Tuesday, February 28, 2012

[biofuelwatch] Study about oil palm expansion in SE Asian peatlands





[Open access study which can be downloaded from the weblink below]

http://www.theicct.org/historical-analysis-and-projection-oil-palm-plantation-expansion-peatland-southeast-asia

ICCT report on expansion of oil palm onto peat soils in SE Asia

Summary

Study using satellite mapping data of historical and projected rates at which oil palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia have expanded and will expand onto peat soils.


This study demonstrates that the area of industrial oil palm (OP) plantations in the peatlands of insular Southeast Asia (Malaysia and Indonesia, except the Papua Provinces) has increased drastically over the past 20 years. From a small area in 1990 to at least 2.15 million hectares in 2010, expansion has affected every region of Malaysia and Indonesia reviewed here. Oil palm development on peat started in Peninsular Malaysia, spread to Sarawak and Sumatra, and is now picking up speed in Kalimantan. Over each time interval included in the analysis (1990 to 2010, 2000 to 2010, and 2007 to 2010), OP expansion accelerated in all the areas considered, except those where peatland was limited.

The 2010 extent of OP plantations on peatland may nearly double to 4.1 Mha by 2020, according to both a linear approach that projects recent trends into the future and a conservative non-linear approach that takes into account long-term trend changes since 1990. Very recent trend changes, such as the rapid acceleration in OP expansion over 2007 to 2010, might bring the OP area by 2020 to 6.2 Mha. The lowest projection of OP area by 2030 is 6 Mha.

Researchers have investigated whether expanding OP plantations on peat in Indonesia would be constrained by local regulations. The constraints tested were a) the total extent of peatland, b) the extent of peat less than 2 m thick, and c) the extent of peat where current land allocation zoning allows conversion to peatland. The investigators also considered whether competing agricultural uses of peatland could limit OP expansion. The findings indicate that none of these factors would limit OP expansion up to 2030 in most areas reviewed, and that a possible slowdown in districts where a "shortage" of peatland may occur could easily be offset by a further acceleration in other regions. We therefore conclude that projected OP expansion may indeed become reality.

This analysis does not take into account developments in global demand for palm oil or possible policy changes in response to concerns regarding the environmental implications of peatland deforestation and drainage.



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[biofuelwatch] Drax plans wood pellet production in S America



Drax shows abroad outlook on pelleting plants

http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/business/business-news/drax_shows_abroad_outlook_on_pelleting_plants_1_4289216

Published on Monday 27 February 2012 08:28

POWER station operator Drax is exploring plans to build about five pelleting plants overseas under a £150m-£200m investment in a bid to secure its biomass supply chain.

The North Yorkshire-based firm, which last week cancelled plans for two of three new biomass power stations in the UK, wants to convert the giant coal power station to burn mainly plant-based material. Drax said the pelleting plants could be constructed in North and South America, with the biomass shipped to the UK.

"Investment in pellet plants would provide good fuel security," it said in a statement.

Drax already has a straw- pelleting plant in Goole, which can supply its 4,000 mega-watt power station with up to 100,000 tonnes of biomass annually. The plant sources residual straw from farms within about a 50-mile radius, before drying, shredding and compressing it into pellets.

Biomass can include waste material such as wood chips and oat husks plus energy crops including elephant grass.

"We are looking at investing in pelleting plants like Goole," said chief executive Dorothy Thompson, adding that the plants will likely be overseas.

"How we get it from the field or forest to the point of combustion, that supply chain is pretty immature. It (the UK) will always be a small part of our biomass because the UK is just not that big."

Drax burnt 1.3 million tonnes of biomass in 2011, some nine per cent of its fuel. The power giant, which generates about seven per cent of the UK's electricity, has been investing heavily in combustion trials to test varying types of biomass for reliability, concentration and flexibility.

Production director Peter Emery said Drax could build three to five pelleting plants, in locations such as South America, the United States and Canada. He added that the group is already in talks with two ports on the west coast of the UK about possible shipping links.

However, plans for the overseas pelleting plants will hinge on Government offering sufficient subsidies to "co-fire" biomass alongside coal.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

[biofuelwatch] Tilbury power station blazes as wood pellets catch fire



27 February 2012 (BBC)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-17177035


About 100 firefighters are tackling a severe blaze at the power station (includes a photo)

[I see Biofuelwatch warned about the fire risk back in December, at Blyth, as the pellets can self-ignite in some circumstances]

A huge blaze which broke out at a power station in Essex, in an area containing about 4,000 tonnes of wood pellets, is still being tackled by firefighters.

There was concern about the structure of the building at Tilbury Power Station, as water sprayed on the pellets was increasing their weight.

But firefighters have since gone into the heart of the blaze with foam spray to deprive the fire of oxygen.

Plant owners RWE npower said: "All our employees have been accounted for."

'Hugely challenging'
Essex chief fire officer David Johnson said it was proving "physically and technically challenging" to bring the fire under control but this could be achieved by mid-afternoon,

"We were able to establish it (the building) was safe so we put a few crews in."

Continue reading the main story
"
Start Quote

Until we can actually get in to see the damage and understand what happened we have no idea how the fire started"

Nigel Staves
Power station manager
They reported back on the conditions they found.

"We're applying specialist high-expansion foam which we hope will starve the fire of oxygen. This won't cause the structural problems that putting water on it would.

"It's very hot and it's very smoky in there and we still have fears for safety should the building collapse.

"Assuming our tactics work, the bulk of the fire should be extinguished within the next two or three hours.

"Then it's about whether the fuel is continuing to burn within the hoppers under the foam blanket - that could take anything up to about a day or two to extinguish.

"This is a hugely challenging fire. I've only been to another one of this kind once before in my 24-year career."

'No dangerous chemicals'
More than 120 firefighters, 15 fire engines, three aerial ladder platforms and a mass foam attack unit have been tackling the fire.

Extra fire crews were called in from London and further afield to deal with a separate unrelated fire in a wood pile on a nearby dockside.

Talking about the power station fire, witness Robert Richards told BBC Essex: "The whole of that north block just went completely up in flames.

"It was on two sides that I could see. My daughter could see it from the other side of the river."

Tilbury Power Station was built to burn coal but was recently granted consent to burn biomass fuel and wood materials.

Biomass plants burn wood pellets, generally made from compacted sawdust or other wastes.

Mr Johnson said it was too early to say what caused the blaze.


Firefighters said it was a technically challenging fire
"Thankfully nobody has been hurt," he said. "We initially believed there were personnel from the power station missing but all have been accounted for, so everyone is safe," he said.

"The smoke that's being given off is very similar to what you get from a bonfire, there are no dangerous chemicals involved, no pipes or liquids involved."

John Kent, leader of Thurrock Council, praised the efforts of fire crews.

"Because it's in the process of being converted [to biomass], there shouldn't be any lasting impact to the National Grid and no shortage of power as a result," he said.

"We just have to wait until the fire is under control and see what the situation is and how much damage has been done. "

'No idea'
Nigel Staves, power station manager said that it looked like only the north end of the power station was affected.

The power station has already begun an investigation into the cause of the fire, which is likely to last several weeks.

"Until we can actually get in to see the damage and understand what happened we have no idea how the fire started at the moment," Mr Staves said.

"The bunkers are very strong, made of strong steelwork, designed to hold 1,000 tonnes of coal.

"Until we can assess how many of the bunkers were on fire it will be difficult to say how much damage we have, but I'm hoping it is more superficial."

He hoped power could be generated from the unaffected south end of the site, possibly once the fire was out.

"It could be two or three days, it could be a week. It will depend on the investigation when we go in and see the damage," he said.

Tilbury supplies the National Grid with less than 1% of the total electricity production in the UK.

"As soon as we shut the power station down this morning, another power station was started to replace that energy. That will continue until we get Tilbury back on-line," Mr Staves said.

A "minimal" number of staff remain on site in the control room working alongside the firefighters.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-17177035

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[biofuelwatch] Fwd: Ireland - Stop the Sale of Public Forests (Woodland League)





THE WOODLAND LEAGUE PRESS RELEASE

STOP THE SALE OF PUBLIC FORESTS

Once again the sale of the public forests is announced with very little detail or background information. This time the Troika have facilitated the State regards public opposition, by changing the MOU to allow the proceeds from the sale of State assets to be reinvested in job creation. This vague promise remains just a possibility. There is no lock in mechanism, no plans in place that would ensure this would ever happen. New Era was supposed to be the vehicle that was going to manage the merger of Coillte and Bord Na Mona to maximise their National potential when the new government announced there would be no sale of Coillte. It remains a mere slogan for an empty notion.

That's the first hoax, the second is the idea that just selling the trees, and not the land they are on, is any different to a full sell off. The questions below require answers from the government.

Who will own the potential carbon value of the trees in the future?

What value has been placed on this carbon asset?

How will public access to the public land be maintained?

How will the forestry operations be regulated?

How will the biodiversity and water be protected when the buyers will be looking to maximise their returns in full?

We need only look at the Eircom sell-off debacle to see how private investors treat State assets.

The Woodland League welcome the recent TASC report on State assets (link attached below), which sensibly calls for a fuller examination of each State asset in terms of its Social, Economic and Environmental value, which is known as the triple bottom line. This is the criteria to measure Sustainable Development as set out in the 1992 Rio declaration on Sustainable Development to which Ireland is a signatory. Ireland has never embraced or implemented the Rio principles of Sustainable Development.

The public forests managed in such a way could provide enormous benefits for all the citizens of this State. Irelands poorly managed public forests have relied on the sale of public lands and the sale of public forests to boost pension funds, €66m worth between 2009 and 2011, according to Coilltes annual accounts, to maintain a veneer of profitability.

With an area the size of 1.1million acres, 7% of Ireland, the public forest estate, with approx 400,000 acres of private forestry, only 11,000 people are employed according to the recent CSO figures. Despite the government figure of 16,000 in recent Press Releases regarding the forestry Industry.

Switzerland a country half the size of Ireland with twice as much mixed forest, approx 3 million acres, using a close to nature management system with no clearfelling or chemicals, have approx 120,000 people employed in their forestry industry. An urgent re-evaluation of the current State forestry model based on the TASC recommendations would make much more sense, with a view to creating a new State forestry model as part of a national public works programme, involving training for the unemployed and creation of long term forestry employment regionally. Good forestry management is one of the only industries that grows exponentially, and could form the backbone of a national recovery plan.

The Mc Carthy report identified 500,000 acres of the public forest estate as being of no commercial value, this is an indictment of the current model if ever there was one. David Gunning CEO of Coillte, appearing before a Dail public accounts committee in 2009, said the current forestry model was no longer viable. The Woodland League have an outline plan for an alternative vision for Irish forestry policy, and are among many other stakeholders calling for major changes in Forestry policy. The Public forest estate was built up over many years with Public resources as a National asset and investment in Irelands future, it makes no sense to sell it off to the highest bidder in a depressed economy.

The Woodland League continue to urge the public to sign our petition which now has approx 32000 online signatures and approx 4000 physical signatures, this we believe is a mandate from the people against any sell off that also calls for a new forestry model – link attached below.

We are also asking the Public to reclaim their forests in their locality by walking them on Sunday March 4th, the beginning of national tree week, as a National day of protest and walking their forests every Sunday thereafter until this extremely unwise decision is taken off the agenda.

Diana Beresford Kroeger, the Woodland League consultant Irish scientist, author, ethno-botanist, and recent Wings World Quest award winner says, "The Irish forests are the inheritance of the children of Ireland, and must remain under Public control". She is author of the best-selling book " The Global Forest " outlining how wise management of the World's forests can solve many of the problems facing humanity at this time, Socially, Economically and Environmentally.

"A culture is no better than its woods"

W.H. Auden


Visit our website for more information at www.woodlandleague.org 

Join us on facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Woodland-League/198560882580 

Save Ireland's Forests petition  http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/help-save-irelands-forests/ 

The Woodland League Pilot Project Proposal for Integrated Sustainable Forest Management http://www.woodlandleague.org/documents/WllPilotProject2011.pdf

TASC report on State assets http://www.progressive-economy.ie/2012/02/tasc-issues-new-report-on-state-assets.html





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[biofuelwatch] Tilbury power station blazes as wood pellets catch fire



http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-17177035

A huge blaze has broken out at a power station in Essex, in areas containing about 4,000 tonnes of wood pellets.

The "severe" blaze at Tilbury Power Station in the Thames estuary began just before 08:00 GMT and quickly engulfed the building in smoke.

RWE npower, which owns the plant, said: "A fire broke out at 07:45 GMT in a fuel storage area at the station. All our employees have been accounted for."

About 100 firefighters are tackling the blaze in the pellet fuel handling area.

But extra crews have been called in from London and further afield for a separate unrelated fire in a wood pile on a nearby dockside.


Chief fire officer
Witness Robert Richards told BBC Radio Essex: "The whole of that north block just went completely up in flames.

Foam attack unit

"It was on two sides that I could see. My daughter could see it from the other side of the river."

Tilbury Power Station was built to burn coal and was recently granted consent to burn biomass fuel and wood materials.

Biomass plants burn wood pellets, generally made from compacted sawdust or other wastes.

Essex chief fire officer David Johnson said it was too early to say what caused the blaze.


Firefighters said the fuel storage area was "well alight" but all staff were accounted for "The fire is in the main part of the power station where there are numerous storage cells which hold the bio-fuel, which is basically compressed and crushed wood fibre.

"Two of those at least are on fire, which is about 4,000 tonnes of fuel.

"The difficulty we have at the moment is access, because it's very high up in the structure and there is the probability of some structural deformity and damage."

There are 15 fire engines, three aerial ladder platforms, a mass foam attack unit and support from London crews at the scene.

No dangerous chemicals

"Thankfully nobody has been hurt. We initially believed there were personnel from the power station missing but all have been accounted for, so everyone is safe," Mr Johnson said.

"It's not safe enough to commit crews to the actual area of the fire and there are serious quantities of smoke being given off at the moment.

"So our tactical plan will be to get as close as we can, work with the power station personnel who have been very good and once we're able to contain it we shall do.

"We would hope that the fire can be brought under control hopefully within a matter of hours.

"The smoke that's being given off is very similar to what you get from a bonfire, there are no dangerous chemicals involved, no pipes or liquids involved.

"We've had to isolate some high voltage power cables that were very close to the incident and we're trying to establish the best way to apply fire fighting foam.

"it shouldn't cause too much problems to people nearby."


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Sunday, February 26, 2012

[biofuelwatch] Video on incinerator and democracy





Dear All, 

An environmental management consultant has investigated the Norfolk County Council's reasons for dismissing the West Norfolk incinerator referendum (this facility would burn "waste wood"/biogenic materials amongst other household waste). By clicking on the following web link you can hear his conclusions.

Click on www.fenscape.com to view the short presentation.

Please forward on.

Many thanks,

Andrew






--
Andrew
Councillor Andrew Boswell
Green Party County Councillor for Nelson ward
E: andrewboswell@fastmail.co.uk;  T: 01603-613798, M 07787127881





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Friday, February 24, 2012

[biofuelwatch] Palm oil firm pays fine for unauthorized land-clearing in Indonesia






Palm oil firm pays 'precedent-setting' fine for unauthorized land-clearing in Indonesia
mongabay.com 
February 23, 2012




Land-clearing for oil palm in Sumatra.


A subsidiary of agribusiness giant Cargill has paid a $1 million fine for clearing land for oil palm outside its concession, a move that could serve as an important example for palm oil developers operating in Indonesia, according to Greenomics-Indonesia, a Jakarta-based environmental group. 

The fine was levied on Cargill subsidiary PT Hindoli after the company notified local authorities and the Ministry of Forestry that it had accidentally cleared about 2,000 hectares of land beyond the boundary of its formally licensed area in South Sumatra Province. The clearing, which took place in 2005, involved agricultural land that was still zoned as "forest" by the Ministry of Forestry even though it lacked exploitable timber. 

"No forest clearing was involved in this situation," Cargill told mongabay.com. "Cargill inadvertently planted palm beyond the boundary of our licensed area, on agricultural land. When we realized this, we notified the government agencies and paid the appropriate fine." 

The final settlement was held up for more than six years due to overlapping claims over the area cleared and differing approaches between the Ministry of Forestry and the State Audit Board (BPK-RI) in calculating damages. Ultimately, the higher of the proposed fines — 9.66 billion rupiah (just over $1 million) — was assessed by the BPK-RI based on the estimated value of the timber had the land been forested. 

Despite the delay, Cargill's decision to pay the fine based on the BPK-RI assessment, which is legally binding, but often ignored in Indonesia, sets an important example for plantation developers, says Elfian Effendi, executive director of Greenomics. 

"Greenomics has reported to top government officials on Cargill's compliance in this case as a great example of best practice in the plantation sector," he told mongabay.com. 

"Greenomics hopes that this Cargill's compliance will generate billions of dollars in timber compensation payments that must be paid by other palm oil companies that have cleared forest illegally (or have lacked sufficient permits), leading to the lost of huge timber volumes compared to the Cargill's case." 

BPK-RI has estimated timber losses from illegal clearing of millions of hectares of land at more than $36 billion across Indonesian Borneo alone. 

Greenomics is now pushing the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to consider whether or not a company is in compliance with BPK-RI assessments as grounds for membership in the body. The activist group says some prominent Indonesian RSPO members have outstanding complaints from the BPK-RI. 

"Palm oil production in concessions that should be frozen, according to the BPK-RI, clearly does not constitute sustainable palm oil production, but rather an 'expansion' of state and environment losses," said Greenomics and Indonesia Corruption Watch in a report released jointly this week. "Greater public participation [is] required to ensure BPK-RI's recommendations are acted upon."


Read more:http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0223-hindoli_fine_palm_oil.html#ixzz1nIhMM47x


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Thursday, February 23, 2012

[biofuelwatch] Fwd: Call on Lufthansa to stop using biokerosene to fly planes





apologies for cross-postings!


Begin forwarded message:

From: Friends of the Earth International <web@foei.org>
Subject: Call on Lufthansa to stop using biokerosene to fly planes
Date: February 23, 2012 10:22:06 AM GMT-03:00
Reply-To: phil@foei.org

ActNow Header
Dear Friend,

The German airline Lufthansa has recently been using biokerosene made from jatropha, an inedible plant.

The airline claims that flying on biokerosene is good for the environment despite numerous studies claiming the opposite.  

Take action

The jatropha used for Lufthansa's test flights is grown in Central Java, Indonesia by small scale farmers. 

Harvesting jatropha in Indonesia
A woman harvests jatropha in Indonesia.
A recent visit by Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie) revealed that the plants are often being grown at the cost of food production - jatropha competes with food crops such as maize for land - and the farmers are making a loss on the sale of the plants. As a result they are struggling to survive. 
 
Please write to Lufthansa and ask them to stop using biokerosene to fly their planes. 
 
Take action now! 
(You will be directed to the Milieudefensie website)
 

In solidarity,

Friends of the Earth International

 

Please give a gift to Friends of the Earth today and be part of our global movement for for an environmentally sustainable, just and peaceful world. Donate now

If you do not wish to receive any more emails from Friends of the Earth International you can unsubscribe here

Update your information here

friends of the earth international

secretariat po box 19199, 1000 gd amsterdam, the netherlands tel: 31 20 622 1369. fax: 31 20 639 2181.

www.foei.org




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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

[biofuelwatch] Drax scraps plans for UK biomass plants | Business | The Guardian





http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/feb/21/drax-scraps-plans-uk-biomass-plants



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[biofuelwatch] BBC feature - African Land grab or development opportunity?





http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17099348

With land central to the livelihoods of millions of people in Africa, Lorenzo Cotula of the International Institute for Environment and Development examines the impact of large-scale land acquisitions on the continent's farmers.

"Land grabs" are now one of the biggest issues in Africa.

Over the past few years, companies and foreign governments have been leasing large areas of land in some of Africa's poorest countries.

Land deals as % of agricultural area

Source: FAOstat

DR Congo

48.8%

Mozambique

21.1%

Uganda

14.6%

Zambia

8.8%

Ethiopia

8.2%

Madagascar

6.7%

Malawi

6.2%

Mali

6.1%

Senegal

5.9%

Tanzania

5%

Sudan

2.3%

Nigeria

1%

Ghana

0.6%

Many commentators have raised concerns that poor villagers will be forced off their land and agribusiness will marginalise family farming.

Others say that foreign investment can help African countries create jobs, increase export earnings and use more advanced technologies.

Three years since media reports started raising public awareness on this issue, evidence has been growing on the scale, geography, players, features and impacts of the land rush. The emerging picture provides ground for concern.

Last year the World Bank documented media reports of land deals over the period between 2008 and 2009.

The deals were for nearly 60 million hectares worldwide, roughly the size of a country like Ukraine - and two-thirds of the land acquired was in Africa.

While new figures continue to emerge, all evidence points to a phenomenon of unprecedented scale.

Also, some individual deals are for very large areas. For example, Liberia recently signed a concession for 220,000 hectares.

Money to be made

Media attention has focused on investments by Middle Eastern and Asian government-backed operators but Western companies have also been heavily involved.

Companies acquire land because they expect world food and commodity prices to increase - so there is money to be made in agriculture.

Some governments have also promoted land acquisitions abroad as a way to secure affordable food for their people.

In many African countries, agriculture has suffered from years of neglect - and investment is needed to improve productivity and market access.

But not all investment is good - and growing evidence strongly indicates that large land deals are not the way to go.

Short-lived jobs

A synthesis of over 30 reports worldwide found that many investments have failed due to insufficient soil fertility, financing difficulties or over-ambitious business plans. For example, in Mozambique and Tanzania, some large biofuels projects have now been abandoned.

Even where investments are profitable, it is often difficult to see how they contribute to poverty reduction. The jobs created are few, short-lived and low-paid - and public revenues are limited by tax exemptions.

A report published last year raised serious questions about the terms of the contracts that governments are signing up to.

Some of the world's poorest people are losing the land, water and natural resources that have supported their livelihoods for generations. In Uganda, for example, 20,000 people claim to have been evicted from their land and a legal case is pending before courts.

Not every deal is a "land grab" - much depends on local context, the investor's track-record, the terms of the lease, and whether these reflect the free, prior and informed consent of local landholders.

But for local people, the context in which the deals are being concluded tends to make negative outcomes more likely.

Best intentions

There are huge power imbalances among international companies, government and local landholders. Many land deals are being negotiated without transparency and local consultation.

In many parts of Africa, local farmers, herders and gatherers only have insecure legal rights to the land they see as theirs. Most have no written documents for their land. Much land is owned by the state, which can allocate it to outside investors even against local opposition.

And while international law provides relatively effective protection for foreign investment, international human rights law remains inaccessible and ineffective for people losing land.

So even when investors come with the best intentions, this means local groups are exposed to the risk of dispossession - and investors to legal disputes.

Family farmers have long provided the backbone of African agriculture - and, when given a chance, they have been able to compete on global markets.

Family farming

In Ghana, for example, a co-operative of 60,000 cocoa farmers has run a successful business for nearly 20 years and owns 45% of a UK company that manufactures and distributes chocolate.

The global demand for food and agricultural commodities creates new opportunities for African farmers.

Public policies and infrastructure to support family farming are needed today more than ever.

Evidence also shows that private investments to improve productivity or market access can be structured in ways that support local farmers.

Many companies successfully source agricultural produce from family farmers, and have invested in other activities along the production line - in ways that secure their supplies and improve local livelihoods.

In Mali and Zambia, some farmer associations own shares in the company they collaborate with, which gives them monetary benefits and a greater say.

Co-operatives or intermediaries can reduce the costs linked to working with large numbers of farmers. Public policy plays a key role in promoting fairer investment models.

The perception that large plantations are needed to "modernise" agriculture in poorer countries is dominant in many government circles.

But evidence shows that this perception is misplaced.

Promoting agricultural development in Africa and addressing the world's food security challenges requires investing in farmers - not in farmland.

Lorenzo Cotula leads the Land Rights Team at the UK-based research body the International Institute for Environment and Development




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[biofuelwatch] Biofuelwatch briefing on the Sustainable Energy for All initiative





New Biofuelwatch briefing: 

Sustainable Energy for All – or Sustained Profits for a Few?


"Sustainable Energy for All (SEFA) is an initiative founded and led by the UN Secretary-General.  SEFA is developing an Action Report and programme for which they will seek endorsement from governments during the Rio+20 Conference.  The Rio+20 Draft Zero, however, lends explicit support to SEFA , saying: "We propose to build on the Sustainable Energy for All initiative launched by the Secretary-General...We call for provision of adequate financial resources, of sufficient quality and delivered in a timely manner, to developing countries for providing efficient and wider use of energy sources".  It thus proposes to couple support for 
energy efficiency and what it calls renewable energy (which includes biofuels and large hydro) to a process which, as is discussed below, is led by a hand-picked group of mainly corporate 
representatives, UN organisations and international finance organisations, including the World Bank.  

It proposes to couple such finance to a process, i.e. SEFA, which lacks any democratic structure, requires no multilateral consent, has restricted government involvement in the High-Level Group to five representatives worldwide, and offers no opportunities for civil society to influence recommendations and decisions – only to help implement them. " [continue reading  ]


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Sunday, February 19, 2012

[biofuelwatch] Liberia: Land Grab or Development Opportunity?



http://allafrica.com/stories/201202171018.html

Liberia: Land Grab or Development Opportunity?

17 FEBRUARY 2012
Monrovia — Hundreds of villagers and town residents of Liberia's Grand Cape Mount Country have attracted nationwide attention in their bid to recover what they say is land seized from them and turned over to a Malaysian agro-industrial concern.

A petition sent to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's office in January by the aggrieved people's political representatives demanded the return of their land.

"This is unbearable," Mary Freeman, 42, of Sinje Town said. "Our government must care for us and don't allow these people to kill us silently. What have we done to go through all of these sufferings? This land belongs to us. We were born here and we give birth to our children here too. This is the only place we know."

Malaysian company Sime Darby Plantations was granted a permit on 21 April 2010 to cultivate 10,000 hectares of palm oil in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties. Now, the company has applied for an additional 15,000 hectares for palm oil cultivation in Garwular and Gola Konneh districts, in the Grand Cape Mount County, and another 20,000 hectares in Gbarpolu County.

The attorney representing the aggrieved parties of Cape Mount County, Alfred Brownel, has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to reject these additional requests. He vowed his rights group, Green Advocates, would continue to support those who had lost their land.

"These things must stop," he said. "Our people deserve the right to survive. They shouldn't be denied their land. We will not stop until their lives are transformed and the situation changed."

Critics say the concession is a land grab. When unresolved, land disputes could plunge the country into "serious chaos", said Jerry Lomah, president of Lomah National Law Firm in Monrovia.

"The government must set up an active land commission to keep eyes on these issues," Lomah added.

Liberia has a history of land conflicts, especially since the end of the civil war in 2003. In the northeastern town of Ganta there is a long-running conflict over land between the Mandingo and Mano people. Lomah said a land commission could speed up resolution of such disputes and the Sime Darby case.

Mistakes made

A seemingly receptive two-term president reacted immediately to the Grand Cape Mount County concerns by visiting the area and meeting residents of Kon Town, Garwula District. She admitted the government should have gone about the negotiations differently.

"Everybody made mistakes on this one," she told villagers, "but the thing to do is to correct the mistakes. Now, something could have been done better when it comes to Sime Darby. More consultations and more talks with the people should have taken place."

She told them that before the government signs an agreement, the legislature conducts public hearings so that views and objections can be raised before an agreement is concluded. However, the residents said they were unaware of any such hearings.

Johnson Sirleaf said the government would now correct this oversight and seek the views of county residents.

"I've come to start the process," she said. "I came with the ministers of justice, internal affairs, labour, and agriculture because all of them have [a] part to play in the process."

However, she also told residents of Grand Cape Mount County that when government, including legislators, signed documents with foreign companies or countries, these could not be changed. She said the constitution gave government the authority to sign agreements on behalf of the country, and people should not be directing their frustrations at Sime Darby.

"So, if your government made a mistake, that's your government. You have to come back to it so we can settle it," she said.

She said the citizens' concerns, especially those about jobs and land-grabbing, would be addressed. She said government would ensure locals were given preference when it came to employment with Sime Darby in Grand Cape Mount County.

The president has set up a committee, co-chaired by officials from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Justice, to look into the citizens' complaints in an effort to resolve the dispute with Sime Darby.

Most of those who lost their land have relocated to nearby villages and towns unaffected by the concession. Most are unskilled labourers.

Sime Darby responds

Meanwhile, Sime Darby has denied seizing land. It said it paid fairly for the land and that it had not used force to evict anyone, as landholders had earlier contended.

Sime Darby Board Chairman Tun Hitam said the company had been serious about being part of the community in Grand Cape Mount County since it came to Liberia in 2010. The firm said it expected to invest US$3.1 billion in its Liberian estates by 2025.

In addition, so far, it has rebuilt and refurnished 15 primary schools, and paid teachers the government rate. Sime Darby said it had also refurbished three new school buses, bought one ambulance and expanded hospital wards in its estates.

Sime Darby plantation senior vice-president of the agribusiness division, Helmy Basha, said the firm had already established four plots of nurseries that would generate 780,000 oil palm seedlings. These would kick-start the first planting of 5,200 hectares at Grand Cape Mount County. He said that by 2025, the firm would have planted up to 170,000 hectares with oil palms in the counties of Grand Cape Mount, Bomi, Bong and Gbarpolu.

"For the next 15 years, we're scheduled to invest in infrastructure like roads, bridges, electricity and piped water. We'll also put up the mills," he said.

Basha said Sime Darby would undertake social and environmental impact assessments before the start of any development. For example, it would maintain riparian buffer zones between water bodies and planted areas.

By 2015, the group would start to put up 15 mills - one for every 10,000 hectares. They would extract crude palm oil, be fuelled by biomass, and be self-sustaining, he said.

The firm expects its business in Liberia to be fully-operational by 2035; 35,000 jobs would be created.

"There will also be spillover impacts in uplifting the livelihoods of surrounding communities of the estates," Basha said.

Liberians use palm oil to prepare meals. "If Sime Darby supplies some of the oil to the Liberian market, it will reduce the price of palm oil locally," said Monrovia businesswoman Sarah Sando.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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[biofuelwatch] Biomass: Just Because it's Green Doesn't Mean it's Clean



http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Renewable-Energy/Biomass-Just-because-its-green-doesnt-mean-its-clean.html

Daniel J. Graeber of Oilprice.com

Florida residents last year filed a legal challenge against a company that was planning to build a biomass incinerator in the Florida Panhandle. They complained the incinerator project was a "toxic nightmare" for the coastal area. Now, a new study conducted on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation finds that it might be awhile before burning wood instead of fossil fuels pays off for the environment. This suggests that maybe things aren't always as green as they seem.

A study examining more than half of the 22 proposed biomass facilities in seven southern U.S. states found that burning wood in favor of fossil fuels for electricity would reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually. However, the same study found this wouldn't happen fast enough to offset other factors that most scientists claim contribute to global climate change.

The authors of the study anticipated a major expansion for the part of the power sector in the south that can use woody biomass to make electricity. Groups like Gulf Citizens for Clean Renewable Energy, however, aren't too thrilled with that idea. They say wood-fed incinerators would spew toxic fumes into the environment and use up valuable drinking water supplies. On the other side of the debate, advocates of woody biomass say that not only does the alternative fuel source cut down on energy costs, it's also good for an economy that might otherwise depend on foreign sources for energy.

The study for the NWF, meanwhile, said that as the biomass energy sector expands, more fuel sources are likely to come from standing trees as opposed to residue from saw mills and the like. This in turn could lead to a higher production of atmospheric carbon as carbon sinks disappear. The NWF said that once forests start to regenerate, the carbon footprint would shift. The study found, however, that biomass energy would produce more harmful emissions for at least another 35 years when compared to fossil fuels, though the was only the case for the southeast region.

The NWF study reveals that what should normally be considered an environmentally-friendly technology has its downside. The Southern Environmental Law Center, who helped with the NWF study, said that while wood is a good renewable resource, it's not exactly carbon neutral either. An energy sector that could be viewed simply as an alternative to fossil fuels has itself become something of a commodity used to generate capital. Nothing wrong with that. The NWF said now is the time to take a hard look at biomass to see what sort of regulation is needed as the sector grows. They want the EPA to step in to see what sort of balance they can find for biomass. Over the long run, the study found, burning wood instead of fossil fuels can be a good thing when it comes to environmental health, but those benefits aren't likely to materialize any time soon.


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Saturday, February 18, 2012

[biofuelwatch] Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning



By Marion Douet

PARIS | Mon Feb 13, 2012 7:44pm IST

(Reuters) - A French court on Monday declared U.S. biotech giant Monsanto(MON.N) guilty of chemical poisoning of a French farmer, a judgment that could lend weight to other health claims against pesticides.

In the first such case heard in court in France, grain grower Paul Francois says he suffered neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling Monsanto's (MON.N) Lasso weedkiller in 2004.

He blames the agri-business giant for not providing adequate warnings on the product label.

The ruling was given by a court in Lyon, southeast France, which ordered an expert opinion of Francois's losses to establish the sum of damages.

Lawyers for Monsanto could not immediately be reached for comment.

Previous health claims from farmers have foundered because of the difficulty of establishing clear links between illnesses and exposure to pesticides.

"I am alive today, but part of the farming population is going to be sacrificed and is going to die because of this," Francois, 47, told Reuters.

He and other farmers suffering from illness set up an association last year to make a case that their health problems should be linked to their use of crop protection products.

The agricultural branch of the French social security system says that since 1996, it has gathered farmers' reports of sickness potentially related to pesticides, with about 200 alerts a year.

But only about 47 cases have been recognised as due to pesticides in the past 10 years. Francois, who suffers from neurological problems, obtained work invalidity status only after a court appeal.

LESS INTENSIVE NOW

The Francois case goes back to a period of intensive use of crop-protection chemicals in the European Union. The EU and its member countries have since banned a large number of substances considered dangerous.

Monsanto's Lasso was banned in France in 2007 following an EU directive after the product had already been withdrawn in some other countries.

France, the EU's largest agricultural producer, is now targetting a 50 percent reduction in pesticide use between 2008 and 2018, with initial results showing a 4 percent cut in farm and non-farm use in 2008-2010.

The Francois claim may be easier to argue than others because he can pinpoint a specific incident - inhaling the Lasso when cleaning the tank of his crop sprayer - whereas fellow farmers are trying to show accumulated effects from various products.

"It's like lying on a bed of thorns and trying to say which one cut you," said a farmer, who has recovered from prostate cancer and asked not to be named.

The French association of crop protection companies, UIPP, says pesticides are all subject to testing and that any evidence of a cancer risk in humans leads to withdrawal of productsfrom the market.

"I think if we had a major health problem with pesticides, we would have already known about it," Jean-Charles Bocquet, UIPP's managing director, said.

The social security's farming branch this year is due to add Parkinson's disease to its list of conditions related to pesticide use after already recognising some cases of blood cancers and bladder and respiratory problems.

France's health and environment safety agency (ANSES), meanwhile, is conducting a study on farmers' health, with results expected next year.

http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/02/13/france-pesticides-monsanto-idINDEE81C0FQ20120213

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Friday, February 17, 2012

[biofuelwatch] NGOs criticise BP Olympics involvement



Olympic Games organisers face protests over BP sponsorship deal

( http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/feb/17/olympic-games-protest-bp-sponsorship )

London 2012 chiefs criticised for allowing oil giant to be major sponsor and official 'carbon offset partner' to summer event

John Vidal, environment editor
The Guardian, Friday 17 February 2012

The BP Olympic sponsorship deal has come under attack from several environmental groups. <including Biofuelwatch - note the claims BP make below about biofuels>

Olympics organisers have come under attack from environmentalists, artists, indigenous people's leaders and development groups over the position of BP as an official partner in the games.

In an open letter to the IOC, the London organising committee (Locog) and the Commission for a Sustainable London, 34 signatories say the organisers have failed to consider the broader ethical and environmental impacts of potential sponsors.

The oil company, say the signatories, is unsuitable to be a major Games sponsor because of its involvement in extracting Canadian tar sands, and its development, with others, of giant oil fields in the vulnerable Russian Arctic.

"BP's business model involves continuing to extract fossil fuels long into the future, playing a central role in ushering in irreversible climate change. In other words, it is one of the least sustainable companies on earth", says the letter.

"In virtually every element of BP's involvement in London 2012 there is cause for alarm as to how it got Locog's blessing and slipped past the commission's watchful eye", it says.

The signatories include Greenpeace UK, London mayoral candidate Jenny Jones, the director of the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, the World Development Movement, the Polaris Institute, Climate Rush and the UK Tar Sands Network.

BP, they say, plans to provide only conventional fossil fuel and a small amount of biofuel for the 5,000 official Olympic vehicles and, as the official carbon offset partner, it "promotes the seductive idea that barely any behavioural change is needed to combat climate change because offsetting effectively eliminates carbon emissions".

A spokeswoman for BP said: "BP is working with LOCOG to make these Games the most sustainable yet. In our bid to become the Official Oil and Gas partner we presented extensive proposals and details on how we could achieve our goals. We are providing the most efficient and technologically advanced fuels, including some biofuel blends which are not currently available on our forecourts. Through our Target Neutral programme, our goal is to offer to offset the emissions from all spectator journeys to and from the Games and to change behaviours so that more people consider more sustainable ways to travel."

Controversy around Dow Chemicals's sponsorship of the Olympic Stadium wrap erupted after Indian activists protested against the deal with Dow, which now owns Union Carbide, the company responsible for the 1984 Bhopal disaster.

Activists have also voiced concerns over the choice of corporate sponsors including worldwide partners McDonald's and Olympic suppliers Rio Tinto.

FULL TEXT OF LETTER to the IOC, LOCOG and CSL:

http://www.no-tar-sands.org/campaigns/british-petroleum-bp/bps-sponsorship-of-london-2012-oilympics/letter/

UK TAR SANDS NETWORK PRESS RELEASE

http://www.no-tar-sands.org/2012/02/olympic-organisers-slammed-over-bp-sponsorship/


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[biofuelwatch] More than 1 million acres cut from Indonesia's forest moratorium






More than 1 million acres of New Guinea forest cut from Indonesia's forest moratorium
mongabay.com 
February 16, 2012
 


The MIFEE area as seen on Google Earth.

More than 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) of land — including 350,000 hectares of peatland — in Indonesian New Guinea lost their protected status during a November 2011 revision of Indonesia's moratorium on new forest concessions, reports a new analysis by Greenomics-Indonesia, a Jakarta-based NGO.

The report,Peatland and forest at serious risk from Merauke food and energy estate development, focuses on The Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE), a giant agricultural project in southwestern New Guinea. Backers say the 1.2 million hectare project will improve food and energy security in the region, but critics contend the scheme will primarily enrich agribusiness developers. MIFEE will result in the conversion of large areas of peatlands and forests for industrial farming and plantations.


The MIFEE area under the first moratorium indicative map (top) and the November revision (bottom)
Greenomics says its analysis of the most recent indicative map, which lays out which areas are off-limits to development during a national two-year moratorium on new forestry concessions, shows that 406,718 hectares have been excised for MIFEE. The area includes 349,678 hectares of peatland and 88,818 hectares of primary forest.

The forest moratorium includes exemptions for some food and energy crops, including sugar cane and rice, as well as mining and fossil fuels development. But Greenomics says some of the MIFEE area is allocated for corn, sago, livestock, and oil palm plantations, which aren't specifically exempted. It fears that the program will be used to expand oil palm development in areas that should be off-limits under the moratorium.

Indonesia's moratorium has been in flux since it was officially defined in May 2011 following five months of debate which substantially limited restrictions on forest conversion. The original intent of the moratorium was to provide a window for Indonesia to develop a plan to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation under its one billion dollar pact with Norway, but loopholes have slowed progress on the program. Nevertheless there are signs that elements within the Indonesian government are beginning to weigh some of the reforms necessary to curtail forest destruction. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has made the "7/26" plan, which calls for seven percent annual economic growth and a 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from a project 2020 baseline, the centerpiece of his presidency. The plan includes incentives for developing degraded non-forest area instead of forests and peatlands, a pledge to turn more land management decisions over to local communities, and efforts to improve transparency around land use and allocation.

Indonesia has one of the world's highest deforestation rates and ranks among the planet's top five greenhouse gas emitters. Deforestation, degradation of forests by logging and fire, and peatlands destruction account for more than three-quarters of the country's carbon emissions.



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Thursday, February 16, 2012

[biofuelwatch] New report about aviation biofuels and jatropha impacts in Central Java





Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands) and Walhi (Friends of the Earth Indonesia)  have just published a new report:

Biokerosene: Take-off in the wrong direction

Trends and consequences of the rapid development of aviation biofuels, as shown by the impacts of jatropha cultivation on local people in Central Java


Foreword by Berry Nahdian Forqan, Executive Director of Walhi:

In January 2012, Lufthansa said they were very satisfied with their six-month trial of biokerosene, `Burn Fair', which had gone smoothly. The use of biokerosene made 
from jatropha and other oils was celebrated as a technical and environmental success.
Not a single word was said about the Javanese farmers and workers, who have 
converted some of their land from food to fuel crops, in return for ridiculously low 
payments. For them, the introduction of jatropha has led to a fall in income, conflict 
and frustration.

As Lufthansa calls for biokerosene production to be expanded to a commercial scale, 
it looks once again as though the lifeblood of Indonesia will be tapped for the benefit 
of wealthier people in Europe and elsewhere.  Faced with rising fuel prices and the changing climate, the aviation industry is looking for a license to grow. They claim that in future large quantities of biofuels will be able to replace kerosene from fossil fuel.  They claim that flying on biofuels will substantially reduce emissions. Plans have been drawn up to switch from fossil kerosene to biokerosene, while continuing to increase levels of air traffic.  

But the idea that using biofuels for aviation on a large scale can be green is a dangerous myth: 
Growing crops for biofuels such as biokerosene needs land and this comes at the cost of food production. Like fossil fuel, biokerosene emits high levels of greenhouse gases, particularly during flight at high altitudes.  Pushing the use of biofuels will make the global food and climate crises worse. The only solution to the problem is to reduce air traffic, foremost in Europe. This 
might not be a welcome message for the aviation industry or for frequent fliers, but it is a blessing for poorer people in the South who suffer twice: from the effects of climate change and from the loss of valuable land which is used to grow fuel instead of food.

We hope that this report will inspire policy makers, business people and consumers alike to look for sustainable alternatives to air travel and – by cutting the amount of miles they spend up in the air – to contribute to a world that is both more just and sustainable.




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