Thursday, July 31, 2008
Brazil's Petrobras starts commercial biodiesel production
Technicians work in a new biodiesel station, at Petrobras oil and
natural gas treatment and process unit pole of Guamare, some 180km
northeast of Natal, northern edge of Brazil. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Candeias, Brazil (AFP) July 29, 2008
Brazil's state-run oil group Petrobras started commercial production
of biodiesel Tuesday, ignoring the food versus biofuel controversy
already dogging the planting of crops to make carburant.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva inaugurated the first of three
plants Petrobras is to open this year to turn out the biodiesel.
It is located in Candeias, a town 55 kilometers (35 miles) from the
northern city of Salvador de Bahia, and has a capacity of 57 million
liters (15 million gallons) per year.
"Brazil must not be afraid of this international biofuel debate. We
want this discussion, and we are not going to flee from it," said
The Brazilian president has frequently and fiercely rejected claims
that his country is contributing to the current crisis caused by high
food prices by encouraging biofuel crop cultivation on arable land.
Brazil is the second-biggest producer of biofuel in the world, after
the United States, and the biggest exporter. It currently makes 15
billion liters of ethanol from sugarcane per year, and exports nearly
a third of that.
It stands behind biofuel as a means to reduce the dependency on oil,
and to combat global warming by cutting greenhouse gases generated by
Brazil already uses biodiesel as a three-percent additive to its
standard petro-based diesel. The government's plan to increase that
mix to five percent in 2010 may be advanced by the push to embrace
According to the ministry for agricultural development, the country
already makes enough biodiesel for its current needs, 840 million
liters produced from vegetable-oil generating crops grown by 40,000
Petrobras's biofuels division intends to increase overall biofuel
production over the next four years by acquiring factories and forming
strategic alliances with companies.
Lula said Brazil would tackle the controversy surrounding the
production in November, when an international conference would be
hosted to allow dialog "without tempers, but with scientific bases, on
the supposed competition between biofuels and food."
He said the meeting would look at the "real" reasons for
carbon-dioxide production and the rise in food prices.
Petrobras president Jose Sergio Gabrielli acknowledged that Brazil's
biofuels strategy was under attack, but affirmed that the critics
"attribute to our program problems that don't come from it."
He also said the foundation of the biodiesel production would be "the
promotion of family farming."
Lula's cabinet chief of staff, Dilma Rousseff, rounded out the defense
by stressing that Brazil's biofuels offered "a solution to the
problems caused by fossil fuels, and at the same time is a tool in the
fight against hunger through the support of family farming."
Sunday, July 27, 2008
South America Environment, Science &Technology, and Health Newsletter
Edition #88. Also attached is a calendar of up-coming ESTH events across
the Western Hemisphere. The information contained was gathered from news
sources from across the region, and the views expressed below do not
necessarily reflect those of the Regional Environmental HUB Office or of
our constituent posts. Addressees interested in sharing any ESTH-related
events of USG interest are welcome to do so.
World Bank Close To Approving Amazon Beef, Other Projects
JAN. 23, 2007 -The International Financial Corporation, the private lending
arm of the World Bank, is close to making a final decision on a US$90
million loan that would help one of Brazil's top beef exporters double beef
production capacity at its facilities in the Amazon region of Para
state. For the IFC, this is a controversial and unprecedented investment,
according to the bank's own assessment. However, according to the press
report, it would serve as a "certificate of confidence"that Bertin is a
good steward of the environment and abides by fair labor practices. That's
good news for Bertin because the view of Brazilian beef overseas is often
one of a sector living large off cheap labor as it wipes out swaths of
rainforest. "No other lender is going to demand, monitor, and follow
through on social and environmental policies like the IFC. "
Source - <http://www.cattlenetwork.com/>http://www.cattlenetwork.com
Record Biotech Plantings in 2006
JAN. 18, 2007 - A biotechnology advocacy group reported that a record
number of biotech crops were planted worldwide last year, but critics
complained the gains were more of the same: aimed at making corn, soy and
cotton crops resistant to weed killers and bugs. None of the genetically
engineered crops for sale last year were nutritionally enhanced and much of
the output feeds livestock, which critics said undercuts industry claims
that biotechnology can help alleviate human hunger. Still, the report
prepared by the industry-backed International Service for the Acquisition
of Agri-Biotech Applications touted the record as evidence that crops
engineered to cut pesticide use can ease poverty and financially benefit
small farmers around the world. Some 10.3 million farmers in 22 countries
grew engineered crops on 252 million acres last year, a 13 percent increase
over 2005, according to the report. About 9.3 million of those people were
considered subsistence farmers. The United States, Argentina and Brazil
were the top three countries that grew genetically engineered crops last
year, mostly soy.
Source - New York Times <http://www.nytimes.com/>http://www.nytimes.com
Colombia: Irrigation District on Its Way
JAN. 6, 2007 - The Colombian Institute for Rural Development (INCODER) is
to undertake construction of the Triangulo de Tolima land development
project (in the central province of the same name), with an investment of
150 million dollars. German Molina, INCODER coordinator in Tolima
province, told Tierramerica that this will be the biggest project of its
kind in the country, after the southern irrigation district of Rancheria
which is currently under construction. The project will benefit some 45,000
people who live on 24,000 hectares in the south of the province that will
be cultivable under irrigation. Eleven thousand of the beneficiaries are
indigenous people, Molina added. The Environment ministry awarded the
environmental permit for the project to INCODER on Dec. 27. The Institute
will be in charge of providing infrastructure, operation, maintenance, land
preparation, sowing and irrigation.
Source - Tierramerica
Outbreak of Brucellosis in Southern Chile
JAN. 8, 2007 - An outbreak of bovine brucellosis has been confirmed in the
Chilean province of Osorno, according to the Minister of Agriculture Alvaro
Rojas. Measures to isolate the outbreak in the rural area of Osorno have
been taken and "we're talking with farmers about the complications to rural
activities which this entails", Rojas is quoted by an Osorno daily adding
that since "we have an open alert system", the re-appearance of the
outbreak was rapidly detected". Luis Paredes, from SAG's Livestock
department said that the outbreaks come as a "great surprise", since
"Osorno has been the region which has most advanced in the matter and no
outbreaks had been reported for a very long time". "We believe we are
facing isolated cases but it's a call of attention to remind us we must be
alert at all times", added Paredes.
Source - MercoPress
Brazil Gambles on Monitoring of Amazon Loggers
JAN. 14, 2007 - A Brazilian government plan set to go into effect this year
will bring large-scale logging deep into the heart of the Amazon rain
forest for the first time, in a calculated gamble that new monitoring
efforts can offset any danger of increased devastation. The government of
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in an attempt to create Brazil's first
coherent, effective forest policy, is to begin auctioning off timber rights
to large tracts of the rain forest. The winning bidders will not have title
to the land or the right to exploit resources other than timber, and the
government says they will be closely monitored and will pay a royalty on
their activities. The architects of the plan say it will also help reduce
tensions over land ownership in the Amazon, the world's largest tropical
forest, which loses an area the size of New Jersey every year to
clear-cutting and timbering. But the called-for monitoring of the loggers
allowed into the rain forest's largely untouched center will come from a
new, untested Forest Service with only 150 employees and from state and
municipal governments. That concerns environmental and civic groups because
local officials are more vulnerable to the pressures of powerful economic
interests and to corruption.
Source - New York Times <http://www.nytimes.com/>http://www.nytimes.com
Amazon rainforest relies on African dust
JAN. 10, 2007 - A single spot in the Sahara desert is responsible for over
half the Amazon basin's annual supply of minerals, researchers say. In a
study published in Environmental Research Letters, scientists show that
dust winds arising from the Bodele depression northeast of Lake Chad
are the main mineral source fertilizing the Amazon rainforest in Latin
America. Using recent advances in satellite instrumentation, researchers
produced the first quantitative estimate of the dust emission: 56 per cent
of the Amazon's total annual mineral supply. It was known that West
African dust winds played an essential role in the Amazon mineral
supply. But the rate of emission from the Bodele depression has not been
measured until now. According to the study, the soil of the Amazon
rainforest is shallow, poor in nutrients and almost without soluble
minerals. The health and productivity of the Amazon basin depends on
nearly 50 million tons of mineral-containing dust transported annually
across the Atlantic Ocean from the Sahara.
Source - SciDev
Chile Draws Up Endangered Species List
JAN. 13, 2007 - Chile is home to some 30,000 types of flora and fauna and,
as is increasingly the case throughout the planet, many of those plant and
wildlife species are seriously endangered. In fact, two Chilean tree
species - the Juan Fernandez Sandalo and the Toromiro, of Easter Island -
are already extinct, according to the National Environmental Commission
(CONAMA). If measures aren't taken to protect them, more Chilean species,
including the Huemul deer, the Taruca deer and the Andean cat, will
follow. Last month, CONAMA published the results of study that sought, for
the first time ever, to classify native Chilean plants and animals
according to their endangerment. CONAMA's research focused on 35 species
and concluded that 20 face a real danger of extinction. The government
entity now plans to expand the list by as many as 150 additional species.
Source - Santiago Times (no link)
Brazil: New Law against Biopiracy
Jan 13, 2007 - A new Brazilian regulation requires biotechnology patent
applicants to prove that they had legal access to the genetic resources
involved in the products and inventions they wish to register. The
requirement, imposed by the Genetic Heritage Management Council and the
National Institute of Industrial Property from the beginning of this year,
also applies to traditional knowledge used in research. "It's an important
step towards overcoming biopiracy and promoting the distribution of the
benefits of biodiversity, as required by the Convention on Biological
Diversity (1992)," Fernando Mathias, a lawyer with the non-governmental
Socioenvironmental Institute, told Tierramerica. However, this pioneering
law will need controls to be in place to ensure that patent royalties go to
the owners of the genetic resources and the traditional knowledge that
formed the basis of the developed product, Mathias added.
Source - Tierramerica
EU to Ban Imports of Wild Birds
JAN. 12, 2007 - The trade in wild birds is to be permanently banned across
the European Union starting in July, EU animal health officials have
decided. The move will replace a temporary ban imposed by Brussels in 2005
as part of measures to prevent outbreaks of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird
flu. Animal welfare campaigners say the permanent ban will save millions
of birds, including many rare species. Only captive-bred birds from
approved countries will be allowed into the EU. Tighter controls on the
health and quarantine of imported birds are also to be imposed.
Source - BBC
Chile: Promoting Endangered Huemul Deer
JAN. 11, 2007 - Kris Mc Divitt, wife of controversial U.S. environmentalist
Doug Tompkins, has launched an ecotourism event aimed at raising awareness
of Chile's endangered huemul deer. Organizers of the "Ruta del Huemul
(Huemul Deer Path)" event hope around 600 participants will take part in
weekend activities of walking and hiking through Region XI - home of the
threatened deer. The huemul deer population faces both natural and man-made
threats. The over-grazing of sheep and cattle, wind and water erosion, road
construction and fire and logging are just some of the factors contributing
to the deer's' gradual extinction. As well as raising awareness about the
plight of the huemul deer - which suffered a population decline of 58
percent over the last two decades - Mc Divitt is promoting the creation of
a new national park. The Patagonia National Park (Parque Nacional de la
Patagonia) will cover 173,000 acres of southern Chile and be managed by Mc
Divitt's organization, Conservacion Patagonica.
Source - Santiago Times (no link)
Brazil: Plants with Economic Potential
JAN. 6, 2007 - In Brazil, the pupunha palm (Bactris gasipaes kunth)
produces 20 tons of oil per hectare, four times more than the African palm
(Elaeis guineensis), the source of the oil that is second in terms of world
consumption. Cultivation of pupunha palm, found in the Amazon region and
Central America, has been expanding to provide heart of palm, but not yet
for its vegetable oil, which will be in growing demand to make biodiesel.
It is one of 775 native species with great economic potential identified by
the Ministry, which will publish this information in five volumes, starting
this year, in a bid to encourage their sustainable use.
Source - Tierramerica
Fishing & Marine Conservation
Argentine hake biomass again down to critical levels
JAN. 20, 2007 - The southern stocks of Argentine hake (Mercluccius hubbsi)
are in fragile biological balance which will have a negative impact on
catches this year and even more in 2008. According to the conclusions from
the preliminary assessment , Technical Report 92/06 from Mar del Plata's
National Institute for Fisheries Research and Development, INIDEP, a
considerable drop in the numbers of classes 1 and 2 of hake (between 18 and
30 centimeters) has been confirmed. Based on this information and a
considerable reduction in hake's breeding biomass, scientists are
recommending a drastic cut in catches of juveniles, both directly and in
the by catches. Recruitment has dropped to the critical levels of
1998/2000. The report highlights that as yet "there is no concrete
information as to the reasons for this drop, but something happened between
January 2005 and January 2006".
Chile: Step Forward for Blue Whale Protection
JAN. 13, 2007 - The Los Lagos Regional Commission for the Use of the
Coastal Fringe in Chile has given definitive approval for a 46 square
kilometer protected zone in the gulf of Corcovado and the sea surrounding
Chiloe Island which is home to the blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus).
Promoted by the Blue Whale Centre (CBA), the declaration of the Protected
Multi-purpose Marine and Coastal Area was approved on Jan. 2. Maximiliano
Bello of CBA explained to Tierramerica that the next step is to obtain the
approval of the Aysen regional authorities. The entire process could be
completed by the end of June. On Dec. 21, the government awarded the
Bicentennial Seal to the project to designate this protected area, for
contributing to development in Chile, in anticipation of the national
celebrations of 200 years of independence in 2010.
Source - Tierramerica
Brazil Hosts the First South American Fishers Forum
JAN. 12, 2007 - On December 12-14, an OES-sponsored workshop with the
slogan "Catch Fish Not Birds" brought together 50 experts from across the
world to take a look at the potential to reduce seabird bycatch throughout
the South American long-line fishery via the adoption of mitigation
measures in South America fishing fleets. As a result of the event,
several solutions to reduce the incidental catch of sea birds were
identified between fishers, fishing entrepreneurs, researchers, NGO's and
governments. In addition, the partners conducted a full discussion of the
economic and environmental benefits of reducing sea bird bycatch and
committed themselves to implementing some of these mitigation measures
throughout South America.
Source - BRASILIA 00000071
Argentine anchovy fishery may damage South Atlantic ecosystem
JAN. 09, 2007 - The indiscriminate Argentine anchovy (Engraulis anchoita)
fishing in the southern zone of Argentina could inflict serious damage to
Magallanic penguins, whales, seals and sea lions population numbers, warned
a study published in scientific magazine Science. The study says that the
growing demand of fishmeal could encourage an unsustainable expansion of
the Argentinean anchovy commercial fishery along the Patagonian coast.
"Changes in the Argentine anchovy population could alter abundance of
predators and prey. A reduction in the population of one species could
spread along throughout the food chain and change the energy flow and the
abundance of species that are not directly linked to Argentine anchovy,"
Source - MercoPress
Crunch year for planet Earth
JAN. 18, 2007 - This will be a crunch year for action on the climate
crisis, according to a leading environmental lobbyist. Never have the
opportunities been better and the danger from failure greater, Friends of
the Earth chief Tony Juniper said in an interview with Reuters. "There is
an urgency that wasn't there before," Juniper said. "The science is there,
the economics is there and the politics is there ...If they don't take this
opportunity then we really should start to think about the future of life
on earth." The scientists who mind the "Doomsday Clock" moved it forward
two minutes on Wednesday to five minutes until midnight, symbolizing the
growing risk of the annihilation of civilization, and for the first time
said global warming was a threat. Early next month the International Panel
on Climate Change will produce the first of four key reports this year
assessing the latest scientific knowledge on global warming. This will be
followed by a report in April on adaptation, one in May on mitigation and a
final overview in November. A European Union-United States summit in April
is expected to focus on energy security, and a Group of Eight summit in
early June will highlight energy and climate.
Source - CNN (no link)
Multimillion Dollar Effort to Study Polar Ice Thaw
JAN. 13, 2007 - More than 60 nations, from Chile to China, and 50,000
scientists and researchers will be involved in the International Polar Year
(IPY) 2007-2008, actually a two-year period that will last from Mar. 1,
2007 to the same date in 2009. The IPY will study the Arctic and Antarctic
regions, focusing on the effects of global warming produced by greenhouse
gases. It has a budget of over 500 million dollars, to which Canada
contributed 160 million. The last major international effort to study the
world's coldest regions took place 50 years ago and was called the
International Geophysical Year. It was a landmark scientific collaboration
involving 67 nations that produced data still used today. The IPY is
organized by the International Science Council and the World Meteorological
Organization, and is sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program.
Source - Tierramerica
Chile: Climate-Change Cyclist Travels 13,097 Miles to Santiago
JAN. 9, 2006 - David Kroodsma - a young environmentalist in the middle of a
15,000-mile journey from Palo Alto, California to Ushuia in Argentine
Patagonia - pedaled into Santiago on January 2nd, marking the 13,097th mile
of a 17-month trip. Kroodsma has traveled through 15 countries between the
U.S. and Chile - including Belize, El Salvador and Columbia - since he set
off on his "Ride for Climate" in November 2005. From Santiago he will
travel south through Chile and Argentina to South America's southern-most
town of Ushuia at the tip of Tierra del Fuego. Despite ultimately aiming
to raise awareness for a U.S. audience - mainly through his personal
website, <http://www.rideforclimate.com/>www.rideforclimate.com - Kroodsma
punctuates his journey with visits to local schools, where he talks to
children about his trip and the effects of climate change.
Source - Santiago Times (no link)
Firewood Source of Santiago, Chile Contamination
Jan. 20, 2007 - A recent study revealed an increase in air pollution caused
by wood-burning stoves in Santiago. Although wood stoves emit almost as
much contamination as diesel combustion, their prohibition is
unlikely. The government maintains that the increase in wood smoke is not
significant enough to warrant stove regulations in its anti-pollution plan.
Scientists, however, insist the increase is important because the three
major sources of air contamination in Chile are now industry, wood burning
and diesel combustion. Former National Commission on the Environment
(Conama) director Pablo Badenier warned that stoves emit 200 tons of
material particles a yearmore than the projected emissions of the
Transantiago transport system. There are an estimated 20,000 wood stoves in
the city, each emitting more than one pound of material particles per hour.
Source - Santiago Times (no link)
Cell Phones Getting Greener
JAN. 08, 2007 - Cellular telephones that contain toxic chemicals are still
being sold in Latin America and other developing regions. But thanks to
strict European regulations, there are progressively fewer phones being
made with cadmium, lead and other dangerous materials.
The new, stricter standards adopted by the European Union in 2006, forced
the world's five leading cell phone manufacturers to eliminate toxic metals
and other materials from their products. In a year or two, the majority of
the more than one billion new mobiles sold annually will meet the EU
standards even if most countries don't have those restrictions, says Zeina
Alhajj, a toxics expert with the environmental watchdog Greenpeace
Source - Tierramerica
Brazil Infrastructure Plan Doesn't Include Nuclear Plant
JAN. 22, 2007 - An ambitious infrastructure investment plan announced on
January 22nd by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva did not include
completion of Brazil's third nuclear plant. The investment plan calls for
more than 503 billion reals (US$240 billion) through 2010 to be spent on
repairing and building highways, boosting electric power generation,
expanding ports and airports and providing housing, water and sewage
service for poor Brazilians. Completion of the Angra 3 nuclear power plant
in Rio de Janeiro, which has been stuck in the planning stage for a number
of years, "is not part of the (investment) plan," Mines and Energy Minister
Silas Rondeau told reporters. "Resumption of work on Angra 3 is part of
the resumption of Brazil's nuclear program, which involves much more than
generating electricity," Rondeau told reporters without going into
details. He said the future of the nuclear program was still under
Source - IHT <http://www.iht.com/>http://www.iht.com
Peru President Garcia Touts Maple Gas Ethanol Project
JAN. 11, 2007 - On January 5, U.S. oil firm Maple Gas signed a $650 million
contract with the Piura Regional Government for a sugar cane-based ethanol
plant. President Garcia spoke at the signing ceremony, calling the biofuel
project the start of an "agrarian revolution" that showcased foreign
private investment. Sited on the northern desert coast, the plant should
produce 30 million gallons/year by 2010. Garcia announced other biofuel
projects in the works. The Maple project is a model for U.S investors on
how to coordinate land and water rights acquisition with the national and a
Source - LIMA 00000087
Argentina: A Boost for Renewable Energies
Jan 6, 2007 - The government of Argentina published a law on Jan. 2 to
promote the use of renewable energy sources, which envisages increasing
their participation in the national electricity grid from one percent to
eight percent over 10 years. The law declares that generating wind, solar
and geothermal power, among others, is "in the national interest", and
promotes investment and research by means of tax incentives and subsidies
for every kilowatt generated from alternatives to fossil fuels. Juan
Casavelos, coordinator of Greenpeace's energy campaign, told Tierramerica
that this is a "very good sign" and that "any step that increases the share
of renewable sources in the grid is of great value." However, he said the
incentives should be larger. According to Casavelos, a fund is needed to
plan investments and make renewable energy supply more competitive.
Source - Tierramerica
Vast Pipelines in Amazon Face Challenges over Protecting Rights and Rivers
JAN. 21, 2007 - In theory, the issue is a simple one: Brazil needs more
sources of energy to keep its economy humming, and huge reserves of gas and
oil are in the Amazon jungle. Problem solved. Over the years, Petrobras,
Brazil's state-controlled oil company, has, in fact, invested more than $7
billion in Amazon exploration and development, and in 1986 it made a major
find here. But only now after a seemingly endless sequence of geographic,
logistical, environmental and political challenges were overcome is the
first in what is intended as a series of pipelines finally being
constructed, this one to carry gas the 400 miles from here to Manaus, a
port city of 1.5 million at the junction of the region's two biggest rivers
that is emerging as an important industrial center. But oil pipeline leaks
and the collapse of an offshore drilling platform in other parts of the
country have damaged Petrobras's reputation, and there was initially strong
resistance to the pipeline from local people, environmental and indigenous
groups and archaeologists. Rather than steamrolling the opponents and
skeptics, however, as often happens in Brazil, the company chose to woo
them. The two million residents of Amazonas State have been promised
economic benefits that have contributed to the project's $1.15 billion
price, and scientists and environmentalists were consulted about how to
minimize damage to the jungle that blankets the state.
Source - New York Times <http://www.nytimes.com/>http://www.nytimes.com
Brazil: Indigenous Groups Surviving in the Amazon
JAN. 18, 2007 - Far more Indian groups than previously thought are
surviving in Brazil's Amazon rain forest isolated from the outside world
but they risk extermination at the hands of encroaching loggers and miners,
experts say. A study by Funai, the government's National Indian
Foundation, and seen by Reuters estimates that around 67 Indian groups live
in complete isolation, up from previous estimates of around 40. "With the
rate of destruction in the Amazon, it is amazing there are any isolated
people left at all," said Fiona Watson, campaigns coordinator with Survival
International, an advocacy group for tribal peoples. Funai reviewed old
and new discoveries of footprints, abandoned huts, and other signs of human
life in the thicket of the world's largest rain forest. "There are still
vast unexplored areas and new indications of [Indian groups]," Marcelo dos
Santos, head of Funai's department of isolated Indians, told
Reuters. Brazil is likely to have the largest number of uncontacted tribes
in the world, Watson said.
Source - Reuters (no link)
Uruguay: Film Explodes "Myths" About Pulp Mill
JAN. 13, 2007 - A documentary film criticizing activists in the Argentine
city of Gualeguaychu, who fear a pulp mill to be installed on the eastern
bank of the border river between both countries will cause pollution, was
shown for the first time in Uruguay on Jan. 12. "No a los papelones",
directed by Argentine Eduardo Montes Bradley, is being shown in cinemas in
Montevideo and Punta del Este. "It's about ideological falsehood, about a
town afraid about something it knows nothing about. And it portrays those
in the front line of the demonstrations using emotional arguments, such as
that (the area's residents) will have three-headed babies," Pepi Goncalvez,
the film's press spokeswoman, told Tierramerica. "It's not against people
who do serious environmental work," she said. The distributors are not
showing the film in Argentina for fear of reprisals.
Source - Tierramerica
Does the Environment Need a New Global Agency?
JAN. 08, 2007 - The creation of a new United Nations Environment
Organization (UNEO), proposed by French President Jacques Chirac, has
divided environmentalists. Some believe it will be useful for combating the
challenge posed by global environmental deterioration, but others see it as
a redundant proposal and a political maneuver by Chirac before the French
general elections due in April and May. Chirac proposed creating the UNEO
on Dec.12 in Paris, after a meeting with the organizing committee for the
International Conference on Environmental Governance, which the French
government is hosting in February. According to Chirac, this conference,
to be attended by representatives from about 60 countries, and from many
international and non-governmental organizations, should present "an
inventory of the situation of the global environment and its alarming
degradation, and present priority political proposals that are
Source - Tierramerica
In Peru, a Move to Get Farmers to Trade in Fish Rather Than Coca
JAN. 04, 2007 - A new program aims to help coca growers raise paiche, a
huge, endangered fish known for its flaky meat. The program has a few
thousand fish in each cage, with the goal of reaching a constant population
of 8,000 paiches per cage. This may not seem like much, but with each fish
reaching up to 25 pounds in a year, authorities believe that they will
harvest enough paiche meat annually to satisfy local demand and begin
exporting. Edwin Vasquez, who left office as governor of Ucayali on Jan.
2, says marketing studies done by government agencies show that paiche
steaks can sell for around $20 a pound in European and US gourmet markets.
"This is an economic opportunity for communities that have few options," he
says. Mr. Vasquez believes that if the Imiria project is successful,
similar efforts will pop up in the region. The US Agency for International
Development (USAID), through one of its partner organizations, has
contributed one-fifth of the $250,000 cost of the program as part of its
anti-drug work in Peru.
Source - CSM
Update on Avian Influenza
Bird Flu Will Challenge to U.S. Health System, Expert Predicts
JAN. 15, 2007 - A bird flu pandemic remains a threat that the U.S. health
care system must take seriously despite less frequent media coverage and
the absence so far of human cases in the United States, experts
warned. John Bartlett, an infectious disease expert at John Hopkins
University, said the decentralized U.S. health system will make it more
difficult to get ready for a possible human pandemic of H5N1 avian virus --
or anything else. He disagreed with the suggestion that the bird flu
threat has been overstated by the media. "The number of cases in 2006 was
more than it was in 2005, which is more than it was in 2004 ... so it
continues to go up in people," he said in an interview. "And it continues
to be just as lethal as it was in the beginning," Bartlett said at a
conference aimed at helping U.S. hospital administrators prepare for a
pandemic. Hospitals "have to plan that there'll be no vaccine," he said,
urging administrators to start "speaking collectively about the need for a
much more ambitious and aggressive vaccine strategy." With no federal
guidance on who will receive pandemic vaccine once it is developed and
manufactured, Inglesby said, state and local health authorities will have
trouble making and enforcing decisions. Bartlett and Inglesby said the
absence of clear guidelines on an avian flu pandemic would pose ethical
challenges when it came to choosing who would receive scarce treatments.
Source - CNN
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
Rising demands threaten wetlands
The recent surge in demand for food and biofuel has increased the risks facing the world's wetlands, warn scientists.
A declaration by 700 scientists said the habitats faced a growing risk of being converted into farmland.
It also stated that the current knowledge of the extent of the world's wetlands was "unacceptable" and called for a global inventory to be set up.
The document was produced at the end of a UN-convened major scientific conference in Cuiaba, Brazil.
In their statement, the scientists highlighted other activities that were degrading the habitats, such as peat extraction and the construction of hydro-electricity dams.
"It is time to recognise the incalculable value of wetlands to all species - including ours," said Paulo Teixeira, co-chairman of the 8th Intecol International Wetlands Conference.
"If we don't plan and invest properly now, the cost to recreate artificially the services wetlands provide will dwarf the cost of preserving and protecting them in the first place."
In their declaration, the scientists called on the 158 countries that were party to the international wetlands agreement, known as the Ramsar Convention, to adhere to the global framework.
"Some countries have high standards for wetlands management, restoration and protection; however, many others are far behind," it said.
Fuelling the problem
They also warned against increasing farmland that encroached on the habitat, which caused damage through sediment, fertiliser and pesticide pollution.
"Biofuel production has led to a large loss of wetlands in the US already," explained Eugene Turner from Louisiana State University.
"They are now growing as much corn to produce biofuels as they used to export out of the country."
Professor Turner told BBC News that the surge in demand for the crop had resulted in agreements to conserve areas on the margins of farmland being broken.
"It is more profitable now to farm right up to the edge of a stream, so we are losing wetlands in the US from this alone."
"Of course, there are knock-on effects," he added. "If you do not grow the corn while the price is high, then somebody else is going to produce it - maybe on a key wetland site.
"This is an example of how interrelationships are not considered when we make decisions."
Another topic that was high on the conference agenda was the role the landscapes played in the global carbon cycle.
"Although that they may be 3-5% of the terrestrial surface, wetlands store about 20% of all terrestrial carbon, which amounts to 500-700 gigatonnes," explained Professor Turner.
"We are releasing, on a net basis, about 3.5 gigatonnes into the atmosphere, so any small change in the carbon from wetlands going into the atmosphere has a big impact."
He added that the future well-being of wetlands in the Arctic region was of particular concern.
"The places where it is going to proportionally warm the greatest is towards the Arctic; that region has an awful lot of wetlands.
"You put food in a refrigerator at home to keep it cool; if you don't, it begins to rot.
"The same thing applies in the Arctic," he explained. "The carbon is stored under the permafrost, meaning it is permanently frozen.
"The ice is receding, so the carbon that is stored there is going to be released and that is a problem."
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
Brazil ethanol, sugar mills miss the commodity boom
By Inae Riveras - Analysis
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Record ethanol consumption in Brazil, surging exports of the biofuel to the United States and a recovery in sugar and ethanol prices will not be enough to pull local mills' margins out of the red, producers said.
Sugar and ethanol prices have started to improve since December as investment fund buying stormed into commodity complex after a gloomy period of low profitability mainly due to a huge global surplus of sugar.
But this will be offset by a strong surge in costs and the local currency against the dollar, and new investments in production in the world's top sugar and second largest ethanol producer, are unlikely under current market conditions.
"People talk about a commodities boom. But high commodities prices in dollars do not mean a boom," said Carlos Murilo Barros de Mello, commercial director at Cosan (CZLT11.SA: Quote, Profile, Research) (CZZ.N: Quote, Profile, Research), Brazil's largest sugar and ethanol producer group.
Brazil, already the world's top ethanol exporter, is expected to export a record 5 billion liters of the biofuel this year, after U.S. ethanol prices rocketed due to flooding that hurt the Midwest corn belt. Europe and Japan are also poised to begin importing more of the Brazilian biofuel.
Meanwhile, demand for ethanol in Brazil is expected to eclipse gasoline as the main automobile fuel this year due to growth in the flex-fuel cars fleet that can run on any combination of gasoline or ethanol.
"It will be a boom when producers' profit margins rise, and this is not the reality now. Maybe it is to energy and metals, but not for sugar and ethanol," de Mello said.
Costs to produce anhydrous ethanol, which in Brazil is made from sugar cane, rose 20 percent in reais from February 2007 through April 2008, according to Datagro analysts, who forecasts a new increase until July.
During the same period, anhydrous ethanol prices on the local market fell 20 percent, on average.
"Practically all the commodities rose and it was possible to compensate all the increase in costs. In ethanol and sugar, prices would need to rise much more to reach this level," said Antonio de Padua Rodrigues, technical director at the Sugar Cane Industry Association (Unica).
As in other sectors, Brazilian sugar and ethanol producers' profitability has been hit not only by a surge in production costs such as the price of fertilizer which has doubled in the past year but also a strong appreciation of the local currency against the dollar.
The real BRBY has rose 27 percent since April 2007, when the 2007/08 sugar cane crop began.
"The real problem is not the price, but costs and the currency exchange," said Luiz Guilherme Zancaner, president of Unialco sugar and ethanol group. He said fertilizer prices rose 64 percent from a year ago.
Rising fertilizer and diesel prices, and growing labor costs hit mills' results hard in the past year or so, Padua said, adding that poor cane quality this crop has also hurt.
Cane industrial yields -- the amount of sucrose per tonne of cane -- are lower than the same time last year, when the dry weather contributed to sugar concentration in cane.
Poor sugar content means a rise in transport and production costs as mills get less product from each tonne of cane they harvest, transport and crush.
A 8-kg (17.6 lb) reduction in sugar concentration is equivalent to 8 kilograms less sugar or 5 liters less ethanol per tonne of cane processed, Padua said.
"I would say profit this season will likely be lower than in the previous one, which was already difficult. (Sugar and ethanol) prices will possibly be higher (than in 2007/08) but costs will be even higher still," Padua said.
High costs are not sufficient to cause cancellations of new plants, but have been delaying some projects. Investors do not look as enthusiastic as they did a few years ago, producers said.
"Projects that are being built were decided in 2006, 2007. You don't see any new investment, to be ready around 2011, 2012," Padua said.
A new mill usually takes three years to begin operations.
"Prices have to reach 17 cents (per lb) for Brazil to resume planting cane. At 15 cents, no mill will be built," Cosan's de Mello said.
Hedge funds, private equity funds and multinational companies are the majority of investors now in the sector and if prices do not compensate production costs and invested capital, "there won't be more production," he said.
But de Mello added that this situation would help boost sugar prices to around 17-18 cents per lb in the next two years.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Gretchen, Geoffrey, et. al.-
I found the following article posted on Weber Amaral's website when I googled the Portuguese translation of WTO+biofuels+Brazil (OMC+biocobusteveis+Brazil). The article, published several weeks ago in Folha de São Paulo, says that Brazil is attempting to fight some process-based standards being proposed by a Swedish diplomat for indirect land use change (ILUC) caused by biofuels, but they consider the WTO a forum of last resort They have sent Isiais Macedo to Brussels to discuss his life cycle analysis on the topic. In the interest of time I google translated the two versions of the article. The translation is pretty bad so non-Portuguese speakers should ask for clarifications if they'd like.
Finally, the basic logic/rhetoric of the ITAMARATY (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), as described in this article, very closely mirrors the conversation we had with an ITAMARATY rep. right around the same time. She attended our meeting at UNICA. Abby has her name and contact info. Abby could you reply to this post with her name and contact details?
Brasil tenta derrubar na UE "taxa verde" ao álcool (25/06/2008)
O Brasil mobilizou sua diplomacia para convencer a União Européia a não levar adiante uma lei que reduziria a vantagem ambiental dos biocombustíveis, comprometendo a imagem do álcool e a campanha do governo Lula para transformar o produto em commodity internacional. Num encontro com representantes da UE na segunda-feira, diplomatas brasileiros deixaram claro que não descartam recorrer à OMC contra a iniciativa.
O projeto que está atualmente em estudo no Parlamento Europeu prevê o corte de 24% na taxa de redução de emissões de gases poluentes de cada biocombustível, tornando-os menos atraentes. O álcool brasileiro, que emite 74% menos gases do que a gasolina, teria essa taxa reduzida para 50%.
A preocupação com os possíveis danos dessa lei a seus interesses levou o Brasil a reunir, em sua missão em Bruxelas, membros da CE (Comissão Européia), o braço executivo da UE, e representantes de nove países. Embora a reunião tenha sido de nível técnico, e não político, os interesses comerciais não puderam ser ignorados.
Elaborado pelo deputado sueco Anders Wijkman, o projeto cria uma taxa sobre o "uso da terra", com base numa idéia polêmica: a de que mesmo os biocombustíveis mais "verdes" provocam dano ambiental indireto, pois forçam o deslocamento de plantações e, nos piores casos, causam desmatamento. É exatamente a idéia que o Brasil tenta combater nos fóruns internacionais.
Para convencer as autoridades européias das vantagens ambientais do álcool, o Itamaraty levou a Bruxelas o professor Isaías Macedo, especialista em biocombustíveis da Unicamp. A UE respondeu convocando seu próprio expert, Robert Edwards. O Brasil mostrou números da eficiência do álcool de cana, mas não deixou de lado a ameaça velada de apresentar uma queixa à OMC.
O conceito de Wijkman, membro do Comitê de Meio Ambiente do Parlamento, divide opiniões também dentro da Comissão Européia. Há uma queda-de-braço entre os setores de Energia e Transporte, que são favoráveis aos biocombustíveis, e o de Meio Ambiente, que os vê com desconfiança.
Os ambientalistas não conseguiram fazer a UE rever a meta de ter, até 2020, 10% do transporte rodoviário movido a biocombustíveis. Mantida a meta, abre-se um grande mercado para o biocombustível estrangeiro, principalmente o biodiesel, o mais usado na Europa.
A nova norma, se aprovada, atingiria outros biocombustíveis com mais força que o álcool, mas o Itamaraty acha que a imagem do mercado como um todo sofreria um golpe. "Seria uma pancada" nos biocombustíveis, reconhece um especialista no assunto. O Brasil também prefere manter um recurso à OMC como uma opção remota, pois acha que causar barulho em torno do assunto pode ferir seus interesses mais do que uma possível vitória.
25/06/2008 - 09h43
Brasil tenta derrubar na UE "taxa verde" ao álcoolda Folha Online
A diplomacia brasileira ameaçou recorrer à OMC (Organização Mundial do Comércio) numa tentativa de derrubar um projeto de lei que reduziria a vantagem ambiental dos biocombustíveis na União Européia, conforme relata Marcelo Ninio, correspondente da Folha em Genebra, em reportagem publicada na edição desta quarta-feira (íntegradisponível somente para assinantes do jornal e do Uol).
O projeto de lei, que está em estudo no Parlamento Europeu, cria uma taxa sobre o "uso da terra", com base numa idéia polêmica: a de que mesmo os biocombustíveis mais "verdes" provocam dano ambiental indireto, pois forçam o deslocamento de plantações e, nos piores casos, causam desmatamento. É exatamente a idéia que o Brasil tenta combater nos fóruns internacionais.
Os biocombustíveis são hoje o grande "cavalo de batalha" do governo brasileiro em nível internacional. O presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, em suas viagens internacionais, têm procurado não deixar sem resposta às principais críticas sobre a produção de álcool a partir da cana-de-açúcar.
"[O] Brasil tem tecnologia de produção de um combustível que é o álcool, que emite menos gás carbônico do que os outros combustíveis. E era importante dizer isso porque tem uma verdadeira guerra comercial", afirmou o presidente, numa referência a sua participação na cúpula da FAO (Organização das Nações Unidas para a Alimentação e a Agricultura), em Roma, no início de junho.
As críticas aos biocombustíveis se estendem desde o campo econômico até a área ambiental. No final de abril, O relator da ONU (Organização das Nações Unidas) para o Direito à Alimentação, Jean Ziegler, chegou a afirmar que a alta dos alimentos se devia à transformação de alimentos em biocombustíveis e a especulação financeira.On Wed, Jul 9, 2008 at 7:25 PM, Geoffrey Wandesforde-Smith <email@example.com> wrote:
If you do have such a cite, can the rest of us see it, too?
From: Gretchen Gordon [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 11:04 AM
To: Alastair Iles
Cc: Avery Cohn; Geoffrey Wandesforde-Smith; Renata M. T. Andrade; Andy
Jones; Abigail Martin; Leticia Cesarino; Gretchen Gordon;
Subject: Re: More interesting biofuels news
Do any of you have a cite for Brazil saying it won~t stand for mandatory
> Jatropha may provide seeds for future energy use
> By Doreen Hemlock | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
> July 6, 2008
> ELIAS PINA, Dominican Republic - Could a scraggly tree now used as
> fencing in the tropics help slash the world's dependence on petroleum,
> producing income for farmers and a plant oil to substitute for diesel?
> South Florida energy experts want to find out. They're watching a host
> of projects in Latin America to grow jatropha and process its seeds
> into biodiesel. If those ventures take off, those countries could
> possibly reduce their petroleum imports, develop rural areas and
> export biofuel to Florida.
> The potential for business is huge. Fort Lauderdale-based Global
> Energy Trading Company, Getco, is among the jatropha pioneers in South
> America, with plans to invest tens of millions of dollars in Peru,
> Colombia and maybe Brazil. International Clean Energy of Palm Beach
> Gardens is testing different varieties to figure out which are best
> suited for South Florida conditions to yield the most biodiesel.
> But the big question is whether the projects can turn profits on
> large-scale production. So far, operations are too small and artisanal
> to gauge. It will take years — and lots more investment — to determine
> jatropha's viability as a global biofuel industry, experts said.
> Related links
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> Tips: Tracking prices across S. Fla., plus how you can save
> Agronomist Mathilde Laval is banking on jatropha to help the Dominican
> Republic, initially to improve the lives of subsistence farmers in
> Elias Piña, a dusty area on the border with Haiti where jobs and money
> are scarce. She works with a nonprofit group that is encouraging
> farmers to plant the trees, sell the seeds to be crushed into oil and
> then, use the oil in stoves instead of burning firewood.
> In the future, she hopes oil can be processed into biodiesel, offering
> rural areas a chance to meet more of their energy needs.
> Jatropha seems almost a miracle plant. It doesn't need much water or
> fertilizer. It grows even on denuded soil and hills. Animals don't
> like to eat it. It's too scrawny to cut down for firewood. It can grow
> for more than 40 years. And just selling the seeds for their oil
> should earn farmers in Elias Piña more than most earn — perhaps $800 a
> year for a 2.5-acre farm, Laval said.
> That's enough money to interest farmer Hector Tolentino. The
> 54-year-old now rides his horse farther each day to find enough
> firewood to cook his meals. Area residents have been cutting down
> trees for so many generations that the land is eroding and drying out.
> "If I could get jatropha oil at a reasonable price, I'd get a stove to
> cook on," said Tolentino, a thin man with a big smile.
> Native to the Caribbean area, jatropha has become coveted worldwide
> amid rising costs for petroleum and diesel. At least 720,000 hectares
> already have been planted in China, Guatemala, Malaysia, India and
> other countries. By 2014, that acreage could more than triple,
> according to London-based research firm New Energy Finance.
> Advocates say biodiesel from jatropha burns cleaner than fossil fuels.
> It can be used in vehicles without having to adapt the engines. And
> unlike corn processed into ethanol, it is not a food crop. Its
> harvesting for fuel won't put pressure on food prices.
> But there are many risks for producers trying to make profits on a
> large commercial scale.
> Trees can die from diseases, for example. A fungus recently attacked
> hundreds of jatropha seedlings at a nursery developed by Laval's
> group, said farmer Rafael Paulino, 54. He gets paid to plant seeds in
> plastic bags and help nurture them into seedlings that later will be
> transported for planting on farms — earning about $8 a day plus lunch,
> more than the going wage in the area.
> Producers still need to figure out which varieties yield the most
> seeds and oil for different areas depending on soil, rain and other
> conditions. And they must weigh costs, which can vary widely by region
> and country for labor, land and other basic inputs.
> There are also questions about creating environmental imbalances by
> planting a single crop over miles of land.
> "I can't recommend now that anyone plant 100,000 acres," conceded Omar
> Bros, co-founder of the nonprofit group, Dominican Institute of
> Integrated Development, where French agronomist Laval is leading the
> small-scale test project.
> But Getco of Fort Lauderdale is placing bigger bets, preparing to
> invest millions of dollars in South American plantations. Chief
> Executive James Fanning is buoyed by a 2007 report from investment
> firm Goldman Sachs that estimated jatropha could be processed into a
> barrel of fuel for about $43, about the same cost as sugar cane-based
> ethanol and roughly half the cost of ethanol made from corn. He knows
> the report bases its projections on relatively small jatropha farms in
> India, but figures even at higher costs, he can cash in.
> "With the price of oil where it is today, you don't have to be a
> rocket scientist to know there's a tremendous amount of money to be
> made," Fanning said during the recent JatrophaWorld conference in
> International Clean Energy of Palm Beach Gardens is more cautious.
> It's first testing different varieties and compiling data on plant
> yields, costs and other basics before considering investment in
> biodiesel on a large scale. Growing and testing seeds will take at
> least a year, said energy expert George Philippidis of Florida
> International University, who is working with the new company.
> "There's this fascination with jatropha now," Philippidis said. "But
> we need to manage expectations."
> Doreen Hemlock can be reached at email@example.com or
> Jatropha facts Grows in wastelands and can thrive in sandy or rocky
> soil. It can be planted in the desert, so it doesn't compete with food
> crops. Is a poisonous shrub . It has been used as a living fence to
> protect gardens and fields from animals. Originates in Central Americ
> a and has spread to other tropical and subtropical countries. Source:
> The Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species
> More articles
> Colombia finds biofuels bonanza in sugar cane
> By JOHN OTIS
> Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
> Get section feed
> Recommend (1)
> Yahoo! Buzz
> PHOTO GALLERY
> See a Colombian sugar plantation in action
> El Cerrito, Colombia — Between breaks to sharpen his machete under the
> equatorial sun, Gregorio Hurtado laid waste to row upon row of 9-foot
> sugar cane stalks.
> Like plantation labor of a bygone era, the cane harvest remains a
> backbreaking task. Even though Hurtado earns just $3 for every ton of
> the fibrous stalks he cuts, he's happy to have a job amid the chaos of
> Colombia's sugar industry.
> For that, he can thank several new ethanol plants towering above the
> sea of green cane fields that cover this patch of western Colombia.
> Even as low world prices and the weak U.S. dollar have hurt sugar
> exporters here, Colombia's biofuels industry is growing by leaps and
> Ahead-of-the-curve planning, technological breakthroughs and
> government incentives have helped Colombia emerge as the No. 2
> producer of ethanol in Latin America, behind Brazil, and a leader in
> the manufacture of biodiesel.
> "We took the initiative years ago and became a pioneer," Jorge
> Cardenas, president of the Colombian Biofuels Federation, said in an
> With just over 100 million gallons annually, Colombian ethanol
> production is dwarfed by the billions of gallons churned out yearly in
> the U.S. and Brazil.
> Yet Colombia is a technological leader in the field and is
> experimenting with biofuel production using everything from sugar
> beets and palm oil to yucca.
> Colombian experts are helping companies in Guatemala, Honduras and El
> Salvador set up ethanol plants.
> Farther north, Louisiana Green Fuels, which is partially owned by
> Colombian investors, plans to launch what could become the first sugar
> cane ethanol plant in the U.S., near Lake Charles.
> The distillery, scheduled to open next year, will produce about 25
> million gallons annually. Three more plants are to be built by 2012.
> "The Colombian work ethic, engineering and appreciation for ethanol
> production have had a significant part to play in bringing this
> project to fruition," said Randal Johnson, a company spokesman.
> Colombia is also the hemisphere's largest producer of palm oil.
> Tons of oil are turned into biodiesel, which elsewhere is made from
> rapeseed oil.
> Biodiesel production will more than double this year to 218 million
> gallons, Jens Mesa Dishington of the Federation of Oil Palm Producers
> said in Bogotá, the capital.
> The world's sudden thirst for biofuels came at precisely the right
> moment for Colombia's sugar growers.
> Not only did world prices for the sweetener drop from nearly 15 cents
> to 10 cents a pound last year, but the weakening dollar meant less
> income for sugar exporters.
> In 2007, their profits plummeted by 44 percent, according to the
> Colombian Sugar Cane Growers Association.
> These days, however, mills are shifting much of the cane from sugar to
> ethanol production, which is far more profitable.
> More used for ethanol
> At the Providencia Sugar Mill, which is the size of several football
> fields, massive machines wash and shred cane stalks then press out the
> juices. These liquids are crystallized into sugar or fermented and
> distilled into ethanol.
> "We started out using 18 percent of the cane for ethanol, but in some
> months the figure has gone up to 40 percent," said Marucio Tello, who
> helps run the ethanol distillery at the Providencia mill, 15 miles
> northeast of Cali.
> Colombia was once the world's sixth-largest sugar exporter, but
> overseas sales have dropped by half since 2003. Meanwhile, five modern
> distilleries now produce enough to make the nation nearly
> self-sufficient in ethanol.
> The transition has helped the sugar industry avoid job cuts and mill
> Nearly the entire crop is harvested by about 15,000 workers, most of
> whom wear metal gloves and shinguards to keep from gashing themselves
> as they slice down the fields with their thick-bladed machetes.
> "Biofuels have given us some breathing room," said Alvaro Amaya,
> director of the Center for the Investigation of Sugar Cane.
> Although neighboring Brazil has been producing huge quantities of
> ethanol since the 1970s, Colombia began to seriously consider biofuels
> in 2001 as oil reserves dwindled. Analysts predicted the country would
> need to start importing petroleum by 2012, and ethanol and biodiesel
> seemed like attractive alternatives.
> Huge potential
> Unlike in the United States and Europe, where most of the fertile
> acres are already under cultivation, Colombia still has vast tracts
> that could be turned into farmland to produce biomass without
> disrupting the national food chain.
> "The agricultural frontier could be expanded enormously," President
> Alvaro Uribe told a recent gathering of farmers. "There is land for
> everything: to increase food production and to increase biofuel
> Colombia already grows half a million acres of sugar cane, which is
> far more efficient than corn or other crops for producing ethanol.
> Newly developed strains of the plant helped Colombian farmers reduce
> the growing cycle from 17 to 12 months and extract 6 tons of sugar per
> acre, the highest sugar production rate in the world.
> The key incentive came when the government mandated that the national
> gasoline supply must contain 10 percent ethanol by the end of 2009, a
> figure that will increase to 25 percent by 2025.
> Meanwhile, palm groves first planted to produce edible oils have been
> expanded to supply newly built biodiesel plants. A new law mandates
> that the country's diesel must contain at least 5 percent biodiesel by
> year's end.
> "The oil was running out. That was the determining factor," said
> Cardenas, of the Biofuels Federation. "If there had been enough oil,
> we wouldn't have had the political will to do this. But with oil at
> more than $100 a barrel and reserves falling, people began to get
> Getting into biofuels production "was like striking an oil deposit
> equal to 10 percent of the country's supply," added Johan Martinez of
> the Sugar Cane Growers Association in Cali.
> The Uribe government wants to expand the sugar cane crop from 500,000
> acres to 2.5 million acres to feed more than a dozen ethanol
> distilleries expected to come into produc-
> tion within the next five years.
> Eventually, the plan is to export ethanol to the United States. Unlike
> Brazilian ethanol, which faces a 54-cent-per-gallon import tariff,
> Colombian ethanol could enter the American market duty-free under the
> terms of trade agreement between the two nations that has yet to be
> approved by the U.S.
> Taking over
> Not everyone is thrilled with the expansion plans.
> At a recent meeting of regional leaders in Mexico, Nicaraguan
> President Daniel Ortega complained of rising food prices in poor
> nations and criticized Uribe for encouraging Central American
> countries to grow more sugar cane for ethanol than food crops.
> "For Nicaragua, it's a mortal sin to talk about biofuels," Ortega said.
> There have also been widespread reports from northern Colombia about
> peasant farmers who returned after being driven away by death squads
> to find their fields occupied by industrial-scale oil palm producers.
> Yet at the same time, industry backers are promoting biofuels as a way
> to generate more jobs in the impoverished countryside, where many
> down-and-out farmers plant coca, the raw material for cocaine.
> U.N. statistics showed that the coca crop in Colombia, the world's
> largest producer of cocaine, had expanded by 27 percent last year to
> 245,000 acres.
> Speaking at a recent biofuels conference, Agriculture Minister Andres
> Felipe Arias said: "Peasants who grow
> palm trees are not going to fall into the temptation to grow coca."
> Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis
> Internal World Bank study delivers blow to plant energy drive
> * Aditya Chakrabortty
> * The Guardian,
> * Friday July 4, 2008
> * Article history
> Corn used for biofuel
> A handful of corn before it is processed. Photograph: Charlie
> Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far more than
> previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report
> obtained by the Guardian.
> The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed
> analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an
> internationally-respected economist at global financial body.
> The figure emphatically contradicts the US government's claims that
> plant-derived fuels contribute less than 3% to food-price rises. It
> will add to pressure on governments in Washington and across Europe,
> which have turned to plant-derived fuels to reduce emissions of
> greenhouse gases and reduce their dependence on imported oil.
> Senior development sources believe the report, completed in April, has
> not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush.
> "It would put the World Bank in a political hot-spot with the White
> House," said one yesterday.
> The news comes at a critical point in the world's negotiations on
> biofuels policy. Leaders of the G8 industrialised countries meet next
> week in Hokkaido, Japan, where they will discuss the food crisis and
> come under intense lobbying from campaigners calling for a moratorium
> on the use of plant-derived fuels.
> It will also put pressure on the British government, which is due to
> release its own report on the impact of biofuels, the Gallagher
> Report. The Guardian has previously reported that the British study
> will state that plant fuels have played a "significant" part in
> pushing up food prices to record levels. Although it was expected last
> week, the report has still not been released.
> "Political leaders seem intent on suppressing and ignoring the strong
> evidence that biofuels are a major factor in recent food price rises,"
> said Robert Bailey, policy adviser at Oxfam. "It is imperative that we
> have the full picture. While politicians concentrate on keeping
> industry lobbies happy, people in poor countries cannot afford enough
> to eat."
> Rising food prices have pushed 100m people worldwide below the poverty
> line, estimates the World Bank, and have sparked riots from Bangladesh
> to Egypt. Government ministers here have described higher food and
> fuel prices as "the first real economic crisis of globalisation".
> President Bush has linked higher food prices to higher demand from
> India and China, but the leaked World Bank study disputes that: "Rapid
> income growth in developing countries has not led to large increases
> in global grain consumption and was not a major factor responsible for
> the large price increases."
> Even successive droughts in Australia, calculates the report, have had
> a marginal impact. Instead, it argues that the EU and US drive for
> biofuels has had by far the biggest impact on food supply and prices.
> Since April, all petrol and diesel in Britain has had to include 2.5%
> from biofuels. The EU has been considering raising that target to 10%
> by 2020, but is faced with mounting evidence that that will only push
> food prices higher.
> "Without the increase in biofuels, global wheat and maize stocks would
> not have declined appreciably and price increases due to other factors
> would have been moderate," says the report. The basket of food prices
> examined in the study rose by 140% between 2002 and this February. The
> report estimates that higher energy and fertiliser prices accounted
> for an increase of only 15%, while biofuels have been responsible for
> a 75% jump over that period.
> It argues that production of biofuels has distorted food markets in
> three main ways. First, it has diverted grain away from food for fuel,
> with over a third of US corn now used to produce ethanol and about
> half of vegetable oils in the EU going towards the production of
> biodiesel. Second, farmers have been encouraged to set land aside for
> biofuel production. Third, it has sparked financial speculation in
> grains, driving prices up higher.
> Other reviews of the food crisis looked at it over a much longer
> period, or have not linked these three factors, and so arrived at
> smaller estimates of the impact from biofuels. But the report author,
> Don Mitchell, is a senior economist at the Bank and has done a
> detailed, month-by-month analysis of the surge in food prices, which
> allows much closer examination of the link between biofuels and food
> The report points out biofuels derived from sugarcane, which Brazil
> specializes in, have not had such a dramatic impact.
> Supporters of biofuels argue that they are a greener alternative to
> relying on oil and other fossil fuels, but even that claim has been
> disputed by some experts, who argue that it does not apply to US
> production of ethanol from plants.
> "It is clear that some biofuels have huge impacts on food prices,"
> said Dr David King, the government's former chief scientific adviser,
> last night. "All we are doing by supporting these is subsidising
> higher food prices, while doing nothing to tackle climate change."
> Food price rises force biofuel U-turn
> By Colin Brown
> Friday, 4 July 2008
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> Soaring world food prices look set to force Gordon Brown into a U-turn
> over the use of crops such as corn, rapeseed, palm and soya to produce
> fuel as an alternative to petrol and diesel.
> Biofuels were seen as the eco-friendly answer to global warming and
> rising fuel prices but a report to be published on Monday will force
> the Prime Minister to rethink his support for using crops to keep
> Britain's cars and lorries running.
> A second report will also force Downing Street to revise its policies
> on food and the environment – opening Mr Brown to the charge from
> environmental groups of going soft on the Government's green agenda.
> The Prime Minister has been warned in a report by Professor Ed
> Gallagher, head of the Renewable Fuels Agency, that the rush for
> biofuels has made a "significant" contribution to the soaring cost of
> food on the global markets. Corn ethanol and biodiesel derived from
> vegetable oil were widely seen as important ways of creating fuel and
> combating carbon emissions which contribute to global warming.
> The Gallagher review threatens to knock out an important plank in Mr
> Brown's environmental strategy. He introduced targets in April in
> Britain requiring all petrol and diesel to contain 2.5 per cent of
> biofuels with the intention of doubling it to 5 per cent by 2010. The
> EU is contemplating a 10 per cent target by 2020. Professor
> Gallagher's report will say the production of fuels from "biomass" –
> non-food crops – may be sustainable but it challenges the targets for
> producing fuel from other crops normally used for food.
> Greenpeace said biofuels initially "looked good on paper" but the
> Gallagher review would conclude that the risks are too great to impose
> higher targets.
> The campaign group called for a moratorium on targets, subsidies and
> tax breaks for biofuels consumption until it was clear that they could
> be produced from sustainable sources. Oxfam said: "It is clear that
> any additional pressure on limited land resources has the potential to
> drive further agriculture clearance of forests or other habitats and
> to drive up food prices."
> The vast majority of the European biodiesel was made from rapeseed
> oil, said Oxfam. "As we divert more and more rapeseed crop into fuel,
> European industry is buying increasing supplies of edible oils from
> overseas including palm oil.
> A second report by the Cabinet Office strategy unit is intended to
> launch a debate over how Britain uses its land more effectively to
> produce more food.
> In a further blow to the Prime Minister's "green" strategy, ministers
> are preparing to respond to the pressure from motorists – led by
> haulage owners who staged a noisy protest around Westminster this week
> – by bringing forward the announcement by the Chancellor Alistair
> Darling that the 2p rise in fuel duty in October will be scrapped.
Avery Cohn | Ph.D. Student | Environmental Science, Policy & Management | UC Berkeley | firstname.lastname@example.org | (510) 410-3731