UN warns biofuels do more harm than good

April 4, 2014

The United Nations has admitted that growing crops to make “green” biofuel harms the environment and drives up food prices.

A leaked draft of a UN report condemns the widespread use of biofuels made from crops as a replacement for petrol and diesel. It says that biofuels, rather than combating the effects of global warming, could make them worse.

The draft report represents a dramatic about-turn for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Its previous assessment on climate change, in 2007, was widely condemned by environmentalists for giving the green light to large-scale biofuel production. The latest report instead puts pressure on world leaders to scrap policies promoting the use of biofuel for transport.

The summary for policymakers states: “Increasing bioenergy crop cultivation poses risks to ecosystems and biodiversity.”

Biofuels were once billed as the green alternative to fossil fuels, but environmental campaigners have voiced concern about them for some time.

They note that growing biofuel crops on a large scale requires either the conversion of agricultural land used for food crops or the destruction of forests to free up land, possibly offsetting any reduction in carbon emissions from the use of biofuels.

Other concerns include increased stress on water supplies and rising corn prices as a result of increased demand for the crop, which is fermented to produce biofuel. . .

Growing plants especially to make biofuels is an example of a supposedly environmentally   friendly practice which isn’t, and it makes food more expensive too.

Z Energy’s plans to make biofuel from beef tallow might stack up better.

Z Energy has announced plans for a $21 million biodiesel plant that will produce fuel from inedible tallow feedstock.

The listed company said the investment would be made over the 2015 financial year and would produce 20 million litres of sustainable biodiesel a year.

It would be manufactured from inedible tallow feedstock, essentially beef fat, and satisfy New Zealand and European fuel specifications.

The plant would be built in Auckland. . .

Tallow is used for making candles and soap not food.

 

 

 


Rural round-up

August 25, 2013

Rabo back US dairy as Fonterra reveals milk hitch – Agrimoney:

Rabobank highlighted the potential for the US to grow dairy exports as New Zealand-based Fonterra. investigating the botulism scare which prompted product recalls, revealed a milk powder withdrawal.

Tim Hunt, US-based global dairy strategist at Rabobank, said that the US “could emerge as a significant competitor” in dairy exports, thanks to a slowdown in domestic demand at a time of elevated international prices.

Already prices of some US dairy exports are showing significant growth, with milk powder exports rising from some 300,000 tonnes in 2007 to 500,000 tonnes last year, and cheese shipments rising from 100,000 to 250,000 tonnes over the same period. . .

Kiwi-run Chinese dairy farm far cry from home -

As Fonterra works to rebuild its reputation in China, it will face competition from other dairy companies trying to grow their share of the market.

One is popular brand Wondermilk, which is produced by a Taiwanese-American company, but the farm manager is a Kiwi.

An hour’s drive northeast of Beijing, past scenes of dramatic urban development, is a small piece of modern agricultural China. And New Zealander Berwick Settle leads us to “Red Star”, the newest of three facilities he manages for Hua Xia Dairy Farm. . .

Restructure losses may be huge - Annette Scott:

The loss of experience and knowledge to the agricultural industry could be huge under the proposed AgResearch restructure, agribusiness professor Jacqueline Rowarth says.

AgResearch announced this month 180 jobs at Ruakura and 85 from AgResearch’s Invermay site near Dunedin would be lost to its Lincoln campus in a $100 million proposal to create large campuses at Grasslands, in Palmerston North, and at Lincoln.

“History tells us globally that only 10% (of scientists) will go (to the new site) and that’s a huge loss of capability,” Rowarth said.

“When Wallaceville in Upper Hutt and Hurley Pasture Research Centre in the UK closed, 90% of people, for a variety of reasons, did not relocate. . .

Biofuels plants key to UK wheat price outlook – Agrimoney:

Success in efforts to bring two major biofuel plants onstream may have an undue impact on UK wheat values, in determining the level of supplies needed to be priced to compete on export markets.

Wheat futures for November touched £151.00 a tonne in London last week, the lowest for a spot contract in 19 months, in a slump attributed to growing harvest hopes leaving the country with hefty supplies to sell abroad.

Harvest estimates, some of which fell below 11.5m tonnes after a cold spring followed an unusually wet autumn and winter, have risen substantially after early harvest results showed far better yields than had been expected. . .

Forests to help create fresh air:

A Hawke’s Bay couple have just launched a Fresh Air Forests service to let people like travellers, businesses and landowners measure and counteract the effects of transport, travel and accommodation.

People taking part buy trees to create native forests.

Fresh Air Forests has growing sites at Lake Waikopiro and on Mount Kahuranaki on retired and protected land in Hawke’s Bay for generations ahead to enjoy.

“We are serious about making a difference, now and in the future so the idea of pledging trees to create a native forest made a lot of sense,” director Colin Pirie, who runs the venture with wife Wendy, said. . .

Their website is www.freshairforests.co.nz.

Farm tree planting together is fun - Pasture to Profit:
Planting farm trees is best when you plant with community friends. I had a great day tree planting in a wetland area on farm with 30 new friends. It was really fun! So much fun that I will continue to invite the community rather than using contractors.
 
The environment and protecting the quality of our rivers & streams is a community responsibility. Farms need to engage their local communities in helping to plant trees,  Trees that are aesthetically beautiful, trees that are ECO-Sourced, trees for bees, trees that reduce N leaching. . .

Rural round-up

July 26, 2013

Report confirms drought worst in nearly 70 years:

A comparative study on the 2013 drought released today by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) confirms it was one of the most extreme on record for New Zealand and the worst since 1945-46. The 2013 drought was also one of the most widespread New Zealand has experienced with only the drought of 1972-73 that affected Wairarapa, Tasman, Otago and Southland coming close to its geographical spread.

The report states that the cause of the drought was not El Niño but in fact slow-moving or ‘blocking’ high pressure systems over the Tasman Sea and New Zealand over summer.

Commissioned by MPI and undertaken by NIWA, the study looked at two sets of data records – NIWA’s gridded Virtual Climate Station Network that goes back to 1972, and longer-term station records that go back to the early 1940s. . .

Animal cruelty has no place in the dairy industry:

Federated Farmers, DairyNZ and the New Zealand Veterinary Association, takes a strong stance against animal cruelty on-farms and breaking tails is unacceptable stockmanship.

“As a farmer it saddens me to hear these animal welfare charges because it goes against the very nature of a person working with animals.

“Mr Beaumont broke 40 tails out of the 200 cattle he harmed, goes against the very nature of a person who works with animals. It is indefensible, and he has let the industry down by letting his anger get the better of him,” says Chris Lewis, Waikato Dairy chairperson. . .

Drought takes its toll on Fonterra’s forecast:

Federated Farmers is not surprised Fonterra Cooperative Group has announced a decrease in its 2013 forecast earnings before interest and taxation. This is due to the impact of the drought and pressures in its Australian operations.

“I think farmers will be relieved Fonterra has reconfirmed the forecast cash payout will remain unchanged for the 2012/13 season at $6.12. However, the reality of this announcement is that everything has a flow on effect,” says Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers Dairy vice-chairperson.

“All those people who have looked at the increased prices on the Global Dairy Trade (GDT) platform and then decided to buy more Fonterra units on the stock exchange may not have understood how it all works. Increases in GDT prices actually mean tighter margins as the base commodities that Fonterra uses to make its own products also rise in price. . .

Livestock Improvement FY profit falls 3% as bull value gains slow - Tina Morrison:

 Livestock Improvement Corp., a farmer cooperative that sells bull semen and provides a dairy genetics database, posted a 3 percent drop in annual profit because its elite breeding bulls didn’t increase in value as much as the previous year.

Profit fell to $23.7 million in the year ended May 31, from $24.4 million a year earlier, the Hamilton-based company said in a statement. The value of its 866 elite breeding bulls rose $2.7 million compared with a $9.4 million gain on its 870 bulls the year earlier.

LIC, as the company is known, is farmer owned through cooperative control shares and investment shares that trade on the NZAX market. The company, which excludes changes in elite bull valuations when setting returns to shareholders, will pay a record dividend of 54.91 cents per investment share, and 8.4 cents per cooperative control share. . .

Stump to Pump programme receives PGP funding boost:

An innovation programme that will pave the way for generating more value from forestry waste by converting it to liquid biofuels is to receive government funding through the Primary Growth Partnership.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has approved co-funding of $6.75 million for the 14-month ‘Stump to Pump’ PGP programme.

Stump to Pump partners Norske Skog and Z Energy will match funding of $6.75 million, bringing the project’s total funding to $13.5 million.

This relatively short-term PGP programme will study the feasibility, including the cost-effectiveness, of making biofuel from forestry waste. It will determine the commercial viability of establishing a modular test plant to process New Zealand forest waste into sustainable transport fuel. . .

Precision Agriculture Association wins bid to host international conference:

The recently-formed Precision Agriculture Association of New Zealand (PAANZ) will host the International Asian Conference on Precision Agriculture in 2017.

The bid was submitted in South Korea and New Zealand beat three other countries – Malaysia, India and Indonesia – for hosting rights. The conference is one of three large international conferences on precision agriculture (PA) held around the world each year. The 2013 conference was held in South Korea and attracted more than 150 attendees.

PAANZ Chairman Peter Barrowclough said the successful bid to host the conference was an early demonstration of the value of now having a national precision agriculture organisation up and running in New Zealand. “And, with our changing export markets and increasingly strong linkages with South East Asia, this will be an excellent vehicle for New Zealand to improve its global networks,” he said. . .


Biofuel growth fuels hunger

January 11, 2013

As Biofuel Demand Grows, So Do Guatemala’s Hunger Pangs, Elizabeth Rosenthal writes:

Recent laws in the United States and Europe that mandate the increasing use of biofuel in cars have had far-flung ripple effects, economists say, as land once devoted to growing food for humans is now sometimes more profitably used for churning out vehicle fuel.

In a globalized world, the expansion of the biofuels industry has contributed to spikes in food prices and a shortage of land for food-based agriculture in poor corners of Asia, Africa and Latin America because the raw material is grown wherever it is cheapest.

Nowhere, perhaps, is that squeeze more obvious than in Guatemala, which is “getting hit from both sides of the Atlantic,” in its fields and at its markets, said Timothy Wise, a Tufts University development expert who is studying the problem globally with Actionaid, a policy group based in Washington that focuses on poverty.

The USA is using 40% of its corn for biofuel. As a direct consequence of that corn prices in Guatemala which imports nearly half of its corn, have doubled.

Land in Guatemala that was used for growing corn is now producing sugar cane and African palm for bioethanol exports to Europe.

In a country where most families must spend about two thirds of their income on food, “the average Guatemalan is now hungrier because of biofuel development,” said Katja Winkler, a researcher at Idear, a Guatemalan nonprofit organization that studies rural issues. Roughly 50 percent of the nation’s children are chronically malnourished, the fourth-highest rate in the world, according to the United Nations.

The American renewable fuel standard mandates that an increasing volume of biofuel be blended into the nation’s vehicle fuel supply each year to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and to bolster the nation’s energy security. Similarly, by 2020, transportation fuels in Europe will have to contain 10 percent biofuel. . .

But many worry that Guatemala’s poor are already suffering from the diversion of food to fuel. “There are pros and cons to biofuel, but not here,” said Misael Gonzáles of C.U.C., a labor union for Guatemala’s farmers. “These people don’t have enough to eat. They need food. They need land. They can’t eat biofuel, and they don’t drive cars.”

The increase in crops grown for biofuel has helped the sale of New Zealand beef in the USA.

But that benefit for us comes at a high cost for the people in places like Guatemala.


Rural round-up

January 7, 2013

Rabbit rise may bring 1080 response – Gerald Piddock:

Environment Canterbury’s annual count shows that rabbit numbers are on the rise in the Mackenzie Basin and Omarama.

The regional council monitors rabbit trends every year and the latest draft analysis showed a noticeable increase of rabbits in the Mackenzie Basin, eastern Mackenzie around Haldon Rd and in Omarama.

ECan’s biosecurity team leader, Brent Glentworth, expected there would be some large 1080 operations this summer, particularly on the eastern side of the Mackenzie, as land owners battle to keep rabbit numbers down. . .

UK biofuels influence NZ wheats:

European, notably UK, breeding programmes, growers at PGW’s agronomy group field day last week heard.

 Europe is normally a regular exporter of wheat, but three massive biofuel plants have created an extra 2mt of demand for wheat, preferably high starch soft milling types that maximise ethanol yield, Limagrain’s UK director of sales and New Zealand coordinator, Alastair Moore (pictured), explained.

“We’re seeing quite a drive to the soft wheat end and a lot of the new varieties recommended [in the UK] were in that category.” . .

Insecticide removal would hit crops hard – Gerald Piddock:

Seed and cereal farmers face a major risk to their productivity and profitability from the removal of organophosphate insecticides from the market.

Current control practices used by farmers, particularly during crop establishment rely heavily on organophosphates which are currently the subject of a review and re-regulation by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

Organophosphate insecticides are used by farmers to control grass grub, one of the country’s most destructive plant pests. . .

Van der Heyden works till end:

OUTGOING FONTERRA chairman Henry van der Heyden will be using the next five months as a director to help execute the co-op’s strategy refresh.

Van der Heyden is defending his decision to stay on the board after relinquishing the chairmanship to John Wilson. He says the decision has been taken in the interest of the co-op. Some shareholders have questioned the decision.
Van der Heyden says he has always done what is right for Fonterra. . .

Kirkwood takes vote for council – Gerald Piddock:

Oamaru dairy farmer Greg Kirkwood is the new Fonterra Shareholders councillor for ward 32 in Southern Canterbury.

Mr Kirkwood was elected to the council ahead of Geraldine dairy farmer Ad Hendriks.

He takes over from Desiree Reid, who retired from the position by rotation.

Mr Kirkwood said he put his name forward for the Shareholders Council because he wanted to get involved more in the co-operative.

Raw milk health risks under review:

Since the 1950s, New Zealand’s commercial milk supply has been pasteurised – treated with heat to kill bacteria – and most of us have swallowed the official position, that untreated milk is potentially dangerous to drink.

But there’s a growing trend of consumers wanting their food in a natural state, and that includes milk. They say raw milk is not only safe, it’s better for you, and a major study is underway to see if they’re right.

Most of us buy our milk pasteurised and from a dairy or supermarket fridge. But for mums like Angela Jones that’s changing. She’s one of thousands of townies making a regular trek to a trusted farmer to buy raw milk at the farm gate. . .


Spot the link

September 2, 2011

Could there be a link between this:

Biofuels regain momentum:

Global biofuel production increased by 17 percent in 2010 to reach an all-time high of 105 billion liters.1 (See Figure 1.) The increase exceeded the 10 percent growth experienced in 2009, when production was at 90 billion liters.2 Biofuels provided 2.7 percent of all global fuel for road transportation—an increase from 2 percent in 2009.3

And this:

Price of breakfast soars:

The average cost of feeding a family breakfast is 11.7 per cent higher today   than it was one year ago, with the price of some staple items rising by over   40 per cent. Official figures last week put overall inflation in the UK at   4.4 per cent . . .  

The rising prices of basic commodities such as wheat, sugar, coffee and   vegetable oil – which form the basis of many breakfast foods – have been   blamed for the inflation-busting increases.

Tim Worstall thinks so. He says breakfast is getting more expensive and biofuels are to blame:

You’ll note that three of the four are items that are used to make biofuels. . .

The price of eggs is largely determined by the price of corn which is….yes,
another crop that is used to make biofuels. I think I’m right in saying that
some 40% of the entire American crop is currently turned into ethanol.

This is, quite sadly, simply evidence of the quite lunatic idea that we
should be putting food into cars rather than people. The idea itself is bad
enough but we then have the governmental insistence (on both sides of the
Atlantic, the US and the EU) that such fuels must be used. There is no choice in
the matter, we are not allowed to avoid starving people.

An increase in renewable fuels, particularly if they are cleaner burning, is a worthy aim but feeding people is more important than heating and moving them.

Crops for food should always take precedence over crops for fuel.


Moo pooh for biofuel?

November 21, 2009

Algae which grows on ponds of human waste water in Christchurch is being turned into bio oil.

If it works for human waste it must work for animal waste too.

Could  moo pooh biofuel be produced from the effluent from dairy sheds?


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