March news

31.03.08 Biofuels and land use

In its Fact Sheet on Biofuels and Land Use, the European Association for Bioindustries (EuropaBio) offers some insights on land use issues related to the development of biofuels. The first concerns the use of second generation biofuel feedstocks (non-food based feedstocks, like cellulosic biomass) that have the potential to reduce pressure on food crops and reduce land use. A second insight is about the possibility to increase biofuels production without using more land by increasing land productivity (biomass per hectare) through improved agricultural practices, and improving crop quality (i.e. develop crops with high stress tolerance or those with high fermentable carbohydrates for ethanol production) through modern biotechnology.

The Fact Sheet also stresses the need for “more data and common methodology to measure land-use-change input and agricultural-practice impact on the GHG (greenhouse gas) balance”.

Download fact sheet on Biofuels and Land Use [PDF 199kB]

(source: ISAAA Crop Biotech Update / EuropaBio)


26.03.08 Hungarian biofuel expansion plans hindered

Investors are holding back plans for bioethanol plants in Hungary due to rising feedstock prices. A severe drought, which halved Hungary's maize crop, combined with an increase in global grains prices and concerns that the EU's outline for a higher biofuel mix may be minimised, are distancing investors.

More than 30 new distilleries were planned, but Hungary's bioethanol sector has only two units online.

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(source: Biofuels International, 20/03/08)


25.03.08 Risk of biofuel crops as invasive species

In a recent article from the journal Science, scientists have called on the need to weigh-in the economic benefits of biofuels with the ecological risks associated with the introduction of  non-native biofuel crop species into new agricultural landscapes, that is, species invasiveness. Many of the ideal ecological traits for biofuel crops (like high water-use efficiency, C4 photosynthesis, no known pests/diseases, etc.) are said to contribute to invasiveness. The article cites situations where the introduction plant species initially thought of as beneficial have resulted in "long term economic and environmental costs owing to invasiveness". The scientists stressed the need for the establishment of agronomical and ecological analysis to establish the safety of potential biofuel crops.

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(source: ISAAA Crop Biotech Update / Physorg)


20.03.08 Enzyme that could produce biofuels from plant waste

Researchers at the University of Maryland in the USA have developed a new process that could yield as much as 75 billion gallons of carbon neutral biofuel a year from plant waste.

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(source: Biofuels International, March 2008)


19.03.08 European Commission reaffirms commitment to biofuel policy

The European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mariann Fischer Boel, reaffirmed the EU's dedication to biofuels at the Biofuels Markets Congress held in Brussels on 13 March. She emphasised that biofuels were a significant part of the EU's renewable energies policy and 'an important weapon in the fight against climate change'.

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(source: Cordis News, 14/03/08)


14.03.08 Denmark sets renewables target at 20% by 2011: biomass, biogas, biohydrogen, wind

The Danish government plans to increase its use of renewable energy to 20% of its overall energy mix by the end of 2011, up from the current 15%. Bioenergy, already providing more than 70% of Denmark's renewable energy, will provide the bulk of green energy under the plan.

Fostering green vehicles are included as part of the plan. This means that cars running on clean hydrogen fuel will be exempt from taxes while the tax-free status of electric cars will be extended until 2012. In practice, Clean hydrogen means that the energy carrier will be created from biomass resources, because electrolysis based hydrogen is far too costly.

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(source: ISAAA Crop Biotech Update / Biopact)


13.03.08 Green light given for European climate and energy measures

The Ministers of the Environment for the various countries within the European Union have given the green light to the European Commission's proposal to reduce CO2 emissions over the next few years. The European Commission's ambitious plan should lead to the EU's CO2 emissions being reduced by at least 20% in 2020. The ministers welcomed plans for a Renewable Energy Guideline, which includes criteria guaranteeing that sustainable biofuels will be used.

The ministers were generally positive about the proposal for dividing the effort among the EU Member States and the proposed methodology that will be used.

(source: GAVE-news, March 2008)


11.03.08 Rotterdam biofuels throughput doubled

Throughput figures for biofuels in the port of Rotterdam doubled in 2007, compared to 2006. 1.2 million tonnes of biodiesel, as opposed to 250,000 tonnes, were handled, as well as 1.6 million tonnes of bioethanol (+0.5 million tonnes). This serves to reinforce Rotterdam’s position as the most important link between the global and European flows. The Port Authority anticipates a further expansion and deepening of the market.

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(source: Port of Rotterdam press release, 29/02/08)


06.03.08 Biofuel sustainability criteria can work

It is perfectly possible for the EU to develop criteria for biofuels that will avoid the potential negative environmental effects associated with their cultivation and production, experts told a hearing in the European parliament on Tuesday.

But several of the experts recommended replacing the EU's proposed 10% target for biofuel use in 2020 with a target based on overall greenhouse gas savings, dismissing the current proposal as an "arbitrary volume-based target". Any EU target would also need to be accompanied by a "sound review clause", they added. A special council working group is currently spearheading the development of "core sustainability criteria" for biofuels that will be inserted into two draft EU laws on fuel quality and renewable energy. The criteria will be drafted within a month, and could be added to the fuel quality directive by May, according to Miran Kresal from the Slovenian EU presidency.

(source: ENDS Europe Daily, 5/3/08)


04.03.08 EU Member States push for early adoption of biofuel standards

The EU Member states are teaming up with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in pressuring the European Commission to include binding sustainability criteria in a revision of EU-wide specifications for transport fuels.

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(source: EURActiv, 26/02/08)


03.03.08 German biodiesel plants being sold off

Three German biodiesel plants have been sold to the USA and Canada and the expectation is that this is only the beginning. Since the German government increased the excise duty on biodiesel, only 10% of the country's production capacity is being used.

Although the European Union wants to increase biofuel use to stop global warming, Germany has started taxing biodiesel as the government said it cannot afford to lose the large tax revenue from fossil diesel.

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(source: GAVE-news, February 2008 /Planet Ark Daily News, February 2008)