June 2008

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This page includes information on news and events in June 2008. (News and events are archived here at the end of the month.)



  • Obama Camp Closely Linked With Ethanol, 23 June 2008 in the New York Times.
    • "Mr. Obama argued that embracing ethanol 'ultimately helps our national security, because right now we’re sending billions of dollars to some of the most hostile nations on earth.' America’s oil dependence, he added, 'makes it more difficult for us to shape a foreign policy that is intelligent and is creating security for the long term.'"
    • "Ethanol is one area in which Mr. Obama strongly disagrees with his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona."..."Mr. McCain advocates eliminating the multibillion-dollar annual government subsidies that domestic ethanol has long enjoyed. As a free trade advocate, he also opposes the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff that the United States slaps on imports of ethanol made from sugar cane, which packs more of an energy punch than corn-based ethanol and is cheaper to produce."
    • "Mr. Obama, in contrast, favors the subsidies"..."In the name of helping the United States build “energy independence,” he also supports the tariff".
  • U.S. May Free Up More Land for Corn Crops, 21 June 2008 in the New York Times. "Signs are growing that the government may allow farmers to plant crops on millions of acres of conservation land, while a chorus of voices is also pleading with Washington to cut requirements for ethanol production."..."Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and one of Capitol Hill’s main voices on farm policy, on Friday urged the Agriculture Department to release tens of thousands of farmers from contracts under which they had promised to set aside huge tracts as natural habitat."
  • Food-related industries launch anti-biofuel campaign, 10 June 2008 by Bloomberg.com, in the Houston Chronicle: "Industry groups representing companies including Kellogg, Tyson Foods and Kroger are coordinating efforts to reduce U.S. biofuels-use requirements with a new 'Food Before Fuel' lobbying campaign."
    • "The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the American Meat Institute, the National Restaurant Association and other groups say rising corn-based ethanol production is pushing food costs higher. Adding industry muscle to fight a federal requirement to about double ethanol production to 15 billion gallons by 2015 may slow the increase, helping company profits and easing consumer prices, said grocery association chief Cal Dooley....'We are calling on Congress to step back and re-evaluate our biofuels policy, which is distorting the marketplace and harming the environment and consumers,'" Dooley was quoted as saying.
    • The Food Before Fuel "campaign also includes advocates for the poor and the environment, Dooley said, showing wide-ranging concern about the social and economic impacts of biofuels."[2]
  • Take biofuel crops off the land and grow them at sea, 6 June 2008 opinion piece in SciDev.Net: "The environmental and social costs of producing biofuels on land can be avoided by farming seaweed".
    • "In Costa Rica and Japan, seaweed farming has been re-established to produce energy. It can quickly yield large amounts of carbon-neutral biomass, which can be burnt to generate electricity....We have calculated that less than three per cent of the world's oceans — that's about 20 per cent of the land area currently used in agriculture — would be needed to fully substitute for fossil fuels. A small fraction of that sea area would be enough to fully substitute for biofuel production on land."
    • "Growing large seaweed fields for energy using nutrients from wastewater could be an economically-sound use for the millions of tonnes of untreated wastewater dumped daily into our seas worldwide — and the seaweed helps clean it up in the process."[3]
  • Biofuels win at summit but UN food envoy fights on, 5 June 2008 by Reuters: "The rapidly growing global bio-energy industry escaped unscathed from a food summit on Thursday, but its wings must be clipped to stop fuel-from-food stoking world hunger, the U.N. envoy on the right to food said."
    • "Under pressure from Washington, a draft summit declaration avoided negative language on biofuels, instead saying they present 'challenges and opportunities' and calling for an 'international dialogue' on the issue."
    • "Olivier De Schutter, an independent U.N. expert on the right to food, said countries opposed to biofuels had given in, rather than hold out against the pro-biofuel countries and risk sinking the broad declaration vowing to fight hunger.[4]
  • New, "better" biofuels are no magic bullet, 4 June 2008 by Reuters: "With biofuels under fire for stoking food prices, many leaders at a U.N. summit in Rome are pinning hopes on emerging technologies based on plant waste rather than crops to fight global warming."
    • "Yet commercial production of such biofuels, for instance using woody cellulose, grasses or algae, is years away and so scant comfort for up to 1 billion people threatened by hunger partly caused by a biofuel 'grain drain'."
    • "'Second-generation biofuels are not expected to be produced on a commercial basis' in the next decade, according to a report by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development."
    • "'For these new technologies to be commercially viable it will take more than five years, but less than 10,' said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, more optimistic than the FAO and the OECD report."[5]
  • The race for nonfood biofuel, 4 June 2008 by the Christian Science Monitor: With "gas now at $4 a gallon and critics hammering corn ethanol for helping to pump up global food prices, it is clear that the holy grail of biofuels – cellulosic ethanol – needs to make its entrance soon."
    • "'Actual marketplace production of cellulosic ethanol is zero – there’s not a gallon being produced [commercially] right now,' says Thomas Foust, biofuels research director at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. 'But with all these plants coming on line … by 2010 or 2011 we will start to see millions of gallons.'"
    • "There seem as many varieties of cellulosic technology as there are companies trying to produce it on a commercial scale. Most, however, fall into two broad categories: Thermochemical processes use heat and pressure to extract sugars from plant material – sugar that is then turned into ethanol. Biochemical proces­ses mostly use enzymes to do the same thing."
    • "A big step forward came last week with the opening of the nation’s first ­demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol plant in Jennings, La. The facility, built by Cambridge, Mass.-based Verenium Corp., will use high-tech enzymes to make 1.4 million gallons per year of ethanol from the cellulose in sugar cane bagasse, a waste product."
    • "Still, some environmentalists are hesitant about endorsing cellulosic technology without qualification, since there could be 'good cellulosic and bad cellulosic,' says Nathanael Greene, senior policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York."
      • "'We’ve got to pay attention to the performance of new biofuels, not give credentials out for who produces the most gallons,' he says, 'but who produces the best in terms of water use, water quality, soil erosion, wildlife and habitat enhancement – and greenhouse-gas emissions.'"[6]
  • U.N. Chief to Prod Nations On Food Crisis, 2 June 2008 by the Washington Post: "U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will issue an urgent plea to world leaders at a food summit in Rome on Tuesday to immediately suspend trade restrictions, agricultural taxes and other price controls that have helped fuel the highest food prices in 30 years, according to U.N. officials....The United Nations will also urge the United States and other nations to consider phasing out subsidies for food-based biofuels -- such as ethanol".
    • The article notes that a "World Bank analyst estimated that biofuel production has accounted for 65 percent in the rise of world food prices, while the IMF has concluded that biofuel production is responsible for 'a significant part of the jump in commodity prices.'"
      • "But the United States has defended the production of biofuels, saying it has driven down oil consumption over the past three years. 'According to our analysis, the increased biofuels production accounts for only 2 to 3 percent of the overall increase in global food prices,' said Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer".[8]

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