The Pacific 2012 Forum on Sustainable Maritime Fuels was held
recently in Sydney and bought together American, Australian, and
New Zealand leaders in the development of alternative fuels. The
forum, chaired by Susan Pond AM of the University of Sydney's
United States Studies Centre, discussed the challenges facing the
maritime industry (and aviation and automobile transport
industries) as it comes under increasing pressure to increase
The Forum featured presentations from US based Gevo, a leading
developer of renewable chemicals and alcohol biofuels,
Australia's Licella, which produces biocrude oil from waste
wood biomass, New Zealand's Aqua Bionomic Corporation, which
manufactures algae based fuels, and the US Navy. Alternative
transport fuels have attracted controversy due to their perceived
damaging effect on land use but the clear message from the Forum is
that the production of alternative fuels is sustainable and is
beneficial when associated with by-products such as distillers'
grains, yeast feeds and renewable electricity.
However, continued Government investment is critical. On the
back of the Forum, success was achieved - US Navy interest in
Licella and the NCRIS lignocellulosic ethanol facility at Mackay
Sugar was announced. However, there was also a set-back. Manildra,
one of few operational ethanol distilleries in Australia, announced
it is to halt plans to increase its capacity based on the NSW
O'Farrell Government's decision not to ban regular unleaded
petrol. As a week in politics is a long time so it is for
Intellectual property in alternative fuels has been driven by
Government mandates for clean technology, such as the blending of
ethanol in transport. We have previously (
described the boom in clean technology sector. There has been an
increase in patent filings since the Kyoto protocol was ratified in
1997. Analysis has shown that six countries (Japan, US, Germany,
Republic of Korea, France and the UK) dominate patent filing in
clean technology. The US takes the lead in alternative transport
Managing intellectual property in the field of alternative
transport fuels centres on the protection of rights in large
capital and time intensive projects that require the successful
combination of a large number of disparate technologies. Speeding
the up-take green technologies, the development of fast-track
patent systems including expedited examination, which we have
described, technology transfer agreements, structured licensing
mechanisms, developing more green patent laws are all issues. For
alternative fuels to be truly global technology adoption by
developing countries is key. Here, compulsory licensing may play an
There is also cause for serious concern about the monopolies
some entities exhibit in the field of biofuels. Manildra, for
example, has a monopoly over bioethanol production in NSW, and it
is thought that US biofuel patents are owned by about 80 entities.
The "Gene Giants" Monsanto (the world's largest seed
producer) and partners Ceres, Evogene and Mendel Biotechnology,
BASF (the world's largest chemical company) and DuPont account
for much of the ownership of patent plant genes and may dominate
future energy crop production for fuel feedstock. In this regard,
patent pools may help shape the industry.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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