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Biofuel without tears – but how much?
(Text and audio)
David Strahan, Global Public Media
Biofuel can be produced without clearing rainforest, raising CO2 emissions or displacing food production, according to the chief executive of D1 Oils, the British company pioneering oil from jatropha curcas in the developing world. And according to Elliott Mannis, the fuel could even work out cheaper than damaging first generation biofuels.

Jatropha is a hardy bush that can grow on relatively poor land in the tropics and subtropics, producing oily nuts which can then be processed to produce biofuel. D1 is contracting small farmers in countries such as India, Zambia and Indonesia to grow the crop on their marginal land, meaning that it “absolutely should not” compete with food production.

As a result the price of jatropha oil should trade in relation to crude oil rather than agricultural commodities. Speaking at the IP Week oil conference in London, Mr Mannis said that rape, soya and palm oil were trading between $1300 and $1500 per tonne in January, while that from jatropha cost around $600.

But in an interview with and Global Public Media, Elliott Mannis accepted that even D1’s ambitious planting programme would not “save the planet”.
(21 February 2008)

Liquid Gold

Jim Moscou, Newsweek
Ethanol is supposed to be good for the environment. But producing green fuel can cost a lot of water

…In the arid regions of the American West, water has always been a precious, liquid gold. But in Adamson’s home of Yuma County, Colorado, two hours east of Denver, the stakes just got higher. Thanks to the boom in ethanol production spurred by green-energy concerns, corn farmers in Yuma County-one of the top three corn-producing counties in the country-are enjoying a new prosperity.

But the green-fuel boom touted as a clean, eco-friendly alternative to gasoline is proving to have its own dirty costs. Growing corn demands lots of water, and, in eastern Colorado, this means intensive irrigation from an already stressed water table, the great Ogallala Aquifer.
(21 February 2008)

Kelly orders biofuels review

David Adam, Guardian
A review of the environmental and economic damage caused by growing biofuels was ordered by the UK government today.

Ministers say a number of new studies have emerged recently that question the environmental benefits of such fuels. The government wants to check that UK and European biofuel targets will not cause more problems than they solve.

But ministers nevertheless intend to press ahead with a plan to force oil suppliers to have biofuels constitute 2.5% of transport fuel from April.

Ruth Kelly, the transport secretary, said: “The UK government takes this issue very seriously. We are not prepared to go beyond current UK target levels for biofuels until we are satisfied it can be done sustainably. The review I am announcing today will ensure that the full economic and environmental impacts of biofuel production are taken into account in the formation of UK policy beyond 2010.”
(21 February 2008)

Global Biopact on biofuels can bring benefits to both rich and poor nations

Society of Chemical Industry , press release via ENN
A GLOBAL Biofuels Biopact between rich and poor countries can help alleviate poverty in the developing world while helping to solve the problems of global warming and energy security in the developed world, says a new paper in the journal Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining published by SCI and John Wiley & Sons.

According to the paper’s author, John Mathews, professor of Strategic Management at Macquarie University, Australia, a Biopact – a trade agreement to guarantee market factors between the North (developed countries) and the South (developing countries) – will enable the expansion of global trade in biofuels under controlled and sustainable conditions, countering recent opinion that biofuels are unsustainable and will have a negative impact.

Professor Mathews said: “Branding all biofuels from developing countries as unsustainable and blocking exports of these fuels to developed nations is ”˜disguised protectionism’.

“Agriculture in developing countries in the tropics can be more sustainable if it features good practice, because of lower energy inputs, lower water inputs and lower carbon footprints. And good practice can be assured by a Biopact.”

A global Biopact could include measures to prevent clearing rainforest for biofuels production, for example. If markets in the North for responsibly produced biofuels are opened, then fuels grown irresponsibly can effectively be banned.”

Opening up the markets could also allow EU countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by importing carbon-neutral biofuels grown in the tropical “South”.

Professor Mathews lent support to the idea that carbon credits could be earned by maintaining rainforests intact.

The paper also suggests that 2,000 biorefineries in the South could be built over a decade with investment costing approx US$240 billion over 10 years – in contrast with US$470 billion predicted by the International Energy Agency to be invested in the conventional fossil fuel industry by 2010.

Professor Mathews added: “Greater investment in biofuels could improve agricultural efficiency and increase yield of non-food crops, generating income and enabling a greater ability to purchase food and improve technology to increase agricultural production of food crops.”
(20 February 2008)
Website of Dr. Mathews. Most recent book: Strategizing, Disequilibrium, and Profit.