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Biofuels, the World’s Energy Past and Future

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The biofuel from this mini biogas power plant in the municipality of Entre Rios do Oeste, in the southern Brazilian state of Paraná, is supplied by local pig farmers, who earn extra income while the municipality saves on energy costs for its facilities and public lighting. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPSby Mario Osava (rio de janeiro)Thursday, November 11, 2021Inter Press Service

A larger number of poor Brazilians have returned to using firewood, less explosive but also a cause of accidents and of health-damaging household pollution. It is cheaper in the countryside, while in the cities people burn boards and old furniture, not always as widely available as alcohol or ethanol, which can be purchased at any gas station.

In fact, biofuels, such as wood, ethanol, biodiesel and biogas, have been competing with fossil fuels since the industrial use of coal began in England in the 18th century. Economic and environmental factors influence private and public decision-making with regard to their production and use.

A commitment made by 103 countries at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) on Climate Change, which is taking place in the Scottish city of Glasgow during the first 12 days of November, to reduce methane emissions from 2020 levels 30 percent by 2030, may now give biofuels a new boost.

Replacing oil, gas and coal with other sources will help contribute to that goal.

“In Brazil, the demand for ethanol was imposed for economic reasons: high oil prices; and energy reasons: the risk of shortages,” said Regis Leal, an aeronautical engineer and specialist in Technological Development at the state-owned National Laboratory of Biorenewables.

Ethanol in the seventies

Ethanol is a fuel produced from sugarcane, corn or any vegetable with a high sucrose content, which is mainly used in motor vehicles. Brazil is the world’s second largest producer of ethanol, after the United States.

The National Alcohol Programme (Proalcohol) was created in Brazil in 1975, two years after the first big oil crisis that more than tripled the price of a barrel of oil. Brazil, which at the time imported more than 80 percent of the crude oil it consumed, lost the momentum of an economy that had grown by more than 10 percent per year between 1968 and 1973.

With alcohol or ethanol replacing gasoline or mixed with it, the aim was to reduce dependence on imported oil, while intensifying the search for hydrocarbon deposits for self-sufficiency, which Brazil only achieved three decades later.

This sugar mill and ethanol distillery are in the southern Brazilian state of São Paulo, much of whose territory has been turned into one large sugarcane field. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

In the United States, the use of ethanol began to be fomented in the 1980s, but for environmental reasons, Leal told IPS in an interview by telephone from Campinas, a city in the interior of the state of São Paulo, near the country’s largest sugar and ethanol-producing area.

In cities located at high altitudes, such as Denver, the capital of the western U.S. state of Colorado, at 1,600 metres above sea level, lower oxygen levels lead to incomplete combustion of petroleum derivatives and, consequently, greater carbon monoxide contamination and health damage, he explained.

Mixing in MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether), a combination of chemicals, added oxygen, but because it was a highly toxic product it was soon replaced by ethanol, made from corn in the case of the U.S.

In both Brazil and the United States, biofuel production also bolstered or stabilised the price of sugar and corn by absorbing surplus production.

This is an aspect that is misunderstood by those who condemn biofuel production for apparently reducing food production. This is a false dilemma, because it must be analysed on a case-by-case basis, said Suani Coelho, coordinator of the Bioenergy Research Group (GBio) of the Energy and Environment Institute at the University of São Paulo.

“In Tanzania, a FAO (U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation) study evaluated the production of ethanol from manioc. The hypothesis seemed doubtful, also because the energy balance of cassava is not so good. But in Tanzania there is a surplus of the crop that cannot be exported. So it is worth taking advantage of it to make ethanol,” said Coelho, a chemical engineer with a doctorate in energy.

In Brazil, where ethanol is made almost exclusively from the more locally productive sugarcane, corn was incorporated in the industry in 2017, with a distillery in Lucas do Rio Verde, in the state of Mato Grosso, the country’s largest producer of soybeans, corn and cotton.

Lucas do Rio Verde is in the state of Mato Grosso, the region of Brazil with the highest soybean and corn production, which is crowded with agribusiness warehouses and silos. The first corn ethanol distillery was set up there to take advantage of the surplus corn production. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

“Corn is produced there as a second crop, after soybeans, in the same area, in a volume that is not viable for export. So it makes sense to use it for ethanol,” she told IPS by telephone from São Paulo.

Ethanol led to a great improvement in the urban environment.

In Brazil it has already replaced 46 percent of gasoline, according to the sugarcane industry association (Unica), with an annual production of 35 billion litres. It is used as fuel alone in motor vehicles or as a 27 percent blend in gasoline.

The United States produces 50 to 70 percent more than Brazil, depending on the year. Together, they account for about 84 percent of world production, a level of concentration that hinders free international trade in ethanol.

Biofuels or electrification

Coelho and Leal do not agree with the claim that the electrification of transportation tends to hinder the expansion of biofuels to other countries and major producers.

Developing countries do not have the capacity to make large investments to build new infrastructure, such as electric recharging points for vehicles. Moreover, “Brazil is going through a crisis, it is increasing fossil fuel thermoelectric generation, making the energy mix dirtier, and it has no other way to increase the supply of electricity,” argued Coelho.

Leal said the demand for ethanol can grow a great deal. “Any increase in its blend in the United States, which accounts for half of the world’s gasoline consumption, will have a huge impact,” he said.

The ethanol expert also questions the environmental and climatic advantages of electric vehicles, taking into consideration the entire production cycle, transportation, batteries, employment and other aspects.

View of a vast oil palm plantation in Tailandia, a municipality in the state of Pará, in Brazil’s eastern Amazon rainforest. The intent to turn palm oil into biodiesel did not work out, because the oil serves a more attractive market in the food and chemical industries. CREDIT: Mario Osava/IPS

Biodiesel was not as successful as ethanol, but it also improved the urban environment and has a future, with some additional effort.

It is produced from vegetable or animal oils, even used, and other fatty materials.

Its main problem is that it is more expensive and therefore cannot compete with diesel fuel in order to replace it, Leal pointed out. Currently the diesel blend has been reduced from 12 to 10 percent, so as not to further drive up the cost of diesel fuel, the price of which is rising worldwide.

Another biofuel, which has been around for a long time but is now expanding, is biogas.

It is not only clean, but actually helps to reduce pollution, since it is the gas generated from garbage, wastewater, agricultural waste and animal excrement, which is no longer released into the air, thus reducing greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

Its use is incipient in Brazil, but it has the potential to replace 70 percent of the diesel fuel consumed in the country, at a lower cost, according to the Brazilian Biogas Association. And big cities and the country’s enormous agricultural sector offer plenty of raw materials.

By means of a simple refining process, biogas is converted into biomethane, equivalent to natural gas and, therefore, a fuel that can even be used to run heavy vehicles. If used for electricity generation, it could meet 36 percent of national demand, the association of companies in the sector estimates.

Small biodigesters produce biogas that could prevent the use of firewood and ethanol, and the resultant accidents and pollution, among poor families, especially in the countryside, noted Coelho.

“Appropriate public policies and low-interest loans for investments” could boost biogas and its environmental benefits, at a time when international financial institutions are cutting financing for coal-fired and other fossil fuel power plants, Leal said.

The two experts stressed that all these biofuels play an important role in making green hydrogen, produced from renewable energy sources, viable and recognised as central to the world’s energy future.

Biofuels have served humanity since its earliest past, not always in a sustainable way. The first was firewood, on which 2.8 billion people in the world still depend, according to an October 2020 World Bank report. But it is environmentally unsound, and leads to deforestation and household pollution.

The oils and resins that illuminated cities and homes in centuries past, before the advent of electricity, were also destructive. Oils extracted from whale blubber and from the eggs of Amazonian turtles are examples, almost driving certain species to extinction.

© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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Time Honoured Food Traditions, Pleasing for Palate and Planet

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Alia Chughtai (standing at the back), a journalist with filmmaker Akhlaque Mahesar (right, behind the table), and others in their team at Aur Chaawal (And Rice). Chughtai believes in using local fresh ingredients that are healthy and planet-friendly. Her method of cooking fits in with the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition’s Double Pyramid. Credit: Zofeen T. Ebrahim/IPSby Zofeen Ebrahim (karachi)Friday, November 19, 2021Inter Press Service

She knows what she is talking about. Suffering from gastrointestinal issues, Chughtai’s journey towards healthy eating started a decade ago. Once she understood the science behind nutrition and what balance of eating meant, she understood what her body had gone through. And thus began her quest for cleansing it.

“I couldn’t have garlic or onions for eight straight weeks,” the two most essential ingredients one cannot imagine cooking desi (slang for Pakistani) food without, she told IPS.

Two years ago, Chughtai decided to turn her food journey into a small side business.

“I got into this because there was a personal need for clean desi food without the bad oil, chemical-laced spices and food colouring,” she said. Today her fight is against processed food which she believes is the reason behind the multitude of ailments in people, and she swears by “heartily grown vegetables and fruits”.

“But it’s not a solo ride,” she said. For a well-oiled business to run successfully and expand, the pair have divided their tasks. While Chughtai oversees the day-to-day operations and “menu ideation”, Mahesar looks after the background logistics.

Surmai (fish) korma and rice with crispy okra and fried chillies on the side. One of the balanced dishes found at Aur Chaawal. Credit: Zofeen T. Ebrahim/IPS

While navigating the ‘farm to fork’ path, trying to find the balance between sustainability, nutrition, and access, Mahesar said they try their best “to use locally grown, locally made products”.

In turn, the duo has become acutely aware of fairer returns for small businesses and farmers.

“Ours is a small business, and we are all for supporting other small businesses,” said Chughtai’s partner.

The pandemic also acted as a catalyst for many Pakistanis to think and produce locally.

“We try to source as much as possible from around Pakistan, including the different types of cheeses and even the pasta,” he said.

But looking for quality produce requires quite a bit of research, which they both enjoy doing.

“We get a month’s supply of spices from small towns in Sindh; a certain species of chillies from Muzaffarabad, in the Punjab province; saffron and buckwheat from Hunza, in Gilgit-Baltistan region and saag (mustard plant) from Lahore, also in Punjab. They substitute ghee (a type of clear butter) for oil to cook in, which they get from Matiari, also in Sindh, weekly.

Fayza Khan, president of the Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society (PNDS), strongly feels those in the food business must preach and practice healthy and sustainable eating, advocate for science-based diets, recommend reduced intake of meat and highly processed foods and demand from the government better labelling on packaged food.

To “reduce the burden of malnutrition and non-communicable diseases”, those in the food business should “play their part” in promoting healthier ways of cooking food and minimizing food waste.

Frowning upon overconsumption of fat-laden food, including bakery products, fast food, and sweetened beverages, she said: “Nutrition and lifestyle-related chronic diseases in Pakistan among adults as well as in children including the prevalence of obesity and an onset of diabetes in young age is spreading fast.”

Khan, therefore, recommends “traditional foods” which are healthier if “home-cooked with better cooking techniques”.

Finding the balance between food systems and the planet. Credit: BCFN

And that is what the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) advocates: that healthy diets, especially traditional foods, play a significant role in food sustainability as they have a low environmental impact.

For example, the Mediterranean diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish rather than red meat, and cereal-based products, such as pasta, and cooked in olive oil, help prevent heart disease. Little wonder Italians are ranked healthiest in the world. Italy has the highest number of centenarians in Europe.

As Chughtai and Mahesar fine-tuned their business model, they have increasingly understood the integrity of sustainable food strategies and started employing caution to minimize any environmental or climate impact it may be causing.

“As an entrepreneur in the food business, it is our responsibility to reduce greenhouse emissions, of animal welfare and protection of small farmers and workers in the food business,” said Chughtai.

“We initially used bagasse bowls and containers,” she explained but had to opt for cheaper recycled packaging boxes because bagasse was too expensive.

“We use regular reusable plastic boxes which we refill with food for 10% discount on the food,” she said, adding: “People don’t want to pay higher costs for desi cuisine!”

They also compost their wet kitchen waste and use it as manure for their vegetable roof garden, where they grow their red bell peppers, chillies, broccoli, tomatoes, eggplant, gourd, and some herbs.
But Chughtai, says Aur Chaawal, is not just a business; it is a quest for “clean food”.

It took her several years to find out that the root cause of her stomach issues, said Chughtai and said everything pointed toward the pre-packaged spices with their overdose of flavourings and colours. Averse to them, at Aur Chaawal, they use the old-fashioned pestle and mortar to pound fresh garlic, smash the ginger or chillies or grind the whole spices into powder.

“Our cooking may be labour intensive, alright,” she admitted, but insisted it was “clean and healthy”.

Chughtai may not be aware of it, but Aur Chaawal has uses Barilla Foundation’s Double Pyramid model of placing the health and climate pyramids side-by-side, encouraging healthy eating for humans and remaining respectful of the planet.

In a city like Karachi, which has a deluge of caterers, food joints and restaurants and a huge population of discerning gourmands, securing 10,000 followers on Instagram, and a steady daily clientele of between 35-45, in just two years, is no mean feat.

“We have to be innovative,” said Mahesar, but puts their success down to the awareness among their regular customers (that include many working women who want her to cook for their family), that the Aur Chaawal menu will be nothing but wholesome.

The business also caters to those who are counting their calories. But Chughtai insisted a one-size-fits-all formula does not work for here.

On average, she said, every body’s plate should be 1/4th filled with protein, 1/2 with greens and 1/4th with complex carbs”.

But she emphasized: “Everyone is different; you have to eat according to your health needs.”

For instance, on her plate, the portion of protein would be 1/3rd protein since she was low on iron. And this, she said, was the mistake many nutritionists in Pakistan make.

“You cannot apply the 1400/1500 calorie rule to everyone!” said Chughtai, who was fortunate to train under Adrian Leunga, a certified nutrition coach and personal trainer and who helped “reconfigure my brain about good food and bad food”.

One day, when her inner writer gets restless, she plans to document her “journey”. She intends to travel from the coastal villages to the mountain peaks and include recipes she picks up “of the unconventional eats and the ones we’ve adapted because Karachi is such a smorgasbord of ethnicities” in a “beautifully designed” compilation.

Till then, having brought up eating home-cooked food made by her mother, she said, Aur Chaawal will continue serving “clean” meals using the healthiest, organically grown produce and spices for their customers.


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© Inter Press Service (2021) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

Original Article: globalissues.org

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Shiba Inu (SHIB) Breaks 8th Place in Crypto Top 10 With Unprecedented Rally

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Shiba Inu is arguably one of the most talked-about cryptocurrencies in the space now. The meme coin had managed to crawl out of growing obscurity to the forefront of the crypto market. While the broader market has suffered alongside top cryptocurrency bitcoin, Shiba Inu has had other plans. Carving out its own growth pattern, the value of the asset had rallied to a new all-time high on Wednesday.

Its break above $0.00004 and the subsequent crash had led the market to believe that the rally would be short-lived. SHIB had promptly fallen back to range $0.00003 range after hitting its new all-time high. But going against expectations, it had resumed its rally again and this time, its price had once again doubled, peaking above $0.00008. SHIB’s price in addition to its total supply has pushed the coin into the top ten cryptos and past its rival Dogecoin.

Related Reading | Why Shiba Inu (SHIB) Rallied 266% Following Biggest Dump In Its History

Playing With The Big Dogs

Shiba Inu’s entry into the top 10 cryptocurrencies by market cap has put it in a position where it has to square up to bigger projects. One problem for SHIB remains its lack of use cases. Pushing past Dogecoin which has been in the top 10 for a while means that the project will have to evolve if it wishes to retain its prestigious position. Doge used its application as a payment option for its use case expansion. It remains to be seen what SHIB will use to cement its place in the top 10.

SHIB price wavers at $0.00007296 | Source: SHIBUSD on TradingView.com

The meme coin’s price has although not faltered in the face of its lack of use cases. In what looks to be a hype-fueled market, SHIB’s price has maintained its upward momentum for over three weeks.

The primary pull towards the altcoin has been the massive returns. It has returned over 1,000% gains in its recent rally and the push for $0.0001 has continued.

Shiba Inu May Just Be Here To Stay

The Shiba Inu community has continued to push for listing on Robinhood. Public.com, a direct competitor to Robinhood, had listed the meme coin last week in light of increased demand. However, there is still no word from Robinhood regarding the listing of the asset. As the market awaits the trading platform’s decision, an interesting development occurred in the valuation of the two assets.

Related Reading | Shiba Inu (SHIB) Jumps 50% To ATH Amid Robinhood Rumors

SHIB’s rally caused the total valuation of the asset to surpass $40 billion. This has helped it beat out coins like Dogecoin and DOT to move upwards on the crypto top 10. But these are not the only notable projects Shiba Inu has surpassed. Robinhood, on which the meme coin is yet to be listed, is only worth $30 billion. This means that SHIB’s valuation is greater than that of Robinhood.

Featured image from Coingape, chart from TradingView.com

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