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Biofuel demand in US driving higher food prices, says report

Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian
Demand for biofuels in the US is driving this year’s high food prices, a report has said. It predicts that food prices are unlikely to fall back down for another two years.

The report, produced by Purdue University economists for the Farm Foundation policy organisation, said US government support for ethanol, including subsidies, had fuelled strong demand for corn over the last five years.

A dramatic rise in Chinese imports of soybeans was also putting pressure on prices and supply, the report said.

Since 2005, a growing number of US farmers have switched to corn and soybeans from other crops. Farmers in other countries have also switched to corn but, the report said, the demand kept growing.

View the What’s Driving Food Prices in 2011 report
(15 July 2011)

EU powers ahead with ‘sustainable’ biofuel certification schemes

Jessica Shankleman, Business Green
The EU has granted approval to the first seven biofuel schemes to be officially certified as sustainable, despite concerns from some green groups over the methods used to ensure the resulting biofuels will cut greenhouse gas emissions.

European commissioner for energy Günther Oettinger yesterday confirmed the seven voluntary certifcation schemes, which are intended to demonstrate that biofuels used to count towards the EU’s renewable energy targets are produced in a sustainable manner…

However, a number NGOs are suing the Commission, alleging that the decision to approve the schemes was made without consultation, meaning they were unable to scrutinise or object to any of the schemes.

They are concerned the EU may meet its target of sourcing 10 per cent of transport fuel from renewable sources using biofuels made from energy crops that compete with food crops or indirectly contribute to deforestation…
(20 July 2011)

Lufthansa begins flights with biofuels

Insa Wrede, Deutsche Welle
With the world’s population growing and becoming increasingly wealthy, reliance on air travel has become of a fixture of life for many. But as passenger counts grow, airlines are needing ever-more fuel to keep their fleets in the sky.

Germany’s Lufthansa group alone burns through 11 million liters of fuel each year – the equivalent of 1,000 full tanker trucks per day.

Given those fuel amounts, it’s no surprise that the air-travel industry suffers from a negative environmental image. Still, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the industry is only responsible for 2 percent of humans’ global greenhouse gas emissions…

The airline demanded from its suppliers that its biofuels carry certification that their production neither damages rainforests nor moors, nor impacts food production.

According to Aigner, that sustainability requirement made it difficult to secure enough biofuel in advance of the test.

He added that biofuel is still difficult to acquire as a commodity. Airlines seeking to use the fuel are sure to find themselves competing with demand from automobiles and electricity providers.

“The question becomes: ‘Who gets the biofuel first, and who gets what percentage of it?'” Aigner said…
(15 July 2011)

US Air Force: We want to use biofuels

The US Air Force is ready to switch to biofuels to help power its warplanes but the price of alternative fuels remains too high, military officials said Tuesday.

Anxious to reduce its reliance on oil, the Air Force has approved the use of synthetic fuels for nearly all its aircraft and expects to get the green light for biofuels by the end of 2012, Undersecretary Erin Conaton said.

“The big thing we’re trying to do is to send a clear message to industry that the Air Force wants to be in a position to purchase biofuels and to use that operationally for our fleet,” Conaton told AFP.

“But in order to do that, we need industry to be able to produce in the quantities we need at a cost-competitive price.”

Biofuels cost a prohibitive $35 a gallon, about 10 times the price of conventional jet fuel, or JP-8.

“The biofuels that are available now are just nowhere near the cost of what we can buy JP-8 for,” Conaton said.
(19 July 2011)