomass from their rubber tree plantation near Takoradi.

AfriRen have also partnered with Throgmorton UK Ltd, a financial and administrative outsourcing firm. Throgmorton will assist in implementing financial and administrative processes for AfriRens UK head office operations.

see also -

which claims: "Extensive studies show that biomass co-firing is an effective way of reducing emissions from existing coal-fired generation in Europe. In fact, biomass co-firing with pellets is even more effective in reducing emissions than other conventional renewable energy resources such as wind or solar."


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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Biofuel and bobwhites


Biofuel and bobwhites
- The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio
December 7, 2010 9:43am EST
The push to produce more corn and soybeans for biofuels might help lower gas prices and fight global warming, but it also could wipe out as many as two-thirds of the bird species that nest near farms.


The push to produce more corn and soybeans for biofuels might help lower gas prices and fight global warming, but it also could wipe out as many as two-thirds of the bird species that nest near farms. Shown here is corn oil from the distillers' grain, an ethanol byproduct, which companies sell for use in biodiesel. (Glen Stubbe/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)

View larger

On the flip side, if farmers grow grasses, the number of birds that nest near farms could double in parts of Ohio and other Midwestern states, researchers say.

Species that nest in the grassy "margins" around farms have the most to lose or gain, said Tim Meehan, a University of Wisconsin ecologist.

"I think the biggest concern is there are so many grassland birds that are already in danger," said Meehan, lead author for a study recently published in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences.

"Take what you've seen so far over the last 100 years or so in bird trends and extend it," he said. "If you continue to annualize landscape, then expect more of the same and certain species to disappear."

Bird species that nest in prairies and fields of tall grasses can't compete with farming. Corn, soybean and wheat fields offer no shelter or food for grassland birds.

Habitat loss has been linked to significant declines in grassland bird populations tracked since 1966 by the North American Breeding Bird Survey.

"They all have been declining, more than any other group (of bird species)," said Paul Rodewald, an Ohio State University ornithologist.

In Ohio, the northern bobwhite and Henslow's sparrow, for example, each have seen their populations decline by more than 90 percent. The eastern meadowlark has declined more than 70 percent.

Those losses occurred without a push for biofuel. The U.S. energy bill of 2008 calls for 36 billion gallons of homegrown biofuels by 2022.
Now, about 11 billion gallons of ethanol are produced in the United States, largely from corn. Soybeans also are used to help make biodiesel. When demand increases and corn prices rise, farmers often plant on more "marginal" land to increase production.

Marginal farmland has poor soil or floods frequently. Farmers often take advantage of federal programs that pay them to plant tall grasses there. The grasses help keep fertilizers and chemicals from washing into steams, rivers and lakes.
When prices go up, growing corn or soybeans in the margins becomes more profitable. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates Ohio lost 16,300 acres of grassland to corn in 2008 after corn rose from $2 per bushel to $3.

To study the effects of corn grown in these areas, Meehan and other researchers used software to analyze land-use data and breeding-bird survey statistics for Ohio and six other Midwestern states.

If an estimated 23.5 million acres of marginal grasslands were planted with corn or soybeans, the researchers predict that bird species that nest in those areas would decline by 7 percent to 65 percent.

But if an estimated 20.5 million acres of marginal land used to grow crops were planted with grasses for biofuels, the number of bird species would increase from 12 percent to as high as 207 percent.

Although the grass must be cut down for biofuel production, Meehan said most birds will have raised their young and left their nests before the harvest.

"In our model, we had a variety of grasslands, including things that might be pastures or managed perennial areas," said Claudio Gratton, a University of Wisconsin ecologist and study co-author. "It's the opposite of high-input row crops."

Although the idea of growing grass for biofuels looks more appealing, Gratton and other experts pointed out that there is no industrially proven method to convert these grasses into ethanol.

What farmers would plant to produce cellulosic ethanol also is unknown. Grassland nesting birds might be no better off in a field of switchgrass than in a field of corn, said Luke Miller, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources administrator who works with federal farmland conservation programs.

Birds such as grasshopper sparrows and Henslow's sparrows look for fields with diverse plants, including switchgrass, big bluestem, little bluestem and wildflowers. Those fields provide a variety of seeds and insects to eat, Miller said.

"A lot of folks in the wildlife community are looking for a happy medium for these marginal grounds where planting a diverse stand of native grasses could provide biofuels and more benefit to grassland nesting species," he said.

Read more:

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Country-Fried Biofuels


Country-Fried Biofuels

Energy Savers Blog | Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Every Thanksgiving, we hear stories about an imprudent cook deep frying a turkey inside, resulting in fiery disaster. But a more humdrum risk of deep-frying is improperly disposing of the grease. Pouring it down the drain, which can clog municipal pipes and pollute local waterways, is actually illegal in many places. A better option is to have it recycled into biodiesel. Some Clean Cities coalitions, supported by the Vehicle Technologies Program in EERE, have worked with their local governments to make holiday drippings into clean fuel.

This year, Pima County (Tucson), Arizona collected more than 4,400 pounds of used oil at their sixth annual Day After Thanksgiving Grease Recycling Day. Working with the Tucson Clean Cities Coalition and several local businesses, they collected cooking oil at five different locations. Since the first event in 2005, they have recycled more than 13,000 pounds of grease! The used oil will be converted into biodiesel through a chemical process that makes it safe to use in vehicles. In contrast, using yellow grease (also known as straight vegetable oil) directly in vehicles is not recommended. Running a vehicle on yellow grease without transforming it into biodiesel can build up carbon deposits in the engine and significantly reduce engine life.

Because frying happens all year long, the City of Hoover, Alabama, in collaboration with Alabama Clean Cities, continually recycles used oil. Residents can drop off grease at any fire station in the city, which a recycling company picks up. So far, they've recycled more than 32,000 gallons of used cooking oil since 2007. The resulting biodiesel powers the city's two trolleys that transport residents during community events. In addition to reducing petroleum, the biodiesel also results in cleaner air for the community. Biodiesel produces fewer smog-forming pollutants than petroleum-based diesel and reduces lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by more than 78%.

At Loyola University in Chicago, students recycle grease, sell the biodiesel to the university's shuttle bus company, and use the residual materials to create Biosoap. Other programs include those in Newport, Rhode Island, DeKalb County, Georgia, and Florence, Alabama.

Wherever you live, there is probably both wasted cooking oil and diesel vehicles that could benefit from running on a biodiesel blend. If you don't have a grease recycling program in your area, contact your nearest Clean Cities coordinator to find out opportunities about biodiesel production.

Shannon Brescher Shea is the communications manager for Clean Cities in the Vehicle Technologies Program of EERE.

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The Ethics of Biofuels: School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary


The ethics of biofuels
December 14th, 2010.

In the world-wide race to develop energy sources that are seen as "green" because they are renewable and less greenhouse gas-intensive, sometimes the most basic questions remain unanswered.

In a paper released today by the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, authors Michal Moore, Senior Fellow, and Sarah M. Jordaan at Harvard University in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, look at the basic question of whether these energy sources are ethical.

In addition to arguing that the greenhouse gas benefits of biofuel are overstated by many policymakers, the authors argue that there are four questions that need to be considered before encouraging and supporting the production of more biofuel. These questions are:

What is the effect of biofuel production on food costs, especially for poor populations?

Should more land be used for biofuel when the return of energy per acre is low? Are there better uses for that land?

There is a new paper out from the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary - mainly relating to bioethanol in the USA.

In addition to worrying about the impact of global warming, should we not consider the impact on land of massively expanding biofuel production?

What are the other economic impacts of large scale production of biofuel?
"Policymakers, especially in the U.S., have been in a rush to expand biofuel protection," says Michal Moore. "But they need to start thinking outside of the box of climate change and the corn lobby."

"If policy is designed to create better outcomes for everyone, then we need to subject policy to ethical tests. In many respects, current policy around biofuels fails those tests."
Provided by University of Calgary


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