Tuesday, May 31, 2011

IPCC SSREN full report delayed

Further to my last post on the subject, the IPCC website now states that the full SSREN (Special Report on Renewable Energy
Sources and Climate Change Mitigation) will be published on June 14 (see here and here), with a Brussels launch occurring on June 16.  Videos from the May 16 presentational conference are here.

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Us soy farmers upset over EU restrictions for biodiesel

WASHINGTON — The European Union has set new environmental and labor standards for the crops used to make biofuels there, angering U.S. farmers who worry that such restrictions could spread to other products and countries.

The standards include greenhouse gas limits that biofuel feedstocks must meet, and U.S. soybeans don't qualify as a feedstock for European biodiesel.

Also in the rules is a requirement that exporters be able to trace the source of a shipment back to the farms on which it was grown, something the U.S. industry can't do with existing storage and transportation practices.

"They're dictating to us how we need to operate, and we don't like the precedent that sets," said Steve Wellman, a Nebraska farmer and leader of the American Soybean Association. "What's next?"

Environmental standards could be the wave of the future. Walmart is working on sustainability standards for the foods it sells, and there are several industrywide efforts nationally and internationally to develop common standards for growing soybeans and other crops.

"I don't think it's unreasonable for governments to do this. Harmonization is important globally," said Jason Clay, a senior vice president for market transformation at the World Wildlife Fund. Such rules prevent countries from undercutting others with poor environmental or labor practices, he said.

A coalition called the Round Table on Responsible Soy, which included U.S. agribusiness giants Monsanto, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, reached agreement in 2009 on a set of standards covering treatment of workers as well as rules protecting water and soil quality, preventing greenhouse gas emissions and banning dangerous farm chemicals. U.S. soy growers did not participate in writing the standards.

The European Union's new biofuel rules reflected concerns that increased production of palm oil and other crops could encourage destruction of rain forests and other environmental harm.

Biofuel feedstocks are required to reduce greenhouse emissions by 35 percent in comparison with petroleum, but soybeans are credited with only a 31 percent reduction regardless of where they are grown. European-produced rapeseed, or canola, is rated at 38 percent. The calculations take into account factors such as how much energy is used to produce the crop and whether forests were cleared to grow it.

The EU standard rises to 50 percent in 2017.

Ratings revision

Kasper Zeuthen, a spokesman for the European Commission in Washington, said revisions in the soybean ratings will be considered using new data provided by U.S. and Argentinean growers.

The European Union was the third-largest market for U.S. soybeans last year at 2.6 million metric tons, well behind No. 1 China at 24.3 million tons, according to U.S. Agriculture Department data.

The U.S. soybeans are crushed for livestock feed in Europe, and then the oil has typically been used to make biodiesel, which is more popular than ethanol in Europe. Using the soybean oil for food isn't an option because of European objections to biotech crops.

For now, there's still a market for the oil as biodiesel. Germany, which does much of the soybean processing in Europe, implemented the biofuel standards earlier this year, but other EU countries haven't yet, so they can still use the oil for biodiesel, U.S. industry officials say. The crunch will come when all 27 countries have the rules in force.

Still, the traceability requirements and other rules will remain a concern, and farmers want an agreement that would cover all U.S. soybeans.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told the House Agriculture Committee recently that the administration "engaged the EU very early" with U.S. farmers' concerns.

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


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Food prices to double by 2030, Oxfam warns

Food prices to double by 2030, Oxfam warns

Charity says era of permanent food crisis will hit poorest people hardest and spark social unrest

* Felicity Lawrence
* Tuesday 31 May 2011 08.23 BST

The average price of staple foods will more than double in the next 20 years, leading to an unprecedented reversal in human development, Oxfam has warned.

The world's poorest people, who spend up to 80% of their income of food, will be hit hardest according to the charity. It said the world is entering an era of permanent food crisis, which is likely to be accompanied by political unrest and will require radical reform of the international food system.

Research to be published on Wednesday forecasts international prices of staples such as maize could rise by as much as 180% by 2030, with half of that rise due to the impacts of climate change.

After decades of steady decline in the number of hungry people around the world, the numbers are rapidly increasing as demand outpaces food production. The average growth rate in agricultural yields has almost halved since 1990 and is set to decline to a fraction of 1% in the next decade.

A devastating combination of factors – climate change, depleting natural resources, a global scramble for land and water, the rush to turn food into biofuels, a growing global population, and changing diets – have created the conditions for an increase in deep poverty.

"We are sleepwalking towards an age of avoidable crisis," Oxfam's chief executive, Barbara Stocking, said. "One in seven people on the planet go hungry every day despite the fact that the world is capable of feeding everyone. The food system must be overhauled."

Oxfam called on the prime minister, David Cameron, and other G20 leaders to agree new rules to govern food markets. It wants greater regulation of commodities markets to contain volatility in prices.

It said global food reserves must be urgently increased and western governments must end biofuels policies that divert food to fuel for cars.

It also attacked excessive corporate concentration in the food sector, particularly in grain trading and in seed and agrochemicals.

The Oxfam report followed warnings from the UN last week that food prices are likely to hit new highs in the next few weeks, triggering unrest in developing countries. The average global price of cereals jumped by 71% to a new record in the year to April last month.

Drought in the major crop-growing areas of Europe and intense rain and tornadoes in the US have led to fears of shortfalls in this year's crops.

The World Bank warned last month that rising food prices have pushed 44 million people into poverty since last June.



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Friday, May 27, 2011

PRESS RELEASE: U.S. Groups Praise House Appropriations Subcommittee Vote to Slash BCAP Funding



Groups Praise House Appropriations Subcommittee Vote to Slash BCAP Funding, Criticize USDA BCAP Decision on Planting 200,000 Acres

CONTACT: Meg Sheehan, Biomass Accountability Project, 800-729-1363

A coalition of environmental and citizen groups praised this week's decision by the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee to slash Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) funding for 2012.  The groups say the U.S. Department of Agriculture BCAP program is a misuse of taxpayer funds and the subsidy program is propping up biomass combustion power plants that pollute air, water, and threaten public health. 

Today, in a related action, USDA issued a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI) on an industry proposal to plant 200,000 acres of a non-native weed called Miscanthus grass in a four state area of Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. BCAP will be used on the project and the weeds will be burned for electricity or made in to pellets to burn.

The FONSI was issued over the objections of the environmental groups. According to Rachel Smolker of Biofuelwatch, "We are already diminishing freshwater resources and soils. The amount of land required to produce any significant amount of energy is astronomical. We need to use what we have to grow food and for biodiversity protection," Smolker added.

"Spending taxpayer money to grow "bioenergy" crops that are harvested and burned in incinerators to create so-called "renewable energy" is nothing short of foolhardy," said Meg Sheehan of the Biomass Accountability Project. "These biomass burning electricity facilities emit hazardous air pollutants, more greenhouse gases per megawatt of energy than coal, and will destroy biodiversity."

According to Sheehan, billions of taxpayer dollars are scheduled to be spent on biomass electricity projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and hundreds of millions more to grow the "bioenergy crops" to burn.  "The subsidies for biomass energy, including BCAP, seriously undermine our efforts to balance the federal budget," said Sheehan.

For more information: www.nobiomassburning.org

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


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World Economic Forum report identifies biofuels as the 'game changer'

World Economic Forum report identifies biofuels as the 'game changer' to achieve aviation emission targets

This appalling article is suggesting global aviation should be using 13.6 million barrels of biofuel per day of biofuel. This works out at 4.9 billion barrels biofuel per year. At my calculation that is well over 6 times current global biofuels production. It could only be remotely possible, without immense environmental damage, if produced by algae in salt water, or not even then??? ]

23.5.2011 (GreenAir online)

An aviation sustainability report from the World Economic Forum http://www.weforum.org/ finds that achieving the industry's target of halving its carbon emissions by 2050 will be a significant challenge given an 85% CO2 emissions reduction gap.

This is despite a significant and continuous $6 trillion investment by airlines in newer and more fuel-efficient aircraft expected during the timeframe. The report identifies four key levers to reduce aviation carbon emissions:

- improving aviation infrastructure,
- increasing aircraft R&D,
- accelerating scale-up of aviation biofuels and
- implementing market-based measures.

It says biofuels could help bypass long aircraft lifetimes that limit the CO2 efficiency improvement potential of other technological innovations but 13.6 million barrels of sustainable second generation biofuels with significantly lower lifecycle CO2 emissions would be required daily by 2050 to meet the target.
The report says it is unlikely that governments will be able to provide all the necessary funds for the implementation of the necessary technological and infrastructure improvements and it will require the involvement of capital markets, private equity and, for developing countries, the multilateral development banks to fill in the financial gaps.

According to analysis by World Economic Forum and its partner on the report, Booz & Company, demand for passenger and cargo is projected to grow by 4.5% per year, from 540 billion revenue tonne kilometres in 2010 to 3,000 billion in 2050.

Carbon emissions are forecast to increase at a slower annual average rate of 3% a year, from 630 million tonnes in 2010 to around 2,000 million tonnes in 2050, assuming industry fleet improvements take place to replace old aircraft and cover demand growth with newer more fuel and CO2 efficient aircraft.

As such, the gap between the 2 billion tonnes base case and the industry target of 330 million tonnes in 2050 would equal almost three times today's total aviation CO2 emissions.
"Significant leadership opportunities need to be taken by the industry to ensure it can grow and still reach its CO2 targets," says the report.

It advises the industry to inform and educate policy-makers on the criticality and urgency of implementing aviation infrastructure improvements such as the US NextGen and the Single European Sky air traffic management projects. Industry should also work with policy-makers to develop financial and legal incentives to increase investment into incremental R&D for radical new aircraft technologies and to drive vertical partnerships with stakeholders along the entire biofuel value chain.

It also calls for industry to actively engage and support governments working with ICAO in the development of a global sectoral approach on market-based measures for aviation through partnerships with experts from the carbon finance community, and ensure that any measures that are developed focus on incentivising the parties best placed to make the CO2 abatement investment.

Positive fiscal incentives are seen as having the most potential to increase investment in reducing carbon by the aviation industry. Given that the report had a considerable input from airline and aviation interests, it unsurprisingly rejects green taxes and levies that are currently being implemented or discussed in different countries. It cautions that "taxes usually result in a net outflow of funds from the industry that inhibits investment in CO2 reduction projects."

The report argues that only a limited indirect effect on emissions reduction is likely to occur with such measures through the cost increase of air travel if carriers pass costs on to customers and the resulting likely slight decrease in air traffic. "In addition, the potential macroeconomic effect of more expensive and thus reduced air travel on GDP and economic development must be considered," it says, adding that aviation is an important enabler for the trade of goods, tourism, services and the socioeconomic development of nations.

The daily requirement for 13.6 million barrels of jet biofuel by 2050 to meet the industry target would represent a shift to 90% sustainable biofuels in 2050, estimates the report's researchers. [ 13.6 million barrels per day works out at 4.9 billion barrels per year. This is well over 6 times current global biofuels production. AirportWatch calculation. ]

Jürgen Ringbeck, Senior VP and aviation expert at Booz & Company, said the biggest challenge would be in building up the supply of sustainable biofuels and promoting their prioritisation for use in the aviation sector.
"The sector's move to biofuels requires significant investments to achieve a quantum leap in technology and increase production," he said. "The necessary market dynamics will only develop if governments set the right incentives for the agricultural sector, energy producers and the airlines to incubate a global aviation biofuel production system. Due to the early stage of development and high risks involved with aviation biofuels, a new innovative approach of all involved stakeholders is required."

The Geneva-based World Economic Forum said it hopes the report will lead industry and government stakeholders to engage in a wider discussion among themselves and with non-governmental communities to "build a practical enabling environment that should be conducive to catalysing a step change in private sector action to decrease aviation CO2 emissions, develop and deploy revolutionary existing and new technologies, and provide sustainable investment choices at scale and speed."

The report is the outcome of a year-long collaboration among leaders in the aviation, energy and financial services industries, governments, universities and international organisations.


World Economic Forum – `Policies and Collaborative Partnership for Sustainable Aviation' report



By comparison

The global biofuel production is estimated to reach 1,900 Million barrels in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% over the forecast period 2015 – 2020. (That's about half of current Saudi oil production).

In 2015 there may be around 130 billion litres of biofuel produced

(1 barrel of oil is about 159 litres. Therefore 130 billion litres is around 0.8 billion barrels. Compare that with the anticipated demand of 4.9 billion barrels biofuel by 2050)


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Thursday, May 26, 2011

European Commission sued for lack of transparency on biofuels policy

European Commission sued for lack of transparency on biofuels policy

26th May 2011

The European Commission has been sued, accused of violating European transparency laws. Environmental law organisation ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE), FERN and Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) filed the lawsuit following the Commission's refusal to provide access to information in decisions relating to the sustainability of Europe's biofuels policy.

The case before the General Court of the EU seeks to annul the Commission's decision to refuse public access to information about voluntary certification schemes used to ensure compliance with EU criteria on biofuel sustainability. In 2010 a request for information about organisations that had applied to operate the schemes, and how they are chosen, was rejected by the Commission. This was challenged in December, but despite a deadline of 4 February 2011, the Commission has still not responded.

The Renewable Energy Directive sets a 10 per cent target for use of renewable energy in the transport sector - expected to be met by increased production of biofuels. Increased pressure on land driven by the surge in demand for biofuels is resulting in increased greenhouse gas emissions as well as threatening vulnerable communities and biodiversity. The sustainability criteria are intended to prevent the most severe environmental impacts by requiring biofuels to protect high carbon stock areas and biodiversity standards set out in the Directive – social impacts are ignored.

Compliance is monitored by accredited voluntary certification schemes. These are accredited by the Commission to gauge whether consignments of biofuels meet sustainability criteria set out in the Renewable Energy Directive. The EU is currently considering which of these schemes it will accredit, but the process has lacked transparency.

James Thornton, ClientEarth CEO, said: "The amount of money at stake over Europe's biofuels policy is colossal, and so is the potential for environmental devastation. These policies are too important to shield from scrutiny, decision making processes need to be more participatory. We need to know which organisations have applied to run voluntary certification schemes, and how they've been chosen, so that we can be certain that they will provide robust and reliable information."

Robbie Blake, Friends of the Earth Europe's campaigner on agrofuels, said: "The European Commission has continually evaded its legal responsibility to disclose even the most basic information about voluntary certification schemes for Europe's biofuels. The stakes are high – ineffective certification schemes will give the green light to environmental abuse. We need transparency and participation in EU policy making – not secrecy and suspicion."

Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory, said: "Voluntary schemes, including the roundtables on palm oil and responsible soy, allow industry to greenwash damaging monoculture crops without taking account of the environmental or social costs. The Commission must lift the veil of secrecy or companies will continue to use these schemes to improve their image, without changing the way they operate."

Case study on the negative effects of biofuels

Kenya Jatropha Energy ltd, owned by Nuove Iniziative Industrali, has applied to plant 50,000 hectares of jatropha in Dakatcha on the North Eastern coast of Kenya, to make biodiesel principally destined for European markets.

It has been shown that the Dakatcha proposal would negatively affect greenhouse gas savings, once the land-use change consequences are considered. The area also qualifies as land with a high ability to retain and release carbon (high carbon stock) and so would violate EU law. It would also violate EU law because the area is home to globally threatened birds – it is classified as an `Important Bird Area'.

Dakatcha is home to 20,000 people who are reliant on small-scale farming and the woodlands for their livelihoods. These people would face eviction if the proposal was accepted.

This case study illustrates the need for a clear, transparent, accountable and effective compliance framework to ensure that the EU's policy-driven market for biofuels does not do more harm than good.


Notes to editors:

• An EU comitology committee on the sustainability of biofuels will meet on Friday 27 May to discuss a first series of 7 voluntary certification schemes. Information on the basis of which these schemes have been assessed is not publically available. Nor is any information available on the other schemes that are still under assessment.

• ClientEarth launched two other law-suits against the EU Commission for lack of transparency over biofuels policy in 2010. For details read this press release


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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Brazil loosens restrictions on Amazon land use


Brazil loosens restrictions on Amazon land use

Environmentalists fear bill to boost Brazil's food output will increase deforestation in Amazon rainforest

Dilma Rousseff
Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff has promised to veto a provision for an amnesty from harsh fines on farms that clear more trees than legally allowed. Photograph: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

Brazil's lower house has passed legislation that would loosen restrictions on how small farmers use their land in the Amazon forest.

Environmentalists still fear the revision bill would bring increased deforestation, but operators of small-scale farms and ranches defend the measure as a way to let them produce to full capacity and boost Brazil's food output.

The bill, which had been debated off and on in the House of Deputies for nearly two years, easily passed on Tuesday night by 410 votes to 63, but is expected to face a tougher fight when it goes before the Senate.
The bill would let farmers and ranchers with smallholdings to work land closer to river banks and to use hilltops.
It also provides for an amnesty from harsh fines on farms and ranches of any size that cleared more tree cover than legally allowed, but only for cutting before July 2008. President Dilma Rousseff has promised to veto that provision.
While they would be freed from penalties already levied, larger landholders would still have to replant land that they cleared beyond legal limits or buy and preserve the same amount of forested land elsewhere to make up for what they cut. In the Amazon, 80% of property is supposed to remain untouched forest. Elsewhere in Brazil, it ranges from 35% to 20%, depending on the area.
Smaller farmers those with less than 400 hectares (990 acres) of land would not have to replant forest land cleared before July 2008, but would still have to plant trees in areas illegally felled since then.
Legislative leaders dropped a provision that environmentalists feared most which would have removed all limits on preserving trees for small farmers and ranchers.
Environmentalists warn that the changes that remain in the legislation would lead to flooding, silty rivers and erosion and say the full package will inflict severe damage on the rainforest, an area the size of the US west of the Mississippi river that absorbs the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.
About 20% of the Brazilian rainforest has already been destroyed, and 75% of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to come from forest clearing as vegetation burns and felled trees rot.
Farmers, though, feel betrayed by the tough environmental rules imposed in the late 1990s. Two decades earlier, Brazil's military dictatorship, seeking to speed development, had encouraged them to enter the Amazon, offering them free land if they would clear up to 50% of their land of trees.
Environmentalists and farmers alike say Brazil's government is unable to adequately patrol the vast and inhospitable Amazon region to enforce the laws in any consistent manner.
Congressman Aldo Rebelo, who introduced the measure, said the law makes it impossible for farmers to make a living and almost no one complies with it.
"The environmental ministers are only looking at the environmental side, not mentioning any concern about that fact that almost 100% of farmers are illegal," he said. "Our concern is with the environment, but also with the situation of the farmers in our country."
Brazil's agricultural industry says the environmental laws keep the nation from meeting its economic potential. The country is the world's second larger producer of agricultural products while using just a third of its arable land, and farmers say they could easily surpass the US if they were not shackled by the laws.
Backers say the amnesty for tree-cutting fines is justified because many farmers cleared land well before the tighter limits were imposed, but environmentalists said it sets a bad precedent.
"The proposed amnesty upholds a long tradition in Brazil of legalising the illegal. People believe they can deforest illegally because sooner or later all will be forgiven," said Philip Fearnside of the government's National Institute for Amazon Research.
Satellite images from Brazil's National Institute for Space Research indicated deforestation in the Amazon last year dropped to its slowest pace in 22 years.
Between August 2009 and July 2010 6,450 sq km (2,490 sq miles) of forest were lost, a 14% drop from the year before, and the least since 1988 when the agency began recording the destruction. However, the government last week announced that 590 sq km of deforestation were recorded in March and April, nearly six times more than in the same period last year.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Amazon Activist Killed As Brazil Debates Land Bill

Amazon Activist Killed As Brazil Debates Land Bill

Date: 25-May-11
Country: BRAZIL
Author: Raymond Colitt

An Amazon rainforest activist and his wife were shot dead in northern Brazil on Tuesday as the country's Congress debated a divisive land bill that threatens to fuel deforestation.
Joao Claudio Ribeiro da Silva, a rubber tapper and leading forest conservationist, and his wife Maria do Espirito Santo were ambushed and killed in the Amazon state of Para, federal police and government officials said.
It was not immediately clear who shot the couple but Da Silva had warned of death threats against him by loggers and cattle ranchers.
Both victims were active in the same organization of forest workers that was founded by legendary conservationist Chico Mendes, who was assassinated by ranchers in 1988.
Da Silva, who frequented local and international seminars on Amazon protection, worked in defense of forest dwellers who make a living by extracting renewable resources such as nuts, rubber and fruits.
His death renews concern over the often violent conflicts surrounding natural resources in Latin America's largest country -- and comes at a particularly sensitive time for the government.
The lower house of Congress was debating an overhaul of Brazil's law on land usage that critics say represents a surrender to farming interests and would set back recent progress in protecting the Amazon.
Last week officials reported a sharp rise in deforestation that environmentalists said was likely fueled by expectations the new law, which gives amnesties much of the illegal tree-felling in recent decades, would pass.
President Dilma Rousseff ordered a federal police investigation into the murders of Da Silva and his wife, her office said. Brazilian federal police normally deal only with homicides in cases of human rights violations.
"Jose Claudio had been marked to die long ago, since he began denouncing deforestation and the illegal extraction of timber in the region," the grassroots network Forum of the Eastern Amazon said on its web page. "Once again they kill those who defend the forest."
Each year dozens of people in Brazil are killed in land disputes, many in the sprawling and sparsely policed Amazon region.
U.S.-born nun Dorothy Stang, who defended poor peasants and opposed the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, was shot dead in February 2005.
(Editing by Stuart Grudgings)

© Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved

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Colombia Shifts From Drugs To Food (and biofuel) In Farm Expansion

Colombia Shifts From Drugs To Food In Farm Expansion

Date: 24-May-11
Author: Mica Rosenberg

Colombia plans to nearly double agricultural land growing crops for food and biofuel, part of a new investment boom in the country as violence ebbs from a decades-long internal conflict fueled by drug profits.
The idea is to transform the vast eastern plains, dotted for years with illicit coca plantations, into the country's bread basket in a push to bring down food prices and boost revenues from agricultural exports.
But first Colombia will have to overcome serious infrastructure problems and concerns about land rights after millions of people have been displaced by violence.
Global food prices soared to a record in February and while they have fallen since then, many experts say they will stay high as populations grow faster than farmers can feed them.
Latin America could help buck that trend as the region in the world with the most land still available and suitable for agriculture after Africa.
Colombia has 53 million acres (21.5 million hectares) that could be planted with crops such as corn, soy, African palm and sugar but just 12 million (5 million) are currently being used, says the agriculture ministry.
Already the world's top grower of high-quality washed arabica coffee and No. 5 in palm oil, Colombia is mostly self sufficient in food production but imports more than 3 million tons of corn each year for animal feed. The government wants to grow enough corn to cover up to half of domestic demand.
Large swaths of the Andean nation were off limits for years as drug runners, leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitary groups battled over territory. But a U.S.-backed crackdown has helped cut coca planting, which fell 13 percent last year compared to 2009 to 145,000 acres.
Colombia is still the world's No. 1 coca grower. Violence remains a problem, including bloodshed over land rights, but security has opened up the possibility of farming in once avoided areas.
"Colombia is one of the few countries left that can expand agriculture into new areas, not everyone can do that, and also improve productivity," Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo told Reuters.
He said there are 10 million acres (4 million hectares) perfect for conversion to farmland in the eastern plains, a region known as the Orinoquia. In the next four years, the government wants to plant a quarter of that, spending up to $5 billion, with hopes the private sector will invest even more.
Colombia also has a huge expanse of cattle pastures, 93 million acres (38 million hectares), but is not a major beef exporter. The government wants to shrink cattle land to free it up for farming, producing the same amount in less space.
The development will not happen overnight -- it could take eight to 10 years -- but that is a fraction of what it took Brazil to become a global agricultural powerhouse.
Colombia's Orinoquia has acidic soils similar to those of Brazil's central savanna, which were converted into vast fertile soy plots with heavy investments in lime and fertilizers.
Such techniques concern environmentalists, but Colombian agronomists are eager to learn from Brazilian experts. Since 1991, Brazil's national production of grains nearly tripled while planted area only increased about 30 percent.
A lack of investment in research left Colombia behind neighbors like Brazil and Argentina, another top soy producer. Both countries are now cashing in on a commodities boom.
"It's very sad to see a country that can benefit big (from high food prices) not taking the opportunity that it has in its in hands. That's why I am so excited to see Colombia addressing some of these critical bottlenecks," said Ethel Sennhauser, World Bank's regional manager for Latin American agriculture.
"Colombia has the potential to become a big player in future agriculture markets," she said.
One hindrance raising the cost of exports is poor infrastructure, a legacy of years of conflict. Also, torrential rains and flooding have battered the country for months, damaging roads which must be fixed before new ones can be built.
Another hurdle lies at the root of Colombia's internal conflict: land rights. Some 10 million acres (4 million hectares) have been taken from peasants by heavily armed paramilitaries, drug lords and ranchers.
President Juan Manuel Santos is proposing reforms to return stolen plots to their rightful owners while giving legal titles to more than 1.2 million informal property holders. But the handover could prove dangerous for land rights activists, with nine killed during the first six months of Santos' term.
The government also wants to increase plantings of African palm and sugarcane by 20 percent for biofuel and says there is plenty of land to avoid a competition between food and fuel.
But human rights groups are wary of palm oil's expansion after hundreds of Afro-Colombians were chased from their land by paramilitary groups with links to drug lords.
Leftist lawmaker Wilson Arias said people forced off land are scared to return and will likely sell to big farm companies.
"The land will be taken back from criminals but it will not necessarily go back to the peasants," he said.
(Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Alden Bentley)

© Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved

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Indonesia Finally Signs Forest Clearing Moratorium

[The original article includes picture]

Indonesia Finally Signs Forest Clearing Moratorium

Date: 20-May-11
Author: Olivia Rondonuwu

Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono inked into law on Thursday a two-year moratorium on new permits to clear primary forests, part of a $1 billion deal with Norway that could spur projects to cut emissions and slow expansion of plantations.
The moratorium ordered a freeze on new permits to log or convert primary forests and peatlands -- worrying palm oil, timber and mining firms in Southeast Asia's biggest economy -- but not going far enough for environmentalists.
"We mean business when we say we would like to reform our forest and peatland management. There will be no new permits on 64 million hectares," Agus Purnomo, Indonesia's presidential advisor on climate change, told Reuters Television.
"We mean business in the sense that we are continuing to grow our economy, because we allocate 35 million hectares of degraded forest for agriculture, mining and other development uses," he said in an interview.
The moratorium was due to start on January 1 but has been delayed because of wrangling between government ministries over how much forest to include, a symbol of the long-running tension between a nationalistic business old guard and more internationally minded reformers in the government.
The dispute showed how difficult it will be for Indonesia to reach a target of slashing emissions by at least 26 percent by 2020 while still spurring economic growth, as the G20 member earns billions each year from cutting down forests.
Plantation and mining firms opposed the moratorium, which could slow the expansion of firms such as Astra Agro Lestari in the world's top palm oil producing nation, and delay coal and mining projects worth $14 billion by firms such as BHP Billiton.
The details of the final version are expected to be released on Friday. A previous draft seen by Reuters said it would exempt the extension of old permits, projects given permits in principle by the forestry ministry, and issuance of permits to log secondary non-peatland forests or convert degraded land.
The draft version also exempted projects to develop energy supplies such as geothermal power, as well a huge food plantation project in the lushly forested Papua province, since both energy and food security are seen as critical by Yudhoyono.
Andreas Prasetiya, head of investor relations at Gozco Plantations, said the palm oil firm had permits for 70,000 hectares out of a total 124,000 hectares, but the moratorium could affect the remaining 44 percent of its landbank, in a greenfield area on Borneo island.
"I don't see the benefits of it just yet. We are receiving a $1 billion contribution from the Norwegian government... two or three years ago maybe it seemed like big money, but with crude palm oil prices now, $1 billion doesn't seem like big money," he told Reuters.
"They say if your area is affected with the moratorium, they will give you another replacement area -- come on, let's be realistic. Everybody is competing for land -- who is going give up their land?"
The details will also be scrutinized by green groups and Norway, which has pledged $1 billion if Indonesia can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. Norway's environment ministry was not immediately available for comment.
The moratorium's implementation will be a test of bilateral climate deals, after the five-month delay mirrored the inability of nations to agree a pact to limit global greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2012 at U.N. talks so far.
Forests soak up large amounts of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed by scientists for causing global warming.
The fact that Yudhoyono actually managed to sign it was welcomed by some, hopeful it will be a catalyst to develop projects to reduce carbon emissions from the forestry sector.
"It's a stepping stone toward fixing long-standing problems of land conflict, forest governance and other issues," said Dharsono Hartono, whose firm is developing a project to protect a large area of carbon-rich peat swamp forest in Central Kalimantan on Borneo.
The forestry ministry has defined primary forest as forest that has grown naturally for hundreds of years, of which there is estimated to be around 44 million hectares in a sprawling tropical archipelago where illegal logging is common.
The devil may be in the implementation as well as the details, in a country where institutional corruption is rampant and legal enforcement often weak.
Nils Hermann Ranum, head of policy at the Oslo-based Rainforest Foundation, estimated the presidential plan only extended protection to an extra 16 million hectares and fell far short of past commitments if it covered just "primary" forests.
"It looks like Indonesia is now making a serious limitation of the scope of the moratorium," said Ranum.
(Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Daniel Magnowski)

© Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved

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Please object to new biofuel power station application in Leeds

Last November, Rocpower, a subsidiary of Hargreaves Services, withdrew an application for a biofuel power station in Bramham, Leeds, following large numbers of local and national objections.

Now, they have re-submitted the same plans, asking for permission to burn both vegetable oil and tall oil (a co-product of pulp and paper production). Rocpower's planning application explicitly states that they intend to burn whichever biofuels are most readily available and feasible, including palm oil.

Rocpower previously announced plans for at least six such biofuel power stations. One of their power stations, in Wakefield, has already been running since December 2009, with serious air pollution problems.

For more background information and to object to the application, please go to http://www.biofuelwatch.org.uk/rpleeds_may2011.php .

If you already objected to Rocpower's previous planning application in Leeds then please do so again.  Many thanks.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Malaysia and Indonesia bolster defence of palm oil industry to west

Malaysia and Indonesia bolster defence of palm oil industry to west

Countries form European Palm Oil Council in attempt to counter criticism of industry's environmental record

Malaysia and Indonesia, which together account for about 90% of the world's palm oil production, have launched a joint PR offensive to defend the industry's environmental record.

Late last week, ministers from the two countries agreed to finalise plans for a European Palm Oil Council (EPOC) by the end of this year, to defend the trade of palm oil to the European Union and counter the "anti-palm oil campaign". The industry has been accused by environmental groups of destroying biodiversity and causing social conflicts, deforestation and climate change.

In a joint communique, the countries said: "This body will provide the industry [with] a collective platform to represent both countries on public debates that relate to palm oil issues such as sustainability, energy security, public health, address NGOs' anti palm-oil campaigns, non-aligned lobby groups, media, journalists and feedbacks of Members of the European Parliament."

In another move to promote palm oil to the western market, Bernard Dompok, minister of plantation industries and commodities in Malaysia and Dr Suswono Asyraf, minister of agriculture in Indonesia, will visit Washington DC next week. They will discuss barriers to palm oil trade with the US secretaries of agriculture and energy, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US secretary of commerce and US-ASEAN business.

Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/may/20/malaysia-indonesia-palm-oil-defence

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Friday, May 20, 2011

ActionAid campaign against transport biofuels

ActionAid are running a texting campaign opposing the use of biofuels in UK road transport. Texts will be delivered to the Department for Transport who are proposing that we use MORE biofuels, even though they admit that sustainability is an issue.

To send in your objection, please follow these steps:

1. Type the word ACTION into a text

2. Add your message against biofuels - your own or use one of these suggestions:

- "Biofuel companies are harming poor people and the environment. Scrap the target now."

- "Biofuels are a fake solution to climate change. Scrap the target for biofuels in transport."

3. Add your name and full postcode to the text like this...

ACTION Biofuels are harming people in poor countries. Scrap the target. Joanna Bloggs, C13 9PQ

4.Send the text to 82727

To see the other messages coming in from anti-biofuel campaigners around the country, visit www.actionaid.org.uk/mytext


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Key recent UK Parliamentary Answers relating to biofuels

[highlighting on first answer]

1. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2011-05-17a.176.0&s=biofuel#g181.2

House of Commons debates, 17 May 2011, 4:41 pm

Photo of John Redwood
John Redwood (Wokingham, Conservative)How exactly does the Secretary of State propose to ensure that the glass and ceramics, and steel and chemicals industries, which are high energy users, are not damaged by the taxes and regulations that he is proposing today?
Photo of Christopher Huhne

Christopher Huhne (Secretary of State, Energy and Climate Change; Eastleigh, Liberal Democrat)

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his question. The energy-intensive work group that we have set up between my Department and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will come forward with a set of measures by the end of the year. That is a clear commitment. As he knows, there are a number of ways to help energy-intensive industries, including the free allocation of units under the EU emissions trading scheme and encouraging a move towards the use of biomass and biofuels, for example. We are looking at all those measures to ensure that we can balance the concerns of the energy-intensive industries as well as make substantial progress towards the low-carbon economy.

2. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2011-05-17a.55405.h&s=biofuel+section%3Awrans

Written answers and statements, 17 May 2011

Photo of Jim Cunningham
Jim Cunningham (Coventry South, Labour)To ask the Secretary of State for Transport with which representatives of (a) European and (b) UK organisations he has discussed the use of biofuels in aviation since May 2010; and if he will make a statement.
Photo of Theresa Villiers

Theresa Villiers (Minister of State (Rail and Aviation), Transport; Chipping Barnet, Conservative)

The Department for Transport Ministers meet regularly with representatives from UK and European organisations where they discuss a range of transport issues including the use of biofuels in aviation.
The Government have announced their intention to develop a sustainable policy framework for UK aviation. On 30 March 2011, the Department for Transport published a scoping document that frames the debate on the future direction of aviation policy and asks a series of questions, including on use of biofuels in aviation. The responses to the scoping document will help to inform the development of a draft framework, which we intend to publish for full public consultation in March 2012.

3. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2011-05-17a.53226.h&s=biofuel+section%3Awrans

Written answers and statements, 17 May 2011

Photo of Joan Ruddock

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what consideration his Department has given to the findings of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics report, Biofuels: ethical issues; and whether he plans to take any steps as a consequence of its findings.
Photo of Norman Baker

Norman Baker (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Regional and Local Transport), Transport; Lewes, Liberal Democrat)

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics report presents some finely balanced arguments around the ethical issues of biofuels.
The Government are clear that biofuels used must lead to a worthwhile reduction in carbon emissions and be sustainable. We are working with colleagues across Government to ensure a coherent approach to the deployment of sustainable biofuels.
As part of the EU renewable energy directive, the European Commission must monitor and report every two years on the impact of biofuel policy on social sustainability.
The reports must address issues of land use rights, and state whether the raw material for biofuel use in the EU has complied with Conventions of the International Labour Organisation. If necessary the Commission must propose corrective action.

4. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2011-05-17a.52963.h&s=biofuel+section%3Awrans#g52963.r0

Written answers and statements, 17 May 2011

Photo of Jim Fitzpatrick

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse, Labour)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether his Department expects to fully implement the Renewable Energy Directive before the outcome of the EU examination of indirect land use change; and if he will make a statement.
Photo of Norman Baker

Norman Baker (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Regional and Local Transport), Transport; Lewes, Liberal Democrat)

We are currently consulting on proposals to implement the transport elements of the Renewable Energy Directive. The consultation period will run until 2 June 2011. Consultation documents can be found on the Department for Transport (DfT) website.
DfT takes the issue of indirect land use change (ILUC) seriously. We have recently published research on the scale of ILUC and are continuing to lead work on how to reduce ILUC impacts.
Given the legitimate concerns and uncertainties around the sustainability of some biofuels, the consultation does not propose changes to the current overall biofuel supply trajectory that is set out in the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation Order 2007. However, there will be a legal obligation on the Secretary of State for Transport to keep this issue under review and to consider what additional measures will be required to ensure that the UK delivers the requirements of the EU RED and FQD period 2014 to 2020.
We will review the European Commission report on options for addressing ILUC before setting post-2014 targets.

5. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2011-05-10c.53967.h&s=biofuel+section%3Awrans

Photo of Charlotte Leslie

Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what assessment he made of the implications for human rights of the Clean Development Mechanism projects (a) aguan biogas recovery from palm oil mill effluent ponds and biogas utilisation and (b) lean biogas recovery from palm oil mill effluent ponds and biogas/biomass utilisation prior to authorising the purchase of credits from each project.
Photo of Gregory Barker

Gregory Barker (Minister of State (Climate Change), Energy and Climate Change; Bexhill and Battle, Conservative)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is aware of the allegations in respect of these projects and has written to the CDM Executive Board to request a robust investigation. Of the two projects mentioned in recent representations by Biofuelswatch, the UK Government have issued only a Letter of Authorisation (LoA) in respect of the participation of EDF Trading Ltd in the Aguan Biogas Recovery project (CDM reference number 3197). The Lean Biogas Recovery project was not authorised by the UK.
When assessing the Aguan project the standard procedures for dealing with applications seeking UK authorisation of companies participation in CDM projects were followed. These require the applicant to submit documentation including a letter of approval from the Honduran Government stating that the project contributes to sustainable development alongside a declaration that all documentation is correct. On the basis of these assurances, a letter of authorisation was issued to EDF Trading Ltd based on these assurances on 3 June 2009, prior to the events recounted in the allegations. We understand that EDF energy has since withdrawn from participation in the project.
The final assessment of whether any CDM project is compliant with CDM rules lies with the CDM Executive Board, which is currently reviewing the status of the Aguan project.

6. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2011-05-10c.53968.h&s=biofuel+section%3Awrans

Written answers and statements, 10 May 2011

Photo of Charlotte Leslie

Charlotte Leslie (Bristol North West, Conservative)

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what representations he has received on the (a) augan biogas recovery from palm oil mill effluent ponds and biogas utilisation and (b) lean biogas recovery from palm oil mill effluent ponds and biogas/biomass utilisation project under the Clean Development Mechanism; and if he will make a statement.
Photo of Gregory Barker

Gregory Barker (Minister of State (Climate Change), Energy and Climate Change; Bexhill and Battle, Conservative)

The allegations of human rights abuses in connection with these two projects were first brought to the attention of the Secretary of State on 4 February 2011, when a letter of protest was received from a coalition of NGOs led by Biofuelwatch. This was followed in early April by a mass e-mail campaign.
The allegations are plainly deplorable. Consequently the Secretary of State wrote to number of relevant organisations and responsible bodies, expressing his concern and requesting further information. These organisations included the Honduran authorities, the CDM Executive Board and the UK authorised project participant, EDF Trading Ltd. The Secretary of State also asked the Executive Board to assess whether the project meets CDM rules and to deal with the human rights allegations in so far as they are able.
EDF Trading Ltd has recently announced that it is terminating its involvement in the two projects. Of the two projects EDF had received only a UK Letter of Authorisation (LoA) for one: the Aguan Biogas Recovery Project. Since the UK LoA was valid for use only by EDF, the termination of their involvement in the project effectively renders the letter defunct.


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New blog and email action on UK biofuel policy

The UK Government is currently consulting on it's biofuel policy.

Last week Friends of the Earth, RSPB and ActionAid held a joint parliamentary briefing event on biofuels. Here is a short blog on it:


There is also a new email action to tell your MP that biofuels are a false solution



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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wood fuel poised to be next global commodity

Analysis: Wood fuel poised to be next global commodity

By Gerard Wynn
LONDON | Thu May 19, 2011

(Reuters) - Wood fuel, one of the oldest energy sources on the planet, could become the newest commodity market if it can overcome supply limits and green concerns as demand grows for renewable energy.

Supply constraints are starting to put wood fuel into competition with the paper industry, experts say, in an uneasy reminder of existing tension between the food industry and companies making biofuels from food crops.

In theory burning wood and crop waste emits less carbon than fossil fuels because it simply returns to the air carbon accumulated by plants as they grow, but that balance breaks down if stock is not replanted, or natural forests are logged.

In the meantime, utilities are burning biomass in ever greater amounts and now want price certainty and derivatives to manage their cost exposure in forward power sales, although European policymakers are mulling limits on subsidies for burning wood fuel given concerns about deforestation.

"It's coming very fast," said John Bingham, a director at consultants Hawkins Wright, referring to the development of an open market, and citing Eurostat data showing EU imports of wood pellets up 42 percent last year.

He saw increasing evidence of a larger scale market including big producers of wood pellets in Europe and North America and big intermediaries, such as Cargill and Gazprom, to balance large utility buyers.

Shaped wood pellets are made for the energy sector, while raw wood chips are used mostly by the paper industry.

The energy exchange APX-Endex is working with the Port of Rotterdam to supply an exchange-traded pellet product this year, while index provider FOEX has joined up with specialists Wood Resources International (WRI) for a global wood chip index.

Those developments herald a gradual shift to a more transparent market beyond bilateral deals between suppliers and users, such as timber companies and utilities.


Indicating the size of appetite, Britain's biggest coal-fired power plant, Drax, burned nearly 1 million tonnes of biomass last year, more than double previous years, while burning ten times that amount of coal.

Drax says biomass expansion depends on clearer UK support, under power market reforms to be announced before the summer. Its sources include straw and energy crops such as miscanthus.

Wood pellets have about 70 percent of the calorific value of coal, experts say.

The British arm of German utility RWE, RWE npower will this year convert a coal plant near London to burn biomass.

The aging plant will burn 2 million tonnes through 2015, when it is due to close, said a spokesman who added the facility would be a test bed for the alternative fuel.

That compares with domestic UK wood fuel production, excluding recycled or waste wood, of about 1.5 million tonnes annually, according to Forestry Commission data, underlining a need for a global trade.

It is an open question whether there is enough volume for an open market, however, given utilities have already tied up large volumes in long contracts, or produce pellets for themselves, said WRI's Hakan Ekstrom.

If EU wood fuel subsidies were more predictable and reliable -- for example the UK support to be announced in the next few weeks -- then utilities would commit to buy bigger volumes, and so motivate more supply, traders say.

But new utility demand for wood fuel, subsidized by EU low-carbon incentives, may also impact the paper and even construction industries, Ekstrom added.

"The concern is that the energy industry is starting to compete with pulp in particular but even MDF or particle board plants. They don't like to see that the energy sector is subsidized so that they can pay more for chips and pulp logs.

"That's starting to be a problem or an issue in Europe, in North America, Latin America."


And that supply issue drives concerns whether a burgeoning wood fuel market may damage natural forests.

"It's a completely crazy idea that we can burn our way out of climate change," said Robert Palgrave from the green group Biofuelwatch UK, who preferred wind power or energy efficiency.

Palgrave was among two dozen or so protesters outside an Environmental Finance biomass conference in London last week.

Such concerns are reflected in a European Commission study of the environmental impact of biomass incentives.

The Commission will decide this year whether to propose new eligibility rules, called sustainability criteria, for biomass subsidies.

"The Commission intends to publish the next report by the end of the year, as requested," said a spokeswoman. The biomass industry says it is working on its own green standards, and that plantation forests and waste will be the main sources of supply.

(Editing by Keiron Henderson)



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War Declared Against the Peasantry of the Lower Aguán

War Declared Against the Peasantry of the Lower Aguán

The Wave of Killings, Tortures, and Disappearances Continues

Cross-posted from Giorgio Trucchi – Rel-UITA

By Giorgio Trucchi – Rel-UITA; translated by Jeff Conant, GJEP

While North American diplomacy increases the pressure to normalize the situation in Honduras at the international level, and to reinsert the nation into the Organization of American States (OAS), the organized peasantry of the lower Aguán continues falling beneath the bullets of paramilitary groups that enjoy total impunity and the complicit silence of the authorities of a failed state.

This morning, May 18, Sixto Ramos, a member of business Nueva Suyapa of the Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MCA), was killed. Sixto was 45 years old. According to a reconstruction of the events, Ramos was driving to work when he was intercepted by unknown assailants in another vehicle who fired on him until he was killed.

"The repression in the Bajo Aguán continues against those of us who are supporting the struggle for access to land," said José Santos Cruz, a member of the MCA who formed a part of the International Mission in March, 2011 that investigated the human rights situation in Bajo Aguán.

"Sixto Ramos was a compañero and member of the business Nueva Suyapa, and has always supported the struggle of the MCA. We believe that this new killing is directly linked to our conflict with the land-owners and [African] palm producers of the zone," said Cruz.

Notice of War

Last week, peasant farmers José Paulino Lemus Cruz and Henry Roney Díaz, members of the MCA and of the Movimiento Auténtico Reivindicador de Campesinos del Aguán (MARCA), were both brutally killed.

On May 10, Alejandro Gómez, a member of the farm La Trinidad, which belongs to MARCA, was kidnapped by the private security guards of local landowners, interrogated, and savagely tortured for three days before being released. He is currently in hiding for fear of being killed.

On May 15, the peasant farmer Francisco Pascual López, 38 years old, was disappeared. According to the available information, the people who last saw him heard gunfire prior to his disappearance. When they arrived at his house, he was gone.

With the violent death of Sixto Ramos, the number of deaths suffered by the peasant organizations in the lower Aguán has risen to 28 in the past 15 months. Regardless, international pressure continues to build to demand that Honduras be restored its seat in the OAS.

"They haven't been able to defeat us with the massive militarization of the Army and the Police, and now they are attacking us selectively. They want to decimate us, killing us one by one. As the MCA we are going to unite to take the necessary steps, because we can't continue simply denouncing these crimes," said Cruz.

"The regime offers a false image of Honduras. This country is not at peace, and people continue being killed. It would be lamentable to ignore so many cadavers and so many human rights violations. The conditions do not exist under which Honduras should return to the OAS," Cruz concluded.



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Huge surge in Amazon deforestation

Huge surge in Amazon deforestation
May 17, 2011

Analysis by Imazon, a research institute, has confirmed a huge surge in deforestation in a critical part of the Brazilian Amazon.

Imazon's satellite-based deforestation detection system recorded a near doubling in forest clearing in the state of Mato Grosso from August 2010-April 2011 over the year-earlier period. The findings are significant because Mato Grosso, which accounts for the bulk of Amazon deforestation in most years, is a bellwether for deforestation trends in Brazil.

Imazon's analysis shows that deforestation amounted to 243 km square in Mato Grosso in the month of April, a 537 percent increase over April 2010. But forest degradation — logging, burning, and thinning of forest that often precedes deforestation — reached 1,755 square kilometers in the month, up from 13 square kilometers April a year earlier.

The news comes just days after data leaked by Brazil's national space research agency INPE also showed a big increase in deforestation. But INPE hasn't officially released the data from its rapid deforestation detection (DETER) system, which has now been delayed by more than two months.

Imazon and other groups say the spike in deforestation is related to the ongoing debate over Brazil's forest code. Anticipating a weakening in the code that would grant amnesty for deforestation, farmers and ranchers have been clearing swathes of forest. Dry conditions, lingering from last year's worst-ever drought, have exacerbated the situation.


Information leak: Amazon deforestation increases sharply while forest code debated
Rhett A. Butler, May 16, 2011

Deforestation has increased sharply in Mato Grosso over the past nine months according to information leaked to Folha.com.

The news, revealed during a lecture last Friday in Cuiaba, is significant because INPE, Brazil's space research agency that tracks deforestation has unusually not provided any updates from its rapid deforestation detection system (DETER) since February, a period during which Brazil's forest code has been hostly debated in Congress. The agricultural lobby is pushing for reductions in the amount of forest farmers and ranchers must set aside for conservation under the forest code. Environmentalists call the proposed changes a weakening of the code and fear it could be used to grant amnesty to deforesters and encourage more forest clearing in the future. Some green groups say there has already been an uptick in clearing in anticipation of amnesty.

According to Folha.com, deforestation in Mato Grosso climbed 43% between August 2010 and April 2011 compared with the same period last year. Mato Grosso, which accounts for the bulk of Amazon deforestation in most years, is a bellwether for deforestation trends in Brazil.

While the data raises concern, INPE officials have long cautioned about making judgements about deforestation trends based on DETER, which has coarser resolution than Brazil's annual tracking system called PRODES. DETER's accuracy can also obscured by cloud cover, which is especially common during the rainier times of the year from November through June.

Brazil is testing a new system to improve the accuracy of its deforestation tracking. Over the past couple of years some officials have expressed concern that deforesters are clearing smaller tracts of land to avoid detection by satellite. While the individual tracts are smaller, the number of cleared areas is greater.



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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Indirect land use change for biofuels

<<This study by Michigan State University has been picked up by the industry - the report actually says better analysis is needed to determine if ILUC has happened in the US as a result of biofuels. Industry is spinning this to say ILUC hasn't happened.>>

For example:

New Study Shows No Bond Between Land Use Changes and Biofuels

NAFB News Service

Researchers at Michigan State University used historical data on U.S. croplands, commodity grain exports and land use trends to see if there was a link between indirect land use change (ILUC) and biofuels expansion through 2007. They concluded that U.S. biofuel production has not provoked ILUC, saying crop intensification may have absorbed the effects of expanding biofuels production or the effects of production expansion may be negligible within the accuracy of the data. This conclusion is similar to that of a recent conclusion made by the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which says ILUC as a result of corn ethanol expansion during the past 10 years has been minimal to zero.

The ILUC theory suggests any acre used to produce feedstocks for biofuels in the U.S. results in new acres entering food or feed production in other areas of the world. Previous ILUC studies have not compared predictions to past global historical data - as the MSU study did. The researchers' report suggests cropland expansion in other countries isn't correlated to U.S. biofuels demand for certain feedstocks. Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen says this research has demonstrated that ILUC as a matter of science and fact is wrong and has been deeply flawed since its beginning. He says biofuels like ethanol offer unparalleled environmental benefits as a renewable alternative to gasoline.


also covered by Renewable Fuels Association at


<<But the paper itself is far less certain about the lack of ILUC from biofuels>>:

Indirect land use change for biofuels: Testing predictions and improving analytical methodologies

Seungdo Kima, and Bruce E. Dale,

Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, Michigan State University, 3900 Collins Road, Lansing, MI 48910, USA

Received 27 January 2011; revised 21 April 2011; accepted 25 April 2011. Available online 13 May 2011.

Current practices for estimating indirect land use change (iLUC) due to United States biofuel production rely on assumption-heavy, global economic modeling approaches. Prior iLUC studies have failed to compare their predictions to past global historical data. An empirical approach is used to detect evidence for iLUC that might be catalyzed by United States biofuel production through a "bottom-up", data-driven, statistical approach. Results show that biofuel production in the United States from 2002 to 2007 is not significantly correlated with changes in croplands for corn (coarse grain) plus soybean in regions of the world which are corn (coarse grain) and soybean trading partners of the United States. The results may be interpreted in at least two different ways: 1) biofuel production in the United States through 2007 (the last date for which information is available) probably has not induced any indirect land use change, and 2) this empirical approach may not be sensitive enough to detect indirect land use change from the historical data. It seems clear that additional effort may be required to develop methodologies to observe indirect land use change from the historical data. Such efforts might reduce uncertainties in indirect land use change estimates or perhaps form the basis for better policies or standards for biofuels.

&#9658; We search for evidence for ILUC due to US biofuel from the historical data. &#9658; No significant correlations are found between US biofuel production and cropland changes elsewhere. &#9658; US biofuel through 2007 probably did not induce ILUC or. &#9658; This empirical approach using historical data is not capable of detecting ILUC. &#9658; More sophisticated methodologies to detect ILUC from empirical data are needed.



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