Yellow Pad By Roberto Verzola A previous piece showed that our greenhouse gas reduction commitment to the Paris climate treaty meant a gradual 2.02% annual reduction in fossil-based electricity generation, for a total reduction of 23.3% by 2030 compared to 2017 levels. The annual reduction required by this low-carbon path is only half the […]
Yellow Pad By Roberto Verzola My two previous pieces (BW, July 16 and July 23, 2018) discussed four flaws in the DoE’s current power development plan that led it to overestimate the country’s 2040 baseload requirements by more than 100%. Another BW piece disputed my conclusion and claimed that there is no baseload bloat. I urge all […]
Yellow Pad By Roberto Verzola A previous piece identified one serious flaw in the DoE’s Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) 2016-2040: the DoE still assumes that baseload plants will retain their 70% share in the electricity mix until 2040. This will not happen. Steadily dropping solar prices will make market-driven solar penetration inevitable. The rising solar […]
Yellow Pad By Roberto Verzola Over the past four decades, solar photovoltaic (PV) prices have been dropping by an average of 9% per year. As a result, rooftop solar is the cheapest daytime source of electricity today in many countries. In the Philippines, the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from solar rooftops has gone below […]
The UK newspaper, The Independent’s online edition recently reported how jatropha curcas, the oil-bearing plant that has been touted as the remedy for our transport fuel woes of high prices and greenhouse gas emissions, is failing to live up to expectations. The non-edible plant has been promoted as currently the most sustainable source of biodiesel because it supposedly will grow just about anywhere, requires little water and needs little management. The Indepedent article, citing a report by the UK charity, ActionAid, says that actual experiences by farmers in developing countries growing the plant have shown poor results. Cultivating jatropha on poor soil yields low yields that provide no profits for farmers. In India, farmers were enticed to plant jatropha with the promise of a boom in demand but have found no buyer for their oil-bearing seeds. Similar articles have appeared at OneWorld UK. The Philippine government, in its alternative fuel program, has also promoted jatropha as an ideal biodiesel source (instead of expensive coconut oil) but has not progressed beyond experimental plantations and field tests and has built no infrastructure to support the industry.
The debate on the impact of industrial biofuels on the poor and on the climate continues. This is partly due to the EU directive that seeks to require that 10 percent of its transport fuels be sourced from renewable sources by 2020. Locally, the biofuels law already mandates a 5 percent biodiesel blend with producers clamoring to raise that to 10 percent. Such a law is an implicit subsidy on these more expensive fuels and forces motorists to use biofuels even if their supposed social and environmental benefits are are doubtful. ActionAid has two publications on the negative impacts of biofuels, particularly jatropha on farmers and food that may be accessed here and here . A Friends of the Earth report on jatropha in Swaziland is available here . More materials on contrarian views on biofuels are available on these organizations respective websites (ActionAid and Friends of the Earth ). These reports complement AER’s own report on biofuels development in the Philippines and the apparently minimal benefits on the poor farmers who supply the feedstocks.
The biofuels industry has so far not been kind to small producers. Romtron, the small, cooperatively-owned CME producer in Romblon, has had to cease production of CME as it desperately tries to find another buyer for its product. Another small player in the coco-methyl-ester (coco-biodiesel) field is Rasza Agro Produce Corporation (RAPCo) based in San Pablo City (Laguna). The family-owned enterprise has been in the coconut milling business for twenty-six years. It was put up by the father of the current proprietor and general manager, Mr. Romy Awayan, a mechanical engineer by training. The business started out by acquiring the waste fibers (called oil foots) that came through with the oil that is extracted by screw press expelling by coconut mills. These fibers still contained oil and were sold to smaller millers such RAPCo for whom further extraction was feasible. To press these foots, RAPCo developed its own small presses. The business expanded into buying fresh nuts and copra from traders as well as directly from farmers, and processing these in the larger expellers that it developed over time. The company sold its output of raw oil and copra cake to refiners and feed millers, respectively.