November 2011

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Bioenergy > Timeline > 2011 > November 2011

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

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


November 2011 events


  • ‘Carbon debt’ created by some biofuels must be considered in sustainability debate, new study shows, 30 November 2011 by CIFOR: "Despite being heralded as a green alternative to fossil fuels, a new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has found that carbon emissions generated from land conversion for biodiesel production may take decades to hundreds of years to reverse in some cases, raising serious questions about biodiesel sustainability."
    • "'It really matters how you produce biofuels and what land you grow it on as to whether you are going to get climate change benefits,' said Louis Verchot, CIFOR scientist and co-author of Implications of Biodiesel-Induced Land-Use Changes for CO2 Emissions: Case Studies in Tropical America, Africa, and Southeast Asia published in a special feature of Ecology and Society."
    • "Fluctuating oil prices and growing concerns about climate change have led to a renewed commitment to renewable energy, with demand for biofuels such as those produced from palm oil, jatropha and soy increasing in recent years."
    • "The strength of this work is in the comparisons between different feed stocks and different settings. 'The take-home message,' says Verchot, 'is not that biofuels are bad for the atmosphere. Rather, the results point to important considerations that must be taken into account to make biofuels sustainable.'"[2]
  • Carbon debt for some biofuels lasts centuries, 30 November 2011 by "An innovative new study by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) published in Ecology and Society has computed how long it would take popular biofuel crops to payoff the "carbon debt" of land conversion."
    • "While there is no easy answer—it depends on the type of land converted and the productivity of the crop—the study did find that in general soy had the shortest carbon debt, though still decades-long, while palm oil grown on peatland had the longest on average."
    • "Looking at three different types of biofuels in six countries, the study found that soy grown in parts of Brazil would require 30 years to make-up its carbon debt, which is as good as it gets. Palm oil would require 59-220 years, while jatropha would require 76-310 years, depending on the type of land that was converted."
    • "The study found that these three biofuel crops could only be deemed sustainable if grown on permanent crop or pastureland that was not already in use for growing foods, i.e. was degraded or abandoned, in order to prevent leakage."[3]
    • Download the report, Implications of Biodiesel-Induced Land-Use Changes for CO2 Emissions: Case Studies in Tropical America, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
  • OSU study questions cost-effectiveness of biofuels and their ability to cut fossil fuel use, 29 November 2011 press release by OSU: "A new study by economists at Oregon State University questions the cost-effectiveness of biofuels and says they would barely reduce fossil fuel use and would likely increase greenhouse gas emissions."
    • "Biofuels were initially seen as a solution to energy and environmental problems, [the lead author of the study, Bill Jaeger said], because the carbon dioxide that's emitted when they're burned is equivalent to what they had absorbed from the atmosphere when the crops were growing. Thus, biofuels were assumed to add little or no carbon dioxide to the atmosphere."
    • "But the bigger picture is more complex, Jaeger said, in part because biofuels are produced and transported using fossil fuels. For example, nitrogen fertilizer, which is made using natural gas, is used to grow corn for ethanol. Additionally, growing biofuel feedstocks can push food production onto previously unfarmed land, according to well-documented research, Jaeger said. When this new acreage is cleared and tilled, it can release carbon that accumulated over long periods in soil and vegetation, thus increasing greenhouse gas emissions, he said."
    • "'Each dollar spent on energy improvement programs would be 20 times more effective in reducing fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions than a similar cost for the corn ethanol program,' Jaeger said. 'Likewise, a gas tax increase would be 21 times more effective than promoting cellulosic ethanol.'"[4]
    • Download the study, Biofuel Economics in a Setting of Multiple Objectives and Unintended Consequences.
  • Fifth of Global Energy Could Come from Biomass Without Damaging Food Production, Report Suggests, 25 November 2011 by Science Direct: "A new report suggests that up to one fifth of global energy could be provided by biomass (plants) without damaging food production."
    • "The report finds that the main reason scientists disagree is that they make different assumptions about population, diet, and land use. A particularly important bone of contention is the speed with which productivity improvements in food and energy crop production can be rolled out."
    • "Technical advances could be the least contentious route to increased bio-energy production, but policy will need to encourage innovation and investment."
    • "A renewed focus on increasing food and energy crop yields could deliver a win-win opportunity as long as it is done without damaging soil fertility or depleting water resources."
    • "The report stresses the need for scientists working on food and agriculture to work more closely with bio-energy specialists to address challenges such as water availability and environmental protection."
    • "If biomass is required to play a major role in the future energy system the linkages between bio-energy and food production will become too important for either to be considered in isolation."[5]
  • RSPO Seeks to Certify Indonesian Crude Palm Oil, 23 November 2011 by Jakarta Globe: "The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil aims to certify 3 million tons of Indonesian crude palm oil as sustainable, up 50 percent from this year’s original target of 2 million."
    • "Green campaigners say palm plantations are some of the biggest threats to the sustainability of rainforests in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, which produce 85 percent of the world’s supply of the commodity."
    • "A producer’s CPO can be certified if it can demonstrate that the production process does not cause undue harm to the environment or society."
    • "Worldwide demand for CPO is around 45 million tons, with the biggest markets in India, China and Europe."
    • "Indonesia’s Palm Oil Association (Gapki) in October withdrew its membership from RSPO, saying it would focus on helping to develop the government-backed sustainability scheme."[6]
  • Sustainable palm oil initiative falters, 20 November 2011 by Mail & Guardian Online: "Environmentalists have warned that an effort to encourage the sustainable production of palm oil launched several years ago has not kept pace with expanding cultivation driven by rising demand."
    • "The issue will loom large this week at the annual meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil from November 22 to 24 in key producer Malaysia."
    • "Despite some progress, major users of palm oil are not making enough effort to source and buy sustainably produced oil, while incentives for green production remain inadequate, green groups say."
    • "Growers produced 5.2-million tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) -- accounting for about 10% of world supply -- last year but only about 56% of it was purchased."
    • "Environmentalists say the consequences for rainforests in major producers Malaysia and Indonesia -- which account for 85% of world production -- and other producing nations will be dire unless the situation changes."
    • "The forest loss contributes to climate change and further imperils threatened species like the orangutan while land disputes between local communities and large palm producers seeking to expand cultivation are rising."[7]
  • Advanced biofuels could meet almost half of UK green transport needs, 18 November 2011 by Greenwise: "A new generation of biofuels could meet almost half of Britain’s renewable transport needs, but without them the UK will miss its 2020 target, a new Government-commissioned report warns."
    • "The study, by the National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials (NNFCC), suggests second-generation biofuels, such as that derived from household rubbish, could meet up to 4.3 per cent of the UK’s renewable transport fuel target by 2020 – almost half of the 10 per cent target the UK must meet under the European Union Renewable Energy Directive."
    • "Vegetable oils currently provide most of the UK’s renewable fuel, but due to limited availability and competing demands for sustainable vegetable oils, the NNFCC says conventional biofuels are likely to produce only up to 6.6 per cent of the energy needed in road and rail transport by 2020."
    • "The NNFCC report predicts that for advanced biofuels to meet the 4.3 per cent of the UK’s renewable transport needs will require around one million tonnes of woody biomass, two million tonnes of wheat (butanol) and 4.4 million tonnes of household, commercial and industrial wastes."[8]
  • Advanced Biofuels Required for UK to See RED, 17 November 2011 by Waste Management World: "The UK is at risk of missing its renewable transport targets without significant investment in a new generation of biofuels, according to a recently published government study."
    • "Under the EU's Renewable Energy Directive (RED), member states will be required to meet 10% of the energy used for road and rail transportation from renewable sources by 2020."
    • "Currently, most of the country's renewable fuel is derived from vegetable oils. However, due to limited availability and competing demands for sustainable vegetable oils, the study argues that conventional biofuels are likely to produce just 3.7% to 6.6% of the required 10% target."
    • "In assessing the how and if the UK will meet the Eu target, NNFCC drew up two illustrative scenarios to examine how the industry could develop in the UK."
    • "Under a modest development scenario, and assuming that advanced biofuels produced from waste feedstocks are eligible to count double towards the RED, advanced biofuel production in the UK could contribute 2.1%age points toward the UK's 10% renewable fuels in transport target."
    • "Under the same assumptions, with favourable economic conditions and strong improvements in policy, a strong development scenario could see advanced biofuels produced from waste and lignocellulosic feedstocks could contribute 4.3% points toward the UK's 10% renewable fuels in transport target."[9]
  • Indirect Land Use Change and Biofuels: Real or Hypothetical?, 17 November 2011 by Center for a Livable Future: "While increased food prices is the most contentious of the many controversies surrounding the rapid increase in ethanol production from corn, the increase in greenhouse gas emissions from what is termed 'indirect land use change' (ILUC) ranks a close second in the debates."
    • "In a September 2010 briefing Transport and Environment, a pan-European association with scientific and educational aims, summarized the findings of numerous EU, US and UN agencies relative to ILUC. They concluded:
      • "'The RED (Renewable Energy Directive) and the FQD (Fuel Quality Directive) include a legislative mandate for the Commission to produce a proposal for including the emissions from indirect land use change. There is clearly an overwhelming body of scientific evidence revealing the appropriateness and the urgency of addressing these known but as yet unaccounted sources of GHG emissions. The Commission should therefore use the best available science to propose a robust ILUC factor, which is the only short and medium term measure that would send a market signal to biofuels producers and drive sustainable development of the industry.'"
    • "However this overwhelming scientific evidence is under attack in a manner similar to that conducted on the science of other issues that affect industry, such as climate change...."
    • "...ILUC as an abstract concept has been fodder for the anti-science lobbyists. And they have thrown much confusion into the debate to convince policymakers that the connection is weak."
    • "But when the foreign direct investment in land to grow fuel and food largely for export is the issue, ILUC comes alive. The debate must not be allowed to die. Biofuels that use food crops, particularly corn ethanol, are in fact adding a large extra load of carbon dioxide because of their [effects on] food prices."[10]
  • EU biofuel target seen driving species loss: study, 16 November 2011 by Reuters: "A European Union target to promote the use of biofuels will accelerate global species loss because it encourages the conversion of pasture, savanna and forests into new cropland, EU scientists have warned."
    • "The finding raises fresh doubts over the benefits of biofuels, which were once seen as the most effective way of cutting road transport emissions, but whose environmental credentials have increasingly been called into question."
    • "The scale of species loss in areas converted into new cropland could be more than 80 percent, the scientists from the European Commission's Joint Research Center (JRC) said in a newly published report."
    • "One of the report's authors stressed that the finding was based on a preliminary analysis of the issue and that more research was needed to accurately quantify the likely impact on biodiversity caused by the EU's biofuel mandate."
    • "Modeling exercises carried out by IFPRI and others have also suggested that the land use impacts of the EU target -- both direct and indirect -- could wipe out most of the predicted emissions saving from biofuels."[11]
  • Indirect land use change in Europe: Considering the policy options, 16 November 2011 by the International Council on Clean Transportation: "The European Commission recently released updated results of modelling by the International Food Policy Research Institute of the likely indirect effects of the EU’s biofuels mandate."
    • "We critically assess this work, concluding that while there are inevitably areas that could be improved with further development it is a robust study and representative of best practice in the field of CGE modelling of iLUC."
    • "Based on a simple spreadsheet model of available biofuel feedstocks and pathways under various policy alternatives, and treating the IFPRI MIRAGE modelling results as the best available evidence, we show that without action on iLUC there are unlikely to be significant (if any) net emissions reductions from European biofuel support policies."
    • "We find that the introduction of iLUC factors, or of policies that otherwise prevented the use of the highest iLUC fuels (biodiesel from unused vegetable oil), would increase the expected carbon savings of the policy by a factor of ten, but note that it might be challenging to meet the current level of aspiration for total energy use with such strong policies."[12]
  • EU biofuels industry in denial over CO2 error, 15 November 2011 by Commodities Now: "The European Union wants bio-energy use to rise by more than half by 2020 arguing that the energy source is carbon neutral: the trouble is it isn't, and the target should in fact be scrapped."
    • "Yet carbon emissions from burning bio-energy are actually often higher than for fossil fuels, while being deemed zero carbon under emissions trading rules and low-carbon in renewable energy targets."
    • "A European Environment Agency (EEA) panel of scientists two months ago in a note said: 'The potential consequences of this bioenergy accounting error are immense'."
    • "The error originally arose in the 1992 U.N. Climate Convention where bio-energy emissions were categorised under land use instead of energy, says Princeton University's Timothy Searchinger."
    • "But under Kyoto, countries didn't have to account for land-use emissions in their emission targets, and so CO2 from bio-energy disappeared from such accounting altogether."
    • "So while bio-energy from plants still has a role as an alternative energy source, it should not be supported in renewable or low-carbon targets any more than fossil fuels. It does makes sense to continue to support making energy from waste products including food, animal and sawmill waste."[13]
  • Solving ILUC by Thinking Out of the Box, 15 November 2011 by Ethanol Producer Magazine: "Assuming ILUC [indirect land use change] could occur, policymakers should go for measures that will not cause this leakage effect. They should go for a win-win situation and promote biofuels whilst, at the same time, adopting measures that promote only those biofuels without a high risk of unwanted land use changes."
    • "A consortium of nongovernmental organizations and industry was formed earlier this year to confront policy makers with this more positive, incentive-based approach. The partners, including Shell, Neste Oil, Riverstone Holdings LLC, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Partners for Euro-African Green Energy and ePURE, commissioned Ernst & Young to study a policy approach that incentivizes ILUC-mitigation practices and supports best practices in the production of biofuels and crops for biofuels."
    • "All the policy options being studied by the European Commission have serious drawbacks. None encourage producers to adopt practices that reduce ILUC risks, nor do they improve investor confidence for biofuel development. By assigning a carbon credit to biofuels that prevent or reduce the risk of ILUC, Ernst & Young suggest, financial value can be created to incentivize the adoption of practices that prevent or mitigate ILUC."[14]
  • E.U. plans probe of U.S. bioethanol subsidies: diplomats, 15 November 2011 by Reuters: "The European Union's trade authority plans to start an investigation into whether U.S. bioethanol exporters are receiving unfair state subsidies and selling their fuel to Europe at illegally low prices, diplomats said on Tuesday."
    • "The European Commission investigation could result in import tariffs as early as next year on hundreds of millions of litres of the fuel if EU officials unearth evidence of unfair trade practices in the United States."
    • "Specifically, trade officials will investigate EU industry allegations that tax credits in the United States allow its exporters to cut their EU selling price by about 40 percent, the diplomats said."
    • "U.S. producers defend the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, which provides a 45-cent-a-gallon tax credit to ethanol blenders, as essential to propping up a fledgling industry."
    • "The U.S.-based Renewable Fuels Association has dismissed any action that aims to penalise the scheme, saying it is likely to run out anyway by the end of this year."[15]
  • Large differences in the climate impact of biofuels, 15 November 2011 by EurekAlert: "The use of bioenergy may affect ecosystem carbon stocks, and it can take anything from 2 to 100 years for different biofuels to achieve carbon dioxide neutrality."
    • "The use of bioenergy affects ecosystem carbon stocks over time in either a positive or negative way. Biofuels where the combustion related emissions are compensated rapidly have a lower climate impact than fuels for which it takes a long time for the emissions to be compensated."
    • "Despite this, the difference in climate impacts between slow and rapid biofuels is rarely highlighted in political contexts. Emissions from bioenergy are, for example, not included in countries' commitments under the Kyoto Protocol."
    • "If environmental legislation, for instance the EU renewables directive, requires that climate benefits of biofuels are calculated over a 20 year period, biofuels that need longer time to reach carbon neutrality may be regarded as not renewable."[16]
  • Doubts cast on biofuels' air quality claims, 15 November 2011 by EurActiv: "When the European Commission began pressing for a dramatic expansion in the use of biofuels in transport and energy several years ago, it was seen as a win-win situation: a way to help farmers, create energy security, cut greenhouse emissions and improve air quality. But even that last claim is no longer taken for granted."
    • "A report prepared earlier this year for Britain’s Environment Department showed mixed benefits on air quality of biodiesel and bioethanol."
    • "Separate research shows that biofuel production – such as land clearing, cultivation, fertiliser use and shipping – may negate any advantages that biofuels for transport use have in cutting smog and greenhouse gases."
    • "Their findings show that palm oil – a leading source for biodiesel – is as carbon intensive as petrol, with a 60% increase in land use emissions resulting from cultivation of tropical forest."
    • "Palm oil cultivation also has other consequences in countries like Indonesia, which ranks 20th in forest loss and 21st in urban pollution levels in the UN’s 2011 Human Development Index of 187 nations."
    • "Health experts are raising alarms about the impact that bio-energy has on air quality, particularly in Northern and Central Europe where the popularity of wood and timber products for home heating is soaring."[17]
  • Companies cited by EPA for fake biofuel credits, 15 November 2011 by Reuters: "The EPA has issued 24 notices of violation to more than a dozen companies, including units of Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil and Morgan Stanley, for the use of invalid renewable identification numbers, or RINs, according to the EPA website."
    • "To encourage renewable fuel output, the government requires U.S. oil companies to produce a certain amount of renewable fuel, or to purchase the RIN credits from producers of renewable fuels."
    • "The companies were cited by EPA for using fake credits purchased from Clean Green Fuel LLC. That company's owner, Rodney Hailey, has been charged with carrying out a $9 million scam involving the distribution of 32 million invalid credits."
    • "The EPA said in a statement that it was in discussions on how to move forward with each company that was issued a notice of violation and with industry officials on the issues raised by invalid renewable energy credits."
    • "'Enforcement of the renewable fuel requirements helps protect the program's integrity and maintain a level playing field for regulated companies,' the agency said."[18]
  • Biofuel Expansion Picks Up Pace, 8 November 2011 by "The first transatlantic flight powered by biofuel, a Gulfstream G450 corporate jet that travelled from New Jersey to Paris in June of this year, used a 50-50 blend of biofuel and petroleum-based jet fuel."
    • "The flight was estimated to have saved approximately 5.5 tons of net carbon dioxide emissions compared to the same flight powered by fossil fuel, and was hailed as a promising step toward helping the aviation industry reduce its carbon footprint."
    • "Global biofuel production is also taking flight, climbing by 17 percent in 2010 to reach an all-time high of 105 billion liters, according to researchers at the Worldwatch Institute’s Climate and Energy Program."
    • "Breaking down Worldwatch Institute figures reveals that the world produced some 86 billion litres of ethanol in 2010, 18 percent more than in 2009 while global biodiesel production rose to 19 billion litres in 2010, a 12 percent increase from 2009."
    • "Sugarcane-derived ethanol supplies 41.5 percent of the energy (48 percent of the volume) for light-duty transportation fuels in Brazil."
    • "The report further stated that the EU remained the centre of biodiesel production, accounting for 53% of global output in 2010. Growth slowed there dramatically, however, falling from 19 percent in 2009 to just two percent in 2010."[19]
  • German biofuels industry disagrees with EU law changes, 7 November 2011 by Argus Media: "Germany's oilseed association Ufop is opposing changes to EU legislation that are set to address indirect land use change effects (ILUC) caused by biofuels production."
    • "Ufop calls instead for investment protection for all existing biodiesel production plants. The volume for existing production plants by EU member states would total about 10mn t of biodiesel, based on sales volume between 2008-10."
    • "Only volumes in excess of that traded within the EU would have to come from so-called ILUC-free acreage, Ufop said."
    • "Biofuels producers argue that so-called ILUC mitigation factors currently under consideration by the EU could put an end to the European biodiesel industry, as it introduces excessive bad points for greenhouse gas (GHG) production starting in 2017."
    • "Ufop and other industry associations — including the EBB — have previously expressed concern that a report from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which the EBB alleges uses flawed methodology and exhibits an anti-biodiesel bias, is unduly influencing the European Commission's thinking on a methodology for measuring the ILUC impact of biofuels cultivation."[20]
  • Brazil Lacks Cane to Boost Fuel Exports, Senator Says, 7 November 2011 by BusinessWeek: "Brazilian sugar cane companies, which are preparing to boost ethanol exports to the U.S., don’t produce enough of the renewable fuel to do so, a lawmaker said."
    • "U.S. oil companies, which must comply with government mandates to blend environmentally friendly biofuels, are expected to expand their use of sugar-cane ethanol next year, and more than 100 Brazilian mills are preparing to deliver it."
    • "Under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard, U.S. oil companies must blend into standard fuel 2 billion gallons (7.58 billion liters) of 'advanced biofuels' next year, Alejandro Zamorano Cadavid, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in New York, said in a telephone interview."
    • "Advanced biofuels must emit at least 50 percent less carbon dioxide than the petroleum-based products they replace, through their entire life cycle, including growing the crops, processing it into fuel and transporting it to the gas pump. Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol meets that standard, while U.S. corn-based ethanol does not, he said."
    • "About 107 Brazilian ethanol mills had registered with the EPA at the beginning of October to export fuel to the U.S., up from 55 in February, the Sao Paulo-based cane industry association Uniao da Industria de Cana-de-Acucar said Oct. 19."[21]
  • Study Suggests EU Biofuels Are As Carbon Intensive As Petrol, 5 November 2011 by "A new study on greenhouse gas emissions from oil palm plantations has calculated a more than 50% increase in levels of CO2 emissions than previously thought – and warned that the demand for 'green' biofuels could be costing the earth."
    • "Biodiesel mandates can increase palm oil demand directly (the European Biodiesel Board recently reported big increases in biodiesel imported from Indonesia) and also indirectly, because palm oil is the world's most important source of vegetable oil and will replace oil from rapeseed or soy in food if they are instead used to make biodiesel."
    • "They concluded that a value of 86 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per hectare per year (annualised over 50 years) is the most robust currently available estimate; this compares with previous estimates of around 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per hectare per year."
    • "CO2 emissions increase further if you are interested specifically in the short term greenhouse gas implications of palm oil production – for instance under the EU Renewable Energy Directive which assesses emissions over 20 years, the corresponding emissions rate would be 106 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per hectare per year."[22]
  • China Makes Its First Biofuel-Powered Flight, 1 November 2011 by Forbes: "China joined the green jet age on Friday when an Air China 747 circled Beijing on a demonstration flight powered by a plant-based biofuel made by Honeywell UOP."
    • "One of the 747-400’s engines ran on a 50-50 blend of Honeywell’s Green Jet Fuel and standard petroleum aviation fuel."
    • "The biofuel was derived from jatropha, an inedible plant grown by PetroChina, a state-owned oil company, on a plantation in southwest China and refined by Honeywell."
    • "Honeywell is working with PetroChina, Air China and Boeing to create an aviation biofuels infrastructure in China."
    • "In June, a Gulfstream G450 owned by Honeywell made the first biofuel-powered transatlantic flight when it flew from New Jersey to Paris using a 50-50 blend of Green Jet Fuel in one of its engine."[23]

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