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Information about biofuels and bioenergy and transportation.

Contents

Issues

Events

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

News

2012

  • Biofuels About More Than Climate 21 March 2012 by Alessandro Torello, (blog) for Wall Street Journal: "Biofuels have been heavily promoted in the European Union as the most straightforward way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from transport."
    • "Other ways of doing it are a more distant prospect. Electric cars are making a push, but are still some way from taking off, as are other innovative technologies. Biofuels, meanwhile, are perfectly compatible with combustion engines used today and are–more or less–readily available... They are considered greener than gasoline and [[diesel based on fossil fuels because their carbon dioxide emissions –just the same as regular fuels when burned in an engine–are offset by the plants that are grown to produce them."
    • "Now, however, a phenomenon called Indirect Land Use Change –or ILUC, in Brussels jargon– is calling into question their green credentials." [1]
  • The rise and fall of biofuels and why they failed key test 20 March 2012 by George Wachira, for Business Daily Africa: "An energy expert asked me the other day if I still believed in biofuels as feasible alternative transport fuels for Kenya. We had met at a biofuels conference in Dar-es-Salaam about four years ago where I presented a paper. Around the same time I was the vice-chairman of the National Biofuels Committee at the Ministry of Energy. My hesitant answer was that emphasis on biofuels has reduced, globally and here in Kenya, as priorities have definitely changed."
    • "So what caused a shift in biofuels emphasis? Globally, around 2008/09 the western world was experiencing serious economic downturn and economic survival may have become more urgent that the global warming subject. Downgraded commitment to global warming issues by the western nations was apparent at all subsequent global climate meetings (Bali, Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban)... About the same time, the sudden shift from food to biofuel crops was starting to negatively impact global food sufficiency. Food commodity prices shot up, prompting caution on biofuel production across the globe."
    • "Further, it was emerging across the world that other more effective green solutions (wind, solar, geothermal, nuclear, afforestation) could deliver quicker and more effective carbon reduction solutions, and these have now been embraced on a massive scale. Thereafter, there has been less emphasis on biofuels to provide green energy."
    • "Kenya’s energy mix has plenty of green content and this is sufficient national contribution towards global warming mitigation efforts. The country has also opted to emphasise tree planting for both climate change reasons and also for reinforcing the country’s hydrology. With these measures and plans in place, we may not need to produce biofuels justified on global warming mitigation." [2]
  • Europe: Pressure mounts over side-effects of biofuel, 5 March 2012 by Population Matters: "The debate over whether biofuel does more environmental harm than good has reached boiling point in the European Commission – and... new studies are likely to raise the temperature further."
    • "A report to be published later this month on the cost-effectiveness of policies to decarbonise transport concludes that without weeding out the biofuel that causes indirect land-use change (ILUC), the fuel source is so bad for the environment that its benefits cannot even be calculated. 'Most of the models predict a net increase of greenhouse gases when incorporating the ILUC effect for biodiesel,' says a draft of the report, written by a group of consultancies including CE Delft. 'For these biofuels, determining the cost-effectiveness in terms of euros/tonne of carbon dioxide reduction makes no sense.'" [3]

2011

  • DOE Researchers Achieve Important Genetic Breakthroughs to Help Develop Cheaper Biofuels, 22 December 2011 by Energy.gov: "Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) announced today a major breakthrough in engineering systems of RNA molecules through computer-assisted design, which could lead to important improvements across a range of industries, including the development of cheaper advanced biofuels."
    • "This will enable scientists to develop new strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli) that are better able to digest switchgrass biomass and convert released sugars to form three types of transportation fuels – gasoline, diesel and jet fuels."
    • "While the work at JBEI remains focused on the development of advanced biofuels, JBEI’s researchers believe that their concepts may help other researchers to develop many other desired products, including biodegradable plastics and therapeutic drugs."[4]
  • Call for an effective implementation of the Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) issue in the EU biofuels policy, 21 December 2011 by E-Energy Market: "A group of companies, trade associations and NGOs have send a letter to the commission that a practical and effective solution are needed to address the ongoing debate about Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) in European biofuels policy."
    • "The group warns that it blocks 1)Meeting EU renewables targets, 2)Helping to deliver energy security, 3)Fostering rural economic development and, 4)Developing a sustainable bioenergy system that can help towards decarbonising transport in Europe and beyond."
    • "The companies also fear the ILUC policy is counterproductive in its exclusion of certain feedstocks. The effects of banning one feedstock would lead to an increased demand of the alternative feedstock and herewith increasing the need for land."
    • "The group claims that none one of policy options being assessed encourage producers to adopt additional practices that reduce ILUC risks, nor do they improve investor confidence for biofuel development."[5]
  • Advanced biofuels could meet almost half of UK green transport needs, 18 November 2011 by Greenwise: "A new generation of biofuels could meet almost half of Britain’s renewable transport needs, but without them the UK will miss its 2020 target, a new Government-commissioned report warns."
    • "The study, by the National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials (NNFCC), suggests second-generation biofuels, such as that derived from household rubbish, could meet up to 4.3 per cent of the UK’s renewable transport fuel target by 2020 – almost half of the 10 per cent target the UK must meet under the European Union Renewable Energy Directive."
    • "Vegetable oils currently provide most of the UK’s renewable fuel, but due to limited availability and competing demands for sustainable vegetable oils, the NNFCC says conventional biofuels are likely to produce only up to 6.6 per cent of the energy needed in road and rail transport by 2020."
    • "The NNFCC report predicts that for advanced biofuels to meet the 4.3 per cent of the UK’s renewable transport needs will require around one million tonnes of woody biomass, two million tonnes of wheat (butanol) and 4.4 million tonnes of household, commercial and industrial wastes."[6]
  • Advanced Biofuels Required for UK to See RED, 17 November 2011 by Waste Management World: "The UK is at risk of missing its renewable transport targets without significant investment in a new generation of biofuels, according to a recently published government study."
    • "Under the EU's Renewable Energy Directive (RED), member states will be required to meet 10% of the energy used for road and rail transportation from renewable sources by 2020."
    • "Currently, most of the country's renewable fuel is derived from vegetable oils. However, due to limited availability and competing demands for sustainable vegetable oils, the study argues that conventional biofuels are likely to produce just 3.7% to 6.6% of the required 10% target."
    • "In assessing the how and if the UK will meet the Eu target, NNFCC drew up two illustrative scenarios to examine how the industry could develop in the UK."
    • "Under a modest development scenario, and assuming that advanced biofuels produced from waste feedstocks are eligible to count double towards the RED, advanced biofuel production in the UK could contribute 2.1%age points toward the UK's 10% renewable fuels in transport target."
    • "Under the same assumptions, with favourable economic conditions and strong improvements in policy, a strong development scenario could see advanced biofuels produced from waste and lignocellulosic feedstocks could contribute 4.3% points toward the UK's 10% renewable fuels in transport target."[7]
  • EU biofuel target seen driving species loss: study, 16 November 2011 by Reuters: "A European Union target to promote the use of biofuels will accelerate global species loss because it encourages the conversion of pasture, savanna and forests into new cropland, EU scientists have warned."
    • "The finding raises fresh doubts over the benefits of biofuels, which were once seen as the most effective way of cutting road transport emissions, but whose environmental credentials have increasingly been called into question."
    • "The scale of species loss in areas converted into new cropland could be more than 80 percent, the scientists from the European Commission's Joint Research Center (JRC) said in a newly published report."
    • "One of the report's authors stressed that the finding was based on a preliminary analysis of the issue and that more research was needed to accurately quantify the likely impact on biodiversity caused by the EU's biofuel mandate."
    • "Modeling exercises carried out by IFPRI and others have also suggested that the land use impacts of the EU target -- both direct and indirect -- could wipe out most of the predicted emissions saving from biofuels."[8]
  • Doubts cast on biofuels' air quality claims, 15 November 2011 by EurActiv: "When the European Commission began pressing for a dramatic expansion in the use of biofuels in transport and energy several years ago, it was seen as a win-win situation: a way to help farmers, create energy security, cut greenhouse emissions and improve air quality. But even that last claim is no longer taken for granted."
    • "A report prepared earlier this year for Britain’s Environment Department showed mixed benefits on air quality of biodiesel and bioethanol."
    • "Separate research shows that biofuel production – such as land clearing, cultivation, fertiliser use and shipping – may negate any advantages that biofuels for transport use have in cutting smog and greenhouse gases."
    • "Their findings show that palm oil – a leading source for biodiesel – is as carbon intensive as petrol, with a 60% increase in land use emissions resulting from cultivation of tropical forest."
    • "Palm oil cultivation also has other consequences in countries like Indonesia, which ranks 20th in forest loss and 21st in urban pollution levels in the UN’s 2011 Human Development Index of 187 nations."
    • "Health experts are raising alarms about the impact that bio-energy has on air quality, particularly in Northern and Central Europe where the popularity of wood and timber products for home heating is soaring."[9]
  • Biofuels growth stifled by EU policy delays: BP, 18 October 2011 by Reuters: "Biofuels for use in transport are becoming more competitive compared with oil but the pace of growth has slowed due to a lack of regulation and sustainability standards in Europe, the chief executive of BP's biofuels division said."
    • "'In the UK, biofuels get no tax breaks whatsoever. The biggest obstacle (to biofuel growth) is uncertainty around the future of mandates and clear (European Union) sustainability standards,' Philip New of BP Biofuels told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday."
    • "EU policymakers are currently debating the green credentials of some biofuels and should present proposals for approval by EU governments and lawmakers before the end of the year. However, legislation might not emerge for several years."
    • "Critics say some biofuels production can occupy land that would otherwise be used for agricultural purposes, thus limiting food and water resources for a rapidly rising world population."
    • "Some biofuel production could also increase carbon emissions, especially if rainforests are cut down to facilitate production."[10]
  • Biodiesel industry rejects EU land use impact study, 7 October 2011 by Reuters: "Europe's biodiesel industry rejected the findings of a draft EU study showing that the cultivation of rapeseed to make road transport fuels is worse for the climate than using conventional diesel."
    • "The European Biodiesel Board (EBB) said on Friday the study's central finding -- that the effects of indirect land use to produce most types of biodiesel cancel out any theoretical emissions savings -- was 'highly debatable and unscientific.'"
    • "A series of leaked EU studies showed that biodiesel from European rapeseed, South American soy beans and Asian palm oil all have a greater overall climate impact that normal diesel."
    • "If the Commission follows the advice contained in the studies and penalizes individual biofuel crops on the basis of their estimated ILUC emissions, it could wipe out the bloc's 13 billion euro ($17.5 billion) biodiesel industry overnight."
    • "It would also give a boost to ethanol producers such as Spain's Abengoa and increase the market for fuels derived from Brazilian sugar cane as the EU seeks to fill the 80 percent gap in its biofuel market currently occupied by biodiesel."[11]
  • Biofuels May Push 120 Million Into Hunger, Qatar’s Shah Says, 26 September 2011 by Bloomberg: "Biofuel policies in countries from Australia to the U.S. may push 120 million people into hunger by 2050 while doing little to halt climate change, said Mahendra Shah, an advisor to Qatar’s food security program."
    • "World food output will have to rise by at least 70 percent by 2050 to feed a growing world population, according to Shah."
    • "The use of crops for biofuels is forecast to raise food prices by 30 percent to 50 percent in that period, Shah said, citing a study by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Fund for International Development, or OFID."
    • "Government plans to boost ethanol and biodiesel production and mandates on using them in transport fuel will increase deforestation by between 20 million and 24 million hectares (49 milion to 59 million acres) by 2050 and increase fertilizer use by 10 million tons, the OFID study showed, according to Shah."
    • "Growing crops for biofuels to reduce reliance on oil may result in 6 percent to 12 percent transport-fuel security in 2030 and 2050, according to Shah."[12]
  • White House launches biofuels initiative linked to jobs creation, 15 September 2011 by Air Transport World: "The US Departments of Agriculture and Energy and the Navy will invest up to $510 million over the next three years in partnership with the private sector to produce advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power commercial and military transportation."
    • "The biofuels initiative is being steered by the White House Biofuels Interagency Work Group and Rural Council, organizations that aim to enable greater cross-agency collaboration to strengthen rural America."
    • "The White House said there was a lack of manufacturing capability for next-generation drop-in biofuels in the US. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus have developed a plan to jointly construct or retrofit several drop-in biofuel plants and refineries."
    • "The White House said the joint plan calls for the three departments to invest a total of up to $510 million, requiring a substantial cost share from private industry of at least a one to one match."[13]
  • EU gets tough on dirty biofuel, pledges more action, 19 July 2011 by Reuters: "Europe's energy chief announced seven green certification schemes for biofuels on Tuesday and promised in future to tackle the unwanted side-effects of turning food into fuel."
    • "Guenther Oettinger said biofuels' indirect impacts were dangerous for the planet's carbon balance and food supply."
    • "The European Union agreed three years ago to get 10 percent of its road fuels from biofuels -- at a time when such fuels were widely regarded as good for the environment -- but since then controversy has raged in Europe over the target."
    • "Oettinger took a first step toward limiting biofuels' impact on the environment on Tuesday, launching a green standard to prevent companies from clearing forest, peatlands or grassland to grow biofuels for the European market."
    • "Critics say the EU's biofuel target creates an incentive for farmers to hack directly into forests to create space to grow fuel crops -- known as direct land use change."
    • "But they also charge that even biofuel crops planted in Europe can send shock waves through global food markets and indirectly promote deforestation -- indirect land use change."
    • "Recent research shows that when more food is needed, the majority of new farmland, possibly as much as 80 percent, comes from burning down forests."[14]
  • Canada mandates 2% biofuel mandate for diesel, heating oil from July 1, 29 June 2011 by Platts: "The Canadian federal government is surging ahead with plans to make 2% biofuel content mandatory in all diesel and heating oil sold in the country from July 1, with some exemptions, Environment Canada announced Wednesday."
    • "With curbing green house gas emissions being the prime driver in issuing the mandate, the announcement said the mandate would bring Canada even closer to its goal of reducing GHG emissions by 17% by 2020, compared to 2005 levels."
    • "The announcement has elicited concerned reactions from the industry, with Stephen Laskowski, senior vice-president for economic and environmental affairs at the Canadian Trucking Alliance, stating that the mandate was issued to 'primarily' help the agricultural industry and would result in a hike diesel fuel cost."
    • "A permanent exemption is being provided for renewable content in diesel fuel and heating distillate oil sold in Newfoundland and Labrador to address the logistical challenges of blending biodiesel, said the Environment Canada announcement, adding that temporary exemptions for renewable content in both diesel fuel and heating distillate oil sold in Quebec and all Atlantic provinces are being provided until December 31, 2012."[15]
  • Biofuels need a $ 13-trillion investment - I.E.A report, 25 April 2011 by EcoSeed: "Biofuels play an important role in slashing carbon dioxide emissions if produced via the right technology and method, but this entails an investment worth as much as $13 trillion, a report from the International Energy Agency showed."
    • "The I.E.A. report presented the sustainability issues surrounding biofuel production, as the agency deemed biofuels a key solution to the rising demand for transport fuel along with the growing transport sector."
    • "Biofuels, which are mainly composed of bioethanol from either maize or sugarcane and biodiesel from palm or rape seed oil, currently provide around 2 percent of the global demand for fuel."
    • "Citing the negative impacts of biofuel expansion on food security as one of the pressing issues, the report stressed the importance of supporting research and development to explore ways of efficiently using biomass."
    • "I.E.A. director Bo Diczfalusy said both private investments and government support through policies, which can increase business confidence in the industry, are seen as essential means to pull the required financial resources over the next 40 years."[16]
  • Study: Algae Could Replace 17% of Oil Imports by 2022, 13 April 2011 by DomesticFuel.com: "In a new study released by the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (NPPL), algal fuels could replace 17 percent of the United States’ imported oil by 2020. The paper was published in the journal of Water Resources Research but warned that biofuels production, including algal fuels, can require a lot of water so the study cautioned that being smart about where the algae is grown can reduce the water needed."
    • "The research team’s goal was to provide the first in-depth assessment of algal biofuels potential based on the amount of available land and water. The study also factored in how much water would need to be replaced due to evaporation over 30 years."
    • "The researchers found that 21 billion gallons of algal oil, equal to the 2022 advanced biofuels goal set out by the Energy Independence and Security Act, can be produced from American-grown algae. The study also concluded that up to 48 percent of the current transportation oil imports could be replaced with algae, but this higher production level would require significantly more water and land. The authors also found that algae’s water use is similar to other biofuel sources."[17]
  • Shell Shifts Biofuel Technology Focus to Brazil Sugar-Cane Waste, 8 April 2011 by Bloomberg.com: "Shell, Iogen Corp. and Codexis Inc. (CDXS) have been researching enzymes to produce cellulosic ethanol from wheat stalks and sugar-cane bagasse, a sugar industry waste product."
    • "The Anglo- Dutch company has set up a $12 billion venture with Cosan SA Industria & Comercio to produce and market traditional sugar- cane ethanol in Brazil, where it’s used to fuel cars."
    • "The Hague-based Shell, Europe’s largest oil company by market value, expects the share of renewable energy in transport fuels worldwide to double over the next 10 years."
    • "Shell and Cosan, which controls the world’s largest sugar- cane processor, last year agreed to combine ethanol-making and fuel distribution assets in Brazil. Shell agreed to contribute about $1.6 billion of cash and assets including 2,740 service stations, while Cosan put up 23 cane-crushing mills, 1,730 gas stations and other assets."
    • "The cellulosic ethanol technology will let Shell and Cosan further grow fuel output in Brazil. The partners need to scale the process to a pilot project from a demonstration plant to see if it works and that may take as long as five years. If successful, industrial-scale production may start by the end of the decade, according to Shell."[18]
  • Swedes eye budding biofuels industry, 25 March 2011 by Mmegi Online: "The Swedish government and its private sector are hoping to secure a foothold in Botswana's nascent biofuels industry that kicked off recently with plans for a five million-litre per annum processing plant."
    • "Specifically, the Swedes hope to be involved in jatropha research, the "wonder plant" whose cultivation and oil are expected to fuel the processing plant government plans to purchase this year."
    • "According to the MoU, the Scandinavian nation is also interested in biodiesel production from animal fat and biogas production from cow dung."
    • "The Swedes also hope to cooperate with Botswana in the development of strategies on energy efficiency for the transport sector, as well as on renewable energies and biomass - the renewable energy from biological material."
    • "Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) CEO, Jacob Raleru, stressed that the country's energy policy requires 25 percent of all electricity to be from solar power by 2030."[19]
  • BP declares biofuels the only route to cleaner transport, 3 March 2011 by Business Green: "Biofuels is the 'only game in town' when it comes to decarbonising the transport sector, according to Olivier Mace, a senior BP executive, who also downplayed the potential for electric vehicles as a near-term replacement for conventional cars."
    • "Mace said he expected growing demand in India and China would by 2030 push the biofuel share of all road transport fuel well above the 12 per cent mark BP has previously predicted."
    • "But despite the industry's enthusiasm, Kenneth Richter, biofuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth, warned that growing demand for energy crops would contribute to rising emissions."
    • ""Research has shown that the current rush to biofuel will lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions, rather than a reduction," Richter told BusinessGreen. "This is caused by the need to convert massive amounts of natural habitat into biofuel plantations."[20]
  • EU wants 60 pct transport carbon cut by 2050-draft, 16 February 2011 by Reuters: "The European Union's executive Commission will call for a 60 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from transport by 2050."
    • "The proposed transport targets are based on an existing EU goal to cut the bloc's greenhouse gas emissions by about 80 percent by the middle of the century."
    • "The emissions cuts include a roughly 40 percent cut from maritime fuels compared with 2005 levels."
    • "In road transport, electric vehicles could supply some of the emissions cuts, but that would be impractical for heavy duty road freight given demands of range and energy demand."
    • "Aviation would depend on synthetic kerosene, produced from solid biomass using a process called Fischer-Tropsch, or else biodiesel made from vegetable oils."
    • "In one possible complication for the targets, the EU's "sustainability criteria" are meant to limit the use of biofuels which have unwanted side effects, such as competing with food production, or else leading to the destruction of tropical forests where these are re-planted with energy crops."[21]
  • Oettinger tells Europe: It's double or quits on renewables, 31 January 2011 by Euractiv.com: "Europe will have to double its spending on renewables if it wants to meet its 2020 energy commitments, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has said."
    • "The data showed that EU member states had largely failed to meet the electricity and transport targets they had set themselves for 2010."
    • "But the latest figures show that only seven EU countries – Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland and Portugal– expect to meet or exceed their 2010 renewables targets, according to their national action plans."
    • "To achieve the EU's energy goals, Oettinger called for a doubling of capital investments in renewable energies from €35 billion to €70 billion. This would require a substantial use of national support plans, he stated. But he did not set any time frame for implementation."
    • "'If member states work together and produce renewable energy where it costs less, companies, consumers and the taxpayer will benefit from this,' he added."
    • "'Unfortunately, the Commission is still dragging its feet on the issue of sustainable biofuels,' Luxembourg Green MEP Claude Turmes said."
    • "He called for an urgent introduction of rules to take into account the impact of biofuels on indirect land use change (ILUC)."[22]

References


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