January 2011

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Bioenergy > Timeline > 2011 > January 2011

This page includes information on News and Events in January 2011.



  • Oettinger tells Europe: It's double or quits on renewables, 31 January 2011 by Euractiv.com: "Europe will have to double its spending on renewables if it wants to meet its 2020 energy commitments, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has said."
    • "The data showed that EU member states had largely failed to meet the electricity and transport targets they had set themselves for 2010."
    • "But the latest figures show that only seven EU countries – Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland and Portugal– expect to meet or exceed their 2010 renewables targets, according to their national action plans."
    • "To achieve the EU's energy goals, Oettinger called for a doubling of capital investments in renewable energies from €35 billion to €70 billion. This would require a substantial use of national support plans, he stated. But he did not set any time frame for implementation."
    • "'If member states work together and produce renewable energy where it costs less, companies, consumers and the taxpayer will benefit from this,' he added."
    • "'Unfortunately, the Commission is still dragging its feet on the issue of sustainable biofuels,' Luxembourg Green MEP Claude Turmes said."
    • "He called for an urgent introduction of rules to take into account the impact of biofuels on indirect land use change (ILUC)."[1]
  • Inhofe's new allies on ethanol issue surprising, 30 January 2011 by Tulsa World: "WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe's efforts on ethanol have provided unlikely allies for the Oklahoma Republican perhaps best known to such groups for calling man-made global warming a hoax."
    • "Kate McMahon, the biofuels campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth, was not reticent about discussing the matter publicly and even complimented Inhofe for having a good staff to work on such issues."
    • "'Simply put, in this city, there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies,' McMahon said."
    • "McMahon said her concerns over corn ethanol are directly related to its impact on the issue of global warming. Ethanol, she said, has more global-warming impact than gasoline in many ways."
    • "Clearly Inhofe, who dismisses global warming, carved out his stance on ethanol for other reasons."
    • "Concerns over ethanol include potential damage to certain engines, confusion at the pump, lack of availability for 'clear' gasoline, lower mileage for fuel with ethanol and higher feed stock prices for farmers."[2]
  • Agave a Potential Bioenergy Crop for Biofuel Feedstock, 29 January 2011 by InfoGreenGlobal.com: "An article in the current issue of Global Change Biology Bioenergy evaluates the potential of Agave as a sustainable biofuel feedstock."
    • "Scientists found that in 14 independent studies, the yields of two Agave species greatly exceeded the yields of other biofuel feedstocks, such as corn, soybean, sorghum, and wheat."
    • "According to bioenergy analyst, Sarah Davis, 'We need bioenergy crops that have a low risk of unintended land use change. Biomass from Agave can be harvested as a co-product of tequila production without additional land demands. Also, abandoned Agave plantations in Mexico and Africa that previously supported the natural fiber market could be reclaimed as bioenergy cropland.'"
    • "Agave is not only an exciting new bioenergy crop, but its economically and environmentally sustainable production could prove to successfully stimulate economies in Africa, Australia, and Mexico, if political and legislative challenges are overcome."[3]
  • Cows' guts yield clues for new biofuels, 28 January 2011 by One India News: "A new study has found dozens of previously unknown microbial enzymes in the bovine rumen -- the cow's primary grass-digestion chamber -- that contribute to the breakdown of switchgrass, a renewable biofuel energy source."
    • "After incubating the switchgrass in the rumen for 72 hours, researchers conducted a genomic analysis of all of the microbes that adhered to switchgrass. They cloned some of these genes into bacteria, and successfully produced 90 proteins of interest. They found that 57 percent of these proteins demonstrated enzymatic activity against cellulosic plant material."[4]
  • EPA Ethanol Expansion Hardens a Divide, 27 January 2011 by SolveClimateNews.com: "The divide between pro- and anti-ethanol forces is widening now that EPA has approved E15 gas for 2001-06 cars."
    • "The Clean Air Act waiver for E15 gasoline that the EPA announced last Friday comes on the heels of the agency's mid-October granting of an E15 waiver covering vehicles built during and after 2007. A 10 percent ethanol limit still stands for pre-2001 vehicles."
    • "'Recently completed testing and data analysis show that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks,' EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said via a news release. 'Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America's vehicles, this administration takes those steps.'"
    • "Opponents of Jackson's line of thinking greeted her announcement with a chorus of jeers about the supposed benefits of corn ethanol."
    • "'For several decades now, Washington has propped up ethanol through subsidies, sweetheart tax deals, mandates and other schemes,' said Pete Sepp, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union."
    • "Matt Hartwig, a spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association, told SolveClimate News that the opposition to ethanol is 'manufactured angst.'"
    • "'Many of the complaints are from industries who desperately want to maintain the status quo, a nation addicted to imported oil,' Hartwig said, adding that environmental concerns about ethanol stem from unproven theories.
    • "The E15 waiver does not cover pre-2001 vehicle models because of concerns that ethanol's corrosive nature could increase air pollution by damaging engine performance and emissions controls. As well, it doesn't include motorcycles, heavy-duty vehicles, or non-road engines because current testing data does not support such a waiver, according to the EPA." [6]
  • Two-thirds of UK biofuel fails green standard, figures show, 27 January 2011 by the Guardian: "Less than one-third of the biofuel used on UK roads meets government environmental standards intended to protect water supplies, soil quality and carbon stocks, according to new figures."
    • "The Renewable Fuels Agency says that just 31% of the biofuel supplied under the government's initiative to use fuel from plants to help tackle climate change met its green standard. For the remaining 69% of the biofuel, suppliers could not say where it came from, or could not prove it was produced in a sustainable way, the figures show."
    • "In April 2008, suppliers began mixing biofuel into all petrol and diesel supplies under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), and by 2009-10 – the time period to which these latest figures relate – biofuels accounted for 3.3% of UK transport fuels. Suppliers were supposed to ensure that 50% of biofuel met government environmental standards, but the target is not mandatory and was not met."
    • "The majority of UK biofuel is imported. Biodiesel from soy was the single biggest source (31%) in 2009/10, with a large increase in Argentinian soy compared to the previous year, something that Friends of the Earth biofuels campaigner Kenneth Richter calls a 'huge cause for concern'."[7]
  • Biofuels of No Benefit to Military -- RAND, 26 January 2011 by ClimateWire/New York Times: "A new analysis presented to Congress yesterday paints a stark picture for the Defense Department's current efforts to secure renewable fuels."
    • "Fuels made from plant waste or algae will not be achievable in large or cheap enough quantities to make sense for military applications in the next decade, concluded the report penned by the RAND Corporation."
    • "'The use of alternative fuels offers the armed services no direct military benefit,' it added, urging the military and Congress to rethink dedicating defense appropriations to alternative fuels research."
    • "The work assessed the current status of the alternative fuels market and concluded that the only fossil fuel substitutes that could be attainable in the foreseeable future would be those produced through the Fischer-Tropsch process, a method with a hefty carbon footprint that produces synthetic diesel from coal, natural gas or coal-biomass blends."
    • "The Navy, which has been on the front lines of biofuel research, blasted the findings."[8]
    • Download a summary of the report, Alternative Fuels for Military Applications (PDF file)
  • Understanding the complicated biofuels fight, 24 January 2011 by Mother Nature Network: "The EPA said that E15 — a blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline — is safe for all cars on the road that were made in 2001 or later."
    • "Until this announcement, the EPA had only approved E15 for model year 2007 and newer vehicles."
    • "Currently, most gas sold in the U.S. has at least some corn-based ethanol in it, but not more than 10 percent."
    • "Ethanol producers say they can make more ethanol than what is needed for that 10 percent, and that's what's called the blend wall. By approving E15, the EPA pushes the wall higher and makes corn states happy."
    • "Not everyone is so pleased. Environmentalists, for example, have legitimate concerns about the negative effect of corn-based ethanol."
    • "Automakers, too, have serious concerns. They worry that the new E15 fuel could damage vehicles."[9]
  • Online Toolkit Fosters Bioenergy Innovation, 21 January 2011 by Biomass Program/Department of Energy: "The Department of Energy has taken critical steps toward transforming our biomass resources into clean fuels, products, and power, yet much work remains to build a competitive, successful, self-sustaining bioenergy industry."
    • "To foster the incredible potential of emerging bioenergy technologies, DOE’s Biomass Program has launched the Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework (KDF), an online data sharing and mapping toolkit."
    • "The KDF provides the general public, scientists and engineers, and private sector and government leaders with extensive data, analysis, and visualization tools to monitor the bioenergy industry."
    • "Also, the KDF helps the bioenergy industry meet sustainability goals by supporting efforts to monitor air quality, water resources, and land conservation."[11]
    • To access the KDF’s web-enabled platform, go to https://www.bioenergykdf.net.
  • Plant seeds could produce jet fuel, 21 January 2011 by The National: "After conducting a preliminary, year-long study, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology in the United Arab Emirates has concluded that the salicornia plant holds enough promise to move ahead on a project designed to extract fuel from the plant's seeds."
    • "Producing the jet fuel from the plant will be no problem, said Darrin Morgan, director of sustainable biofuel strategy at Boeing Commercial Airplanes."
    • "'The challenge is how to grow large amounts of biomass and have positive effects on social and economic development and environmental impacts.'"
    • "Mr Morgan said that in contrast to other sources of biofuel, such as corn, salicornia was first identified for its sustainability and then considered as a fuel source."[12]
  • Indonesia to road test green palm oil standards, 21 January 2011 by Reuters: "Amid pressure from green groups to halt deforestation that speeds up global warming, the agriculture ministry of Indonesia said in April it planned to issue Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification to cover the entire operations of planters."
    • "Deputy Agriculture Minister Bayu Krisnamurthi said on Friday the now complete ISPO document would be tested on between ten and 20 companies in February."
    • "The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which groups planters, green groups and consumers, is the only other major group to have set up green standards for the whole industry."
    • "But unlike RSPO, which does not impose sanctions on members that violate its voluntary standards, those found to be breaking ISPO rules will be punished by law, a ministry official said in November."[13]
  • Biofuel jatropha falls from wonder-crop pedestal, 21 January 2011 by Reuters: "Jatropha, a biofuel-producing plant once touted as a wonder-crop, is turning out to be much less dependable than first thought, both environmentalists and industry players say."
    • "Some biofuel producers found themselves agreeing with many of the criticisms detailed in a report launched by campaign group Friends of the Earth this week -- 'Jatropha: money doesn't grow on trees.'"
    • "Jatropha has been widely heralded as a wonder plant whose cultivation on non-arable land in Africa, Asia and Latin America would provide biodiesel and jobs in poor countries without using farmland needed to feed growing numbers of local people."
    • "'Jatropha is not the miracle crop that many people think it is,' said Dominic Fava, business development manager of British biofuels firm D1 Oils, which processes jatropha grown in Asia and Africa."
    • "'The idea that jatropha can be grown on marginal land is a red herring,' Harry Stourton, Business Development Director of UK-based Sun Biofuels, which cultivates jatropha in Mozambique and Tanzania, told Reuters."
    • "'It does grow on marginal land, but if you use marginal land you'll get marginal yields,' he said."[14]
  • Palm Oil Plantations Embrace Biodiversity In Attempt To Change Environmentally Destructive Reputation, 20 January 2011 by The Huffington Post: "Palm oil plantations carry a history of controversy. The cash crop is used for fuel and food, but at the same time, it destroys rainforests. Also, compared to diverse forests, monoculture plantations do not trap greenhouse gases as efficiently."
    • "These challenges are no more visible than on the United International Enterprises Estate, located in the Majung District of Malaysia. The plantation has over 1.4 million trees. Unfortunately, they are all the same."
    • "A nature reserve has been created on the plantation, populated by rare trees. The manager's goal is to increase the plant diversity to 500 plant variations."
    • "The plantation is the first to be certified by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil Production, a group working to make palm oil more eco-friendly."[15]
  • 110 Advanced Biofuels Projects Now in Development, 14 January 2011 by Renewable Energy World.com: "Today, the Biofuels Digest released version 1.7 of its free Advanced Biofuels Tracking Database, projecting advanced biofuels capacity for the 2011-2015 period."
    • "The new database, which is the quarterly update tracking new projects and changes in capacity announced since October, includes updates on 13 companies and their projects in Australia, Austria, Brazil, India, the Netherlands, Norway and the US."
    • "The database now tracks 110 advanced biofuels projects, and projects that advanced biofuels capacity will reach 718 million gallons in 2011, 1.522 billion by 2012, 2.685 billion by 2013, and 3.579 billion gallons by 2014."
    • "Renewable drop-in fuels (renewable gasoline, and renewable diesel, and biobutanol) have climbed to 59 percent of planned advanced biofuels capacity by 2015."[16]
  • Washington State to push for biomass-derived jet fuels, 14 January 2011 by BrighterEnergy.org: "Washington State’s Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark has announced plans for proposals that would mean the next step for a Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) forest biomass pilot project, leading to the production of jet fuel from wood waste."
    • "Speaking at the Pacific West Biomass Conference in Seattle, Mr Goldmark said aviation biofuel meant a renewable, locally grown energy source could be produced 'combining Washington’s forestry heritage and our technology future.'"
    • "'Forest biomass represents an incredible opportunity to heat our homes, power our cities and fight climate change,' said Governor Chris Gregoire. 'Thanks to the hard work, groundbreaking research and leadership of so many, including Commissioner of Public Lands Goldmark, forest biomass may now fuel our airplanes.'"[17]
  • Is Biomass Clean or Dirty Energy? We Won't Know for 3 Years, 13 January 2011 by Solve Climate News: "The Obama administration put off for another three years a decision on whether to regulate planet-warming gases from biomass power."
    • "The delay leaves wide open a question central to the industry's future: Should turning tree parts into electricity qualify as clean renewable power in the eyes of government regulators, or should biomass emissions be regarded as a source of greenhouse gas pollution?"
    • "Biomass includes plant waste, wood chips, organic debris and whole trees, and industry representatives say burning it is "carbon neutral." They argue that new growth absorbs CO2 and cancels out emissions spewed into the atmosphere from burning the wood."
    • "Conservationists dispute that claim with a very different understanding of what constitutes the natural carbon cycle. Rotting biomass enriches soils, which capture and sequester some of the carbon of the once-living plant tissue. They argue that biomass combustion produces more CO2 than burning fossil fuels — by how much varies depending on the type of materials and how they are transported."
    • "EPA said it would bring the best science to bear on the issues over the next three years. By July 2014, it will decide how to treat biomass under its "tailoring" rule, which determines which polluters are required to account for their emissions under the Clean Air Act."[18]
  • EPA gives break to biomass over climate, 12 January 2011 by Yahoo News: "Under pressure from some members of Congress, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is easing up on regulating global warming pollution from facilities that burn biomass for energy."
    • "The agency said Wednesday it needs more time to figure out whether biomass — including farm waste, sawmill scraps and forest thinnings — is really a green fuel."
    • "Nationwide, biomass plants generate less than 1 percent of the grid, according to the U.S. Department of Energy."
    • "Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack said in a statement that markets for the trees and branches left after thinning would help the national forests reduce the threat of wildfire."
    • Bill Carlson, of the USA Biomass Power Producers Alliance, said the decision was encouraging to businesses that have been uncertain over investing in new biomass plants. It would give time to settle scientific debate over whether biomass helps combat global warming or not, he said."
    • "'All biomass does not provide immediate greenhouse gas mitigation, and in fact some may have greater climate impacts than fossil fuels,' Ann Weeks, senior counsel for the Clean Air Task Force, said in a statement. [19]
  • RSPO calls for faster market uptake of sustainable palm oil, 10 January 2011 by ConfectionaryNews.com: "Jan Kees Vis, RSPO executive board president, said that many companies have pledged to switch to RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil fully by 2015, but until then, it will also be important that users of palm oil such as the leading confectionery and food manufacturers match a rising supply with rising market demand."
    • "The volume of actual RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil on the market jumped from 1.3m tonnes in 2009 to 2.3m tonnes in 2010. Sales of sustainable palm oil more than tripled from 0.4m tonnes in 2009 to about 1.3m tonnes in 2010."
    • "Nestlé, which uses the ingredient in its Kit Kat and Aero bars along with its Quality Street range, bolstered its sustainable palm oil commitments in May 2010 by partnering with The Forest Trust (TFT)."
    • "In November last year it was announced that all palm oil used in The Netherlands will be certified by the RSPO by 2015, as all the suppliers and buyers in the Dutch market have signed a manifesto and pledged to work towards this goal."[20]
  • Global biofuel land area estimated, 10 January 2011 by UPI.com: "University of Illinois researchers, using detailed land analysis, identified land around the globe available to produce grass crops for biofuels with minimal impact on agriculture or the environment."
    • "The Illinois study focused on marginal land for biofuel crops."
    • In their computer modeling, the researchers ruled out current crop land, pasture land, and forests."
    • "Researchers said an estimated land area of 2.7 million acres was available globally, an area that would produce 26 to 56 percent of the world's current liquid fuel consumption."[21]
  • Biofuel grasslands better for birds than ethanol staple corn, 6 January 2011 press release by Michigan State University: "Developing biofuel from native perennials instead of corn in the Midwest’s rolling grasslands would better protect threatened bird populations, Michigan State University research suggests."
    • "Federal mandates and market forces both are expected to promote rising biofuel production, MSU biologist Bruce Robertson says, but the environmental consequences of turning more acreage over to row crops for fuel are a serious concern."
    • "'Native perennial grasses might provide an opportunity to produce biomass in ways that are compatible with the conservation of biodiversity and important ecosystem services such as pest control,' Robertson said...."
    • "In the first such empirical comparison and the first to simultaneously study grassland bird communities across habitat scales, Robertson and colleagues found that bugs and the birds that feed on them thrive more in mixed prairie grasses than in corn. Almost twice as many species made their homes in grasses, while plots of switchgrass, a federally designated model fuel crop, fell between the two in their ability to sustain biodiversity."
    • "The larger the plot of any type, researchers found, the greater the concentration of birds supported. But if grasslands offer conservation and biofuel opportunities, Robertson said, the biodiversity benefits could decrease as biofuel grass feedstocks are bred and cultivated for commercial uniformity."[22]
    • Read the paper, Perennial biomass feedstocks enhance avian diversity (PDF file)

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