July 2009

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



  • New paper by Tim Searchinger: Evaluating Biofuels: The Consequences of Using Land to Make Fuel (PDF file), published by the German Marshall Fund of the United States - 2009.
    • "If not used for biofuels, land would typically already be growing plants that are removing carbon from the atmosphere."
    • "Many controllable factors could in theory change the world land use situation for good or bad, but if those factors are independent of biofuels, they neither make biofuels a better strategy nor a worse one."
    • "To the extent biofuel critics have blamed these rises in crop price for increased retail food prices in the United States and Europe, they have probably exaggerated. Crop prices are a small fraction of the retail food prices paid in grocery stores, and an even smaller fraction in restaurants. But the impact on the poor in developing countries is large, particularly on the roughly one billion people who live on $1 per day or less and who are likely already chronically malnourished, and the three billion who live on less than $2 per day."
  • Controversial palm-oil plan may save the orang-utan, 22 July 2009 by New Scientist: Orang-utan "researchers and conservationists in Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo, may have to do what had until recently been unthinkable: join forces with the palm oil industry whose plantations have eaten into much of the orang-utan's habitat. October this year will see an unprecedented meeting of Malaysia's palm oil producers, conservationists and local government to figure out how to protect the world's last orang-utans."
    • "Such collaborations will be especially important given the poor start for the international Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), set up in 2002, which is supposed to address the issues of environmental damage and wildlife conflict by encouraging producers to ensure their plantations are certified as sustainable."
    • "The conservation group WWF wants palm oil to be 100 per cent sustainable by 2015, but the initial results have been dispiriting. A WWF report released in May showed that just 1 per cent of the 1.3 million tonnes of sustainable palm oil produced since November 2008 had been sold - in part because it is more expensive."
    • "Sabah's 26,000-hectare Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is home to about 1000 orang-utans....The sanctuary has been heavily fragmented by oil palm plantations, and is now an archipelago of animal 'islands'."[5]
  • House Committee on Small Business Takes Notice of Biochar, 21 July 2009 by re:char (with video): "On Thursday, May 21 University of Georgia Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering K.C. Das testified before the house Committee on Small Business. The hearing’s purpose was to discuss 'the impacts of outstanding regulatory policy on small biofuels producers and family farmers including biochar carbon sequestration.'"
    • Das stated: "'From what I see there is very little discussion at the national level, at the federal agencies, or within the existing legislature or outstanding legislature legislations that discuss biochar as a means of addressing the excessive carbon levels already in the atmosphere], and I’d like to bring that to your attention."[6]
  • BP Gives up on Jatropha for Biofuel, 17 July 2009 by the Wall Street Journal's blog Environmental Capital: "BP has indeed given up on jatropha, the shrub once touted as the great hope for biofuels, and walked away from its jatropha joint venture for less than $1 million."
    • "Speculation abounded this summer that BP was ready to jettison its participation in the project with British partner partner D1 Oils. The original plan called for the investment of $160 million to turn the jatropha tree into feedstock to make transportation fuel. Now, BP will turn its alternative-fuel efforts toward ethanol in Brazil and the U.S., as well as biobutanol."
    • Jatropha, "the inedible but hardy plant that just a few years ago seemed like it could revolutionize biofuels has turned into a bust. The initial attraction was that it grows on marginal land, so it wouldn’t compete with food crops. But marginal land means marginal yields. And jatropha turned out to be a water hog as well, further darkening its environmental credentials."[8]
  • Exxon Sinks $600M Into Algae-Based Biofuels in Major Strategy Shift, 15 July 2009 by The New York Times: "Exxon is joining a biotech company, Synthetic Genomics Inc., to research and develop next-generation biofuels produced from sunlight, water and waste carbon dioxide by photosynthetic pond scum."
    • "Next-wave biofuels that could reduce carbon emissions and displace oil imports are politically popular but have not moved into commercial production as fast as supporters would have hoped. Biofuels overall got a boost through a 2007 law that expands the national renewable fuels standard, or RFS, to reach 36 billion gallons by 2022."
    • "Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said the RFS expansion is too restrictive and could freeze out emerging technologies -- including algae-based biofuels....'despite having characteristics superior to any renewable fuels in commercial production today, [algae-based fuels] have no home in the RFS'".
  • Sustainable palm oil gets boost in China, 14 July 2009 by WWF: "Major China-based producers and users of palm oil have announced they intend to provide more support for sustainable palm oil, an important boost for efforts to halt tropical deforestation."
    • "The public statement, made at the 2nd International Oil and Fats Summit in Beijing on July 9, committed the companies to 'support the promotion, procurement and use of sustainable palm oil in China,' as well as 'support the production of sustainable palm oil through any investments in producing countries.'"
    • "China is currently the world's largest importer of palm oil, accounting for one third of all global trade. Increasing demand for palm oil, which is used in everything from soap to chocolate bars, is causing considerable damage to fragile rainforest environments, threatening endangered species like tigers, and contributing to global climate change."
    • "Palm oil producers and buyers making the statement included Wilmar International, IOI Corperation, KLK Berhad, Kulim Malaysia Berhad, Asia Agri., Premier Foods PLC and Unilever PLC. Oxfam International, TransAsia Lawyers, and Solidaridad China were signatories."[9]
  • Carbon Offsets and the Emerging Climate Coalition, 9 July 2009 by the Brookings Institution: "In the context of a cap-and-trade program — the centerpiece of the Waxman-Markey bill and probably any Senate package — farm-state concerns largely boil down to concerns about the treatment of carbon offsets, credits that could be awarded for activities outside of capped sectors, like sequestration of carbon in managed forests or in agricultural soils. Such credits could potentially provide a steady stream of revenue back to regions of the country that have historically been slower to warm to the idea of cap-and-trade."
    • "Keep in mind that, in practice, any number of problems could threaten the integrity of an offset project. For example, carbon could physically leak out if attention to a given project lets up in the future (a problem referred to as 'non-permanence') or the project could shift carbon-intensive activities elsewhere (a problem referred to as economic 'leakage')."[11]
  • `REDD plus' to give RI (Indonesia) double benefits, 8 July 2009 by The Jakarta Post: "the REDD-plus...mechanism will pave the way for developing countries to seek greater incentives if they conserve forest areas, adopt sustainable environment management programs or plant new trees."
    • "Indonesia could be granted around US$15 billion worth financial incentives by avoiding forest destruction under the REDD mechanism."
    • "If Indonesia can manage only a fifth of its forest carbon potential, the country stands to make $3 billion per year based on current carbon prices."
  • Land Use Offers Valuable Solutions for Protecting the Climate, 7 July 2009 by SolveClimate: "It's well-known that the trick to reducing net carbon emissions relies on not emitting so much of the stuff and finding a way to get it back where it belongs....That's where the land comes in. Thirty percent of greenhouse gases come from 'the land-use sector.'...So let's talk farming. Let's talk trees. And let's talk land degradation."
    • "That's the argumentative thread running through the [Worldwatch] Institute's newest report, Mitigating Climate Change through Food and Land Use, by Sara J. Scherr and Sajal Sthapit."
    • "The first step is simply realizing the magnitude of agricultural or forestry-based contribution to emissions and, potentially, to absorption."
    • "Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases also seep into the atmosphere as the secondary effects of land-use changes. Exposed soil erodes more easily, and oxidizes more readily, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, while nitrogen fertilizers cause soil to emit nitrous oxide, an enormously potent greenhouse gas. The gist is that land-use change is a big problem - close to a third of the problem."[12]

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