Biofuels in Africa (Directions in Development: Countries and Regions)

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Shootings of indigenous people have been traced back to the conflict over land. This June, EU lawmakers agreed to limit the amount of crop-based biofuels that can be used to meet EU renewable targets. However, they declined to institute an outright ban on palm and soybean oil as called for by campaigners. Lawmakers say the eventual decline in market demand will result in the use of palm oil to be gradually phased out after , resulting in the eradication of palm oil from Europe by The European Biodiesel Board EBB has welcomed the legislation outcome, knowing it could have been a lot more restrictive.

By keeping crop-based biofuels such as biodiesel stable at 7 percent, the agreement recognizes their importance for the EU's transport mix, the EBB says. Meanwhile, the limits on crop-based biofuels are unclear and open to interpretation by national governments, EBB and other groups say. Oxfam's Herman agrees about the lack of clarity, pointing out that "EU member states will still be allowed to burn massive amounts of food.

These types of biofuels are still being developed, and have not yet reached their full commercial potential. This may stimulate investment. In the US, the government is reportedly preparing to revise its renewable fuel standard program in a way that would require large refiners to use even more biofuels.

Indeed, the government views the country's biofuel growth as a success story rather than something to worry about. Campaigners are quick to point out that not all biofuels are bad. But many of the biofuels that have been used to meet government targets over the past year made from food crops, which is a problem. Environmental groups are continuing to push to end subsidies for food-based fuels, and put policies in place that will incentivize the development of advanced biofuels.

Our physiological needs can be used for much more than filling our bladders and our toilets. Researchers are looking into how to transform urine and other human excrement - let's spare the details - into energy. For instance at refugee camps, this could provide lighting while solving sanitation problems. Despite the negative associations, our corporal waste may one day be our best ally.

Biofuel: Food or fuel?

It's an incipient idea that needs intense further research - but farming microalgae could be a solution to producing biofuel efficiently and sustainably. Large microalgae farms would transform sunlight and carbon dioxide into bio-ethanol. But even with optimal results, energy production would remain very low. Moya is a lightweight, flexible sheet that can harvest low-grade wind energy in a variety of locations - that's how its inventor, South African Charlotte Slingsby, describes it.

This curtain can be installed into existing infrastructure without a need for expensive facilities or land-clearing. And it doesn't harm birds or bats, like large wind turbines can. Wood remains the main energy source in many parts of the world - and this is leading to deforestation. Coconut shells and husks may be a sustainable alternative in countries like Kenya or Cambodia.

Compared to traditional wood charcoal, coconut charcoal burns longer, is cheaper and avoids felling trees. It also eases management of coconut waste - a real problem in some regions. Fish factories create mountains of waste every day - which could produce energy. The high fat content in the tons of fish innards, along with scales and bones not suitable for the food market, can be used to produce biodiesel. Countries such as Honduras, Brazil and Vietnam have been already experimenting with this new energy source for years - but financial issues may hinder success.

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The wind tree is a French innovation imitating nature to create energy. Jerome Michaud-Lariviere, the brain behind this concept, was inspired while observing leaves on trees fluttering in the wind. The tree-like structure has 72 mini-turbines instead of leaves, and can produce enough electricity to power 15 streetlights, charge an electric car or even power a small family home. Imagine tapping the energy of every step you take - this is the concept behind smart surfaces located under dance floors, football pitches, and metro stations, among other venues around the globe.

The energy harvested can power low-voltage lighting or charge electronic devices in the immediate vicinity. So now there's a new excuse to keep your body moving! This delicious appetizer is also the source of olive oil that is a basic part of cuisine in Mediterranean countries. But once the olive has been pressed for oil, the leftovers can have a further use: biofuel. Production of olive oil creates four times its weight in waste. The Phenolive project turns that waste into electricity and heat, in doing so completing the product lifecycle.

Power outages are still a daily reality in many areas of the developing world. A lack of resources has pushed people to find cost-effective alternatives - and "trash" from crops stands out as a good option. Incinerating the stems and leaves from mustard plants, for instance, can provide electricity to thousands of rural homes. The ash can then be placed back in the fields as fertilizer. Sun not only makes shimmering mirages on roads - it also produces energy. The Netherlands already has a meter solar bike path, and France is now following in the same track.

The country plans to install 1, kilometers of specially designed photovoltaic solar paneling on its roads over the next five years, with the aim of expanding its renewable energy capacity. Thanks to America's plentiful corn production, the US is today the world's largest ethanol producer.

Farmers across the world, particularly in South America and Southeast Asia, were incentivized to start growing crops for fuel instead of food. Government targets meant an artificially inflated market, which began to drive up food prices and change land use. The changes have resulted in food shortages, according to nongovernmental groups. This phenomenon, known as "indirect land use change" ILUC can cause new land to be cleared to grow the food crops.

When land is cleared, carbon locked up in woody matter like bushes or trees is released into the atmosphere. Rainforest is being cleared for palm oil in places like Indonesia, threatening iconic species like the orangutan. As the consequences of the policy became clearer, environmental and anti-hunger campaigners have pushed these governments to end their policies supporting biofuel. The battle to backtrack on the renewable fuel incentives has been particularly fierce in Brussels, where environmental campaigners have clashed with the increasingly powerful biofuels lobby and farmers groups like Copa-Cogeca.

There has been particular concern about biodiesel made from virgin vegetable oil, palm oil and soybean oil. The oil palm bears around fruits.

As the demand for palm oil increases, so has its economic importance. Around people live in the main village. Community leader, Carlos Hoyos, fears for the future of the villagers. The palm oil plantations have spread right to village's periphery. Indigenous community representatives fighting for the land have their lives threatened. Indigenous villagers are not equipped to grapple with palm oil multinationals.

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Growing biofuels: how to reap rewards | Working in development | The Guardian

With threats and misinformation, they are being forced to leave and sell their land for little money. Shootings of indigenous people have been traced back to the conflict over land. This June, EU lawmakers agreed to limit the amount of crop-based biofuels that can be used to meet EU renewable targets. However, they declined to institute an outright ban on palm and soybean oil as called for by campaigners. Lawmakers say the eventual decline in market demand will result in the use of palm oil to be gradually phased out after , resulting in the eradication of palm oil from Europe by The European Biodiesel Board EBB has welcomed the legislation outcome, knowing it could have been a lot more restrictive.

By keeping crop-based biofuels such as biodiesel stable at 7 percent, the agreement recognizes their importance for the EU's transport mix, the EBB says. Meanwhile, the limits on crop-based biofuels are unclear and open to interpretation by national governments, EBB and other groups say.

Oxfam's Herman agrees about the lack of clarity, pointing out that "EU member states will still be allowed to burn massive amounts of food.


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These types of biofuels are still being developed, and have not yet reached their full commercial potential. This may stimulate investment. In the US, the government is reportedly preparing to revise its renewable fuel standard program in a way that would require large refiners to use even more biofuels.

Indeed, the government views the country's biofuel growth as a success story rather than something to worry about. Campaigners are quick to point out that not all biofuels are bad. But many of the biofuels that have been used to meet government targets over the past year made from food crops, which is a problem. Environmental groups are continuing to push to end subsidies for food-based fuels, and put policies in place that will incentivize the development of advanced biofuels.


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Our physiological needs can be used for much more than filling our bladders and our toilets. Researchers are looking into how to transform urine and other human excrement - let's spare the details - into energy. For instance at refugee camps, this could provide lighting while solving sanitation problems. Despite the negative associations, our corporal waste may one day be our best ally.