Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sugar rush / prices fallout



Consumers go sour on the commodity market's sugar rush

Jamil Bittar/Reuters

Photograph: Jamil Bittar/Reuters

A worker cuts sugar cane in South America, where environmental incentives have prompted it to be used in producing ethanol fuel. Photograph: Jamil Bittar/Reuters

Andrew Clark

The Observer Features Sun 31 Jan 2010 00:05 GMT

A combination of bad harvests and speculation has sent the price of cane soaring - and provoked protests and violence in Asia

Will that be one lump or two? Or, perhaps, none. A sugar rush is gripping the global commodities ­market. The price of the world's favourite sweetener shot to its highest level for 29 years this week in a worrying surge that has sparked political strife and street protests in parts of southern and south-east Asia.

A militant women's group staged a breakfast demonstration outside ­government offices in the Philippines on ­Tuesday, demanding intervention to bring down sugar prices. Protesters banged utensils at a rally in the Indian state of Bihar, and in Pakistan the authorities have rationed sugar, prompting violent confrontations as anger spills over at the perceived greed of producers.

Raw sugar traded on New York's Intercontinental Exchange surged in price by 128% last year, while white sugar on ­London's Liffe trading floor jumped by 123%. In the US markets on Monday, the price of a pound of raw sugar touched 30 cents for the first time since 1981, far above the range of 12 to 15 cents prevalent between 2007 and early 2009.





Toiling in a generally low-profile ­corner of the commodity markets, sugar traders are suddenly in the spotlight. But the immediate blame for this spike in prices lies in a factor indisputably beyond human control – the weather. A late monsoon disrupted sugar harvests in India, while too much rain disrupted supplies in the world's biggest ­sugarcane-growing nation, Brazil.

"It was the wettest harvest season here for decades," says Andy Duff, a commodities analyst at Rabobank in São Paulo. "There was less cane harvested than previously anticipated and the quality was lower than anticipated."

For the second consecutive year, ­global supply has fallen short of demand and many nations with sugar stockpiles are running short. The global financial crisis has not helped, making it harder for growers to finance outlay on fertiliser and equipment. In South America, ­environmental incentives have seen some sugarcane diverted into ­production of ethanol fuel.

Meanwhile, demand is robust – fuelled by population growth and rising incomes in emerging markets such as China. In poorer nations, a good chunk of every extra dollar earned is directed at food.

Population drift to the towns also adds to the appetite for sugar, according to Duff: "Increasing urbanisation drives changes in diet. It's associated with more consumption of sugary snacks and processed food."

Analysts at Commerzbank describe the sugar situation as "the perfect storm". In a research note, the ­German bank suggests the price still has "immense upside potential" and could even reach 40 cents per pound – a level exceeded only twice, during sugar crises in 1975 and 1980.

Tom Mikulski, a market strategist at commodities dealer Lind-Waldock in Chicago, says: "Unless we have a massive jump in production, I don't really see this market breaking any time soon."

For consumers, the link between ­commodity prices and supermarket costs is complicated. Sugar, more than most traded products, occupies a financial niche in which Wall Street and the high street are worlds apart. To protect European sugar growers, the European Union routinely keeps sugar prices artificially high – so shoppers in Britain and on the continent are used to paying a premium anyway.

The US has a similarly protectionist setup, limiting imports to safeguard its own farmers. But snack manufacturers such as Mars, Hershey and Krispy Kreme have been urging the Obama administration to raise import quotas, warning that a shortage of sugar could lead to job losses.

But in developing countries, the price of sugar has historically been lower and the recent spike in cost has been a shock. A columnist in the Manila StandardToday newspaper complained this week that a kilo of white sugar in public markets in the Philippines had jumped in cost from 40 pesos to between 50 and 60 pesos since Christmas. And a kilo of sugar on the black market in Pakistan, where sugar consumption is among the highest per person in the world, can reportedly fetch more than a day's pay.

"If you look at the impact, sugar comprises a greater share of the food basket in developing markets," says Sudakshina Unnikrishnan, an expert in agricultural commodities at Barclays Capital. "We don't really expect these problems to be a precedent set for developed countries, which have a kind of artificial system by which prices are set."

Since sugar inflation began to take hold in mid-2009, the news from growers has been consistently bad. In addition to poor harvests in India and Brazil, smaller producers such as Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam have come up short. "It's not that demand has grown extraordinarily this year – it's been ­growing in line with long-term trends," says Unnikrishnan. "The problem has been underperformance on the ­production side – and the big surprise is that, in spite of price rises, demand has held up."

In an unusual move from Brussels this week, farm commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel announced that the European Union intends to export 500,000 tonnes of sugar to the global markets above and beyond its usual quota to try to ease a squeeze in supply. This faced swift condemnation from other sugar producing nations, which complain that European farmers are unfairly subsidised. Brazil's sugarcane industry association, Unica, said it was a short-sighted breach of international trade rules.

Sensing an opportunity, speculators have shown little mercy. Hedge funds have piled into sugar, aggravating lurches in the price. Blaming speculators, ­however, would be a cheap shot, according Jonathan Kingsman, founder of the specialist sugar broker Kingsman, based in Switzerland.

"The speculators are involved and they'll always be involved, but there are fairly solid fundamentals to this market," says Kingsman. "There's not enough sugar to go around."

A calming in prices, he believes, will ultimately happen once growers react to the prospect of higher income and plant more crops: "Price is the best possible fertiliser," he says.



http://m.guardian.co.uk/?id=102202&story=http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jan/31/sugar-prices-commodities

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More coverage of RFA's 28 Jan report on transport biofuels



Mainstream press coverage:

The Times:

Using biofuel in vehicles may be accelerating the destruction of rainforest and resulting in higher greenhouse gas emissions than burning pure petrol and diesel, a watchdog said yesterday.

The Renewable Fuels Agency also warned that pump prices could rise in April because of the Government's policy of requiring fuel companies to add biofuel to petrol and diesel. More than 1.3 million hectares of land — twice the area of Devon — was used to grow the 2.7 per cent of Britain's transport fuel that came from crops last year.

Expansion of the industry has made Indonesia the third-largest CO2 emitter after China and the US. A litre of palm oil produced on land converted from Indonesian forest produces roughly three times as much CO2 as ordinary diesel.

The agency said oil companies had failed to invest in slightly more expensive certified sustainable palm oil. Only 0.5 per cent of the 127 million litres of palm oil added to petrol and diesel last year came from plantations certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an international monitoring body.

The Telegraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/biofuels/7099252/Biofuel-requirements-for-cars-may-help-destroy-the-rainforest-watchdog-says.html

The RFA said: "The large proportion of unknown previous land use is of concern. If even a small proportion of this was carbon-rich grassland or forestland, it could have substantially reduced the carbon savings resulting from the renewable transport fuels obligation as a whole, or even resulted in a net release of carbon."

The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jan/28/bp-biofuels-data-criticised

BP was criticised by the Renewable Fuels Agency in its annual report today for not giving enough information on the sustainability of the bio­fuels it is selling on the forecourt.

BP said it had met at least one of the three targets set by the monitoring organisation. But the RFA complained that its data was "not properly assured" for this to be confirmed.



RFA report here:


http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7007238.ece

http://www.renewablefuelsagency.gov.uk/reportsandpublications/yearoneofthertfo.cfm


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Saturday, January 30, 2010

India's 'miracle' biofuel crop: too good to be true?



India's 'miracle' biofuel crop: too good to be true?

From The Independent

Relax News

/Thursday, 28 January 2010/

To its fans, jatropha is a miracle crop, an eco-friendly answer to
India's growing energy needs, but some experts are starting to question
whether the wonder-shrub is too good to be true.

The seeds of the wild plant, which grows abundantly across India,
produce non-edible oil that can be blended with diesel, to make the
biofuel that is part of government efforts to cut carbon emissions and
combat climate change.

That, combined with the shrub's much vaunted ability to flourish on
poorly irrigated land, should make it the perfect crop for wasteland in
the drought-prone nation.

But new research shows jatropha, which has received huge government
backing in recent years, yields less than experts had first predicted
and is now being grown on fertile farmland - undermining two of its best
selling points.

"Jatropha is being talked of as a crop that will grow on marginal and
uncultivated land, and which will not compete with mainstream
cultivation," said Sharachchandra Lele, a senior fellow at ATREE, an
Indian environmental research group promoting sustainable development.

"But this is not what is happening in practice. Some state governments
are promoting its cultivation on regular agricultural land, where it
will displace existing crops, including food crops," said Lele.

"We are basically subsidising the urban elite's petrol consumption at
the cost of rural livelihoods and food production."

The Indian government has aggressively promoted production of the crop,
setting its sights on 11 million hectares (27 million acres) of
plantations nationwide by next year.

Government policy stipulates that by 2017 all petrol and diesel fuel
must have 20 percent biofuel content, one of many moves aimed at
reducing greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change.

K.D. Gupta, chairman of the Institute of Applied Systems and Rural
Development, one of the staunchest backers of jatropha for biofuel,
denied that good agricultural land was being used to cultivate the crop.

"Farmers are not going to plant jatropha, because other crops are
yielding more returns," said Gupta.

Two Indian research institutes initially reported a yield of 7.5 tonnes
of jatropha seeds per hectare (three tons per acre) under irrigated
conditions.

Similarly, a 2007 report by the state-run National Oilseeds and
Vegetable Oils Development Board (NOVOD) predicted yields of three to
five tonnes per hectare.

But research by ATREE has shown that yields under normal conditions were
less than one tonne per hectare and suggested it was doubtful yields
could ever reach those touted by the crop's supporters.

The poor results have not dashed the hopes of businesses keen to promote
the plant.

"It all depends on how you manage the crop," said Subhas Patnaik, chief
operating officer of Mission Biofuels, which started cultivating
jatropha in 2007 and currently owns around 130,000 hectares in five states.

"The whole challenge is how to get better yields from this crop and once
you're able to prove that to the farmer and to everybody then definitely
it is going to be a miracle crop," said Patnaik.

Gupta said his Institute of Applied Systems and Rural Development had
planted two million jatropha saplings over 1,300 hectares mostly in
northern India and said it was too early to judge the crop, because it
took years to fully develop and produce desirable returns.

But ATREE's Lele remains unconvinced.

"Neither for energy security nor for mitigating carbon emissions is
jatropha cultivation by any means the first option," he said.

"Much more could be achieved through investments in public transport and
reductions in private vehicle use."


http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/indias-miracle-biofuel-crop-too-good-to-be-true-1881447.html


--
Subrata Singh
Foundation for Ecological Security
PO Box-29, Anand-388001, Gujarat, India
Ph: 02692-261239, Fax-02692-262087
(M) +919879545013

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Friday, January 29, 2010

There is no option left - we need a moratorium on biofuel



There is no option left - we need a moratorium on biofuel

Grab your coast apocalypse watchers, it is time for another trip down the rabbit hole. The subject of today's journey into the nth dimension of anti-logic: biofuels, or more specifically the government's Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO).

Fans of that special form of gallows humour (is there any other kind anymore?) known as the law of unintended consequences will recognise the RTFO as the legislation which originally imposed a target that five per cent of UK fuels come from biofuels by 2010/11.

It was at that point that scientists and environmental groups pointed out that far from helping to reduce carbon emissions many biofuels were directly or indirectly responsible for increasing emissions by driving demand for agricultural land and as a result accelerating deforestation.

After commissioning its own independent review the government accepted these risks did indeed exist, but with billions of pounds of investments already made to help meet the RTFO target it decided it could not put the RTFO on hold until the issue of biofuels' carbon impact was resolved.

Instead it opted for a classic fudge, delaying the five per cent target until 2013/14, launching the independent Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) to monitor the industry's performance, and rolling out new sustainability criteria that biofuel producers will eventually have to comply with in order to ensure they are not using carbon intensive energy crops grown on formerly forested land.

Yesterday, the RFA released its first annual report on biofuel producer's performance against the new beefed up RTFO. The verdict? Not good.

The government set three targets for biofuel producers to meet: that biofuels must deliver carbon savings of 40 per cent; that data on the origins of their biofuels must be provided in 50 per cent of cases; and that 30 per cent of biofuels must meet sustainability criteria.

The RFA reported that UK biofuels delivered carbon savings of 46 per cent against conventional fuels and that it received complete data for 64 per cent of biofuels, but it also revealed the target on sustainability was missed with only 20 per cent of biofuels qualifying as sustainable.

On the face of it this is already a pretty poor performance. Four fifths of biofuels used in the UK last year failed to meet the guidelines the government had designed to eradicate related deforestation and protect biodiversity. But dig into the figures and it gets worse, a lot worse.

The RFA report admits the stated carbon savings of 46 per cent are, if not quite meaningless, then not far short. The report states: "In 2008/09, 42 per cent of previous land-use was reported as "unknown", this was due to a lack of verifiable evidence gathered from supply chains. Emissions from any unknown land-use change are not taken into account in the carbon savings figure above and it is possible that some fraction of the unknown land-use change may have caused a significant release of stored carbon." In other words, "we do not know for sure these biofuels delivered an overall reduction in carbon emissions".

But this is just the tip of the iceberg, the gaps in the data provided by biofuel producers go on and on. For one per cent of biofuels the RFA was not even informed which feedstock was used to make the fuel, while the country of origin for 19 per cent of biofuels was unknown. You did read that right, in almost a fifth of cases the company importing or selling the biofuel in the UK had no idea where it came from.

Moreover, as previously mentioned 42 per cent of biofuels were produced using feedstocks grown on land where there is no information on what that land was previously used for - meaning there was no way of determining if the biofuel had been directly responsible for a huge release of carbon emissions through deforestation. And for 70 per cent of biofuels there was incomplete information on its performance against sustainability criteria.

In short, the UK is using biofuels in large quantities, despite the fact it has no way of knowing whether it is helping to alleviate global warming or making it worse. It is as if we decided to tackle obesity by forcing people to stop eating crisps and start eating flapjacks, but neglected to check if the flapjacks had fewer calories.

The RFA insists its monitoring is very much a work in progress and that it is making rapid progress. It argues that biofuel producers know they will soon face mandatory rules governing sustainability and are moving fast to improve their supplies of biofuels, adding that it is entirely feasible that a workable system can be developed that ensures we only use sustainable biofuels that deliver net reductions in carbon emissions.

But is it? Supply chains are notoriously difficult to monitor and it seems highly unlikely a system of auditing and inspection can ever prove where imported biofuels have come from and how they have been produced. Companies have proven time and time again that they can't or won't effectively tackle sweat-shop manufactured products, while regulators have similarly proven they can't track the illegal import and export of waste on any meaningful scale.

Moreover, there is no way that even an effective auditing system can ensure that sustainably produced biofuels do not indirectly contribute to deforestation somewhere along the line. The vast majority of land used for biofuels could be used food. If it is being used for biofuels and demand for food rises then farmers have to look elsewhere for land.

The scariest thing is that the RFA's chairman Professor Ed Gallagher is right, the RFA's report represents the "first time anywhere in the world that collated and verified information about the quantity of biofuels supplied, their direct effects and their sustainability has been published". The UK is doing far, far better than most and we still have no real handle on the carbon impact of our growing demand for biofuels.

The only type of biofuels that can deliver a guaranteed reduction in emissions are produced at a local level and use feedstocks made from waste or plants that have categorically been grown on land that is not and can not be used for food production.

Biofuel producers will rant and rave about the investments already made and the fact that stalling the market now will slow the development of those genuinely sustainable second generation biofuels. But for the vast majority of biofuels used today the environmental risks are simply too high and the data too incomplete. We need a moratorium on all biofuels that lack rock solid guarantees that they have been produced in a sustainable manner. Currently, that means almost all biofuels. Failure to impose such a ban could simply mean increasing carbon emissions in the name of cutting them - and, unintended consequence of not, that can't be good.



http://blog.businessgreen.com/2010/01/there-is-no-opt.html


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Thursday, January 28, 2010

RENEWABLE FUELS AGENCY REPORT REVEALS SHOCKING IMPACT OF UK BIOFUELS



Friends of the Earth press release
Embargo: For immediate release, Thursday 28 January 2010
Contact: Marie Reynolds, Friends of the Earth press office, 0207 566 1649

RENEWABLE FUELS AGENCY REPORT REVEALS SHOCKING IMPACT OF UK BIOFUELS

Commenting on a report published by the Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) today (28 January 2010), which shows just 4 per cent of biofuel imported for use in the UK meets the environmental sustainability standard set by the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RFTO).

Friends of the Earth's biofuels campaigner Kenneth Richter said:

"In its first annual report the RFA paints a shocking picture of the true impact of biofuels being produced in the UK for use in our cars.

"Just four per cent of biofuels imported from abroad are sustainably produced – the vast majority are causing deforestation and land use changes that are increasing climate changing emissions and pushing people off their land.

"Biofuels are not the answer to our energy woes - the UK should scrap its biofuels targets.

"We must focus our attention on developing greener transport alternatives to cars, such as fast and affordable rail services and cycling and walking."

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. The report finds that only 4 per cent of biofuels imported for use in the UK – and 20 per cent of all biofuels used in the UK – meet the RTFO environmental sustainability standard.
The Renewable Fuels Agency says this "provides little assurance about the way the feedstock was grown and any environmental and social impacts it may have had."

2. In a case study looking at the effects of the production of Malaysian palm oil – which is imported to the UK – the report found that:
• It will take 130 years to pay back the carbon emissions caused by deforestation to make way for oil palm plantations in the area;
• Oil palm plantations that have required land clearance are linked to water pollution and soil erosion;
• Affected communities will typically lose some or all of their traditional means of support from the forest, becoming more vulnerable to food and financial insecurity;
• Land conflicts in the state of Sarawak are almost ubiquitous on new estates;
• "The evidence seems compelling that increased demand for palm oil biodiesel is a contributory driver to deforestation and peat degradation in parts of Malaysia."

3. Although the report notes a 46 per cent reduction in carbon emissions under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation, this figure does not take into account emissions caused by direct and indirect changes in land use that have occurred to make way for biofuel crops. 42 per cent of land use before biofuel crops were planted was stated as "unknown".

4. Nearly two years after the Government's own Gallagher Review found that indirect land use changes caused by the drive for biofuels were increasing carbon emissions, there is still no system in place to account for them. Indirect land use change includes, for example, the displacement of farmland being used for food production onto forest land. The Renewable Fuels Agency states that if indirect land use change was left unchecked, biofuels "could potentially cause an increase in overall carbon emissions rather than a reduction."

5. Friends of the Earth research in April 2009 showed that indirect land use changes as the result of biofuel production could have doubled the carbon emissions of the fossil fuels they replace - equivalent to putting half a million extra cars on the road - since a new law adding them to UK fuel came into force in April 2008.
http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/biofuels_double_carbon_emissions_15042009.html

6. Modelling by the UK Department for Transport estimates that by 2020 45 per cent of Europe's biodiesel could come from Malaysian and Indonesian palm oil, equalling additional demand for palm oil of approximately 14 billion litres (source: "Global and EU Biofuel Scenarios to 2020" presentation, Taro Hallworth, Department for Transport).

7. Friends of the Earth believes the environment is for everyone. We want a healthy planet and a good quality of life for all those who live on it. We inspire people to act together for a thriving environment. Over 90 per cent of our income comes from individuals so we rely on donations to continue our vital work. For further information visit www.foe.co.uk.

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Fertiliser for Brazil's agro-economy ++ EU exports sugar, sugar <-> wheat interaction



Two FT articles today
January 27, 10:30pm
Vale in $3.8bn deal for Bunge's Brazil assets
Vale, the world's largest miner of iron ore, on Wednesday confirmed it had reached a deal to expand its fertiliser business through the purchase of Bunge assets in Brazil for $3.8bn in cash.

'Brazil is the world's biggest producer or exporter of soyabeans, coffee, sugar, chicken, beef, ethanol and orange juice. It is the fifth-biggest consumer of fertilisers and one of the biggest importers of phosphates, potash and urea.'

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/f607a856-0b7b-11df-8232-00144feabdc0,s01=1.html


January 27, 8:45pm
Brussels to lift sugar exports amid shortfall
The European Commission plans to allow European farmers to export an additional 500,000 tonnes of sugar before the end of July to ease a worldwide supply shortage that has driven prices to their highest levels for almost 30 years.

'
However,European ethanol producers have been turning to wheat as a cheaper feedstock while sugar demand from the chemical industry has been weakened by the recession.'
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/6d0a5342-0b7f-11df-8232-00144feabdc0,s01=1.html



--
Andrew
Councillor Andrew Boswell
Green Party Group Leader
Norfolk County Council E: andrewboswell@fastmail.co.uk; T: 01603-613798, M 07787127881

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RTFO and deforestation



Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation

House of Lords

Written answers and statements, 27 January 2010

Photo of Lord Dykes

Lord Dykes (Liberal Democrat)

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are considering amending the renewable transport fuel obligation to lessen the effect of deforestation on sensitive rainforests.

Photo of Lord Adonis

Lord Adonis (Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Labour)

The Department for Transport is currently in the process of amending the renewable transport fuel obligation to incorporate the mandatory sustainability requirements set out in the renewable energy directive. Following these changes, biofuels will only be awarded a certificate if suppliers can demonstrate that the biofuels they supply achieve at least 35 per cent greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and also that they did not either come from converting high-carbon stock land, including forests, or have other negative environmental impacts, including upon biodiversity.



http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2010-01-27a.355.4&s=biofuel#g355.6

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New UK alert



If you live in the UK, please consider taking part in a new email alert directed at MPs.

Several companies are planning a growing number of vegetable oil power stations. Palm oil is likely to account for the majority of biofuels burned in such power station. Those developments are unlikely to be economically viable without subsidies. Those are paid in the form of Renewable Obligation Certificates. At present, twice the subsidies are paid for producing 1 MW of electricity from burning palm oil or other biofuels than for producing 1 MW from onshore wind.

As well as biofuels, ROCs also favour large-scale industrial biomass burning which will primarily come from woodchip and wood pellet imports. According to recent media research, current biomass power station plans in the UK will require at least 20-30 million tonnes of additional wood imports. The direct and indirect impacts on forests and on communities as a result of plantation expansion, have not been considered but are likely to be severe.

Please write to your MP and ask for an immediate end to all subsidies that encourage the use of biomass and biofuel and for an urgent reform of the 2009 Renewable Obligations Order. We believe that all Government funding should go towards genuinely sustainable and climate-friendly renewable energy, including wind, marine and solar, NOT biofuels and biomass (which inevitably means large-scale biomass imports).

The alert can be found at: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/rocrhi_jan10.php

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Key recent UK Parliamentary mentions of biomass‏



1.

Renewable Energy

Energy and Climate Change

Written answers and statements, 25 January 2010

Photo of William Cash

William Cash (Stone, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what progress he has made on the Government's commitment to raise the perception of energy demand from renewable sources to 15 per cent. by 2020...


Photo of David Kidney

David Kidney (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Energy and Climate Change; Stafford, Labour)

Good progress is being made in meeting our target. In 2008, the UK generated 2.25 per cent. of its energy (electricity, heat and transport) from renewable sources, up from 1.8 per cent. in 2007 and 1.5 per cent. in 2006.

In 2008, electricity from renewable sources grew by 10 per cent. with offshore wind generation growing by a massive 67 per cent. and onshore wind by 29 per cent.. Plant biomass grew by 39 per cent. over the same period.

It looks like the healthy progress in renewable electricity will continue. By the end of 2009:

7.5GW of renewable generation from a variety of sources was already in operation;

nearly 3GW more is under construction;

another 8.5GW has planning permission and is awaiting construction; and

over 10GW of future projects are going through the planning process.




http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2010-01-25a.311272.h&s=biomass



2.


EU: Energy Council

House of Lords

Written answers and statements, 25 January 2010


Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, House of Lords; Labour)

I represented the United Kingdom at the EU informal Energy Council in Seville on 15 January 2010.
The council began with a wide-ranging discussion on the possible contents of a new energy action plan (due in early 2010). Debate focused in particular on two areas highlighted by the presidency's questions-the internal market and low-carbon technologies-as well as the need to diversify further the routes and sources of EU energy supplies and ensure consumers were protected...

On low-carbon technologies, renewables and smart grids were consistent themes. Some member states supported specific cross-border projects such as the Mediterranean solar plan and the North Seas offshore grid initiative. Other technologies where it was felt EU action might be useful included: electric cars, biomass (in particular developing sustainability criteria) and carbon capture and storage. Most member states also referred to the importance of energy efficiency.
Ministers visited the Abengoa solar plant over lunch. This was followed by presentations on the EU's strategic energy technologies (SET) plan and on domestic solar energy, biomass and electric vehicles policy from member states...

The Spanish presidency concluded that there was strong support for progress on an EU energy action plan, as well as further work on the SET plan, during its presidency.

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wms/?id=2010-01-25a.72.0&s=biomass#g72.1


3.
(14 Jan 2010)
Lord James of Blackheath: At the moment, we are using only some 40 per cent of the biomass potential of this country. The other 60 per cent would add three or four points of our achievable target for 2020, but we cannot use it because it is not accessible to the grid.


Climate Change: Copenhagen Conference — Debate

4.

Energy Security

Opposition Day — [2nd Allotted Day]

House of Commons debates, 13 January 2010, 3:44 pm

Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes, Labour) I thank the hon. Gentleman for his generosity. Is he aware that my constituency is probably the one with the highest number of gas power stations in the country? Today, the local authority is giving its seal of approval to a biomass power station, which is going to create enough renewable energy to supply more than 500,000 homes. I therefore know quite a lot about the energy issue in this country. The hon. Gentleman must stop scaring the British public. There is far more gas in storage than he says there is, and far more gas that is easily available from the North sea and other sources. Will he stop scaring people about the lack of gas, because it is simply not true?

http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2010-01-13c.754.0&s=biomass+segment%3A20509835#g763.2

5.

Environment Council

Environment Food and Rural Affairs

Written answers and statements, 12 January 2010


Photo of Hilary Benn

Hilary Benn (Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Leeds Central, Labour)

I represented the UK at the Environment Council in Brussels on 22 December.
The council adopted conclusions on international biodiversity, focusing on EU priorities for forthcoming global discussions on the post-2010 biodiversity framework, which will lead to a new global target on biodiversity...

Under any other business, I raised the timber due diligence regulation, which is being handled by the Agriculture and Fisheries Council. I argued for the inclusion of a prohibition on the first placing of illegal timber on the Community market, and urged Environment Ministers to support strengthening the regulation in this way as it progresses through the legislative process. On biomass sustainability criteria, the UK supported the call from Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg for mandatory sustainability criteria.


http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wms/?id=2010-01-12a.17WS.4&s=biomass#g17WS.5


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Biomass (wood chip) power station on Anglesey



A planning application has just been passed by Anglesey County Council for a wood burning power station rated at 299MW. The final decision will be made by DECC.

The company behind the proposal is a subsidiary of Anglesey Aluminium Metal Limited, jointly owned by Rio Tinto and Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation.

The power station would be fuelled primarily with imported wood chips and wood pellets and the operator estimates they would use 2.4 million tonnes of biomass (wood) per year. By comparison, this is more than one quarter of the entire UK roundwood production. At least one million hectares of tree plantation would be required to feed this one power station alone.

The waste heat from the power station will be dumped into the sea - there are no plans to make use of the heat for other industrial processes or to supply a district heating scheme.

Burning imported biomass on this scale and inefficiently (no CHP) is a deeply flawed response to climate change.

The operator will be able to claim Renewable Obligations Certificates for the electricity generated and substantially increase his income. As electricity consumers we are all paying for this.

IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY SENT IN AN OBJECTION AND WOULD LIKE TO DO SO, PLEASE USE THE EMAIL ALERT BELOW, WHICH SENDS TO THE RESPONSIBLE OFFICER IN DECC.

PLEASE INCLUDE THE REFERENCE NO. AND TITLE IN ANYTHING YOU SEND:

Application No 46C13E/1 - BIOMASS GENERATING STATION ATPENRHOS, HOLYHEAD

The email alert is at: http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/angleseyoct2009.php

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Sweet Success for Sustainable Biofuel Research



Sweet Success for Sustainable Biofuel Research

ScienceDaily (Jan. 27, 2010) — Scientists have found a way to increase fermentable sugar stores in plants which could lead to plant biomass being easier to convert into eco-friendly sustainable biofuels.

Their research is highlighted in the latest issue of Business, the quarterly highlights magazine of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Energy is released in a usable form from biomass when biodegradable matter such as wood or straw is burnt or fermented. Fuel for use in cars is produced by fermentation. To make the fermentation process more efficient and to maximise energy conversion a better understanding of the release of sugars from plant cell walls is crucial and researchers from the University of Cambridge are doing just that.

Using the plant Arabidopsis, Dr Paul Dupree and his team have found three enzymes responsible for the production of all detectable levels of a type of sugar called glucomannan. Their research also shows that the quantity of glucomannan can be increased or decreased in the stem with no visible detrimental effects on plant development or cell wall strength. However, the researchers found that changes in glucomannan levels had a detrimental effect on seed development.

Dr Dupree explains: "We now know that it may be possible to increase glucomannan specifically in harvestable plant organs, such as stems. This could be very beneficial for the production of bioenergy crops where higher proportions of enzyme-accessible fermentable sugars, such as those in glucomannan, could lead to higher yields of fuel. Achieving higher fuel yields from crops will increase the likelihood of sustainable and economic biofuels displacing fossil fuels."

The increases in fermentable sugar achieved so far are encouraging, but further work is needed to understand how to make substantial improvements in crop species. If the biomass plant material is sourced sustainably, from non-food crops and waste, then this research could help to contribute to significantly increasing the supply of eco-friendly biofuels.

Commenting on the research, BBSRC Chief Executive Professor Doug Kell, said: "Sustainability issues, environmental factors and economic pressures all mean there is an urgent need to find renewable energy sources. Plant-based biomass from non-food crops and waste offers an effective alternative, but to make the process more efficient, we need to examine ways of optimising the plant matter we use to produce fuels. Research such as that being conducted by the BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre is harnessing the power of fundamental plant science to develop realistic alternatives to oil-based transport fuels that do not threaten the food chain or the environment."

Dr Dupree leads the Cell Wall Sugars Research Programme within the BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre. This work is featured in the Winter issue of Business and the findings were recently published in The Plant Journal.


Journal Reference:
  1. Goubet F, Barton CJ, Mortimer JC, Yu X, Zhang Z, Miles GP, Richens J, Liepman AH, Seffen K, Dupree P. Cell wall glucomannan in Arabidopsis is synthesised by CSLA glycosyltransferases, and influences the progression of embryogenesis. The Plant Journal, 2009; 60 (3): 527 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2009.03977.x


http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100125094641.htm



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Doubts over India's 'miracle' biofuel crop



Doubts over India's 'miracle' biofuel crop


In this undated photo released by Mission Biofuels India, Indian ...
AFP/HO/Mission Biofuels
Wed Jan 27, 12:18 AM ET

In this undated photo released by Mission Biofuels India, Indian labourers are seen working in a field of jatropha in the village of Hassan, some 250 kms from Bangalore. To its fans, jatropha is a miracle crop, an eco-friendly answer to India's growing energy needs, but some experts are starting to question whether the wonder-shrub is too good to be true.

(AFP/HO/Mission Biofuels)

NEW DELHI (AFP) – To its fans, jatropha is a miracle crop, an eco-friendly answer to India's growing energy needs, but some experts are starting to question whether the wonder-shrub is too good to be true.

The seeds of the wild plant, which grows abundantly across India, produce non-edible oil that can be blended with diesel, to make the biofuel that is part of government efforts to cut carbon emissions and combat climate change.

That, combined with the shrub's much vaunted ability to flourish on poorly irrigated land, should make it the perfect crop for wasteland in the drought-prone nation.

But new research shows jatropha, which has received huge government backing in recent years, yields less than experts had first predicted and is now being grown on fertile farmland -- undermining two of its best selling points.

"Jatropha is being talked of as a crop that will grow on marginal and uncultivated land, and which will not compete with mainstream cultivation," said Sharachchandra Lele, a senior fellow at ATREE, an Indian environmental research group promoting sustainable development.

"But this is not what is happening in practice. Some state governments are promoting its cultivation on regular agricultural land, where it will displace existing crops, including food crops," said Lele.

"We are basically subsidising the urban elite's petrol consumption at the cost of rural livelihoods and food production."

The Indian government has aggressively promoted production of the crop, setting its sights on 11 million hectares (27 million acres) of plantations nationwide by next year.

Government policy stipulates that by 2017 all petrol and diesel fuel must have 20 percent biofuel content, one of many moves aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change.

K.D. Gupta, chairman of the Institute of Applied Systems and Rural Development, one of the staunchest backers of jatropha for biofuel, denied that good agricultural land was being used to cultivate the crop.

"Farmers are not going to plant jatropha, because other crops are yielding more returns," said Gupta.

Two Indian research institutes initially reported a yield of 7.5 tonnes of jatropha seeds per hectare (three tons per acre) under irrigated conditions.

Similarly, a 2007 report by the state-run National Oilseeds and Vegetable Oils Development Board (NOVOD) predicted yields of three to five tonnes per hectare.

But research by ATREE has shown that yields under normal conditions were less than one tonne per hectare and suggested it was doubtful yields could ever reach those touted by the crop's supporters.

The poor results have not dashed the hopes of businesses keen to promote the plant.

"It all depends on how you manage the crop," said Subhas Patnaik, chief operating officer of Mission Biofuels, which started cultivating jatropha in 2007 and currently owns around 130,000 hectares in five states.

"The whole challenge is how to get better yields from this crop and once you're able to prove that to the farmer and to everybody then definitely it is going to be a miracle crop," said Patnaik.

Gupta said his Institute of Applied Systems and Rural Development had planted two million jatropha saplings over 1,300 hectares mostly in northern India and said it was too early to judge the crop, because it took years to fully develop and produce desirable returns.

But ATREE's Lele remains unconvinced.

"Neither for energy security nor for mitigating carbon emissions is jatropha cultivation by any means the first option," he said.
"Much more could be achieved through investments in public transport and reductions in private vehicle use."

[Ends]


http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100127/wl_sthasia_afp/indiaenergyenvironmentbiofuel_20100127051840



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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

ArborGen/Range Fuels & Biofuels




ArborGen And Range Fuels Working To Understand The Potential Of Tree Cellulose For Biofuels

SUMMERVILLE, S.C., Jan. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- ArborGen, LLC, and Range Fuels, Inc., are working together on a project to evaluate the usefulness of woody biomass as a source of cellulose for biofuels. Range Fuels is looking at a variety of non-food biomass feedstocks to see which ones might be most efficiently and economically converted to cellulosic biofuels. Cutting edge research, like that being done with Range Fuels, will help businesses determine the types of woody biomass best suited for particular green energy uses.

"Our relationship with ArborGen adds to our existing efforts to investigate how alternative renewable biomass feedstocks can be used in our proprietary two-step thermo-chemical conversion process to cost-effectively produce low carbon biofuels and clean renewable power," said David Aldous, Range Fuels' CEO. "High yielding woody biomass like that being explored and developed by ArborGen has the potential to improve the operating cost structure and possibly further reduce the already very low GHG emissions profile of cellulosic biofuels plants. For these reasons we are excited to work closely with ArborGen."

In the fall of 2008 ArborGen planted demonstration plots of Pine and hardwoods near Range Fuels' commercial cellulosic biofuels plant currently under construction near Soperton, Georgia. The plots will be used to identify which trees can be grown successfully in the Soperton area and how effectively these trees can be used to convert plant cellulose to cellulosic biofuels. In addition, this research will help Range Fuels understand the economic, environmental and logistical issues surrounding the planting, management, harvesting, storage and transportation of purpose grown trees as a biofuels feedstock.

"Although market forces will ultimately determine the end value of tree biomass, understanding the role of the tree as a feedstock for cellulosic biofuels is a key part of the necessary research that must be done in the
United States as we try to meet aggressive goals established by the Obama Administration for green energy," said Barbara Wells, president and CEO of ArborGen.
--  


Orin Langelle
Co-director/Strategist
Global Justice Ecology Project
http://www.globaljusticeecology.org

P.O. Box 412
Hinesburg, VT 05461 U.S.
+1.802.482.2689 ph/fax
+1.802.578.6980 mobile
Skype: olangelle
GMT -5:00

Global Justice Ecology Project Mission Statement: Building local, national and international alliances with action to address the root causes of social injustice, economic domination and environmental destruction.


http://www.thestreet.com/story/10659571/arborgen-and-range-fuels-working-to-understand-the-potential-of-tree-cellulose-for-biofuels.html

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Farmers turn to biofuels to keep engines running



Farmers turn to biofuels to keep engines running

Seminar on process set for Feb. 24 at NWTC

By MIKE HOEFT • Gannett Wisconsin media • January 25, 2010


A century ago, most farmers grew their own fuel for use on the farm: They raised oats to feed the horses to pull the plow to raise more crops.That practice ended with mechanical horsepower and cheap oil. But with volatility of diesel fuel prices, many small-scale producers are returning to growing crops to fuel their tractors.

Farmers harvest soybeans, canola seeds or rapeseed and crush them in a press that collects the oil. The organic matter left behind can be used as animal feed.

The harvested vegetable oil is combined with a small amount of alcohol and lye. The chemical reaction produces biodiesel fuel, which is siphoned from the glycerine soap byproduct that settles in the bottom of smaller tanks.

The fuel produced can be used in diesel engines, not gasoline engines.

A biofuels seminar Feb. 24 at Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College aims to show how farmers can cut their dependence on foreign oil.

"We're seeing a lot of interest in small producers wanting to grow crops for their own fuel," said Bob Brylski, instructor for renewable fuels at NWTC.

The seminar will include a demonstration of an oilseed press and equipment to make biodiesel fuel and ethanol fuel, and discussion of regulatory requirements and assistance for producers.

The ability to produce fuel can protect farm operations from outside market forces, Brylski said.
Jamie Derr, a farmer in Marshall, said his goal is to become an energy-neutral operation.

"It's not really that hard to start up," he said. "I tell people to keep in mind all the components. If you buy a press, take a systematic approach and find an outlet for your byproducts."

A basic system costs about $50,000, half that if you can build it yourself, he said. A seedpress uses simple corkscrew technology to separate oil from soybeans or canola seeds in one container and pellets of organic fiber in the other. The high-protein pellets can be sold as animal feed for swine and poultry, Derr said.

Producers can either modify their diesel engines or modify the oil for use in diesel engines.

"We do both on our farm," Derr said.

He makes biodiesel to be used in tractors with BioPro brand equipment, which heats the alcohol and lye mix in a chemical process that strips glycerine from the oil to make diesel fuel.Another option is using straight vegetable oil in modified diesel engines.

Derr said the goal is vertical integration, in which producers control the entire process from raw material through final product. Capturing the finished oil product and pellets for animal meal while saving on transportation costs is an added value, he said.

The cost of petroleum diesel fuel is a big motivator to set up these kinds of systems, he said.
When diesel cost $4 a gallon in 2008, biodiesel was more cost-effective than at the current price of $2.90 a gallon.

On his 400-acre farm, Derr uses 2,000 gallons of diesel a year, of which 25 percent is biofuel. As the price of diesel rises he said he can gear up production accordingly.

Paying off the system could take about 10 years, but it could be as few as four or five years depending on the price of diesel.

"I'm very certain the equipment will last beyond the payback time," Derr said.
Derr's farm has been run by his family for 125 years. It has practiced conservation farming for the last 60 years, with a rotation of soybeans, corn, winter wheat and now winter canola.

[Ends]

http://www.thenorthwestern.com/article/20100125/OSH0101/301250122/1128&located=rss



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Monday, January 25, 2010

Brazil - world's first ethanol-fired power plant opens



Brazil - world's first ethanol-fired power plant opens

Brazil has opened the world's first ethanol-fueled power plant in an effort by the South American biofuels giant to increase the global use of ethanol and boost its clean power generation. Planet Ark <http://planetark.org/wen/56415> reports that state-run oil giant Petrobras and General Electric Co, which helped design the plant, are betting that increased use of ethanol generation by green-conscious countries will boost demand for the product.

Brazil, the top global ethanol exporter, is already in talks with Japan to develop biofuels power generation there.

"We have great expectations to show the viability and economy of generating electricity from ... an alternative feedstock to fossil fuels," Maria das Gracas Foster, head of Petrobras' natural gas division, said.

Petrobras with the help of GE upgraded the 87-megawatt power plant to switch between running on natural gas or ethanol instantaneously. Brazil primarily relies! on hydroelectric power but needs backup thermoelectric generation during the dry season.

John Ingham, Latin America Products Director for GE, said tests showed switching the plant to ethanol reduced carbon dioxide emissions without lowering energy output.

GE has around 770 turbines like those used in the Juiz de Fora plant, including many in Japan, that could be converted to run on ethanol, he said.

"A plant like that consumes a lot of ethanol, so it has to be in a place that makes sense (such as) places that have no access to gas, like Japan, some islands, or places that depend heavily on diesel like the Amazon region," he said.

Brazil is expected to produce a record 27.8 billion liters of ethanol in the 2009/2010 season. It began its biofuels programme 30 years ago and now mandates a minimum 20 percent of ethanol in gasoline.

Petrobras itself is only starting to enter the ethanol market. Brazil's ethanol production c! omes from sugar cane milled by companies such as Cosan or commodities giants including Cargill Inc, Bunge and ADM Co..

Domestic demand for ethanol is being driven by the popularity of the flex-fuel car technology that was launched in 2003 and now makes up around 90 percent of new vehicle sales.
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Campaign to save tropical forests failed by food giants



Campaign to save tropical forests failed by food giants

Project to create sustainable palm oil project undermined by Western firms

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Monday, 25 January 2010


Aworker arranges newly harvested oil palm fruit to be processed at a plant in the Philippine town of San Francisco, in Agusan del Sur province, on the southern island of Mindanao

GETTY

Aworker arranges newly harvested oil palm fruit to be processed at a plant in the Philippine town of San Francisco, in Agusan del Sur province, on the southern island of Mindanao


Western food manufacturers are buying so little sustainable palm oil that the system set up to limit damage to tropical forests caused by the world's cheapest vegetable oil is in danger of collapse. Palm-oil producers say the industry may quit the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) because so few firms are financially backing the scheme.

Houshold products giant Unilever and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) founded the RSPO seven years ago, to encourage producers of the oil, used in products such as biscuits and margarine, to minimise forest destruction, greenhouse gas emissions and loss of endangered wildlife, such as tigers and orangutans. Palm oil is in hundreds of branded foods such as Kit Kat and Hovis and household products such as Dove soap and Persil washing powder.

The first certified RSPO supplies arrived in Europe in November 2008, yet only 27 per cent of present supply has so been sold, leading to claims of hypocrisy among Western buyers. Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Allied Bakeries and even Unilever did not buy any separate certified RSPO oil last year, though Tesco and Asda "offset" small quantities by buying GreenPalm certificates for Rspo production elsewhere.

Only Sainsbury has bought significant quantities of RSPO oil separated from other sources, for 10 per cent of its range. United Biscuits, Unilever, Waitrose aim to switch to a sustainable supply within two years. Most companies have set a date of 2015 for converting their ranges, complaining that they cannot easily source certified sustainable supplies.

Dato' Azhar Abdul Hamid, plantations managing director of the world's biggest palm-oil producer, Sime Darby, said: "The rate of take up is very, very slow. The industry is producing more supply of certified palm oil than the market is buying. It's disappointing to see that. We were always hoping demand would always be ahead of supply, because that is what the world wanted. More specifically, it was what Europe wanted."

He rejected the suggestion, often made by UK manufacturers, that too little certificated oil was available. "They claim to be interested, but they're not doing it. If the UK consumer insists on it, then whether the producers like it or not, they will have to make RSPO work."

According to WWF, manufacturers bought 343,857 tonnes of RSPO oil last year, 27 per cent of the 1.27 million tonnes available. A segregated supply costs about 10 per cent more but that is expected to fall a few per cent this year when New Britain Palm Oil opens an £18m refinery in Liverpool capable of handling 150,000 tonnes of certified oil. United Biscuits, which makes Jammie Dodgers and Jaffa Cakes, and the Italian chocolate company Ferrero have signed long-term contracts for the plant. Others have not done so, yet.

New Britain estimates certifying the UK's entire annual supply would cost 12p per person. Its, executive director, Alan Chaytor said: "We were the second company to be certified and we have only sold a few thousand tonnes but, in the end, you have to to have the infrastructure where you can deliver that [certified oil] to the customers who want it. It's going to take money, and commitment."

Asda said: "Over the next 12 to 24 months, our own-label supply base will begin sourcing physically segregated RSPO palm oil. As a result, our new stated target is to source all of our palm oil from RSPO sustainable sources by 2015. But clearly we hope to meet this target early." Tesco said: "To ensure we achieve our target of using 100 per cent certified sustainable palm oil by 2015, we have issued all of our suppliers with a timeline and code of practice to achieve that target."

Food Manufacture magazine quoted one supplier as saying: "We have had a chat about it but we haven't been told to do anything yet by Asda or Tesco."

Palm-oil production has exploded in the past 10 years on the South-east Asian islands of Borneo and Sumatra, providing work for one million people, but the expansion has a high environmental and human cost, destroying hundreds of square miles of virgin rainforest and displacing native people. Now producers, having started to exhaust legally allowed concessions in Asia, want to plant oil palm in the tropical forests of West Africa and the Amazon.

Britain has become increasingly concerned about palm oil's role in deforestation which causes 20 per of global emissions. Planting of palm oil on cleared lowland peat forests in Indonesia released especially strong methane gas.

Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment, is tracking the quantity and use of palm oil in the UK. "Even though solutions are often local, this is everyone's business, because what happens in Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo or Brazil doesn't stay there," he said. "It affects us all."

Palm oil: The good firms – and the bad

*VERY GOOD

United Biscuits: Committed to converting to RSPO by end of 2011

Unilever: Committed to converting by 2012

Waitrose: Committed to converting by 2012

Sainsbury's: Has bought RSPO for 10 per cent of supply. Committed to converting entire range by 2014

*GOOD

Cadbury: Offsetting all current supply with cheaper GreenPalm certificates. Committed to coverting by 2014

Marks & Spencer: Offsetting all current supply with GreenPalm certificates. Committed to converting by 2015

*AVERAGE

Mars: Aims to convert 25 per cent of range to Rspo this year. Committed to converting entire range by 2015

Co-op: Has bought some sustainable oil and converting 32 biscuit lines to Rspo by June. Committed to converting entire range to Rspo by 2015

*POOR

Tesco: Bought unspecified quantity of GreenPalm certificates for in-store bakery and a few other products. Committed to converting by 2015

Asda: Bought GreenPalm certificates for 712 tonnes used in in-store cafés. Committed to converting by 2015. To buy RSPO in "next 12 to 24 months"

Nestlé: Committed to converting by 2015

Procter & Gamble: Committed to converting by 2015

Allied Bakeries: Committed to converting by 2015

Morrisons: Talking to suppliers. Has set no date for moving to RSPO supply.


[Comments]





http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/campaign-to-save-tropical-forests-failed-by-food-giants-1877858.html

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Indonesia: Government proposes 21 million hectares of plantations



(World Rainforest Movement Bulletin, January 2010, www.wrm.org.uy)

Indonesia: Government proposes 21 million hectares of plantations to meet climate targets

There are two realities in the forestry sector in Indonesia. In one, the forests continue to be destroyed, peatswamps are drained, forests are logged, burned and replaced by industrial tree plantations. Indigenous Peoples' and local communities' rights are bulldozed along with the forests. Meanwhile, in the other reality, trees are planted, forests are restored and greenhouse gas emissions will soon become a thing of the past.

Occasionally, these two realities collide. In December 2009, Cornelis, the Governor of West Kalimantan, was giving a speech about the government's "One Man, One Tree" campaign, but was repeatedly interrupted by the noise of logging trucks loaded with newly logged timber on the nearby Trans-Kalimantan highway. "I'm making a speech about the tree-planting movement and a truck carrying piles of timber passes by," the Jakarta Globe reported him as saying. "If we ask the drivers, I don't think they will have permits," he added. After four trucks had interrupted him, Cornelis asked the police to stop any more logging trucks for driving past. Just until he finished his speech.

In September 2009, Indonesia's President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, told a G-20 summit in the USA that Indonesia "will change the status of our forests from that of a net emitter sector to a net sink sector by 2030." He also announced that Indonesia planned to cut its emissions by 26 per cent against business as usual by 2020.

Yudhoyono repeated the 26 per cent target during the climate negotiations in Copenhagen. "During the talks Indonesia said that it was seriously committed to reducing carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2020, however, the President lied about his seriousness," Walhi's forest campaigner, Teguh Surya, told the Jakarta Post.

As Indonesia's forests burn, the government is looking forward to massive expansions in the oil palm and pulp and paper industries: the two industries directly and indirectly responsible for many of the fires. There are plans for 20 million hectares of new oil palm plantations and 10 million hectares of new pulpwood plantations. And the Forestry Ministry plans to hand over 2.2 million hectares of forest to mining companies over the next ten years. Bad as all this is, things could soon get much worse.

On 6 January 2010, Zulkifli Hasan, Indonesia's Forestry Minister, revealed the government's cunning plan for meeting its emissions target: 21 million hectares of "new forest". "If the scenario described proceeds, if the planting proceeds, we can reach more than 26 percent," Hasan told journalists in Jakarta. An area of 500,000 hectares is to be planted each year, at a cost of US$269 million.

Of course, the 21 million hectares of "new forest" will not be forest at all. It will be plantations. That's 20 million hectares of oil palm plantations, 10 million hectares of pulpwood plantations and 21 million hectares of carbon plantations. A total of 51 million hectares of proposed plantations.

Indonesia has an appalling record of corruption and fraud associated with plans to promote plantations. A report published recently by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) looks in detail at the Indonesian government's Reforestation Fund, which started in 1989 under the Soeharto dictatorship. Much of the money went to companies with close ties to political elites. The companies cleared forest, lied about the area planted, invested little in the area and pocketed the cash. A 1999 audit by Ernst and Young found that more than US$5 billion was lost from the reforestation fund between 1993 and 1998. The audit was not released publicly.

In addition to the money sloshing around for the proposed plantations, vast sums of money could pour into Indonesia through REDD schemes. According to a report by the Indonesian Forest Climate Alliance, Indonesia could receive US$4.5 billion a year if it were to reduce deforestation by 30 per cent. Christopher Barr, co-author of the CIFOR report, points out that the situation has improved since the fall of Soeharto in 1998. But without improved financial oversight, "The problems that have plagued the Reforestation Fund over the last 20 years are likely to reoccur," Barr told Reuters. The CIFOR report notes that "During both the Soeharto and the post-Soeharto periods, weak financial management and inefficient administration of revenues by government institutions at all levels undermined effective use of the Reforestation Fund."

The Indonesian government's enthusiasm for REDD provides another example of two realities existing in parallel. In the fake reality of REDD proponents, corruption will disappear. Palm oil and pulp and paper companies will be paid not to destroy an area of forest without using the money to expand their destructive operations elsewhere. By putting a price on carbon, forests will be worth more standing than logged - that's the theory. But for this to work, the price of carbon offsets will have to be higher than the price of palm oil. This is extremely unlikely to happen (and impossible to predict) over the lifetime of a REDD project. What is certain is that deforestation will continue as long as the government encourages the expansion of the industries responsible for destructing the forests.

By Chris Lang, http://chrislang.org


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Peru: Resistance to the Romero oil palm group



(World Rainforest Movement Bulletin, January 2010, www.wrm.org.uy)

The forest is not for sale! The forest must be defended! This is the clamour in the district of Barranquita, Province of Lamas in the San Martin region. The property rights acquired by the inhabitants of the hamlets in the Caynarachi river basin, located in the Peruvian Amazon, over the land they work have been violated. These people have been real guardians of the forest, looking after -on their own plots- its immense wealth in flora, fauna and water resources.

In spite of this, in mid-2006, the State allocated 7,000 hectares to the Agropecuaria del Shanusi Company, a member of the Romero group, for the establishment of monoculture oil palm plantations that had been declared of national interest. There are hundreds of landholders (posesionarios) who have been waiting for years for the land tenure deeds. They are being denied these deeds under the excuse that the company has requested the land and that the inhabitants have only worked a small area – because they are conserving a lot of primary forest!

The company started the work of preparing the land by deforesting practically the whole area to establish a monoculture oil palm plantation. According to the Servindi news agency (1), at the end of 2009, the company hurriedly built "a track for vehicles, crossing the whole piece of land known as Palmas del Oriente, extracting non-metals from the Lorocache hill, diverting the course of streams, drying up some water courses springing from the Lorocache hill and taking over an enormous lake called Cocha Muerta, where they have put up a `Private Property' sign. All this has been done without the legal authorizations from the relevant government bodies and, in addition, a large amount of timber has been removed."

Hundreds of labourers are working with chainsaws, machetes, axes and tractors, helicopters overfly the area and security personnel guard it. "There are over 50 chainsaw operators and thugs carrying out actions in the forest. Barranquita is ready for an uprising and could become the next Bagua," (see WRM bulletin 142 for details on the Bagua uprising) warned the mayor of the San Martin region, César Soria, who denounced that the owners of the companies have left hundreds of hectares of land devastated and water courses filled in by the work of tractors and other heavy machinery, displacing communities and compromising their free passage. (2)

Making use of a new citizen's arrest law, the company devastated the peasant farmers' crops and housing in addition to mistreating and arresting some of them. According to Servindi, one of the peasant farmers was imprisoned for a month and is still under subpoena.

All these manoeuvres have forced some inhabitants to sell their lands and leave, but mass protests have also taken place. In 2008, the residents of Barranquita filed for precautionary measures to avoid one of the Romero Group companies (Agricola de Caynarachi S.A.) from entering the area. Protected by Law No. 653 for the promotion of investment and without prior consultation with the communities, by Ministerial Resolution No. 255 – 2007, the Government allocated the company 3,000 hectares known as "Palma de Oriente," for the industrial production of oil palm. This involved paralysing the development plans undertaken by the Barranquita Coordination Board for the Struggle against Poverty (Mesa de Concertación de Lucha contra la Pobreza de Barranquita) in addition to affecting primary forest and the boundary lines of various Barranquita annexes located on the banks of the Caynarachi river. (3)

The company's activities devastated communal forests and violated the peasants' rights in the communities of the District of Barranquita. The population is demanding the granting of property deeds and the cancellation of the contract established with the company for the allocated area.

On 7 January, the indignation of the peasant farmers in the area over the violation of their rights and the destruction of the district's primary forests – the few left in the region – led to a great march and demonstration. The Barranquita Resistance Committee expressed its protest against the Romero Group and against the concessions granted by the central Government and reaffirmed "its option to defend its citizens' rights and the environment and all its biodiversity; no company shall enter its territory without prior consent." (4)

(1) "Peru: Denuncian crimen ecológico del Grupo Romero en Barranquita, bajo Huallaga, San Martín"(Ecological crime committed by the Romero Group in Barranquita, baja Huallaga, San Martin) , by Barranquita Resiste, 23 December 2009, Servindi, http://www.servindi.org/actualidad/20681
(2) "Autoridades y dirigentes de Barranquita anuncian protestas para proteger sus bosques" (Authorities and leaders of Barranquita announce protests to protect their forests), Inforegión, 4 January 2010, http://www.inforegion.pe/portada/45514/autoridades-y-dirigentes-de-barranquita-anuncian-radicalizacion-de-protestas-para-proteger-sus-bosques/
(3) http://barranquitaperu.blogspot.com/2008_09_01_archive.html
(4) Mobilization of leaders in San Martín, 7 January 2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gu7SQBwc-lQ&feature=youtube_gdata

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Green Energy in Londonwith MAN B&W Engines




Stationary, two-stroke power

Blue-NG, the UK-based renewable power company, has ordered two MAN B&W
7K60MC-S engines to power two environmentally friendly power plants in
London.

Each sister plant, located in the Southall and Beckton districts, will
have one MAN B&W 7K60MC-S engine at its heart, manufactured by MAN
Diesel's Polish licensee H. Cegielski – Poznan S.A. Each engine develops
13.9 MW at 150 rpm and is installed with an Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC)
turbine and Turbo Compound System (TCS) for increased efficiency.

The heat from the two plants will be used in the gas pre-heating
process, which is a necessary part of the pressure reduction process for
liquid natural gas, and will supply renewable electricity, corresponding
to the consumption of up to 100,000 homes. Blue-NG signed a turnkey
construction contract with Land & Marine Project Engineering Ltd. for
the design and construction of the power plants in June 2009.

The engines represent the latest generation of the popular, two-stroke,
low-speed MAN B&W K60MC-S engine and will run on crude rapeseed oil. In
general, the development of this latest generation has targeted lower
heat rates and lower CO2 emission.
See the table that illustrates the K60MC-S's performance improvement
since its introduction in 1989 in the pdf-file of the press release.

Blue-NG is a renewable power company that builds and operates generating
plants that produce electricity and heat locally. The company is a joint
venture between the National Grid, the UK's gas and power-distribution
company, and 2OC Ltd., a company well known in geothermal energy and
natural-gas pressure-reduction station projects, applying proven
technology to generate carbon free electricity.

Land & Marine Project Engineering Ltd. is a Wirral-based, international
engineering and contracting company with business activities in many
segments, including commercial and industrial CHP (Combined Heat and
Power) plants and direct injection and co-fired biomass plants.

http://www.mandiesel.com/article_011412.html


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Copenhagen 'fails forest people'



Page last updated at 17:57 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Copenhagen 'fails forest people'

By Mark Kinver
Science and environment reporter, BBC News

Rainforest (left) alongside cleared area (Image: AP)
Deforestation is a major source of greenhouse gases

A multi-billion dollar deal tabled at the Copenhagen climate summit could lead to conflicts in forest-rich nations, a report has warned.

The study by the Rights and Resources Initiative said the funds could place "unprecedented pressure" on some areas.

Six nations offered $3.5bn as part of global plans to cut deforestation, which accounts for about 20% of all emissions from human activity.

Campaigners warn the scheme fails to consider the rights of forest people.
The money - tabled by Japan, Norway, Australia, France and the US and UK - was made available under the UN's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (Redd) scheme.

However, delegates in the Danish capital failed to reach agreement on the mechanisms needed to monitor and manage the framework.

Decision time
"One of the things that the world has learned over the years is that Redd is far more difficult than many people imagined," said Andy White, co-ordinator of RRI, a US-based think-tank, and one of the report's lead authors.

"The forested areas of the world - by and large - have very high levels of poverty, low levels of respect for local rights, and a very low level of control among local people to shape and control their destiny.

"So the rather simplistic notion that money from the rich North can control or limit deforestation was unrealistic."

Redd was developed as a global concept that would provide developing countries with a financial incentive to preserve forests.

The Copenhagen conference was expected to finalise an international Redd finance mechanism for the post-2012 global climate change framework.

The RRI's report, The End of the Hitherlands, said that there would be "unparalleled" attention and investment in forests over the coming year.

It asked: "But who will drive the agenda and who will make the decisions?"
The authors said studies showed that there was the potential for "enormous profits", but this would lead to increased competition for forest resources between governments and investors on one hand, and local communities on the other.

Dr White told BBC News that the UN-Redd scheme still had "tremendous potential".
"It requires, from our perspective, that the governments who tabled the $3.5bn quickly get together and decide on the standards and mechanisms that they will set up," he suggested.

"This would send the necessary signals to the private sector, as well as forest-rich nations, about what is expected from them in order to comply with the policy.

"Sorting out the institution arrangements in developing nations in order to manage the forest market is a huge undertaking."

But the report said that the "unprecedented exposure and pressure" on forest regions was being met by a rise in local groups setting up co-operatives and representative bodies.

The authors added that it gave "nations and the world at large a tremendous opportunity to right historic wrongs, advance rural development and save forests".

[Ends]

Download at: http://www.rightsandresources.org/publication_details.php?publicationID=1400

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8473652.stm




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