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EPFL Announces Global Alliance to Draft Standards for Biofuel Sustainability

The Energy Center at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)—one of the two federal institutes of technology in Switzerland—announced the formation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels to create draft global standards for sustainable biofuels production and processing.

Founding Steering Board members include, among others, the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), Toyota, BP, the Mali Folkecenter, the National Wildlife Federation, Shell, the Dutch and Swiss governments, the UN Foundation, Petrobras, the World Economic Forum, the University of California at Berkeley, Bunge, TERI India, and Amigos da Terra - Amazônia Brasileira (Friends of the Earth Brazil).

Many people are worried about biofuels contributing to deforestation and air pollution in the name of protecting the planet. Companies and farmers want global rules that they can follow.  The Roundtable will bring together all of these actors to start writing these rules together, to ensure that biofuels deliver on their promise of sustainability.

—Claude Martin, former Director-General of WWF International and Chair of the Roundtable's Steering Board

The Steering Board will invite affected parties to join working groups or otherwise participate in developing and commenting on principles and criteria related to biofuels’ environmental and social impacts, as well as overall greenhouse gas benefits.


Areas of interest will include protecting biodiversity, water resources, and labor and land rights, as well as encouraging biofuels’ contribution to economic development in rural areas.  The Roundtable will gather opinions and feedback through online technology, conference calls, and regional meetings, to ensure that developing countries and disadvantaged groups have a meaningful opportunity to contribute to the elaboration of the standards.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels aims to develop draft standards through a global feedback process by early 2008. Already more than 80 organizations from the US to Argentina to Kenya to Malaysia have signed up to participate.




Unless biofuels are solely grown on existing agricultural areas, they will cut further into forests, prairies, and other lands which are currently being conserved. Even if they are restricted to existing agricultural land, they will take food away from the world's billions. Either way, biofuels are not sustainable. Attempts to make them so is just greenwashing. The world's remaining wild areas, including wildlife habitat is being destroyed to serve an overpopulated planet; now we are just going to exacerbate the problem by burning up wilderness to fuel our cars.

There is a desperate search for new and better technology to wring some sort of free lunch from the world's resources. We live on a finite planet; nothing is going to change that.


Not very optimistic, are you Tom? There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Whatever we do will have costs involved and is ultimately not "sustainable" in the way you mean it, which I read to be a sort of "do no environmental harm".

If it means we have to sacrifice a few thousand square miles of desert and carpet it with 40%-plus efficient PVs to stop using coal as an energy source, would you do that?

We have to make trade-offs and decide if the costs involved are worth it.



I happen to disagree: with agricultural waste alone (thus no change in land use) we could replaced 17-28% of our gasoline use (depending on ethanol from cellulose efficiencies). Surely biofuels are not the complete answer, but so far there is no alternative energy system that can replace oil completely. A composite system consisting of biofuels and other alternative energy systems (EV, Coal gasification, etc) is our best hope.


PV in the desert makes sense; biofuels don't. There is no such things as waste; that's waste that would or could be going back on the land to replenish it.


"The world's remaining wild areas, including wildlife habitat is being destroyed to serve an overpopulated planet"


Your issue appears to be population. Do you have a plan to contain its growth?


I agree with Tom. Biofuel will never be a full and complete solutions to our woes but it could, certainly, fill an important role in a post-oil society.

Regarding the population issues, Let remind that all human development is not of harm to any sort of "natural habitat" so why take that stance? Posing in such a malthusian stance would only put limitations to where we might go and that is not the outlook we need.

All in all; hopefully this is a step in a direction that we should applaud so here here.


In some places bio is very good. The us is one such place because we can produce alot on already existing grass and farmland. In other places bio has already become an environmenyal armmeggeddon. If you thought humans lust for wood and food ate away at rainforests fast before... fuel will burn themdown like napalm. MOOLA and power fromfuel growing us VASTLY more poyrnt then any force yet seen eating away at nature.

aussie paul

"Your issue appears to be population.Do you have a plan to contain its growth?"

Population is THE issue. If the chinese wanted to own and run cars as we do there wouldn't be enough oil coming out of the ground to supply them, let alone the developed world as well. Thats "population" in bold italics. As for a plan to contain it's growth, some of our dopey leaders are actively encouraging population growth with baby bonuses so a few stategic disincentives is all it would take plus a few clever people to deal with the economics of an ageing population


Aussie Paul,
then the real issue really isnt population but our chosen means of transportation and how we shape ourselves and the landscape to fit those means.

The more consumers without a tie/relation to the oil could possibly be a good incentive to plunge into that market. today, the only really profitable market is the current world order so population equals demand so.


The fuel issue will be like balancing a budget or losing weight. In both cases you need to work the supply and demand side to get there. We will need to use fuel more efficiently and find more sources for it at the same time. It is not an either or, but an AND function.

Stan Peterson

i want to contest a couple of "well known facts" that just are not fsacts.

1) Paving the deserts with PVs would cause a environmental catastrophe of immesne proportions. Google the term Albedo for more infromation. It has been estimated that the US would need to cover an area equal to Arizona and New Mexico to generate today's power needs with "non-polluting" Solar Energy, killing everything in those two states and raising the temperature several degrees,while significantly changing the climate of surrounding areas.

2) The government owned wilderness areas in the US are truly immense. I'll bet you DID NOT KNOW that the official goventment Park and Wilderness acreage exceeds the combined areas of:

New Hampshire Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticutt, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North and South Carolina and Georgia.

Thats right, we have more parkland and wilderness than the entire land area of the original thirteen colonies at the tiem of the American revolution. Feel free to convince yourself of this by your own research. You will be astounded. The next time, take it with a grain of salt when you are told there is no room for forest and wildlife in America.


I read that an area 100 miles by 100 miles in the Nevada desert could provide all of the U.S. energy needs. I do not have a reference for that quote, but a bit of Google should suffice. I believe that it may have been Nevada's Senator Harry Reid that quoted that also.

Cheryl Ho

There are dME developments in China today!

We see great potential for DME as a clean alternative fuel . The present diesel oil is a major source of air pollution from diesel engine of trucks and busses in large city like Tokyo. The potential market of diesel oil substitute is larger than LPG. DME is one of ideal fuel for diesel engine. DME vehicles were demonstratively manufactured in Japan, China and Korea and their driving test already started. Practical durability fleet test of a DME truck is under going in Japan.

We are pleased to organise a conference on China taking the lead in the DME market in production from coal and Japan and Korea activities.

If you would like to know more on COAL to Syngas to DME developments, join us at upcoming North Asia DME / Methanol conference in Beijing, 27-28 June 2007, St Regis Hotel. The conference covers key areas which include:

DME productivity can be much higher especially if
country energy policies makes an effort comparable to
that invested in increasing supply.
National Development Reform Commission NDRC
Ministry of Energy for Mongolia

Production of DME/ Methanol through biomass
gasification could potentially be commercialized
Shandong University completed Pilot plant in Jinan and
will be sharing their experience.

Advances in conversion technologies are readily
available and offer exciting potential of DME as a
chemical feedstock
By: Kogas, Lurgi and Haldor Topsoe

Available project finance supports the investments
that DME/ Methanol can play a large energy supply role
By: International Finance Corporation

For more information:

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