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China steps up bio-gas pools
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China and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have decided to step up construction of bio-gas pools in Asia's rural communities to deal with energy crunch in villages amid rising prices of oil and grains.

The ADB has agreed on a $1 million grant to China, which has been successfully burning bio-gas in rural areas for cooking and lighting, according to the ADB's senior official.

"We are discussing the details now and hopefully we can start a new round of cooperation in biomass energy with China next year," ADB's East Asia Development Director General Klaus Gerhaeusser told China Daily yesterday. "We hope the projects can work and act as examples for other Asian countries."

He said the grant would be used to help Chinese rural communities construct large-scale bio-gas pools and summarize technical solutions, which may be transferred to other Asian countries.

Vice-Minister of Agriculture Wei Chao'an said the combination of ADB's commitment and China's experiences in biomass energy use can help find "reasonable approaches" to fix the energy headaches in villages in both China and the rest of Asia.

"Our strength lies in converting waste into energy, instead of burning grains such as corns," Wei said. "It is not a threat to grain security and a culprit of rising prices."

Generally, Chinese farmers recycle crop straws, grass, husk and animal dung and use it as bio-gas and the process can produce fertilizer, which is organic and environmentally friendly for farming.

The country produced 750,000 tons of bio-ethanol last year, and it is scheduled to boost output to 5 million tons by 2010. Twenty-six million households in the country's rural areas were using methane for cooking and heating by the end of last year, and another 5 million households will join the group this year.

"Every bio-gas pool is a micro eco-friendly system, which can combine solutions to environmental pollution and energy crunch," Wei said. "We hope we can spread the solutions to other countries of Asia with help from ADB."

China has already helped farmers in Laos and Cambodia construct bio-gas pools. "With our expertise, we are looking forward to contributing to other countries."

Asian countries have shown great interest in using biomass energy in rural regions and are learning from China's experiences. Today, the government representatives from ASEAN+3 (China, Japan and South Korea) mechanism are signing a joint declaration in Beijing to show commitment in biomass energy cooperation.

Wei said China would stop approving bio-ethanol projects that used corn and wheat but would encourage using non-grain materials such as cassava and straw. This is because corn is an important feed material in China, and developing corn-consuming bio-ethanol would affect the supply of meat and eggs.

He also said the government would rather use non-grain plants that commonly grow in the wild and salt land to produce bio-ethanol, so it would not take away farmland and reduce grain production.

China has already formed a legislative framework in biomass use. It encouraged the development of bio-energy within the Renewable Energy Law that took effect last year, as well as the Mid- and Long-Term Development Program for Renewable Energy.

(China Daily June 20, 2008)

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