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This article comprehensively sets out many concerns highlighted by Biofuelwatch. It discusses the vast carbon emissions caused by peat and forest fires on Borneo, which, to a large extent, are linked to the expansion of palm oil. The article also looks at the threat of future food supplies, as car drivers now compete with supermarkets for the same produce. Mark Lynas also raises concerns over GM crops in biofuels, which carries similar environmental risks to their use for food. The only question which Biofuelwatch has is over the legality of import controls on biofuels within WTO. There is both an important case to argue for such import controls within WTO, and a need for WTO reform so as to more strongly favour environmental provisions, see here.
(7 Aug 2006)
"The New Statesman website only allows free access to one article per day - although the leader, the cover story, our letters and book reviews are all free to view an unlimited number of times." You can go directly to the PDF version of Lynas's article
Sugar, oil prices decouple as biofuel stocks grow
David Brough, Reuters
LONDON - Links between crude oil and sugar prices have broken down due to high stocks of cane-derived biofuel, and may not be restored any time soon, analysts and traders said on Wednesday.
Oil prices are trading just off record highs, boosted by geopolitical turmoil and supply worries, while raw sugar prices have sunk to their lowest since January.
Analysts said worries over sustained high oil prices had driven up interest in alternative fuels such as ethanol, the most widely used biofuel which is derived from biomass such as sugar cane and powers flex-fuel cars.
In recent months, sugar price peaks have often coincided with oil price spikes.
But now the link appears to have collapsed, primarily because of surging global sugar supplies as farmers from Brazil to Russia increased plantings to benefit from high prices.
(9 Aug 2006)
Sweden 2020 (AUDIO)
Costing the Earth, BBC
The world runs on oil. It starts wars, topples governments and makes and breaks entire economies. But one country is determined to insulate itself from an oil-addicted world. Sweden has announced a national plan to wean itself off the black stuff by 2020.
In 'Costing the Earth' Tom Heap asks if the Swedes can really pull it off .
In Sweden they believe that the commitment will pump investment into renewable energy. Saab and Volvo are already reaping big profits from their best-selling bio-fuel cars whilst universities and research centres throw time and money into the search for new energy sources. Stable, cheap, reliable power should give Sweden 's export industries a commercial advantage, no longer reliant on foreign governments or world oil markets.
Tom visits the city of Vaxjo which made the same oil-free commitment ten years ago. Today the university is running one of the most advanced bio-fuel plants in the world, making use of the forests that still carpet the country. New houses are being designed which will require no heating whatsoever, even in the height of the Swedish winter whilst the existing homeowners are cutting their bills by relying on the hot water pipes that reach virtually every house in the city.
Britain may lack Sweden's forests but we can certainly learn from the positive attitude they've shown to a problem that isn't going to go away.
(10 Aug 2006)
The audio file for the program is currently online. The coverage is heavy on biofuels and cars - more rah-rah than analytical. -BA