January 2009

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



  • Indonesian NGO backs villagers in fight against palm oil, 29 January 2009 by AFP: "Deep in the forests of Indonesian Borneo, a small environmental group is using education and common sense to arm villagers against the devastating onslaught of palm plantations."
    • The "spread of palm oil plantations into forests and peatlands on Sumatra and Borneo islands have helped make Indonesia the world's third-highest greenhouse gas emitter, thanks partly to the craze for 'eco-friendly' biofuels."
    • "They have also wiped out habitats of threatened species like orangutans and Bornean clouded leopards."
    • "But the plantations are also hurting people whose traditional communities depend on the forests and the biodiversity they contain".
    • "Vast tracts of forest have already disappeared under palm plantations and the government is encouraging more despite its stated commitment to lowering greenhouse gas emissions by preserving the carbon stored in jungles."
    • "In 1990 there were 1.1 million hectares (2.7 million acres) of land under palm oil plantation in Indonesia, according to official figures. This year there are 7.6 million hectares."
    • "Palm oil companies have been clearing orangutan habitats on Borneo despite signing up to voluntary standards under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a talking shop for industry and environmental groups."[1]
  • Sequencing of sorghum genome completed!, 28 January 2009 by E!Science News: "In a paper published in the journal Nature this week, Rutgers researchers Joachim Messing, Rémy Bruggmann, and a team of international collaborators have described the genome of sorghum, a drought-tolerant African grass."
  • 75 Countries Sign onto New Clean Energy Agency, 28 January 2009 by Worldwatch Institute: "The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the first multinational agency focused solely on spreading clean energy across the globe, officially launched this week."
    • "The expectations are that the agency will help governments and private industry to expand renewable energy installments throughout the industrialized world, where investments are already on the rise, while also assist the developing world acquire the expertise to establish its own clean energy industries."
    • "Conference participation exceeded the founders' expectations, but many of the world's largest industrialized countries have not signed the treaty, most notably the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, China, and Australia. But these countries may still join after the agency further develops, observers said."[2]
  • 25x'25 Economic Recovery Proposals Supported by 'Real World' Benefits, January 2009 by 25x25 Monthly Feature, America's Energy Future:
    • "'The recommendations target programs that accelerate markets for the wind energy, solar power, biomass, geothermal energy, hydropower and biofuels industries,' says Bart Ruth, 25x'25 policy committee chairman. 'They represent the best opportunity to address our troubled economic times by implementing renewable-energy and energy-efficiency initiatives that can drive and maintain economic recovery.'"
    • "'These are not pie-in-the-sky recommendations. They are not academic exercises," said 25x'25 Policy Chairman Ruth. 'These recommendations are underscored by projects and "on-the-ground" experience from all renewable energy sectors and areas across the country. It's important that Congress and President Obama understand that that with some relatively small shifts in policy and a small influx of new money, huge returns to our economy, to our energy security and to our environment are within our grasp.'"
  • UK gets biofuels research centre, 27 January 2009 by BBC News: "A centre that will act as the hub for biofuels research has been launched by Science Minister Lord Drayson....The £27m institute has been tasked with developing economically competitive and environmentally sound alternatives to fossil fuels."
    • "The Sustainable Bioenergy Centre, which will have hubs at six universities - including Cambridge, Dundee, York and Nottingham - has been established by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)."
    • "By working closely with industrial partners, the centre's scientists will be able to quickly translate their progress into practical solutions to all our benefit and ultimately, by supporting the sustainable bioenergy sector, help to create thousands of new 'green collar' jobs in the UK."
    • The "UK government introduced the 'Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation' in April 2008, which required 2.5% of all the fuel sold at petrol stations to be biofuels....Ministers originally had intended to increase this to 5% by 2010, but accepted a recommendation by the Gallagher Review to delay this until at least 2013."[3]
  • UN debates global food cost rise, 26 January 2009 by BBC News: "Although [food] prices have fallen from the highs recorded during the unprecedented spike at the beginning of 2008, they have not fallen back to where they had been before the crisis began."
    • "And many of the factors that contributed to the rise then are still driving prices up....These include competition with biofuels for scarce land, worsening agricultural productivity, the increasing proportion of people living in cities, and the effects of climate change threatening harvests."[4]
  • Deadly ‘brown cloud’ over South Asia caused by wood and dung burning, 23 January 2009 by Mongabay.com: "Long a subject of debate, the cause of the infamous brown cloud that hovers over the Indian Ocean and South Asia every winter has finally been discovered. Researchers led by Dr Orjan Gustafsson from the University of Stockholm in Sweden announced in Science that 70 percent of the cloud is made up of soot from the burning of biomasses, largely wood and animal dung used for cooking."
    • "Researchers hope the discovery of the cloud’s source will push policy makers to rapidly aid the region’s poor in switching to cleaner methods of cooking, such as solar."
    • "As well as being linked to global warming, the brown cloud is believed to lengthen droughts, exacerbate monsoons, and further melt the Himalayan glaciers, which currently provide fresh water to billions of people. Already, over three hundred thousand people die in Asia due to illnesses linked to brown cloud pollutants annually."[5]
  • The cost of the biofuel boom on Indonesia's forests, 21 January 2009 by The Guardian: "A flurry of scientific field work and environmental reports have linked the spread of oil palm plantations in Indonesia to the decimation of rain forests, increased conflict between logging and oil palm interests and rural and indigenous people, and massive CO2 emissions through logging, burning, and the draining of carbon-rich peat lands. And most of the trouble, as I learned on a recent visit, is playing out in the Indonesian lowland rain forests on Sumatra and Borneo, an ecosystem long regarded as a global hotspot for rare and endemic species — but perhaps not for much longer."
    • "According to Indonesia's own figures, 9.4 million acres of forest have been planted with oil palm since 1996, an area larger than New Hampshire and Connecticut combined. That works out to 2,000 acres a day, or about one football field a minute....Only Malaysia, which has less at stake biologically, produces more."
    • "The week [the author] visited Sumatra, Greenpeace activists aboard the Rainbow Warrior were blockading a shipment of palm oil off its coast. A banner tied to the ship's mast read: 'Palm Oil Kills Forests and Climate.'"[6]
  • Range Fuels gets $80M loan commitment, 19 January 2009 by Denver Business Journal: "Range Fuels Inc. said Monday it’s received a conditional commitment for an $80 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help build the company’s commercial cellulosic ethanol plant near Soperton, Ga."
    • "Range Fuels uses a proprietary, two-step conversion process using heat and chemicals to convert biomass — such as wood chips, switchgrass and other carbon-based waste items — into ethanol. The Georgia plant will use wood and wood waste from that state’s pine forests and mills as its feedstock and is expected to have the capacity to produce more than 100 million gallons of ethanol a year." [8]
  • Biofuel carbon footprint not as big as feared, Michigan State University research says, 15 January 2009 by MSU News: "Publications ranging from the journal Science to Time magazine have blasted biofuels for significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, calling into question the environmental benefits of making fuel from plant material. But a new analysis by Michigan State University scientists says these dire predictions are based on a set of assumptions that may not be correct."
    • "'Our analysis shows that crop management is a key factor in estimating greenhouse gas emissions associated with land use change associated with biofuels,' [MSU University Professor Bruce] Dale said. 'Sustainable management practices, such as no-till farming and planting cover crops, can reduce the time it takes for biofuels to overcome the carbon debt to three years for grassland conversion and 14 years for temperate zone forest conversion.'" [10]
  • Biofuels ad banned by ASA after George Monbiot complaint, 14 January 2009 by The Guardian (United Kingdom): "A complaint to the advertising watchdog by Guardian columnist and environmental campaigner George Monbiot has caused a national press ad claiming biofuels offer a sustainable alternative to oil to be banned."
    • "Monbiot, who has previously argued against the idea of sustainable biofuels in the Guardian, lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority that the RFA claim in the press campaign was misleading."
    • "The ASA...said that the Gallagher review, commissioned in the UK by the secretary of state for transport, concluded that only with strict policies on where biofuel production could be allowed would it be viable after 2020. Without such strict policies, biofuel production would 'result in net greenhouse emissions and loss of biodiversity through habitat destruction'."
    • "The watchdog concluded that 'at the present time' references to biofuels in general as sustainable were likely to mislead and banned the ad for breaking the advertising code."[11]
  • 'Green coal' to get a tryout, 13 January 2009 by The News & Observer: "North Carolina is about to become the nation's test case for what marketers call 'green coal' -- wood that has been baked into charcoal. If successful, the experiment -- a partnership of sorts between Progress Energy, N.C. State University and an Asheville start-up -- could mark the end of the state's reliance on dirty coal."
    • "The process is not as simple as collecting dead branches from the forest floor. The wood has to be treated in an industrial oven until it turns to charcoal. It remains to be seen if the experimental ovens can mass-produce charred wood of a uniform quality that won't clog power plants sensitively calibrated to burn coal."
    • "Despite the early enthusiasm, many obstacles remain. The process of torrefaction is so experimental that it has only been tested in a power plant once, in the Netherlands in 2005, for a 24-hour period. Even if power plants can burn the fuel successfully, electric utilities won't sign long-term contracts for charred wood if they lack confidence they can count on steady supplies. Currently there are no commercial suppliers in the world." [12]
  • Roundtable seeks international sustainability input, 13 January 2009 by Biodiesel Magazine. The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels will be holding RSB outreach in the Americas meetings in order to gain input on last fall's Version Zero of the RSB’s principles and criteria for sustainability.
    • "The first meeting in the Southeast is scheduled for Jan. 28, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Southern Growth Policies Board in Durham, N.C.; a second meeting will follow the National Biodiesel Conference on Feb. 4 at the Moscone West Convention Center in San Francisco. A meeting in Iowa is being planned for the first week of March and one in Washington, D.C., is being planned for later in March, according to the RSB Americas Coordinator Matt Rudolf."
    • "The RSB is proposing a voluntary system to certify sustainable biofuel production. An implementation working group has already begun working on certification plans for the standards, which are expected to be adopted in June." [13]
  • Afro-Colombians fight biodiesel producers, 5 January 2009 by the BBC. "For Afro-Colombians evicted from their land in north-western Colombia and along the Pacific coast, the loss of familiar surroundings of lush jungle and rugged mountains can be devastating." [14]
  • BlueFire: cellulosic delay to be less than 6 months, 4 January 2009 by Reuters:
    • "BlueFire said in a letter to shareholders late last month that it was delaying construction of the plant until further notice. The company is one of a handful that hopes to make a new alternative motor fuel from feedstocks like agricultural waste, wood scraps and fast growing grasses."
    • "Rising construction costs, the credit crunch and difficulties in getting permits from the state of California led to the delay, the letter said." [15]
  • DOE to accredit five biofuels facilities, 4 January 2009 by BusinessMirror (Philippines):
    • "In a report, the [Philippine Department of Energy]] said the new plants will ensure adequate local supply biofuels and meet the mandated higher biofuels blend."
    • "Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said the National Biofuels Board (NBB) will continue to monitor the developments in the emerging biofuels industry"
    • "The DOE said that biodiesel demand stood at 81 million liters last year and is projected to grow to 168 million liters this year." [16]
  • Ethanol Project: Global Recognition for Nigeria, 1 January 2009 by THISDAY:
    • "There is no doubt that Nigeria is blazing the trail in renewable energy sector, which ethanol is the final product. The initiative is to stem the effect of global warming, which has become a matter of serious concern dominating local and foreign discourse. Interestingly, a Nigerian company is already making waves in this important sector, which is big business in developed countries of the world."
    • "The Global Biofuels Limited, the first biofuels refinery in Nigeria, endorsed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), is the company facilitating biofuels production in Nigeria. The company’s investments in ethanol projects have earned Nigeria international recognition."

2009 edit
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