Tuesday, January 31, 2012

[biofuelwatch] Rebel hero who has 'betrayed' the last of Aceh's orang-utans


Rebel hero who has 'betrayed' the last of Aceh's orang-utans

Governor has dismayed supporters by allowing the destruction of a Sumatran forest where the apes live


When the former rebel leader Irwandi Yusuf became governor of Indonesia's Aceh province, he proclaimed a "green vision" for the war-torn region. Aceh's lush forests – still relatively pristine despite decades of civil conflict – would not be sacrificed for short-term profit, he promised. True to his word, he even chased down illegal loggers in his own jeep.

But, five years on, Mr Irwandi has dismayed supporters by authorising the destruction of a peat swamp forest which is one of the last refuges of the critically endangered Sumatran orang-utan. The move breaches a presidential moratorium – part of an international deal to save Indonesia's forests – as well as legislation protecting a conservation area where the Tripa swamp is located.

Aceh lies at the north-western tip of Sumatra, where three-quarters of the Tripa forest has already been replaced by palm oil plantations. Conservationists warn the remainder – home to the densest population of Sumatran orang-utans – is crucial to the ape's survival.

Global demand for palm oil is blamed for widespread forest destruction by the two main producers, Indonesia and Malaysia. The lowland forests, on Sumatra and Borneo, shelter the last orang-utans on the planet. The granting of a new permit to one of Indonesia's biggest palm oil companies, PT Kallista Alam, threatens another 4,000 acres of Tripa peatland. Although the area is comparatively small, the move could set a dangerous precedent, according to Ian Singleton, who runs the Sumatran Orang-utan Conservation Programme. "If this goes ahead, no forest is safe," he said.

Mr Irwandi, 51, used to be idolised by many Acehnese. He was a leader of the rebel movement, which fought for independence from Indonesia for 30 years, and was in prison in the capital, Banda Aceh, when the province was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in 2004. The walls of his jail came crashing down. "I didn't escape from prison – it escaped from me," he said later. After fleeing the country, he helped negotiate the peace deal that granted Aceh limited autonomy and he became governor in 2006.

There are believed to be only 6,600 Sumatran orang-utans left in the wild, with up to 1,000 in Tripa on Aceh's west coast. Palm oil, along with the timber and paper industries, represents their biggest threat. The cheap and versatile oil is used in soap, biscuits and biofuels, and countless other products.

The peat swamps are renowned for their biodiversity and harbour a dozen endangered species including the white-handed gibbon, clouded leopard and giant soft-shelled turtle. They also hold massive carbon stocks which are released as trees are burnt and chopped down.

In Aceh, some locals call oil palm the "golden plant", the cash crop they hope will lift them out of poverty. In Tripa, though, the conversion of an ancient forest to a monoculture is causing hardship to communities, which depend on the peatland system for drinking water, fish and medicinal plants. Villagers, who accuse the palm oil companies of taking their land, have filed a criminal complaint against the governor.

Mr Irwandi – whose actions have been linked by some observers to his campaign to be re-elected next month – is also being sued by WALHI Aceh, an environmental group. "We're really disappointed with our governor," said Muhammad Nizar, the group's campaigns director. "It seems like he tries to get a good image in Indonesia and abroad, but he doesn't really care about the forest."

The two-year moratorium on new permits to log or convert primary forest and peatland was signed last May by the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as part of a $1bn (£637m) deal with Norway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Indonesia is one of the world's biggest carbon emitters, largely because of rampant deforestation.

But even without the moratorium, Tripa, a key orang-utan habitat because of its abundant fruit trees, should enjoy legal protection because it falls within a conservation area known as the Leuser Ecosystem. A vast swathe of tropical rainforest, it is the last place on earth where elephants, rhinos, tigers and orang-utans are found in one spot.

Mr Singleton said satellite imagery showed that Kallista Alam had been felling and draining the peat forest since 2010, long before the permit was granted. He alleged that the company had also lit illegal fires – seen by The Independent in June 2009 on Kallista's estate – to clear land in Tripa, designated a priority conservation site under the United Nations' Great Ape Survival Plan.

Environmentalists say orang-utans are under increasing pressure as their habitats and food sources shrink. The apes stray into fields on the edge of forests to raid fruit trees and are shot at by farmers, who capture their babies and sell them as pets. There are also claims orang-utans discovered in forests being cleared for palm oil are systematically slaughtered.

In the Indonesian part of Borneo, four employees of a palm oil company, Khaleda Agroprima Malindo, were arrested last month on suspicion of killing at least 20 orang-utans. Khaleda allegedly ordered its workers to carry out the "pest control" programme, offering a bounty of 1m rupiah (£72) per orang-utan. Those arrested include the senior estate manager and a supervisor. The company has denied the allegations.

The controversy in Aceh is embarrassing for President Yudhoyono, who stressed to an international conference in Jakarta last September the need to "walk the talk ... not just talk the talk" in relation to protecting Indonesia's forests.

A spokesman for Mr Irwandi has said that correct procedures were followed in granting the permit to Kallista Alam. However, the Indonesian Forestry Ministry said that if the new concession was inside peatland, it would be in breach of the moratorium. Kallista Alam could not be reached for comment.


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Monday, January 30, 2012

[biofuelwatch] New industry report on next generation ethanol prospects

Industry perspectives.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance launched its report "Moving towards a next-generation ethanol economy". Commissioned by Novozymes, the report estimates the socioeconomic prospects of deploying advanced biofuels in eight of the highest agricultural-producing regions in the world, i.e. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, EU-27, India, Mexico and the USA.

Rachel Smolker
Biofuelwatch/Energy Justice Network
802.482.2848 (o)
802.735 7794 (m)
skype: Rachel Smolker

respect existence or expect resistance


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[biofuelwatch] Chile: The legacy of the industrial tree plantation

From WRM Bulletin 174, January 2012, www.wrm.org.uy

Chile: Forest fires and repression, the legacy of the industrial tree plantation model

The new year got off to a fiery start in Chile, as seen in the national and international news reports of the devastating forest fires raging across various regions of the country. These include the regions of Araucanía and Bío Bío, in central-southern Chile, where there are more than three million hectares of industrial plantations of exotic tree species. Over two million hectares of these plantations – primarily made up of pine and eucalyptus trees – are owned by the companies Arauco and Mininco, and have also been hit by the wildfires.

For defenders of the model of large-scale monoculture plantations of fast-growing three species, Chile is a "star" example. The plantation industry has been heavily promoted by the Chilean state not only through large subsidies, but also with strong military support. The industry needs and uses this support to deal with disputes with Mapuche indigenous people that have been ignited over land ownership, since the plantations have expanded into ancestral Mapuche land.

In addition to the land conflict with the Mapuche, large-scale tree plantations have led to a long string of disastrous impacts. There have been repeated reports of the clearing of native forests for their replacement by plantations, resulting in the loss of medicinal plants and sources of food, as well as wildlife; the enormous amounts of water required by these fast-growing tree species have affected surface and underground water resources and caused serious droughts; ecosystems have been polluted by the widespread use of chemical pesticides; rural communities have been effectively "fenced in" by plantations; rural roads have been destroyed by heavy machinery and trucks; plantations have taken over land previously used for livestock raising and agriculture, with a consequent loss of food sovereignty; they have invaded and occupied sacred sites; and they have contributed to an increase in rural emigration and poverty.

Now the outbreak of forest fires has demonstrated the fragility of the monoculture model. The director of Mapuexpress, Alfred Seguel, says that the responsibility for the rash of fires lies with the plantation companies, because the introduction of exotic species like pine and eucalyptus has created veritable deserts. Seguel also stressed that the potential fire hazards posed by plantations are increased by the presence of dead pine trees that have fallen prey to the Sirex wood wasp (Sirex noctilio) – and it just so happens that the areas where fires have broken out are the same areas that have been hit by wood wasp infestations.

In spite of all this evidence, the government's reaction has been to step up its support for the plantation companies, blaming the tragedy on Mapuche organizations and unleashing a wave of repression against them.

The Ethical Commission Against Torture (CECT-Chile) sent an open letter to President Sebastián Piñera to express its concern over the violent police operations being conducted against Mapuche communities, and particularly the fact that they are being carried out under the Anti-Terrorist Law, Law 18.134, created during the Pinochet military regime to repress opposition to the dictatorship. The Commission maintains that this law "does not comply with international standards in regards to human rights and obstructs minimum guarantees of due process," and that "the arbitrary and discriminatory use of this legislation over the past decade has served to stigmatize the Mapuche people."

The industrial tree plantation empire is collapsing, declared Alfredo Seguel. And like any empire, when faced with crisis, it responds with violence and the criminalization of protest. But the Mapuche people will keep up their resistance, in defence of their ancestral land.

ANAMURI, a Chilean indigenous women's organization, is calling for solidarity with the peasant community of Quillón in the Bío Bío region. The community is surrounded by pine and eucalyptus plantations, and people's houses and crops have been wiped out by the wildfires. To make a contribution, write to secretariag@anamuri.cl, visit the ANAMURI website at http://www.anamuri.cl, or call             +562 672 0019      

This article is based on information from the article "Chile: la caída del imperio forestal", Alfredo Seguel, January 2012, Mapuexpress.net, http://www.mapuexpress.net/?act=news&id=8057; and the Letter to President Piñera from the Ethical Commission Against Torture (CECT-Chile), January 2012,http://notascect.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/carta-al-presidente-pinera-2/


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[biofuelwatch] Oil palm plantations behind land-grabbing in Sierra Leone

From WRM Bulletin 174, January 2012, www.wrm.org.uy 

Oil palm plantations behind land-grabbing in Sierra Leone

During 11 years - from 1991 to 2002 - a harsh civil war fueled by the inequitable distribution of power and resources decimated the population of Sierra Leone. The country now faces a state of food insecurity and has become a net food importer attributed not only to the war but also to World Bank and IMF recipes. With the aim of fostering a market-based economy, those institutions imposed policies that curtailed state agricultural programs and investments in agriculture.

Now the government is promoting the "Agriculture for Development" under the model of agribusiness, with larger and more mechanized farms and incentives for large-scale foreign agricultural investment especially in sugarcane and oil palm plantations for agrofuel. Several measures facilitate foreign investors' access to land such as a 10-year tax exemption on investments in tree crops.

The result is a land- grabbing process in Sierra Leone where farmland previously cultivated for food is being made conveniently available to big business, often in long-term leases to produce non-food products for export. The country report on Sierra Leone produced by The Oakland Institute (1) reveals that "about 500,000 ha have already been leased or contracted out to large-scale agricultural investors, mostly foreign" on the grounds that only 12 to 15 percent of the country's arable land is being "used" or "cultivated" - implying that the rest is available for investors.

However, as the report explains, 60 % of the arable land of Sierra Leone is occupied by the bush fallow farming system of smallholder farmers, where fields are cultivated for a few years until soil fertility is deleted, and then are left to fallow for 10 to 15 years. During that period bush fallows perform important functions including replenishment of soil nutrients that promote the re-growth of many plant and tree species thus conserving biodiversity, carbon sequestration, protection of watersheds and water resources. Bush fallows also provide firewood, wood for construction and tools, fodder for livestock, medicinal plants, bush yams, bush meat, wild fruits, all of them vital elements for the communities.

The great environmental, social and economic value of the bush fallow system is being dismantled by policies that allow big foreign companies to rush into Sierra Leone to try to make windfall profits. The Oakland Institute reports that Quifel Agribusiness (SL) Ltd. (subsidiary of Quifel Natural Resources, Portugal) has acquired 126,000 ha of primarily lowland farmland or bush fallow in the Port Loko District, in the eastern region of the country. The company focus is renewable energy and agribusiness, and it has a biodiesel plant in Brazil.

Three different land leases were signed in the Masimera Chiefdom, the Koya Chiefdom, and the LokoMassama Chiefdom, all of them for 49 years, with possible renewal for 20 years, at USD 5 per ha, rising each year up to USD 8 per ha. According to the Oakland Institute's report the three chiefdoms where Quifel lease areas are located are inhabited by smallholder farmers who cultivate rice in the lowland rice growing areas called bolilands as well as non-industrial oilpalm, cassava, sweet potatoes, pineapple, cocoyams, beans, maize, many different vegetables, mango, banana, plantain, papaya, coconut, orange, lemon and grapefruit. They produce food for subsistence as well as surplus to sell. When the smallholders farmers of the community of Petifu in LokoMassama Chiefdom saw their bush fallows being felled to clear the Quifel plot they staged a protest saying they had given up their fertile land on false pretenses.

Local "agents" engaged as"coordinators" are usually hired to negotiate leases with local communities, chiefs and landowners who are led to believe that they would obtain only benefits from the deals. Agreements lack transparency, potential affected people have not been consulted and possible risks such as loss of farmland or negative environmental impacts are not even considered while no Environmental Social and Health Impact Assessment (ESHIA) has been conducted to quantify environmental impacts.

Quifel's promises of employment and other alleged "development" opportunities were the main reasons that landowners and chiefs say they agreed to the leases. However, there are no reported statements or documents indicating how many jobs will be created or whether those jobs can compensate for lost income and decreased food supplies. So far, employment opportunities have been extremely limited.

The company Sierra Leone Agriculture (CAPARO Renewable Agriculture Developments Ltd.) - focused on oil palm plantations for agrofuels, edible oil and soap -is another agro-investor in Sierra Leone studied by The Oakland Institute, with a lease on 43,000-46,000 ha for a projected oil palm plantation.

According to data provided by the company to the The Oakland Institute, the lease in Sierra Leone is for 45 years with possible renewal every 21 years, and it is for 43,000 ha where oil palm plantations would be established to produce palm oil for the local market. The project would involve mills and processing plants, allegedly creating 3,000 to 5,000 jobs. The Oakland Institute says this information has never been made public in the country.

Regarding women, the report identifies that they are "extremely vulnerable in the face of land negotiations. While women represent an extremely important part of the farming population and are vital contributors to food security, women have no legal title to land (although there are some exceptions). Because they are not landowners, women are generally not present at consultations with investors and, even if they are, they have no voice. In many cases, they are not even aware that the land they are cultivating is being leased. Not surprisingly, therefore, women are not entitled to a share of land rental fees, even when they lose their land."

At present there is a push for a rapid land tenure reform in Sierra Leone. The land reform process which is funded by the World Bank appears to be driven by a desire to facilitate large-scale agricultural investment. The Oakland Institute says that "There are concerns that the land tenure reform, by favoring investors, will overlook the rights of local peoples, particularly women. For example, civil society groups fear that foreign investment will displace women farmers who currently have no title to land and thus are not eligible for compensation from land leases."

Oil palm has been a traditional crop for many African communities but now it has become a menace in the hands of greedy corporations driven by the international demand for palm oil and agrofuels. However, awareness is rising. The NGO Green Scenery in Sierra Leone has denounced that small farmers who are losing their livelihoods to plantation owners are petitioning the government for renegotiation of the 40-year lease agreement of 16,000 acres of prime farmland with Socfin Agriculture Company Sierra Leone Ltd (Socfin SL), a subsidiary of the Belgian corporation, Socfin. The farmers argue that they had not been properly consulted and they were cheated with information on the lease agreement. They claim that "compensation for plantation and annual land rent completely ridicules the value for loss of land and livelihood incomes of land owning families" (2). The claim has been faced with imprisonment and pending court trials.

You can join the protest action started by Rainforest Rescue at https://www.rainforest-rescue.org/mailalert/814?mt=1264 to stop SOCFIN plantation project and return the land to the farmers.

Article based on: (1) "Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa. Country Report: Sierra Leone", The Oakland Institute, 2011, http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/understanding-land-investment-deals-africa-sierra-leone; (2) http://www.greenscenery.org/index.php/component/content/article/32).


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[biofuelwatch] Philippines: The increasing menace of oil palm plantations

From WRM Bulletin 174, January 2012, www.wrm.org.uy

Philippines: The increasing menace of oil palm plantations in Palawan

Palawan, located between the Sulu and South China seas, is one of the most beautiful islands of the Philippine archipelago. The island is 450 kilometers long and 40 kilometers at its widest portion. Along its gorgeous beaches - framed by mangroves and by the last remaining lowland evergreen forest - coral reefs are home to unique marine biodiversity.

Of the approximately 900,000 inhabitants of Palawan, around 20 percent are indigenous peoples who belong to three main ethnic groups - Tagbanua, Palawan and Batak - whose main livelihood is upland agriculture (rice, cassava, colocasia, corn, banana, coconut, etc.), hunting and gathering, and commercial collection of, non-timber forest products (see Bulletin Nº 165).

The Provincial Government of the island boasts of Palawan being "a paradise like no others". And indeed, besides its highly diverse forest, the place is home to seven protected areas, a declared "Game Refuge and Bird Sanctuary" since 1967 and a "Mangrove Reserve" since 1981. Since 1990 the whole Province of Palawan has been declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The province has also two World Heritage Sites: the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park and the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park, of which the Subterranean River has been recently voted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

However, such gorgeous scenery and unique biodiversity faces the risk of being jeopardized and plundered by industrial activities.

Mining, denounced in previous WRM bulletins (see 165 and 172), has become a big issue in Palawan. The enormous threats posed by mining have raised widespread opposition that has mounted to a strong campaign which up to now has collected over four million signatures, demanding the stop of mining in Palawan and other island ecosystems (see http://no2mininginpalawan.com/ ). On the other hand, indigenous peoples through their own network (Aldaw Indigenous Network (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch)) have also started their own online campaign both against mining and oil palm expansion (see http://www.petitiononline.com/PA2010/petition.html ).

In fact, indigenous peoples and small-scale farmers are now being threatened by the expansion of industrial oil palm plantations which the Provincial Government started to promote in certain areas of Palawan in 2003 as part of the nationwide target that allocated 20,000 ha to be planted with oil palm in Palawan until 2011.

Despite the fact that in many other places – including neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia - industrial oil palm plantations have proven to impact negatively on the environment and the local communities, the local government of Palawan established the Palawan Palm Oil Industry Development Council in 2004 to make Palawan one of the oil palm producing provinces in Asia.

In a report from Forest Peoples Programme (FPP) (Oil Palm Expansion in South East Asia. Trends and implications for local communities and indigenous peoples; www.forestpeoples.org/sites/fpp/files/publication/2011/11/oil-palm-expansion-southeast-asia-2011-low-res.pdf ), Jo Villanueva gives an in-depth description of how the oil palm industry is being shaped in Palawan as part of the development of plantation crops with private investors and processing plants. In some provinces, oil palm expansion is already competing with other native palms such as the buri palms (Corypha elata) - a popular basketry material whose trunk contains edible starch while its leaf-bud or heart of palm trees (ubud) is also edible raw or cooked, as well as the kernels of the nuts.

In other cases oil palm plantations are taking over cultivated lands and overlap with ancestral domain territories converting forest and indigenous fallow land (benglay) to oil palm plantations. This reduces the number of rotational areas needed for the traditional agricultural swidden cycle which requires that areas used for cultivation be left to fallow for several years before they regain the soil nutrients and vegetation cover. When no sufficient areas are available for rotation, the sustainability of the indigenous farming system is jeopardized (Novellino, D. 2011*) Whenever large areas planted with diverse crops become mono-cropped lands they need chemical inputs like insecticides and pesticides that deplete nutrients from the soil and release carbon dioxide.

Oil palm expansion has led to massive land buying and selling, encroachment on indigenous communities' lands, deforestation – like in the municipality of Quezon where tropical forest is being converted into oil palm plantations – and land conversion with impacts on the food sovereignty of local communities (see ALDAW video http://vimeo.com/16570512 )

In south Palawan, the Philippine-Singaporean-Malaysian joint venture Palawan Palm & Vegetable Oil Mills Inc. (PPVOMI) is the main actor of oil palm plantations and sells the whole production to its sister company Agumil Philippines Inc. (API), which will establish and operate an oil mill in Maasin, in the province of Brooke's Point for the processing of crude oil palm and palm kernel. At least 70% of its production will be exported to Singapore, China and Malaysia.

It is estimated that API would convert more than 8,000 hectares of agricultural land into oil palm plantations in the Municipalities of Brooke's Point, Sofronio Spaniola and Quezon.
Other plantations belong to contract growers of API – either cooperatives or individuals. Also the construction company Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corporation (Cavdeal) involved in the road-building project in South Palawan has turned into the palm oil business and has purchased about 5,100 hectares in the Municipalities of Brookes' Point and Sofronio Spaniola while the Filipino enterprise COH has purchased a total of 700 hectares in southern Palawan, also for the establishment of oil palm plantations.

Overall, the municipality of Española has the highest percentage of land under oil palm plantations though they are expanding to other municipalities such as Brooke's Point, Bataraza, Rizal, Quezon, etc.

The Philippines-based advocacy campaign network of indigenous peoples ALDAW has identified the peril of the expansion of oil palm companies and is making a call for the implementation of more restrictive regulations on oil palm expansion to halt deforestation, habitat destruction, food scarcity, and violation of indigenous peoples' rights.

ALDAW invited WRM to make a field trip in November to the municipalities of Española, Quezon and Brooke's Point in order to witness the increasing impacts of oil palm expansion. In our visit we met several members of Palawan indigenous communities in the village of Iraray II in the municipality of Española who complained that their coconut palm orchards were being destroyed by a pest that bored large networks of tiny tunnels into the coconut palm's trunk and started to attack their coconut groves after oil palm plantations expanded in the area. Coconut is very important for local livelihood since it provides multiple products and the dried endocarp (copra) is sold to obtain cash. The destruction of coconut palms is a menace to the household based economy and it will surely increase rural poverty in the affected areas. We could see the bug on one of the yellowish leaves of a decaying coconut palm, a red insect that has been identified by Aldaw as the Red Palm Weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus), native of south Asia. The insect might find it easier to attack coconut trees than oil palm trees sprayed with pesticide. FPP's study reports that in Iraray alone more than 1,000 coconut trees belonging to twenty farmers were affected.

In the municipality of Brooke's Point, the local government of Ipilan has issued a resolution on November 11, 2011 (Resolution Nº 51) requesting the Municipal Government (Sangguniang Bayan) of Brooke's Point, the Provincial Government (Sangguniang Panlalawigan), the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other concerned agencies "to take immediate measures countering the negative impact of oil palm plantations and halting the expansion of such development schemes within the jurisdiction of Barangay Ipilan and neighboring communities" on the grounds that in some locations oil palm development "is already competing and taking over cultivated areas (e.g. rice fields), which are sustaining local self-sufficiency", it is "also expanding into indigenous fallow land (benglay), thus adversely affecting the sustainability of the Palawan farming system (uma)"; and "the herbicides used in oil palm plantations are playing a tool on local biodiversity, causing the dead of several species of birds, as it has been confirmed by farmers and indigenous peoples".

Oil palm expansion has also serious implications for indigenous peoples' access to their ancestral lands not only because toxic chemical inputs, used in industrial oil palm plantations, would pollute watersheds and water supplies but also because rent agreements and land leases with oil palm companies lead to the loss of access and control over their land and its natural resources.

The resolution acknowledges that "there is scarcity of public records showing the processes and procedures (`rent agreements' and `land leases') leading to the issuance of land conversion permits and environmental clearances to palm oil companies"; "members of indigenous communities have `rented' portions of their land to the oil companies, without having a clear understanding of the nature of such `agreements' and without receiving clear contracts countersigned by the companies".

Oil palm is being promoted in the name of "development". But whose development? Quoting ALDAW "when lowland farmers in Palawan talk about `agricultural development' they are mainly concerned on how to improve their wet-rice cultivation and find a steady market for their coconuts and other minor farming produces. When upland indigenous people talk about `agricultural development' they are referring to the availability of sufficient forest land to be converted into swidden fields for upland rice and other crops (sweet potatoes, cassava, taro, maize, sorghum, etc)".

By their sheer nature industrial oil palm plantations are not ecologically sound as long as they deplete biodiversity, and they are certainly not a sustainable livelihood option for small-scale farmers and indigenous peoples.

Opposition to oil palm expansion is mounting in Palawan, and a new international campaign will be launched soon to stop further expansion of such plantations

By Raquel Núñez, WRM, raquelnu@wrm.org.uy, based on the field trip to Palawan led by the team of ALDAW INDIGENOUS NETWORK (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch) and background reports produced by Dario Novellino, of ALDAW.
(*) The Status Of Oil Palm Plantations On Palawan Island (The Philippines), by D. Novellino 2011. This paper has been submitted to Corporate Watch and it will be included in one of their forthcoming publications.


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Saturday, January 28, 2012

[biofuelwatch] Biodiesels pollute more than crude oil, leaked data show


Biodiesels pollute more than crude oil, leaked data show

Published 27 January 2012
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Greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels such as palm oil, soybean and rapeseed are higher than those for fossil fuels when the effects of Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) are counted, according to leaked EU data seen by EurActiv.
The default values assigned to the biofuels compare to those from Canada's oil sands – also known as tar sands – according to the figures, which should be released along with long-awaited legislative proposals on biofuels in the spring.
A spokesperson for the European Commission said she could "not comment on leaked documents, such as impact assessments which have not been published."
But industry and civil society sources described the data as credible and in line with other studies. One said it would sound a death knell for the biodiesel industry, if published.
"I think the science has proved clearly that because of the link to deforestation in places such as South East Asia, a lot of the biodiesels have significantly negative impacts on the climate," Robbie Blake, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth, told EurActiv.
Indirect land-use change
ILUC happens when forests and wetlands are cleared to compensate for lands taken to grow biofuels elsewhere.
One recent report predicted that all of Malaysia's tropical peatswamp forests would be destroyed by the end of the decade because of ILUC - with alarming consequences for greenhouse gas emissions - unless the expansion of palm oil production was halted. 
To measure the climate impact of fuels, Brussels favours assigning default values based on a calculation of their full lifecycle emissions, hence the debate over ILUC factors and biofuels.
In its recent review of the Fuel Quality Directive, the EU proposed a default value of 107g CO2 equivalent per megajoule of fuel (CO2/mj) for oil from tar sands, as compared to 87.5g CO2/mj for crude oil, reflecting the greater environmental harm that its production causes.
Yet while advanced 'second generation' biofuels comfortably outperform fossil fuels in the EU's new data, palm oil is ascribed a value of 105g, soybean 103g, rapeseed 95g, and sunflower 86g, once ILUC is factored in.
The data propose ILUC-incorporating CO2/mj values for biofuels as follows:
  • Palm Oil - 105g
  • Soybean – 103g
  • Rapeseed – 95g
  • Sunflower – 86g
  • Palm Oil with methane capture – 83g
  • Wheat (process fuel not specified) – 64g
  • Wheat (as process fuel natural gas used in CHP) – 47g
  • Corn (Maize) – 43g
  • Sugar Cane – 36g
  • Sugar Beet – 34g
  • Wheat (straw as process fuel in CHP plants) – 35g
  • 2G Ethanol (land-using) – 32g
  • 2G Biodiesel (land-using) – 21g
  • 2G Ethanol (non-land using) – 9g
  • 2G Biodiesel (non-land using) – 9g
Isabelle Maurizi, a spokesperson for the European Biodiesel Board, told EurActiv that data such as the leaked biofuels values, and recent reports by the EU's Joint Research Centre, the European Environmental Agency, and the International Food Policy Research Institute, were not consistent with research in the US.
"We do not recognise the validity of the science due to discrepancies in the results. The science is not grounded yet and is still immature so we would favour incentives in policy-making rather than punitive proposals," she said.
Any application of the leaked values could severely hamper the ability of biodiesel manufacturers to enter into the EU's new biofuels certification plan, announced last August.
This stipulates that certification only be awarded to biofuels which emit 35% less greenhouse gas than petrol, with the figure rising to 60% from 2018.
Advanced biofuels producers believe they would meet this standard and Rob Vierhout, the secretary-general of ePURE, a renewable ethanol association, said that the EU needed "a different shade of ILUC factor."
"If indeed the effects on land use change depend on the feedstock that they're using, then this has to be recognised in the policy," he told EurActiv.
In April 2009, the EU legislated that renewable energy sources such as biofuels should make up 10% of Europe's transportation fuels mix by 2020, and this has legal as well as financial consequences.
Market signals
Nusa Urbancic, of the Transport & Environment pressure group, called for the EU to "send a clear signal to the markets about which are the future biofuels that we want."
"We have enough biodiesel to meet the current target which is a problem for the sector, because they overinvested following a different policy signal and to some extent their investments should be protected," she told EurActiv.
But with scientific knowledge of the climate advantages that advanced biofuels offered "there is no excuse now not to act to resolve that [problem]," she added.
A report published by the French national auditor on 24 January found that although farmers gained from the EU's current biofuels policy, environmental benefits were 'questionable' and motorists ended up having to consume more fuel and pay high prices.
Kåre Riis Nielsen, Director for European Affairs, Novozymes told EurActiv: "There is a clear cut between those biofuels that are not able to reach the 35% greenhouse gas emissions targets if you include ILUC, and those that are. Our position is that any new policy should be based on ILUC. It should promote the best-performing biofuels and focus on making sure that they are on the market and that the advanced biofuels are promoted and deployed."
For the European Biodiesel Board, Isabelle Maurizi said that "Biodiesel is one of the means to reach the EU's 10% target of renewable supply in transport and we should keep in mind that is a renewable alternative to fossil fuel."
"It is always a bit hard to do legislation based on reports with so many discrepancies," she continued. "The International Food Policy Research Institute study which is most likely to be used by the European Commission has loopholes and shortcomings in the methodology that we have underlined. The US results are the exact opposite. Ethanol is worse than biodiesel whereas in Europe it's the complete opposite."
Rob Vierhout, the secretary-general of ePURE told EurActiv that one reason for the discrepancy could be that Ethanol in the US was made from corn, unlike in Europe. "As far as I know, they don't use sugar beet either and it is the best-performing ethanol in the world. Also many power plants in the US are also running on lignite coal, which we hardly have in Europe. So you are comparing apples with pears if you say the numbers should be the same in Europe. It's a different feedstock and processing technology."
Robbie Blake, the biofuels spokesman for Friends of the Earth told EurActiv that biodiesel investors should have researched their stock portfolio more thoroughly. "If I was an investor in the biodiesel industry then I would have been betting on an industry that's causing deforestation and is certainly not delivering the clean green fuels that it promises," he said.  
But the EU's biofuels plans too should have been better considered, he said: "I think we can draw a clear conclusion that if member states stick to the plans they have laid out already then it's clear that it will cause an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and that's especially the case when we rely on cheap but very damaging palm and soy oil."
Nusa Urbancic, the biofuels expert for Transport and Environment said that it was "difficult to say" whether the EU's biofuels policy had increased greenhouse gas emissions in the past, because of the lack of reliable monitoring data. "But these [leaked EU] figures give a sense of what will happen in the future if we don't act," she told EurActiv.
"Assuming that existing demand stays as it is and increases by the amount predicted in the national action plans, most of that increase will be met by those biodiesel crops that are deemed to increase emissions compared to fossil fuels. So we can say with a lot of certainty that there is a risk that if we continue with current policies, emissions will increase instead of decrease."



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[biofuelwatch] BP investing in cellulosic fuels from grasses


By  Bob Brooks  published at: www.ai-online.com  October 2011


       A BP executive was quoted recently that biofuels are obtained from "renewable wells" which is an oil man's way of saying we are drilling for energy as usual but for different raw material. Key to the favorable outlook for BP biofuels is not only "renewable well" drilling  but also the firm's complete vertical integration from production of the raw material through all stages up to and including retail sale of fuel at  BP's 10,750  filling stations including 5600 with diesel pumps . A spokesman for BP indicates the company wide program investment has been $2 billion since 2006 and currently involves over 4000 employees worldwide of which approximately 300 are part of the domestic U.S. development program.   


      Based on information supplied by BP spokesmen and published sources, BP's biofuel program is focused on cellulosic raw material in the form of high yield energy grasses that grow to a height of 12 to 15 ft with ethanol yield/acre 4-5 times greater than corn ethanol. The grasses can be harvested annually on a rotation basis coordinated with fuel processing plant production schedules.  Cultivation is planned in southern U.S.; harvested with essentially conventional agricultural equipment . The perennial energy grasses have modest requirements for both water and fertilizer.  Replanting is needed only every 7-8 years.


        BP biofuels initial focus is very strategic – low cost feedstocks, converted via biological fermentation that starts with ethanol then targeted at butanol as an important molecule. Butanol, unlike ethanol, has energy content per gallon close to gasoline,  can be added at a higher percentage in gasoline (at least 16%) without  engine modification and can be blended with gasoline for

shipment via pipeline. The BP/DuPont joint venture, Butamax, is an essential part of the butanol program.


        BP's first large scale biofuel production will begin later this year in a $400 million  plant in Kent, UK.  In this one case, plant input is 1.1 million tons/yr of locally grown wheat harvested from East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire for planned output of 500,000 tons/yr of animal feed and 420 million liters/yr of ethanol with production to be converted later to butanol. The UK firm is named Vivergo Fuels; a joint venture of BP, British Sugar and DuPont.


         Verenium became  a key part of the BP biofuels program when Verenium's ligonocellulosic assets were acquired by BP in 2010 for $98.3 million.  (Verenium's entire biofuel business has since been acquired by BP).  Verenium's unique developments in the field of enzymatic bioprocesses replace inefficient, often harsh chemical processes vital to BP's energy grasess based alcohol production.  Verenium assets include a large scale demonstration plant in Louisiana from which production systems for grasses to ethanol have evolved. Also acquired is Verenium's global technology center in San Diego and a project in Florida.


        BP's first energy grasses conversion to ethanol facility at scale in the U.S. will be named Highlands Ethanol in Highlands County, Florida which is being constructed at a cost in excess of $400 million for initial output of 36 million/gal/yr of ethanol with about 200 employees for operation of  the facility and 600 to 800 contractor employees during construction.


        To date, 3500 acres of the planned 20,000 acre farm including roads and ditches have been constructed with 1500 acres planted this year. More will be constructed and planted next year. BP Biofuels will break ground on the conversion facility in 2012 with construction to take about 2 years. Subsequent plants are planned for label capacity of 72 million/gal/yr. Lignocellulosic conversion of C5 and C6 sugars to ethanol is said to provide about 60% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions when used in cars as fuel which compares with 18-29% reduction with corn ethanol.


         The energy grasses for Highlands Ethanol will be grown by BP Biofuels on land leased from Lykes Brothers, an experienced Florida agricultural firm. BP Biofuels will plant, cultivate and harvest the 20,000 acres of unique grasses. Larger facilities are targeted to receive energy grasses raw material from up to 50,000 acres each. Farmer grower Agreements will be considered by BP Biofuels for its future farms in addition to leasing and growing themselves.  It is indicated that energy grasses crop yields per acre/yr are expected to be favorable across the southern Gulf States which have vast land areas, warm temperatures, plenty of sun and sufficient rainfall.    


       As part of BP Biofuels evolving plan to become a major producer of new fuel from "renewable wells", are ongoing efforts to move the biofuel technology forward. One aspect of this is contract work by Mendel Technology which has worked with BP to find additional energy grass varieties one of which may be "miscanthus" said to provide superior greenhouse gas reductions and soil health with fertility, water holding, high

temperature, and biodiversity advantages.


          Another part of BP's biofuel future has been contracted to Royal DSM which has been tasked to find a optimum way to make diesel fuel from plant sugars.


         BP's energy grasses based fuel business suggests a long list of possible implications in the U.S, one of which is the question of the degree to which southern states may seek to attract new industry and related jobs by supporting land access for energy grasses cultivation and processing. Another is the enormous pressure from the U.S. military for domestic source biofuel for national security reasons. This, of course, hinges on diesel and Jet-A fuel production as potential follow on products from BP's energy grasses sugar technology.


       The implications of a potentially very large new source of U.S. domestic, low carbon fuel financed by a World class energy company willing to invest heavily in biofuels,  is enormous, to say the least.  If the planned Florida processing plant achieves its ethanol label capacity of 36 million/gal/yr with energy

grasses from 20,000 acres,  this translates into yield rate of 1800 gal/acre which is above the high side of reported industry cellulosic ethanol data. Further gain in grasses growth rate and shortened

harvesting cycle time would add even more value to the project.


         Following ethanol and butanol, success with energy grasses conversion into petroleum fuelalternatives would further enhance BP's ability to meet  U.S. energy objectives.     


          (Not discussed in this report is BP's large, established investment in Brazilian sugar cane sourced fuel. Ethanol yield per acre/yr from sugar cane is less than half the ethanol yield from energy grasses planned for the U.S., hence is a somewhat different subject). 


                                                                                30                                                          10/21/11

Rachel Smolker
Biofuelwatch/Energy Justice Network
802.482.2848 (o)
802.735 7794 (m)
skype: Rachel Smolker

respect existence or expect resistance


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