April 2009

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This page includes information on news and events in April 2009. (News and events are archived here at the end of the month.)



  • Agrofuels in the Americas: An Irrational Strategy, 28 April 2009 by Organic Consumers Association: "The Food First report, Agrofuels in the Americas (PDF file), looks back over the last several years of the ethanol/biodiesel boom. The authors conclude that using crop land to produce fuel is an irrational strategy - one that negatively affects climate change, the environment, food security, and rural development worldwide."
    • The report notes that even "if all of the U.S.'s 90 million-acre corn crop were converted to ethanol, just 12-16% of our gasoline would be replaced - barely enough for current ten percent ethanol blends."
    • "According to a study in the report by Guatemalan researcher Dr. Laura Hurtado, the agrofuels boom has already led to 'considerable loss in the amount of land available for food cultivation' in Guatemala;...small family farmers are being pushed off their land, agribusiness firms are expanding colonial-style plantations, and the human right to food of thousands of indigenous farmers has been systematically violated."
    • "Similar evidence from Brazilian activist Maria Luísa Mendonça finds that 80% of Brazil's carbon dioxide emissions come from deforestation in the Amazon - largely driven by the expansion of soy monocultures....Mendonça debunks the myth that agrofuels are good for rural development in Brazil, citing numerous workers rights violations, industry concentration, health risks to workers, and land evictions."[2]
    • Download the Food First report, Agrofuels in the Americas (PDF file).
  • (Aviation) Commercial use of biofuels may take time, 25 April 2009 by TradingMarkets.com: "Despite broad optimism in the aviation industry about the commercial use of biofuels, experts in Asia believe this won't happen very soon."
    • "On April 1, at the conclusion of an industry summit in Geneva, about 400 aviation and environment leaders set an industry timeline for aviation biofuels....By the end of the year, a set of environmental sustainability standards for aviation biofuels should be in place, they said in a summit declaration."
    • "In his speech during the summit, Giovanni Bisignani, director general and CEO of International Air Transport Association (IATA), noted that governments could provide tax and regulatory incentives and prioritize commercial production along with research investments....He also reiterated IATA's target for certification of sustainable biofuels by 2010 or 2011."
    • "In a separate interview, biofuels specialist Florello Galindo, director of Manila-based Asian Institute of Petroleum Studies Inc. (AIPSI), said China and Japan, being the region's main players in aviation manufacturing, would likely determine the fate of aviation biofuel use in Asia."[3]
  • Biofuel crops pose invasive pest risk, 22 April 2009 by ENN/Public Library of Science: Researchers concluded "that biofuel crops proposed for use in the Hawaiian Islands are two to four times more likely to establish wild populations or be invasive in Hawaii and in other tropical areas when compared to a random sample of other introduced plants."
    • "The researchers used a weed risk assessment that examines a plant's biology, geographic origin, pest status elsewhere, and published information on its behavior in Hawaii to identify plants with a high risk of becoming invasive pests in Hawaii or other Pacific islands."
    • "'By identifying the species with the highest risk, and pushing for planting guidelines and precautionary measures prior to widespread planting, we hope to spare the Hawaiian Islands and similar tropical ecosystems from future economic and environmental costs of the worst invaders while encouraging and promoting the use of lower risk alternative crops,' said Christopher Buddenhagen, co-author of "Assessing Biofuel Crop Invasiveness: A Case Study."[5]
      • The article noted that "Despite reservations about their adverse environmental impacts, no attempt has been made to quantify actual, relative or potential invasiveness of terrestrial biofuel crops at an appropriate regional or international scale, and their planting continues to be largely unregulated."[6]
  • Can "green charcoal" help save the trees?, 20 April 2009 by IRIN: "An environmental NGO in northern Senegal is about to go to market with 'green charcoal' - a household fuel produced from agricultural waste materials to replace wood and charcoal in cooking stoves."
    • "The 'green charcoal' is produced by compressing agricultural waste, like the invasive typha weed, into briquets and then carbonising them using a machine. The product has the look and feel of traditional charcoal and burns similarly."
    • "'The technology is efficient, effective and economical because we can produce a substitute for charcoal at half the price,' Guy Reinaud, director of Pro Natura International, the French NGO that has partnered with the Senegalese government on the green charcoal project."
    • "ProNatura will soon start a project in Mali, transforming cotton stems into green charcoal, and plans similar projects in Niger, Madagascar, China, India and Brazil."[7]
"Renewable energy production from biomasses and related investments must be increased in a sustainable manner through balanced combination of the energy policies needs and agricultural production in a way that provides a response to our energy, economic, environmental and agriculture needs and does not compromise food security. Policies should encourage that biofuels are produced and used in an environmentally sustainable manner, promoting benefits and minimizing any potential risks, with a strong emphasis on the development and commercialization of second generation biofuels, according to the approach outlined by the Declaration of the High Level Conference on World Food Security of June 2008."
  • Brazil Can Protect Amazon as Crop Output Expands, Unger Says, 15 April 2009 by Bloomberg News: "Brazil can protect its Amazon rainforest and boost agricultural output by planting crops in areas now used for low-intensity ranching, Minister of Strategic Affairs Roberto Mangabeira Unger said."
    • "Brazil, the world's second-biggest soybean grower, yesterday renewed a ban on sales of the oilseed planted illegally in the Amazon rainforest."
    • "Brazil is also the world's biggest beef exporter and the biggest coffee and sugar-cane grower."[9]
  • Water worries cloud future for U.S. biofuel, 14 April 2009 by Reuters: "Critics argue that precious water resources are being bled dry by ethanol when water shortages are growing ever more dire. [U.S.] Federal mandates encouraging more ethanol production don't help."
    • "'Biofuels are off the charts in water consumption. We're definitely looking at something where the cure may be worse than the disease,' said Brooke Barton, a manager of corporate accountability for Ceres".
    • "Corn is a particularly thirsty plant, requiring about 20 inches of soil moisture per acre to grow a decent crop, but most corn is grown with rain, not irrigation. Manufacturing plants that convert corn's starch into fuel are a far bigger draw on water sources."
    • "Water consumption by ethanol plants largely comes from evaporation during cooling and wastewater discharge. A typical plant uses about 4.2 gallons of water to make one gallon of ethanol, according to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy."[10]
  • Biomass energy 'could be harmful', 14 April 2009 by BBC News: "Biomass power - such as burning wood for energy - could do more harm than good in the battle to reduce greenhouse gases, the [UK] Environment Agency warns."
    • "Biomass is considered low carbon as long as what is burnt is replaced by new growth, and harvesting and transport do not use too much fuel."
    • "The EA's report reiterated the belief that biomass had the potential to play a 'major role' in producing low carbon, renewable energy to help meet future energy needs and help cut greenhouse gas emissions."
    • "But the report Biomass: Carbon Sink or Carbon Sinner (PDF file) also found that the greenhouse gas emission savings from such fuels were currently highly variable."[11]
  • Farming biofuels produces nitrous oxide. This is bad for climate change, 8 April 2009 by The Economist: As "governments have committed themselves to the greater use of biofuels, questions are being raised about how green this form of energy really is. The latest come from a report produced by a team of scientists working on behalf of the International Council for Science (ICSU)".
    • "The ICSU report concludes that, so far, the production of biofuels has aggravated rather than ameliorated global warming. In particular, it supports some controversial findings published in 2007 by Paul Crutzen of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany. Dr Crutzen concluded that most analyses had underestimated the importance to global warming of a gas called nitrous oxide (N2O) by a factor of between three and five. The amount of this gas released by farming biofuel crops such as maize and rape probably negates by itself any advantage offered by reduced emissions of CO2."
    • "Maize, in particular, is described by experts in the field as a 'nitrogen-leaky' plant because it has shallow roots and takes up nitrogen for only a few months of the year. This would make maize (which is one of the main sources of biofuel) a particularly bad contributor to global N2O emissions."[12]
  • IEA Confirms GHG Reductions With Corn Ethanol Use, 3 April 2009 by Marketwire: "A new International Energy Agency (IEA) report confirms that new efficiencies in farming and production techniques show corn ethanol dramatically reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) - moving toward 55% cuts by 2015 - when compared to gasoline."

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