April 2010

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Bioenergy > Timeline > 2010 > April 2010


This page includes information on News and Events in April 2010. (News and events are archived here at the end of the month.)

Events

News

  • Brazilian Senator Marina Silva comments on sugarcane ethanol in Washington, D.C., press conference, 26 April 2010 by BioenergyWiki staff (Rachel Kramer & Melina Unger): "We are not going to meet the world’s energy demands with sugarcane ethanol, but Brazil can make a great contribution," said Senator Silva.
    • When questioned about potential sustainability and deforestation concerns related to land use change for increased ethanol production from sugarcane, Senator Silva commented on the need for a national certification system to guarantee that demand for ethanol would not compromise food production (expansion of sugarcane farming is currently prohibited in the Pantanal and Amazon regions).
  • Will Extending the Ethanol Tax Credit Slow Progress Toward Advanced Biofuels?, 25 April 2010 by Solve Climate: "The federal tax credit for ethanol is among the most controversial energy- or environment-related policies in the country. The volume on all sides of the issue is increasing, with some shouting down ethanol’s claim to lower greenhouse gas emissions, others touting the tax credit’s job-creation capabilities and still others lamenting the diversion of farmland for fuel."
    • Autumn Hanna of Taxpayers for Common Sense was quoted in the article as saying, the tax credit "does little more than pad the pockets of big oil companies like Shell. The ethanol tax credit has already cost taxpayers more than $20 billion in the last five years and, if extended, taxpayers stand to lose billions more. Since the 1970's, taxpayers have heavily subsidized corn ethanol. It’s time this mature energy industry stand on its own two feet."
    • "Legislators from agricultural states claim that ethanol won’t prosper on its own yet, and that more than 100,000 jobs would be lost if the credit were allowed to lapse."
    • Craig Cox, the senior vice president for agricultural and natural resources at the Environmental Working Group "argues that extending the ethanol tax credits now will only divert resources from much-needed research into those second-generation fuels."[1]
  • ISO holds US stakeholder meeting for the development of sustainability criteria for bioenergy, 22 April 2010 by BioenergyWiki staff (Melina Unger): The International Standards Organization (ISO) on 20 April held a one time input session open to US nonmember stakeholders such as NGOs, regulatory agencies, industry and farming organizations. The remainder of the standards development process will require ISO membership for participation.
    • Press release: ISO standard to make bioenergy sustainable, 7 January 2010 by ISO:
      • "The decision to develop the standard responds to the growing international interest in bioenergy, and the current lack of globally harmonized sustainability criteria."
      • "ISO/PC 248 will bring together international expertise and state-of-the-art best practice to discuss the social, economic and environmental aspects of the production, supply chain, and use of bioenergy, and identify criteria that could prevent it from being environmentally destructive or socially aggressive."[2]
  • EPA's Biofuel Mandates Based on Shaky Assumptions, Scientists Say, 20 April 2010 by SolveClimate: "Federal renewable fuel mandates have created an industry around corn ethanol that now consumes nearly a third of the U.S. corn crop. But what is the rationale behind those mandates in the first place? Several scientists have asked and found the answers to be unsound."
    • "When the Environmental Protection Agency revised its renewable fuel standards in February, the agency recalculated the lifecycle emissions of corn ethanol to find that it was 20 percent less greenhouse-gas emitting than gasoline and, therefore, qualified as a renewable fuel. Some wondered what had changed since an EPA review issued less than a year before found that emissions from corn ethanol were too high for it to qualify."
    • "As it turns out, none of the actual data about emissions from biofuels changed — just the way the EPA presented it....Specifically, the agency's new fuel standards assess each biofuel based on its assumed greenhouse gas emissions in the year 2022, the deadline by which renewable fuel production must be at levels mandated by the Energy Security and Independence Act of 2007."
    • But focusing on the amount biofuels are expected to emit in 2022 'distorts the picture of today's biofuels,' according to Jeremy Martin, a senior analyst in the Union of Concerned Scientists' Clean Vehicles Program."
    • "Even the EPA's own analysis 'shows that, in the near term, natural-gas-powered, dry-milled corn ethanol production results in an increase of greenhouse gas emissions of 12 to 33 percent compared to gasoline,' says Joe Fargione, a lead scientist at the Nature Conservancy."[5]
  • Tobacco shows potential as biofuel crop, 19 April 2010 by David Kuack: "Scientists in the Biotechnology Foundation Laboratories at Thomas Jefferson Univ. in Philadelphia have been investigating alternative means of producing biofuels, as inexpensively, quickly and energy-efficiently as possible. They are conducting research to develop specially engineered strains of tobacco plants to generate a large amount of biomass from the plants’ leaves and stems."
    • "The scientists believe the rapid growth of these tobacco strains can result in more efficient biofuel production than other traditional agricultural crops used for biofuel. Tobacco plants are naturally rich in sugars, starch and low-lignin cellulose that can be converted into ethanol, yielding up to 1,100 gallons of bio-ethanol per acre. "[6]
  • PRC's Drive to Tap Biogas in Rural Sector Gets ADB Loan, 19 April 2010 press release by the Asian Development Bank: "The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) drive to expand the use of biogas energy generated from waste materials is getting support from a $66.08 million Asian Development Bank (ADB) loan."
    • "The financial assistance for the Integrated Renewable Biomass Energy Development Sector Project has been approved by ADB's Board of Directors. The loan will be used to help construct biogas plants in poor rural areas of Heilongjiang, Henan, Jiangxi and Shandong provinces, benefiting 118 livestock farms and agricultural enterprises.
    • "The project will introduce high-temperature flare technology to minimize methane gas emissions from the plants. It will support the manufacture of bio-fertilizers from biogas sludge for eco-farming, aiding the government’s push to encourage the reuse and recycling of organic waste."
    • "Under PRC’s Medium- and Long-Term Development Plan for Renewable Energy, about 10,000 large-scale biogas plants are earmarked to be set up on livestock farms by 2020 with an annual biogas yield of up to 14 billion cubic meters."[7]
  • Vilsack calls for proposed rules review, 19 April 2010 by Ethanol Producer Magazine: "USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has called for public comments on proposed rules relating to the production of advanced biofuels. Under the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (The Farm Bill), the proposed rules will increase production through three programs administered by USDA Rural Development: Biorefinery Assistance Program, Repowering Assistance Payments and the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels."
    • "The rule will not only create guaranteed loan regulations for the development and construction of commercial-scale biorefineries, but also for existing facilities performing a retrofit that uses an eligible technology to develop advanced biofuels."
    • "There will be no minimum loan amount, and the maximum will be $250 million as long as the amount doesn’t exceed 80 percent of the total eligible project costs. The loans will be available through 2012."[8]
      • For the full text of proposed bills and information on how to comment see this Federal Registrar page.
  • Does growing soy destroy Amazon rainforest?, 16 April 2010 by Environmental Research Web: "In the first seven years of this century, around 19 million hectares of rainforest in the Legal Amazon region of Brazil were cut down. But the jury's out on the chief culprit behind this deforestation – some say it's the growth in cattle ranches while others believe it's increased cultivation of crops such as soy."
    • "Cattle ranching has boomed in the Brazilian Amazon since the late 1970s when state subsidies and infrastructure development kicked in. But export crops such as soy, which is mainly used in animal feed and cooking oil, have increased significantly over the last decade, encouraged by expanding world markets and government incentives. Today Brazil is one of the world's largest exporters of agricultural products."[9]
    • Read the full report, The role of pasture and soybean in deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon
  • Europe Finds Clean Energy in Trash, but U.S. Lags, 13 April 2010 by the New York Times: Twenty-nine modern waste-to-energy incinerators in Denmark "have become both the mainstay of garbage disposal and a crucial fuel source across Denmark....Their use has not only reduced the country’s energy costs and reliance on oil and gas, but also benefited the environment, diminishing the use of landfills and cutting carbon dioxide emissions."
    • "With all these innovations, Denmark now regards garbage as a clean alternative fuel rather than a smelly, unsightly problem."
    • "Across Europe, there are about 400 plants, with Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands leading the pack in expanding them and building new ones."
    • "By contrast, no new waste-to-energy plants are being planned or built in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency says — even though the federal government and 24 states now classify waste that is burned this way for energy as a renewable fuel, in many cases eligible for subsidies. There are only 87 trash-burning power plants in the United States, a country of more than 300 million people, and almost all were built at least 15 years ago."
    • One reason is that "powerful environmental groups have fought the concept passionately. 'Incinerators are really the devil,' said Laura Haight, a senior environmental associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group."[10]
  • The Scientists' Letter on the Copenhagen Commitment for Tropical Forests, April 2010 by the Union of Concerned Scientists on behalf of over 200 scientists: "The Scientists' Letter on the Copenhagen Commitment for Tropical Forests is a letter asking members of Congress to keep the commitment made by the United States in Copenhagen on December 16, 2009. There the United States promised $1 billion over 3 years for tropical forest conservation."
    • "Tropical forests contain half of all carbon stored in terrestrial vegetation, and clearing and degradation of tropical forests constitutes about 15% of all anthropogenic carbon emissions. REDD+ [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest degradation in Developing countries] can greatly strengthen measures to reduce carbon emissions, protect biodiversity, and provide other human benefits."
    • "REDD+ is an inexpensive solution relative to alternatives such as industrial energy efficiency or solar or nuclear power and an immediate solution too — $20 billion could cut emissions by half a billion tons and do so by 2020."
  • The Forbidden Fuel: A History of Power Alcohol, New Edition, April 2010 by Hal Bernton, William Kovarik, and Scott Sklar: "The Forbidden Fuel is the definitive history of alcohol fuel, describing in colorful detail the emergence of alcohol fuel in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the political and economic forces behind its popularity, opposition, and eventual growth."
    • "In 1982, when The Forbidden Fuel was first published, approximately 350 million gallons of ethanol were produced in the United States for transport fuel. In 2008 that number had grown to 9 billion gallons — an approximate average annual growth rate of 98.9 percent."
    • "This new edition examines the forces behind this explosive growth; it also presents fresh evidence that the controversial issues that were presciently foreseen and described in the 1982 edition — limits of the land, food versus fuel, environmental risks, and global warming — still persist as unabated challenges to industry leaders and policy makers."[11]
  • Weed to Wonder Fuel? Jatropha Draws Biofuel Investors - and Questions, 13 April 2010 by SolveClimate.com: "In the world of biofuels, the pattern is familiar: Concerns grow over one crop’s impacts or overhyped potential, and another then appears to take its place with promises of planet-saving prowess."
    • "The latest savior is jatropha, a drought-resistant and hardy plant that supposedly can deliver high energy yields on marginal land and eliminate concerns about food competing with fuel for farmland."
    • "As of 2008, 242 jatropha biofuel projects covered 2.2 million acres; those numbers are likely much higher now....The Global Exchange for Social Investment predicted in its 2008 report that 32 million acres would be in production by 2015."
    • "Achieving [estimated] yields [of 200 gallons of oil per acre per year] on a large scale, though, will most likely require better than 'marginal' lands and better than primitive farming practices."
    • "Also, research into jatropha’s potential as a greenhouse gas emissions saver has yet to be fully explored. The major sticking point that arose with corn ethanol, sugarcane and other feedstocks is the concept of indirect land use changes and other elements of total lifecycle emissions that reduce the overall benefits".[12]
  • Rival Ethanol Trade Groups Campaigning to Woo Senators, Clobber Each Other, 13 April 2010 by Greenwire/New York Times: "Two rival trade groups seeking congressional help for the ethanol industry launched advertising yesterday to promote themselves and bash one another."
    • "Growth Energy Inc., which represents U.S.-based corn ethanol producers, seeks to maintain supremacy at home, while the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association, or UNICA, wants to tear down corn ethanol's benefits in order to grab a larger share of the U.S. market."
    • "Growth Energy wants an extension of tax credits as well as to maintain an import tariff against ethanol produced in other countries and to promote the construction of ethanol pipelines and blender pumps. UNICA seeks elimination of the import tariff and of domestic subsidies for biofuels."
    • "Domestic ethanol producers are facing the expiration at the end of this year of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, also known as VEETC and the blender's tax credit. The federal benefit that started in 2005 gives a tax credit of 51 cents for every gallon of pure ethanol blended into gasoline."
    • UNICA hopes "'the Sweeter Alternative campaign will help Americans understand how sugar-cane ethanol is a clean and affordable renewable fuel that could help them save money at the pump, cut U.S. dependence on Middle East oil and improve the environment,' said Joel Velasco, UNICA's chief representative in North America, in a statement."[13]
  • Brazil "temporarily" lifts ethanol tariff, baits trade hooks, 8 April 2010 by Nik Bristow at Autoblog Green: "In a gesture to improve biofuel trade relations with the U.S. and other countries, Brazil's Council of Ministers of the Board of Foreign Trade (MDIC) has temporarily lifted the country's tariff on imported ethanol, changing the tax rate from 20 percent to zero percent. The tariff will be lifted through the end of 2011."
    • "UNICA [The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association] has made it clear to the Brazilian government it hopes the tariff reduction is permanent, particularly should "other countries" reduce their tariffs on ethanol imports. The Brazillians are quite aware that the hefty U.S. tariff on imported ethanol expires at the end of this year."
    • "The United States imposes two duties on ethanol imports: a 2.5 percent ad valorem tariff plus an additional "other duty or charge" of $.54 per gallon. According to data from the US International Trade Commission (ITC), the combined duties have amounted to about a 30 percent tariff on ethanol imports."[14]
  • Biofuels: Airplane fuel of the future?, 5 April by Arthur Max, Associated Press: "Within a decade, passenger planes will be flying on jet fuel largely made from plants — flax, marsh grass, even food waste — as airlines seek to break away from the volatile oil market and do their part to fight climate change, aviation experts say."
    • "Dependency on agrofuels 'will lead to faster deforestation and climate change and spells disaster for indigenous peoples, other forest-dependent communities and small farmers, says a statement from the Global Forest Coalition, an alliance of environmental groups."
    • "A Swiss-based organization, the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, has drawn up standards for certifying the entire chain of production."
    • "The European Union has decided that by 2012 all flights into and from European airports will be subject to the European carbon trading program. That means airlines will be given a limit on how much carbon dioxide they can emit, and they can buy or sell carbon credits depending on whether they are over or under their targets."[15]
  • EDITORIAL: Stop 'Big Corn', 5 April 2010 by the Washington Times: "The Environmental Protection Agency wants to dump more corn into your fuel tank this summer, and it's going to cost more than you think."
    • "The agency is expected to approve a request from 52 ethanol producers known collectively as "Growth Energy" to boost existing requirements that gasoline contain 10 percent ethanol to 15 percent. The change means billions more in government subsidies for companies in the business of growing corn and converting it into ethanol. For the rest of us, it means significantly higher gasoline and food prices."
    • "It's time that this shameless corporate welfare gets plowed under....Big Corn's advocates claim that forcing Americans to use this renewable fuel would reduce dependency on Mideast oil and lead to cleaner air. It's just as likely, however, that they want to get their hands on the $16 billion a year from the 45-cent-per-gallon "blender's tax credit" - in addition to the various state and federal mandates giving us no choice but to pump their pricey product into our fuel tanks."
    • "According to the University of Missouri's Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute, the ethanol tax credit increases corn prices by 18 cents a bushel, wheat by 15 cents and soybeans by 28 cents. That means higher prices for most food items at the grocery store and restaurants."[16]
  • Flat-headed cat endangered by palm oil, April 2010 by MNN: "According to National Geographic, a new study published in the journal PLoS ONE has indicated that the flat-headed cat's habitat is rapidly being transformed into vast biofuel plantations."
    • "Native to the swampy peat forests of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, the cats are nocturnal, elusive, tiny (they typically weigh between 3-5 pounds) and difficult to observe."
    • "Almost 70 percent of the area that historically provided good habitats for the flat-headed cat has already been converted into plantations, mostly for the purpose of growing biofuel. Furthermore, their remaining range has become fragmented, likely making it difficult for remote populations of the cat to breed with one another."
    • "The cat's predicament is not unique in the region where it lives. Tropical Southeast Asia has both one of the highest rates of biodiversity and highest rates of deforestation worldwide. Much of that deforestation is for the purpose of planting palms, a cash crop destined for the biofuel market."[17]
  • Of Biofuels, Land Grabs and Food Prices, 4 April 2010 by New York Times Green Inc. blog: "ActionAid, an antipoverty group, has stepped up a campaign against European Union policies aimed at encouraging consumers to use fuels grown from crops to power their cars."
    • "The group last week staged mock 'land grabs' in which members worked the soil and erected models of gasoline pumps in front of the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen."
    • "The 27 member countries of the E.U. have agreed to generate 10 percent of their fuel for transport from renewable sources by 2020. A large proportion of that target is expected to come from biofuels. ActionAid is seeking to highlight the potentially negative effects of biofuels to discourage governments from following through with that plan."[18]
  • Hawaii crops, algae may get funded for military biofuel, 3 April 2010 by William Cole for the Honolulu Advertiser: "The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Navy are hoping to jumpstart the growth of crops and algae in Hawai'i that can be used for military fuel as part of an aggressive drive by the Pentagon to reduce its dependence on foreign oil and increase renewable energy sources."
    • "By 2016, the Navy wants to deploy a "Great Green Fleet" that will be powered entirely by alternative fuels, said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus during the signing of the Navy and Department of Agriculture agreement on Jan. 21."
    • "'Through alternative energy use, improved technological efficiencies and biofuel development,' Mabus said, 'we are going to improve the range and endurance of our ships and our aircraft, reduce their reliance on a vulnerable supply chain, and create a resistance to the external shocks that come from overreliance on a fragile global oil infrastructure.'"[19]
  • Berkeley Lab To Build DOE Advanced Biofuels User Facility, 2 April 2010 by Berkeley Lab: "The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has been awarded nearly $18 million from the Recovery Act to build an advanced biofuels process development facility. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through its Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), this new facility will help expedite the commercialization of next generation biofuels by providing industry-scale test beds for innovative technologies."
    • "Berkeley Lab's Advanced Biofuels PDU will feature pre-treatment of biomass capabilities and bioreactors for the production of microbial or fungal enzymes that can break down biomass into fermentable sugars. The facility will also have substantial capabilities for fermentation or further conversion of sugars into advanced biofuels, along with the capacity to purify these fuels in sufficient quantities for engine testing."[20]
  • US military to run on 50:50 biofuels mix, 1 April 2010 by Biofuels International: "US president Barack Obama is introducing new energy policies that will see an increased use of advanced biofuels in the country’s military vehicles."
    • "According to Obama these energy strategies will not only help protect the environment, but will also go towards protecting national security."
    • "The Green Hornet, a Navy F-18 fighter jet, is scheduled to fly on Earth Day and will be the first plane to fly faster than the speed of sound powered by a 50:50 biofuel blend."
    • "A mixture of biofuels and ordinary fuels is also being tested in a tank from the Army and Marine Corps, while the Air Force is testing jet engines that run on biofuels."[21]



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