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    Spanish company Ferry Group is to invest €42/US$55.2 million in a project for the production of biomass fuel pellets in Bulgaria. The 3-year project consists of establishing plantations of paulownia trees near the city of Tran. Paulownia is a fast-growing tree used for the commercial production of fuel pellets. Dnevnik - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Hungary's BHD Hõerõmû Zrt. is to build a 35 billion Forint (€138/US$182 million) commercial biomass-fired power plant with a maximum output of 49.9 MW in Szerencs (northeast Hungary). Portfolio.hu - Feb. 20, 2007.

    Tonight at 9pm, BBC Two will be showing a program on geo-engineering techniques to 'save' the planet from global warming. Five of the world's top scientists propose five radical scientific inventions which could stop climate change dead in its tracks. The ideas include: a giant sunshade in space to filter out the sun's rays and help cool us down; forests of artificial trees that would breath in carbon dioxide and stop the green house effect and a fleet futuristic yachts that will shoot salt water into the clouds thickening them and cooling the planet. BBC News - Feb. 19, 2007.

    Archer Daniels Midland, the largest U.S. ethanol producer, is planning to open a biodiesel plant in Indonesia with Wilmar International Ltd. this year and a wholly owned biodiesel plant in Brazil before July, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The Brazil plant is expected to be the nation's largest, the paper said. Worldwide, the company projects a fourfold rise in biodiesel production over the next five years. ADM was not immediately available to comment. Reuters - Feb. 16, 2007.

    Finnish engineering firm Pöyry Oyj has been awarded contracts by San Carlos Bioenergy Inc. to provide services for the first bioethanol plant in the Philippines. The aggregate contract value is EUR 10 million. The plant is to be build in the Province of San Carlos on the north-eastern tip of Negros Island. The plant is expected to deliver 120,000 liters/day of bioethanol and 4 MW of excess power to the grid. Kauppalehti Online - Feb. 15, 2007.

    In order to reduce fuel costs, a Mukono-based flower farm which exports to Europe, is building its own biodiesel plant, based on using Jatropha curcas seeds. It estimates the fuel will cut production costs by up to 20%. New Vision (Kampala, Uganda) - Feb. 12, 2007.

    The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has decided to use 10% biodiesel in its fleet of public buses. The world's largest city is served by the Toei Bus System, which is used by some 570,000 people daily. Digital World Tokyo - Feb. 12, 2007.

    Fearing lack of electricity supply in South Africa and a price tag on CO2, WSP Group SA is investing in a biomass power plant that will replace coal in the Letaba Citrus juicing plant which is located in Tzaneen. Mining Weekly - Feb. 8, 2007.

    In what it calls an important addition to its global R&D capabilities, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is to build a new bioenergy research center in Hamburg, Germany. World Grain - Feb. 5, 2007.

    EthaBlog's Henrique Oliveira interviews leading Brazilian biofuels consultant Marcelo Coelho who offers insights into the (foreign) investment dynamics in the sector, the history of Brazilian ethanol and the relationship between oil price trends and biofuels. EthaBlog - Feb. 2, 2007.

    The government of Taiwan has announced its renewable energy target: 12% of all energy should come from renewables by 2020. The plan is expected to revitalise Taiwan's agricultural sector and to boost its nascent biomass industry. China Post - Feb. 2, 2007.

    Production at Cantarell, the world's second biggest oil field, declined by 500,000 barrels or 25% last year. This virtual collapse is unfolding much faster than projections from Mexico's state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos. Wall Street Journal - Jan. 30, 2007.

    Dubai-based and AIM listed Teejori Ltd. has entered into an agreement to invest €6 million to acquire a 16.7% interest in Bekon, which developed two proprietary technologies enabling dry-fermentation of biomass. Both technologies allow it to design, establish and operate biogas plants in a highly efficient way. Dry-Fermentation offers significant advantages to the existing widely used wet fermentation process of converting biomass to biogas. Ame Info - Jan. 22, 2007.

    Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited is to build a biofuel production plant in the tribal belt of Banswara, Rajasthan, India. The petroleum company has acquired 20,000 hectares of low value land in the district, which it plans to commit to growing jatropha and other biofuel crops. The company's chairman said HPCL was also looking for similar wasteland in the state of Chhattisgarh. Zee News - Jan. 15, 2007.

    The Zimbabwean national police begins planting jatropha for a pilot project that must result in a daily production of 1000 liters of biodiesel. The Herald (Harare), Via AllAfrica - Jan. 12, 2007.

    In order to meet its Kyoto obligations and to cut dependence on oil, Japan has started importing biofuels from Brazil and elsewhere. And even though the country has limited local bioenergy potential, its Agriculture Ministry will begin a search for natural resources, including farm products and their residues, that can be used to make biofuels in Japan. To this end, studies will be conducted at 900 locations nationwide over a three-year period. The Japan Times - Jan. 12, 2007.

    Chrysler's chief economist Van Jolissaint has launched an arrogant attack on "quasi-hysterical Europeans" and their attitudes to global warming, calling the Stern Review 'dubious'. The remarks illustrate the yawning gap between opinions on climate change among Europeans and Americans, but they also strengthen the view that announcements by US car makers and legislators about the development of green vehicles are nothing more than window dressing. Today, the EU announced its comprehensive energy policy for the 21st century, with climate change at the center of it. BBC News - Jan. 10, 2007.

    The new Canadian government is investing $840,000 into BioMatera Inc. a biotech company that develops industrial biopolymers (such as PHA) that have wide-scale applications in the plastics, farmaceutical and cosmetics industries. Plant-based biopolymers such as PHA are biodegradable and renewable. Government of Canada - Jan. 9, 2007.


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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Brazil's President Lula makes biofuels speech at G8 Summit


Lula da Silva holding the first sample of H-Bio, Brazil's new kind of biodiesel

Recently we reported that biofuels would feature on the energy agenda of the G8 summit in St-Petersburg. Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is one of the five leaders from developing nations invited at the Summit, wrote an op-ed piece on what he would say to G8 leaders.

The essay focuses on biofuels, and we pick it up there (see the full post for the entire article):
Summit offers chance to gain consensus
BY LUIZ INACIO LULA DA SILVA

Energy security is another issue for which we need to find global solutions. Despite individual national energy needs, we all share the common challenge of ensuring access to clean energy from reliable suppliers at affordable prices.

It is with this aim that I will take to Saint Petersburg news of the successes Brazil has been achieving in developing biofuels. I want to share my enthusiasm for the excellent prospects of ethanol, biodiesel and H-bio (which is an innovative combination of vegetable oils and fossil fuels).

First, these products constitute renewable energy alternatives, which allow us to diversify the world's energy supply while lessening the undesirable dependency on a limited number of sources and suppliers.

Second, these products protect the environment, both by emitting fewer of the gases responsible for the greenhouse effect and by using agricultural wastes and depleted lands.

Third, these biomass products are development tools with a strong positive impact on society. Given the abundance and variety of their feedstocks and the versatility of the technology employed, these products facilitate job creation on small and family farms, as well as in related industries. Moreover, they generate export revenue for countries that in many cases depend on a single export commodity and which now lack energy resources.

Using the full potential of biofuels, however, depends on creating new models of energy cooperation. We need to join efforts to create and disseminate these technologies and open up world markets for new fuels. Toward this end, Brazil proposes the creation of an Ethanol Forum that would gather together the major current or potential producers and consumers to assist in establishing international standards to deal with logistical and technical issues associated with production and supply of these fuels. It makes perfect sense for Brazil and the United States to work closely together toward the goal of a true globalization of biofuels, because our two countries together account for 70 percent of the current world production of ethanol.

Given that each country can produce and consume different kinds of biofuels, it's no longer a question of dividing up the world between producers and importers nor of creating new dependency relationships. Our aim is to maximize the advantages that these new sources of energy can produce, in terms of agricultural diversification, job creation and environmental conservation. The potential benefits of energy from biofuels are limitless, as are their sources of supply.
Meanwhile, the G8 has adopted a document on Global Energy Security, which contains a section on the promotion of bioenergy world wide [§33-36].
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During the Group of Eight (G-8) Summit in Saint Petersburg this weekend, I will participate together with the leaders of the world's major industrial and emerging economies in an expanded dialogue -- begun in Evian, France, in 2003 and enhanced in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005 -- concerning important issues on the global agenda.

At a time when global challenges are increasing in the areas of trade liberalization, economic coordination, environmental protection and security, the Saint Petersburg meeting is a cause for optimism and hope.

President Vladimir Putin's invitation for Brazil and other developing countries to participate in the G-8 discussions is particularly praiseworthy because it contributes to international governance.

Discussions are now under way at the United Nations and in the Bretton Woods institutions regarding the need to reform some multilateral forums so that they better reflect the realities of the world today. The mechanism of the expanded G-8, even with its limitations, contributes to a more-legitimate debate on a new international order. After all, the major challenges the G-8 confronts are global issues that call for solutions involving the entire world.

My life experience, both as a labor leader and as a politician, has been forged through dialogue, through negotiations. I've learned that it is through candid conversations, looking into the eyes of one's interlocutors without giving up one's own convictions, that we can bridge differences and expand consensus. I am confident that at the Saint Petersburg meeting my colleagues and I will not fail to demonstrate political leadership and courage.

These virtues are particularly necessary at this juncture, when what is at stake is the very credibility and viability of the World Trade Organization, one of the pillars of multilateralism. In Saint Petersburg, we will have what may be our last opportunity to break the logjam of the Doha Round -- so that additional trade liberalization helps sustain the current period of solid growth in the world economy while providing leverage for development. Thus, we can break the cycle of inequities, which in so many cases is responsible for the extreme poverty and violence that especially afflict the poorest countries.

Political will needed

The ministerial meeting in Geneva, at the beginning of July, made patently obvious what everyone already knew: that negotiations conducted exclusively at a technical level cannot advance in the absence of political will.

For my part, I will take to the meeting Brazil's willingness to make the concessions that are within our reach for the purpose of reaching an agreement. I trust that my counterparts will take a similar approach because history surely will not forgive us if we fail to fulfill, for a few more years or even decades, the legitimate aspirations of the international community, particularly those of the most impoverished countries.

The other issues on the Saint Petersburg agenda call for equally ambitious and innovative initiatives.

In the field of education, for example, Brazil offers professional teacher training to poor countries, which could be financed, in part, by G-8 members. We also want to see an expansion for other countries of the program that converts poor country debts into investments in local educational programs.

Innovative financing

We will also present a significant proposal that connects to two other issues: combating pandemics and introducing innovative mechanisms for financing development. This involves the establishment of an international central mechanism for purchasing medications to combat AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in developing countries, to be funded by a dedicated international tax on airline tickets.

This plan is already being implemented in quite a few countries, including in Brazil.

We are all taking ambitious proposals and expectations to Saint Petersburg. I am confident that we will return home with new reasons for hope and a new commitment to global partnership and solidarity.

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was elected president of Brazil in 2002.

Source: Miami Herald.

More information: G8 adopted text on Global Energy Security - promoting bioenergy, § 33-37.


Article continues

EU proposes €uro 5 billion aid for African infrastructure

Even though we envision a green future where bottom-up approaches to development get priority, we understand that in several sectors a top-down strategy is required. Infrastructure is one such sector, and in Africa it is probably the single most important barrier to development.

The European Union, the world's largest donor of development aid, now proposes a €uro 5 billion (US$6 bn) package of aid for a EU/Africa Infrastructure Partnership to (re)build railroads, harbors and national and rural roads on the continent. The partnership is part of the EU's Africa Strategy, which foresees an annual €uro 10 billion of aid per year by 2010.

Inadequate infrastructure is at the root of many problems in Africa. It is obviously crucial for the development any economy because without roads, no agricultural produce ever gets to market and mobility of goods and people is hampered; without harbors and ports, no trade is possible; without railroads, neither fuel, nor goods nor people can be transported efficiently.
Moreover, there's a vicious circle at work: when infrastructure lacks, basic consumer goods (from food to fuel) become very expensive, and those already in poverty are forced to spend even more of their budgets on basic goods to survive. And the poorer these regions become, the less States are inclined to invest in them, meaning infrastructure gets put on the back bench even more.
Finally, lack of infrastructure is one of the strongest push factors in Africa's internal migration of rural masses to cities. These cities are not ready to accept this influx, which in turn brings a whole host of new problems (with vast slums becoming the norm in many African "mega-cities".) And when the rural populations leave the land, food production becomes the first victim, forcing African cities to import food from abroad.

EU Commissioner for Development, Louis Michel, has been the most active and serious commissioner when it comes to crafting a coherent African development policy. Finally someone dares to go back to basics. Because the policy accents on good governance, democracy, human rights, gender, and so on, which dominated the 1990s discourse on development weren't wrong, but they resulted in policy makers losing sight of the underlying, more important issues. Michel digs those back up.

The Commissioner also understands the potential of sub-Saharan Africa to become a major biofuels producer. And the infrastructure aid is partly aimed at unlocking this potential. As he recently said:
“Many developing countries are naturally well placed for the production of biofuel feedstocks, particularly those traditionally strong in sugar production. The expanding EU market for biofuels will provide them with new export possibilities. The EU will help them maximise this opportunity with support for knowledge transfer and development of their market potential.”
The example of Brazil shows that without adequate infrastructure and logistical chains, in this case rail and river transport networks and internal harbors, biofuels could never be exploited in a feasible way. That is why we welcome the EU's partnership very much.

With more than 40 per cent of Africans having no access to safe water and less than 20 per cent having electricty, the EU/Africa Infrastructure Partnership will also give a cash boost to the development information technology infrastructure and water networks.
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