April 2012

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Bioenergy > Timeline > 2012 > April 2012

This page includes information on News and Events in April 2012.

  • (News and events are archived here after the end of the month.)



  • RSB announces Public Consultation on the issue of Indirect Impacts (PDF file), 13 April 2012 by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB): "During the past three years, the RSB Secretariat, based at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), has collected a considerable volume of information, data and knowledge about indirect impacts of biofuel production, thanks in part to the contribution of the RSB indirect impacts expert group (IIEG). It is now time for the RSB constituencies to decide on a way forward regarding a possible inclusion of indirect impacts in the RSB Standard.
    • "In May-June 2012, RSB members will discuss the issue of indirect impacts in a series of RSB Chamber calls and during the June in-person Steering Board meeting. But before these discussions take place at the membership level, the RSB Secretariat is launching Public Consultation on the subject, in which all members of the general public are invited to provide us with feedback on this issue."
    • "For this purpose, the RSB Secretariat has drafted the attached Background Paper (PDF file) (“Indirect Impacts of biofuel production and the RSB Standard”) that is meant to be a neutral and objective representation of indirect impacts, state of knowledge, potential options to address the issue in the Standard (including the option not to address it), and an evaluation of such options. This paper will form the basis for the public consultation and also for the discussion at the Chamber and Steering Board level."
    • Summary timeline for this consultation:
      • Public consultation (1 month): April 13 – May 15
      • RSB Chambers consultation: 2nd half of May
      • Steering Board Meeting and decision on way forward: June 12-13
    • To submit feedback, send an email or a marked-up pdf document to: victoria.junquera[at]epfl.ch or use the Feedback Form available at http://rsb.epfl.ch/page-78422-en.html before May 15, 2012.
  • EU report questions conventional biofuels' sustainability, 11 April 2012 by Euractiv: "Conventional biofuels like biodiesel increase carbon dioxide emissions and are too expensive to consider as a long-term alternative fuel, a draft EU report says."
    • "The study 'EU Transport GHG [greenhouse gases]: Routes to 2050' estimates that before indirect effects are counted, the abatement cost of reducing Europe’s emissions with biofuels is between €100-€300 per tonne of carbon."
    • "At current market prices, this would make their CO2 reduction potential up to 49 times more expensive than buying carbon credits on the open market at €6.14 a tonne."
    • "But the EU’s authors conclude that it 'it is not possible (and useful) to determine cost effectiveness figures for [conventional] biofuels' because their indirect effect - measured in cleared forests and grasslands ('ILUC') - make it a CO2-emitting technology."
    • "The latest report will feed a growing unease about the reasons for the EU's original biofuels policy - justified in environmental terms - and the way it has developed since...."
    • "Brussels is due to publish a proposal measuring the indirect emissions caused by biofuels later this year, distinguishing between low-emitting biofuels such as ethanol and high-emitting ones like biodiesel."
    • "But the EU’s decision-making process has been paralysed by the ongoing dispute between its energy directorate – which does not want ILUC factors considered – and its climate directorate, which does...."
    • "For now, the proposal remains stuck in the corridors of an EU that appears equally frightened of the political consequences of admitting a policy mistake and the environmental consequences of denying it."[1]
  • EU biofuel policy could defeat its environmental aims 9 April 2012 by Fredrik Erixon for New Staits Times: "Is it really in Europe's interest to provoke a trade war with emerging markets in Southeast Asia and Latin America over biofuels? Of course it is not. Yet open trade with these regions may become the first casualty when the European Union (EU) moves closer to restricting access to its markets for foreign producers of biofuels."
    • "At the centre of this emerging trade conflict is the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), a law with the noble ambition of substituting fossil fuels with biofuels, yet in a manner that espouses green protectionism in Europe."
    • " EU biofuel policy is generally prejudiced against foreign production. Production in Europe is both heavily subsidised and protected by tariffs, especially ethanol, with tariffs of up to 63 per cent. Total subsidies add up to between 25 and 35 per cent of the market price for the fuel. Unsurprisingly, biofuels consumption in the EU is heavily dependent on local production." [2]
  • Journal article explores hybridized life cycle analysis method by Kris Bevill for Ethanol Producer Magazine, 4 April 2012.
    • "A recently published article in the peer-reviewed Journal of the Royal Society Interface suggests that in order for life cycle analyses (LCA) of biomass-based products such as biofuels to be most accurately calculated, modelers should develop a hybridized methodology that considers both direct and indirect effects, to measure the carbon intensity of production. Further, the authors of the paper stressed the need for policymakers worldwide to develop methodologies that are compatible and comparable, rather than continue forward with the patchwork of individualized policies specific to country or region."
    • "Susan Tarka Sanchez served as lead author of the paper, titled 'Accounting for Indirect Land Use Change in the Life Cycle Assessment of Biofuel Supply Chains,' while working as the senior scientist at California-based business and environmental consulting firm Life Cycle Associates LLC, the company which developed the CA-GREET life cycle analyses model used by the California Air Resources Board in developing the state’s low carbon fuel standard. Sanchez admits that indirect land use change (ILUC) continues to be a controversial topic, but said the group of international experts that contributed to the journal paper feel it is essential to incorporate indirect effects into biofuels methodology in order to gauge the full effects of the product." [3]
    • Read the paper, Accounting for Indirect Land Use Change in the Life Cycle Assessment of Biofuel Supply Chains by Susan Tarka Sanchez, Jeremy Woods, Mark Akhurst, Matthew Brander, Michael O'Hare, Terence P. Dawson, Robert Edwards, Adam J. Liska and Rick Malpas.
  • EPA takes steps to bring new biofuel blend to the pumps 4 April 2012 by Michael Ahene for Medill Reports - Chicago, Northwestern University: "Fuel companies can move ahead with the production and distribution of a new ethanol blended gasoline that may save motorists hundreds at the pump each year."
    • "The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday approved the first applications granting fuel manufacturers the ability to distribute a gasoline and ethanol blend called E15."
    • "The majority of gas stations in the U.S. already offer a gasoline blend containing 10 percent ethanol. The new mixture proposed by the ethanol industry will increase the amount of ethanol allowed in hybrid gasoline mixes to 15 percent, creating a second, higher octane option for drivers with biofuel capable vehicles."
    • "“'We’re very pleased with the news,' said Jim Nussle, president of the trade group Growth Energy that represents U.S. producers and supporters of ethanol. 'It’s one more step to get E15 in the market place.'” [4]
  • Is Bioenergy Expansion Harmful to Wildlife? 3 April 2012 by ScienceDaily: "Despite the predicted environmental benefits of biofuels, converting land to grow bioenergy crops may harm native wildlife. Researchers at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig [ Germany ] have developed a way to study the effects of increased energy crop cultivation on farmland bird populations."
    • "'The Skylark is an indicator species for agricultural areas because it occupies many habitats of the wider countryside around the globe, breeds on the ground within fields and feeds mostly on insects' notes lead researcher, Jan Engel. 'Improving the habitat suitability for Skylark, accordingly, would improve conservation of natural vegetation, insects, and other ground breeding farmland bird species.'"
    • "Mr. Engel and his colleagues developed a computer model that evaluated the habitat requirements of Skylark in a variety of bioenergy cultivation scenarios. The study, published in Global Change Biology Bioenergy, found that bioenergy crop expansion will not harm Skylark populations if field sizes are low, many crop types are present, and small natural areas, known as Integrated Biodiversity Areas, are included within the landscape. [5]
  • EU carbon target threatened by biomass 'insanity' 2 April 2012 by Arthur Neslen for EurActiv: "The EU's emissions reduction target for 2020 could be facing an unlikely but grave obstacle, according to a growing number of scientists, EU officials and NGOs: the contribution of biomass to the EU's renewable energy objectives for 2020."
    • "On 29 March, a call was launched at the European Parliament for Brussels to reconsider its carbon accounting rules for biomass emissions, and EurActiv has learned that the issue is provoking widespread alarm in policy-making circles."
    • "Around half of the EU's target for providing 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 will be made up by biomass energy from sources such as wood, waste and agricultural crops and residues, according to EU member states' national action plans... Wood makes up the bulk of this target and is counted by the EU as 'carbon neutral', giving it access to subsidies, feed-in tariffs and electricity premiums at national level."
    • "But because there is a time lag between the carbon debt that is created when a tree is cut down, transported and combusted – and the carbon credit that occurs when a new tree has grown to absorb as much carbon as the old one – biomass will increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the interim." [6]

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