March 2009

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

Events

News

  • IEA Confirms GHG Reductions With Corn Ethanol Use, 3 April 2009 by Marketwire. "A new International Energy Agency (IEA) report confirms that new efficiencies in farming and production techniques show corn ethanol dramatically reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) - moving toward 55% cuts by 2015 - when compared to gasoline."
  • Bacteria for Better Biofuels, 30 March 2009 by Scienceline: Scientists "have found a unique way to increase the growth of one promising biofuel source on marginal land: just add bacteria."
    • "'If we have bacteria that can help plants to grow better, then these plants will be able to get established [on marginal land], and we can then use these soils for the economic production of biofuels,' says Daniel van der Lelie, a microbiologist at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, NY and lead author of a study published in the February 1 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology."
    • "In the study, the researchers focused on improving the growth of poplar trees. These trees are known for their rapid growth and ability to survive in many different types of climates, both ideal traits for biofuel production. The Brookhaven group found that adding the right kinds of naturally occurring bacteria to the roots of poplar trees increased their biomass production by up to 80 percent over ten weeks, according to van der Lelie."[2]
  • The Blunder Crop: a Biofuels Digest special report on jatropha biofuels development, 24 March 2009 by Biofuels Digest: SG Biofuels, Mission New Energy and GEM are being successful in developing jatropha projects, but "[w]ell-organized efforts are in the minority. More typical: back-of-the-comic book jatropha seed and seedling marketers that prey on the hopes and fears of cash-strapped farmers; the farcical disaster that has developed in Myanmar’s national biofuels project; and a number of non-profits (some well-organized, some dreamy) running around in Haiti trying to save the country from deforestation with projects as small as one designed to provide heat and power to a local bakery."
    • "Jatropha is realizing less than half its projected yields in most projects, and less than a third of optimistic estimates that led jatropha to be labeled 'the wonder crop'."
    • "The problem? Countries like Myanmar that planned 8 million acres of jatropha and then forgot about harvesting technology, crushers, biodiesel processing or anything approaching a distribution system. The Result? Jatropha seeds rotting in Myanmar’s fields. The cure? Getting back to sound planning, extensive soil testing, and excellence in project management."[4]
    • This article provides detailed information about jatropha-related projects in China, Africa, India, Myanmar, and Haiti.
  • Here comes the latest utopian catastrophe: the plan to solve climate change with biochar, 24 March 2009 by George Monbiot, columnist for The Guardian: "Biomass is suddenly the universal answer to our climate and energy problems. Its advocates claim that it will become the primary source of the world's heating fuel, electricity, road transport fuel (cellulosic ethanol) and aviation fuel (bio-kerosene)....Now an even crazier use of woodchips is being promoted everywhere....The great green miracle works like this: we turn the planet’s surface into charcoal."
    • "Now we say biochar. The idea is that wood and crop wastes are cooked to release the volatile components (which can be used as fuel), then the residue - the charcoal - is buried in the soil. According to the magical thinkers who promote it, the new miracle stops climate breakdown, replaces gas and petroleum, improves the fertility of the soil, reduces deforestation, cuts labour, creates employment," etc.
    • "This miracle solution has suckered people who ought to know better....At the UN climate negotiations beginning in Bonn on Sunday, several national governments will demand that biochar is eligible for carbon credits".
    • "The energy lecturer Peter Read proposes new biomass plantations of trees and sugar covering 1.4 billion ha....Were we to follow Read's plan, we would either have to replace all the world's crops with biomass plantations, causing instant global famine, or we would have to double the cropped area of the planet, trashing most of its remaining natural habitats."[5]
  • Biofuels for the poor, 23 March 2009 opinion piece in The Jakarta Post: "After being criticized for being slow to develop the local biofuel industry, the Indonesian government has finally issued two important policies; first, a decree issued last year obliging industries and the transportation sector to use biofuels; and second, its recent decision to provide subsidies for sales of the fuel."
    • "The National Team for Biofuel Development also placed an emphasis on the poverty-alleviation aspect in its roadmap for biofuels development. In its roadmap, the agency says that the program will create at least one million jobs and significantly increase the value of many areas of land owned by farmers."
    • "At present, our biofuel producers mostly use crude palm oil as a raw material. This has sparked criticism, since by using a food source for fuel in order to solve the energy crisis, we are also creating a food crisis. There are also fears that, in anticipation of growing demands from biofuel sector, CPO firms will continue a trend of clearing forest areas for plantations, thus creating massive environmental problems."[6]
  • Shell halts wind and solar spending in favour of biofuels, 18 March 2009 by BusinessGreen.com: "Oil giant Shell has announced it is to focus its future renewable energy strategy on biofuels and halt investment in technologies such as wind and solar, which it maintains are failing to offer sufficient economic returns."
    • Shell "has established itself as the world's largest buyer and blender of biofuels and has increased funding for a number of developers of second generation biofuels over the past year, only this month taking a larger stake in biofuel specialist Codexis."
    • "Friends of the Earth (FoE) accused Shell of 'backing the wrong horse' with its focus on biofuels, arguing that they 'often lead to more emissions than the petrol and diesel they replace'."[7]
  • Biomass 2009, 17 March 2009 in the Des Moines Register: "If there’s any good news in the biofuels industry, it’s tough to find it. That includes a conference the Energy Department is sponsoring this week called Biomass 2009."
    • "The view is pretty grim...and the reasons are many: The drop in the price of oil, which has hammered the corn ethanol industry; the meltdown in the financial services sector, which has dried up financing for the plants; or the many barriers to increasing the ethanol market, including the paucity of E85 stations and the so-called 'blend wall,' the limit on the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline for conventional cars."
    • "There also is the prospect that new biofuels plants will face greenhouse gas emission targets they can’t meet when EPA releases a long-awaited formula."
    • "And add at least one more problem to the list: Patent reform. Biofuel developers worry that the software industry will win changes in patent law that make it harder for energy companies to protect their inventions."[8]
  • Brazil soy growers fear green backlash, plant trees, 17 March 2009 by Reuters: "Soybean farmer Clovis Cortezia has started replanting native rainforest trees on his farm to meet demands of international buyers keen to be environmentally responsible."
    • "Like other growers in Brazil's No. 1 soy-producing state Mato Grosso, Cortezia started replanting trees native to Brazil's center-west savanna in 2007".
    • "Environmental and consumer groups, particularly in Europe, have long complained that rapid expansion of Brazil's soy frontier was speeding up the deforestation of the Amazon."
    • "Cortezia's restoration program is typical of simlar efforts launched by growers to meet 'green requirements' ranging from soil conservation to proper agrochemicals use."
    • "Cortezia is part of the a program organized by the local government in a partnership with U.S. environment group The Nature Conservancy (TNC)."[9]
  • Brazil wants help lifting US ethanol tariffs, 17 March 2009 by the International Herald Tribune: "Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday implored American businessmen to help convince the United States to lift the 53-cent-per-gallon import tariff it places on his country's ethanol fuel."
    • Silva, "who met with President Barack Obama on Saturday, has made little progress persuading the U.S. to reduce the tariffs, which are in place to protect American farmers who make ethanol from corn. Brazil makes ethanol from sugar, in a process that is much more efficient and costs less."
    • "'One thing that leaves me perplexed, is in the same world where we invest in environmental policy capable of avoiding global warming ... many countries still don't place any tariff on polluting fuels while they place absurd tariffs on ethanol,' Silva said, pointing out the ethanol burns relatively cleanly compared to gasoline."
    • "Silva also defended biofuels as a way to fight poverty, pointing out that while drilling for oil requires expensive investment, planting sugar cane is cheap and easy for small producers in tropical countries from Brazil to Africa."[10]
  • Segregated Sustainable Palm Oil: UTZ CERTIFIED releases traceability system, 16 March 2009, by UTZ News Center: "UTZ CERTIFIED is proud to announce that its Segregated Traceability system for RSPO-certified palm oil has been launched today, March 16 2009! This system offers members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) the opportunity to trade Segregated RSPO certified sustainable palm oil via the UTZ Traceability System."
  • Obama backs corn ethanol, but urges biofuels variety, 13 March 2009 by the Des Moines Register: "President Barack Obama says he wants to preserve the nation's ethanol industry while developing new versions of biofuels made from feedstocks other than corn."
    • "Obama stopped short of saying whether his administration would bail out the struggling ethanol industry by increasing the amount of the additive that can be blended with gasoline."
    • "'Corn-based ethanol over time is not going to provide us with the energy-efficient solutions that are needed,' Obama said during a question-and-answer session in the White House on Wednesday with regional newspaper reporters."[11]
  • Bacterium Gets Wheels Turning on Ethanol Fuel, 10 March 2009 by The Washington Post:
    • "A strain of bacteria accidentally found in the Chesapeake Bay more than 20 years ago -- a bug that decomposes everything from algae to newspapers to crab shells -- could help produce cheaper fuel, according to scientists at the University of Maryland."
    • "Some researchers now use a pretreatment that softens the plants, then another treatment to turn cellulose into sugar, then a fermentation that turns the sugar into alcohol. Several scientists said that if the U-Md. research could make this process faster and more efficient, it could produce serious savings." [12]
  • IEA report examines second-generation biofuel challenges, 10 March 2009 by Biomass Magazine: The International Energy Agency "has released a report examining the current first- and second-generation biofuel industries and the challenges at-hand for second-generation biofuel development and commercialization. The report's researchers have concluded that while many technical challenges remain for second-generation biofuels, a steady transition from first- to second-generation biofuels is expected in the near- to mid-future."
    • "According to the report, the transition to an integrated first- and second-generation biofuels industry will most likely be spread over the next one to two decades and will require continued significant governmental support."
    • "Based on various company announcements, the IEA determined that the first commercial-scale second-generation facilities could be up and running by 2012...and that 'the first commercial plants are unlikely to be widely deployed before 2015 or 2020.'"[13]
    • See the full IEA report, From 1st- to 2nd-Generation Biofuel Technologies - An Overview of Current Industry and RD&D Activities.
  • Toxic jatropha shrub fuels Mexico's biodiesel push, 10 March 2009 by Reuters: Jatropha "is a hearty shrub that grows with no special care. Its oil-rich seeds are being eyed as an attractive feed stock for biofuel since the poisonous plant does not compete with food crops."
    • "Now India is planting the bush en masse, converting it into a green energy source used to power trains and buses with less pollution than crude oil. Mexico hopes to follow suit."
    • "President Felipe Calderon signed an agreement with the president of Colombia in January to build a 14.5 million peso ($936,000) experimental biodiesel plant in southern Mexico with a production capacity of 12,000 liters (3,170 gallons) of biofuel a day."
    • "Mexico passed a law last year to push developing biofuels that don't threaten food security and the agriculture ministry has since identified some 2.6 million hectares (6.4 million acres) of land with a high potential to produce jatropha."[14]
  • Agriculture secretary wants more ethanol in gas, 9 March 2009 by MSNBC: United States "Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the government should move quickly to increase the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline."
    • "Ethanol producers asked the Environmental Protection Agency last week to increase the amount of ethanol that refiners can blend with gasoline from a maximum of 10 percent to 15 percent, which could boost the demand for the renewable fuel additive by as much as 6 billion gallons a year."
    • "It is up to the EPA to lift the cap. Adora Andy, the EPA's press secretary, said in a statement Friday that the agency will review the request and 'act based on the best available science.'"[15]
  • Corn Ethanol Industry Attacks California's Low Carbon Fuel Standard, 8 March 2009 by GreenBiz.com: "The California Air Resources Board (CARB) released proposed regulations for a Low Carbon Fuel Standard last week to reduce transportation fuel emissions 10 percent by 2020. By requiring fuel providers to sell cleaner fuels, regulators expect about 20 percent of fuel used in the state will be supplanted with alternatives, such as biofuels, hydrogen and electricity."
    • The "new rules are already facing stiff resistance from the corn ethanol industry, which is urging CARB to reject its staff's recommendations and arguing the new rules unfairly penalize ethanol using unproven science."
    • "At issue is the CARB staff's recommendations to include greenhouse gas emissions from indirect land use change in the calculation of biofuel carbon intensity, even though similar impacts aren't used in the intensity calculations of other fuels."[16]
  • Petrobras plans US$2.8 billion investment in biofuels, 4 March 2009 by Energy Current: "Petrobras Biocombustível plans to invest around US$2.4 billion in biodiesel and ethanol production over 2009 to 2013, 91 percent of which will be made in Brazil."
    • "One of the company's goals is to reach production of 640 million liters of biodiesel in Brazil by 2012. To achieve this goal, Petrobras plans to build a new plant in northern Brazil, duplicate its Candeias plant in the state of Bahia, and adapts its experimental plants in Guamaré, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, for commercial production."[17]
  • EU slaps duties on U.S. biodiesel imports: sources, 3 March 2009 by Reuters: "A key European Union trade panel approved on Tuesday temporary anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on imports of biodiesel from the United States, sources with knowledge of the decision said."
    • "From March 13, U.S. firms exporting biodiesel into the EU will have to pay additional tariffs for an initial six months, ranging from 26 euros ($32.88) to 41 euros per 100 kg."
    • "The EU firms say exporters in the United States are involved in so-called 'splash and dash,' whereby they import cheaper biodiesel from countries such as Brazil and add less than 5 percent of U.S. mineral diesel so they can pick up the subsidy from Washington before exporting to Europe."[18]
  • The ‘holy grail’ of biofuels now in sight, 2 March, by the Christian Science Monitor. "Long-promised cellulosic ethanol is in modest production, but hurdles remain."
    • "Corn-based ethanol, which many critics argue does not do enough to slow climate change, is nearing US production limits. In Washington, cellulosic ethanol is gaining political traction. And cellulosic technology seems ready for prime time – at last."



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