May 2009

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

Events

News

  • For climate change bill, hard part starts now, 31 May 2009 by San Francisco Chronicle: "To get the climate change initiative to the House floor - and ultimately passed by the chamber - Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, must first run it through a gantlet of eight congressional committees headed by fellow Democrats who claim a piece of the action."
    • " [The] 46-member Agriculture Committee...is poised to make major alterations of the climate change plan, including overhauling the way the Environmental Protection Agency calculates the greenhouse gas emissions from alternative fuels made from corn and other plant materials...to make sure that when corn and other crops are made into biofuels, they qualify as low-carbon fuels under federal mandates."
    • "...corn-based ethanol advocates are worried about an EPA proposal to include 'indirect land use' changes - such as the clearing of forest for new farmlands - as part of any calculations on the carbon footprint of biofuels."
    • "Republicans...have largely united against the legislation, which they say would impose a hefty 'energy tax' on every U.S. business and consumer."
  • CPO Producers Say Green Efforts Not Paying Off, 31 May 2009 by JakartaGlobe: "While many palm oil plantations and farmers are struggling to get certificates proving their palm oil is produced in a sustainable manner, others that have the certificates are complaining that buyers in Europe don’t want to buy their products because they are too expensive."
    • "When the first batch of RSPO-certified palm oil arrived in Europe in November 2008, the company involved, Malaysia-based United Plantations, was accused by environmental organizations Greenpeace and Wetlands International of not actually meeting the RSPO’s requirements....Greenpeace maintains that the roundtable’s system fails to adequately address issues like deforestation, peatland clearance and other land-related conflicts."
    • "The EU is in the process of requiring all palm oil producers to certify both crude palm oil and derivative products. Companies that do not obtain certification by 2010 will not be allowed to sell to EU countries."
  • "Green" palm planters struggling to find buyers, 30 May 2009 by Alibaba.com: "Palm oil planters in the world's top two producers Indonesia and Malaysia are struggling to find buyers for their eco-friendly palm oil...threatening to slow momentum."
    • "Under fire from green groups and some Western consumers, the palm oil industry established the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2004 to develop an ethical certification system that includes commitments to preserve rainforests and wildlife."
    • "...the industry had so far sold only 15,000 tonnes of certified green palm oil since the first shipment last November while output might have reached around 600,000 tonnes."
    • "The issue of 'green' palm remains contentious and some conservation groups argue that the current voluntary rules are not effective in protecting the environment."
  • Palm oil could scuttle forest carbon plan: experts, 29 May 2009 by Reuters: "Carbon credits derived from a fledgling forest conservation scheme for developing nations will struggle to compete with palm oil as an investment...”
    • "...REDD allows developing countries to raise potentially billions of dollars in carbon credits in exchange for conserving and rehabilitating forests...However, profits from palm oil plantations could, in some cases, out-compete revenue from selling REDD credits…"
    • "...REDD credits arising from 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of conserved forest sold over a 30-year period -- where payments were front-loaded so that most of the money was delivered within the first eight years -- could fetch about $118 million if those credits could be used to meet emissions obligations for rich nations."
    • "The same credits would fetch only $14 million if their purchase was voluntary...'Whereas high-yield palm oil would get about $96 million'..."
  • Korean firms set to invest $475M on biofuel plants, 29 May 2009 by BusinessWorld: Manila, Philippines--local firms sign "an agreement with South Korean companies to put up two biofuel plants costing a combined $475 million."
    • Two agreements signed for bioethanol and biodiesel production.
    • "...bioethanol producer Enviro Plasma, Ltd. and Central Luzon Bioenergy Corp. will put up a 500,000-liter per day bioethanol plant worth $300 million in Clark, Pampanga with sugarcane feedstock from 46,000 hectares of plantation..."
    • "South Korean biodiesel producer Eco Solutions Co., Ltd. and partner Eco Global Bio-Oils, Inc. will invest $175 million to put up a biodiesel plant capable of producing 100,000 liters of biodiesel per day...Eco Solutions had committed to invest at least 100,000 hectares to plant jatropha".
  • The coming of biofuels: Study shows reducing gasoline emissions will benefit human health, 28 May 2009 by e! Science News: "While the focus of a shift from gasoline to biofuels has been on global warming, such a shift could also impact human health."
    • "A grant from the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) has produced a novel and comprehensive "Life Cycle Impact Assessment" to measure the benefits on human health that might result from a switch to biofuels."
    • "...the annual health damages avoided in the U.S. with 10-percent less gasoline-run motor vehicle emissions ranges from about 5,000 to 20,000 DALY [disability adjusted life years], with most of the damage resulting from primary fine particle emissions".
    • "Large urban regions...suffer disproportionate health damage as a result of benzene emissions at service stations and during the transporting by truck of gasoline to service stations".
    • Impacts "on human health should be a prime consideration in future fuel policy decisions."
  • Obama seeks growth in biofuels beyond ethanol, 27 May 2009 by Reuters: U.S. President Barack Obama "wants to see new types of biofuels commercialized as quickly as possible, but the corn-based ethanol industry needs to remain viable in the meantime."
    • "The U.S. government wants to boost production of renewable fuels made from non-food crops like switchgrass and plant waste left over from harvesting grain."
    • "Regulators and lawmakers are debating how to measure the impact of land-use change on the environment -- for example, emissions released when corn production displaces other crops, giving farmers the incentive to turn forests into cropland."
    • "Obama said the next generation of biofuels will be successful only if 'long-standing artificial barriers to market expansion' are removed."
  • Big Oil Warms to Ethanol, 27 May 2009 by the New York Times: "For decades, the big oil companies and the farm lobby have been fighting about ethanol, with the farmers pushing to produce more of it and the refiners arguing it was a boondoggle that would do little to solve the country’s energy problems."
    • "The erstwhile enemies, it turns out, are gradually learning to get along, as refiners increasingly see a need to get involved in ethanol production. Ethanol, made chiefly from corn, now represents about 9 percent of the country’s market for liquid fuels. And the percentage is growing year after year because of federal mandates."
    • "The interest expressed by big oil companies is coming in the nick of time for small companies that desperately need capital and cannot find it these days in the private markets."
    • "BP also speaks with optimism about a partnership with DuPont to test production of biobutanol, an advanced liquid alcohol fuel that is made from the same feed stocks as advanced ethanols and is compatible with existing pipelines and car engines. Executives say they hope to begin making the fuel in large amounts by 2013."[1]
  • Ethanol proposal may derail climate bill, 26 May 2009 by Politico: "Rural Democrats are threatening to vote against climate change legislation unless the Environmental Protection Agency halts new proposals that could hamper the development of corn ethanol."
    • "The debate [over ethanol] intensified recently when EPA released a draft decision ruling that 'indirect land use' issues must be considered when calculating the carbon footprint of corn-based ethanol. That decision raises the overall emissions of corn ethanol by including sometimes tenuously linked activities — critics say totally unrelated activities — in its carbon count."
    • "House Agricultural Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (R-Minn.)...and the 26 Democrats on his committee say they will vote against climate change legislation passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee last week unless it better addresses several concerns raised by farmers, including reversing the EPA decision."
    • The "Renewable Fuels Association plan[s] to introduce 'hundreds of pages' into the peer review process, hoping to persuade EPA to abandon the indirect land-use calculation. They’re using a similar strategy in California, where the Air Resources Board ruled last month to count indirect land-use changes when determining if biofuels meet the emissions standard set by California’s low-carbon fuel standard." [2]
  • Stress-Testing Biofuels: How the Game Was Rigged, 12 May 2009 by Time Magazine: "An outgrowth of the 2007 energy bill, [U.S. government evaluation "tests"] were supposed to document whether corn ethanol and other biofuels designed to replace fossil fuels would accelerate or alleviate global warming overall."
    • "The draft conclusions...were that cellulosic ethanol and other next-generation renewables will dramatically reduce greenhouse-gas emissions over their entire life cycle, but that in some scenarios, corn ethanol (as well as lesser-used soy biodiesel) can produce even more emissions than gasoline."
    • "In any case, the heavily subsidized corn-ethanol industries won't really be penalized for promoting deforestation and accelerating global warming; Congress exempted its existing plants from any consequences in the 2007 law requiring the stress tests."
    • "Study after study suggests that growing fuel could be a disaster for the planet, while raising global food prices and promoting global food riots. The amount of grain it takes to fill an SUV with ethanol could feed an adult for a year; we need every acre of farmland to feed the world."[3]
  • Why Ghana is attracting investments in biofuels, 11 May 2009 by Ghana Business News: "Ghana has become a major centre of attraction for the cultivation of biofuels in Africa for a number of reasons," including agricultural productivity, political stability and labor costs.
    • "Currently, the country features prominently on the radar of alternative energy interests, especially in the cultivation of the non-food plant jatropha for the production of biofuels."
    • "[C]ompanies from Brazil, Italy, Norway, Israel, China, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium and India" have invested in projects in "the Volta, Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, Eastern and the Northern regions of Ghana," mainly for jatropha.
    • "While its supporters argue that [jatropha] can be grown on semi-arid land and so poses less of a threat to food output than other biofuel feedstocks such as grains and vegetable oils, its opponents argue that investors are taking away productive agriculture land from poor local farmers for the purpose."
    • "Currently, there is an ongoing debate, accusations and counter-accusations of land grabbing between NGOs, Action Aid and FoodSPAN on one hand and Rural Consult, a consultancy firm on biofuels on the other."[4]
  • (Obama) Administration addressing ethanol, climate change, 5 May 2009 by Associated Press: "President Barack Obama directed more loan guarantees and economic stimulus money for biofuels research and told the Agriculture Department to find ways to preserve biofuel industry jobs."
    • "Obama said an interagency group also would explore ways to get automakers to produce more cars that run on ethanol and to find ways to make available more ethanol fueling stations."
    • "The reassurances to the ethanol industry came as the Environmental Protection Agency made public its initial analysis on what impact the massive expansion of future ethanol use could have on climate change. Rejecting industry and agricultural interests' arguments, it said its rules...will take into account increased greenhouse gas emissions as more people plant ethanol crops at the expense of forests and other vegetation and land use is influenced worldwide by the demand for biofuels."
    • "The ethanol industry and farm-state members of Congress had wanted only a comparison of direct emissions".[5]



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