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Old Sunlight vs Ancient Sunlight -An Analysis of Home Heating and Wood

Nate Hagens, The Oil Drum
As the longest day of the year is just past, we begin the inexorable annual trajectory towards winter.

A short fifty years ago, people heated their homes in winter with coal. A hundred years ago and before, people living in cold climates largely stayed warm in winter with firewood.

Today, in a country (and planet) with vastly more people, we heat homes in northern climates largely with high quality fossil fuels, specifically natural gas, heating oil, and propane.

Trees, a less energy-dense form of stored sunlight than oil and gas, have recovered a good part of their former % of landcover in the US, despite being still used for paper, wood, furniture, pulp and some heat.

Below is an analysis of how the US residential sector heats its homes, how large are our forests and how much they grow and how much wood we could use for heat, after fossil fuels decline.
(11 July 2007)

High palm oil prices squeeze Indonesia biodiesel mix

Reuters via Daily Times of Pakistan
JAKARTA: Indonesian state-owned oil firm Pertamina has cut the biodiesel blend in diesel fuel to 2.5 percent [from 5%] as rising palm oil prices and lack of incentives have reduced margins, an official at a biofuel group said on Tuesday.

Since last May, Pertamina has been retailing Biosolar – biodiesel made of 5 percent crude palm oil and 95 percent diesel – in 201 gas stations in Jakarta and 15 gas stations in Surabaya in East Java.

But the government subsidises biodiesel at the same level as fossil fuels, leaving Pertamina to cover the difference when biodiesel production costs exceed fossil fuel costs. ..

Indonesia plans to plant 5.25 million hectares of unused land with palm oil, jatropha, sugar cane and cassava by 2010. By that time, biofuel will make up 2 percent of the country’s total energy mix or 5.29 million kilo litres.
(11 July 2007)

Omani develops date palm alternative to petrol

Middle East Times
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An Omani entrepreneur is promoting a biofuel for cars using extracts from date palms to cut the use of petrol in the oil-rich Gulf region, a newspaper reported Tuesday.

More than 30 cars in Oman are already powered by the palm-based biofuel developed by Mohammed Al Harethi, who is planning to market the new fuel in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) later, Emirates Today said.

The vehicles are running 85 percent on the new fuel and 15 percent on petrol without the need to convert the engine, Harethi was quoted as saying.

An enzyme is injected into the palm tree to extract natural sugar that flows out in the form of a thick liquid.

“If things go according to plan we are going to open the first filling station selling this fuel in Oman by 2010,” he said. ..
(10 July 2007)

African forest under threat from sugar cane plantation

Daniel Howden, The Independant
Conservationists in Uganda are fighting a last-ditch battle to stop the destruction of a forest reserve by a sugar corporation friendly with the government.

The Mabira Forest Reserve, on the north shore of Lake Victoria, is home to 300 bird species as well as rare primates, and plays a vital role in the country’s eco-system, storing carbon and regulating rainfall. The Mehta sugar corporation wants the reserve carved up so they can expand sugar cane plantations for biofuel production.

Yoweri Museveni, the Ugandan President, is attempting to push through legislation that would strip the forest of its protected status. This would flout a deal signed with the World Bank in 2001 under which the government received £180m to construct a hydroelectric dam on the Nile in return for guaranteeing the forest’s protection.

Mr Museveni said last week that handing the forest over for cane cultivation would create jobs and enable the sugar industry to compete in the region. He told a local newspaper that his government would not “be deterred by people who don’t see where the future of Africa lies”.

However, opposition MPs led by Beatrice Anywar have pointed out that the plan makes no economic sense. Sugar yields in Uganda are among the lowest in Africa, while the destruction will hurt the tourism industry, which is among the country’s biggest foreign currency earners, and destroy the best source of food and income for the people of the Buganda Kingdom, which surrounds the reserve. ..

The plans have faced enormous public opposition in Uganda, with at least three people killed in April after police broke up a demonstration against the destruction of the forest. The Mehta family, among the richest in the country, have close ties to the Museveni government and were among many Ugandan Asians who were tempted back to the country after the fall of Idi Amin. The Mabira plans have stirred up racial tensions, with protesters attacking a Hindu temple in Kampala. ..
(10 July 2007)