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. EU Might Free Up Land For Biofuel Crops

Currently around 10 percent of EU farmland is affected by the measure, or around three million hectares (7.4 million acres). Allowing it to be cultivated would increase cereal production by 10-17 million tonnes next year, the Commission estimated, and help regulate upward pressure on prices. That has in large part been a result of growing demand from Asian giants China and India, along with droughts in Australia and eastern Europe, two major cereal producing regions.
by Christian Charcossey
Paris (AFP) Jul 29, 2007
Biofuels, destined to partially offset a coming oil shortage and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will require much more farm land, forcing the European Union to cultivate fields that have lain fallow. The European Union wants biofuels to account for 10 percent of the total of motor fuels in 2020, against an estimated 1.6 percent last year. There are two main kinds of biofuels: ethanols, sometimes called "biopetrol" and which are reserved for petrol-fueled engines; and biodiesels, used in diesel motors.

At the moment biodiesel is much more widely used than ethanol in Europe, in a proportion of 80 percent to 20 percent.

But that could change in the future with the appearance of vehicles equipped with "bi-combustible" or "flex fuel" engines that are to use a maximum of 85 percent of ethanol, against 15 percent of petrol.

Ethanol is made from sugar beet, wheat, corn and sugar cane.

The process of making ethanol consists of extracting the sugar, directly or by hydrolysis in the case of wheat starch, fermenting it and transforming it.

Biodiesels, known also by the scientific name EMHV (methylic ester of vegetable oil), or diester, are extracted from colza, sun flower oil, soya and palm oils, and mixed with diesel fuels.

According to Jean-Francois Loiseau of Passion Cereales, a French trade association: "The establishment of biofuels will only mobilise five percent of agricultural surfaces in Europe."

But with global cereal production falling, the European Commission said in July it would propose ending restrictions in effect since 1998 that had forced farmers to let some land lie fallow.

Currently around 10 percent of EU farmland is affected by the measure, or around three million hectares (7.4 million acres).

Allowing it to be cultivated would increase cereal production by 10-17 million tonnes next year, the Commission estimated, and help regulate upward pressure on prices.

That has in large part been a result of growing demand from Asian giants China and India, along with droughts in Australia and eastern Europe, two major cereal producing regions, Loiseau said.

But compared with countries such as Mexico, where the price of corn determines in large part the cost of staple foods like tortillas, in Europe cereal prices weigh little in the final cost of items such as French bread or Italian pasta.

According to Loek Boonekamp of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an increase of 20 percent in the price of basic agricultural products results only in a rise of 1.0 percent on store shelves.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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China To Step Up Energy Efficiency Drive
Beijing (AFP) Jul 28, 2007
China has announced plans to double spending on improving energy efficiency and slashing pollution, in an effort to combat its dismal environmental record. The government will spend an extra 10 billion yuan (1.33 billion US dollars) on reducing energy use and cutting pollution, according to a statement from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the state body responsible for economic planning.

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