Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Energy’ tag

Raizen and Iogen to Cooperate for Cellulosic Ethanol Plant in Brazil

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This has been a long time in coming, and is still a ways off, but is an important step towards renewable fuels from non-food feedstocks. Rather than use the sugar that has to date been the feedstock for ethanol production in Brazil, and is otherwise use as food, this process would separate the sugars in the bagasse, or the green leaves of the cane stalks, and ferment those for ethanol. Previously this bagasse was either burned in the field before manual harvest, or more recently harvested mechanically either to be left in the field to maintain soil structure or burned in the refinery to provide electricity.

The ethanol produced from cellulose in processes like this would be a tremendous leap forward in the production of renewable fuels.

Published 18 October 2012

Raízen Group, Iogen Energy to develop cellulosic ethanol facility in Brazil

Brazilian sugarcane ethanol producer Raízen and Canada-based cellulosic ethanol fuel manufacturer Iogen Energy will collaborate together to develop a commercial cellulosic ethanol project in Brazil.

The collaboration will be the first step towards commercialization of cellulosic ethanol biofuels in the country.

Continue reading here.

By Susanne Retka Schill | October 17, 2012

Engineering begins on Iogen-based cellulosic plant in Brazil

Ottawa-based Iogen Energy Corp. announced an initial investment by Raízen Group to develop a commercial cellulosic ethanol project in Brazil. Raízen, a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and Cosan SA is the world’s largest producer of sugarcane ethanol. Iogen Energy, a joint venture with Shell and Iogen Corp., operates a demonstration facility in Ottawa where it has produced over 2 million liters (560,000 gallons) of cellulosic ethanol as it refined its process since 2004.

Continue reading this article here.

Agricultural Policy Matters to Eaters and Energy Users as much as to Farmers

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Food and energy are increasingly intertwined. As energy is fundamental to food production, processing, and distribution, and because agricultural crops are used for biofuels feedstocks, the interconnections and impacts can become dizzyingly complex. Localizing both food and energy production can, in many instances, increase the efficiency, the quality, and the ecological cleanliness of these two essential production systems.

This is not to say I will give up the coffee that comes from Latin America, and it is often more efficient to eat tomatoes trucked from Mexico than to grow them in greenhouses further north, but there is much we can do to decrease energy inputs to the food system, and we can do it without making significant sacrifices.

By MICHAEL POLLAN
Published October 10, 2012

One of the more interesting things we will learn on Nov. 6 is whether or not there is a “food movement” in America worthy of the name — that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system. People like me throw the term around loosely, partly because we sense the gathering of such a force, and partly (to be honest) to help wish it into being by sheer dint of repetition. Clearly there is growing sentiment in favor of reforming American agriculture and interest in questions about where our food comes from and how it was produced. And certainly we can see an alternative food economy rising around us: local and organic agriculture is growing far faster than the food market as a whole. But a market and a sentiment are not quite the same thing as a political movement — something capable of frightening politicians and propelling its concerns onto the national agenda.

Continue reading this article here.

Written by Jason

October 11th, 2012 at 5:42 am

Obama and the New Brazil

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After a first visit to Brazil earlier in the 20th Century, a foreign diplomat boldly stated that “Brazil is the country of the future!” Self-deprecating Brazilians quickly added, “And it always will be.”

Based on my four years of living in Brazil and many return visits in the four years since, I don’t think Brazilians are saying this any longer, nor are the popular media or President Obama.

It has been fascinating to watch the changes in Brazil since my first arrival shortly before Lula’s election in 2002. I feel very fortunate to have earned the job that first brought me there, and to have stayed in close contact with the amazing colleagues and friends with whom I worked and laughed during the past decade.

Mr. Obama, Meet the New Brazil

By JULIA SWEIG and MATIAS SPEKTOR
Published: March 18, 2011

When Barack Obama lands in Brazil this weekend, he will find a country transformed. In little more than a decade, some 30 million people have been lifted out of poverty and the country has risen to seventh place in the world economy.

Change at home has revolutionized policies abroad. Brazil has woken up to the 10 states along its borders, becoming the eminent power and driver of regional integration in South America. It has set out to develop closer ties simultaneously with Israel, Syria and Iran.

[…]

With most of the Amazon within its borders, the world’s 10th largest oil stores, and nearly a fifth of the world’s fresh water, Brazil is an environmental power, an energy power, and guarantor of global food security.

Read the entire article here.

Clean Colorado Energy Gives Us an Economic Edge

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It’s certainly a challenge to balance long term economic health with the need to pay the heating bill this month.We know fossil fuel resources are finite, even if they appear abundant in Colorado today. We also know that they pollute our air in ways much more immediate and tangible than climate change. But if working towards cleaner, renewable, domestically produced energy were going to increase our utility bills drastically in the near term, it’s a tough sell.

Colorado’s economy is doing pretty well compared to the rest of the country during this economic downturn and present (we hope) recovery. I am just one of thousands of examples of people who have good jobs working in Colorado’s clean energy sector.

I’m excited by the prospects for Colorado’s economy in the next several decades, due in large part to the competitive edge Colorado has gained in working towards a more renewable, energy-independent economy.

Gov. Ritter provides only vague overviews in the article below, but he’s done plenty to place a solid foundation.

We’ve successfully shown how to utilize of our domestic resources while simultaneously addressing environmental concerns.

By Anna Clark 

Mon Dec 6, 2010 1:00am EST

Anna Clark: During your four years in office, you have signed 57 pieces of energy-related legislation. Did making Colorado a model state for the “new energy economy” come at a price?

Bill Ritter: I would not say it’s come at a price. I’m not anti-business; quite the opposite. Cultivating a competitive edge in energy and sustainable development is what we should be doing. Creativity, innovation, and commercialization — these should be in 21st century America’s wheelhouse. That’s who we’ve always been as a country. This vision is among the things I am proudest of accomplishing during these past four years.

Read the entire article here.

Can Brazil become the world´s first environmental superpower?

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It’s cool even to see the term “environmental superpower” being used in the media. I have said many times that, in a world with increasing constraints on natural resources such as water and land to grow food, fuel, and fiber, Brazil has tremendous potential.

In the article below Carrington hits the nail on the head in the subtitle when he says that “its challenge is to compete economically without destroying the environment.” Perhaps this could be rephrased with some editing on the popular, hippy dictum, ‘we need to behave now so as not to diminish the opportunities of future generations.’ Carrington is also arguing, wisely, that we need to consider the prosperity of future generations without sacrificing prosperity for people today. In addition to being unfair to today’s people, it’s simply unrealistic to believe that people today will make vast sacrifices for people not yet born.

Idealism and pragmatism. I’d like the two of you to meet. I know that my own parents made considerable sacrifices and made decisions that could lead my sisters and I to have a better life than they had. My parents have succeeded beautifully, and are now reaping the happy and healthy benefits.

So many Brazilians are making similar sacrifices today, working exceedingly long hours at often difficult jobs so that their own children have the opportunity to get an education and work better jobs. Since those children will not be able to eat money or education, steps will need to be taken to ensure that they have land and water to grow food and fuel, and other resources to produce the goods that can’t be grown, like laptops and iPhones. Sweet, sweet iPhones.

The popularity of 3rd party candidate, Marina Silva of the Green Party, shows us that Brazilians are indeed thinking about these resource constraints. The fact that Ms. Silva has been given such a prominent place at the discussion table is utterly astonishing, and very exciting, to me.

Brazil would not be the first nation to become rich from its resources – but its challenge is to compete economically without destroying its environment

Thursday August 5, 2010

Damian Carrington

The Itaipu hydroelectric dam stands along the Parana River in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil.

The Itaipu hydroelectric dam stands along the Parana River in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. Photograph: Adriano Machado/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Outside Dr Gilberto Câmara’s office, there is a large and beautiful satellite map of Brazil. From the fractal elegance of the Amazon and its tributaries, to the ochre fields holding sugar, soy and cattle, to the twinkling mega-cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in the south, the map shows why he thinks Brazil can be the world’s first environmental superpower.

[…]

Câmara has adopted the slogan: “Brazil – the natural knowledge economy“. He describes this as applying knowledge and technology to commodities to boost their value, and reels off examples: biofuels, in which Brazil leads world research thanks to its sugar cane ethanol and growing biodiesel production; renewable energy – 47% of the country’s energy is already green, a world record; and climate change – Brazil’s Amazon is vital to the planet’s health. Of course, it also has plenty of timber, beef, iron and aluminium, though he doesn’t boast about those.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

August 6th, 2010 at 1:54 am

A Special Report on Water

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Many have pointed out the inextricable links between water and energy. Beyond the similarities in demand and scarcity mentioned in the first line of the article below, “Water, it is said, is the new oil,” there is also the need for water to produce biofuels, many forms of solar power, hydroelectricity, and water used for oil and gas extraction processes such as hydraulic fracturing.

Before I focused on bioenergy and agriculture, I was initially interested in the economics of water. While it’s important to focus in order to understand the intricate details of any of these essential areas, it is equally important to consider the others, the entire context, when examining any of them.

A special report on water

For want of a drink

Finite, vital, much wanted, little understood, water looks unmanageable. But it needn’t be, argues John Grimond (interviewed here)

May 20th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

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WHEN the word water appears in print these days, crisis is rarely far behind. Water, it is said, is the new oil: a resource long squandered, now growing expensive and soon to be overwhelmed by insatiable demand. Aquifers are falling, glaciers vanishing, reservoirs drying up and rivers no longer flowing to the sea. Climate change threatens to make the problems worse. Everyone must use less water if famine, pestilence and mass migration are not to sweep the globe. As it is, wars are about to break out between countries squabbling over dams and rivers. If the apocalypse is still a little way off, it is only because the four horsemen and their steeds have stopped to search for something to drink.

The language is often overblown, and the remedies sometimes ill conceived, but the basic message is not wrong. Water is indeed scarce in many places, and will grow scarcer. Bringing supply and demand into equilibrium will be painful, and political disputes may increase in number and intensify in their capacity to cause trouble. To carry on with present practices would indeed be to invite disaster.

[…]

Soaked, parched, poached

Many of these conceptual difficulties arise from other unusual aspects of water. It is a commodity whose value varies according to locality, purpose and circumstance. Take locality first. Water is not evenly distributed—just nine countries account for 60% of all available fresh supplies—and among them only Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Congo, Indonesia and Russia have an abundance. America is relatively well off, but China and India, with over a third of the world’s population between them, have less than 10% of its water.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

May 21st, 2010 at 12:56 pm

Forests at center of clean-energy debates

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Similar discussions are being held in British Columbia and the western U.S. where millions of acres of forest have been destroyed by the mountain pine beetle. Burning the wood in electricity plants is one possibility. Others are arguing in favor of fermentation, converting them to ethanol and other biofuels.

The standing dead trees pose serious fire danger, and while fire is a natural and necessary part of the forest life cycle, many people argue that the pine beetle is a pest basically introduced, or at least encouraged or enabled, by humans, and thus these particular fires would not be naturally occurring, so the trees should be cleared to diminish the risk of fire.

That debate in itself is a tough issue, but it’s not the only one.

In terms of building biorefineries, my main concern would be the infrastructure necessary to process the timber. In BC, people in the school of forestry at the University of British Columbia estimate feedstocks for about five years of production. This is timber over and above the usual use of timber for construction and paper, whose industries either cannot use the beetle-killed trees or simply do not have the capacity to process the volume of timber that would still be usable for their purposes. Five years after spending the tens of millions of dollars to build the refineries, what would become of them? And what would become of the forests that had previously stood there? Many fear the expenditures would induce the continued use of this land for similar purposes, accelerating the pace and vastly increasing the surface area of land that, instead of existing on a natural ecological cycle, it will be existing on our cycle and for our purposes.

This brings us to the question in the second paragraph below regarding the use of stumps or saw dust versus fresh cut trees. Those stumps and other so-called ‘residues’ or, in agriculture, ‘waste’ products, serve important functions in maintenance of soil quality, biodiversity, and other ecological functions. Removing that biomass is not a kind act of cleaning up after ourselves in the forest; it’s robbing the land of more of the biomass that it needs in order to function.

I realize this is verging on a pretty idealistic or naive rant, so I’ll end here. The point is that we need to consider carefully some of these very un-conservative proposals.

Apr 3 – McClatchy-Tribune Regional News – Bruce Henderson The Charlotte Observer, N.C.

Environmental and green energy advocates are challenging Duke Energy’s plans to burn wood in two of its coal-fired power plants, saying efforts to meet a new clean-energy standard could hurt the state’s forests.

North Carolina’s millions of acres of woods are expected to fuel much of the renewable energy the 2007 law mandates. But should power plants be fueled by stumps, sawdust and old two-by-fours, or freshly cut trees?

Read the entire article here.

America’s economy: Hope at last

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Clearly there are many factors to both the Great Recession and our recovery from it–whether that recovery is happening now, or, as some of my smartest buddies believe, will not happen until after a second dip occurs.

Either way, it’s no surprise to this observer that energy is a central issue at the heart of any economic activity.

In addition to the typical energy issues typically discussed on this site, I hope you can forgive the inclusion of macroeconomics included below. It’s important. And interesting. And energy is also certainly related.

The world’s biggest economy has begun a much-needed transition. Barack Obama could do more to help

Mar 31st 2010 | From The Economist print edition

GREAT storms and floods have a way of altering landscapes. Once the waters recede, some of the changes are obvious: uprooted trees, damaged property, wrecked roads. Later come further changes, as people seek to avoid a repeat, erecting new flood walls or rebuilding elsewhere.

As in the physical world, so in the economic one. The financial deluge that broke over America has passed and the recession it caused, the worst since the 1930s, is ebbing. This year the American economy is expected to grow by around 3%, after shrinking by 2.4% in 2009. Rainbow-spotters hope that employment is at last beginning to grow again. And the economy emerging from recession is not the same as the one that went in. There is obvious damage: high unemployment, millions of foreclosed homes and a huge hole in the public finances. Less obviously, a “rebalancing” is under way: from consumption, housing and debt to exports, investment and saving. As our special report this week argues, this is enormously promising for America and the world; but it is far from assured. A lot depends on politicians—and not just the ones in Washington.

[…]

Dearer, scarcer credit is not the only reason. Energy, though not as frighteningly expensive as in 2008, is also no longer cheap. Americans are choosing cars over light trucks, utilities are being told to use more renewable fuel, and domestic deposits of oil and gas locked deep beneath the sea or in dense rock are suddenly profitable to extract. If these trends continue (admittedly, a big if), America could import barely half as much oil in 2025 as seemed likely just five years ago.

[…]

Put crudely, if Americans save more and spend less while other big countries do the opposite, the world economy will prosper. If Americans become thriftier while foreigners fail to spend more, it will stagnate.

[…]

Plenty of microeconomic reforms could also help with rebalancing. America taxes income and investment too much and consumption too little. So far Mr Obama’s policies have mostly worsened the tilt. Health-care reform applies for the first time a payroll tax (for Medicare) to investment income. His administration has rejected a tax linked to the carbon content of fuel. It has also increased the subsidies, guarantees and preferences for mortgages that helped inflate the housing bubble. The federal government now stands behind 60% of residential mortgages and seems open to the idea of creating a permanently expanded backstop.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

April 1st, 2010 at 8:02 am

Secretary Chu Announces $37.5 Million Available for Joint U.S.-Chinese Clean Energy Research

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Washington, DC – U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today the availability of $37.5 million in U.S. funding over the next five years to support the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center.  Funding from the Department of Energy will be matched by the grantees to support $75 million in total U.S. research that will focus on advancing technologies for building energy efficiency, clean coal including carbon capture and storage, and clean vehicles.  The Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) will be located in existing facilities in both the U.S. and China and will include an additional $75 million in Chinese funding.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

March 31st, 2010 at 4:11 pm

China invests heavily in energy-rich states

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As China continues its almost meteoric rise in economic development, it continues to be very forward looking, and fairly aggressive, in securing the resources it will need to accomplish this development. Energy is obviously key. China’s development and energy issues have been the subject of several posts on this site, and are of personal and professional interest to me due to the enormous impact they will have on global development and energy issues.

The Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric facility in the world, is a major factor in China’s development process, and has also flooded many archeological and cultural sites, and displaced as many as 1.25 million people. China is also a world leader in other clean energy technology development, such as solar and wind power. Yet, all of these efforts combined are still not sufficient to satiate their growing appetite for energy resources domestically, which moves this beyond energy issues, into the realms of foreign policy and international politics.

As the article below points out, relations between China and the U.S. have occasionally been strained as the U.S. pressures China to fall in line on pressuring Iran to forgo their efforts toward nuclear weapons. China however, hungry to secure Iran’s considerable petroleum resources, is reluctant to do anything that might jeopardize its relationship with Tehran.

It is indeed a fascinating time to be alive, even if that fascination sometimes turns a little bit frightening.

By Syed Rashid Husain
Sunday, 14 Feb, 2010

Employees of China National Petroleum Corporation carry out routine checks at a gas refinery in Suining, Sichuan province. China is the world’s fourth largest crude oil producer but it is buying up energy assets across the globe and offering loans to several producing countries because of its rising demand. – Reuters/File photo

RIYADH: The quest for energy is making it more difficult for Beijing to go hand in hand with Washington on Tehran. Despite the crude demand in the developing world stagnating, energy supply security has assumed to be a major strategic concern for Beijing.

Last year, China imported 204 million tons of crude oil, up 13.9 per cent from a year earlier. Its January crude imports of 17.11 million tons, was 33 per cent higher than a year earlier. And in December 2009 its imports hit a record 21.26 million tons, up 47.9 per cent year-on-year.

Read the entire article here.