Knowledge for Development

General


A Sustainable Biofuels Consensus

Hosted by the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center; Bellagio, Italy, 24-28 March 2008. Understanding the many drivers for sustainable trade, consumption and production of biofuels, and the comparative advantage of supplying regions combined with demand and technology from consuming regions.

29/07/2008


Assessment of the biofuels industry in India

The current manufacturing cost of ethanol and biodiesel in India is about Rs. 21/litre ($0.46/litre), roughly the same as petrol and diesel. This puts biofuels in a favourable position for meeting India’s energy needs, especially as the cost of petroleum is expected to continue its upward trend. In addition to providing energy security and a decreased dependence on oil imports, biofuels offer several significant benefits such as reduced emission of pollutants and greenhouse gases and increased employment in the agricultural sector. The ethanol industry, though mature, can benefit from improved agricultural practices in sugarcane cultivation, more efficient production processes and the use of alternate feed stocks including cellulosic material. On the other hand, the biodiesel industry is at the incubation stage and large-scale Jatropha cultivation and the infrastructure for oilseed collection and oil extraction must be established before the industry can be placed on a rapid-growth track. Read this document

16/04/2007


Bio-fuels research in the CGIAR: A Perspective from the Science Council

SC Secretariat, 24 April 2008. There are serious concerns about the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy and nutrient and water use efficiency of large-scale, first generation bio-energy feedstocks currently in use. A major question is whether biofuels obtained from these feedstocks are effective in combating climate change and what impact they will have on soil and water resources. Another fundamental issue relates to the magnitude and nature of their impact on food prices and ultimately on the livelihoods of the poor. A possible solution to overcome the current potentially large negative effects of large-scale biofuel production is developing second and third generation conversion techniques from agricultural residues and wastes and step up the scientific research efforts to achieve sustainable biofuel production practices. Until such sustainable techniques are available governments should scale back their support for and promotion of biofuels. Multipurpose feedstocks should be investigated making use of the bio-refinery concept (bio-based economy).

30/06/2008


Biofuels: The Promise and the Risks

Agriculture for Development Policy Brief, World Bank World Development Report 2008Biofuels offer a potential source of renewable energy and could lead to large new markets for agricultural producers. However, few current biofuel programs are economically viable, and most have social and environmental costs: upward pressure on food prices, intensified competition for land and water, and possibly deforestation. National biofuel strategies need to be based on a thorough assessment of those opportunities and costs. Globally, lower tariffs and subsidies in industrial countries will be essential for ensuring efficient allocation of biofuels production and guaranteeing social benefits to small farmers in developing countries.

29/07/2008


Biogas technology: a training manual for extension

This manual contains a complete set of training materials on the following topics: (1) system approach to biogas technology; (2) relevance of biogas technology to Nepal; (3) biogas programmes; (4) utilization of slurry as feed and fertilizer; (5) installation cost and financial viability; (6) subsidy and institutional financing; (7) field visit for observation of biogas plants; (8) extension support services for biogas; (9) quality standards; and (10) monitoring and evaluation. Read this document

16/04/2007


Biogass processes for sustainable development

This review attempts to present only very basic information on the engineering aspect, while giving a more detailed description of the biochemistry and microbiology, and emphasizing the economic and socio-cultural aspects of biogas programs and the uses of the products of the anaerobic digestion process, especially as they may be applied in developing countries. It is intended to update students, practitioners and consultants concerned with biogas technologies, and to contribute to bringing biogas systems to a more advanced stage, and thereby to achieve a palpable impact in developing countries. Read this document

16/04/2007


Clean energy and development: towards an investment framework

This World Bank paper takes a global perspective rather than a Bank-centric one, covering three interlocking and complementary issues: (i) the need for, and investment requirements of, meeting modern energy needs for developing countries over the long term in a manner that provides attention to efficiency and local environmental considerations; (ii) the additional steps needed in the energy, transport, and industrial sectors to address climate change mitigation through the reduction of greenhouse gases; and (iii) the impact of climate change and the need for developing countries to adequately adapt to changes in climate and weather variability. These three issues are critical to the World Bank’s core mission of poverty reduction and the realization of many of the Millennium Development Goals, and build upon existing World Bank strategies. Read this document

16/04/2007


Essay: the promises and challenges of biofuels for the poor in developing countries

The high demand for energy and the apparent enormous potential of biofuels are no guarantee that small farmers and poor people in developing countries will receive the benefits. Creating an industry that helps the neediest people improve their lives and livelihoods will require careful management at all levels. This management includes taking the necessary steps to develop a global market and trade regime with transparent standards for biofuels. Read this document

16/04/2007


Ethanol from cellulose: a general review

Ethanol-from-cellulose (EFC) holds great potential due to the widespread availability, abundance, and relatively low cost of cellulosic materials. However, although several EFC processes are technically feasible, cost-effective processes have been difficult to achieve. Only recently have cost-effective EFC technologies begun to emerge. Ethanol can be made synthetically from petroleum or by microbial conversion of biomass materials through fermentation. In 1995, about 93% of the ethanol in the world was produced by fermentation and about 7% by the synthetic method. The fermentation method generally uses three steps: (1) the formation of a solution of fermentable sugars, (2) the fermentation of these sugars to ethanol, and (3) the separation and purification of the ethanol, usually by distillation. Read this document

16/04/2007


Ethics of Biofuels

The 12 principles for the creation of a just and ethical biofuel production are outlined. Ultimately, such a biofueled economy must be accompanied by dramatic agricultural reforms, if we are to see positive net energy returns and also avoid an increase in world hunger and economic inequity. The transfer of the current industrialized, inequitable, amoral system over to biofuel production is not acceptable, because it will cause widespread hunger, because it will increase economic inequity and also because unless we reduce the fossil fuel inputs required for the growing of most energy crops, we will never be able to grow fuels cheaply and efficiently enough to make a difference in our energy needs. Read this document

16/04/2007


Linkages between energy and water management for agriculture in developing countries

At this international conference, which was organized by IWMI, FAO, ICRISAT, IWREC, and BWI, research scientists and experts addressed two key areas: (1) what is the potential of “carbon neutral” biofuels to contribute to the energy economy, and how would such developments affect food prices, demand for water, and incomes of the poor? and (2) what impacts do rising energy prices have for groundwater use and management, and the financial viability of electricity suppliers? The maximum potential contribution of biofuels is probably limited to 20% of the petrol and diesel market compared to 2-3% at present. Biofuels are most likely to increase farm incomes if treated as a business activity involving farmers and industries facilitated by supportive government policies. From a poverty perspective, these gains will somewhat offset the impact of higher prices on poor, urban consumers. At the local level small-scale biofuel production can help communities increase energy self-sufficiency for domestic uses. The conference participants agreed that rising energy costs are a major threat to future water and food security raising important new challenges for researchers, businesses, and governments. Read this document

16/04/2007


The big three: the numbers behind ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel in the U.S.

So far, three fuels have emerged to lead the U.S. biofuels pack: corn (maize) ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel. They are hailed as carbon-neutral solutions for an emissions-happy era. And in one sense, all biofuels can indeed be thought of as CO2 neutral, since any carbon released at the tailpipe was recently captured by the plants for photosynthesis. But plant-derived fuel doesn't emerge from a vacuum. Crops must be cultivated, harvested, moved, and transformed -- processes that are hardly carbon neutral. And here is where the vast discrepancies cloaked by the term "biofuels" emerge. Read this document

16/04/2007


The carbohydrate economy, biofuels and the net energy debate

Most energy balance studies done after 1992 found a positive energy balance of maize to ethanol. Several estimates for biodiesel and maize to ethanol are now available: current national average energy use in farming and processing; current state best and industry best energy use; next generation manufacturing and state of the art (organic) farming. All researchers agree that manufacturers and farmers are becoming more energy and resource efficient, whether in the process of manufacturing equipment or in the raising of crops or producing ethanol. Therefore, new energy balance studies should focus on the future, not the past. Read this document

16/04/2007


The challenge of rural energy poverty in developing countries

The energy problems in rural areas of developing countries are analysed and the solutions typically tried in the past are evaluated with a view to drawing lessons from this accumulated experience. The main focus is on wood fuels. Read this document

16/04/2007


The energy and agriculture nexus

This report has been prepared as a contribution of FAO to the 9th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development which met in April 2001 and its follow-up. Energy has a key role in economic and social development but there is a general lack of rural energy development policies that focus on agriculture. Agriculture has a dual role as an energy user and as an energy supplier in the form of bioenergy. This energy function of agriculture offers important rural development opportunities as well as one means of climate change mitigation by substituting bioenergy for fossil fuels. This report focuses on the challenges and opportunities of advancing modern bioenergy technology, in general, and on the technical, environmental and economic benefits of the energy function of agriculture, in particular. Read this document

16/04/2007


The impact of sustainability criteria on the costs and potentials of bioenergy production

An exploration of the impact of the implementation of sustainability criteria on the costs and potential of bioenergy production, applied for case studies in Brazil and Ukraine. One of the conclusions is that in several key world regions biomass production potentials can be very significant on foreseeable term (10-20 years from now). Feasible efficiency improvements in conventional agricultural management (up to moderate intensity in the case regions studied) can allow for production of large volumes of biomass for energy, without competing with food production, forest or nature conservation. The key pre-condition for such a development are improvements in the efficiency of agricultural management. Read this document

16/04/2007


The use of palm oil for biofuel and as biomass for energy

Friends of the Earth believes that the use of biomass as an energy source should be part of the climate change solution as long as it is developed in a truly sustainable way. The growth of new biomass takes carbon dioxide out of the air to compensate for the carbon added when biomass is burnt. The use of biomass as part of the sustainable energy mix therefore has potential benefits. Friends of the Earth believe that the UK food and household products industry must convert their current demand for palm oil to demand for sustainable palm oil. They should join the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and buy RSPO-certified palm oil as soon as it is available. However, since the potential demand for palm oil as a biofuel or for biomass energy is so large and given the weak governance in Indonesia and its destructive policies regarding plantation development, Friends of the Earth does not support the use in the UK of palm oil as a biofuel or for use as biomass for electricity production. Read this document

16/04/2007


UBET (Unified Bioenergy Terminology)

This paper examines and reviews currently used terminology and definitions for woodfuels and other biofuels used in FAO, and in other major databases on biomass-based energy sources. It also proposes ways to improve the methodology for the definition, classification, compilation and presentation of biofuel data and information using the Unified Bioenergy Terminology (UBET). Biofuels are classified as direct, indirect or recovered biofuels, according to their "journey" from supply to the end user. The inclusion of agrofuels, such as bagasse, straw, stalks, etc. and the use of municipal by-products (sludge, municipal wastes, sludge gas, etc.) represents an innovation in the UWET classification proposal [11]. The document offers basic working definitions and outlines the measurement parameters and units taken into account. Biofuel conversion and accounting factors are provided in order to obtain the energy worth of a mass or volume flow of a particular biofuel. Read this document

16/04/2007


Why are current world food prices so high? A memo

Martin Banse, Peter Nowicki and Hans van Meijl, LEI Wageningen UR, May 2008. The price increases of food have several roots and a normally functioning market will in time provide a certain degree of corrective action. But policy/political decisions can prevent the market from doing so. In any case, the time lapse for the market to act does not remove the acuity of the price distortion that affects the poorest people, and urgent intervention is necessary to alleviate the effects of price peaks. Natural resource prices lead basic food commodity prices; the rate of growth of the former has historically been (and is again at present) higher than the latter. Biofuels create a more direct link between food and fuel prices, if fuel prices are high: the long term trend of declining real food prices might be dampened or reversed.

30/06/2008


Workshop on Mainstreaming Policies and Investment in Low Carbon (Bangkok)

The objectives of this meeting were to: (1) strengthen national and regional capacity on policies in promoting a climate resilient, lower carbon economy; (2) to provide a regional forum to define critical regional requirements for enhancing investment and identifying priorities in low carbon development; (3) to examine opportunities for regional enabling policy and institutional environments for the Energy Investment Framework (EIF); and (4) to explore the potential of flexible market-based mechanisms (including CDM) and their regional application. Presentations are included on “Energy Security and Development Trends in the Context of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific: Policies and Strategies” and the “Development of Bioenergy Plan and Strategy in Indonesia as An Alternative Energy Resources”. Read this document

16/04/2007



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