May 2008

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



  • Food Report Criticizes Biofuel Policies, 30 May 2008 by New York Times: U.S. "Agriculture Secretary Edward T. Schafer is preparing to walk into a buzzsaw of criticism over American biofuels policy when he meets with world leaders to discuss the global food crisis next week."
    • Schafer "said an analysis by the Agriculture Department had determined that biofuel production was responsible for only 2 to 3 percent of the increase in global food prices, while biofuels had reduced consumption of crude oil by a million barrels a day."
    • "Just hours before his comments, a major report was released in Paris that urged countries to reconsider biofuels policies in the wake of soaring food prices....'The energy security, environmental and economic benefits of biofuels production based on agricultural commodity feed stocks are at best modest, and sometimes even negative,' says the report, prepared by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development."[1]
  • Farm Bill Establishes New Biomass Crop Assistance Program, 23 May 2008 press release by 25 x '25: "A program to encourage farmers to establish and grow biomass crops in areas around biomass facilities has been included in the recently adopted [U.S.] 2008 Farm Bill. The Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) would help producers willing to switch part or all of their acreage to dedicated energy crops."
    • "Agricultural producers in BCAP project areas may contract with USDA to receive biomass crop establishment payments" plus other payments to support crop harvesting, storage, and transport...."Producers are also prohibited from planting noxious or invasive plants as part of the program."
    • The bill "also sets up through the U.S. Forest Service a competitive research and development program to encourage use of forest biomass for energy....The bill encourages USDA to work closely with the Pine Genome Initiative (PGI), which proponents say would promote healthy forests and the development of new biofuels technology."[3]
  • UN rights council targets trade, biofuels in food crisis debate, 22 May 2008 by AFP: "The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday called for worldwide action to guarantee access to food amid soaring prices."
    • "The council also heard from the new UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, who called for a halt to new investment and subsidies for biofuel production....De Schutter described as 'unrealistic' current targets by the United States and Europe to increase the usage of biofuels in the next decade."
    • Schutter said, "By abandoning them (the targets), we would send a strong signal to the markets that the price of food crops will not infinitely rise, thus discouraging speculation on commodity futures....I have therefore proposed a freeze on all new investments and subsidies favouring the production of fuel by growing crops on arable and non-degraded lands, when such lands are suitable for the production of food crops."[4]
  • Indonesia considering mandatory use of biofuel, 21 May 2008 by Reuters: "Indonesia, the world's biggest palm oil producer, is considering bringing in a mandatory policy for the use of palm-based biodiesel in the domestic market this year, government officials said on Wednesday."
    • "'The government is studying a mandatory policy for palm biodiesel mix, for example starting with a 3 percent mix,' Franky O. Widjaja, chairman of the Indonesian Palm Oil Board, told reporters on the sidelines of a palm oil industry conference."[5]
  • Peru's agriculture minister seeks restrictions on biofuel production, 20 May 2008 by the International Herald Tribune: "Peru's government plans to restrict biofuel production to secure its food supply, the country's agricultural minister said Tuesday."
    • The plans are "to restrict the cultivation of crops destined for biofuels on land currently used to produce food....Clearing of forested land for biofuel production will also be prohibited."
    • "Last month, President Alan Garcia blamed rising food prices on the global push to convert cropland to the production of alternative fuels like ethanol."[6]
  • Report: Biofuels majority of non-OPEC oil growth, 13 May 2008 by the Houston Chronicle: "Biofuels will account for 63 percent of oil supply growth from non-OPEC countries this year, taking global production of crop-based fuel to more than 1.5 million barrels a day, the International Energy Agency said today."[8]
  • Myanmar biofuel drive deepens food shortage , 13 May 2008 by AFP: "Myanmar is struggling to feed its people in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis -- in part because the regime has been forcing some farmers to stop growing rice in a plan to produce biofuel instead."
    • In 2005 the military government's leader Than Shwe ordered a national drive to plant jatropha, a poisonous nut he hoped would be the cornerstone of a state industry that would capitalise on growing world demand for biofuels.
  • Sweet sorghum promoted as "smart" biofuel, 12 May 2008 by Reuters: Sweet sorghum a "corn-like plant that can grow as high as an elephant's eye on some of Earth's driest farmland shows promise as a "smart" biofuel that won't cut into world food supplies, an agriculture expert said on Monday."
    • "Unlike corn-based ethanol, which uses one and a half times as much energy in its production as it offers as an end product, sweet sorghum produces eight units of fuel for every unit of fuel used to make it in developing countries."
  • Iogen Nixes Idaho for Ethanol Plant, Picks Saskatchewan, May 9 2008 by Canadian Press:
    • "For the last two years, Iogen had leaned toward building a cellulosic ethanol facility near the community of Shelley, near where farmers already are under contract to provide the wheat and barley straw, corn leaves and stalks, and switch grass used to produce ethanol."
    • "A U.S. Department of Energy spending package included loan guarantees and an US $80 million grant for the project, estimated in 2006 to cost up to US $350 million. But in March, the Canadian government announced it had allocated $500 million for projects to build next-generation biofuels plants in Canada." [9]
  • It's not food, it's not fuel, it's China, 8 May 2008 by Biofuels Digest: "A change in Chinese meat consumption habits since 1995 is diverting up to eight billion bushels of grain per year to livestock feed and could empty global grain stocks by September 2010, according to a new study."
  • Biofuels: more valuable as fuel than as a scapegoat, press release of 6 May 2008: Mariann Fischer Boel (Member of the European Commission responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development) said that "those who see biofuels as the driving force behind recent food price increases have overlooked not just one elephant standing right in front of them, but two.
    • "The first elephant is the huge increase in demand from emerging countries like China and India. These countries are eating more meat. It takes about 4 kg of cereals to produce 1 kg of pork, and about 2 kg of cereals to make 1 kg of poultry meat. So a dietary shift towards meat in countries with populations of over 1 billion people each has an enormous impact on commodity markets.
    • "The second elephant is the weather, and its effect on production. In 2006, bad weather hit cereal production in the US, the European Union, Canada, Russia, Ukraine and Australia! In 2007, the same thing happened again, except in the US. This is not a recipe for low prices.
    • "Alongside these two elephants are other influences. One of these is speculation."[10]

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