February 2009

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



  • New Global Renewable Fuels Alliance, 26 February. "The Global Renewable Fuels Alliance is a new global federation representing over 60 percent of the world's renewable fuels production from 29 different countries. The global alliance is committed to promoting the expanded use of renewable fuels throughout the world through the advocacy of sound public policy and responsible research and, through the development of new technology and best practices, our members are committed to producing renewable fuels with the smallest possible ecological footprint."
  • Sustainability criteria must be science based, verifiable and WTO-compatible (Malaysian Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities), 25 February 2009, by the World Refining Association: Malaysia's Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, the Hon. Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui, stated in an interview that “We urge the EU to ensure that its sustainability scheme does not discriminate against third country producers and that the criteria used are science based, verifiable and WTO-compatible".
    • "One of the biggest concerns in the use of biofuels is its impact on food security [...]. As far as the Malaysian Government is concerned, the local mandate B5 if fully implemented will require only 500,000 tonnes annually or a mere 3% of our national production of CPO [Crude Palm Oil]. In fact, 90% of Malaysian palm oil is used for traditional applications such as foodstuffs and oleochemicals (soap and cosmetics), while only a small fraction is destined for biofuel production."
    • "We are engaging countries such as the EU and USA that are coming up with legislations which impose sustainability criteria on our palm and biofuel products. This includes the EU Directive on Renewable Energy."
  • Weak oil and imports turn EU biofuel boom to gloom, 24 February 2009 by Reuters: "European euphoria over biofuel has ended after slumping oil prices and cheap imports battered the sector last year, while the credit crisis has made the outlook even gloomier."
    • "Many companies across the European Union have abandoned or halted biofuel projects and more damage will occur if oil prices do not rise significantly in 2009 and the bloc does not manage to protect its market, producers and analysts said."
    • "European producers of biodiesel -- by far the main biofuel made in the bloc -- also blamed their troubles on cheap subsidized imports, mainly from the United States."
    • "The European Commission, the EU executive, plans next month to propose imposing anti-dumping duties on U.S. biodiesel, a measure that could provisionally take effect a month later, sources familiar with the proposal told Reuters last week."[1]
  • British Fight Climate Change With Fish and Chips, 21 February 2009 by the New York Times: "Last year, when the price of crude oil topped $147 a barrel, a number of large companies in Europe and the United States were spurred to set up plants to collect and refine used cooking oil into biodiesel."
    • "The global recession and the steep drop in oil prices have now killed many of those large refining ventures. But smaller, simpler ones...are moving in to fill the void with their direct-to-tank product, having been deluged by offers of free oil from restaurants."
    • "Used cooking oil has attracted growing attention in recent years as a cleaner, less expensive alternative to fossil fuels for vehicles. In many countries, including the United States, the oil is collected by companies and refined into a form of diesel. Some cities use it in specially modified municipal buses or vans. And the occasional environmentalist has experimented with individually filtering the oil and using it as fuel."[2]
  • Saudi Muslim cleric warns that biofuels could be sinful, 20 February 2009 by the Christian Science Monitor: "A prominent Muslim scholar in Saudi Arabia has warned that those using alcohol-based biofuels in their cars could be committing a sin."
    • "The warning was issued by Sheikh Mohamed Al-Najimi, a member of the Islamic Fiqh Academy".
    • "Ethanol, a common type of biofuel, is made of the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, and its production is similar to that of hard liquor."
    • "Fuels with high concentrations of ethanol – the most common being E85, a gasoline blend with 85 percent ethanol – can be used in flex-fuel vehicles....Most gasoline sold in the United States contains about 10 percent ethanol. The fuel is more common in many Latin American countries, particularly Brazil."[3]
  • Worldwatch & Sierra Club Outline Smart Choices for Biofuels, 19 February 2009 by RenewableEnergyWorld.com: "The Sierra Club and Worldwatch Institute have released a new report, "Smart Choices for Biofuels" (PDF file), that highlights the need for policy reforms to increase the use of biofuels in the U.S."
    • "The steps proposed in the report to increase production include an accelerated transition to cellulosic feedstocks such as switchgrass and the use of more effective agricultural practices to decrease erosion and soil nutrient depletion."
    • "Finally, the report concludes that if a renewable fuels mandate is to contribute effectively to reducing foreign oil dependence and curbing global warming, it must be reevaluated in light of changing circumstances. Changes in four broad policy categories--sustainability standards, advancing biofuels production and new technologies, creating green jobs, and promoting policy coherence across energy sectors--are detailed in the report."[4]
  • A New North American Consensus in Biofuels, 18 February 2009 by MSNBC:
    • "As America and Canada look for ways to provide economic opportunity, reduce the impacts of climate change, and develop renewable energy sources, the role of biofuels in the energy plans of both nations is becoming increasingly important. Both nations are investing in alternatives to imported oil."
    • "Paralleling efforts in the U.S. to expand the use of ethanol, the Canadian Parliament last year passed a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requiring gasoline sold in Canada to contain an average of 5% renewable content, including ethanol, and 2% renewable content, including biodiesel, in the diesel supply.'
    • "Finally, based on a number of recent studies, it is clear that renewable fuels using both grains and cellulosic feedstocks are better for the environment than gasoline."
  • Indonesia reopens peatland to palm oil plantation, 18 February 2009 by The Guardian: "Indonesia today acknowledged it had quietly lifted a year-long freeze on the use of peat land for palm oil plantations, fuelling fears of a rise in greenhouse gas emissions."
    • "Environmental groups had pressed the government to maintain the ban but Indonesia's agriculture ministry said tighter controls for issuing new permits for growing palm oil on peat land had been set after a study during the past year."
    • "To grow palm oil, the peat land that must be cleared and drained, releasing millions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. The oil is a major export product and is used in numerous foods, soaps, washing powders and as a feedstock for biofuels."
    • "Indonesia is the world's leading palm oil producer and has planted palm estates of 7.1m hectares, with smallholders accounting for about 35 percent. Palm oil generated exports revenue of £7.64bn in 2008."[5]
  • Biofuels Boom Could Fuel Rainforest Destruction, Researcher Warns, 14 February 2009 by Science Daily: "Farmers across the tropics might raze forests to plant biofuel crops, according to new research by Holly Gibbs, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment."
    • "Gibbs' predictions are based on her new study, in which she analyzed detailed satellite images collected between 1980 and 2000. The study is the first to do such a detailed characterization of the pathways of agricultural expansion throughout the entire tropical region."
    • However, Gibbs said that "planting biofuel croplands on degraded land -- land that has been previously cultivated but is now providing very low productivity due to salinity, soil erosion, nutrient leaching, etc. -- could have an overall positive environmental impact".
    • "Both Brazil and Indonesia contain significant areas of degraded land -- in Brazil, the total area may be as large as California -- that could be replanted with crops, thereby decreasing the burden on forested land. 'But this is challenging without new policies or economic incentives to encourage establishing crops on these lands,' Gibbs said."
    • "'This is a major concern for the global environment,' Gibbs said. 'As we look toward biofuels to help reduce climate change we must consider the rainforests and savannas that may lie in the pathway of expanding biofuel cropland.'"[6]
  • Ethanol, Just Recently a Savior, Is Struggling, 12 February 2009 by New York Times: "Barely a year after Congress enacted an energy law meant to foster a huge national enterprise capable of converting plants and agricultural wastes into automotive fuel, the goals lawmakers set for the ethanol industry are in serious jeopardy."
    • "As recently as last summer, plants that make ethanol from corn were sprouting across the Midwest. But now...the industry is burdened with excess capacity, and plants are shutting down virtually every week."
    • "In the meantime, plans are lagging for a new generation of factories that were supposed to produce ethanol from substances like wood chips and crop waste, overcoming the drawbacks of corn ethanol. That nascent branch of the industry concedes it has virtually no chance of meeting Congressional production mandates that kick in next year."
    • "Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group, estimated that of the country’s 150 ethanol companies and 180 plants, 10 or more companies have shut down 24 plants over the last three months. That has idled about 2 billion gallons out of 12.5 billion gallons of annual production capacity. Mr. Dinneen estimated that a dozen more companies were in distress."
    • "In an effort to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil and to lower the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, Congress mandated a doubling of corn ethanol use, to 15 billion gallons a year by 2015. Congress also mandated, by 2022, the use of an additional 21 billion gallons of ethanol and other biofuels produced from materials collectively known as biomass."[7]
  • GM voices commitment to biofuels as study touts possibilities, 10 February 2009 by Kansas City Star:
    • "A top General Motors executive said Tuesday his company remains committed to the use of biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol, even with such options as electric cars becoming available."
    • "The comment coincided with the release of a study reporting that the U.S. eventually could produce enough ethanol to meet one-third of the country’s demand for gasoline. The study by Sandia National Laboratories, a federal research lab assisted by GM’s technical staff, concluded that 90 billion gallons of biofuel — mainly cellulosic ethanol — could be produced annually by 2030."
    • "The study assumed that cellulosic energy would be the principal biofuel and said it would take 48 million acres to grow such necessary feedstock as wood and switchgrass. The study also said those products should not be land now used to grow food." [8]
  • US Stimulus Package to Shore up Biofuels Sector, 6 February 2009 by Bridges Trade BioRes News Digest:
    • "The Obama administration is reaching out to the struggling US ethanol industry with its new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The stimulus package, which is designed to shock the US economy back into the black, includes several provisions for renewable energy and biofuels industries."
    • "In addition to the provisions in the stimulus package, the US Agriculture Department has said it will help bolster the industry by seeking out more efficient means of production. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says that his department should research, develop, and promote ‘best practices’ to improve efficiency at corn-based ethanol plants. 'We need to make sure that the biofuels industry has the necessary support to survive the recent downturn,' Vilsack said recently." [9]
Ret. General Wesley Clark, at Growth Energy press conference, 5 February 2009, in Washington, D.C.
  • Former NATO Commander Clark joins ethanol group, 5 February 2009 by The Hill: "A new ethanol group in a lobbying war with the Grocery Manufacturers Association has tapped a man with real fighting experience to help run the campaign."
    • "Former NATO Commander and Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark was introduced today as co-chairman of Growth Energy, a new organization designed to promote corn ethanol."
    • "Growth Energy is also pushing to increase a regulatory cap on the amount of ethanol that can be mixed with gasoline and for the continued tax support for the industry."[10]
  • VeraSun plans to auction all ethanol plants, 5 February 2009 by Reuters: "VeraSun Energy Corp...which is under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, will put all of its ethanol plants up for sale, Dow Jones Newswires reported on Thursday."
    • "VeraSun, the second largest ethanol producer in the United States behind privately owned Poet, filed for bankruptcy protection in October, citing high corn prices and a lack of access to financing."[11]

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