Dec 25, 2008

Fuel for the rich or food for the poor?

Fraser Nelson - UK

Is biofuel a cause worth dying for? Or, more specifically, is the West so sold on the idea that we’re willing to let the poor starve as we fill our cars with the grain it would take to feed a man for nine months? This FAO report from the United Nations counts the damage: 75 million more in undernourished this year as a result of higher crop prices. And, as we now know, from a leaked World Bank report, biofuel production is responsible for three quarters of these price increases.

The UN is in a tricky situation here, as it also organises the IPCC – a collection of the world’s environment departments. So while not apportioning blame, the UN report does name environmentalism as an aggravating factor:-

The emerging biofuel market is a significant source of demand for some agricultural commodities, such as sugar, maize, cassava, oilseeds and palm oil. The stronger demand for these commodities caused a surge in their prices in world markets, which in turn has led to higher food prices.

Biofuel demand is likely to continue its rapid growth, partly driven by high oil prices and government policies partly by slow developments in widespread adoption of second generation biofuels and technologies…. The proportion of the world’s arable land devoted to growng biomass for liquid biofuels could triple in the next 20 years.

People are starving on this small planet of ours, and the rich world grows crops to put into our cars. Britain should have nothing to do with this, but we don’t have control. A 2003 EU Directive commits us to having 5 percent of petrol and diesel sold come from biofuel by December 2010. This directive was agreed before it was clear the harm that biofuels does to the world’s poor. Gordon Brown actually understands the biofuel and poverty issue. He wants to pick a fight with Europe next year, this one has his name written all over it.

Lampung builds special school to support bioenergy program

Oyos Saroso H.N.,
The Jakarta Post, Bandarlampung Dec.23, 2008

The Lampung provincial administration is building an integrated biofuel school in Central Lampung regency as part of its plan to become a national bioenergy center. Construction of the special school in Sulusuban village, Central Lampung, is expected to cost Rp 216 billion (US$19.6 million), funded by the central government (50 percent), province (30 percent) and regency (20 percent). Construction work commenced in the middle of the year and is scheduled for completion in 2017.

Head of the Lampung office Development Planning Board, Suryono S.W., said the school would be located within the compound of the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) in Sulusuban village in Seputihagung district.

"The budgeted Rp 216 billion will be used to build the school, from elementary to university levels. A vocational school will be built in the initial phase, followed by a polytechnic," Suryono said recently.

"Both schools will focus on the field of bioenergy. The integrated school will also be associated with BPPT's large-scale projects."

According to Suryono, the Lampung provincial administration is serious about turning the province into a center for renewable energy. It is also actively seeking to attract investors in building cassava- and jatropha-based biofuel plants, as well as supporting and empowering farmers to cultivate the crops.

"A number of investors from South Korea and China have currently signed memorandums of understanding with the Lampung administration to build bioenergy plants. BPPT in Sulusuban has also spearheaded bioethanol development in Indonesia," Suryono said.

"So it's very timely that the administration is working with the BPPT in setting up and developing the special school."

He said the potential for bioenergy in Lampung was very promising because of the area's vast cassava plantations and a number of bioethanol plants in Central and North Lampung regencies.

"They should be supported by skilled workers in the field of bioenergy. That's why we have built the integrated bioenergy school," he added.

The cooperation with BPPT, said Suryono, took the form of land use and provision of teaching staff.

"BPPT has provided 317 hectares for the school, and construction commenced this year," he said.

A number of investors have been building bioethanol factories in Lampung since 2006. PT Medco, for instance, has invested $40 million in North Lampung in developing renewable bioethanol at an output capacity of 60 million liters annually.

The plant also produces biogas to feed boilers, 33,000 metric tons of liquid carbon dioxide, 13,000 metric tons of organic fertilizer and 118,000 liters of fusel oil.

In Central Lampung, PT Medco has built a biodiesel plant based on crude palm oil at a cost of around $6 million, deriving raw materials from palm oil farmers.

For raw materials, PT Medco has developed a partnership program encompassing six districts in Central Lampung over a total of 7,901 hectares: Pubiam (1,773 ha), Padang Ratu (1,939 ha), Selagai Lingga (1,178 ha), Sendang Agung (972 ha), Anak Tuha (1,662 ha) and Anak Ratu Aji (377 ha).

PT Madu Lampung Indah has also set up a bioethanol plant with an output capacity of 50 million liters annually. It is currently using about 1,600 hectares of cassava farms and expects to be able to manage 4,000 hectares of cassava farms in partnership programs with farmers in East and South Lampung regencies.

The Lampung BPPT office has been developing bioenergy fuel since the 1980s, with the arrival of equipment bought with the assistance of the Japanese government. Researchers at BPPT have conducted further studies on other raw materials for bioethanol, such as sugarcane, corn and other crops.

Earlier, Lampung BPPT researchers developed raw material for bioethanol from molasses at a 20.5 percent sugar content. However, sugarcane supplies were limited at the time because of the demand from the food industry.

One BPPT researcher, Arief Yudiarto, said that, according to Lampung BPPT's estimates, Indonesia would have to set up 50 new bioethanol-processing plants by 2010 if the entire petroleum demand in Indonesia were replaced by gasohol, which has an ethanol content of 10 percent (Gasohol BE-10).

"That is if Indonesia wants to be serious about developing renewable energies," Arief said.

Cassava - Google News