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U.S. DOE and GM to Test Grow Jatropha in India

Oily weed holds promise as a sustainable biodiesel feedstock.

by on Mar.30, 2010

The goal of the project is to demonstrate that jatropha can produce significant quantities of oil for conversion to biodiesel.

The goal of the project is to demonstrate that the weed can produce significant enough amounts of oil for conversion to biodiesel fuel.

General Motors Company announced today a five-year partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help develop the jatropha plant for what could evolve into a sustainable biofuel energy crop.

Jatropha plants produce an oil that can be refined into biodiesel fuel.

The drought-resistant, non-edible plant can be grown commercially with modest care on marginal land.

To explore whether new varieties of the plant can produce high enough yields to make it viable while thriving in temperate climates in the U.S. is the point of the experiment.

“Discovering new sources for biodiesel production is an important part of DOE research and development efforts,” said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “The expertise of this team can help speed the pace for the development of jatropha as a biofuel crop.”

Two jatropha farms will be established in India: a 16-hectare (39.5 acre) plot in Bhavnagar and a 38-hectare (93.9 acre) plot in Kalol, near GM’s India Car Manufacturing plant. An existing 30-hectare (74.1 acre) jatropha farm in Bhavnagar also will be managed under this project.

Lab-optimized strains of jatropha will be cultivated at these farms.

The joint DOE-GM funding, an unspecified amount, will also enable the Central Salt & Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI)—an Indian Government research facility, to  manage all of the 84 hectares (840,000 m2).   (more…)

Some Hope at Opel as UK Agrees to Loan Guarantee

Still no support from Germany or Opel's German unions.

by on Mar.15, 2010

The viability problem remains centered in Germany where half of Opel's workers are.

Some small steps toward implementing the latest Opel/ Vauxhall “viability plan” occurred today in Europe as the UK government announced a €300 million loan guarantee to help secure Opel/Vauxhall’s operations in Britain.

Discussions with governments in other European countries continue, and Opel “is hopeful” that it will make similar progress.

In Spain, local management and unions reached an agreement to implement the planned restructuring measures at the manufacturing plant in Zaragoza. The agreement, which still needs to be ratified, calls for the elimination of 900 jobs there.

“Today marks an important step for the future of Opel/Vauxhall,” said Nick Reilly, Opel/Vauxhall CEO. “This shows significant progress in our efforts to secure loan guarantees from European governments and to get support from our employee representatives. We very much appreciate the support of Lord Mandelson and the British Government, which is a vote of confidence in our company. I’m also grateful for the Spanish government’s role in moderating the discussions between management and unions resulting in the important agreement reached early this morning.”

Last week, General Motors announced that it would triple the investment it was willing to make in its money-losing Opel/Vauxhall subsidiary from €600 million to €1.9 billion or ~$2.6 billion of the $5 billion needed to fix the company.   (more…)

German Government Out Bluffs Opel, So Far

GM triples offer, without firm commitments from E.U. governments. Maybe it's time to move toward bankruptcy.

by on Mar.09, 2010

Europeans appear content to let U.S. taxpayer-owned and subsidized GM carry the Opel restructuring burden.

Last week, General Motors announced that it would triple the investment it was willing to make in its money-losing Opel/Vauxhall subsidiary from €600 million to €1.9 billion or ~$2.6 billion of the $5 billion needed to fix the company.

Nick Reilly, CEO of Opel/Vauxhall, said that the latest offer – or more likely bargaining position already privately set forth to reluctant European governments – would now equal more than 50% of the overall funding required to keep Opel solvent and provide for the new products it desperately needs. The GM contribution would be made with both equity and loans.

GM has been seeking restructuring money from European governments since the fall of 2008 when it was becoming clear that it, along with its subsidiaries including Opel,  were insolvent.

Notable in its absence of support is Germany, where resentment still runs deep over GM’s refusal last November to sell Opel to Canadian supplier Magna and Russian Sberbank. At the time, GM said Opel was of strategic importance because of its engineering services and European presence.

Under its previous announced viability plan, Opel/Vauxhall had estimated funding requirements of €3.3 billion. However, as negotiations dragged on, an additional €415 million had been requested by the respective European governments to offset the potential impact of “adverse market developments.”

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Bitte!

GM says it now will contribute more than 50% of the overall funding.  As a result, the requested loan guarantees from European governments will decline in total from €2.7 billion to under €2 billion. This is still  a high risk proposition for governments.

GM claims remain no “potential liquidity risks” this year.

The latest GM gambit came – and went – without any immediate corresponding public commitments from European national governments in the countries where Opel/Vauxhall operates.

Thus far, the Europeans appear content to let U.S. taxpayer-owned and subsidized GM carry the burden without the involvement of European taxpayers.   (more…)