Sunday, March 31, 2013

[biofuelwatch] UK Parliament: Lady Bryony Worthington initiates debate





Lady Bryony Worthington is the founder of CO2 offsetting group Sandbag, and a former senior climate change campaigner in Friends of the Earth in the UK, although FoE's views on biofuels are very, very different from those Worthington expresses here.


http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2013-03-27a.1075.5&s=biofuel#g1077.7
[excluding most of the righthand margin on the page]

Energy: Biofuels — Question
11:15 am

Photo of Baroness Worthington

Baroness Worthington (Labour)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with stakeholders in the liquid biofuels industry about targets for increasing the proportion of biofuels in road transport fuel.

Photo of Earl Attlee

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

My Lords, the Government meet regularly with stakeholders in the biofuels industry, at both ministerial and senior official level. The subject of increasing the level of the UK's biofuels supply mandate is often discussed. Since it was introduced in 2008, the mandate has been increased each year and will rise again from 4.5% to 4.75% this April.
Photo of Baroness Worthington

Baroness Worthington (Labour)

My Lords, the British biofuels industry employs 3,500 people, helps to boost farm productivity, reduces imports of animal feed and has incredibly high sustainability standards. We need biofuels to contribute towards our legally binding renewables targets; yet, as of next week, the size of the market for biofuels in the UK will be frozen. Will the noble Earl undertake to meet representatives of the industry to discuss a more sensible way forward so that the industry can continue to grow and deliver investment and jobs, which is what we need?
Photo of Earl Attlee

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

My Lords, I can assure the noble Baroness that ministerial meetings will continue. I am not sure that it would be helpful for me to have meetings because I do not think that I can add anything to the work that my honourable friend Norman Baker undertakes. However, it may be helpful if I explain the problem to the House. The noble Baroness and I desire the same end state: the reduction of carbon emissions. The problem, however, is that if we increase the level of obligation at the moment, there may be undesirable, indirect land-use change problems right around the world, and that could increase the level of carbon emissions. It certainly would not reduce them to the extent that we would like. We have the same objectives as the noble Baroness—I assure her of that—and we still have the ability to get to where we want to in 2020, but we have to be mindful of indirect land-use change problems.
Photo of Lord Palmer

Lord Palmer (Crossbench)

My Lords, does the noble Earl not agree that this exciting new biofuels industry is greatly hampered by the fact that four different government departments are involved in it? I declare an interest as the president of the British Association of Biofuels and Oils.
Photo of Earl Attlee

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

My Lords, I accept that several government departments are involved; however, officials do talk to each other. The Secretary of State, Ed Davey, was representing the UK in Europe, trying to find a solution to the ILUC problems.
Photo of Lord Bradshaw

Lord Bradshaw (Liberal Democrat)

Having given a modest reply to the first part of the Question and a slightly different reply to the second part, can the Minister please assure the House that the Government really take the biofuels industry seriously? For example, is he aware of plans to import through Milford Haven large quantities of biomass that is derived not from food crops but waste products from elsewhere? Is it not time that we see some of these strategies come to fruition, rather than the present process, which seems to shilly-shally about in minor adjustment here and there?
Photo of Earl Attlee

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

My Lords, we take the biofuels industry seriously; it is an important industry. However, we must have regard to the fact that we are regulated by EU and World Trade Organisation free-trade rules, and we therefore cannot put in measures specifically designed to protect the UK biofuels industry.
Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Labour)

My Lords, what does the noble Earl's department intend to do to support small companies that make biofuels from locally sourced used cooking oil?
Photo of Earl Attlee

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

My Lords, I know that the noble Lord is a great supporter of the used cooking oil biofuel industry, and it is important. In a previous exchange, he raised the dual obligation to avoid the problem of large-scale ethanol imports disrupting the market for used cooking oil for the biodiesel market. I have raised this matter with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State but I go back to the point that I made to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw: we have to be careful to avoid setting regulations that favour UK industry, because we will rapidly come unstuck if we do so.
Photo of The Duke of Montrose

The Duke of Montrose (Conservative)

My Lords, what proportion of current demand under the renewable transport fuel obligation is met domestically and what part has to be imported? Is the domestic industry capable of producing economically against, say, the like of Brazilian ethanol?
Photo of Earl Attlee

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

My Lords, I do not have the figures to hand but I can write to my noble friend with any details that I have—and I am sure that I have some. The current trading period will end shortly and the figures will then be analysed. When we have those figures, we will have a better understanding of how the UK biofuels market works. However, we have to wait until the end of the trading period.
Photo of Lord Soley

Lord Soley (Labour)

One thing troubles me. The Minister will know—this refers back to his first Answer—that not all biofuels require extensive land use, algae being an obvious example. However, there are also land-use biofuels, such as in the desert and less arable areas which are wide open for development. Frankly, the British biofuels industry would like to be at the forefront of that, and I wonder whether we should be doing much more about it. Does he agree?
Photo of Earl Attlee

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

I agree with much of what the noble Lord says. There are what are termed "advanced biofuels", which do not have a land-take impact—certainly not in terms of taking land out of agricultural use or requiring a reduction in rainforest. Moreover, they do not have an impact on food production. Consideration is being given to greater incentives for the production of advanced biofuels.
Photo of Earl Cathcart

Earl Cathcart (Conservative)

My Lords, will increasing the use of biofuels increase or decrease the price at the pumps?
Photo of Earl Attlee

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

My Lords, my noble friend asks an important question. The obligation system increases the price of fuel at the pump. It is, in effect, a hidden subsidy, and it works in a very similar way to the renewables obligation for electric power.
Photo of Lord Berkeley

Lord Berkeley (Labour)

Is the noble Earl aware that the addition of biofuels to diesel does quite a lot of damage to engines which stand idle for a long time, such as those of boats and agricultural vehicles? Does he have a solution to this or is the answer to buy non-biofuel diesel for certain uses, such as those I have mentioned?
Photo of Earl Attlee

Earl Attlee (Whip, House of Lords; Conservative)

My Lords, the noble Lord and I discussed this during consideration of the renewable transport fuel obligation order in Grand Committee. I admitted that there are some handling problems in keeping biofuels in tanks for a long time, as the fuel needs to be circulated. I am confident that the appropriate publications, magazines and so on will alert users to the need to circulate the fuel, but the noble Lord makes an important point.

[Ends]




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Friday, March 29, 2013

[biofuelwatch] Philippines: Oil Palm Expansion Is Tearing Apart Indigenous Peoples Lives





http://intercontinentalcry.org/philippines-oil-palm-expansion-is-tearing-apart-indigenous-peoples-lives/ 

Philippines: Oil Palm Expansion Is Tearing Apart Indigenous Peoples Lives

By • Mar 27, 2013


oil palm expansion at the expenses of forested land (Photo: ALDAW)

The Philippine Government has depicted oil palm as the "tree of peace", of "economic growth" and overall as best environmentally friendly option for eradicating rural poverty while reducing dependence on imported edible oils. It also claims that only `idle' and `underdeveloped' land should be converted into oil palm plantations. However, according the impacted indigenous communities, oil palm expansion is bringing havoc to their lives by destroying their farmlands, hunting grounds and forest products, polluting their water sources and thus impoverishing them to an unprecedented level.

According to the indigenous federation Kalumbay in Northern Mindanao alone, 20,000 hectares of agricultural land are being targeted for conversion to oil palm, and in Palawan (a UNESCO Man & Biosphere Reserve) ALDAW says that at least 20,000 have been set aside for oil palm development.

The areas being threatened by aggressive oil palm development include burial, sacred and worship sites. The local inhabitants perceive the destruction of these historical and natural landmarks as an obliteration of their history and collective memories of the past.

In May 2012, peasant and social activists from KMP KMP-Northern Mindanao Region (KMP-NMR) , The Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center (APC), Kalumbay, Sentro Kitanglad, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and the Pesticide Network Asia Pacific (PAN AP) conducted an International Fact Finding Mission on the effects of massive appropriation and conversion of farmlands to palm oil plantations in this region. On that occasion severe cases of human rights violations were documented, including strafing, illegal arrests, and holding farmers at gunpoint while personnel of A. Brown Company, Inc. destroyed their crops.

The mission also established that many palm oil plantation workers have been victims of pesticide poisoning and that, in the impacted areas, there has been an increase in the incidence of skin diseases and other illnesses, while water sources have been contaminated. As of now, displaced indigenous peoples, like those of Bagocboc village live on the fringes of oil palm plantations, unable to farm and feed their families.

The recent escalation of violence towards the opponents of oil palm plantations has led, on October 3, 2012, to the extra-judicial killing of Gilbert Paborada, the chairperson of indigenous organization `Pangalasag'. He is said to be the fourth member of the indigenous federation Kalumbay who became a victim of extrajudicial killings in Northern Mindanao under the President Benigno Aquino III administration.

Also in Palawan (see previous coverage by IC) between 2009 and 2013, the ALDAW indigenous network–through video and participatory geographic information systems methodologies–documented the detrimental socio-economic impact of oil palm development. For instance, indigenous community members claim that `new' insect pests have spread from the neighboring oil palm plantations to their farmlands, destroying thousands of coconut palms. As a result, people's income from the sale of `copra' (coconut dried endosperm) has dropped at least 50 per cent. There is also evidence of oil palms being planted on a large scale also in "restricted", "controlled use areas" and "traditional use areas". This is in blatant contradiction with the rules and regulations contained in the Strategic Environmental Plan (Republic Act 7611).

photo 2

Indigenous coconut growers are amongst the key victims of oil palm expansion (Photo ALDAW)

  • For more details, see Palawan Oil Palm Geotagged Report Part 1 and Part 2

Few places in Southeast Asia can match the distinction of Palawan, in the Philippines. This is home to seven protected areas, a declared "Game Refuge and Bird Sanctuary" since 1967 and a "Mangrove Reserve" since 1981. UNESCO declared the whole Province a `Man and Biosphere Reserve' in 1990. And yet, in blatant contradiction with existing environmental laws and regulations, also old and secondary forest (e.g. in Quezon Municipality) has been illegally cleared to make space for oil palm plantations.

In Palawan, the bulk of oil palm operations are being carried out by the Palawan Palm & Vegetable Oil Mills Inc. and its sister company Agumil Philippines Inc. Both companies have been established through joint ventures between Filipino, Singaporean and Malaysian investors. A construction company, Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corporation (CAVDEAL), and private individuals (Mr. Cho) have now also turned into land grabbers and are pushing their business into the territories of the local Palawan tribes.

Additional concerns have been raised by ALDAW over the construction of the palm oil mill in Maasin, Municipality of Brooke's Point. For a ton of oil processed, about 2.5 tons of effluents will be discharged into the pristine Maasin river, with high risk of contamination for the coastal environment and its coral reefs.

Overall land conversion by oil palm companies is happening with little monitoring on the part of those government agencies that, instead, should ensure environmental protection, such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development. Environmental clearances are being issued too easily without strictly following the necessary bureaucratic procedures. A similar situation applies to oil palm development in Mindanao.

"Oil palm projects have never received the Free Prior and Informed Consent of our indigenous communities and we are now failing several notarized affidavits to condemn this. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples' (NCIP) should seriously look into this matter" says Artiso Mandawa (ALDAW Chairman).

Finally, contrary to the government promises of increasing rural employment, job opportunities in oil palm plantations are rather meager and working conditions are exploitative with daily payments below the Philippines' minimum wage. Oil palm expansion on indigenous land both in Palawan and Mindanao should be stopped with haste, before its adverse socio-ecological impact becomes irreversible.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Sign the online Petitions:

  • Petition 1 (covers Palawan and Mindanao, addressed to the National Government) 
  • Petition 2 (covers Palawan specifically, addressed towards the Provincial Government, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP)

Also address directly your concerns to:

The National Level

H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
President of the Republic
E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph / opnet@ops.gov.ph / titonoy@president.gov.ph

Chairman, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) ncipchairmansoffice@yahoo.com
NCIP Director Ancestral Domain Office (ADO) jonasadaci@yahoo.com
NCIP Director Office of Environment and Human Rights (OEHR) e-mail leilenegallardo@yahoo.com
NCIP Commissioner Dionisia Banua dioningbanua@yahoo.com.ph

Hon. Ramon Jesus Paje
Secretary
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Email: osec@denr.gov.ph
hea@denr.gov.ph

Hon. Proceso J. Alcala
Secretary
Department of Agriculture (DA)
Email: procyalcala@gmail.com; spja_osec@yahoo.com; spja_osec@da.gov.ph – Cc. Euclides G. Forbes (Administrator – Philippine Coconut Authority) ofad@pca.da.gov.ph

Hon. Loretta Ann P. RosalesChairperson, Commission on Human RightsEmail: chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com, lorettann@gmail.com

The Provincial Level

Hon. Baham Mitra
Governor of Palawan
E-mail: abmitra2001@yahoo.com

Executive Director: Romeo B. Dorado
Palawan Council for Sustainable Development E-mail:pcsdsfsd@compass.com.ph
oed@pcsd.ph Cc. mearlhilario@yahoo.com

Others
Walter W. Brown
Chairman
A.Brown Company Inc.
abci_headoffice@abrown.ph

For additional information contact the ALDAW Network aldaw.indigenousnetwork@gmail.com




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[biofuelwatch] EC report on social impacts of biofuels is a whitewash, claims ActionAid





FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

EC report on social impacts of biofuels is a whitewash, claims ActionAid 

Wednesday 27th March: While welcoming the European Commission's ambitions on climate and energy presented today in a Green Paper, the EC has covered up the negative social impacts of Europe's biofuel policies by severely underestimating the amount of biofuels-related land grab in Africa and the impacts on global food prices in an EC report also out today, claims international anti-poverty agency ActionAid.

According to ActionAid's data, six million hectares of land – an area about three times the size of Wales - are already under the control of European companies. The land has been taken over to grow biofuels to meet the demands of the mainly European market, fuelled by targets set by the EU. Meanwhile, the EC reported only 50,000 – 160,000 hectares of land investment for biofuels as `concerning' in terms of social impacts

Anders Dahlbeck, Biofuels Policy Adviser for ActionAid UK, said:  "The EC's report on the social impacts of its biofuels policy is a whitewash.  By severely under-reporting the amount of land taken over for biofuel production in Africa and the effects on global food prices, the Commission is showing its lack of concern for the plight of nearly one billion people that go to bed hungry every night."

The contribution of biofuels policies on rising food prices has been so damaging that ten influential global bodies, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation, called for the abolition of biofuel policies in 2011. Latest forecasts by, for example, the European Union's own Joint Research Centre as well as independent research institutes show that by 2020, EU biofuel targets could push up the agricultural price of vegetable oils by 36 per cent, maize by 22 per cent, wheat by 13 per cent and oilseeds by 20 per cent, hitting the world's most vulnerable the hardest. Yet the EC only reports food price increases of between 1-4% depending on crop, thus choosing to ignore the severe food price effects of its misguided biofuels policies.

When the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) was drafted in 2009, the social impacts of biofuels expansion were already public knowledge. However the Directive did not attempt to deal with these problems. Today's report was a chance for the EC to acknowledge the negative impacts of its policies and pledge to revise its Directive to address them. But by acutely underestimating the real extent of the amount of land taken over for biofuels in Africa  as well as global food price rises resulting from European biofuels consumption, the EC has decided to hide the scale of the problem.

ActionAid data reveal that UK companies are the biggest investors in biofuels in sub-Saharan Africa with 30 projects, followed by Italy with 18 and Germany with eight. The total number of European biofuel projects (including Norway and Switzerland) is 98. The average size of a single land deal is 68,000 hectares – larger than the UK's New Forest. 

With an EC green paper also out today looking ahead to post-2020 energy and climate policy, ActionAid urges the Commission to get its current data on the impacts of biofuels accurate before it starts planning for the future of biofuels and bioenergy. 

Dahlbeck added: "Europe should take immediate action to stop its energy plans from fuelling hunger.  If the EC had used accurate data to compile today's social impacts report, its conclusions would have been indisputable: that it must scrap its ill-conceived food for fuels policy and address this major cause of hunger and land grabs.

"The EU has a key opportunity this year to get it right by using current negotiations on Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) to introduce binding ILUC factors that will ensure correct carbon accounting, with a view to eliminating once and for all its use of food for fuel."

ends

Notes to editors:

  1. ActionAid's "Adding Fuel to the Flame" is a detailed briefing on the social impacts of EU's biofuel policies and provides new figures for the extent to which European investors are acquiring land in Africa for biofuel production.  It  was written in advance of the EC's report on the social impacts of biofuels
  2. ActionAid is calling for all land-based – not just food-based - biofuels to be phased out by 2020 as they play a significant role in global hunger, drive up world food prices and create greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. *  ActionAid's 6 million hectares figure refers to land taken over by European companies specifically to produce biofuels, in the period from 2009 to 2012.   While not all six million hectares subject to biofuels investments will have yet had negative social impacts, ActionAid has already been able to document landgrabs much larger than the figure cited by the EC, and the real figure is likely to be much higher than the EC's estimate
  4. Key Stats
  • The EU's current biofuel use would produce enough food to feed 185 million people every year
  • By 2020, EU biofuel targets could push up the price of vegetable oils by up to 36%, maize and wheat by 22% and 13% respectively and oilseeds by up to 20%
  • If every country in the world used 10% biofuels in its transport fuels by 2020, this would require more than one quarter - 26% - of the world's crops to be turned into fuel

4. Case study – how the rush for biofuels has devastated communities:  http://www.actionaid.org.uk/103154/casting_a_long_shadow.html

 



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[biofuelwatch] Australia: International Day of Action Against Native Forest Bioenergy





Australian forest and climate campaigners are calling for an International Day of Action Against Native Forest Bioenergy on 15th April. 

http://biomassacre.com/ 

Background article:

The forestry and energy industries are now poised to unleash their plans to feed our forests into furnaces to produce electricity, convert them into bio-fuels, and into pellets for export. This will mean more destruction of forests and their wildlife, and release massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.

Industry calls this `renewable energy'. It wants the government to help pay for it in the form of `renewable energy certificates' and other subsidies at the community's expense.

This is despite the fact that many eminent scientists and researchers consider this form of bio-energy to be neither clean nor renewable.* And despite the fact that this form of energy will actually outcompete genuine renewable energy like solar and wind power.** It's imperative governments don't support this industry.

Join us to show the energy industry and energy retailers, the forestry industry and governments that we will not stand by while our forests are destroyed for energy production. Let them know that our precious forests must be protected for wildlife, climate, water and the air we breathe, not trashed for electricity or fuel.

* Research links

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ngreene/scientists_to_congress_obama_c.html

http://216.250.243.12/90scientistsletter.pdf

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/19/science/earth/19biomass.html?_r=1

http://www.newwest.net/topic/article/biomass_energy_juggernaut_threatens_human_and_forest_health/C564/L564/

http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2010/06/carbon-bomb.html

http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/recent/Burning-trees-for-energy-puts-Canadian-forests-and-climate-at-risk-Greenpeace/

** http://www.crikey.com.au/2012/02/13/oakeshott-windsor-biomass-burner-scheme/




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Thursday, March 28, 2013

[biofuelwatch] Cargill Expanding Palm-Oil Plantations in Indonesia





PALEMBANG, Indonesia–U.S. food giant Cargill Inc. plans to expand its oil-palm plantations in Indonesia to boost output, helping meet rising global demand, company officials said Friday.
Cargill
Oil palm fruits, the world's largest source of cooking oil, are loaded into a truck at a plantation in South Sumatra.
Indonesia is the world's largest producer of palm oil, and Cargill isn't alone among trading and plantation companies eying opportunities there to cash in on strong demand for a product used in processed foods, cosmetics and motor fuel, despite concerns over its environment cost.
"We are aggressively looking for new areas in Sulawesi, Central Kalimantan and South Sumatra that are environmentally safe to expand our oil-palm footprint," Anthony Yeow, president-director of the company's oil-palm plantations in Sumatra told Dow Jones Newswires.
Last month, Wilmar International Ltd., the world's leading palm oil supplier by volume, announced it has taken a majority stake in a palm plantation venture in Indonesia's Papua owned by Noble Group Ltd.
Environmentalists warn that rampant expansion of plantations, which already cover large areas of rural Indonesia and Malaysia, will accelerate deforestation, increase emissions of greenhouse gases and threatened endangered animal species.
Cargill argues that expansion is necessary to feed world's growing population and rising industrial demand, but feels it can be achieved without endangering the environment.
Benchmark palm oil prices on Malaysia's derivatives exchange have fallen 1.6% this year, with the June contract for delivery at Bursa Malaysia Derivatives trading at 2,463 ringgit a ton midday Friday.
Palm oil prices have been more than twice the cost of production for several years now, spurring a boom in output not seen in any other farm commodity in Asia for decades. Indonesia's annual palm oil output is now around 26 million tons, up from around 5.8 million tons in 1998.
While global demand for edible oils is rising by around 3% annually, palm-oil consumption growth is as high as 7%, and there is a large scope to expand production in waste and degraded lands, said John Hartmann, COO of Cargill Tropical Palm Holdings Ltd.
Cargill won't invest in peatlands to grow oil palms and favors extension of Indonesia's moratorium on new commercial concessions in primary forests that will expire in a few weeks, Mr. Hartmann said.
Peatlands are centuries old forests that are natural storehouses of carbon. Their destruction in recent decades to expand oil palm plantations has led to vociferous protests and warnings about increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr. Hartmann said most of Cargill's Indonesia plantations are certified as "sustainable" by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and the remainder will also get the certificate by the end of this year.
RSPO is a private body, whose members include both plantations and environmental organizations, that certifies oil palm plantations as sustainable if they meet certain principles and criteria.
Cargill produces around 300,000 tons of crude palm oil in Indonesia annually and is in the process of acquiring 5,600 hectares of land in South Sumatra, boosting its plantation area in Indonesia by 13%.
The U.S. firm has more than 42,000 hectares of oil-palm plantations in the country and production tie-ups with local smallholders in an additional 27,000 hectares. In Indonesia, at least 20% of land in large oil-palm plantations is reserved for smallholders with around two hectares each.
"The process is at an advanced stage and will be completed sometime this year," Mr. Yeow said.
He said 6,000 hectares of the company's plantations in South Sumatra will reach full maturity by next year, with this pushing up annual crude palm-oil output by 20,000 tons, and a new mill with crushing mill with a capacity of 60 tons an hour is being set up to handle the rising output.
Mr. Yeow said Cargill's annual plantations yield is around 25 tons a hectare, well above the national average of 17 tons.
 
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[biofuelwatch] Swedish land grab in Tanzania causes protests





http://farminglandscapesociety.blogspot.ca/2013/03/swedish-land-grab-in-tanzania-causes.html

Swedish land grab in Tanzania causes protests

In 2009 we, a group of researchers from Sweden and Norway, wrote an opinion piece in Dagens Nyheter against a case of Swedish landgrabbing for biofuel in Tanzania. The Swedish company SEKAB claimed that they just targeted an unutilised state ranch, but we knew that the area was actually settled and used by small-scale farmers and pastoralists. In the month before some influential Swedish environmental researchers (several from Stockholm Environment Institute)  had written an opinion piece in Göteborgsposten that was very positive about such projects in Tanzania and biofuels in Africa more generally. They took an innocently environmentally friendly perspective, without discussing existing land rights and the role for African smallholders. I also debated on Swedish Radio with one of them.

Since then biofuel projects in Africa have been more and more criticised and there are few concerned environmentalists who believe that biofuel from plantations in Africa is the solution to the energy problem. More and more people also realise that there is a conflict between food security and large biofuel plantations.

The Swedish project we crtiticised has also had its ups and downs since then. I have tried to report on it successively in my blog in Swedish: widgren.blogspot.com . The development of this project until late 2011 has also been summarised by Kjell Havnevik, who is now following the project in his research. One of the most problemtic plans was to convert larges tracts of miombo forest in Rufiji to plantations. The net less of CO2 to the athmosphere from the clearing of this forest incuding its large root system would probably easy outweigh the environmental gain from Swedish cars driving on ethanol. The project is now focussed on some 8000 hectares sugar plantation outside Bagamoyo for sugar production - no longer biofuels more than marginally.

In August last year the Resettlement Action Plan for the project disclosed a conservative estimate of the number of villages and inhabitants that would have be resettled  (=evicted).  During the last month the reports about the problems in the area have started to come out from Tanzanian media. This link in Swahili describes how the Swedish company now called  Agro Eco Energy has come in conflict with the neighbouring national park, a problem which has been taken up by the Tanzanian parliament. Other reports tell that "Villagers cry over land grabbing" .The villagers claim to have had a previous court case which shows their right to the land. Read also "Dubious land sale in Bagamoyo creates dispute between villagers and investor"

The letter of protest from the villagers of Makaani Gana, which is about to be bulldozed for the plantation(including houses and a mosque)  can be found here in Swahili.  The google translation is rather confusing so please: if anyone out there can help me with translation I would be grateful.

It would be interesting to hear the same environmental scientists that in March 2009 were so positive about biofuel in Tanzania to comment this four years later. No longer seems sugarcane converted to biofuel for Swedish cars be so hopeful. And it is no longer possible to claim that the land is unutilised. Swedish development aid, companies and innocent environmental scientists ought to study Swedish agrarian history to understand how respect for customary rights and long use of the land formed the basis for the present transparent system of land rights in Sweden.
 
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[biofuelwatch] Sinar Mas firm to invest $1.6 billion in Liberian palm oil





http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/03/26/sinar-mas-firm-invest-16-billion-liberian-palm-oil.html

Sinar Mas firm to invest $1.6 billion in Liberian palm oil

Sinar Mas Group says it will invest US$1.6 billion in the Liberian palm oil business to expand operations overseas.

Franky Oesman Widjaja, the CEO of Golden-Agri Resources Ltd. (GAR), a key Sinar Mas Group business unit, said that the company would disburse the funds over eight to 10 years.

"So far, we have put in about $100 million," he said during a meeting with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday in Jakarta.

Franky said that the investment was appealing and would boost the company's image.

Golden-Agri Resources has been seeking to become a virtual king in the market as it attempts to acquire to 40,000 hectares of new concessions, mostly in Kalimantan.

GAR, the world's second-largest palm oil plantation operator, aims to operate 503,400 hectares of plantations in 2013, which would be up 8.6 percent from 2012 and would include areas developed in partnership with local farmers.

In 2010, the company invested in the Verdant Fund LP, a private equity fund that has a stake in Golden Veroleum (Liberia) Inc., which the Liberian government granted a concession of 220,000 hectares of palm oil plantations and 40,000 hectares in partnership with local farmers.

As of 2012, GAR has invested $70 million in Verdant Fund to develop palm oil plantations, while Veroleum has planted in 2,000 hectares of the concessions.

Franky added that, depending on conditions such as soil, the company would plant up to 10 hectares this year, an investment which could reach $100 million.

"We are getting 5 to 6 tons of yield per hectare. Thus, of all the planted land produces results, we could have a yield of 1.5 tons on our hands," he added.

GAR is targeting a 5 percent to 10 percent increase in palm-product output this year. The company's unaudited 2012 financial report said that GAR's crude palm oil (CPO) production volume rose by 9 percent to 2.36 million tons, while palm kernels were up 14 percent to 554,000 tons last year.

The company earned $6.05 billion in revenue from operations, registering a 1.7 percent year-on-year accretion. Indonesia contributed 78.7 percent, or $4.76 billion, to revenue while China brought in 21.3 percent

In terms of products, CPO comprised 44 percent of revenue, while unbranded refined palm products brought in another 29 percent. Branded products, soybean meal and soybean oil contributed 8 percent, 8 percent and 4 percent
respectively.

GAR is listed on the Singapore stock exchange and has a market capitalization of $6.8 billion as of 2012. Investment group Flambo International Ltd. holds 49.95 percent of GAR.

Sirleaf said that Liberia might grant the company additional
concessions.

However, Sirleaf said that it was essential that the company work closely with communities. "We look forward to that and we look forward to them moving even further than that to start processing once the operations have come into full
maturity."

Liberia has been rebuilding after a long civil war. The country held democratic elections in 2005, which Sirleaf, a Harvard-trained economist, won.
 
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

[biofuelwatch] Automakers go to Supreme Court over E15








Automakers ask Supreme Court to take up ethanol challenge

 

By David Shepardson, Detroit News, March 26, 2013 at 9:43 am

 


New York — Major automakers asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency's decision to approve a higher blend of ethanol for vehicles from 2001 and newer.

 

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers — which represents Detroit's Big Three automakers, Toyota Motor Corp., Volkswagen AG and others, the Association of Global Automakers — the trade association representing many major foreign automakers and the Outdoor Equipment Institute and the National Marine Manufacturers Association filed a petition late Monday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals' August decision that none of the trade associations or parties had the legal standing to challenge approval of E15.

 

The groups are challenging the EPA's decision in early 2011 to grant partial waivers approving the sale of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol for 2001 model year and newer passenger cars and light trucks.

 

"Automakers' greatest concern continues to be customers. It is critical that consumers have a positive experience with renewable fuels, which are an important component of our national energy security. It is not in the longer term interest of consumers, the government, and all parties involved to discover, after the fact, that equipment or performance problems are occurring because a new fuel  was rushed into the national marketplace," the alliance said.

 

The battle over ethanol in gas tanks has been going on for several years.

 

Last month, House members and advocates for vehicle owners sought more testing before E15 is more widely used.

 

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, who chaired the Science Committee's environment panel that held a hearing, said the fuel needs more study.

 

"Unfortunately, the more E15 is studied, the more concerns are identified. In addition to potential widespread impacts on vehicle engines, EPA has led a haphazard transition to E15 usage marked by regulatory confusion, bungled implementation, and a lack of consumer education," he said.

 

The EPA has approved the use of E15 for vehicles from the 2001 model year or newer, but didn't approve its use for older vehicles, non-road engines, vehicles, and equipment, motorcycles, or heavy-duty gasoline engines.

 

Many automakers — including Chrysler Group LLC — haven't approved the use of E15 for new vehicles  and some say its use will invalidate warranties.

 

Fuels America, an ethanol advocacy group, has defended the fuel E15 as "the most tested fuel, ever, and the auto industry failed to provide a single example of problems with drivability during the DOE's testing process."

 

The group said opposition "is about oil company's efforts to retain control over America's fuel supply," they said. "E15 is a safe, clean, high-quality fuel that has the potential to drive our country toward a cleaner, more secure energy future."

 

A handful of stations in Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa are selling the fuel that has more corn-based fuel than the E10, a blend that's 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gas, sold at about 96 percent of pumps across the country and certified for use by all vehicle engines.

 

AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet, who heads the motor club that represents 53 million drivers, said just 5 percent of vehicles on U.S. roads are approved to use E15.

 

"AAA believes it is both premature and irresponsible to sell E15 to consumers while these issues remain unresolved," he said last month.

 

A bill being circulated in Congress would require the EPA to ask the National Academy of Sciences to assess the state of science on E15, including research needs, recent testing and consumer education.

 

AAA supports the proposal as "an important first step in resolving some of the outstanding questions about the impact of E15 use," Darbelnet said.


 dshepardson@detroitnews.com    (202) 662-8735




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