Archive for March, 2009

Fighting global warming and the war on drugs: The potential to use opium poppies as biofuel feedstock in Afghanistan

By Sean Killian

Afghanistan accounts for roughly 93 percent of the world’s total poppy production, and converts 90 per cent of its 8,000 tons of raw opium into heroin. In recent years, bilateral and multilateral aid projects have spend billions of dollars on “alternative development” projects aimed at moving farming communities from growing opium poppy to growing licit crops. Nevertheless, and despite a recent contraction in output, opium production remains high in part because few licit crops fetch the same farm-gate price. One alternative use for opium poppy, which yields roughly the same level of oil as rapeseed, is use as a biofuel feedstock. This paper examines the potential domestic and regional market for poppy-based biodiesel, the price at which poppy-based biodiesel would need to sell, and the role multilateral and bilateral aid might need to play.

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Palm oil vs carbon sequestration: Indonesia’s battle continues …

By  Amrita Kumar

On 16th of February 2009 Indonesia’s Agriculture Minister announced that the government has lifted the 14 month long ban on the use of peat land for palm oil plantations. This comes at the time when scientists are suggesting that mature rainforest trees are in fact getting larger and storing more carbon ( http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v457/n7232/abs/nature07771.html) Why then do the Indonesians want to cut these precious forests down? With carbon trading at 6.13 USD, do the economics of avoided deforestation projects match up to palm oil at a price of 500 USD/metric ton? Is this a battle that is lost on its financial case or on political will?

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Commercial-Scale Production of Algae Biodiesel: Using Existing Resources to Spawn a New Era in Renewable Energy

By Drew Casey

Recently, we have experienced increasing uncertainty about the threat of climate changes due to increased carbon emissions as well as volatility of global oil prices. Fossil fuels have been such a major part of modern society, but the recent problems that we have experienced are attributed to an over reliance of these finite resources. Biodiesel production from algae has recently received considerable attention in the race to bring sustainable fuels to market, and its future looks promising. In order to facilitate the production of algae biodiesel on a commercial scale, we need to use our ingenuity and take advantage of existing resources such as emissions from coal-burning power plants, agricultural runoff, wastewater effluent, and even leftover material from the algae biodiesel production facilities.

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Bleak future for mass production of algae biodiesel

By Caroline de Monasterio

Large-scale production of algae biodiesel is not a viable solution in the displacement of petroleum-based fuels. The technology to efficiently produce biodiesel from microalgae is not competitive with more advanced and emerging renewable technologies. At present production efficiencies, algae biodiesel has an approximate cost of thirty-three dollars per gallon (6). According to an NREL report (5), wind-generated electricity costs between six and nine cents per kilowatt-hour, and photo-voltaics have an estimated range of eighteen to twenty-three cents. The high costs of algae biodiesel production are due in part to the energy required to circulate gases, fluids and other materials in the growth environment.

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Can the carbon market curb grassland loss in the Northern Great Plains?

By Kristen Johnson

In recent years dramatic amounts of grassland have been converted to cropland in the Northern Great Plains, specifically in North and South Dakota. This article estimates the large CO2 emissions generated from this conversion, making this issue relevant to not just habitat protection but also climate change mitigation. The article considers whether the current carbon market provides landowners with ample financial incentives to conserve grassland compared to potential profits from crop production. A simple economic comparison reveals that carbon credit payments at current rates are not likely, if used in isolation, to result in large-scale conservation of North and South Dakota grassland.

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Creating Disincentives for Tropical Deforestation: A Myth?

By Baruani Mshale

Methodological and sovereignty concerns blocked the inclusion of avoided deforestation (AD) in Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) during the first commitment period. AD in the tropics can avoid carbon emissions to the tune of 1.5 billion metric tons annually and provide multiple economic, livelihoods, social, and cultural benefits. To avoid tropical deforestation, we need to address create disincentives for deforestation. To achieve this we need to capture the full economic value of AD. This article attempts to derive an empirical economic model for estimating the net benefit of AD in the tropics. Using this model, I find out total net benefits of AD to be significantly higher when all benefits of AD are included compared to when only carbon sequestration is considered. However revenues from forest conversions such as for soybean plantations are higher than total AD value due to methodological limitations in capturing non-market forest products.

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Carbon Market, Biofuels and Tropical Deforestation

By Geoff Michael

Massive carbon emissions and loss of biodiversity from tropical deforestation is continuing at a formidable rate. However, these activities are excluded from the Clean Development Mechanism in the first commitment period. Proposed changes would allow Certified Emissions Credits for avoided deforestation. A sufficient carbon market and changes in the CDM could finance tropical AD projects by providing an incentive to retain forest instead of conversion to pasture. Farmers in the U.S. have an incentive to switch to bio-fuels as the carbon market price rises. If this switch reduces food production the increased market prices may drive increased tropical deforestation.

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