June 2011

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

  • (News and events are archived here after the end of the month.)



  • Can Biofuels Save Sub-Saharan Africa?, 28 June by the Green Blog of the New York Times: "Last week, the journal Nature published a special outlook issue dedicated to the state of, and prospects for, biofuels production in an energy-hungry future. In the article 'A New Hope for Africa,' Lee R. Lynd, a professor of environmental engineering design at Dartmouth College, and Jeremy Woods, a lecturer on bioenergy at Imperial College in London, argue that, far from posing a direct threat to the world’s food supply, the development of an African bioenergy industry has a great potential to increase food security for some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people."
    • "On marginal lands that cannot support agriculture in any case, they see great potential for biofuel crops, which require less water and nutrients. Africa’s vast land resources could also make the continent a competitive exporter of biofuels, which could bring in money for the basic infrastructure needed to transport and process food, they argued. It could also provide an economic incentive for rehabilitating degraded lands, the thinking goes."
    • "In an interview, Timothy Searchinger, a research scholar at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, took issue with that idea, arguing that people in Africa are hungry partly because of diversions of land elsewhere to bioenergy and resultant spikes in food prices. He contends that the problem will only be exacerbated by the development of an African biofuel industry."
    • "His chief complaint is that while some marginal lands there can be converted to growing biofuels without highly significant negative effects, the potential profitability of biofuels will inevitably lead to massive land conversion and consequent releases of carbon dioxide."[1]
  • The Great Corn Con, 24 June 2011 opinion piece by Steven Rattner in the New York Times: "Feeling the need for an example of government policy run amok? Look no further than the box of cornflakes on your kitchen shelf. In its myriad corn-related interventions, Washington has managed simultaneously to help drive up food prices and add tens of billions of dollars to the deficit, while arguably increasing energy use and harming the environment."
    • "...Thanks to Washington, 4 of every 10 ears of corn grown in America — the source of 40 percent of the world’s production — are shunted into ethanol, a gasoline substitute that imperceptibly nicks our energy problem. Larded onto that are $11 billion a year of government subsidies to the corn complex."
    • "Eating up just a tenth of the corn crop as recently as 2004, ethanol was turbocharged by legislation in 2005 and 2007 that set specific requirements for its use in gasoline, mandating steep rises from year to year...."
    • "...All told, each gallon of gasoline that is displaced costs the Treasury $1.78 in subsidies and lost tax revenue."
    • "Nor does ethanol live up to its environmental promises. The Congressional Budget Office found that reducing carbon dioxide emissions by using ethanol costs at least $750 per ton of carbon dioxide, wildly more than other methods. What is more, making corn ethanol consumes vast quantities of water and increases smog."[2]
  • Airlines in EU biofuels pact to cut pollution, 23 June 2011 by Reuters: "European airlines, biofuel producers and the EU Commission signed up on Wednesday to produce 2 million tonnes of biofuel for aviation by 2020 even as debate rages over how green such fuels actually are."
    • "Involved in the project signed on Wednesday are planemaker Airbus, airlines Air France-KLM, British Airways and Lufthansa and biofuel producers including Neste Oil."
    • "Aware of the debate surrounding first-generation biofuels, participants at the Paris air show were keen to show a focus on what they feel are more sustainable crops."
    • "Lufthansa says jatropha is its crop of choice and plans to trial a biofuel mix on flights between Frankfurt and Hamburg for six months once certification has been received."
    • "U.S. firm Honeywell, which used biofuel produced by its UOP unit to fly a business jet from North America to Europe, said it uses camelina."
    • "British Airways, meanwhile, is looking at deriving fuel from waste and hopes to power its fleet using the fuel from 2015."[3]
  • U.S. military creating market for affordable, homegrown biofuel, 22 June 2011 by BendBulletin.com: "For the first time in the 58 years of Thunderbird air shows, Maj. Aaron Jelinek's, of the Air Force Thunderbirds, flight last month was fueled by a 50-50 blend of conventional jet fuel and biofuels."
    • "Biofuels have buzz in the military because the Air Force and the Navy are taking a lead role in creating a U.S. market for them."
    • "The Department of Defense has called for biofuels that don’t displace food, don’t use up fresh water, yield less greenhouse-gas pollution than conventional fuels and cost the same."
    • "National security is the main reason to move off oil dependence, according to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus."
    • "The main thing the Navy brings is a market, Mabus said. But the price, he added, 'is going to have to be pretty competitive with fossil fuels.'"
    • "The Navy predicts that it will have enough biofuels for an aircraft carrier strike group that will be deployed over the horizon on a 50-50 biofuel blend in 2016."[4]
  • Biofuels Market to Grow 8.2% Annually Through 2014, 20 June 2011 by Marketwire: "MarketResearch.com has announced the addition of the new report 'Global Biofuels Market 2010-2014,' to their collection of Alternative Sources market reports."
    • "This report forecasts that the Biofuels market will grow at a CAGR of 8.2 percent over the period of 2010-2014."
    • "One of the key factors contributing to this market growth is the increase in government funding to the various players within the market."
    • "However, the negative effects on the global food supply could pose a challenge to the growth of this market."
    • "The report, which focuses on Americas, EMEA and APAC indicates that the market is currently driven by the volatility of gas and oil prices."[5]
  • Can Biofuels Make Flying Clean and Cheap?, 20 June 2011 by GOOD: "Over the weekend, the first two transatlantic flights to be powered in part by biofuels made it safely to Paris."
    • "The two planes were headed for the Paris Air Show, which is spotlighting alternative energy this year."
    • "Last week, the international standards association that oversees jet fuels provisionally approved specifications for the type of fuel used in this weekend’s flights, and if those standards become permanent, airlines could start using them in commercial flights."
    • "The Air Transport Association, an airline trade group, has predicted that by 2014, biofuels will be available in enough quantity for airlines to make a regular practice of blending them with jet fuels."
    • "But blowing that much fuel—even biofuel—to get somewhere still counts as an indulgence, and biofuels won’t change that calculus."
    • "Airlines like biofuel blends like the one that powered this weekend’s flight because they can run through the pipelines and engines already in use, saving airlines from the burden of investing in new infrastructure and allowing them to keep ticket prices down."[6]
  • Ethanol Industry Is Unruffled by Senate Vote Against Tax Breaks, 17 June 2011 by The New York Times: "The Senate dealt the ethanol industry a rare defeat on Thursday when it voted 73-27 to end the annual $6 billion tax break given to blenders of ethanol, along with a tariff on foreign ethanol intended to protect the domestic industry from Brazilian sugar ethanol imports."
    • "The biggest government support for ethanol — the renewable fuels standard, which mandates the use of up to 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol in transport fuels — would not be touched by the amendment and appears politically safe."
    • "And lastly, just minutes after overwhelmingly voting against tax supports for ethanol, the Senate voted down another measure previously passed by the House of Representatives to prohibit public spending on special blender pumps and tanks needed to distribute higher concentrations of ethanol in gasoline."
    • "But if some tax changes do occur, some small ethanol producers who depend on the blending tax breaks are likely to get hurt and some may go out of business."[7]
  • New biofuel sustainability assessment tool and GHG calculator released, 16 June 2011 by e! Science News: "The new tool allows users to perform a self-assessment against the Principles and Criteria of the RSB and a self-risk assessment. The online tool also calculates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of biofuels for each lifecycle production step, from farming to final fuel distribution; this calculation can be done according to various methodologies."
    • "The development of the new tool, which is directly accessible (free of charge) at http://buiprojekte.f2.htw-berlin.de:1339/, took about two years and was supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)."
    • "To facilitate the RSB certification process, Empa – in collaboration with the HTW Berlin – developed a web-based tool allowing for the online calculation of biofuels' GHG emissions."
    • "Various GHG calculation methods are implemented, including the Swiss standard (for mineral-oil tax-relief), the European Renewable Energy Directive (RED) standard, the Californian standard and the RSB standard."
    • "By allowing a risk assessment of biofuels production and an evaluation based on the RSB sustainability principles, the tool forms the entry point to the RSB sustainability certification."
    • "The tool is freely available on the internet and can be used by any interested party who wishes to perform lifecycle GHG calculations of biofuels or assess their biofuel operations; it allows the user to conduct a self-assessment against the RSB Principles & Criteria and a self-risk assessment against the RSB Standard for Risk Management."[8]
  • Senate Votes to End Ethanol Blenders Tax Credit, 16 June 2011 by AgWired: "An amendment to end the ethanol blenders tax credit (VEETC) passed the Senate today by 73 to 27, a vote that some agricultural groups applaud while some denounce, while the ethanol industry says it is unlikely to matter."
    • "The Renewable Fuels Association calls the vote disappointing but 'ultimately inconsequential' since the underlying economic development bill to which this amendment is attached is 'unlikely to make it to the president’s desk.'"
    • "U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the Obama administration opposes an abrupt end to the VEETC. 'We need reforms and a smarter biofuels program, but simply cutting off support for the industry isn’t the right approach. Therefore, we oppose a straight repeal of the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit (VEETC) and efforts to block biofuels infrastructure programs.'"
    • "On the other side of the corn field, National Cattlemens Beef Association (NCBA) President Bill Donald called the vote 'a giant step toward leveling the playing field for a bushel of corn' noting that'...'after 30 years and more than $30 billion in taxpayer support, the day has come to let the mature corn-based ethanol industry stand on its own two feet.'"
    • "A coalition of groups, including food retailers, poultry organizations and environmental interests also applauded the vote as 'the start of a new era for U.S. biofuels policy.'"
    • "Immediately after the vote to end the VEETC, senators defeated an amendment that would have stopped federal funding for ethanol blender pumps by a vote of 41 to 59."[9]
  • Could palm oil help save the Amazon?, 14 June 2011 by Mongabay.com: "According to analysis by Brazil's agricultural research agency Embrapa, more than 2 million square kilometers of the Brazilian Amazon is suitable for oil palm cultivation — an area four times the size of France."
    • "Done right, oil palm could emerge as a key component in the effort to save the Amazon rainforest. Responsible production there could even force changes in other parts of the world."
    • "Planted on the degraded pasture land that abounds in the Brazilian Amazon, oil palm could generate more jobs and tax revenue than the dominant form of land use in the region: low intensity cattle ranching."
    • "If it replaces pasture, not forest, oil palm could buffer the forest frontier against fire, maintain and restore ecological functions like evapotranspiration, and help intensify cattle production in nearby areas (palm kernel, a byproduct of palm oil production, can serve a protein-rich feed)."
    • "Whether Brazil's sustainable palm oil push bears fruit will be contingent on the Brazilian government's willingness to enforce policies and industry's desire to access premium markets."[10]
  • Senate keeps ethanol subsidies, 14 June 2011 by Politico: (United States) "The Senate on Tuesday rejected, 40-59, a symbolic attempt to strike ethanol tax subsidies as Democrats are working on a deal to hold at least one vote on ethanol next week."
    • "The amendment from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) fell well short of the necessary 60 votes to invoke cloture and limit debate. Five Democrats supported the amendment and 12 Republican ethanol backers, largely from the Midwest, opposed it."
    • "Coburn’s amendment would have repealed a 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit to blend ethanol in gasoline that is set to expire at the end of the year. It is estimated that the tax credit would be worth upwards of $6 billion if it continues the whole year. The amendment also would have repealed a 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on ethanol imports."
    • "About a dozen senators, led by Thune and Klobuchar, are proposing to immediately — starting July 1 — end the existing blender tax credit and replace it with a variable blender tax credit linked to the price of crude oil through 2014."[11]
  • Brazil to tighten control over supply and demand for ethanol, 13 June 2011 by Platts: "Brazil's national petroleum agency ANP unveiled late Friday detailed plans to tighten government regulation over the ethanol market, giving the sector a first glimpse of how the rules might affect supply and demand for the biofuel."
    • "If the measures are taken forward, ANP will require distributors of road transport fuel to regularly notify the agency of contracted volumes for the purchase of anhydrous ethanol as well as details of spot deals."
    • "ANP's measures aim to tackle a shortage of the biofuel during the December-April sugarcane inter-harvest period, when production of ethanol almost comes to a halt and prices surge."
    • "By keeping watch on supply flows and inventory levels, ANP intends to level out the amount of ethanol producers and distributors offer the market throughout the year, forcing companies to keep minimum stocks of the product to meet demand during the sugarcane inter-season."
    • "A government decree published on April 29 transferred the whole ethanol production and distribution chain -- including imports and exports of the product -- to the ANP, giving the sugarcane-based biofuel the status of a strategic fuel."[12]
  • Oldest rainforest in the world to become a palm oil plantation, 13 June 2011 by On Line Opinion: "In Cameroon, 60,000 hectares of rainforest are to be cleared for a palm oil plantation."
    • "Kenya, Liberia, the Ivory Coast and other African countries have already given large areas of their rainforests up to palm oil plantations. The Blackstone Group now wishes to cultivate palm oil in Cameroon as well."
    • "In Southwest Cameroon, one of the oldest and most bio-diverse rainforests on the planet is facing destruction. The area planted for logging directly borders the Korup National Park and the Rumpi Hills forest reserve."
    • "This forest is a hotspot for a great variety of species, 25 per cent of all African primate species can be found here, among them chimpanzees and the very rare Drills. As well, 45,000 people will lose their land and with it their livelihood, due to the creation of the palm oil plantation."[13]
  • Eco-cars to lift ethanol sales by 46%, 9 June 2011 by Bangkok Post: "Ethanol consumption is expected to rise by 46% this year to 2 million litres per day, driven by new eco-car sales, according to Thailand's Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency."
    • "Director-general Krairit Nilkuha said the increase in ethanol use could reduce petrol consumption by 10% or about 20-21 million litres per day."
    • "The use of E20, a blend of 20% ethanol and 80% petrol, has doubled to 600,000 litres per day this month from December last year, while E85 gasohol, a blend of 85% crop-derived ethanol and 15% petrol, has risen to 17,500 litres a day from 11,000 in the same period."
    • "The country's Renewable Energy Plan developed in 2006 calls for ethanol use to increase to 3 million litres this year and to 9 million in 2022 or nearly a half of total petrol consumption."[14]
  • Tom Coburn forces Tuesday ethanol vote, 9 June 2011 by Politico: (United States) "Sen. Tom Coburn has pulled the trigger and is forcing a long-sought vote on an amendment repealing billions in annual tax incentives for ethanol."
    • "The Senate will vote Tuesday afternoon on Coburn’s motion limiting debate on his amendment that would do away with the 45 cent blender tax credit for ethanol — worth about $6 billion this year — and the 54 cent tariff on imported ethanol."
    • "Regardless of whether the underlining economic development legislation gets through the Senate and House and to the president’s desk, a vote on Coburn’s amendment could be a major symbolic vote."
    • "Ethanol backers have been looking to try to stave off such moves by working behind the scenes on ways to quickly move off of the blender tax credit and transition to federal assistance for blender pumps and other infrastructure to grow the market base for ethanol and other biofuels."[15]
  • Battle Between Ethanol and Pork May Cause Corn Shortage, 8 June 2011 by CNBC.com: "A large international turnout is expected here this week at the World Pork Expo in Iowa. Hot topics include pushing for free trade with Panama, Colombia, and especially South Korea."
    • "The hottest topic, however, is the price of corn. Thursday, the USDA updates its outlook on this year's corn crop, the first update since flooding delayed planting."
    • "Which leads to the big beef between hogs and ethanol. Both are competing for corn, and after September, there may not be enough to go around."
    • "In its defense, the ethanol industry highlights the fact that after it extracts what it needs from corn, it sells the residual product back to the livestock industry as a nutritious, concentrated feed (though it contains less energy). This residual is called Dried Distillers Grains, or DDG."
    • "Hog farmers and meat packers are discovering that pigs don't process the DDGs the same way, and too much of the stuff in the diet affects the meat."
    • "So now hog farmers have one more reason to complain about ethanol."[16]
  • FAO's Tool Weighs Pros and Cons of Biofuels, 7 June 2011 by AllAfrica.com: "Calculating the costs and benefits of investing in biofuels may become easier for policymakers with a guide launched by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)."
    • "The Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) Analytical Framework, released last month (17 May), was developed over the past three years and tested in Peru, Tanzania and Thailand."
    • "Heiner Thofern, head of the BEFS project, said that the goal is to help policymakers make informed decisions on whether development of bioenergy is a viable option for their countries and, if so, identify policies that will maximise benefits for the economy and minimise risks to food security."
    • Chris Buddenhagen, council coordinator of the Hawaii Invasive Species Council who developed a tool for assessing the risk of invasion by biofuel species, also welcomed the method, but warned that it seems hard to use and difficult to apply quickly to make the best policy decisions."
    • "He also said the tool neglects some important issues, such as biodiversity and the invasiveness of biofuel species."[17]
  • Khosla chides Big Oil for lack of biofuels appetite, 6 June 2011 by Reuters: "Billionaire Vinod Khosla took Big Oil to task on Monday for taking more risk on a long-odds deepwater oil well than on the future of biomass energy that he says will change the world within decades."
    • "Speaking the 2011 Brazilian Ethanol Summit in Sao Paulo, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems said that the world is on the verge of a technological breakthrough in cost-effectively converting crops like sugarcane into most of the fuels and consumer products that petroleum now provides."
    • "The winners in his vision of the future world will be those who took the risks to invest in winning technologies, and those in possession of ample reserves of arable land to grow biomass crops, such as Brazil and the United States."
    • "Venture capital fund Khosla Ventures is the lead investor in the U.S.-based biotechnology firm Amyris that has teamed up with Brazilian sugarcane mills to produce advanced biofuels and biochemicals -- including bio-jet fuel, biodiesel, plastics and cosmetics from cane by employing bioengineered yeasts."[18]
  • UK scientists launch scathing criticism of EU biofuel targets, 2 June 2011 by The Ecologist: "A global 'land grab' and increased loss of forests and other natural ecosystems is being driven by European targets for more transport fuel to come from biofuels, say a group of prominent UK scientists."
    • "The biofuels target was originally designed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions but in a letter sent to the transport minister Philip Hammond, and seen by the Ecologist, 19 prominent scientists from across the UK say crop-based biofuels will actually 'substantially increase emissions'."
    • "According to the scientists, in a rush to promote biofuels both the UK and EU had failed to take account of two factors - the high-use of nitrogen fertilisers and land-use change brought about by the increasing demand for land to grow biofuel crops instead of food."
    • "'The additional demand for grains, oilseeds and sugars brought about by increased biofuel production will indirectly bring about the conversion of land currently under forest or other natural ecosystem into agricultural land, with the concomitant release into the atmosphere of carbon stored in trees and soil,' says the letter."[19]
  • Biofuels Future That U.S. Covets Takes Shape -- in Brazil, 1 June 2011 by The New York Times: "Several years ago, Amyris helped create a landmark achievement in medicine, engineering microbes to produce an expensive antimalarial drug. Related tricks, it later found, can create a liquid fuel similar to diesel."
    • "Using crop-derived sugars as its power source, rather than petroleum, vats of Amyris' bugs could provide carbon-neutral fuel for fleets of heavy trucks and planes within a decade."
    • "But if Amyris does all this, it won't be in the United States. It will be in Brazil."
    • "Blessed with tropical weather and abundant pastures that can be migrated to sugar cane cultivation, experts see a stark potential for Brazil's cane fields to grow almost without limit over the next decade."
    • "Over the past decade, many companies have begun promising to use advanced biology to create what are called "drop-in fuels" -- biofuels that, unlike the corn-derived ethanol added to U.S. gasoline, would be indistinguishable from petroleum."
    • "Brazil's ethanol complex is fueled by sugar cane, which requires far less energy to grow than corn -- it needs little fertilizer, and its syrup-sapped husks, when burned, provide all the refinery's electricity."[20]
  • Turning Garbage Into Car Fuel? Venture Gains Momentum, 1 June 2011 by the New York Times Green blog: "Enerkem, a Montreal company that makes ethanol from old utility poles and household garbage, will announce Wednesday that a major independent oil refiner, Valero, has made its first investment in the company, and Waste Management, a trash-hauling company is raising its stake. With $60 million in new financing, total investment in Enerkem will reach $130 million."
    • "In Edmonton, the company has a 25-year contract to accept municipal solid waste, which means anything a household throws out. After separating out recyclable materials, it shreds the waste and heats it to around 400 degrees Celsius, or about 750 degrees Fahrenheit."
    • "At that temperature, the waste gives off a gas that includes hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Enerkem scrubs out the impurities, including carbon dioxide, and runs the gas over a catalyst, which converts it to methanol. The methanol can be turned into ethanol or a variety of other chemical feedstocks."
    • "Many companies are trying to use waste materials to make ethanol. Almost all of them pay for the raw materials, but Enerkem is paid to dispose of the garbage, making its feedstock 'cost-negative,' in the company’s phrase."
    • 'And making ethanol from garbage entails sharply lower carbon dioxide emissions than making it from corn does. Corn ethanol needs large amounts of natural gas, but the Enerkem process relies on the heat given off by the process itself so that no fossil fuels are burned except during the start-up. What is more, trash turned into fuel is trash that is not buried in a landfill, where it can give off methane, itself a potent global warming gas."[21]

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