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The Big Green Fuel Lie

Daniel Howden, The Independent
George Bush says that ethanol will save the world. But there is evidence that biofuels may bring new problems for the planet
…Fabio Feldman, a leading Brazilian environmentalist and former member of Congress who helped to pass the law mandating a 23 per cent mix of ethanol to be added to all petroleum supplies in the country, believes that Brazil’s trailblazing switch has had serious side effects.

“Some of the cane plantations are the size of European states, these vast monocultures have replaced important eco-systems,” he said. “If you see the size of the plantations in the state of Sao Paolo they are oceans of sugar cane. In order to harvest you must burn the plantations which creates a serious air pollution problem in the city.”

Despite its leading role in biofuels, Brazil remains the fourth largest producer of carbon emissions in the world due to deforestation. Dr Nastarti rejects any linkage between deforestation and ethanol and argues that cane production accounts for little more than 10 per cent of Brazil’s farmland.

However, Dr Nastari is calling for new legislation in Brazil to ensure that mushrooming sugar plantations do not directly or indirectly contribute to the destruction of vital forest preserves.

Sceptics, however, point out that existing legislation is unenforceable and agri-business from banned GM cotton to soy beans has been able to ignore legislation.

“In large areas of Brazil there is a total absence of the state and no respect for environmental legislation,” said Mr Feldman.
(6 Mar 2007)

A switch to biofuels will not save the planet

Editorial, The Independent
…The problem is that many Americans, and Europeans for that matter, seem to think it is just a matter of flicking a switch: one moment fossil fuel, the next moment, sugar cane-plus-corn. Lifestyle – unaltered.

Sadly, that’s not enough. Ethanol may sound like the kind of “friendly” energy the world has been waiting for. But for ethanol production to rise to the levels Mr Bush is hoping for, huge amounts of the world’s remaining forests will have to be cut down and turned over to corn or sugar cane.

The existing hectarage devoted to agriculture will not be remotely large enough to produce the quantity of fuel needed. In other words, paradoxically, a growing reliance of renewable energy may accelerate the destruction of the rainforests we so desperately need to moderate the planet’s temperature. ..

To simply shift from fossil fuel use to ethanol is not going to get us out of our dilemma. It’s not going to “save the planet”, or not alone. That will require a sharp reduction in fuel consumption, too. The question is whether Mr Bush, other world leaders, or the public, for that matter, have taken this fact on board.
(5 Mar 2007)
It is good that awareness grows of the limitations of industrial corn/sugar-ethanol, but more localised biofuel production by whatever methods suit the truly available resources seems very desirable to me.-LJ

Oil giant Chevron bets on biodiesel

Houston Chronicle via My West Texas
ater this month, the world will get a glimpse of what Big Oil can bring to the fast-growing alternative fuels movement when a new biodiesel plant here, backed by a major U.S. oil company, opens for business.

The plant, which can produce 20 million gallons a year of diesel fuel made from soybean oil, is among the largest of its kind in the nation and is expected to soon grow bigger. But what’s more notable is that it is partly owned by Chevron Corp., the San Ramon, Calif.-based oil giant.

…Over the last couple of years, our company has come to the point of view that there is more global demand for energy coming than we know how to meet the way we’ve always done things,” Rick Zalesky, Chevron’s vice president of biofuels and hydrogen, said during a recent tour of the Galveston plant. “So oil and gas will continue to be the major source, but is that enough? And we’ve concluded no.”
(2 Mar 2007)
Emphasis added -AF

Success Derails Biofuels Bandwagon

Planet Ark
LONDON/PARIS – A global, government policy-fuelled rush to produce biofuels is backfiring as it pushes up costs and makes the environmentally-friendly alternative fuel far less competitive.

Made from plants, bioethanol and biodiesel emit fewer greenhouse gases than fossil fuels and have been hailed as an answer to both climate change and energy security. US and European backing look to have secured their long-term future.

But in the near term a looming biofuels glut plus falling rival crude oil prices, down a fifth on last summer’s highs, mean producers can less easily pass on their spiralling costs.
The present dip will last until demand rebounds, perhaps as far off as the end of the decade.
“The two key ingredients for a dynamic biofuel sector are sky-high crude prices and cheap feedstocks,” said Raffaello Garofalo, head of the European Biodiesel Board (EBB).

European Union leaders are expected this week to agree a binding target for the 27-nation bloc to get a tenth of its transport fuels from biofuels by 2020. ..
(7 Mar 2007)

Japan to receive bulk of Brazil’s ethanol exports

Eric Watkins, Oil & Gas Journal
LOS ANGELES, Mar. 6 — The Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to provide Brazil’s state-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) with $8 billion to help it export ethanol to Japan.

As a result of the aid, annual shipments to Japan by Petrobras are expected to rocket to 3 billion l., with the Asian country taking nearly 90% of Brazil’s available exports. In 2006, Brazil exported 3.4 billion l. of ethanol, of which less than 7%, or 225.4 million l., went to Japan.
The JBIC assistance will help Petrobras expand output and sales to Japan, with financing to cover ethanol plants, storage tanks, pipelines, and ports, according to a Mar. 4 report in Brazil’s largest newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo, which quoted Petrobras executive Paulo Roberto Costa. Projects to be evaluated include the production and sale of ethanol and biodiesel, electric power plants using sugar cane bagasse as raw material, and carbon credit opportunities. ..

Costa added that Japan insists on guaranteed long-term ethanol supply, increasingly popular because of persistent high oil prices. ..

Top palm oil producer Malaysia said in February most of its 86 approved biodiesel plant licences were unlikely to come on line in the next two to three years because of the price squeeze. ..
(6 Mar 2007)