Environmental Science

Towards a cleaner planet: Green technology takes precedence

Posted on January 25, 2012. Filed under: Environmental Science |

-The Borneo Post-

KUCHING: The utilisation of resources such as fossil fuels and raw materials to power our technological advancements and energy needs come at a price as by-products such as greenhouse gases (GHG), toxic run-off and solid waste are produced and channelled back to the natural world in alarming quantities.

In a concerted effort to curb the effects of our destructive doings, technological enterprises, regulatory bodies, environmental watchdogs and entire governments strive to practice cleaner and safer activities which enhance ecological efficiency while minimising adverse environmental impacts.

Green technology endeavours to develope products, equipment and systems to conserve the natural environment and resources, which minimise and reduce the negative impact of human activities.

According to a spokesman of the Malaysian Green Technology Corporation, the criteria of green technology products, equipments or systems were minimising the degradation of the environment, zero or low GHG emissions, safe for use and promoted healthy and improved environment.

The Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water, Datuk Seri Peter Chin Fah Kui stated, “In line with our new focus on green technology, the government has launched the RM1.5 billion Green Technology Financing Scheme.

“This move is intended to attract the private sector to participate in green technology entrepreneurship. This fund will be able to facilitate and fast track efforts by companies that are now pursuing green technology businesses.

“Having provided the catalyst for green businesses to grow in the country, we envisage the initiatives that the government has implemented so far will generate impressive economic multiplier effects.”

Malaysia embarked on a comprehensive palm oil bio-fuel programme in1982 and successfully established the use of palm methyl esters and the blend of processed palm oil (five per cent) with petroleum diesel (95 per cent) as a suitable fuel for the transport and industrial sectors.

The Malaysian Green Building Index (GBI) which was launched in early 2009, provided an opportunity for developers and building owners to design and construct green, sustainable buildings that could provide energy and water savings whilst providing a healthier indoor environment.

In the global scene, the research arm of conglomerate giant Samsung Group opined that the energy and environment industry had become vital due to the depletion of natural resources and environment changes.

Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) stated, “Developments in materials science actually hold huge potentials that could lead to future innovations.

“Eco-friendly vehicles, distributed electricity generators and other green technologies will develop as new and important industries. In order to enhance battery performance, an innovative material featuring energy density, price, stability and long lifespan is essential.”

SAIT’s mobile rechargeable battery technology has become the foundation for expanding research to large capacity batteries for electric vehicles as well as renewable energies such as solar cells and fuel cells.

While aiming to increase the input energy efficiency of devices and systems, the concept of green technology also focused on minimising the resource waste or output losses; one such example was the heating and cooling industry.

The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company (3M) and Panasonic, two recognisable brands here, have taken leaps and bounds in materials engineering in the quest for shielding against thermal energy and efficient energy transfer.

With 3M’s automotive solar film, solar heat would be blocked from entering vehicles by filtering out 99.9 per cent of heat generating ultra-violet light, significantly reducing the work load of the air-conditioner and in turn reducing the amount of fuel used to operate the vehicle.

With regards to air-conditioners, Panasonic’s advanced variable speed compressors and brushless motors provide energy savings, with average consumption rates of about 40 per cent to that of conventional designs.

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Developers call for green tech relief

Posted on October 5, 2011. Filed under: Environmental Science |

-NST-

Property developers are looking forward to more incentives to develop green technology in the 2012 Budget.

Real Estate and Housing Developers Association Malaysia (Rehda) president Datuk Seri Michael Yam said in a statement that the adoption of green technology should be encouraged through incentives rather than regulations.

“The major restriction for developers to adopt green technology is cost.

“To ease developers’ financial burden in adopting green technology, the government should consider tax deductions for green developments.”

The association also suggested a waiver to be imposed on stamp duty equivalent to the greening costs, up to a maximum of the original stamp duty amount whichever is lower for the next five years when such properties were transferred from developers to buyers.

In the 2010 Budget, a fund of RM1.5 billion was allocated for soft loans to companies that supplied and used green technology.

Yam also urged the government to review the property price limit of RM220,00 under the first-home scheme.

“While Rehda is of the view that the scheme is an innovative initiative to assist young adults earning less than RM3,000 to own a home, there are not many properties priced below RM220,000 in the Klang Valley and other major urban areas.”

The scheme was introduced in last year’s budget, whereby Cagamas Berhad provided a guarantee on 10 per cent of the down payment for houses below RM220,000.

A 50 per cent stamp duty exemption on loan agreements was also introduced to assist first-time house buyers.

National House Buyers Association secretary-general Chang Kim Loong said that the government should ensure accountability and transparency in the scheme.

“We are hoping that the scheme is able to benefit the targeted groups. The government should ensure that only those eligible are getting the houses.

“We urge the government to look into the escalating price of properties in the coming budget.

“While the first-home scheme is a stepping stone, the government should also make sure that other properties are not overpriced,” Yam said.

Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is scheduled to present the 2012 Budget in Parliament on Friday.

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Durian peel can help clear oil spills

Posted on May 2, 2011. Filed under: Environmental Science |

-The Star-

KUALA LUMPUR: An oil spill at sea? No problem, just bring along some durians.

The “King of Fruits”, says an expert, is an efficient oil absorbent that can aid in the recovery of spilled oil at coastal areas.

Dr S. Kathiresan of AIMST University has found that durian peel, which is considered as an agricultural waste, can be used to remove oil from water.

The lecturer in the university’s Biotechnology Department said laboratory results indicated that chemically-modified durian peel powder was also an efficient absorbent for recovery of spilled oil in water.

“The bio-absorbent can be used for cleaning oil spills along coastal areas that cause adverse effects not only to all living sea organisms, but also human economic activities,” he added.

“Agro-waste has a huge commercial potential due to its efficiency in oil absorption, cost effectiveness and biodegradability,” he said in an interview recently.

Dr Kathiresan said that it all began with a simple experiment with durian peel collected and washed several times with tap water to remove dirt or the durian flesh and then ground into powder and modified with a variety of chemicals.

He said it was found that the modified durian powder was also able to retain its original efficiency to absorb spilled oil.

Currently, synthetic fibres, in particular polypropylene and polyurethane, are used in oil spill clean-up and are available for approximately US$100 (RM300) per kg.

Dr Kathiresan said he would present his research paper entitled “Fatty Acid Modified Durian Peel As An Efficient Biosorbent For Removal of Spilled Oil on Aqueous Media” at the 14th Asian Chemical Congress 2011 in September in Bangkok. — Bernama

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Reconsider release of GM mosquitoes

Posted on January 15, 2011. Filed under: Bio-diversity, Environmental Science |

-Aliran-

Civil society groups in Malaysia have written to the authorities, urging them not to go ahead with their proposed – and already deferred – release of genetically modified mosquitoes.

Photo: abc.net.au

Mr Letchumanan Ramatha, Director General of Biosafety

Dr Ahmad Parveez Hj. Ghulam Kadir, Chairperson, Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC)

20 December 2010

Re: Statement of concern from international civil society organisations regarding field release of genetically modified mosquitoes

As international civil society organizations working primarily in the fields of public health, biosafety, and consumer and environmental protection, we write to you to respectfully put forward our views on the issue of the release of genetically modified (GM) Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in Malaysia. It is not clear if such releases have already occurred, but given the tremendous international interest in the issue, it would be regrettable if the field trials were to be shrouded in secrecy.

We are equally concerned by news of the field releases in 2009 and 2010 of the same GM mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands and call for a transparent assessment of the health and environmental impacts of these trials, pending which, no further field releases of GM mosquitoes should occur. The Cayman trials have also been strongly criticised for being conducted without public consultation or ethical oversight and for not seeking the informed consent from local people.

While we appreciate that dengue is a serious problem in Malaysia and that urgent measures are needed to address this debilitating disease, the release of GM mosquitoes presents a unique moment in the history of the application of genetic engineering technology, which is of international importance. We know that the government of Malaysia has not taken this decision lightly, and appreciate the efforts that have been made to responsibly assess the technology and the risks associated with the release of these GM mosquitoes into the environment.

Scientific uncertainties call for a precautionary approach

However, there are several outstanding scientific issues that would benefit from a more cautious approach. GM mosquitoes are a very new application of GM technology and present very different risks, and for which the international community has had virtually no risk assessment or regulatory experience.

Unintended and unpredictable changes may occur (often not instantly noticeable), and a focus on testing for these effects in the laboratory should be the first step, rather than testing fitness parameters in the open environment, as appears to be the intention of these field trials. Further, the interactions in the wild between the two dengue-carrying mosquito species, their predators and prey, the evolution of the diseases that they carry, and the human population should be better understood before introducing changes of this kind. This requires more sophisticated computer modelling, informed by a better understanding of the behaviour of unmodified mosquitoes in the wild.

It would be therefore prudent to ensure that any questions remaining should be first investigated in order to plug the data gaps that currently exist. As such, a precautionary approach dictates that it is still too early for any open field releases, especially given the fact that there will be GM mosquitoes, including females which potentially transmit disease, surviving in the environment due to the known leakiness of the technology employed. Of particular concern is whether the survival rates in subsequent generations will eventually select for mosquitoes that can overcome the conditional lethality trait. Survival of the GM larvae also means that the transgenes may not be completely removed from the environment, with unknown consequences.

Pitfalls of a GM mosquito strategy for dengue control

If the world is to approach dengue control using GM mosquitoes, we may be locking ourselves onto a ‘genetic treadmill’, which would be difficult to reverse. At the commercial release stage, the continuous release of millions of GM mosquitoes at several places would be needed in order to successfully suppress target mosquito populations. In such large numbers the concerns raised over the field trials would be magnified many times over, plus would raise other additional risks.

From the public health perspective, of particular concern is whether population suppression of Aedes aegypti (which is the ultimate aim of these GM mosquitoes) would lead to other closely related and disease-transmitting species, such as Aedes albopictus, filling the vacated niche and hence continue to cause, or even worsen, the dengue problem, or transmission of other serious diseases.

The company that produces and owns the GM Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, UK-based Oxitec Limited, is also developing a similar GM Aedes albopictus mosquito, presumably in anticipation of this problem. Oxitec clearly stands to gain from the approval of its products in countries such as Malaysia. However, it is unclear who will bear the liability and from whom victims should seek redress should any damage to the environment or human health or animal health occur.

Right to health and participation are priorities

Instead of a dengue control strategy beholden to private and vested interests, the participation of people and peoples’ organisations is essential to and would benefit the formulation, implementation and evaluation of all health policies and programmes. We urge the Malaysian government to ensure meaningful and effective public participation on this matter, as it is committed to under its Biosafety Act 2007 and as a Party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. There is also a need for a more vibrant prior informed consent regime, especially considering that the whole world will be looking to this Malaysian experience as a model.

Human well-being is at the core of public health and governments have a duty to respect, protect and fulfil peoples’ right to health, as well as refrain from taking actions that can jeopardise the right to health of its citizens. We therefore respectfully urge the Malaysian government to reconsider the decision to allow field experiments of the GM mosquitoes, not only for the benefit of Malaysians, but also for the world at large.

Thank you for your kind consideration of our views.

Yours sincerely,

PAN AP

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Sime Darby, Mitsui to Test Using Oil-Palm Waste for Bioethanol in Malaysia

Posted on December 28, 2010. Filed under: Environmental Science |

-bloomberg.com-

Sime Darby Plantation Sdn., a unit of Malaysia’s Sime Darby Bhd., said it is collaborating with Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co. to “construct and operate” a bioethanol demonstration plant in the Malaysian state of Selangor.

The plant, which will convert empty oil palm fruit bunches into bioethanol, will have a processing capacity of 1.25 metric tons per day, Sime Darby said in an e-mailed statement today. The plant will collect operational data and confirm the technical feasibility of commercial-scale production of bioethanol from this source, the statement said.

“The empty fruit bunch can now move further up the value chain as a source of biofuel,” Franki Anthony Dass, executive vice-president of Sime Darby Plantations, said in the statement. “Successful commercialization will also help in managing solid waste produced in oil palm estates.”

The production of biofuel from non-food feedstock such as empty fruit bunches and other palm oil biomass will help to partially meet the global fuel demand without jeopardizing food supply, according to the statement.

Test production of bioethanol at the plant will start next year and the product will be sold in Malaysia as a raw material for plastics, and later possibly exported to Japan, the Nikkei newspaper reported earlier today.

 

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Green insights in Tokyo

Posted on December 4, 2010. Filed under: Environmental Science |

-The Star-

As Honda launches its latest entry-level hybrid, the Insight, we visit Tokyo for a sneak preview and a look at the growing environmental awareness in the city.

Have you ever had this feeling, whenever you’re stuck in yet another traffic jam, going neck and neck with the snails, of anxiety edging into hysteria as you spew your fair share of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere?

The temperature is rising. The ice caps are melting. The glaciers are receding. The sky is falling down!

No? Well then, consider it the confession of a neurotic and pessimist. Be that as it may, one might say, after two decades of sigh-filled acquaintance with the subject of global warming, that there is reason for optimism. A wee bit, anyway.

A view of Mt Fuji from Hakone.

Today, environmental awareness is at an all-time high. People are more conscious about the lifestyle choices they make, and there is the realisation that we can’t continue our wanton and wasteful ways. Mercifully, corporations, too, are beginning to see that being green isn’t just good for the planet or their image; it’s actually good for business.

The clean energy revolution is going to provide the next biggest platform for growth after the old Industrial Revolution. Does anyone doubt that the nation or corporation that masters green technology masters its own fate?

This realisation certainly came through loud and clear when we visited Tokyo recently for a sneak preview of one of Honda’s new hybrid cars, the Insight (Mark II), as well as for a glimpse into the little ways in which environmental awareness is making inroads into Japanese society.

Michio Shinohara, Honda’s head of environment and safety planning, said, “Since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, there has been increasing realisation of the need for year by year reduction of CO2. Currently 60% of car ownership is in the developed world, but from now on, ownership in developing countries will go up.

“Economic development will triple by 2050, meaning emissions will also triple if there is no technological development. Honda’s aim is to achieve ‘blue skies’ for our children,” he declared, predicting that hybrid cars will begin to replace conventional cars from now on as the world transitions to the holy grail of fuel cell technology. (See: From greener to green)

The Valley of the Great Boiling.

The race for affordable hybrid vehicles is finally on.

Following the Malaysian government’s decision to grant full tax exemption for green vehicles, Honda Malaysia is launching the 1.3L Insight at below RM100k.

Right off the plane, we were whisked off to downtown Tokyo, to the Chayu Club Kumon, for a demonstration of the eco-friendly Japanese art of furoshiki, a cloth that in the days of old was used to wrap and transport anything and everything. Households used them, as did merchants; nobility as did commoners. Even thieves.

The furoshiki, which can be traced to the Nara era (710-749AD), was originally used as a bath mat and to bundle clothes while at the public bath. Someone obviously had a light-bulb moment, and soon the use of the cloth spread beyond the baths.

This, of course, was in the days before the ubiquitous plastic bag became modern society’s blessing and bane.

Hanako Fujisawa and Yukiko Fukaumi ushered us into the demonstration area. According to Fujisawa, only two kinds of knots are used — the straightforward knot and the ma-musubi, a double reverse knot, the employment of which allows one to bundle anything. It is a thing of simplicity and, when done right, of beauty.

The Honda Insight.

We tried our hands at wrapping a box, then a couple of bottles. With the two ladies instructing, it wasn’t difficult. Pretty neat, in fact — something to bear in mind next time a party comes up and you’d like to present the host with a bottle of wine or two.

“Ah, and now you are masters of furoshiki,” smiled Fukaumi.

Over the next few days, we noticed quite a few shops selling these handy cloths but not a single city slicker sporting them. The furoshiki’s comeback is not quite in full swing yet.

Green practices are pretty much in place, however, at the Hotel New Otani. First built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the five-star hotel is a sprawling establishment with 291,041sq m of floor space and 1,479 rooms spread over three buildings.

Most notably, it embraces what it calls the R-economy of recycle, reuse, re-source and reduce.

“Recognising that environmental protection is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today, we consider ‘ecology’ and ‘well-being’ key to our strategy. Without wider consideration of the global environment, a truly comfortable hotel environment cannot be realised,” the hotel says on its website.

The hotel launched its Hybrid Hotel Project back in 1997, putting in place such measures as recycling, composting, cutting energy use and cultivating greenery on rooftops and elsewhere. Facility manager Masami Yamamoto, a sprightly man in his 60s, eagerly showed us around, going into complex technical details as he explained their power generation plant, water recycling facility and more.

Cyclists are a common sight in Tokyo.

“Does anyone of you have an engineering background?” he asked, keen to go into more detail.

Unfortunately, no. Which was just as well because, by then, we were beyond our ken and past information overload.

The figures, however, were impressive: The hotel recycles 42 items from nine categories of waste, from organic refuse and glass bottles, to milk packs and oil; recycling ratio is at a high 72%; of the 700 tons of water used by the kitchens, 500 tons is recycled as grey water; kitchen refuse is 100% recycled and turned into compost — 250 tons’ worth every year.

And the hotel has shown that it pays to go green. Its recycling facility, for example, cost ¥110mil (RM4.1mil) to install but since it saves the company ¥35mil a year in payment to the metropolitan council for rubbish collection, the cost was recouped within just three years and seven months.

“In terms of size and comprehensiveness, Hotel New Otani is No 1 in recycling, and we did it even before the government began to subsidise green practices,” Yamamoto proudly pointed out.

One fun — and green — thing to do while in Tokyo is to cycle.

Tokyo may not exactly be Amsterdam in terms of bicycle usage, but its network of wide sidewalks and footpaths sees quite a few cyclists, whether the elderly, young men in suits or young women in casual wear. And so we hopped on our two-wheelers for a spin around Chiyoda-ku, tearing up and down the pathway hugging the Imperial Palace, so near, yet so remote with its imposing wall and moat, feeling free as school kids after the bell, happy to be among other cyclists, joggers, sightseers and commuters.

Masami Yamamoto showing the compost that Hotel New Otani Tokyo generates from its kitchen waste.

With Tokyo’s late autumn temperature holding steady at around 15°C, the weather was just about perfect.

Later, we dropped in at the eco-friendly Mottanai shop at the Palaceside Building. The Mottanai movement was started by Kenyan Wangari Maathai, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work in the environmental field. Among other things, the word mottanai means “what a waste”, and was adopted as a rallying cry for a greener way of life.

Their retail outlet sells a variety of things, mostly made with recycled materials, from tote bags and lunch boxes to furoshiki and chopsticks. In 2009, seeing as to how 130 million umbrellas are purchased and (presumably) discarded every year by Japan’s 127 million people, they promoted designer umbrellas meant to be keepers. This year, it’s the water bottle that gets its day in the sun in an effort to stem the tide of 30 billion PET bottles used every year.

For a little sightseeing outside the city, we headed to Hakone, 100km southwest of Tokyo, famed for its hot springs and beautiful views of Mt Fuji. First stop: Owakudani a.k.a the Valley of the Great Boiling, an ethereally sulfurous place smelling vaguely of rotten egg. One attraction here is the boiled eggs blackened from being dipped in the hot springs.

Eating them will help to prolong one’s life by seven years, or so they say. Later, we sailed the blue waters of Lake Ashinoko on a faux pirate ship en route to lunch, me hearty.

Next day, we finally got behind the wheel of the Insight, driving some 90km northeast to Motegi in eastern Tochigi perfecture, the racing facility belonging to Honda comprising of an oval racetrack and a road course. The hybrid car is remarkable for being, well, unremarkable. You wouldn’t know you were driving a hybrid if nobody told you.

Well, that, and the electronic display which shows you exactly what is happening with the car, whether it’s running on battery or petrol and whether you’re a “green” or “red” driver. Yes, your driving style is rated for each trip and over the lifespan of the car, so your best pedal foot forward, please.

Steering felt a little heavy but the engine was quiet and smooth. Milage is rated at 100km on 4.4 litres of fuel. Made in Japan and going for RM98,000, the Insight is a bargain, especially when compared to the Toyota Prius which costs about RM40,000 more.

Once in Motegi, we did a whirlwind tour of Honda’s automotive museum, snapping and hurrying because time was running short. And then it was on to Hello Woods, Motegi’s forest recreational park. Odd as it may sound, the idea behind Motegi, a temple to automobiles, was co-existence with nature, with Honda maintaining most of the area’s surrounding green — 642ha in all.

Guide and secondary forest researcher Nao Matsuzaki showed us around as the light began to fail at just 4pm. Summer camps and other activities are held here to educate children and adults alike to embrace nature. Matsuzaki was especially keen to show us Hello Woods’ bacteria-controlled toilet, later ushering us round the back and prying off manholes from the sewage tank to show how the waste is rehabilitated by their specially cultivated bacteria and then filtered into the next catchment area.

Scooping up a cupful of jaundiced-looking water, she urged us to smell it. Nope, no stink. It’s drinkable too, she said. Nobody felt like a sip, though, and we didn’t have the heart to ask Matsuzaki to down it, either. Sometimes, it’s best to just take somebody’s word for it, no?

And so our green-themed trip came to an end, but no visit to Tokyo is complete without a mention of the city’s gastronomic delights, is it? It would seem one can’t go wrong wherever one dines, but three outlets stood out.

We had a fun-filled evening at Ninja Akasaka, a ninja-themed restaurant where mysterious black-clad waiters entertained and humoured. Just getting to your table requires negotiating a labyrinthine passageway, but for all the gimmicks involved, the food was surprisingly not bad by half.

The communal-styled Robataya restaurant in Roppongi was a treat, too. Everyone sits around a large counter within which two chefs hold court, fresh ingredients all around. Orders are shouted out loud, and repeated by all the staff. There is much clapping, cheering and shouting. And should you need to visit the toilet, they will holler this bit of info out loud for all and sundry to know, too.

Food — simple, hearty and delicious — is grilled and served to diners directly on a long stick by the chefs. Quite an experience.

But it was the Seryna restaurant, perched high on Sumitomo building in Shinjuku, that took the cake. Who’d have thought raw beef could be so agreeable? Or that grilled food could be so divine? Steaks, I’m afraid, will never be the same again after Seryna’s grilled Kobe Beef.

Or is red meat not environment-friendly?

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Malaysia’s first electric car unveiled Dec 02, 2010 (The Star – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ANN) — Malaysia’s first electric car is taking shape with the completion of the prototype of the vehicle based on the latest Proton Saga model.

Posted on December 2, 2010. Filed under: Environment and Livelihoods, Environmental Science |

Dec 02, 2010 (The Star – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ANN) — Malaysia’s first electric car is taking shape with the completion of the prototype of the vehicle based on the latest Proton Saga model.

The prototype was built in collaboration between Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and the national car maker.

Proton Group managing director Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir said the prototype has given them confidence in making better electric vehicles and hoped that it could be a mass-market product soon.

“The first stage of validating the product from end-to-end is completed, it gives us a lot of confidence, the system will work as a car.

“And I think the next stage will be pre-testing by the people, and put a better volume of the product, and finally at the end of the day, we are going for mass production,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the International Conference on Sustainable Mobility 2010 here on Wednesday.

Among those present was Proton advisor Dr Mahathir Mohamed, Proton chief engineer Md Ridzuan Md Yusof and UTM Vice-Chancellor Dr Zaini Ujang.

The three-day conference starting Wednesday and organised by the SAE international Malaysia Section and UTM aims to provide opportunities for participants to exchange ideas, findings, promote knowledge-sharing and cooperate in the field of sustainable mobility.

Dr Zaini said the prototype has been under research and development for the past 11 months and the modification was started by converting a petrol-based Saga model to a fully electric-powered car.

“Upon completion, the car can travel as far as 160km using a 15kW battery and will take up seven to eight hours to re-charge.” He said the car was suitable for urban and short-distance travelling and it was environment-friendly as it operates silently and does not cause air pollution.

To see more of the Asia News Network, go to http://www.asianewsnet.net/home/ Copyright (c) 2010, The Star, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia / Asia News Network Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit http://www.mctinfoservices.com.

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Malaysia to find niche in biotech industry

Posted on November 24, 2010. Filed under: Environmental Science |

Borneo Post-

KOTA KINABALU: Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili said that Sabah has yet to acculturate and improvise current development of the biotech industry and while the proposed strategies and plans have been incorporated into Sabah Development Corridor (SDC), the need to gear up in developing the industry in the state must be stressed.

Maximus further pointed out that Malaysia needs to find its own niche in the biotech rat-race stressing that other countries have made large investments in the biotechnology industry, and many have found their niche.

Brazil is now recognised for its advancement in biofuel, Japan for industrial fermentation and Korea for industrial bioprocesses.

He said the country’s strong agricultural foundation in commodity crops such as palm oil presents an advantage to develop environmental-friendly technologies and the abundant biomass and waste from palm oil and other commodity crops could be leveraged to provide a sustainable and economical source of feedstock for the production of biofuel.

“It also could be turned into ‘brown gold’, an organic fertiliser, or to be chemically or enzymatically refined to produce other bio-chemical derivatives,” Maximus suggested in his keynote address at the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC) seminar on Investment Opportunities in Sabah Biotech Industry here yesterday.

His speech was delivered by the chief operating officer of Malaysian Biotechnology Corporation Sdn Bhd (BiotechCorp) Dr Wan Abdul Rahaman Wan Yaacob.

The event was organised by Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (Sedia) in collaboration with Mosti.

“We need to be literate in biotech in order to leverage on platform technologies to hasten commercialisation initiatives and create a niche as a tropical biotech hub and Sabah could also leverage on the existing biotech initiatives and conservation work to draw research and commercialisation in the state,” Maximus said.

He further stated that since the inception of the National Biotechnology Policy on April 6, 2005, a total of 349 biotech companies were identified in Malaysia.

From 2005 to 2009, the industry recorded a total investment of US$1.3 billion, equivalent to RM4.5 billion.

57.8 per cent of the companies were funded by the government while the remainder were funded by the private sector initiatives.

Maximus also pledged to continue government investments in this industry, while at the same time strive to increase collaborations.

These include the public-private sector collaborations, domestic and regional collaborations, procurement of transactions, procurement of sales and distribution channels for our country’s biotechnology innovation, products, technologies and services.

He also believed that an invisible ‘social contract on biotechnology’ was needed between all stakeholders to act as a catalyst towards building a sustainable biotechnology industry.

Also present were Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Peter Pang En Yin, and president of Sedia Datuk Dr Mohd Yaakub Johari.

Meanwhile, Director of Life Science Industry of Mida Jaswant Singh said the pharmaceutical industry could enjoy reinvestment allowance of 60 per cent on qualifying capital expenditure for 15 years.

In addition, there is also reinvestment allowance of 60 per cent on qualifying capital expenditure for 15 years, as well as investment tax allowance of 70 per cent to 100 per cent on qualifying capital expenditure incurred for a period of five to 10 years.

“The allowance can be offset against 70 per cent to 100 per cent of the statutory income for each year of assessment,” Jaswant said while pointing out that the pharmaceutical industry was identified as one of the new growth areas for development and promotion under the Third Industrial Master Plan (2006-2020).

“Under the National Key Economic Area (NKEA) (Healthcare Services), the pharmaceuticals and medical devices industries have been identified as one of the targeted sectors to be further promoted and developed,” he said.

Jaswant continued that the tax incentives were given to manufacture of pharmaceutical and related products, biotechnology, development and production of cell cultures, biomaterials, manufacture of medical, surgical, dental, or veterinary devices or equipment, design, development and manufacture of medical equipment, medical implant or devices and scientific equipment, and testing laboratories for medical devices, just to name a few.

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Duty exemption on hybrid cars extended to next year

Posted on October 16, 2010. Filed under: Environmental Science |

THE import duty and excise duty exemption for buyers of hybrid cars has been extended to December next year.

The extension of the exemption is part of the pro-environment measures under the Budget.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak also said that full import duty and a 50% excise duty exemption was granted to franchise holders of hybrid cars up to Dec 31 this year.

Other measures include an allocation of RM1.9bil for the greening of Kuala Lumpur and the River of Life Programme.

The Government also pledged to reduce carbon emission by implementing several measures, including a programme on blending of biofuels with petroleum diesel.

The programme will be made mandatory in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Malacca from June next year.

Also to be implemented is the Feed in Tariff mechanism under the Renewable Energy Act to allow electricity generated from renewable energy by individuals and independent providers to be sold to electricity utility companies.

Tax exemption on income from trading of carbon credits or certified emission reductions will also be extended until the year of assessment 2012.

Monitor Sustainabilty of Globa­lisation director Charles Santiago said hybrid cars would certainly reduce the carbon foodprint.

He stressed that the Government should concerntrate on making sure that the integrated public transportation system takes off fast.

“Reducing the number of cars with a good public transportation system is one of the most important strategies to reduce carbon emission,” he said.

An academician from Akademi Sains Malaysia, Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Mustaffa Babjee, said the allocation of RM1.9bil was not enough for environmental development, but compared to previous budgets, Budget 2011 had a positive indicator.

Forest Research Institute Malaysia director-general Datuk Dr Abd Latif Mohmod said the pro-green measures showed the national commitment to environment conservation.

Shell Malaysia chairman Anuar Taib said the company would work closely with the related government agencies to realise the national biofuels (biodiesel) policy.

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Green Industry Event Expects To Attract 120,000 Visitors

Posted on October 8, 2010. Filed under: Environmental Science |

(Bernama)– The upcoming International Greentech and Eco Products Exhibition and Conference Malaysia (IGEM) 2010 expects to pull a crowd of 120,000 visitors and participation from more than 600 companies and organisations from around the world.

The event, to be held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre here on October 14 and 15 for trade visitors and open to the public from Oct 16-17, expects to bring together leading industry players and professionals from various sectors of the green technology and eco-products industry.

The IGEM is being jointly organised by the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water and Green Purchasing Network Malaysia together with co organisers International Green Purchasing Network and Expomal International Sdn Bhd and several other collaborating organisations including the Asian Productivity Organisation and the United Nations Environmental Program.

In a statement here Friday, the event’s project secretariat, Expomal said the event is aimed at getting together industry players as well as others to explore and seize the many opportunities from the exciting and emerging green market in the country and the region.

It also hopes to create awareness amongst consumers and industry players on the importance of green technology and eco-products for sustainable consumption and production, and promote green purchasing and develop environmentally friendly products and services.

The event will also showcase innovative and creative green technology and services, eco-products and initiatives.

IGEM 2010 is also expected to be a platform that will foster the development of eco-preneurship and green economy and promote Malaysia as a regional green economy hub for green technology, eco-products and services.

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