See Chris Goodall's blog
A truckload of corn is dumped into a chute at the Lincolnway Energy plant in the town of Nevada, Iowa, December 6, 2007.
Photo: Jason Reed
Environmentalists Say Moratorium on Forest Conversion an Empty Promise
Fidelis E. Satriastanti | February 17, 2011
Green activists said on Wednesday that the government's much-hyped plan for a moratorium on new logging concessions would only apply to forests that were already protected in the first place.
The two-year moratorium on new concessions in peatland and primary forests is part of a bilateral agreement with Norway, in exchange for which Indonesia will receive $1 billion in funding for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD-plus) activities.
In order for the moratorium to be legally binding from its Jan. 1 start date, it must be backed by a presidential decree, which has yet to be issued.
The Civil Society Organization Common Platform, comprising the groups Greenpeace Southeast Asia, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law and Sawit Watch, a palm oil industry watchdog, said even if enforced, the government's claim that the moratorium would protect more forested areas was blatantly false.
"The government lied about the moratorium, because based on a map [of the affected forest areas], only 41 million hectares will be protected, but these are already categorized as conservation and protected areas," said Teguh Surya, head of international liaison and climate justice at Walhi.
"[The moratorium] will be useless, because even without it, [those forests] are automatically protected anyway."
There are two versions of the draft presidential decree, one submitted by the Forestry Ministry and the other by the presidentially appointed REDD task force.
The ministry's version states the moratorium should apply only to primary forests and peatlands, while the task force's version says secondary forests in peat areas should also be included.
The CSO's newly released "Indicative Indonesian Moratorium Map" shows there are 32.9 million hectares of primary forest, 6.5 million hectares of non-forest peatland and 2.4 million hectares of secondary peat forest, all protected under prevailing regulations.
Kiki Taufik, a geographic information specialist with Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said both versions offered the same thing, though their wording differed.
"It's just a name game between the two drafts," he said.
"The ministry wants to save primary forests and peatland, but doesn't specify what type of peatland. Meanwhile, the task force states it wants to protect primary forests, secondary forests and peatland, but the secondary forests it wants covered are only those in peat areas, so there's no difference."
He said the CSO wanted the moratorium to extend to all secondary forests, which account for the remaining 95 million hectares of the country's forests.
Abetnego Tarigan, director of Sawit Watch, said almost all forested areas in the country were logging areas and categorized as secondary forests.
"The government doesn't take into consideration a forest's ability to recover on its own, so there are plenty of areas that have recovered but are still considered secondary forests," he said.
"This is also why logging permits can be issued for these areas, because they're still secondary forests even though they've recovered."
Abetnego said incorporating secondary forests into the plan would not paralyze the industry.
"Those protesting about including secondary forests in the moratorium are from the extractive industries, such as mining and monoculture [plantations] because they need to cut down all the trees," he said.
He also said businesses should fully support a moratorium because it would provide an opportunity to fix the complicated system for issuing concessions.
"It costs them a lot to get permits now, where you have several regulations overlapping one another," Abetnego said.
"It's completely wrong to say that we'd lose trillions as a result of the moratorium, because the truth is natural resources aren't a creative industry but a basic industry. It's not like software, which needs to be put into use as soon as possible. If we don't use our natural resources, we can hold on to them for the future."
Councillors vote to fight biomass plant
CONTROVERSIAL plans for a multi-million pound biomass plant suffered a setback this week.
Forth Energy's proposals for a 100 megawatt development, on Forth Ports' land at Grangemouth Docks, had already generated a large number of objections from residents and Grangemouth community council.
Now Falkirk Council has lodged its official opposition to the proposals.
The council's planning committee yesterday (Wednesday), went against officers' recommendations and voted to oppose, in principle, Forth Energy's plans.
It was claimed a main concern was the lack of information on the impact the development, which would bring significant investment and jobs, would have on air quality in the town.
Councillor Angus MacDonald said: "The good health of 18,000 Grangemouth residents is more important than the 300 jobs the site would bring. This is the wrong site in the wrong place and 75 per cent of residents are against it. It is too close to housing and the Asda superstore. The wood to be used as fuel is to be imported from North America - which is hardly locally sourced. It is clearly not renewable energy if the plant is not close to the actual fuel source."
Councillor Alistair McNeill, who supported Councillor MacDonald's motion to oppose the plans, stated the 300 jobs the development would create would be construction jobs and the plant would only employ around 40 people when it was up and running.
The council's environmental health officers said the information they had been supplied suggested it was unlikely the plant would have an adverse impact on air quality in the town.
Council leader Craig Martin added that the plans were in line with the local authority's planning policies and moved the committee approve the proposals in principle.
He said: "We are not the decision-making body here. We are simply referring our views to Scottish ministers, who will then take their decision at a later date."
However, planning committee convener Billy Buchanan backed the motion to oppose.
He said: "This is one of the biggest applications to come forward to this council so we have to make sure it is of benefit to the wider community. We don't want to be accused in the future of imposing anything which will have an adverse effect on the community. "We would like to see this massive investment in the area, but a lot of questions remain unanswered."
Spain will lower motorway speed limits, cut train prices and use more biofuel in a bid to combat rising oil prices due to Libya unrest
Spain will lower motorway speed limits, cut train ticket prices and use more biofuel under an emergency energy-saving initiative because of soaring oil prices brought on by unrest in Libya, an official said Friday.
The Libya crisis has sharply reduced exports from the oil-rich nation, and about 13% of the oil Spain consumes comes from Libya.
Deputy prime minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, said Spain's energy supply is not in danger, despite shutdowns by oil companies operating in Libya, but the national energy bill will rise significantly because of the sharply higher petroleum prices.
He said a €10 per barrel (£8.50 per barrel) increase in oil prices will cost Spain an extra €500m (£425m) per month.
Spain's energy saving measures will be approved formally next week and take effect on a temporary basis on 7 March.
The maximum speed limit on Spanish motorways is 120kph (75mph) and this will be reduced to 110kph (68mph). The government will rush to print new signs to alert people of the change.
"We are going to go a bit slower and in exchange for that we are going to consume less gasoline and therefore pay less money," Pérez Rubalcaba said. For instance, he said, a car running on petrol will use 15% less fuel at the new, lower speed limit.
The government also will order a 5% reduction in fares on commuter and middle-distance trains by the state railway system Renfe.
"We are going to wage a major campaign to promote public transport, which is always welcome but which in this case is absolutely necessary for us," he said.
Finally, oil companies will also have to add more biofuel to the gasoline and diesel they produce – from the current mandatory 5.8% proportion, up to 7%, the deputy prime minister said.
WASHINGTON — Former President Bill Clinton on Thursday warned farmers not to use so much corn for ethanol fuel that it leads to higher food prices and riots in poor countries.
"We have to become energy independent but we don't want to do it at the expense of food riots," Clinton said at the Agriculture Department's annual agricultural outlook conference, which draws agribusiness executives, university experts and others in the industry from around the country.
The Des Moines Register reported Clinton stopped short of calling for slower biofuel production but said there was a need for some kind of periodic reassessment of the industry. There is a need to "make intelligent decisions with three- to five-year time horizons with the best information we have to maximize the availability of good food at affordable prices," Clinton said. He did not elaborate on the remark and did not take questions after his speech.
Clinton's warning stood in contrast to the more bullish views of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who said there "no reason to take the foot off the gas" when it comes to biofuels, because U.S. farmers "can do it all."
Clinton told the outlook forum he believes producing biofuels such as corn-based ethanol is important for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil. But, he said, farmers should look beyond domestic production and consider the needs of developing countries.
"We know that the way we produce and consume energy has to change, yet for farmers there are no simple answers," he said. "There is a way for us to do this and to do it right."
Clinton's foundation has worked to develop agribusiness in African countries such as Malawi and Rwanda.
At the department's annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, chief economist Joseph Glauber said food prices are expected to rise this year and corn use for ethanol will continue to grow. He said 37 percent of all U.S. corn production could be used for ethanol by 2012.
The ethanol industry long has said that its production does not significantly drive up food prices and that the price of corn contributes to a tiny percentage of every food dollar.
"The driver behind rising food prices has been and remains oil," said Matt Hartwig of the ethanol industry group Renewable Fuels Association. "Rising oil prices, even before the unrest in the Middle East and Northern Africa, have made everything we buy from food to clothes to oil more expensive."
Other industries, including some cattle feeders, have contended that ethanol contributes to food price spikes, affecting their bottom lines and consumers, too.
After years of boosting subsidized ethanol production, Congress has taken an increasingly skeptical look at the fuel as food prices have fluctuated and cutting spending has become a legislative priority.
More than $5 billion in ethanol tax credits were extended at the end of last year as a part of an end-of-session tax deal. But the new Republican House passed two amendments to a spending bill last weekend that would attempt to slow ethanol use.
Even longtime supporters of ethanol in Congress have acknowledged that the country's mood may mean less support for the ethanol industry. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said this week that he would have to "bite the bullet" if he has to decide between cutting the deficit and supporting the House amendments.
Grassley said his priority is to show voters that Congress has gotten the message of fiscal responsibility after the last election.
"I would have to sacrifice almost anything to get to that point," he said.
Glauber said Thursday that ethanol production is currently running at more than 13 billion gallons a year. Congress has required refiners to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuels, mostly ethanol, into auto fuel by 2022.
By Charles Abbott and Christopher Doering
ARLINGTON, Virginia | Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:15am EST
ARLINGTON, Virginia (Reuters) - U.S. farmers will plant massive corn and soybean crops this spring but it may take more than two years to rebuild razor-thin stocks and quell the global surge in grain prices, the U.S. Agriculture Department said on Thursday.
With growing concern among world governments over rising food prices, the U.S. corn stockpile is forecast to be the smallest since 1996 and soybeans would amount to a mere two-week supply by time this year's crops were ready for harvest.
"While it is often said the cure for high prices is high prices, even with additional supplies expected this year, it is likely that the tight stocks-to-use situation will not be entirely mitigated over the course of one or even two growing seasons," USDA Chief Economist Joseph Glauber told the department's annual outlook conference on Thursday.
The planting forecasts were unchanged from the department's projections made earlier this month, surprising some analysts that the department didn't trim the numbers somewhat.
"It should be bullish all around even though the USDA stuck to their higher estimates than I probably would have done," said Jack Scoville, analyst for Price Futures Group.
"It seems to me they're implying some very strong demand here because the ending stocks estimates remain pretty tight, really across the board," he added.
U.S. farmers will plant the second largest corn crop since 1944 at 92 million acres and plant 78 million acres with soybeans, a record amount.
USDA projects the corn crop to be a record 13.73 billion bushels, down from the initial estimate of 13.755 billion. The U.S. soy crop will reach 3.345 billion bushels, down from USDA's initial estimate of 3.355 million.
The USDA pegged 2011/12 U.S. corn ending stocks at 865 million bushels, and soybeans stocks at 160 million bushels.
Ethanol makers are expected to consume a record 5 billion bushels of corn this year, or some 36 percent of the harvest.
Despite criticism that using food for fuel was helping to drive up prices, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the conference the government had no intention of scaling back on ethanol.
"There is no reason for us to take the foot off the gas," Vilsack told the conference. "This is a great opportunity for us because we can do it all, make no mistake about it."
Despite a recent pullback, agricultural commodity prices have surged during the last year to their highest levels since the 2008 global food scare following catastrophic storms and droughts that have slammed the world's leading agriculture countries.
Tight global commodity stockpiles have pushed food prices higher, making it harder for the poor and contributing to political unrest in countries with high poverty rates and unemployment.
The turmoil has highlighted the need for farmers in the United States, the world's biggest exporter, to grow larger crops this year and replenish tight supplies.
(Reporting by Charles Abbott and Christopher Doering; Writing Russell Blinch; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
A process operator shows a handful of corn at the GreenField Ethanol plant in Chatham, Ontario, in this April 10, 2008 file photo.
Photo: Reuters/Mark Blinch
An Adam Smith Institute report is the latest development as the palm oil industry attempts to rebrand itself as 'the good guys', but many of its claims appear to be unfounded
Many academic articles about biofuels and agrarian change:
The politics of biofuels, land and agrarian change: editors' introduction
Saturnino M. Borras Jr.; Philip McMichael; Ian Scoones
Pages 575 – 592
Agrofuels capitalism: a view from political economy
Ben White; Anirban Dasgupta
Pages 593 – 607
Agrofuels in the food regime
Pages 609 – 629
Forests, food, and fuel in the tropics: the uneven social and
ecological consequences of the emerging political economy of biofuels
Peter Dauvergne; Kate J. Neville
Pages 631 – 660
Assumptions in the European Union biofuels policy: frictions with
experiences in Germany, Brazil and Mozambique
Jennifer Franco; Les Levidow; David Fig; Lucia Goldfarb; Mireille
Hönicke; Maria Luisa Mendonça
Pages 661 – 698
Power is sweet: sugarcane in the global ethanol assemblage
Pages 699 – 721
Fields of dreams: negotiating an ethanol agenda in the Midwest United
Pages 723 – 748
Biofuels in Brazil: debates and impacts
John Wilkinson; Selena Herrera
Pages 749 – 768
Biofuel, dairy production and beef in Brazil: competing claims on land
use in São Paulo state
Andre Novo; Kees Jansen; Maja Slingerland; Ken Giller
Pages 769 – 792
Agrofuel policies in Brazil: paradigmatic and territorial disputes
Bernardo Mançano Fernandes; Clifford Andrew Welch; Elienaí Constantino
Pages 793 – 819
Processes of inclusion and adverse incorporation: oil palm and agrarian
change in Sumatra, Indonesia
John F. McCarthy
Pages 821 – 850
The biofuel connection – transnational activism and the palm oil boom
Pages 851 – 874
The political ecology of Jatropha plantations for biodiesel in Tamil
Pere Ariza-Montobbio; Sharachchandra Lele; Giorgos Kallis; Joan
Pages 875 – 897
Over the heads of local people: consultation, consent, and recompense
in large-scale land deals for biofuels projects in Africa
Sonja Vermeulen; Lorenzo Cotula
Pages 899 – 916
Big Sugar in southern Africa: rural development and the perverted
potential of sugar/ethanol exports
Pages 917 – 938
The politics of Jatropha-based biofuels in Kenya: convergence and
divergence among NGOs, donors, government officials and farmers
Pages 939 – 962
(my apologies if this was posted before on this list, but I haven't
"Biofuels could reduce aircraft emissions by 80%"
More than 2 billion people enjoy the benefits of flying each year yet the commercial aviation industry produces around 677 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. The industry has identified biofuels as a major way it can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
This is the start of something extraordinary, but challenges remain.
Green Air Online is pleased to partner with the World Biofuels Markets, where you can meet representatives from the aviation industry and hear best practice from the associated areas of Biofuels Standards, Advanced Biofuels and Investment. You will also benefit from first-hand experiences of 250 experts, including 50 CEOs and Presidents who are driving the future development of biofuels at Europe's largest biofuels congress and exhibition. Visit http://www.worldbiofuelsmarkets.com/aviation/ for more information.
A full days programme will be dedicated to Aviation Biofuels at World Biofuels Markets 2011. View the agenda online at the http://www.worldbiofuelsmarkets.com/biofuels_aviation.html" target="_blank"> WBM 2011 website.
Our Aviation Biofuels session is part of the 6th annual World Biofuels Markets: Where the biofuels industry meets to do business. Around 2,000 attendees are expected over three intense days of high-level content and unrivalled networking opportunities.
Amongst the speakers already confirmed for 2011 are:
Jan Ernst de Groot, Board Member, KLM
Mark Watson, Head of Environmental Affairs, Cathay Pacific Airways
Jonathon Counsell, Head of Environment, IATA Environmental Committee Members, British Airways
Joachim Buse, Head of Aviation Biofuel, Lufthansa
Martin Porsgaard Nielsen, Manager, Environment and Sustainability, SAS Group
Lourdes Maurice, Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Environment, Federal Aviation Administration
Dirk Kronemeijer, Managing Director, SkyNRG & Vice President, Business Innovation, KLM
Joe Bauer, Director of Asset Management, NetJets
Paul Nash, Head of New Energies, Airbus
Jonathan Hart, Environment Strategy Manager, Civil Aerospace, Rolls-Royce
Key topics include:
• Commercialisation of Aviation Biofuels
• Policy, Certification and Fuel Approval
• Developing New Sources for Sustainable Aviation Fuels
• Conversion Technologies and Processing Feedstocks for Aviation
If you haven't already, download our brochure now for the updated full agenda outline and confirmed speakers at: http://www.worldbiofuelsmarkets.com
Large group discounts are available – enquire when you get in touch.
I look forward to meeting you next month.
World Biofuels Manager
T: +44 (0) 203 355 4227
F: +44 (0) 207 900 1853
Drax said it hoped government incentives would help it proceed with a £2bn biomass project later this year.
The power station owner said the initial results of a government consultation on renewable energy prices, which will also determine subsidies, could decide if the delayed £2bn plans to build up to three biomass plants in the UK, along with Germany's Siemens (SIEMENS.BO - news) , go ahead.
Drax said it expected to have an indication by the "second half" of the year. The consultation, or Renewables Obligation banding review, forms part of government plans to meet the European Union target for 15 per cent of energy to come from renewable sources by 2020.
Dorothy Thompson, chief executive, said Drax could generate a majority of its power using biomass through co-firing - burning biomass from straw or other plant material alongside coal. "Drax has the capability of being a biomass dominated site . . . [but] this is dependent on getting the appropriate regulatory support. We expect some visibility in the second half of the year . . . it's a big year for us," she said. In its annual results to December 31, Drax, owner of Europe (news) 's largest coal-fired power station, doubled its dividend from 13.7p to 32p on the back of high energy prices.
Drax said it had managed to forward sell about 90 per cent of its 2010 output compared with a long-term average of 60 per cent.
Revenues, up from £1.48bn to £1.65bn, were also spurred by a record demand for power amid the freezing conditions at the end of 2010. Pre-tax profits increased from £157.8m to £254.9m and earnings per share rose from 31p to 52p.
The shares rose 6.2p to 401.1p.
Karl Marx's quote about men making history but not in circumstances of their own making could describe Drax's current predicament. In spite of bumper profits the group is not necessarily in control of its own destiny. Drax hopes its future lies in carbon-lite biomass, hence why it more than doubled its biomass burn from 400,000 tonnes to 907,000 tonnes. The fact this remains a fraction of its 9.4m tonne 2010 coal usage is indicative of government support, or lack of it, compared with other renewable energy sources such as wind. Drax currently trades at just under 9 times 2011 earnings, a discount to the utilities sector average of 13 times. Whether that proves to be good value could depend on Whitehall.
(being presented this week in Nairobi at UNEP Global Council meeting
Key points for bio-energy:
1. Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone are significant global warming forcing agents. As well as impacting on crop yields and human health.
2. Both are caused by combustion processes. Diesel engines without Level 3 Particulate Filters are a major source of Black Carbon. Similarly inefficient solid biomass burners like cooking stoves
3. Both are short-lived global warming agents, but are much more potent than CO2.
4. Mitigation measures to reduce BC and Ozone will have a more immediate beneficial effect on climate than measures to reduce CO2.
Bio-energy generation is reliant on combustion and will always be a possible source of Ozone and BC. The UK has no mechanism to attribute global warming effects to large scale bio-energy schemes like bioliquid and biomass power stations.
From the Conclusion to the Assessment:
"...this Assessment does not in any way suggest postponing immediate and aggressive global action on anthropogenic greenhouse gases; in fact it requires such action on CO2. This Assessment concludes that the chance of success with such longer-term measures can be greatly enhanced by simultaneously addressing shortlived climate forcers.
The benefits identified in this Assessment can be realised with a concerted effort globally to reduce the concentrations of black carbon and tropospheric ozone. A strategy to achieve this, when developed and implemented, will lead to considerable benefits for human well-being."
Sarawak government mocks its indigenous people
February 20, 2011
The Sarawak government mocked the plight of its rainforest people in a press release issued earlier this month, says a rights' group.
The release says forest people are poised to benefit from massive dam and forestry projects under the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) scheme that will convert the Malaysian state's rivers into lakes and forests into open pit mines, wood-pulp plantations, and oil palm estates.
"SCORE will develop 10 key industries including hydropower, heavy industry and tourism," stated the release. "Baram, currently a rural and underdeveloped area, will benefit from a new hydro dam. As a result, the district will attract a wide range of industries such as palm oil, pulp and paper and timber which will provide job opportunities for the indigenous people living there."
But the Bruno Manser Fund, a Swiss NGO which works to secure rights for Sarawk's forest people, says these projects will further marginalize groups like the Penan, whose culture and livelihoods are closely tied to healthy forests.
"The statement on SCORE is an outrageous lie," Lukas Straumann of BMF told mongabay.com. "The dams cannot be realized without displacing thousands of natives from their traditional lands. This is why the dam projects, in particular the Baram dam, are met with strong resistance from the longhouses."
The Penan, a group of once-nomadic forest tribes, has fiercely resisted loggers and plantation developers. In recent years their strategy for defending their land has mostly transitioned from armed standoffs to taking legal action. But neither has been effective in protecting their forest homeland. Vast swathes of Sarawak's rainforest has been lost, while the government and companies have largely ignored court rulings in favor of the Penan. The government, which has long pushed forest dwelling Penan to leave the forest and settle permanently, has recently made a policy of targeting native customary rights land for conversion to industrial oil palm plantations, which provide few employment opportunities for the Penan.
Critics say the government's interest in these large development projects stems from opportunities for corruption. Sarawak's Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud is believed to have squirreled away hundreds of millions to billions of dollars in ill-gotten gains during his 30 years in power. A recent investigation found that Taib controls properties worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Canada, Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. despite earning a salary of less than $200,000 a year.
"It is also known that SCORE is a scheme linked to massive corruption in the building sector," said Straumann. "Sarawak's main construction companies (CMS, Naim Cendera etc.) are closely linked to the family of Taib Mahmud who is hoping to enrich himself further with these unnecessary dam projects (there is a power glut in Sarawak already). We prefer to rename it SCORR - Sarawak Corridor of Corruption."