20,000 hectares for bio-fuels
Dozens of farmers will partake in a project to grow sugar cane and oil palm destined to bio-fuel, in order to meet the local demand of ethanol and bio-diesel. The domestic market for those products is sure to expand next October, when a mix of gasoline and diesel with the mentioned bio-fuels will be enforced. On the one hand, 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) will be destined to sugar cane for ethanol, and exactly the same area to oil palm for bio-diesel, according to Minister of Agriculture Javier Flores. The project is promoted by the Ministry of the Environment and by the Costa Rican Petroleum Refinery, and is listed among the priority ones in the Arias Administration. According to Minister Flores, the bio-fuel program is linked to the hope of expanding production and fighting the poverty that assails many farmers, who own small plots of land but so far have lacked the means to join production.
Focus on the United States
The Costa Rican Foreign Trade Promoter (PROCOMER in Spanish) must go deeper into probing and taking advantage of the United States market, according to a survey by an external consulting company. The study will be the basis for a re-launching of PROCOMER. Among other recommendations, the researchers said that an existing agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to use the Costa Rican embassies as a means to probe and promote trade has to be taken advantage of. Regarding the attraction of investment, the research found the need for improvement and recommended an institution specialized in that field, as a supplement to the current work done by the Costa Rican Coalition for Development Initiatives.
In the Security Council
With an attempt to get rid of participation in secondary committees, which would be an extra burden for the small delegation, Costa Rica launched its activities as a no-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The Tico delegation has only 16 members, including diplomats and staff, therefore the need to focus on the major tasks at the Council, Ambassador Jorge Urbina said. This Central American nation will partake in the Council for two years, which started on January 1st.
At least 1,000 poor students who got good grades in high school will have the opportunity to pursue college studies in Costa Rican private universities, thanks to an agreement between the Arias Administration and the higher learning institutions. The chairman of the Social Aid Institution (IMAS in Spanish) Jose Li explained that the students will be chosen among the 8,500 who obtained their high school diploma in December and had benefited from the “Avancemos” Program, which provides aid for students from poor families not to quit school.
Space coffee maker
The aerospace company Ad Astra Rocket and the Costa Rican Institute of Technology launched a research program aimed at developing a coffee maker that would be operational aboard spacecraft. The ambitious project goes beyond giving astronauts and space tourists the chance to enjoy freshly-brewed coffee, since it is also aimed at improving the research on chemical compounds for the development of medicines in space, which will be possible through infusions obtained using the space era coffee maker.
$5 million for forests
The Costa Rican carbon program is to receive $5 million, thanks to an agreement between the Central Volcanic Mountain Range Foundation for Development and U.S. organization Equator Environmental, which specializes in promoting investment in the carbon market around the world, but particularly in Latin America. The carbon market is locally known in Costa Rica as the payment for “environmental services”, which farmers receive for preserving their forested areas. This is so because of the ability of trees to absorb carbon dioxide, the leading gas in the greenhouse effect, and to produce oxygen.
Methyl bromide reduction
In the last 8 years, Costa Rica reduced by 60 percent the use of methyl bromide, a gas that damages the ozone layer and causes burns and even cardiac arrests in humans, the Regional Institute of Studies on Toxics (Universidad Nacional) reported. This product is used to disinfect the soil, to spray cereals, and in the protection of stored goods. In Costa Rica, it has been used mostly in cantaloupe and flower plantations. According to the programs under way, the country will be free of the use of this chemical by the year 2010.
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