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News articles on biofuels
Mongabay.com news articles on biofuels in blog format. Updated regularly.
(02/20/2008) World fertilizer prices surged by more than 200 percent in 2007, as farmers sought to maximize corn production for ethanol, according to the International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC). Poor African farmers were hardest hit by the increase.
UN: biofuels are starving the poor by driving up food prices
(02/14/2008) Echoing sentiments increasingly expressed by politicians, scientists, and advocates for the poor, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization warned that the world's poorest people are suffering as a result of the push to use food crops for biofuel production.
Malaysia announces $103B development plan for Borneo island
(02/13/2008) Malaysia announced a $103 billion development plan for Sarawak, a state in northern Borneo.
How activists and scientists saved a rainforest island from destruction for palm oil
(02/12/2008) In mid-January, Mongabay learned that the government of Papua New Guinea had changed its mind: it would no longer allow Vitroplant Ltd. to deforest 70% of Woodlark Island for palm oil plantations. This change came about after one hundred Woodlark Islanders (out of a population of 6,000) traveled to Alotau, the capital of Milne Bay Province, to deliver a protest letter to the local government; after several articles in Mongabay and Pacific Magazine highlighted the plight of the island; after Eco-Internet held a campaign in which approximately three thousand individuals worldwide sent nearly 50,000 letters to local officials; and after an article appeared in the London Telegraph stating that due to deforestation on New Britain Island and planned deforestation on Woodlark Island, Papua New Guinea had gone from being an eco-hero to an 'eco-zero'.
Bloomberg: global warming "just as lethal" as terrorism
(02/12/2008) New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters Monday that global warming is as big a threat to humanity as terrorism, according to Reuters.
Biofuels are worsening global warming
(02/07/2008) Converting native ecosystems for production of biofuel feed stocks is worsening the greenhouse gas emissions they are intended to mitigate, reports a pair of studies published in the journal Science. The studies follow a series of reports that have linked ethanol and biodiesel production to increased carbon dioxide emissions, destruction of biodiverse forest and savanna habitats, and water and air pollution.
How much would it cost to end Amazon deforestation?
(01/27/2008) With Brazil last week announcing a significant jump in Amazon deforestation during the second half of 2007, the question emerges, how much would it cost to end the destruction of Earth's largest rainforest?
7000 sq km of Amazon rainforest destroyed in late 2007 says Greenpeace
(01/25/2008) Brazilian government figures will likely show that more than 7,000 square kilometers of Amazon rainforest were destroyed between August and the end December 2007, said environmental group Greenpeace.
Sustainability mandated for biofuels used in the EU
(01/24/2008) Biofuels used in the European Union will have meet strict environmental requirements said the head of the E.U.'s energy program on Wednesday.
Amazon deforestation jumps in the second half of 2007
(01/24/2008) Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rose sharply in the second half of 2007 as a result of surging prices for beef and grain, said a top Brazilian environmental official.
Palm oil industry prepares geen initiative to counter criticism
(01/18/2008) Global food and consumer goods giants are backing a plan to certify that palm oil is produced in a way that doesn't drive destruction of tropical rainforests, reports The Wall Street Journal. The move comes as the palm industry is facing increasing scrutiny -- and consumer backlash -- for its practices which scientists say are driving large-scale destruction of forests across Indonesia and Malaysia, resulting in massive greenhouse gas emissions.
U.S. biofuels policy drives deforestation in Indonesia, the Amazon
(01/17/2008) U.S. incentives for biofuel production are promoting deforestation in southeast Asia and the Amazon by driving up crop prices and displacing energy feedstock production, say researchers.
Cellulosic ethanol production could fight Gulf Dead Zone, help fisheries
(01/16/2008) Feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production could help fight the massive "dead zone" that forms each year in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of current farming practices, says a University of Alabama in Huntsville biologist.
Tropical islanders win battle against palm-oil
(01/16/2008) Mongabay has confirmed that the Milne Bay government has pulled plans to allow Vitroplant to log 70% of Woodlark Island for palm oil plantations. The Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, Hon John Hickey, stated in a press release that "Vitroplant did do a feasibility study and were keen to invest on the island. However due to landowner objections on the development of the oil palm industry on the island, the company has decided to pull out." Vitroplant has yet to comment.
Indonesia seeks to cut fuel subsidies via biofuels
(01/15/2008) Biofuels will make up 10 percent of Indonesia's fuel transport consumption by 2010 under a plan announced Monday by a senior government official, according to Reuters. The initiative could ease the economic impact of fuel subsidies - currently some of the highest in the world - in Indonesia, while boosting demand for locally produced bioenergy crops including palm oil, jatropha, sugar cane and cassava.
E.U. may ban palm oil biodiesel
(01/15/2008) The E.U. may ban imports of certain biofuel feedstocks that damage the environment, reports The New York Times. Environmentalists say some biofuels like palm oil are driving the destruction of biologically-rich rainforests and may produce more emissions than conventional fossil fuels.
Palm oil developer abandons plan to log 70% of Woodlark Island
(01/14/2008) Vitro Plant, a developer that planned to log 70 percent of Papua New Guinea's Woodlark Island for oil palm plantations, has pulled out of the project reports The National, a Papuan newspaper.
DR Congo has great potential for biofuels says U.N. official
(01/09/2008) A UN economist is touting the potential of DR Congo for industrial biofuels production, reports Reuters. In a telephone interview, Dr Schmidhuber said the worn-torn country could devote millions of acres for oil palm, soy, and other biofuel feedstocks.
Switchgrass a better biofuel source than corn
(01/07/2008) Switchgrass yields more than 540 percent more energy than the energy needed to produce and convert it to ethanol, making the grassy weed a far superior source for biofuels than corn ethanol, reports a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Leading biofuels wreak environmental havoc
(01/03/2008) Biofuels made from world's dominant energy crops -- including corn, soy, and oil palm -- may have worse environment impacts than conventional fossil fuels, reports a study published in the journal Science.
Orangutan should become symbol of palm-oil opposition
(01/02/2008) In a letter published today in Nature, Oscar Venter, Erik Meijaard and Kerrie Wilson argue that proposals for conservation groups to purchase and run oil palm plantations for the purpose of generating funds for forest protection are unlikely to be successful. The concept was originally put forth by Lian Pin Koh and David S. Wilcove in a 2007 Nature article.
Global food prices rise 40% in 2007 to new record
(12/27/2007) As world food prices continue to surge, 37 countries are facing critical food crises due to conflict and disasters, according to a report from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO's global food price index rose 40 percent this year to the highest level on record.
Rainforest destruction increasingly driven by corporate interests, not poverty
(12/18/2007) Tropical deforestation is increasingly enterprise-driven rather than the result of subsistence agriculture, a trend that has critical implications for the future of the world's forests, says Dr. Thomas Rudel, a researcher from Rutgers University. As urbanization and government-sponsored development programs dwindle in the tropics, industrial logging and conversion for large-scale agriculture -- including oil palm plantations, soy farms, and cattle ranches -- are ever more important causes of forest destruction.
Palm oil is a net source of CO2 emissions when produced on peatlands
(12/17/2007) Researchers have confirmed that converting peat forests for oil palm plantations results in a large net release of carbon dioxide, indicating industry claims that palm oil helps fight climate change are unfounded, at least when plantations are established in peatlands.
U.S. corn subsidies drive Amazon destruction
(12/13/2007) U.S. corn subsidies for ethanol production are contributing to deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, reports a tropical forest scientist writing in this week's issue of the journal Science.
70% of rainforest island to be cleared for palm oil
(12/13/2007) Mongabay.com received information this week that the Malaysian company Vitroplant has been granted the permit it needs to begin developing 70% of Woodlark Island into palm oil plantations. In an e-mail received by one of the opposition leaders to Vitroplant, Dr. Simon Piyuwes said that "the government granted the permit to the oil palm company despite a widespread campaign and pressure from NGOs". In an earlier article Dr. Piyuwes stated that "we [the islanders] do not have money to fight the giant. We only hope for the support from the NGOs, and the mercy of the government to withdraw the project." It seems the government has refused Dr. Piyuwes what he hoped for.
REDD will fail if needs of forest communities aren't addressed
(12/07/2007) Initiatives to reduce emissions by reducing tropical deforestation (REDD) will fail unless policymakers adequately address the underlying drivers of forest degradation and destruction, argues a new report published by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Merrill Lynch announces carbon credits-for-forest conservation partnership
(12/06/2007) Merrill Lynch is working with Carbon conservation, an ecosystem services firms, to explore opportunities in avoided deforestation and integrated sustainable land management. The partnership was announced Thursday in Bali, Indonesia, where more than 10,000 policymakers, scientists, and activists are meeting to discuss a post-Kyoto framework on limiting climate change.
Tropical forests face huge threat from industrial agriculture
(12/05/2007) With forest conversion for large-scale agriculture rapidly emerging as a leading driver of tropical deforestation, a new report from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) suggests the trend is likely to continue with Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Peru, and Colombia containing 75 percent of the world's forested land that is highly suitable for industrial agriculture expansion. Nevertheless the study identifies forests that may be best suited (low population density, unsuitable climate and soils) for "Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation" (REDD) initiatives which compensate countries for preserving forest lands in exchange for carbon credits.
Kyoto pact ignores CO2 emissions from biofuels
(12/05/2007) The Kyoto climate pact, as it currently stands, ignores millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions from the drainage of peatsoils for palm oil production in Indonesia and Malaysia, warnned Wetlands International, an international NGO, in a report released at the UN climate meeting in Bali.
Returns from carbon offsets could beat palm oil in Congo DRC
(12/04/2007) A proposal to pay the Democratic of Congo (DRC) for reducing deforestation could add 15-50 percent to the amount of international aid given to the warn-torn country, reports a new study published by scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC). The funds would help alleviate rural poverty while cutting emissions of greenhouse gases and protecting threatened biodiversity.
Cooking oil, palm oil biodiesel can reduce emissions relative to diesel
(11/28/2007) A lifecycle analysis of biodiesel by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) shows that using palm oil derived from existing plantations can be an effective biofuel feedstock for reducing greenhouse gas emissions relative to conventional diesel fuel. However, palm oil sourced from rainforest and peatlands generating emissions 8 to 21 times greater than those from diesel.
UN says palm oil destroys forests, indigenous cultures in Indonesia, Malaysia
(11/26/2007) Europe's demand for supposedly eco-friendly biodiesel is fueling destruction of biodiverse rainforests in southeast Asia, warns a new report from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Termites may produce cleaner biofuels
(11/23/2007) Termites may be the key to greener, more effective biofuels, report scientists writing in the November 22 edition of the journal Nature.
Is the oil-palm industry using global warming to mislead the public?
(11/23/2007) Members of the Indonesian Palm Oil Commission are distributing materials that misrepresent the carbon balance of oil-palm plantations, according to accounts from people who have seen presentations by commission members. These officials are apparently arguing that oil-palm plantations store and sequester many times the amount of CO2 as natural forests, and therefore that converting forests for plantations is the best way to fight climate change. In making such claims, these Indonesian representatives evidently are ignoring data that show the opposite, putting the credibility of the oil-palm industry at risk, and undermining efforts to slow deforestation and rein in greenhouse gas emissions.
Planned logging of Woodlark Island for biofuels opposed by islanders and scientists
(11/12/2007) On Woodlark Island, one-hundred and seventy miles from Papua New Guinea, a struggle is occurring between islanders and biofuel company Vitroplant Ltd. The company is planning to clear much of the island's forest for oil palm plantations to produce biofuels. Vitorplant Ltd.'s contract specifies that they would deforest 60,000 hectares of land for plantations; Woodlark Island is 85,000 hectares in total, meaning over 70% of the island would be converted. Last week, one hundred islanders (out of a total population of 6,000) traveled to the capital of Milne Bay Province, Alotau, to voice their concern over the plans to turn their forested island into plantations.
Greenwashing the palm oil industry
(11/12/2007) A new report from Greenpeace alleges that members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil -- an industry-driven initiative to clean up palm oil production -- are using palm oil derived by clearing endangered rainforests and draining carbon-rich peatlands on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Oil palm does not store more carbon than forests
(11/08/2007) Officials from the Indonesian ministry of agriculture and the palm oil industry are distributing materials that misrepresent the carbon balance oil palm plantations, according to accounts from people who have seen presentations by members of the Indonesian Palm Oil Commission. Ministry of agricultural officials are apparently arguing that oil palm plantations store and sequester many times the amount of CO2 as natural forests and therefore converting forests for plantations is the best way to fight climate change. In making such claims, these Indonesian officials are ignoring data that show the opposite, putting the credibility of the oil palm industry at risk, and undermining efforts to slow deforestation and reign in greenhouse gas emissions.
Carbon-negative bioenergy to cut global warming could drive deforestation
(11/06/2007) A proposed mechanism for generating carbon-negative bioenergy -- an energy source that reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide levels -- could drive large-scale deforestation in the tropics and undermine efforts to conserve forests for carbon offsets says a biofuel expert.
Dutch: no subsidies for biofuels-driven rainforest destruction
(10/31/2007) The Dutch government will exclude palm oil from "green energy" subsidies as growing evidence suggests that palm oil is often less sustainable than advertised.
Does palm oil alleviate rural poverty in Malaysia?
(10/23/2007) While it is often argued that the economic benefits of oil palm plantations outweigh the environmental costs of converting biodiverse ecosystems to monocultures, new analysis suggests that the role of plantations in reducing rural poverty may be overstated.
2007 Amazon fires among worst ever
(10/22/2007) By some measures, forest fires in the Amazon are at near-record levels, according to analysis Brazilian satellite data by mongabay.com. A surge in soy and cattle prices may be contributing to an increase in deforestation since last year. Last year environmentalists and the Brazilian government heralded a sharp fall in deforestation rates, the third consecutive annual decline after a peak in 2004. Forest loss in the 2006-2007 season was the lowest since record-keeping began in the late in 1970s. While the government tried to claim credit for the drop, analysts at the time said that commodity prices were a more likely driver of slow down: both cattle and soy prices had declined significantly over the previous months.
Biodiesel demand could destroy world's forests
(10/04/2007) Growing demand for biodiesel could drive large-scale forest conversion for energy crops, warns a study published in conservation Biology.
Environmentalists and palm oil producers should work together
(09/25/2007) Environmentalists and palm-oil producers are increasingly at odds. Greens groups say palm oil is driving the conversion of tens of thousands of hectares of peatlands and lowland forest in Indonesia, putting wildlife at risk, increasing the vulnerability of forests to fires, and triggering large emissions of greenhouse gases.
China urged to join sustainable soy efforts in the Amazon
(09/12/2007) Brazilian soy crushers have urged China to join an alliance to promote sustainable soybean production in the Amazon, according to Reuters. Brazil, soon to be the world's largest producer of soybeans, recently formed the Global Roundtable on Responsible Soy Association as concerns grow that global demand for biofuels will level the Amazon rainforest. Environmentalists say demand from China is playing an important role in surging soybean production in the region.
Investigation finds evidence of Borneo forest clearing for palm oil
(09/02/2007) An Associated Press investigation found evidence of workers opening up rainforest land for new oil palm plantations in the heart of Borneo.
Guidelines to ensure biofuels production won't hurt the environment
(08/30/2007) Environmentalists have long seen biofuels as a means to improve the sustainability of transportation and energy use since they are a renewable source of energy that can be replenished on an ongoing basis. Further, because biofuels are generally derived from plants, which absorb carbon from the atmosphere as they grow, biofuel production offers the potential to help offset carbon dioxide emissions and mitigate climate change. Nonetheless, in recent years, there has been considerable backlash against biofuels, which are increasingly viewed as a threat to the environment. Green groups now point to large-scale land conversion for energy crops, higher food prices, and a spate to studies that suggest net emissions from corn ethanol are little better than those from fossil fuels, to caution that biofuels can cause more problems than they address.
Indonesia's peatlands may offer U.S. firms global warming offsets
(08/29/2007) The following is modified version of a letter I've used to pitch U.S. companies on the concept of carbon finance in Indonesia's peatlands. Discussions are slow and the critical December U.N. climate meeting is fast approaching, so I'm posting this as a tool to help you get American firms interested in avoided deforestation offsets. Please feel free to use, modify, and distribute this letter widely.
NGOs should use palm oil to drive conservation
(08/29/2007) Environmentalists view the expansion of oil palm plantations in southeast Asia as one of the greatest threats to the region's forests and biodiversity. Campaigners say oil palm is driving the conversion of tens of thousands of hectares of peatlands and lowland forest in Indonesia and Malaysia, putting wildlife at risk, increasing the vulnerability of the forests to fires, and triggering large emissions of greenhouse gases. Pressure from these groups have in recent months convinced European policymakers to reconsider sourcing energy crop production to the region.
How private equity can profit from carbon offsets in Indonesia
(08/29/2007) The emerging carbon market for avoided deforestation presents unprecedented opportunities for private equity to make profitable investments that also help protect the environment. Indeed, for the first time, conservation may be associated with positive financial returns. Here's a brief look at how private equity and other investors can capitalize on this opportunity to earn attractive returns while fighting climate change, protecting ecosystem services, and safeguarding endangered species like orangutans.
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