May 2010

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Bioenergy > Timeline > 2010 > May 2010


This page includes information on News and Events in May 2010. (News and events are archived here at the end of the month.)

May 2010 events

May 2010 News

  • Indonesia puts moratorium on new forest clearing, 27 May 2010 by Reuters: "Indonesia will place a two-year moratorium on new concessions to clear natural forests and peatlands under a deal signed with Norway aimed at reducing greenhouse gases, the government said in a statement."
    • Under a bilateral agreement, "Norway will invest $1 billion in forest conservation projects in Indonesia."
    • "The suspension would encourage the development of new plantations 'on degraded lands rather than vulnerable forests and peatlands'."
    • "Palm oil firms such as Wilmar and Indofood Agri Resources have big expansion plans in Indonesia, already the largest producer of an oil used to make everything from biscuits to soap."
    • "Part of Norway's $1 billion will be spent on creating monitoring systems and pilot projects under a U.N.-backed forest preservation scheme called Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD)."
    • "REDD allows developing nations to earn money by not chopping down their trees and preserving carbon-rich peatlands, seen as key to slowing climate change because forests soak up huge amounts of greenhouse gases."[1]
  • China, US launch airline biofuel venture, 26 May 2010 by By Joe McDonald: "The United States and China launched a research venture Wednesday to develop biofuels for use by Chinese airlines based on algae or oily nuts and said an inaugural flight could come as early as this year."
    • "The two sides signed a series of research partnerships between Boeing Co., U.S. government agencies and Chinese research institutions and state companies including Air China Ltd. and PetroChina Ltd."
    • "The first flight in China using biofuels could happen this year, and the fuel could be in use in commercial aviation in three to five years, said Al Bryant, Boeing's vice president for research and technology in China. He said four test flights using biofuels have been flown successfully in the United States."
    • "Chinese companies have yet to decide which plants to use as a fuel source, but researchers are looking at algae and jatropha, a tree grown in south China that produces an oily nut, Bryant said."[2]
  • 90 US scientists demand revision of biofuels carbon accounting, 25 May 2010 by Jim Lane: "In Washington, 90 US scientists wrote to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and US Senate Majority leader Harry Reid to fix accounting standards for greenhouse gas emissions associated with bioenergy projects."
    • "Replacement of fossil fuels with bioenergy does not directly stop carbon dioxide emissions from tailpipes or smokestacks. Although fossil fuel emissions are reduced or eliminated, the combustion of biomass replaces fossil emissions with its own emissions (which may even be higher per unit of energy because of the lower energy to carbon ratio of biomass)."
    • "[C]learing or cutting forests for energy, either to burn trees directly in power plants or to replace forests with bioenergy crops, has the net effect of releasing otherwise sequestered carbon into the atmosphere, just like the extraction and burning of fossil fuels."
    • "Alternatively, bioenergy can use some vegetative residues that would otherwise decompose and release carbon to the atmosphere rapidly. Whether land and plants sequester additional carbon to offset emissions from burning the biomass depends on changes both in the rates of plant growth and in the carbon storage in plants and soils."[3]
  • Garden Furniture Scorecard: Sustainable Buys Are Widely Available (PDF file), 25 May 2010 press release by the National Wildlife Federation: "To ensure responsible consumers can keep buying green, National Wildlife Federation has released its fourth annual garden furniture scorecard, a buyer’s guide to products that come from well managed tropical forests."
    • "National Wildlife Federation supports the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification system, which offers the most rigorous system for distinguishing sustainable wood products."
    • "To create the scorecard, National Wildlife Federation obtained information from some of the largest U.S. retailers and manufacturers of these products about their wooden garden furniture product lines, including where the wood came from and whether their products are FSC-certified or moving toward FSC certification. Companies received a rating up to five stars based on the percentage of their products that are made from sustainably harvested tropical wood."
    • "Four companies — The Home Depot, Pottery Barn, Target and Jensen Leisure Furniture — have earned five stars".[4]
    • Download the Garden Furniture Scorecard 2010 (PDF file).
  • Biomass Energy Juggernaut Threatens Human and Forest Health, 20 May 2010 blog post by George Wuerthner on NewWest.net: "The long awaited Kerry-Lieberman energy bill known as The America Power Act has, among other goodies for industry, a clause that legally defines biomass incineration as 'carbon-neutral' and 'renewable.'"
    • This "poses a real threat to our forest ecosystem, human health, and global planetary climate."
    • "Since many government entities from local cities to states now require renewable energy as part of their energy portfolios, defining wood energy as a renewable energy creates a direct economic windfall profit for the timber industry."
    • "Worse, the use of woody biomass burning to meet renewable portfolio 'clean energy' mandates is a fraud perpetuated on unsuspecting consumers, many of whom believe when they are paying for 'renewable' electricity they are supporting the development of clean and truly renewable sources like wind and solar energy."
    • "Because of its low energy content, burning wood releases 1.5 times smokestack CO2 than burning coal to produce the same amount of energy." Also, "recent research suggests that logging disturbance of forest soils can increase carbon losses as well."[6]
  • New publication explains how Europe can harvest more wood to reach its sustainable energy goals by 2020, 18 May 2010 by UNECE: "According to a new publication, if Europe is to achieve its renewable energy objective of 20% by 2020, it must step up the supply of wood from its sustainably managed forests."
    • "The publication, Good Practice Guidance on the Sustainable Mobilization of Wood in Europe [PDF file], gives an overview of measures that countries can take to mobilize their wood resources."
    • "Good Practice Guidance sets out general principles to be applied in wood mobilization, such as avoiding the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and making a maximum amount of market information available to all the stakeholders."
    • "'We hope that this publication will illustrate the enormous potential that wood has for a sustainable energy future,' said Paola Deda, head of the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section. 'In the European Union today, over 50% of renewable energy sources come from wood'."
    • "In the 56-country UNECE region, industry and Governments are already acting to mobilize wood sustainably.'"
    • "According to Ms. Deda, 'the publication will particularly contribute to implementing the resolution on "Forests, wood and energy", which was adopted in 2007 by the Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe....It also contributes to the objective of the EU Forest Action Plan to promote the use of forest biomass for energy generation'."[7]
  • Rainforests Lose Out in Senate's New Climate Bill, 18 May 2010 by Time: "The climate bill passed by the House of Representatives last June set an ambitious goal of conserving the carbon trapped in forests equal to 10% of U.S. emissions, and in doing so, set aside 5% of total emissions allowance value from carbon auctions, which could bring $3 to $5 billion a year, to the protection of forests in developing nations."
    • "But while the Kerry-Lieberman bill in the Senate has the same broad goal for conserving forests, it devotes no specific funds to stopping deforestation."
    • "The Senate bill also excludes private sector investment in rainforest conservation for the next 10 years. Under the House bill, private companies that invest in rainforest offsets — paying to keep trees standing in tropical countries — could generally claim credits against their carbon cap. Under the Senate bill, they won't be able to do so, for the most part, unless tropical nations already have a national or state-level deforestation cap in place, which will likely take years to develop."
    • "That's a major blow to the development of a global conservation process called REDD...which would allow developed countries to invest in rainforest protection in the tropical world in exchange for carbon credits."
    • "Although the Senate bill does give the President the authority to designate up to 5% of carbon revenue to deforestation or other international aims within the context of a global deal, which is meaningful, it's not as effective as specifically dedicating money to stop deforestation. Further, limiting REDD in a U.S. climate bill could make getting a global deal — already a near impossible challenge — even tougher. REDD was one of the few areas that showed glimmers of promise at the chaotic U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen last December....But as the Senate bill stands now, REDD could end up dead."[8]
  • Nestle caves to activist pressure on palm oil , 17 May 2010 by Mongabay.com: "After a two month campaign against Nestle for its use of palm oil linked to rainforest destruction spearheaded by Greenpeace, the food giant has given in to activists' demands. The Swiss-based company announced today in Malaysia that it will partner with the Forest Trust, an international non-profit organization, to rid its supply chain of any sources involved in the destruction of rainforests." A company press release stated that "Nestle wants to ensure that its products have no deforestation footprint."
    • "Nestle stated that under new sourcing guidelines it will only use palm oil suppliers that do not break local laws, protect high conservation forests and any forests with 'high carbon' value, protect carbon-important peatlands, and support free prior and informed consent for indigenous and local communities."
    • "For its part, Nestle has pledged that 100 percent of its palm oil will come from sustainable sources by 2015. Currently 18 percent of Nestle's palm oil is from sustainably certified sources, but the company hopes to reach 50 percent by the end of 2011."[9]
    • Related: Read about Nestle's "Responsible Sourcing" guidelines
  • Biomass Industry Sees 'Chilling Message' in EPA's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rule, 14 May 2010 by Greenwire/New York Times: "U.S. EPA's final rule determining which sources will be subject to greenhouse gas permitting requirements does not exempt biomass power, a decision that has raised concern in the biomass industry."
    • "Issued yesterday, EPA's final 'tailoring' rule determines which polluters will be required to account for their greenhouse gas emissions in Clean Air Act permits when the agency begins to formally regulate the heat-trapping gases next January."
    • "Emissions from biomass or biogenic sources are treated the same as other sources of greenhouse gases in the final rule, EPA spokeswoman Cathy Milbourn said."
    • "That decision 'came as a bit of a surprise to us,' said David Tenny, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Forest Owners....Tenny's organization and other forestry groups had urged EPA to exclude biomass combustion from the requirements, arguing that the process is 'carbon neutral.'"
    • "Without an exemption from the tailoring rule, Tenny said, "what you have is an incentive for biomass producers to turn back to fossil fuels," because they offer a more concentrated energy source."[10]
  • Lula Defends Biofuel Push in Amazon Region, 12 May 2010 by Latin American Herald Tribune: "Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is championing efforts to industrialize the Amazon region with initiatives such as the cultivation of palm oil for biofuel production."
    • "He said the initiative would end the state’s dependence on the timber market, considered a main culprit of Amazon deforestation, and hailed palm-oil plantations as environmentally friendly, saying they would re-use deforested areas."
    • The project is "[b]acked by the federal government and state-controlled energy giant Petrobras," and "would involve total investment of 1.3 billion reais ($702 million)."
    • "The Brazilian government estimates that close to 2,000 Para farmers would benefit from the project, which is expected to create 7,000 direct jobs and 15,000 indirect jobs. The plan also involves improvements to roads and bridges that would benefit the entire region."[12]
  • Ethanol Industry: Too Big to De-Subsidize?, 10 May 2010 by HybridCars: "The auto industry is fighting to delay an EPA rule change that would increase the allowable level of ethanol blended into gasoline from 10 to 15 percent. Carmakers say that the increase could damage catalytic converters and cause 'check engine' lights to malfunction."
    • "A 50 percent increase in the ethanol allowance would help the United States meet a 36 billion gallon ethanol mandate made law by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, and help the ethanol industry—which has lost several companies to bankruptcy recently—continue to grow."
    • "The EPA is reported to be leaning toward approving the increase, despite calls from automakers for further testing. Environmentalists are also largely opposed to ethanol, citing a net carbon emissions effect that is questionable at best. Though the burning of ethanol itself produces less carbon than petroleum, emissions associated with the growth, harvesting and production of the fuel have been shown in some studies to neutralize any positive effect."
    • "Under the government’s fuel economy regulations, automakers are allowed to assign higher fuel economy ratings to vehicles that have been specially outfitted to use an 85 percent blend of ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Yet, very few of these vehicles ever use E85 fuel."[13]
  • Participatory Market Mapping in the PISCES project in Kenya, 7 May 2010 by HEDON Household Energy Network: "The PISCES project is looking at ways of giving poor people easier access to cheap and renewable energy options, specifically focussing on the potential of biofuels."
    • "Markets matter to the rural poor. It is increasingly clear that in tackling rural poverty, market-related issues - including access to information, institutions, linkages and trade rules - are vital considerations. Failure to address these issues means that the benefits of other developments threaten to by-pass the rural poor."
    • This article includes links to a podcast on the mapping project as well as supporting documents.[14]
  • Biofuels from algae plagued with problems, says review, 7 May 2010 by SciDevNet: "Hopes that algae could become a source of biodiesel that is friendly both to the environment and the poor may be premature, according to a review."
    • Algae feedstocks "have serious drawbacks that may mean they can never compete with other fuels, according to Gerhard Knothe, a research chemist with the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service."
    • "When researching his paper, 'Production and Properties of Biodiesel from Algal Oils' which will be published by Springer in a book, currently in press, entitled Algae for Biofuels and Energy, he made "unexpected" findings, he said."
    • "Knothe found that 'many, if not most' of the biodiesel fuels derived from algae have 'significant problems' when it comes to their ability to flow well at lower temperatures ('cold flow') and they also degrade more easily than other biofuels."
    • "The principal hope for overcoming the problem," scientists said, "is through genetic engineering of algae so they yield oils with more useful properties."[15]
  • DOE, USDA Announce Funding for Biomass Research and Development Initiative, 6 May 2010, press release by the Department of Energy: "The U.S. Departments of Energy (DOE) and Agriculture (USDA) today jointly announced up to $33 million in funding for research and development of technologies and processes to produce biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products, subject to annual appropriations."
    • "DOE also released today a new video which showcases how cellulosic biofuel technologies can help decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil, spur growth in the domestic biofuels industry, and provide new revenue opportunities to farmers in many rural areas of the country."
    • "The video, shot at a harvesting equipment demonstration in Emmetsburg, Iowa, highlights a new way of producing ethanol from the cellulose fibers in corn cobs, not from the corn kernels. The technology generates a new opportunity for farmers to harvest and sell the cobs that they’d normally leave in the field."[16]
  • Gulf Oil Spill Spawns Biofuels Industry Opportunism, 6 May 2010 blog post by Dave Levitan on SolveClimate: "[T]he biofuels industry is seizing on the Gulf oil disaster to highlight the differences between traditional fossil fuels and a safer ethanol alternative. But to some environmentalists, the effort smacks of opportunism that masks many thorny issues swirling around the nation's commitment to corn-based biofuels."
    • "The president of the Renewable Fuels Assocation, or RFA, Bob Dinneen wrote a letter to President Obama on Wednesday calling for approval of increased ethanol blends."
    • "The only problem, according to Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group, is that the corn ethanol industry has contributed substantially to its own version of Gulf [of Mexico] pollution."
    • "'The RFA statement used the tragedy essentially as a marketing tool, which we thought was offensive,' Cox said. A large 'dead zone' exists in the Gulf that has been attributed to runoff of nitrogen-based fertilizers and sediment, largely coming from the Corn Belt region."[17]
    • Related item: Union of Concerned Scientists, RFA call for more biofuel investment in wake of oil spill, 6 May 2010 by Biofuels Digest: "In Washington, the Union of Concerned Scientists [UCS] and the Renewable Fuels Association [RFA] linked increased investment in biofuels to the solution to offshore drilling risks demonstrated by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico."
      • Brendan Bell of UCS was quoted as saying, "The real ticket to reducing our oil dependence is stronger fuel economy standards, more clean homegrown biofuels, and a 21st century transportation system."
      • Bob Dinneen of the RFA was quoted as saying, "The EPA should immediately move to allow for the blending of 12% ethanol by volume in each gallon of gasoline...EPA should grant a full waiver for the use of 15% ethanol blends as soon as the Department of Energy testing on catalytic converters is completed early this summer."[18]
  • China Farm Gets Shocking Amount of Power From Cow Poop, 6 May 2010 by The New York Times: "A 250,000-head dairy operation in northeast China plans to open the world's largest cow manure-fed power project in September, according to General Electric Co., the company supplying four biogas turbines to the Liaoning Huishan Cow Farm in Shenyang. For comparison, the largest U.S. dairy farms have 15,000 cattle."
    • "China's newest livestock digester will reduce piles of dung, yield fertilizer and heat, and will supply 38,000 megawatt-hours of power annually to the state's power grid, enough to meet the average demand of some 15,000 Chinese residents. It produces biogas, a methane and carbon dioxide mix emanating from manure, grease, sewage or other organic materials allowed to stew in an oxygen-free chamber."
    • "The barriers to the expansion of biogas are about economics, not technology, and how long it takes for biogas projects to pay off varies country by country."
    • "The biogas field could be one more example of the ways the United States is falling behind China. Yesterday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said that the United States is lagging behind China, which provides strong tax incentives for a host of renewable energy technologies."[19]
  • GVEP International publishes a study on briquettes in Kenya, 4 May 2010 by Clair Marrey of HEDON Household Energy Network: "The study was conducted with the aim to investigate the success factors of briquette producers, as well as their current and potential impact on energy access in rural and peri-urban areas. "
    • "The impact of micro-scale briquette production on access to energy were discussed with regards to scale of usage and environmental impact in both peri-urban and rural areas. The study also investigates current and potential access to both modern and sustainable energy, with discussion on the options for feedstock and how these options affect environmental issues such as deforestation."[20]
  • Cookstoves: The Secret Weapon Against Poverty and Climate Change, 4 May 2010 by Clair Marrey at HEDON Household Energy Network: "Excerpts from the Ashden Report:'Our calculations suggest that a global programme to manufacture the half-billion improved stoves needed to convert the world’s poor to safer cooking could save hundreds of thousands of young lives a year - and at the same time cut global greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of up to one billion tonnes of CO2 a year.'"
    • "Despite their growing popularity, the acceptance of improved stoves can be a problem. One study in Mexico of early Patsari stoves found that 50% of women abandoned them in favour of their old, more dangerous stoves. GIRA worked closely with users to improve the design, and 70% of families now use their Patsari stove on a regular basis. This highlights the importance of looking at both the technology and building a relationship with the users."
    • "Although many women dislike the smoke, for some it has a value. For instance, keeping away malaria-carrying mosquitoes and killing bugs that lurk in their thatched roofs."[21]
  • Banking on Fuel-Sweating Flora, 4 May 2010 by The New York Times: "A start-up company has broken ground on a Texas pilot plant that is supposed to produce ethanol and diesel in a radical new way: with an organism that sweats fuel."
    • "The company, Joule Unlimited of Cambridge, Mass., has developed several patented gene-altered organisms that absorb sunlight and carbon dioxide and combine these into hydrocarbons."
    • "Joule says its organisms release their oil and survive to make more. And the diesel fuel is easy to gather because, like most hydrocarbon oils, it is lighter than water and tends to separate. Ethanol mixes with water and must be distilled, but the technology for this is widely available."
    • "Carbon dioxide is trucked in for now, but the longer-term strategy is to locate the operation near a power plant that runs on coal or natural gas and captures its carbon dioxide. If a national cap on emissions is enacted, a power plant might be willing to pay a fuel plant to take its carbon dioxide gas."
    • "The company projects production of 25,000 gallons of ethanol a year from each acre, which would be many times higher than production from wood waste or other biomass source."[22]
  • Maryland researchers turn poplar trees into biofuel, 3 May 2010 by the Baltimore Sun: "Fuel derived from the hardy, fast-growing common poplar could eventually replace some of the billions of gallons of petroleum-based fuel now pumped a year," according to University of Maryland "biologist Gary Coleman and engineer Ganesh Sriram, who have partnered to help turn the woody plant into a widely used biofuel."
    • "Globally, other crops such as sugar are used to make biofuel. And more, including willow trees, algae and switchgrass, are in the race with poplars to become the next viable crop. But the government and scientists see poplars as having an edge because they naturally grow to about 70 feet in five or six years and grow just about anywhere."
    • "Poplars would use up land...but not as much as corn and not in place of food crops, said Sriram, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering".[23]
  • Deforestation-free leather comes closer to reality in the Brazilian Amazon, 3 May 2010 by Mongabay.com: "Prominent leather buyers have developed a new traceability system to ensure that leather products from Brazil don't result in deforestation, reports the National Wildlife Federation, an NGO working to improve the environmental performance of the cattle industry in the Amazon."
    • "Under the terms of the protocol, meat packers must certify that all their direct suppliers have registered their farms — providing GPS coordinates of their holdings — by November 2010. Packers who fail to meet the criteria will be unable to sell leather to members of the Leather Working Group."
    • "Improving the traceability of beef and leather is significant because cattle ranching is the single largest driver of Amazon destruction: 80 percent of deforested land ends up as cattle pasture. Ranching is also Brazil's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions."[25]




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