Energy News Recap: Palm Oil Biodiesel Fails US Biofuel Standard; Vermont's Fracking Ban; More

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The super-ungreen-ness of palm oil biodiesel confirmed(!); new global solar photovoltaic stats (good news), as well as Spain's new feed-in tariff response (not so good news), and India again doubling-down on solar (really impressive); plus, is it really a ban on fracking when you have virtually no shale gas? Here's what we're reading this morning:

EPA Says Palm Oil Biodiesel Not A Green Fuel
Reinforcing what many environmentalists have been saying for some time now, the EPA has ruled that biodiesel made from palm oil will not meet the requirements of the US renewable fuels standard due to the extraordinarily high greenhouse gas emissions of the biofuel feedstock—the result of the fact that much of the fuel is produced on plantations cleared from rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia. Mongabay reports that EPA analysis shows that palm oil biodiesel has just 11-17% lower emissions than petroleum-based fuels. A minimum of 20% emissions reduction is required under the RFS rules.

Important to note: Independent analysis of the life-cycle emissions of palm oil biodiesel often shows much higher emissions than does the EPA analysis. In some cases 10 times higher than petroleum-based fuels, when the plantations are established on old forests with peaty soils, which store huge amount of carbon.

27.7 GW of Solar PV Installed in 2011
New stats from the European Photovoltaic Industry Associated show that in 2011 a total of 27.7 gigawatts of solar PV was installed worldwide, taking the global total to 87.4 GW. Italy and Germany together accounted for 60% of global growth in solar PV installations, with Europe as a whole installing 76% of all solar PV last year. On a country-by-country basis, Italy led the world in PV installations last year with 9 GW; Germany was in second place at 7.5 GW (though still leads in total installation, by a wide margin). China, the US, France and Japan occupied the third through fifth spots, each installing between 1.1-2 GW of new solar PV. Read more.

Spain Suspends Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariffs
Germany's use of feed-in tariffs to promote more use of renewable energy has largely been hailed as a success, Spain's not so much. And now, with the nation's broader financial woes being used as justification, Spain's feed-in tariff has been suspended:

As the Council of Ministers announced on Friday, the government won’t give any economic incentive to fund new renewable installations, and the relevant administrative and funding systems will be suspended. While it was said that the suspension will be temporary, the government did not disclose any timeframe for when the FITs may be resumed. (PV Magazine)

A dingy silver lining: Installations already installed, or those already registered with the program, are unaffected however.

India Plans Homemade Solar Atlas
We've reported a number of times on India's ambitious solar power plans (20 GW by 2022, and making decent if not complete progress in the initial phase); and here's another twist on that path. Tired on relying on NASA data for estimates of its solar power potential, India is planning to develop its own, domestic solar power atlas. The database, kept more up to date for India's specific conditions, will be developed by the Centre for Wind Energy Technology, based in Chennai, the Economic Times reports.

Vermont House Committee Says Yes To Fracking Ban
Though hydraulic fracturing poses a miniscule risk to Vermont compared to its neighbors to the south and west—a bit of the Utica Shale is in the northwest part of the state, and no one has yet proposed fracking it—the state House Waters Resources Committee has unanimously approved a three-year moratorium on fracking in the state. The rule is expected to be voted on by the full House tomorrow, from where it will have to go on to the state Senate before taking effect. The usual political reaction quotes are at WPTZ.com.

Tags: Biodiesel | Biofuels | Fracking | Solar Power

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