Saturday, April 4, 2009

Investing in Biofuel

The Nation

Illinois-based Coskata - a leader in feed-stock ethanol and biology-based renewable energy - says the government should have a clear-cut policy on gasohol investment in order to make Thailand the ethanol manufacturing hub for Asia.

After meeting with the firm's executives, Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot said yesterday Coskata wanted to see Thailand rich in fuel crops and an ethanol production base for E85 vehicles.

"The firm is studying the possibility and advantage of investing here. If the government has a concrete policy on investment, General Motors should decide to invest in Thailand soon," said Alongkorn.

Coskata plans to cooperate with General Motors in ethanol production and has called on the Thai government to promote fuel crop plantations in support of alternative-energy, environment-friendly production. The firm wants clear-cut tax regulations, lower import tariffs for machines, and support in establishing investment.

The company has conducted a roadshow seeking local business partners for ethanol production in countries China, Australia and now Thailand.

Yesterday Coskata executives visited PTT to discuss expansion of ethanol production.

Wes Bolsen, chief marketing officer, said the parent company planned to set up full-scale manufacturing in 2012, with an expected total production capacity of 200 million litres per year.

Bolsen said the company's low-cost manufacturing would allow substantial profits for its partners. For instance, the company could produce ethanol at a competitive price, without any subsidy, when the oil price stood at US$70 (Bt 2,477) per barrel. Even now, with oil prices at US$40, its partners can enjoy real benefits.

"It would take three to four years to achieve the break-even point," Bolsen said.

Here are some pros and cons of Brazil's biofuel program at Wikipedia. Here is an article on Time Magazine here.

I am not so hot on the idea of Thailand using foreign capital to turn agriculture crops into biofuel for export.

I think it would be more fruitful if Thailand used its surplus, non-edible crops for biofuels to supplant the fossil fuels it imports.

I know I always attack The Nation, but I appreciate when they report on environmental issues and alternative energy. They certainly do it more often than the Bangkok Post.

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