Tuesday, August 31, 2010

UK biofuels 'falling short' on environmental standards

This was on the BBC Website today~

"The Renewable Fuels Agency says it is disappointed that the vast majority of biofuels sold on UK forecourts do not conform to environmental standards."



UK biofuels 'falling short' on environmental standards

Petrol pump and car (Getty Images) The majority of biofuels sold in the UK do not meet an environmental standard

The Renewable Fuels Agency says it is disappointed that the vast majority of biofuels sold on UK forecourts do not conform to environmental standards.

The body said fuel suppliers were meeting legally binding volume targets but some were falling "well short" on achieving voluntary green standards.

But since biofuels have had to be mixed into forecourt fuel, there had been a reduction in emissions, it added.

The figures are based on 2009/10 data, which will be finalised in early 2011.

The Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) is the UK's independent regulator for biofuels, and is responsible for the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO), which requires a percentage of fuel sold on forecourts to be biofuels.

In the first year of the RTFO, 2008/09, the target was 2.5%, and it is set to gradually increase until 2013/14 when 5% of all fuel sales have to be from a renewable source.

Falling short

Provisional figures for the second year of the obligation showed that almost 1.6bn tonnes of biofuels had been sold, primarily as a blend with traditional transport fossil fuels (petrol and diesel). This equated to 3.33% of total sales, exceeding the government's target of 3.25%.

However, a RFA spokesman said that, despite the volume target being achieved, the agency was "disappointed that more companies did not source more fuel that was produced according to a recognised environmental standard".

"We believe that sustainable biofuel is available, in sufficient volume, should these companies wish to procure it," he told BBC News.

Figures released by the RFA show that just 33% of biofuels met an environmental standard, well short of the 50% goal for 2009/10.

About 80% of the feedstock to produce the biofuels was imported, most of which was not subject to meeting an environmental standard.

But the spokesman did add that the RTFO did appear to be achieving its primary objective, namely to cut carbon emissions.

"The year two figures suggest that the RTFO is succeeding in cutting carbon. The target on this front was exceeded, with biofuels... delivering carbon savings of 51% compared with conventional diesel or petrol."

Under the RTFO, the target to cut emissions during 2009/10 was 45%.

"This is a significant reduction, equivalent of taking half a million vehicles off the road, or making Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast car free."

However, he did caution that the savings reflected the directly measurable savings biofuels offer in comparison with fossil fuels, but did not take into account the potential impact from indirect land use change.

Indirect land use change is a complex set of circumstances that makes it difficult to measure - such as when land used to grow food is switched to grow fuel crops, but as the demand for food remains it lead to primary forest being felled in order to create more arable land for food production.

The growth in demand for biofuels around the globe has been criticised by environmental groups, who said it is accelerating the rate of habitat loss and increasing food insecurity.

Currently, the majority of biofuels are produced using food crops - such as cereals, soybean, rape seed oil, sugar cane and palm oil - on arable land.

However, technological advances will see an emergence of "second generation" biofuels, which - for example - will be able to use waste from food crops (such as the leaves and stems) and woody plants that can grow on poor soil.

Proponents of biofuels say the new technologies will markedly improve the environmental performance of the renewable fuels and halt the sector's reliance on food crops. Some developers are even working on "third generation" fuels, such as using vast ponds of algae as a feedstock for fuel.

Currently under the RTFO, only the volume target is mandatory; the carbon savings and environmental standards goals were voluntary.

However, this is set to change when the EU Renewable Fuel Directive (RED) comes into force at the end of the year, which will expect member states to ensure the biofuels meet both environmental and carbon saving criteria.

Under RED, member states will also be expected to ensure that 10% of transport fuel is from a renewable source by 2020.

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Nature Communications article shows 'true colours' of biochar advocates

Press Release - for immediate release –30th August 2010

Nature Communications article shows 'true colours' of biochar advocates

Groups condemn implied land-grab for biochar

- Press Release by African Biodiversity Network, Amigransa Venezuela, Biofuelwatch, CESTA (Friends of the Earth El Salvador), COECOCEIBA Costa Rica, Econexus, ETC Group, FASE Brasil, Gaia Foundation, Global Forest Coalition, Global Justice Ecology Project, Latin American Network against Monoculture Tree Plantations (RECOMA), NOAH Food and Agriculture (FoE Denmark), Observatorio de Conflictos Ambientales (OLCA) Chile, Otros Mundos Mexico, Rettet den Regenwald, Salva la Selva, Save America's Forests, Sobrevivencia (Friends of the Earth Paraguay) Timberwatch Coalition and World Rainforest Movement

30th August 2010 – Twenty one groups today expressed their dismay at an article by leading biochar advocates, published by the science magazine Nature, which proposes that an area larger than the land mass of India could be turned into charcoal plantations in the name of climate change mitigation.[1] The paper's own figures contradict the authors' claims that biochar will not lead to large-scale land grabbing in the global South.

The article, posted online in the August 2010 edition of Nature Communications, claims that 12% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions could be avoided by producing vast quantities of charcoal and adding it to soils, a practice called "biochar". Although the authors claim that this could be done without the conversion of natural habitats and agricultural lands, the figures and forecasts used as a basis for their calculations tell a very different story, implying land-conversion on an unprecedented scale. The authors claim that there are nearly 200 million hectares of "abandoned cropland" that could be converted to crops and trees to produce biochar[2]. In addition, 170 million hectares of tropical grasslands could be turned into short-rotation tree plantations to produce both biochar and animal fodder.[3]

Co-authors Johannes Lehmann and Stephen Joseph are Chair and Vice-Chair of the International Biochar Initiative, which lobbies for carbon credits and subsidies for biochar.

The concept of "abandoned or marginal cropland" has been strongly criticized by social movements and civil society groups around the world because the term is being widely used to refer to land upon which millions of peasant farmers, indigenous peoples and pastoralists depend. Referring to community lands rich in biodiversity as "abandoned and marginal" and assuming those lands are "available" for conversion is already resulting in massive land grabs – especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Such lands in fact play an essential role in maintaining biodiversity and regulating the climate.[4]

The groups critical of the Nature Communications article are among more than 100 organisations worldwide who signed an international declaration last year urging caution about large-scale biochar deployment and opposing carbon credits for biochar .[5] Two UN reports and various scientists are amongst those who have warned against large-scale biochar deployment because it could lead to even more land being turned into monoculture plantations.[6]

Anne Maina from the African Biodiversity Network states: "Groups have been warning for years that the biochar techno-fix will mean land-grabbing on a vast scale. Time and time again, biochar advocates have misled the public with claims that we can produce vast amounts of charcoal from residues alone. Now they are showing their true colours: Large-scale biochar means large-scale land grabs."

Raquel Nunez from the World Rainforest Movement adds: "Authors of the study couch their vast land-grabbing plans in terms like 'conservative', 'small scale' and 'sustainable' and try to hide those plans in obscure supplementary notes and tables. They call for 'sustainability standards' but there can be nothing sustainable about converting lands on which millions of people depend and which are also important for ecosystem integrity and biodiversity protection. This must be a wakeup call."

Wally Menne from Timberwatch, African Focal Point for the Global Forest Coalition, states: "The 'sustainability' myth used by individuals and institutions promoting large-scale biochar, is underpinned by the dubious notion of 'sustainable production guidelines'. This is based on tree plantation certification systems such as that of the FSC [Forest Stewardship Council], and it will not prevent harm to local communities and ecosystems."

Helena Paul from Econexus adds: "By using terms like 'agroforestry' or 'silvo-pastoral systems', the authors mask large plantation plans which in no way resemble the sustainable practices used by small farmers and pastoralists around the world."


[1] The article "Sustainable Biochar to Mitigate Global Climate Change" by Dominic Woolf et al was published in Nature Communications on 10th August 2010 and is publicly available at http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v1/n5/full/ncomms1053.html . The land and biomass figures referred to can be found mainly in the Supplementary Notes: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v1/n5/full/ncomms1053.html#/supplementary-information .

[2] The "abandoned cropland" figure is 193 million hectares, derived from the only reference on which authors rely when calculating potential biomass from such lands: Biomass Energy: The Scale of the Potential Resources, Christopher Field et al, www.cas.muohio.edu/~stevenmh/Field%20et%20al%202008.pdf.

[3] This practice is referred to as 'silviculture' and would consist of dense short-rotation plantations of 'fodder trees', such as acacia, to produce both animal feed and wood for biochar. Fodder trees play an important role in many farming and pastoral communities, particularly in Africa. Those sustainable and traditional practices differ fundamentally from the dense plantings with short-rotation fellings envisioned in the biochar article. The latter are called 'fodder bank' and, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, they are not a traditional practice but one invented by the predecessor of the International Livestock Research Institute.

[4] Also see: "Biochar Land Grabbing: The Impacts on Africa", African Biodiversity Network, Gaia Foundation and Biofuelwatch, November 2009, www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/docs/biochar_africa_briefing.pdf

[5] www.regenwald.org/international/englisch/news.php?id=1226

[6] The UN reports are "The Natural Fix? The role of ecosystems in climate mitigation", UNEP, June 2009 and the Report of the Second Ad-Hoc Technical Expert Group on Biodiversity and Climate Change, UNEP and Convention on Biological Diversity, 2009. See also "A Horizon Scan of Global Conservation Issues for 2010", William Sutherland et al, 2010, www.cbd.int/doc/emerging-issues/2010-TREE-horizon-scan-conservation.pdf


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Monday, August 30, 2010

Friends of the Earth urges end to 'land grab' for biofuels

Friends of the Earth urges end to 'land grab' for biofuels

Charity predicts more food shortages in Africa because of EU target to produce 10% of all transport fuels from biofuels by 2020

Katie Allen
The Guardian, Monday 30 August 2010

Cane cutter wields machete Friends of the Earth says that biofuel crops, including sugar cane, 'are competing directly with food crops for fertile land'. Photograph: Juan Carlos Ulate/Reuters

European Union countries must drop their biofuels targets or else risk plunging more Africans into hunger and raising carbon emissions, according to Friends of the Earth (FoE).

In a campaign launching today, the charity accuses European companies of land-grabbing throughout Africa to grow biofuel crops that directly compete with food crops. Biofuel companies counter that they consult with local governments, bring investment and jobs, and often produce fuels for the local market.

FoE has added its voice to an NGO lobby that claims local communities are not properly consulted and that forests are being cleared in a pattern that echoes decades of exploitation of other natural resources in Africa.

In its report "Africa: Up for Grabs", the group says that the key to halting the land-grab is for EU countries to drop a goal to produce 10% of all transport fuels from biofuels by 2020.

"The amount of land being taken in Africa to meet Europe's increasing demand for biofuels is underestimated and out of control," Kirtana Chandrasekaran, food campaigner for FoE in the UK, said. "Especially in Africa, as long as there's massive demand for biofuels from the European market, it will be hard to control. If we implement the biofuels targets it will only get worse. This is just a small taste of what's to come."

A number of European companies have planted biofuel crops such as jatropha, sugar cane and palm oil in Africa and elsewhere to tap into rising demand. But the trend has coincided with soaring food prices and ignited a debate over the dangers of using agricultural land for fuel.

Producers argue they typically farm land not destined, or suitable for, food crops. But campaigners reject those claims, with FoE saying that biofuel crops, including non-edible ones such as jatropha, "are competing directly with food crops for fertile land".

ActionAid claimed this year that European biofuel targets could result in up to 100 million more hungry people, increased food prices and landlessness.

Natural disasters including floods in Pakistan and a heatwave in Russia have wiped out crops in recent weeks and intensified fears of widespread food shortages.

The United Nations has singled out biofuel demand as a factor in what it estimates will be as much as a 40% jump in food prices over the coming decade.

Estimates of how much land in Africa is being farmed by foreign companies and governments, either for food or fuel crops, vary significantly. The FoE report focuses on 11 African countries in what it sees as a rush by foreign companies to farm there. In Tanzania, for example, it says that about 40 foreign-owned companies, including some from the UK, have invested in agrofuel developments. It argues that such activities are actually raising carbon emissions in many cases because virgin forests are being cut down.
Lip service
The report concludes: "While foreign companies pay lip service to the need for 'sustainable development', agrofuel production and demand for land is resulting in the loss of pasture and forests, destroying natural habitat and probably causing an increase in greenhouse gas emissions."

Sun Biofuels, a British company farming land in Mozambique and Tanzania and named in the report, criticised the charity's research as "emotional and anecdotal" and said that its time would be better spent looking into ways to develop equitable farming models in Africa.

Sun's chief executive, Richard Morgan, said his company's leasing of land in Tanzania had taken three years, during which 11 communities, comprising about 11,000 people, were consulted.

"I find it insulting from Friends of the Earth. Somehow it's indirect criticism of Mozambiquan and Tanzanian governments that they would allow this dispossession to take place," he said.

Morgan conceded that such a protracted process could raise expectations among local people of jobs and investment that could not be met, and said that it was often those negative testimonies that were collected by newspapers and NGOs. But he insisted that Sun was creating jobs where possible and that much of the biofuel production was destined for domestic markets in Africa rather than Europe.

"There's an opportunity here to get investment into local communities in an ethical way," he said.

In many cases, biofuel production was replacing or reducing illegal tree felling, Morgan added. "Tanzania has a large landless community felling forest land. If you give employment to those people as an alternative, there is a chance you can intervene commercially there in a good way."

Biofuel crops were being grown on land that was not intended for food production, he said: "Often we are growing trees on land already cut down for charcoal or in some cases tobacco. We haven't displaced anyone."

But FoE argues that "most of the foreign companies are developing agrofuels to sell on the international market". Its campaigners in Africa are demanding that African states should immediately suspend further land acquisitions and investments in agrofuels. Instead, they want to see fundamental changes in consumption habits in developed countries – be it making more use of public transport or adopting different diets.

Chandrasekaran said: "Biofuels is just a small part of what is happening. What needs to change are consumption patterns in the west. That means [eating less] meat and dairy, given more than a third of the world's agricultural land goes to feeding meat and dairy production. It also means [reducing] consumption of fuel."


[Note: The report, published by Friends of the Earth Africa and Friends of the Earth Europe,can be downloaded from www.foeeurope.org/agrofuels/FoEE_Africa_up_for_grabs_2010.pdf ].


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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Brazil Taps Small Farmers For Biofuels Campaign

Brazil Taps Small Farmers For Biofuels Campaign
Date: 26-Aug-10
Country: BRAZIL
Author: Brian Ellsworth

With its biofuels business increasingly dominated by giant corporations, Brazil is seeking to extend its biofuels sector to include farmers like Lucas Scariot, who makes around $10,000 per year from selling grain.

For the past three years, Scariot has sold soy beans at a premium over market prices to a biofuels company under a government program aimed at supporting small farms and creating jobs in the countryside while cutting fuel imports.

This year Scariot planted canola for the first time in a field he usually leaves fallow during the winter, diversifying the region's soy-dependent agricultural base and providing a new raw material for local biodiesel production.

"It's good for the farmer because it gives us additional value for our crops," said Scariot, a 22-year-old farmer and agronomy student who along with his father works 20 hectares -- equal to about nine Manhattan city blocks -- of verdant and hilly land in Brazil's southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul.

"And now we have incentives for new crops, because people are always talking about soy, soy, soy. We can't just depend on that," said Scariot, who also raises pigs and chickens at his farm house.

The program is meant to boost production of biodiesel, which can be used in heavy vehicles like trucks, and reduce diesel imports the way the 30-year sugar cane ethanol program has cut the use of motor gasoline.

Brazil's government hopes backing small farmers will help avoid problems associated with its ethanol sector, including growing concentration in the hands of large agribusiness and notoriously bad labor conditions that have drawn global condemnation.

But efforts to use new raw materials, including untested crops such as castor bean plants, have sparked criticism that it is sinking millions of dollars into inefficient biofuels production that mostly benefits the politically well-connected.

The program offers tax breaks to 30 participating biofuels producers and helps them get better financing arrangements. Those companies in 2009 purchased raw materials from around 51,000 small farmers, a figure slated to reach 100,000 by the end of this year.

Those benefits attracted Oleoplan, a biodiesel producer with close to 800 million reais ($450 million) in annual sales, that now buys more than a third of its raw materials from small farmers like Scariot.

"The results have been fantastic," Oleoplan's director Domingos Costella said at the company's headquarters, where a maze of machinery -- clouded in the overpowering smell of soy -- grinds up hundreds of tonnes of the crop, extracts its oils and mixes it with other chemicals to create fuel.

"This is a way for us to secure more raw material while still keeping the small farmer in mind."
The company plans to nearly double fuel production by next year in part because of the additional supply.

As part of the arrangement, Oleoplan provides technical assistance to farmers or farming cooperatives to help them boost crop yields and make more efficient use of fertilizer.
Brazil began biodiesel production in 2005 and in 2010 is expected to produce 2.4 billion liters (634 million gallons). This year it began requiring all fossil diesel to be sold with a minimum 5 percent biodiesel mix.

Biodiesel backers say hiking that rate would cut carbon emissions and reduce state oil company Petrobras's imports of diesel and distillate fuels, which last year reached 78,000 barrels per day -- more than 10 percent of its diesel output.

Petrobras has found new ways to refine vegetable-based oils together with diesel in its petroleum refineries.

While the country's ethanol program has won praise, it is also targeted by critics who say it contributes to rising food prices and makes use of quasi-slave labor. Authorities hotly deny the first accusation but have acknowledged the second.

The government last year put Cosan, the world's largest sugar and ethanol group, on a list of companies that put workers in slave-like conditions, though it was quickly removed.

"We can create better jobs than the ones in the ethanol sector, and with biodiesel those jobs can go to family farmers," said Arnoldo de Campos, coordinator of the program for the ministry of agricultural development.

The effort has faced furious criticism for falling into a common trap of biofuels innovation -- betting on crops with hyped-up energy promise that ultimately fall short.

The program recruited thousands of family farmers to grow castor bean plants, which sprout spiky green seeds that advocates insisted could produce large amounts of oil and grow on degraded soil with little water.

But no producer participating in the program has been able to commercially produce biofuels from the crop. Critics say this is because production costs and yields are too high to justify using it for fuel.

As a result, Brazil's largest biodiesel maker had to shut two plants in the poor northeast after months of supporting castor bean cultivation, sparking outrage among farmers.

"We warned the government about the technical problems associated with turning castor beans into biodiesel, but the politicians just wouldn't listen," said Miguel Dabdoub, a chemistry professor at the University of Sao Paulo who has helped lead the development of Brazil's biodiesel sector.

He says political leaders from Brazil's northeast took advantage of the program to promote ill-advised schemes in much the same way the U.S. agriculture industry has used political clout to push for inefficient corn-based ethanol.

But he praises efforts to incorporate small farmers into biofuels production.

Glemir Valenca, 39, says his soy crop yields over the last two years have been the highest ever thanks to a combination of good weather and technical assistance from biodiesel producers.

"We're getting more money for our crops and we're getting advice so we can produce more," he said. "It's something that's been really good for us."
(Editing by Kieran Murray)

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Scion Seeks Big Field Test of GE Pine Trees In New Zealand

Scion Seeks Big Field Test of GE Pine Trees

An environmental watchdog is calling for public submissions on a plan to field test genetically-engineered pine trees ``in containment'' at Rotorua.

Submissions close on October 6, the Environmental Risk Management Authority (Erma) said today.

State science company Scion wants to test genes influencing plant growth, reproductive development, herbicide tolerance, biomass utilisation, wood density and stability, in 4000 trees on a four hectare site.

The field test will last for 25 years, though each tree will be grown only for a maximum of eight years.

Scion said today the trees would not be allowed to release pollen or seed, though it has previously said branches from a few trees will be grafted onto non-GE rootstocks to produce pollen or seed in containment.

The technology is aimed at boosting production of wood and fibre-based products, bio-fuels, other chemical extracts from trees, and for increasing carbon capture through tree planting, the company said.

``Scion sees a future for biotech trees to help meet New Zealand's needs for a sustainable future, alleviating climate change and producing a wide range of new environmentally cleaner bio-products and bio-fuels,'' the company said today.

Some iwi are major forestry owners and managers and Scion has particularly pitched the GE trees as offering a chance for Maori economic advancement.

Plantation forests already earn the country $3.2 billion a year, and Scion has said world demand for forest products is expected to increase over the next 30 years.

The company has developed GE herbicide-resistant radiata pine and spruce, and insect-resistant radiata pine for indoor containment studies it said showed an ability to deliver additional genetic gain.

Scion said it lead the world in applying these techniques to radiata pine and would be collaborating with commercial partner ArborGen Australasia.

In 2000, the company received approvals from Erma to field test radiata pine over 22 years with engineered genes controlling reproductive development and over 11 years for herbicide resistance, which it said today had not shown any negative environmental impacts or evidence of gene transfer to other organisms.

DNA sequences will be copied from organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and plants, and the GE trees will be assessed for herbicide tolerance, biomass acquisition, wood characteristics and expression of the new genes. Environmental impacts will also be assessed by monitoring the micro-organisms and insects living in association with pines.

Scion is seeking increased stability of wood dimensions -- less shrinkage in drying -- and improved plant growth and better suitability of glue-like chemicals, known as lignins, in the wood to being pulped or broken down by microorganisms or enzymes.

And because foresters growing conventional trees don't want genetic contamination from GE forests, it plans to control reproductive development -- producing trees that won't produce viable pollen or seed cones - which may allow extra energy to be transferred to plant growth.



Source: Hawke's Bay Today, New Zealand

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Biomass Incinerator Opponents Face off with Industry and State in Florida Trial

Protests in UK mentioned below!  Thanks to all who participated in that.

PRESS RELEASE – August 25, 2010

Biomass Incinerator Opponents Face off Against Industry and State in Florida Trial


Meg Sheehan, Spokesperson, Anti-Biomass Incineration and Forest Protection Campaign, c/o 4 Library Court, Washington, DC 20003, email: meg@ecolaw.biz, cell  508-259-9154

A trial being held this week in Gainesville, Florida, pits anti-biomass opponents against the state and an out-of-state company.  Citizens are challenging a state agency approval of Gainesville Renewable Energy Center incinerator, being proposed by the Massachusetts based international joint venture, American Renewables, LLC.  The citizen leading the coalition, Dr. Thomas Bussing, former mayor of Gainesville, intervened to enter testimony in the trial in order to prevent harm to human health and the environment from the incinerator.  The GREC incinerator will burn trees to make electricity.

Opponents of the incinerator assert that local residents, particularly children, will suffer harm from the toxic emissions generated by burning wood at the Gainseville site. 

Dr. Ron Saff, a medical doctor from Tallahassee, Florida who specializes in asthma, provided deposition testimony in the case.  According to Dr. Saff, "the pollution from biomass plants causes asthma and heart attacks, cancer, shortens lives and poses a health risk to Gainesville residents."  

According to the GREC permit application and the citizen petition, air pollutants from the incinerator will include particulate matter, including PM 2.5, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), acid gases, sulfur compounds, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, PCBs and dioxin-like compounds.  The opponents' expert testimony will show that these toxins are a danger to children and will become airborne and deposited on local residents and agricultural crops.  Testimony will also show that the incinerator will violate state laws prohibiting objectionable odors, poses a risk of fires in the wood chip piles, and will emit dangerous greenhouse gases.   The American Lung Association opposes wood burning biomass plants because of their public health impacts.  http://www.saveamericasforests.org/Forests%20-%20Incinerators%20-%20Biomass/Documents/Human%20Health/ALA%20national%20letter.pdf

Citizens around the U.S. and the globe oppose biomass incinerators because they harm the public health and make global warming worse.  This week, activists in Scotland protested four environmentally destructive wood burning biomass incinerators by Forth Energy in Scotland.  https://publish.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/0; www.biomess.uk

According to Campaign spokesperson, Meg Sheehan, "citizens everywhere are outraged that their taxpayer and ratepayer money is being used to subsidize the biomass boondoggle.  These plants are promoted as "clean and green" energy but they are neither.  Instead, they emit toxic chemicals, burn forests, dry up rivers, and make climate change worse.  The GREC facility will emit more carbon dioxide per mega watt than burning coal.  The science and expert testimony shows the threats to the public health and environment and regulators need to act consistently with this science," she said.

 The record of the hearing can be viewed here:




Biomass Opponents (biomass@energyjustice.net) -- http://www.energyjustice.net/biomass/
Change your settings or access the archives at:

Rachel Smolker
Biofuelwatch/Climate SOS
802.482.2848 (o)
802.735 7794 (m)
skype: Rachel Smolker

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Palm Oil Futures Look Rosy Despite European Environment Concerns | The Jakarta Globe

Environment Concerns
Niluksi Koswanage & Naveen Thukral | August 18, 2010
An oil palm fruit is seen in this file photo. Palm oil futures on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange climbed to a 15-month top last week and the market could be set for further gains as European consumers scurry for supplies.  (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta) An oil palm fruit is seen in this file photo. Palm oil futures on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange climbed to a 15-month top last week and the market could be set for further gains as European consumers scurry for supplies. (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta)

Kuala Lumpur. European consumers will be forced to boost shipments of palm oil, despite a vigorous campaign by green groups against it, after a drought that shriveled oilseed crops across the Black Sea region.

Palm oil futures on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange climbed to a 15-month top last week and the market could be set for further gains as European consumers scurry for supplies to satisfy demand from the food and fuel sectors.

A storm could be brewing in global vegetable oil markets, analysts say, although not on the scale seen in United States wheat futures, which surged to two-year highs this month.

“Europe’s rapeseed crop was lower than expected and Ukraine is going to have a very limited supply available for exports,” said Doug Whitehead, a commodities analyst at Rabobank in London.

“It really means that rapeseed oil supplies will be very much constrained, so it is likely we will see palm oil moving as a substitute.”

Hamburg-based analysts OilWorld forecast the European Union’s palm oil demand to rise 4.4 percent to 5.7 million metric tons in the oil marketing year to September 2010, making the region the No. 3 buyer after India and China.

That coincides with expectations for the EU’s rapeseed crop to fall 7.8 percent to 19.9 million metric tons in 2010 from a year ago while Ukraine’s sunflower crop may drop 2.7 percent to 7.1 million metric tons, OilWorld data showed.

Excessive rains are likely to cut canola production in Canada, reducing exports nearly 20 percent to 6 million metric tons.

Data from cargo surveyors shows that demand for Malaysian palm oil from the region has outpaced India and China so far in August, and traders expect more.

“We expect to see some new orders coming in this week onwards to about September or October,” said a trader with a Singapore-listed planter, who deals with European buyers.

“Inquiries are there and sentiment is positive. European customers will buy on small dips in the current palm oil rally. They don’t want to be caught off guard.”

In the Rotterdam cash market, palm oil was up 11 percent in August, while its discount to rapeseed oil has widened to more than $175 a metric ton from an average of $75 in the second quarter, making palm oil a cheaper substitute.

“The law of economics will pull the cheapest oil into the European food market and palm oil’s widening discount to rapeseed makes that happen,” said Dorab Mistry, head of trading for Indian company Godrej’s international arm.

European buyers may have to push environment issues linked to palm oil on the back burner as they struggle with lower domestic supplies, although top importers will be unwilling to take shipments from companies accused of destroying rainforests to expand palm estates.

“For major consumers like Germany sustainability is important, but we are going to see increased flows of palm oil as there are not enough edible oil sources,” Standard Chartered analyst Abah Ofon said.

“We continue to be bullish on palm oil as we feel global consumption of edible oils is going to outstrip supplies in the coming year.”

Environmentalists say palm oil’s use in biofuels has triggered a land grab at the expense of rainforests and peat lands — a campaign that largely limited its use in the sector.

Rapeseed oil is mostly channeled to biofuels, leaving palm oil for the food sector, and green groups such as Greenpeace have persuaded Unilever and Nestle to scrap supply contracts with some planters.


Claudia Theile
Campaigner Biomass/Palmoil

Friends of the Earth
P.O. Box 19199
1000 GD Amsterdam
The Netherlands
T (+31) (0)20 5507 300
F (+31) (0)20 5507 310



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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Critics Slam EU-Brazil African Biofuel Plan

Non-profit groups fault a joint program by Brazil and the European Union to develop biofuel production in Africa as bad energy and development policy



Critics Slam EU-Brazil African Biofuel Plan

Non-profit groups fault a joint program by Brazil and the European Union to develop biofuel production in Africa as bad energy and development policy

EU and Brazilian leaders are set to announce a new "triangular co-operation" initiative, under which they will aim to work together in some of the world's poorest countries, but NGOs say the duo's scheme is self-centred and will simply make conditions worse.

At a bilateral summit in Brasilia on Wednesday (14 July), European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and Brazilian President Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva were expected to agree to co-operate on a range of different projects in Portuguese speaking parts of Africa, Haiti and East Timor in the coming years.

The development of renewable energy is likely to be a central theme, and a first step will see the EU and Brazil sign an agreement with Mozambique this week to develop bioelectricity and biofuels projects, EU sources have indicated.

Brazilian companies are world leaders in the production of biofuels and are looking to expand their operations both internally and abroad, while the EU is looking to increase its biofuel use at home in order to meet its target of sourcing 20 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.

But as EU and Brazilian officials prepare to start studies on how best to develop bioethanol, biodiesel and bioelectricity projects in Mozambique – already a leading African producer of biofuels – environmental groups say the initiative will simply serve to displace people from their land and exacerbate food shortages.

"In a country that suffers persistent hunger, using millions of hectares of agricultural land to grow crops to power European cars is immoral and perverse," Adrian Bebb, a biofuels expert with Friends of the Earth, told this website.

"European biofuels targets are what is driving this global expansion," he added. "Instead of doing deals to grab more land in the South, the EU should be scrapping its biofuel policy."

Development NGOs such as ActionAid have also criticised the EU's biofuel target which demands that 10 percent of transport fuel come from renewable energy by 2020.

Studies suggest that a third of the land sold or acquired in Africa, some five million hectares or an area greater than the size of Denmark, is intended for fuel crops.

The gains for both sides as a result of the new deal are clear however. By teaming up with Brazil in Africa, the EU stands to create a new and cheaper supply of biofuel, while Brazilian companies could make considerable savings on EU import tariffs.

Biofuel produced in Brazil is currently subject to high tariffs when entering the EU, while duties on African-produced biofuels are much lower.

Reports suggest that Cosan (CZZ) and Copersucar are among the Brazilian ethanol producers that stand to gain the most from setting up new production bases in Africa.

As part of his trip to Brazil, Mr Van Rompuy is set to visit a Cosan production line and meet with senior company officials on Thursday afternoon.


Other deliverables from the bilateral summit are likely to include two aviation agreements and a deal to allow all EU citizens from Schengen countries to enter Brazil without the need for a visa.

Citizens from new EU member states Malta, Latvia, Cyprus and Estonia still currently need a short-term tourist visa when visiting the South American country.

The two sides will also discuss EU-Latin American relations, as well as the non-proliferation of nuclear arms. Brazil was recently involved in an initiative with Turkey to monitor the production of nuclear material in Iran, but the deal received a cold reception from the EU and US.

Provided by EUobserver—For the latest EU related news

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rising temperatures reducing ability of plants to absorb carbon, study warns

This article is interesting, as it says NPP (net primary production from plants) is likely to fall with more climate change, rather than rise. So plants will be less effective in locking away carbon, and growing, so using plants for biofuel will be less attractive.

19.8.2010 (Guardian)

by Alok Jha

Rising temperatures in the past decade have reduced the ability of the world's plants to soak up carbon from the atmosphere, scientists said today.

Large-scale droughts have wiped out plants that would have otherwise absorbed an amount of carbon equivalent to Britain's annual man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

Scientists measure the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide absorbed by plants and turned into biomass as a quantity known as the net primary production. NPP increased from 1982 to 1999 as temperatures rose and there was more solar radiation.

But the period from 2000 to 2009 reverses that trend – surprising some scientists. Maosheng Zhao and Steven Running of the University of Montana estimate that there has been a global reduction in NPP of 0.55 gigatonnes (Gt).

In comparison, the UK's contribution to annual worldwide carbon dioxide emissions was 0.56Gt in 2007, while global aviation industry made up around 0.88Gt (3%) of the world total of 29.3Gt that year, according to UN data.

The researchers used data from the moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (Modis) on board Nasa's Terra satellite, combined with global climate data to measure the change in global NPP over the past decade.

"The past decade has been the warmest since instrumental measurements began, which could imply continued increases in NPP," wrote Zhao and Running in the journal Science.

But instead of helping plants grow, these rising temperatures instead caused droughts and water stresses, particularly in the southern hemisphere and in rainforests, which contain most of the world's plant biomass. The growth there has been curtailed by lack of water and increased respiration, which returns carbon to the atmosphere. These problems counteracted any increases in NPP seen at the high latitudes and elevations in the northern hemisphere.

Reduced plant matter not only reduces the world's natural ability to manage carbon dioxide in the atmosphere but could also lead to problems with growing more crops to feed rising populations or make sustainable biofuels.

"Under a changing climate, severe regional droughts have become more frequent, a trend expected to continue for the foreseeable future," said the researchers. "The warming-associated heat and drought not only decrease NPP, but also may trigger many more ecosystem disturbances, releasing carbon to the atmosphere. Reduced NPP potentially threatens global food security and future biofuel production and weakens the terrestrial carbon sink."

The researchers conclude that further monitoring will be needed to confirm whether the decrease in NPP they have observed in the past decade is an anomaly or whether it signals a turning point to a future decline in the world's ability to sequester carbon dioxide.



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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

ScienceDaily Environment Headlines -- for Tuesday, August 17, 2010 [TOBECLASSIFIED] [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

ScienceDaily Environment Headlines

for Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Studies pinpoint key targets for MRSA vaccine (August 17, 2010) --

@ @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

Immune system overreaction may enable recurrent urinary tract infections (August 13, 2010) -- Industrial production of biodiesel feasible within 15 years, researchers predict (August 13, 2010) -- Within 10 to 15 years, it will be technically possible to produce sustainable and economically viable biodiesel from micro-algae on a large scale. Technological innovations during this period should extend the scale of production by a factor of three, while at the same time reducing production costs by 90%. Two researchers from the Netherlands believe this to be possible. ... > full story

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Indonesia May Cancel Permits To Save Forest

Indonesia May Cancel Permits To Save Forest
Date: 19-Aug-10
Author: Sunanda Creagh and Neil Chatterjee

Indonesia's planned moratorium on the clearing of natural forest from 2011 may lead to the revocation of some firms' existing permits and will slash the size of a giant food estate, said the official in charge of the scheme.
The two-year moratorium, agreed under a $1 billion deal with Norway to curb greenhouse gases from deforestation, has created uncertainty among investors in plantations, timber and mining, who fear their expansion could be stymied.
Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, head of the presidential delivery unit, told Reuters the moratorium could also extend beyond two years, given that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was determined to protect the country's extensive tropical forests.
"Climate change is a real problem for the world and for a developing country like Indonesia. Well this is a new agenda and I believe we have to change the way we think about development," said Mangkusubroto in an interview.
"Parallel to that, we cannot neglect the welfare of the people," he said, adding that strong economic growth of 7 percent was still possible while protecting nature.
Plantation and mining firms have opposed the moratorium, which could slow the expansion of palm oil firms such as Astra Agro Lestari and delay coal and mining projects worth $14 billion by the likes of BHP Billiton.
"It all depends on how many licenses someone has already, and whether they are affected or not depends on the type of licenses that have been issued," Mangkusubroto said, adding that compensation could come in the form of land swaps.
"There might be opposition because, for sure, there will be industries affected," he said. "We are just controlling the way they utilize the forest."
One casualty will be the Merauke food estate in the easternmost Papua region, which he said will be cut to around 350,000-500,000 hectares from an initial plan for 1.2 million, partly because carbon-rich peat lands had been found there.
Investors in Merauke include Singapore palm oil giant Wilmar and Indonesia's Medco.
Mangkusubroto, who is meeting Norwegian officials this week, said the scheme was still on track for January 2011, even though the two governments have yet to clarify their definition of natural forest and exactly what a moratorium will mean for permits.
For now, he could not be specific on how much of Indonesia's roughly 120 million hectares of forest would be included under the moratorium. He admitted that enforcing the scheme -- given illegal logging is rife -- was another problem.
Mangkusubroto said a multilateral agency such as the World Bank may oversee the $1 billion, most to be given by Norway after emissions reductions have been proved, which would reduce the risk that corrupt officials would siphon off funds.
The moratorium could also derail prospects for infrastructure project such as toll roads if they affect natural forests.
Mangkusubroto said a government land acquisition bill was unlikely to be approved by parliament before next year, later than hoped for given poor infrastructure is a key deterrent for many foreign direct investors in Southeast Asia's top economy.
(Editing by Sara Webb)

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CPRE versus the Centre for Alternative Technology

An interesting debate on the Guardian website between Dustin Benton of the CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) who criticises CAT's proposals under which 85% of England's grazing land would be turned over to growing biomass, and Alex Randall of CAT who defends it saying that it is ambitious enough as it is to cut UK aviation use by 2/3, and the aviation fuel has to come from somewhere.
Dustin Benton: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2010/aug/16/emissions-landscapes-ecosystems
Alex Randall: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/17/england-biofuels-oil-aviation

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Gabon to get $4.5bn Asian investment

Gabon to get $4.5bn Asian investment

By Tom Burgis in Lagos

Published: August 15 2010 23:19 | Last updated: August 15 2010 23:19

Gabon, a small west African oil-producer seeking to emerge from decades of dictatorship, is planning $4.5bn of agriculture and infrastructure ventures in what would rank among the biggest investment packages by Asian powers in Africa.

In an announcement timed to coincide with the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of Gabon's independence from France, the government said Indian and Singaporean groups would invest in timber, palm oil, housing and road-building projects as well as constructing a special economic zone.

Gabon was ruled for 41 years by Omar Bongo – Africa's longest-serving ruler at his death last year. While most of the country languished in penury, Gabon's thirsty elite made the country the world's highest per capita consumer of champagne.

None could match Mr Bongo's personal fortune, among the largest anywhere. He became a prime mover in the politics of France, the former colonial power.

Since succeeding his late father, Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba, previously defence minister, has sought to project a different image.

The investment plans would create tens of thousands of jobs in the nation of 1.5m people, Mr Bongo said.

The plans "demonstrate the recognition of Gabon, its stability, the credibility of its head of state … at a moment when the African continent is positioning itself as a significant pole of international growth," the government said.

Asian groups have dramatically increased their investments in Africa over the past decade, led by Chinese state-owned companies seeking to secure resources and infrastructure contracts.

The Gabonese plan, however, falls outside the sectors that have garnered the most attention: oil, minerals, telecoms and banking.

The government said Olam, a Singapore-based agriculture multinational, would lead the development of a special economic zone designed to spur the timber industry.

Olam would also be the main investor in a venture designed to make Gabon one of the continent's leading producers of palm oil, a commodity produced across west Africa and used in food-processing.

M3M of India would build 5,000 low-cost houses while its compatriot Ramky Infrastructure would lay 1,000km of roads, the government said.

Olam, M3M and Ramky could not immediately be reached for comment.

The plans were designed with an eye to Gabon's "after-oil" economy, the government said.

Gabon's oil output, which has given it a gross domestic product per head far above the regional average, has dwindled to about 240,000 barrels a day last year and will run out as soon as 2025, according to some estimates.

World Bank Group's role in illegal African rainforest destruction is exposed: company implicated in Congo forest plunder posts rising profits

Washington, USA - The World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) is financing a Singapore-based trading group OLAM International Ltd. which provincial Forestry Minister Coco Pembe has accused OLAM of trading in illegal timber in one of the world's last intact rainforests in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The timber being traded by OLAM is sourced from local companies in the province of Bandundu whose logging permits have expired. Local authorities have seized shipments from OLAM, claiming the company didn't pay taxes and underreported their timber volumes. OLAM is expected to announce a 29 percent rise in net profits today.

In 2005, OLAM was awarded logging titles covering over 300,000 hectares in the Bandundu region, in violation of a 2002 moratorium on the allocation of new logging titles, and DRC's Forest Code, both of which were introduced with the support of the World Bank in an attempt to tackle uncontrolled logging in the DRC.

In December 2003, the IFC invested $15 million in OLAM and, during 2004, a partial guarantee of $50 million was approved for the company. World Bank records show that, as of fiscal year 2006, IFC held $11.2 million in OLAM loans and guarantees. Meanwhile, the World Bank denies any IFC involvement in the DRC forest sector, stating on their website that 'the Bank does not fund logging anywhere in Africa and our main advice to the Government of DRC is not to expand industrial logging.'

'This is an example of the World Bank's double standards when it comes to using international finance to help save the DRC's forests. While the left hand of the Bank claims to save the Congo forests, its right hand helps destroy them,' said Susanne Breitkopf, Greenpeace forest campaigner. 'Rather than financing the plunder of the world's second largest rainforest, the World Bank should invest in strengthening forest law enforcement in the DRC, to control the wanton and illegal destruction being perpetrated by logging companies.'

In April 2007, Greenpeace published a report detailing how OLAM trades in timber from third parties whose destructive logging operations cause social conflicts, massive environmental damage and significant loss of state revenue. In May, Greenpeace wrote to the IFC asking that it divest from OLAM on the basis that the group's existing logging titles, awarded illegally after a 2002 moratorium on new titles, should be considered illegal and cancelled. At the end of July, the IFC rejected this request, claiming that the group only works with suppliers who hold valid logging permits and that OLAM is committed to sustainable forestry.

OLAM's operations have already faced legal issues elsewhere in Africa, and in 2004 the company was fined $20,000 by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission for illegal practices in the United States.

'There are serious questions about the effectiveness of the IFC's Performance Standards. The World Bank Group should ensure its funds are used to improve governance and to alleviate poverty, not to fund forest destruction. Despite capacity building talks about the DRC forest sector since 2002, international logging companies continue to operate with impunity and the government has no means to control them,' concluded Breitkopf.
Link to original news report

Dr Sarah Wykes
+44 7971064433

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Scottish scientists develop whisky biofuel

Scottish scientists develop whisky biofuel

By-products from distilling process could be used to power cars and even aviation, according to researchers in Edinburgh

A petrol pump
Whisky is being used to develop a biofuel which gives 30% more power output than ethanol and could be available at petrol pumps within a few years
It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "one for the road". Whisky, the spirit that powers the Scottish economy, is being used to develop a new biofuel which could be available at petrol pumps in a few years.

Using samples from the Glenkinchie Distillery in East Lothian, researchers at Edinburgh Napier University have developed a method of producing biofuel from two main by-products of the whisky distilling process – "pot ale", the liquid from the copper stills, and "draff", the spent grains.

Copious quantities of both waste products are produced by the £4bn whisky industry each year, and the scientists say there is real potential for the biofuel, to be available at local garage forecourts alongside traditional fuels. It can be used in conventional cars without adapting their engines. The team also said it could be used to fuel planes and as the basis for chemicals such as acetone, an important solvent.

The new method developed by the team produces butanol, which gives 30% more power output than the traditional biofuel ethanol. It is based on a 100-year-old process that was originally developed to produce butanol and acetone by fermenting sugar. The team has adapted this to use whiskey by-products as a starting point and has filed for a patent to cover the new method. It plans to create a spin-out company to commercialise the invention.

Professor Martin Tangney, who directed the project said that using waste products was more environmentally sustainable than growing crops specifically to generate biofuel. He added that it could contribute significantly to targets set by the EU for biofuels to account for 10% of total fuel sales by 2020.

"What people need to do is stop thinking 'either or'; people need to stop thinking like for like substitution for oil. That's not going to happen. Different things will be needed in different countries. Electric cars will play some role in the market, taking cars off the road could be one of the most important things we ever do."

Dr Richard Dixon, of WWF Scotland, welcomed the project. "The production of some biofuels can cause massive environmental damage to forests and wildlife," he said. "So whisky powered-cars could help Scotland avoid having to use those forest-trashing biofuels."


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Monday, August 16, 2010

Palm oil plans in Gabon

16 August 2010

Gabon moves to diversify economy

Gabon president Ali Bongo President Ali Bongo has vowed to modernise the west African state's economy

Gabon has signed deals to diversify its economy in an attempt to be less reliable on its dwindling oil reserves. The government has announced contracts with Asian companies worth $4.5bn billion dollars.
President Ali Bongo signed the agreements on the eve of the country's 50th anniversary of its independence from France. The projects will revamp infrastructure and create about 50,000 jobs.

New partners

Gabon's oil output has been declining for years and the new deals are presented as the first steps towards diversification. The largest deal is the with OLAM, a Singapore-based company which plans to develop a huge palm oil plantation in the south east. The government wants to become the leading palm oil producer in Africa. In terms of infrastructure, the OLAM deal involves the construction of a refinery, and there are plans for a possible port.

Another agreement was signed with the Indian company M3M, to build 5,000 low-cost housing units over the next two years. Ramky Infrastructure, another Indian construction company, will build 1,000 kilometres of tarred road over the next three years in a $1.5bn project that will be jointly financed by the Gabonese government.

Gabon has already attracted a number of Asian investors, notably Malaysian and Chinese companies, but most of them were interested in the mining and timber sectors.



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UK National Demonstration against Agrofuels: Portland, 25th September

National Demonstration against Agrofuels

Saturday 25th September, Portland in Dorset

Coaches available from London and possibly elsewhere

Campaign against Climate Change, NOPE (No Oil Palm Energy), Biofuelwatch and Food Not Fuel are organising a day of protest against agrofuel subsidies. The demonstration will take place midway through a government consultation which will determine the future of agrofuel power stations in the UK. The demonstration will go to the gates to the port which is the site where W4B has been given planning permission to build a palm oil power station. There is strong local opposition to the plans. Please see below for more background.

The order of the day is as follows:

9.00am Coach leaves London for Portland*

12.30pm Assemble at Ferry Bridge (Chesil Beach car park) or march along Portland Beach Road

2-3.00pm Rally outside port gates, Casteletown (site of proposed plant)

3.00pm Workshops and entertainment in St George's Hall, corner Weston Road/ Reforne

8.00pm Coach to London

*To book a place on London coach, please contact info@campaigncc.org . If you need help with "crash space" in London or Dorset before the demo, please contact us (biofuelwatch@ymail.com) and we will ask round.

We are hoping that a coach will also be organised from two other cities also affected by proposed biofuel power stations, in Newport and Bristol. Please contact us if you are interested in getting a coach from either of those places. 

Please help us spread the word about this demonstration widely. If you can distribute any fliers locally and would like them sent to you then please contact us. Also, if you would like somebody to speak at a local event about agrofuels before the demo, then please get in touch with us and we will try and arrange this.


Right now and until mid-October, the government is consulting on the future of 'renewable electricity' subsidies in the UK – we will shortly sending out further information and an email action about this. Of course, we need more support for sustainable, climate-friendly renewable energy such as from wind and solar power. Agrofuels are none of this. Subsidies for them mean subsidies for more climate change, more deforestation, more land-grabbing and human rights abuses. At least 11 planning applications for agrofuel power stations have been submitted/prepared by companies including W4B, Blue NG and Vogen, and three of those already have planning permission.

Although the focus of the demonstration is on vegetable oil power stations, the government consultation will also determine whether companies will go ahead with wood power station plans which will ultimately result in at least 3.5 times the entire UK wood production being burned – with devastating consequences for forests and people from Alaska to Brazil and the Congo Basin.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Russia's Agony a "Wake-Up Call" to the World

Russia's Agony a "Wake-Up Call" to the World

Stephen Leahy

VIENNA, Aug 11 (IPS) - A wind turbine on an acre of northern Iowa farmland could generate 300,000 dollars worth of greenhouse-gas-free electricity a year. Instead, the U.S. government pays out billions of dollars to subsidise grain for ethanol fuel that has little if any impact on global warming, according to Lester Brown.
"The smartest thing the U.S. could do is phase out ethanol subsidies," says Brown, the founder of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, in reference to rising food prices resulting from the unprecedented heat wave in western Russia that has decimated crops and killed at least 15,000 people.

"The lesson here is that we must take climate change far more seriously, make major cuts in emissions and fast before climate change is out of control," Brown, one of the world's leading experts on agriculture and food, told IPS.

Average temperatures during the month of July were eight degrees Celsius above normal in Moscow, he said, noting that "such a huge increase in temperature over an entire month is just unheard of."

On Monday, Moscow reached 37 C when the normal temperature for August is 21 C. It was the 28th day in a row that temperatures exceeded 30 C.

Soil moisture has fallen to levels seen only once in 500 years, says Brown. Wheat and other grain yields are expected to decline by 40 percent or more in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine - regions that provide 25 percent of the world's wheat exports. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced a few days ago that Russia would ban all grain exports.

Food prices will rise but how much is not known at this point, says Brown. "What we do know, however, is that the prices of wheat, corn, and soybeans are actually somewhat higher in early August 2010 than they were in early August 2007, when the record-breaking 2007-08 run-up in grain prices began."

Emissions of greenhouse gases like CO2 from burning fossil fuels trap more of the sun's energy. Climate experts expected the number and intensity of heat waves and droughts to increase as a result. In 2009, heat and fire killed hundreds in Australia during the worst drought in more than century, which devastated the country's agriculture sector. In 2003, a European heat wave killed 53,000 people but as it occurred late in the summer crop, yields were not badly affected.

If a heat wave like Russia's were centred around the grain- producing regions near Chicago or Beijing, the impacts could be many times worse because each of these regions produce five times the amount of grain as Russia does, says Brown. Such an event could result in the loss of 100 to 200 million tonnes of grain with unimaginable affects on the world's food supply.

"Russia's heat wave is a wake-up call to the world regarding the vulnerability of the global food supply," he said.

The global climate is warming and most food crops are both heat and drought sensitive. Rice yields have already fallen by 10-20 percent over the last 25 years in parts of Thailand, Vietnam, India and China due to global warming, new research has shown. Data from 227 fully-irrigated farms that grow "green revolution" crops are suffering significant yield declines due to warming temperatures at night, researchers found.

"As nights get hotter, rice yields drop," reported Jarrod Welch of the University of California at San Diego and colleagues in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Aug. 9. Previous studies have shown this result in experimental plots, but this is the first under widespread, real-world conditions.

With such pressures on the world's food supply it is simply wrong-headed to use 25 percent of U.S. grain for ethanol as a fuel for cars, said Brown.

"Ethanol subsidies must be phased out and real cuts in carbon emissions made and urgently," he said.



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FINAL CALL:Camp for Climate Action-RBS-Break the Bank in Edinburgh(21st-24th August)

Camp for Climate Action 2010
RBS-Break the Bank!  in Edinburgh
Four days of training and direct action: 21st–24th August



The Camp for Climate Action is a grassroots movement taking direct action against the root causes of climate change. We've already had major successes with Heathrow's third runway and E.ON's plans for a new coal fired power station at Kingsnorth.

This year we're targeting the Royal Bank of Scotland, one of the world's largest investors in oil, gas and coal.

Last year RBS were bailed out with £50 billion of public money. From tar sands extraction in Canada to coal infrastructure here in the UK, we're paying to trash our future. These projects are not just causing catastrophic climate change but destroying the lives and livelihoods of people across the globe. Meanwhile, we're told there is no money left in the public pot and we should be braced for decades of public sector cuts.

What are we doing about it? Next week, people from across the UK will be converging to take back the power and Break the Bank! Our sustainable and collectively organised base-camp will give you the chance to learn, train up and meet like minded individuals. Exciting action plans are also underway for those who want to get involved.
So come to Edinburgh this summer! We'll see you there.

More information: www.climatecamp.org.uk

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New Amazon Monkey Species Discovered In Colombia

According to Rel-Uita.org, in the state of Caqueta "most of the rainforest resources have been depleted to make way for extensive lifestock farming and palm oil monocultures"]
Aug. 13, 2010

New Amazon Monkey Species Discovered In Colombia

New Monkey Species Discovered In Colombia's Amazon; Researchers Say It's Threatened By Logging

  •  (AP)
    (AP)  BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - A new Amazon monkey species has been discovered in Colombia, and researchers said Thursday they believe the small, isolated population is at risk due to the cutting of forests that are its home.

    The find was announced by Conservation International, a group that helped finance the research in remote rain forests that until recently were considered too dangerous for scientific work due to the presence of leftist rebels.

    A team of researchers from the National University of Colombia observed 13 groups of the new species - dubbed the Caqueta titi monkey because it was found in the southern state of Caqueta, near Peru.

    The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Primate Conservation, believe the species may be critically endangered. They estimate less than 250 of the monkeys exist and say the felling of forest for agriculture threatens their habitat.

    Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/08/12/ap/latinamerica/main6768133.shtml

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    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Why Dmitry Medvedev should turn his attention to Russia's peat bogs

    Why Dmitry Medvedev should turn his attention to Russia's peat bogs

    Drained peatland is not only a fire risk, as the peat fires burning outside Moscow show, it is also a serious CO2 pollutant

    What's black, squidgy and exhausting to walk on? The answer is peat, the gunk that gives malt whisky its smoky taste and burns sweetly when it's dried out. Dmitry Medvedev is busy just now, having cut short his holiday to deal with Russia's terrifying forest fires, but when he's done the president should think about his country's peat for a while.

    Why? Because alongside dozens of forest fires, there are another 56 peat fires, many of them around Moscow, threatening Russia's most densely populated areas. Thanks to extraction and drainage, peat bogs in central Russia have over recent decades dried out, becoming a tinder-box threatening destruction and appalling air pollution. And while winter rains will douse forests, peat fires can burn underground, all winter long.

    Read more, including reference to South-East Asia peat fires: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2010/aug/07/russian-wildfires-peat-bogs

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    UK government urged to evaluate biochar after Woolf et al. study

    1. UK government urged to evaluate biochar potential with trial schemes

    First official report says burying charcoal in the soil has potential to cut greenhouse gases but scientific uncertainties remain

    Burning Charcoal Burying charcoal produced from microwaved wood could offset as much as 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions, research shows. Photograph: Rex Features The idea of burying charcoal produced from microwaved wood to tackle global warming is still beset with scientific uncertainties, says the UK government's first report on "biochar".

    The warning comes as a separate US study published this week said that as much as 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions could be offset by biochar.

    Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/12/biochar-uk-government-report

    2. Delivering biochar's triple win
    Richard Black | 16:05 UK time, Tuesday, 10 August 2010
    Last year, there seemed to be an unwritten rule in enviro-circles: whenever two or more enviro-folks were gathered together in a place of meeting, talk must turn to biochar.
    Hands holding biocharAccounts would be exchanged of articles half-read and half-digested...the pros would be arrayed against the cons...the words "local" and "sustainable" would be flagged up early and often.
    A common reaction was "Good idea, but..."
    The notion of biochar takes us back to ancient human civilisations in South America.
    The ground remaining when rainforest is cleared isn't very fertile, despite the luxuriant herbage of the forests themselves.
    So about 2,500 years ago, people developed what Portuguese settlers later termed terra preta - black earth - created by ploughing carbon into the soil in the form of charcoal.
    With ever more hungry mouths on the planet, with soils degrading in many places and with climate change threatening to reduce yields in coming decades, there's renewed interest in the ancient technology, which has been championed by James Lovelock of Gaia fame among others.

    3. Charcoal takes some heat off global warming

    Biochar can offset 1.8 billion metric tons of carbon emissions annually

    RICHLAND, Wash. -- As much as 12 percent of the world's human-caused greenhouse gas emissions could be sustainably offset by producing biochar, a charcoal-like substance made from plants and other organic materials. That's more than what could be offset if the same plants and materials were burned to generate energy, concludes a study published today in the journal Nature Communications.

    "These calculations show that biochar can play a significant role in the solution for the planet's climate change challenge," said study co-author Jim Amonette, a soil chemist at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "Biochar offers one of the few ways we can create power while decreasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. And it improves food production in the world's poorest regions by increasing soil fertility. It's an amazing tool."

    The study is the most thorough and comprehensive analysis to date on the global potential of biochar. The carbon-packed substance was first suggested as a way to counteract climate change in 1993. Scientists and policymakers have given it increasing attention in the past few years. The study was conducted by Dominic Woolf and Alayne Street-Perrott of Swansea University in Wales, U.K., Johannes Lehmann of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., Stephen Joseph of the University of New South Wales, Australia, and Amonette.

    Read more: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-08/dnnl-cts080510.php

    The study was funded by the Department of Energy's Office of Science, DOE's Office of Fossil Energy, the Cooperative State Research Service of the Department of Agriculture, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the United Kingdom's Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and VenEarth Group LLC.

    REFERENCE: Dominic Woolf, James E. Amonette, F. Alayne Street-Perrott, Johannes Lehmann, Stephen Joseph. "Sustainable biochar to mitigate global climate change," Nature Communications, Aug. 10, 2010. http://www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v1/n4/full/ncomms1053.html.

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