May 2011

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

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

Events

News

  • Gauge agreed for biofuel effects on world, 24 May 2011 by the Financial Times: "Official measures for gauging the effect of bio-energy on food prices and the environment have been agreed by the world’s leading economies in a move that could undermine support for some forms of biofuel production."
    • "The move by the Global Bioenergy Partnership (GBEP), a Rome-based group backed by governments and international organisations, is a response to concerns that the rapid growth of biofuels and other forms of bio-energy is causing global hunger and environmental damage."
    • "The measures include assessments of the effects on food prices, greenhouse gas emissions, water and land use, for biofuels such as ethanol and biomass such as woodchips used for power generation."
    • "The indicators are voluntary, but Michela Morese, manager of the GBEP’s secretariat, said there was an expectation that 'each and every developed country should be producing these measures'."
    • "The results could be problematic for some of well-developed bio-energy industries, such as ethanol made from corn in the US and wheat in Europe, and bio-diesel made from palm oil from Indonesia."
    • "Nathanael Greene, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a US environmental group, said more progress in setting standards had been made by the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, an independent body that includes governments, campaigners and some oil and ethanol producers."[1]
    • Read the document, "GBEP Sustainability Indicators" (PDF file)
  • Statistical confirmation of indirect land use change in the Brazilian Amazon, 24 May 2011 by Eugenio Y Arima, Peter Richards, Robert Walker and Marcellus M Caldas in Environmental Research Letters; from the Abstract:
    • "Expansion of global demand for soy products and biofuel poses threats to food security and the environment. One environmental impact that has raised serious concerns is loss of Amazonian forest through indirect land use change (ILUC), whereby mechanized agriculture encroaches on existing pastures, displacing them to the frontier. This phenomenon has been hypothesized by many researchers and projected on the basis of simulation for the Amazonian forests of Brazil....The present article [utilizes] a spatial regression model capable of linking the expansion of mechanized agriculture in settled agricultural areas to pasture conversions on distant, forest frontiers. In an application for a recent period (20032008), the model demonstrates that ILUC is significant and of considerable magnitude. Specifically, a 10% reduction of soy in old pasture areas would have decreased deforestation by as much as 40% in heavily forested counties of the Brazilian Amazon. Evidently, the voluntary moratorium on primary forest conversions by Brazilian soy farmers has failed to stop the deforestation effects of expanding soy production...."[2]
  • Brazil: Amazon rainforest deforestation rises sharply, 19 May 2011 by BBC News: "Satellite images show deforestation increased from 103 sq km in March and April 2010 to 593 sq km (229 sq miles) in the same period of 2011, Brazil's space research institute says."
    • "Much of the destruction has been in Mato Grosso state, the centre of soya farming in Brazil."
    • "Some environmentalists argue that rising demand for soy and cattle is prompting farmers to clear more of their land."
    • "But others see a direct link between the jump in deforestation and months of debate over easing an existing law on forest protection."
    • "'You have 300-400 lawmakers here in Brasilia sending the message that profiting from deforestation will be amnestied, that crime pays,' Marcio Astrini from Greenpeace told Reuters."[3]
  • Analysis: Bioethanol may win in crunch time for EU biofuels, 13 May 2011 by Reuters: "After a two-year investigation, the European Commission has decided that the complex issue of 'indirect land use change' (ILUC) can lessen carbon savings from biofuels."
    • "The battle over ILUC has poured doubt on the security of any new investments, but that could be ended this summer when the Commission announces moves to curb the least sustainable."
    • "EU sources involved in the debate say a ranking is starting to emerge, giving the cleanest credentials to advanced bioethanol from farming residues such as straw. Next comes bioethanol from sugar beet and sugar cane, followed by the most efficient bioethanol from wheat."
    • "The Commission's new evidence will also create pressure to speed up the adoption of next-generation biofuels from agricultural residues such as straw, which do not compete with food and therefore do not create ILUC."
    • "But many industry players say Europe's political incentives are not enough to compensate for the risks and added costs of investing in new technology. 'The technology is available.' said Kare Riis Nielsen of Novozymes. 'Now we are facing a political barrier. The current policies are ineffective. A specific blending target or mandate for next-generation biofuels in all petrol is key.'[5]
  • USDA report predicts record biofuel crop this year, 12 May 2011 by BrighterEnergy.org: "According to survey data gathered from farmers and historical yield trends, USDA is predicting 92.2 million acres of corn to be planted, 85.1 million harvested acres, and an average yield of 158.7 bushels per acre. This would produce a total crop of 13.5 billion bushels, an all-time record."
    • "Additionally, USDA increased its estimate for carry-out stocks of corn for 2010/11 to 730 million bushels, based on slightly lower export demand. As for the 2011/2012 marketing year (Sept. 1 – Aug. 31), USDA is anticipating total corn use of 13.355 billion bushels."
    • "Specifically for ethanol, USDA is projecting demand at 5.05 billion bushels, which translates to more than 14 billion gallons of ethanol using industry average ethanol yields."
    • "After all demands are met, USDA expects 2011/12 carry-out to be 900 million bushels, up nearly 25% from the current marketing year."
    • "In separate government data also released today, ethanol exports set another record in March, as 84 million gallons of product (denatured and undenatured, non-beverage) were shipped to destinations around the world."[6]
  • MIT study: Biofuels not necessarily greenest choice, 12 May 2011 by Cnet News: "Biomass used to make biofuels must be carefully sourced, or the biofuels they produce may be no greener than conventional jet fuel."
    • "For the nearly four-year study, researchers conducted a life cycle analysis on 14 diesel and jet fuel sources made from feedstocks, and identified the key factors that make a difference in whether a biofuel is truly an environmental improvement over conventional jet fuel."
    • "Biofuels made from jatropha oil, for example, can have a low carbon footprint because the byproduct husks, shells, and meal from jatropha plants can be used for fertilizer, animal feed, and electricity generation."
    • "But the study found that many biofuel carbon footprints are based on where and how it's grown."
    • "The study suggested that easy-to-grow algae or salicornia, neither of which requires nutrient-rich soil, might be more effective biomass options for biofuels than crops requiring acres and acres of farmland."[7]
  • Camelina offers hope as California biofuel crop, 11 May 2011 by Western Farm Press: "Camelina, a weed in the mustard and distant relative to canola, may be emerging as the front runner in California agriculture’s continuing search for a biofuel crop."
    • "Steve Sandroni, production and logistics manager for Sustainable Oils, believes camelina may be a better crop fit than grain because it will produce 1,500 to 1,600 pounds of camelina per acre on 4-6 inches of winter rainfall. It would be a challenge to produce wheat or barley on so little rainfall."
    • "One of the issues with biofuel oil crops in California is a lack of commercial oil crushing facilities."
    • "By itself, California uses more gasoline than any country in the world, except the U.S. as a whole. California’s 20 billion-gallon gasoline and diesel habit makes it ground zero for low-carbon and renewable fuel development, since there is a state objective that calls for 20 percent of the fuel for California engines be grown in state by 2020."[8]
  • Molecules for sale: Biofuel outfits bet on chemicals, 9 May 2011 by Green Tech: "A number of biofuel companies are first focusing on industrial chemicals or food supplements as they seek a route to get out of the lab and into the market. Chemicals used in everyday products, such as rubber or plastics, are also made from oil as fuels are but they can command higher prices than gasoline and diesel."
    • "Chemicals get less attention than fuels but they represent a large potential market."
    • "Out of a given barrel of oil, a significant portion--on the order of 15 percent--goes to products other than diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, or heating oil, according to the Energy Information Administration."
    • "Biotech companies that use genetic engineering say they can modify their microorganisms to make different products."
    • "This sort of pattern will play out as renewable chemical companies seek a profitable niche as they eye the larger fuel market, say industry watchers."[9]
  • Feinstein, GOP senator fight subsidies for ethanol, 7 May 2011 by SFGate: "Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn have joined forces with Tea Party activists in an attempt to kill $6 billion a year in ethanol subsidies, taking on the corn lobby and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist."
    • "The fuel has been alternately touted by corn growers as a salvation from U.S. dependence on foreign oil and blamed by environmentalists for contributing to giant algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico and by anti-poverty groups for raising food prices."
    • "'Ethanol is the only industry that benefits from a triple crown of government intervention,' Feinstein said. 'Its use is mandated by law, it is protected by tariffs, and companies are paid by the federal government to use it.'"
    • "The ethanol tax credit is a classic 'tax expenditure,' or spending program disguised as a tax cut. Such tax breaks together cost more than $1 trillion a year. There is wide agreement among budget analysts, including the president's bipartisan deficit commission, that reducing such tax breaks could reduce the deficit and increase the fairness of the tax code."[10]
  • Burning issues: tackling indoor air pollution, 7 May 2011 by The Lancet: "According to WHO, 2 million people die as a result of the smoke generated by open fires or crude stoves within their homes every year. Indoor air pollution has been definitively linked to lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pneumonia, the risk of which is doubled by exposure to indoor smoke. More than 900 000 people die from pneumonia caused by indoor air pollution every year. 500 million households worldwide—roughly 3 billion people—rely on solid fuels, such as wood, animal dung, or coal, for cooking and heating. These fuels are usually burned in a rudimentary stove, or in a traditional open fire. It need not be a problem, at least in terms of health. But only assuming the fuel is completely combusted—wood must be dry, and the stove must work efficiently—and there is plenty of ventilation, a spacious chimney, or a sizeable window. In those places where the use of solid fuels prevails, however, these conditions rarely apply, and the consequences can be severe."
    • "Yet, 'despite the magnitude of this growing problem' notes WHO 'the health impacts of exposure to indoor air pollution have yet to become a central focus of research, development aid, and policy making'....But the past year has had some encouraging advances."
    • "In September, 2010, the UN Foundation launched the Global Alliance for Clean Cook Stoves....The Alliance—a public-private initiative—brings together partners from the range of specialties across which the issue of indoor air pollution sprawls. There is public health, of course, but also energy, international development, female empowerment, climate change, technology, and business."
    • "The real benefits will be seen by switching to cleaner fuels and cleaner stoves. Improved stoves—those fitted with fans, for example—combust fuel more efficiently, have lower emissions, and require shorter cooking times."[11]
  • Franken, Klobuchar propose end to ethanol subsidies, 5 May 2011 by MPR News: "Minnesota's two U.S. senators, along with lawmakers from other corn-growing states, have introduced a bill that would gradually end tax subsidies for ethanol producers."
    • "Under the proposal, the tax credit for the corn-based fuel would drop from 45 cents a gallon today to 15 cents a gallon by 2013. After that, the size of the credit would be linked to the price of oil."
    • "The bill would maintain support for cellulosic ethanol to promote a transition to those fuels, which don't use corn as a feedstock."
    • "The bill comes as deficit hawks have zeroed in on tax breaks for ethanol as a sign of special interest influence over the federal tax code."
    • "Minnesota produced about 1.1 billion gallons of ethanol least year, about 8 percent of all production in the U.S."[12]
  • Global demand for timber set to increase due to biomass, 5 May 2011 by KMS Baltics: "An increasing number of people may be looking to secure an investment in Eastern European timber, as demand for the material is predicted to soar."
    • "According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the need for paper is going to decline, but timber will still be widely sought after due to the growing popularity of biomass."
    • "A report commissioned by the organisation suggested that the European Union alone would require between 340 million and 420 million cubic metres of wood each year by 2020 to satisfy its biomass needs."
    • "The global price of timber has risen in recent weeks, as demand from nations like Japan, South Korea and China has surged."[13]
  • Forest Owners Tell EPA to Avoid Pitfalls in Biomass Review, 5 May 2011 by SF Gate: "Today marks the close of the comment period for the EPA's proposed rule to defer the regulation of biomass from the GHG regulations for three years while it undertakes a science and policy review of regulating biogenic carbon emissions. The National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) submitted official comments today to EPA on the proposed rule."
    • "At the time of filing, Dave Tenny, President and CEO of NAFO, stated, 'EPA's reversal from the proposed to the final rule was a significant step backward for renewable energy that came as a surprise without prior notice or adequate explanation in the record. If allowed to stand, this decision will cripple the biomass energy marketplace at the very moment when our nation needs additional investment to realize its renewable energy goals.'"
    • "On January 12, 2011, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sent a letter to NAFO's attorney stating that they would defer the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from biomass for three years while they 'seek independent scientific analysis' of the issues pertinent to the climate impacts of biogenic emissions and to finalize a rule on how biomass energy emissions are treated under greenhouse gas regulations."
    • "As EPA initiates its review, this week Massachusetts published a proposed regulation to halt most biomass energy production in the state."[14]
  • House panel questions future of U.S. biofuel use, 5 May 2011 by Detnews.com: "In 2007, Congress required the nation to use 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels by 2022 — including 16 billion gallons of cellulosic ethanol and at least 1 billion gallons of bio-diesel."
    • "The targets set by Congress were 100 million gallons for 2010 and 250 million for 2011; EPA reduced them to 6.5 million gallon for both years."
    • "At the same time, corn-based ethanol production and government subsidies have come under attack by some in Congress and others who argue that diverting so much corn into gas tanks raises food prices and feed prices for livestock."
    • "In February, the House voted 286-135 to block the EPA from spending any money to carry out a waiver to allow E15 to be sold at the nation's fueling stations."
    • "The EPA has granted a waiver to allow a blend of 15 percent of ethanol to be sold for vehicles from the 2001 model year and newer. Automakers and others have filed suit to block the fuel use, saying it could harm engines."[15]
  • USDA Announces Project to Encourage Development of Next-Generation Biofuels, 5 May 2011 press release by USDA Farm Service: "Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today the establishment of the first Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) Project Area to promote the production of dedicated feedstocks for bioenergy. This project will help spur the development of next-generation biofuels and is part of Obama Administration efforts to protect Americans from rising gas prices by breaking the nation’s dependence on foreign oil."
    • "Comprising 39 contiguous counties in Missouri and Kansas, the first BCAP Project Area proposes the enrollment of up to 50,000 acres for establishing a dedicated energy crop of native grasses and herbaceous plants (forbs) for energy purposes. Producers in the area will plant mixes of perennial native plants, such as switchgrass, for the manufacture of biomass pellet fuels and other biomass products to be used for power and heat generation. The proposed crops also will provide long term resource conserving vegetative cover. The project is a joint effort between the agriculture producers of Show Me Energy Cooperative of Centerview, Mo., and USDA to spur the expansion of domestically produced biomass feedstocks in rural America for renewable energy."
    • "BCAP, created in the 2008 Farm Bill, is a primary component of the strategy to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil, improve domestic energy security, reduce pollution, and spur rural economic development and job creation. BCAP provides incentives to interested farmers, ranchers and forest landowners for the establishment and cultivation of biomass for heat, power, bio-based products and biofuels."[16]
  • Europe's biofuel dispute splits the industry, 3 May 2011 by Reuters: "After a two-year investigation, the European Commission has decided that the complex issue of "indirect land use change" (ILUC) can lessen carbon savings from biofuels. In July it may announce moves to curb the least sustainable -- possibly by raising an EU-wide sustainability benchmark."
    • "The battle over ILUC has thrown into doubt EU plans to create a $17 billion annual market for biofuels from producers such as France, Germany, Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia."
    • "'It has sent a lot of signals to investors that the policy environment is uncertain,' Kare Riis Nielsen, head of EU affairs at Danish enzymes producers Novozymes, told Reuters. 'The whole industry is suffering from that.'"
    • "'What's most important now is that we come out of this with crisp, clear signals to the investment community and consumers,' said Nielsen. 'ILUC could create a window of opportunity.'"
    • "The Commission has run 15 studies on different biofuel crops, which on average conclude that over the next decade Europe's biofuels policies might have an indirect impact equal to 4.5 million hectares of land -- an area the size of Denmark."
    • "EU sources say July's announcement by the European Commission will broadly endorse the green credentials of bioethanol but raise questions about some sources of biodiesel."[17]
  • Mapping tools benefit biomass supply chain, 3 May 2011 by Biomass Magazine: "Harrison Pettit, the vice president of business development for Powerstock, has a multistep plan to create a biomass feedstock operation because, as he told a crowd at the 2011 International Biomass Conference & Expo, 'This supply chain will not invent itself.'"
    • "The process includes taking hundreds of growers and forming them into one dedicated supply chain that includes grower relationships, field mapping and individuals who have their own preferences and practices, he said."
    • "Included in the multistep plan is to identify and profile the supply chain, model the feedstock shed at the lowest cost, execute a demonstration harvest, scale-up harvests that would meet an inventory level, build up the grower network and, finally, manage the operational risks and approaches."[18]
  • Indonesia to launch ISPO certification, 3 May 2011 by Commodity Online: "In a bid to promote the sustainable nature of business in palm oil production, the Indonesian government is about to introduce Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) certification that would bring producers of palm oil under strict environmental norms."
    • "Currently RSPO or Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil is the only agency in the world providing certification that guarantees palm oil production by producers as sustainable."
    • "But unlike RSPO-- representing planters, green groups and consumers—that does not impose sanctions on members that violate its voluntary standards, the ISPO intends to punish by law, the violators of norms."
    • "Officials from government institutions and ministries, palm oil associations and NGOs will constitute the ISPO commission to manage the certification system: giving ISPO approval and recognition to plantation companies that operate in sustainable manner."[19]
  • European ethanol, ag sectors unite in criticizing ILUC modeling, 3 May 2011 press release by ePURE in Ethanol Producer Magazine: "At a jointly hosted conference on May 3 in Brussels, the European Renewable Ethanol Association (ePURE) and European farmers body Copa-Cogeca joined forces to criticize European Commission plans to introduce an ILUC factor for biofuels."
    • "At the meeting, organized to examine the commission’s current thinking on indirect land use change (ILUC), both organizations urged the EC to step back from considering introducing unwarranted and punitive measures on the European ethanol and farming sector. In a December 2010 communication, the commission suggested that it may introduce an ILUC factor in regulations which ePURE and Copa-Cogeca would render the European biofuel industry unviable."
    • "The focal point of the Brussels meeting was a set of well-researched presentations by several ILUC experts. These experts all agree that the current modeling is simply not adequate as a basis for good policy-making...."
    • "The ethanol industry has the strong impression that it is going to be penalized for something it is not responsible for, such as deforestation. Instead, this industry should be rewarded for bringing idle land in Europe back into productivity and for providing vital coproducts for the food sector."[20]
  • Biofuels Push Becomes Weapon in Colombia's War on Narco-Traffickers, 2 May 2011 by The New York Times: "Colombian government support for biodiesel has spurred a robust demand for palm oil that has put 50 percent more income into the pocket of farmer Misael Monsalve Moreno."
    • "It is hard to believe, he said, that just five years ago he and many of his neighbors were growing coca -- the main ingredient for cocaine -- for Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC), a narco-trafficking rebel group that then controlled this part of the Catatumbo region."
    • "Now palm plantations are replacing coca fields in the Catatumbo region. Improved security started the move away from coca, but it was the 2007 law requiring diesel retailers to mix in 10 percent biodiesel that provided the big push, biofuel industry insiders say."
    • "Jens Mesa Dishington, president of the National Federation of Palm Oil Growers, or Fedepalma, estimates that during the past few years about 173,000 acres of coca fields have either been directly converted to palm crop or stripped of their workforce by one of Colombia's fastest growing agriculture sectors."
    • "The government of former President Alvaro Uribe pushed through a 2007 law mandating a 10 percent biofuel blend for domestically distributed diesel."
    • "'This is a good way to improve the area, to improve the security conditions, to remove the cocaine crops from the area,' Brig. Gen. Fernando Pineda Solarte said. 'We're trying to prove to the population that it's possible, that we have other choices different from cocaine. That's the success of this area and that's why this project is so important.'"[21]
  • Mission signs contract to supply ISCC sustainability certified product, 2 May 2011 by Your Industry News: "Mission NewEnergy Limited, a global leader in providing energy from renewable sources, is pleased to announce that it has signed a contract to supply sustainability-certified product to a major international producer and distributor of refined oil products."
    • "'This is the culmination of two years of work by the Mission team in collaboration with International Sustainability & Carbon Certification System (ISCC) and FELDA. We are really proud to become the only certified supplier of palm-based products into the European market. It has opened a new market for us and we are currently in negotiations with several other buyers for our certified product,' said Nathan Mahalingam, Group CEO of Mission."
    • "In early March, Mission announced that it had established Asia’s first fully integrated ISCC certified palm biodiesel supply and production chain, in collaboration with FELDA."
    • "FELDA, a Malaysian government corporation and one of the world’s largest palm oil producers, in collaboration with Mission, Malaysia’s largest biodiesel refiner recently completed ISCC certification of two of its mills and eight plantations in Peninsular Malaysia."[22]
  • Swedish forests spawn new 'green' diesel, 2 May 2011 by The Local: "In recent years, rising concerns over traditional fuel’s harmful pollutants sparked a global rage for biofuels derived from biomass ranging from discarded corn husks to animal fats."
    • "Earlier this year, Preem, a leading Swedish oil company, emerged as the world’s first company to offer an innovative biodiesel made from tall oil, a renewable by-product of the forestry industry."
    • "Known as Preem Evolution Diesel, this green diesel is composed of about one fifth raw material and according to the company, cuts carbon emissions by 16 percent when compared to traditional diesel, which corresponds to the leading carbon emissions rate-cut of any biodiesel on the market."
    • "Whereas most biodiesels on the market today offer a blend of 5 percent renewable material, Preem’s Evolution is a mix that consists of about 15 percent tall oil and 5 percent rapeseed oil, setting a new global height for renewable content"
    • "'It is a good product, but we should also be aware that the world’s tall oil (supply) is very limited and this blend will only serve a fraction of the need,' says Lars Lind, a biofuel expert employed with the Swedish specialty chemical company Perstorp."[23]




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