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A biodiesel entrepreneur in Argentina spreads seeds of wisdom

Even by Argentine standards, Ricardo Carlstein can talk a blue streak. Ricardo Carlstein. I met with the founder of Biofuels SA, an Argentina-based maker of small-scale biodiesel plants, in the posh environs of Buenos Aires. Carlstein sat at his desk and explained how any person can be a fuel plant by using his invention, a technology protocol he calls "high-temperature pressurized" (simply put: a way to cook biofuels at abnormally high temperatures, one that cuts effluence by rendering obsolete the need to "wash" the fuel). A massive, bearded man in T-shirt, slacks, and New Balance running shoes, he reminded me …

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Is Monsanto playing fast and loose with Roundup Ready Soybeans in Argentina?

Crying not for Argentina but for lost patent fees, Monsanto's legal hacks are in European courts suing to block millions of tons of Argentine soybean meal from docking on the continent. Bean there, sprayed that. Photo: iStockphoto Monsanto says that much of the meal crossing the Atlantic to feed Europe's cows and pigs contains traces of its genetically modified Roundup Ready Soybeans. Known as RR, the soybeans are tweaked to withstand the company's Roundup herbicide. This resistance lets farmers blanket entire fields with the chemical mixture rather than surgically applying it to kill off weeds. Monsanto holds a patent for …

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A proposed gold mine in Chile and Argentina has emails flying

Last week, Chile's government green-lighted a controversial mining project known as Pascua-Lama. If the name rings a bell, odds are a chain email has found its way to your inbox, an appeal to "friends who care about our earth." Activists hoped Chile's new president, Michelle Bachelet, would stop the mine. Photo: Queen/ WireImage.com. The far-reaching cyber-alert describes a messy international situation. Indigenous farmers in the mountainous Andean border between Argentina and Chile, it says, are fighting an international company that plans to mine for gold beneath massive glaciers. Doing so, the letter continues, will contaminate two key rivers fed by …

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Activists are fighting a new agreement between the U.S. and Peru

A logger drives his freshly cut mahogany logs upriver toward Ivochote, a scratchy, low-slung jungle town in Peru's eastern Amazon. Hoping to convert his illegal revenues into some weekend lovin', he takes maca, a traditional Peruvian libido enhancer. He heads to a nearby brothel, but its employees are too busy protesting pollution caused by a foreign mining company to entertain him. Frustrated and ready for action of any kind, he gives up and joins an angry crowd marching to Lima to oppose the 2006 U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, signed in April. Far-fetched, maybe -- but mahogany, maca, mining, and frustrated …

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Critics say Peru pipeline is an accident waiting to happen

The boat ride down southeastern Peru's Urubamba River cuts through mountains and sweltering jungle, passing wooden shacks of colonos -- mixed race and grindingly poor Peruvians lured to the jungle with promises of free land -- and nativos, tribes recently brought into contact with the modern world. The area is a biological gold mine, home to endemic and rare species, and some of the world's last uncontacted humans. It's also home to an asset that may become the Amazonian rainforest's biggest threat: the mamma jamma of South America's natural-gas lodes. The Camisea pipeline. Big Oil has been pushing its pipelines …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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How South American biofuels are gaining steam, and why that freaks the U.S. out

In his drab office in the fashion-obsessed chaos of downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina, Edmundo Defferrari cuts a farmhand's figure in a corporate man's world. Soy is growing up down south. Photo: USDA/Keith Weller. The 28-year-old industrial engineer, in cap, jeans, and scruffy beard, taps through a PowerPoint presentation choked with graphs, statistics, and cartoon renderings of how his prototype biodiesel plant can help farmers become self-sufficient. Then he opens a dark brown bottle filled with soybean diesel. "When it burns," he says, "it smells like there's a McDonald's in the field." Backed by Don Mario, an Argentine seed company, Defferrari …

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