March 2008

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This page includes information on news and events in March 2008. (News and events are archived here at the end of the month.)

Events

News

  • Land Once Preserved Now Being Farmed, 31 March 2008 by US News: The U.S. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which "has been paying farmers to set aside less-than-ideal land for conservation" has had positive benefits for soil, wildlife habitats and soil carbon storage.
    • "But as prices for crops have soared, a growing number of farmers have opted to put conservation land back into production. The trend is expected to accelerate—to the grave concern of many observers who caution that years of steady environmental progress could be halted, or even reversed, as buffers and habitats are converted into farmland."[2]
  • The Clean Energy Scam, 27 March 2008, cover story of Time magazine: Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon "is being accelerated by an unlikely source: biofuels. An explosion in demand for farm-grown fuels has raised global crop prices to record highs, which is spurring a dramatic expansion of Brazilian agriculture, which is invading the Amazon at an increasingly alarming rate."
    • "Worldwide investment in biofuels rose from $5 billion in 1995 to $38 billion in 2005 and is expected to top $100 billion by 2010, thanks to investors like Richard Branson and George Soros, GE and BP, Ford and Shell, Cargill and the Carlyle Group."
    • "But several new studies show the biofuel boom is doing exactly the opposite of what its proponents intended: it's dramatically accelerating global warming, imperiling the planet in the name of saving it. Corn ethanol, always environmentally suspect, turns out to be environmentally disastrous. Even cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass, which has been promoted by eco-activists and eco-investors as well as by President Bush as the fuel of the future, looks less green than oil-derived gasoline."
  • Biogasoline idea refined by Dutch Shell, U.S. firm, 26 March by the Houston Chronicle: "Shell is partnering with Virent Energy Systems, a Wisconsin 'bioscience firm,' to develop what it calls biogasoline." This advanced biofuel could be made from non-food crops and used directly in conventional vehicle engines. The fuel would have a higher energy content than ethanol, and existing "oil industry infrastructure can be used to transport and store it."
    • "To make the fuel, Shell and Virent will use catalysts to convert plant sugars into hydrocarbon molecules like those produced at a petroleum refinery. By contrast, ethanol is made through a fermentation and distillation process that converts starch found in crops like corn into sugar and then to ethanol."
    • According to the article, "the companies were vague on details, declining to disclose the costs of producing the fuel or when it may be available to consumers."[3]
  • Ethanol company Ethanex to file for bankruptcy, 25 March 2008, by Columbus Telegram: Kansas-based Ethanex Energy Inc., "a 2-year-old ethanol company, said it is planning to file for bankruptcy after being unable to gain interim financing."
    • "The company had originally planned to build three ethanol plants, each capable of producing 110 million gallons of the annually....But the declining price for ethanol forced the company to change its build-first strategy last fall."[4]
  • Biofuel boom threatens food supplies: Nestle, 23 March 2008, by AFP: "Growing use of crops such as wheat and corn to make biofuels is putting world food supplies in peril, the head of Nestle, the world's biggest food and beverage company, warned Sunday."
    • "'If as predicted we look to use biofuels to satisfy 20 percent of the growing demand for oil products, there will be nothing left to eat,' chairman and chief executive Peter Brabeck-Letmathe said."
    • "'To grant enormous subsidies for biofuel production is morally unacceptable and irresponsible,' he told the Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag."
    • The article notes that "Diplomats from countries pursuing such fuels, such as Brazil and Colombia, disagreed with his forecast."
  • UK Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) launches call for evidence for biofuels review, 20 March 2008, press release: "RFA announced a call for evidence on the indirect impacts of biofuels".
    • "The RFA has made it clear that this is not a consultation on policy. The key areas on which evidence is being sought are;
      • What are the key drivers of land use change and food insecurity and to what extent will increasing demand for biofuels affect these to 2020? What evidence is available of impacts upon areas of high conservation value and/or carbon stocks?
      • How are GHG-savings of different biofuels affected by displaced agricultural activity and resulting land-use change? How may this be affected in the future by the introduction of advanced technologies, use of marginal land and other improvements in production?
      • What are the relationships between demand for biofuel feedstock, commodity prices, land conversion and food insecurity? How might these be affected in the future by yield improvements and other factors?
      • What economic benefits arise from production of biofuels or feedstock in the South?
    • Evidence must be submitted to 'evidence' at 'renewablefuelsagency.org' by the 14th of April."[6]
  • Cellulosic energy may trigger dramatic collapse in the Amazon, 11 March 2008, from Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com: "Next generation biofuels may trigger the ecological collapse of the Amazon frontier and could have profoundly unexpected economic consequences for the region". Download the original article (PDF file)
  • Pollution Is Called a Byproduct of a ‘Clean’ Fuel 11 March 2008, from the New York Times: "Alabama's first biodiesel plant, a refinery that intended to turn soybean oil into earth-friendly fuel" has allegedly released oil and grease waste discharges into the Black Warrior River. The waste discharged by the Alabama Biodiesel Corporation "which can be hazardous to birds and fish, have many people scratching their heads over the seeming incongruity of pollution from an industry that sells products with the promise of blue skies and clear streams."
    • The article notes incidents of glycerin and other pollution discharges from bioenergy facilities, including in Iowa and Missouri.
    • "Don Scott, an engineer for the National Biodiesel Board, acknowledges that some producers have had problems complying with environmental rules but says those violations have been infrequent in an industry that nearly doubled in size in one year, to 160 plants in the United States at the end of 2007 from 90 plants at the end of 2006."



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