Sustainablog

This blog will cover some news items related to Sustainability: Corporate Social Responsibility, Stewardship, Environmental management, etc.

1.7.06

Daimler to Launch Smart Car in US in 2008 -- Is the Smart Car Smart? Americans are Unconvinced


Daimler to Launch Smart Car in US in 2008

DETROIT - DaimlerChrysler AG said on Wednesday it will launch its two-seater Smart minicar in the United States in early 2008, as fuel prices shift consumers' attention to more economical vehicles.

The world's fifth-biggest carmaker said it had selected UnitedAuto Group as its exclusive distributor for the quirky car, which is already established in European markets.

The sticker price of the car, which will be marketed for its hip, urban appeal, will be less than US$15,000, Roger Penske, UnitedAuto's chief executive, said during a news conference. A convertible version will also be available.

Most of the sales effort is expected to be focused on big cities such as New York and San Francisco, where the companies are betting consumers will be drawn to the practicality of the car on crowded streets and its almost unmatched fuel economy.

"The time has never been better for this -- and I am convinced that the Smart ForTwo as an innovative, ecological and agile city car will soon become just as familiar a sight on the streets of New York, Miami or Seattle, as it is today in Rome, Berlin or Paris," Dieter Zetsche, chairman of DaimlerChrysler, said.

The money-losing brand's move into the United States represents an attempt to broaden DaimlerChrysler's market for subcompacts. Smart has lost money since the brand was launched in October 1998.

"They were looking at this several years ago, but gas was US$1.50 a gallon, and there was very little interest from this market," Dave Cole, Chairman of the Center for Automotive Research said. "That, of course, has changed and a small car is a consideration."

"It's hard to say how well it will do, but small cars are doing very well here right now," Cole added.

The car, which gets an average of 40 miles per gallon, is made in France and will be imported. Zetsche said there were no plans to produce the vehicle in the United States.

UnitedAuto will build the dealer network and handle all the marketing, Zetsche and Penske said.

DaimlerChrysler's business plan calls for selling around 20,000 Smarts a year in the United States, especially to chic, urban consumers on the East and West coasts. That would be about half of US sales for rival BMW's Mini.

Smart's ForTwo will also compete with a spate of new subcompacts that have been recently launched in the US market, such as Honda Motor Co. Ltd's Fit and Toyota Motor Corp.'s Yaris.


MORE STORAGE SPACE

The initial roll-out of about 30 to 50 dealerships is expected to start in mid-2007, with the official launch of the new version of the ForTwo planned later that year.

The current model is just over 8 feet long, allowing it to slip comfortably into half a parking space, and has a three-cylinder engine.

Ulrich Walker, head of the Smart division, when asked if the new version will be bigger to suit American tastes, told Reuters, "The overall concept is for a two-seater with a giant trunk."

He added there would be more storage room in the new version.

The car will also be engineered to meet all US regulations.

The Smart is already sold in 36 countries. Italy is its biggest market with annual sales of around 40,000 units.

Daimler originally planned to launch the Smart brand in the US market as a mini sports utility vehicle, but that strategy collapsed as mounting losses triggered radical surgery at the unit.

Smart is slated to post a profit only in 2007, even though the company has made sweeping job cuts and chopped the line-up to just the two-seat ForTwo model.

Smart sales in the first five months of 2006 fell 21.5 percent to 49,400 units.

(Additional reporting by Jui Chakravorty in Chicago and Michael Shields in Frankfurt).

Story by Kevin Krolicki and Poornima Gupta


Note created Jun 29, 2006
Planet Ark - www.planetark.com/...

Is the Smart Car Smart? Americans are Unconvinced
US: June 30, 2006

NEW YORK - DaimlerChrysler AG may face an uphill struggle when it launches its two-seater Smart car in the United States in 2008.

In a quick survey of Americans in New York's Times Square on Wednesday, as many people saw the tiny vehicle as ugly as found it cool and cute. And there were also concerns about safety and the lack of space -- for baggage or people.

While Smart cars have been tooling around European cities for years, the American car market -- still dominated by SUVs and pickup trucks -- is an entirely different matter.

Even in an era of US$3 a gallon gasoline and increased concern about the environment, many were still wary.

"It's really ugly," said Liz Viccora, 20, of Long Island, New York. "I like environmentally friendly cars, but this looks like a go-cart or one of those things security guards drive at the mall."

DaimlerChrysler on Wednesday announced plans to launch Smart in the United States at an expected price of not much less than US$15,000. That is enough to buy any one of dozens of four- and five-seat vehicles, so it may take some financial incentives to warm Americans to the Smart car.

Barely 8 feet long, it is about half as long as a Toyota Camry. Even the Mini Cooper, a minor hit among US trendsetters in recent years, is 50 percent longer.

While DaimlerChrysler says the new version of the Smart car to be sold in the US market would have more storage space, size remains the key problem for many.

"I have too many kids for something that size," said John Pabft, a 52-year-old with three daughters. "We wouldn't be able to fit anything."

But the car's polarizing design attracts some supporters.

"They're futuristic, and that's what's cool," said Junior McNeill, 37, who first saw the cars in this summer's hit film "The Da Vinci Code." "They look like modern-day buggies."

Isaac Logan, 19, said: "It's small and it's cute. It would definitely get attention on the street."

Some saw a Smart as an alternative for quick errands.

"It would be a second car I would use mainly for grocery shopping and short trips around town," said Zubin Furtado, 30, of Jersey City, New Jersey.


TOUGH SELL?

And while some drivers say a Smart would be easier to maneuver in cities where traffic is heavy and street parking scarce, parking would not necessarily cost any less.

"There's no incentive for those cars. Everyone pays the same rate," said Craig Chin, a spokesman for New York City's Department of Transportation.

There's one other big issue.

Even if the Smart wins a federal government seal of approval for safety, some Americans fear it would be no match for a Hummer or an 18-wheeled semi in a crash.

"You'd have to keep your will in the glove compartment," said Keith Wagner, 37, of New York City. "If you got hit by an SUV or a truck, it looks like you'd be dead."


Story by Abha Bhattarai


Note created Jun 30, 2006
Planet Ark : Is the Smart Car Smart? Americans are Unconvinced - www.planetark.com/...

How to Squeeze More Oil Out of Natural Reserves


How to Squeeze More Oil Out of Natural Reserves

LONDON - Creating artificial seismic waves, similar to those that occur during an earthquake, could help squeeze more oil from natural reservoirs, scientists said on Wednesday.

They discovered that in addition to sending tremors that knock down buildings, earthquakes greatly increase the permeability of rocks to transmit fluids including oil.

"Shaking increases permeability," Emily Brodsky, an assistant professor of Earth Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in an interview.

"Permeability governs how fluid flows through rock, whether it's water or oil, so this has practical implications for oil extraction," she added.

Brodsky and her colleagues, who reported their research in the journal Nature, also found that the amount of permeability is directly related to the amplitude of the shaking.

"Potentially if you could increase permeability you could greatly increase the available oil you could tap out of a reserve," she explained.

One way of doing that, in principle, is by mimicking the effects of an earthquake but scientists do not understand the physics well enough, or how to tune the vibrations, to increase the flow of oil.

One possibility would be to use vibroseis trucks that shake the ground to take a type of X-ray of the Earth to find out the structure of rocks and where the oil is located.

"If we understood the physics of the permeability enhancement well enough, the vibrations could be tuned to increase with the flow of oil," Brodsky added.

The scientists made their discovery after studying 20 years of data of water seeping in and out of wells during seven earthquakes in an area of California.

They noticed that every time an earthquake occurred the permeability jumped and the surrounding rocks became up to three times more permeable. A few months after the tremor the permeability returned to normal levels.

The scientists are planning more studies to better understand what aspects of the shaking makes the permeability increase.

Story by Patricia Reaney


Note created Jun 29, 2006
Planet Ark - www.planetark.com/...

IEA: "World not on course for sustainable energy future"


IEA: "World not on course for sustainable energy future"

EurActiv.com, 26 June 2006 - Huge and coordinated international investments in new technologies will be needed if the world wants to reverse the unsustainable energy trends, according to a new publication by the International Energy Agency.

Brief News:

The new IEA (International Energy Agency) publication "Energy technology perspectives 2006. Scenarios and strategies to 2050" has been written in response to the G8 leaders meeting at Gleneagles in July 2005.

The report sketches a bleak picture of current energy trends. Even "taking account of energy efficiency gains and technological progress that can be expected under existing policies", CO2 emissions, oil demand and the carbon intensity of the world's economy will continue to grow rapidly over the next 25 years. "The world is not on course for a sustainable energy future", concludes the IEA report.

But accelerated development of new technologies such as clean coal and CO2 capture and storage as well as electricity generation from gas, nuclear and renewables, combined with ambitious energy efficiency programmes for buildings, industry and transport can still reverse that trend, according to the energy watchdog.

Energy security tops the agenda of next month's G8-summit when leaders of the United States, Russia, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan will meet in St Petersburg (15-17 July).

Note created Jun 29, 2006
IEA: "World not on course for sustainable energy future" - www.wbcsd.org/...

We can go green and grow profits, says HSBC


We can go green and grow profits, says HSBC

Phillip Inman
Friday June 30, 2006

The Guardian

HSBC will tell staff to recycle more and stop printing out emails as part of a £100m investment in "green" measures over the next five years. The bank will spend £35m in the first year on making its buildings more environmentally efficient and encouraging its 280,000 employees to change their behaviour.

Stephen Green, HSBC's chairman, said promoting sustainability would benefit the bank and there was increasing momentum driving environmental issues from clients and prospective employees.
"Our commitment to sustainability is not some philanthropic agent or incompatible with our strategy of growing profits. On the contrary, it's intrinsic to it," he told reporters.

But Greenpeace said the bank, which made £12bn profit last year, could afford to spend more on green initiatives to offset its carbon emissions. It also warned HSBC customers that the bank was likely to invest in companies that harmed the environment. Craig Bennett, the charity's head of corporate accountability, said he welcomed the initiative but HSBC, along with all banks, needed to make greater efforts to restrict climate change. "For instance, the bank says it has screening policies in place but we don't think it can yet say all its investments are positive for the environment," he said.

The bank was criticised three years ago for investments in Indonesian logging companies. Greenpeace and other campaigners targeted its annual meeting to highlight how large areas of rainforest were under attack from loggers.

HSBC said a Sustainability Leaders Fund would also be part of the initiative. It will mostly invest in 40 large European companies that are at the forefront of sustainable development, with 25% invested in smaller European firms that are developing new technologies to support sustainable development.

Mr Green also announced a push to advise clients on how to tackle climate change, while the bank's own efforts would range from investing in solar and wind power to encouraging staff not to print out emails.

It removed all personal waste bins from its global headquarters in Canary Wharf, east London, this month, and the 8,000 staff there now use communal bins for recyclable dry waste and other bins for wet waste.

Note created Jun 30, 2006
Guardian Unlimited Business | | We can go green and grow profits, says HSBC - business.guardian.co.uk/...

Wolfowitz Creates New Sustainable Development Unit


Wolfowitz Creates New Sustainable Development Unit

WASHINGTON - World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz on Tuesday said he was merging the bank's departments that deal with infrastructure and environmental projects into a single unit to promote sustainable development.

He named Kathy Sierra, a veteran World Bank employee and current bank vice president of infrastructure, to head the newly created Sustainable Development network.

"The purpose of consolidating these two networks is to mainstream environmental issues, improve synergies, better integrate core operations, and ensure that we strengthen our focus on sustainability as we increase our investment in infrastructure," Wolfowitz said in an email to World Bank staff, seen by Reuters.

To address concerns that environmental issues could be dwarfed by the bank's increased spending on infrastructure projects, Wolfowitz said he would create a new position for a world-class environmental expert to strengthen the role of the bank's environment team.

"It is crucial that we maintain the bank's leadership role in emphasizing the importance of sustainability in development," Wolfowitz said.

In addition, Wolfowitz outlined the responsibilities of his two new top deputies, in a move he said would produce stronger results for the development agency.

He said Graeme Wheeler, the bank's former treasurer and ex New Zealand treasury official, will oversee Europe and Central Asia, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Juan Jose Daboub, former finance minister of El Salvador who officially starts as managing director on Wednesday, will manage Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, East Asia and the Pacific.

Previously, the bank's operations were overseen by Shengman Zhang, who left what was then the lone managing director post in January.

Wolfowitz said the division of labor provided each managing director with a good balance of poor countries and emerging economies.

The move is the latest in a row of cautious changes to the bank's senior management by Wolfowitz, who came under fire at the start of his term a year ago for surrounding himself with American advisors.

But over the months his appointments have included officials from Latin America and Europe, including more recently Ana Palacio, the former Spanish foreign minister as senior vice-president and general counsel.

Story by Lesley Wroughton


Note created Jun 29, 2006
Planet Ark - www.planetark.com/...

Ford Drops Focus on Hybrids, Shifts to Biofuels; Ford, GM, Chrysler to Boost Non-Gasoline Vehicles


Ford, GM, Chrysler to Boost Non-Gasoline Vehicles

WASHINGTON - Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group plan to more than double annual production of vehicles capable of running on renewable fuels to two million cars and trucks by 2010, the automakers said on Wednesday.

The pledge for more vehicles powered by fuels other than gasoline follows a meeting between the chief executives of the US-based auto giants and congressional leaders last month on efforts to reduce US dependence on foreign oil.

The executives and lawmakers also discussed ways for government to help struggling Detroit carmakers better compete with overseas rivals like Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co.

Toyota and Honda have gained market share with cars that go farther on a gallon of gas and new gas-electric hybrids, while GM, Ford and Chrysler have slumped with their marquee pickups and sport utilities that are less fuel efficient.

Ford, GM and Chrysler have increased production of alternative or flexible fueled vehicles to retain buyers and attract new ones concerned about high gas prices and the impact of fossil fuels on the environment.

Congress is open to considering new government incentives to accelerate development of alternative fuels and the infrastructure to deliver them. But lawmakers want a firmer commitment from auto companies that they plan serious change, which could also leverage new thinking in the fuels industry.

"Our hope is that with this commitment, fuel providers will have even more incentive to produce ethanol and other biofuels and install pumps to distribute them," the chief executives of GM, Ford and Chrysler said in a letter to members of Congress.

Renewable or biofuels are crop-based products that are mixed with traditional fuels. Experts say they burn cleaner and save energy compared to gasoline. However, the infrastructure for renewable fuels is mainly in the Midwest where much of the crop production occurs.

Currently, there are only about 700 pumps nationwide for the most popular renewable fuel -- an 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline blend called E85. Ethanol is made from corn and sugar cane and biodiesel comes from oil seeds like soybeans.

Story Date: 29/6/2006


Note created Jun 29, 2006
Planet Ark - www.planetark.com/...


Big Three Cars Emit 230 Million Tons of Greenhouse Gas

WASHINGTON - Cars built by the Big Three automakers gave off 230 million metric tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the United States in a year, more than the biggest US electric utility, environmental researchers said on Wednesday.

General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler cars and light trucks emitted nearly three-fourths of all carbon dioxide from vehicles on US roads in 2004, the year for which statistics were available, according to the watchdog group Environmental Defense.

Nine other car manufacturers with vehicles on the US market accounted for an additional 84 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, bringing the total for all cars and light trucks in operation in 2004 to 314 million metric tons, the report found.

General Motors vehicles gave off 99 million metric tons or 31 percent of the total; Ford vehicles emitted 80 million metric tons or 25 percent and DaimlerChrysler vehicles emitted 51 million metric tons or 16 percent, according to the report.

By comparison, the largest US electric utility, American Electric Power, had emissions of 41 million metric tons.

Greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide, contribute to global warming, which in turn has been blamed for more severe hurricanes, rising seas and other environmental ills. Though greenhouse gas emissions have most frequently been associated with coal-fired power plants, the new report aims to point up comparable emissions from automobiles.

"The image of the power plant, with a smokestack and stuff billowing out of it, creates that sense of a lot of pollution in one place," John DeCicco, co-author of the report, said by telephone. "People don't necessarily understand that the millions of vehicles are part of the problem that is a really comparable scale."

He stressed a shared responsibility among consumers, auto manufacturers and policy makers.

"It's hard to pin just on General Motors the responsibility for that 20-year-old Chevy that's putting carbon up into the air," DeCicco said.

With just 5 percent of the world's population, the United States has 30 percent of the world's automobiles and produces 45 percent of the world's automotive carbon dioxide emissions, the report said. US cars are driven more and burn more fuel per mile than the international average.

Story by Deborah Zabarenko


Note created Jun 29, 2006
Planet Ark - www.planetark.com/...

Ford Drops Focus on Hybrids, Shifts to Biofuels
US: June 30, 2006

DETROIT - In a sharp shift of strategy, Ford Motor Co. plans to focus less on hybrid technology and more on a wider range of alternatives to traditional gasoline-powered engines, Ford Chief Executive Bill Ford told employees of the automaker.

Ford backed away from a commitment made last fall to build capacity to make 250,000 hybrid vehicles by the end of the decade, calling that goal "too narrow" in a company-wide e-mail message released on Thursday.

Ford, which has faced criticism for lacking a consistent vision for its product development, had heavily promoted its commitment to hybrid technology, which taps battery power to boost fuel economy.

The debate over the emerging group of alternatives to traditional combustion engines comes as US consumers put an increasing premium on fuel efficiency and low operating costs in the face of high gasoline prices.

The shift in consumer preference has hurt all of the Detroit-based automakers, but the stakes are particularly high for Ford, whose fleet of vehicles has the lowest average mileage per gallon of any of the automakers and which relies on light trucks for two-thirds of sales.

"Our strategy going forward is not to wed ourselves to a single technology," Ford said. "The strategy doesn't focus on one catch-all solution but offers a flexible array of options, including hybrids, clean diesels, bio-diesels, advanced engine technologies and E85 ethanol."

Environmental activists charged Ford with breaking an important commitment and trying to exploit a loophole that would allow it to raise the reported fuel economy of its fleet by making more vehicles capable of running on ethanol.

"We know now that Ford Motor Company cannot be relied upon to tell the truth or even to compete effectively with the more efficient fleets of foreign competitors like Honda and Toyota," said Dan Becker, director of Sierra Club's Global Warning Program.

Under the US Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, automakers get a credit for producing ethanol-ready vehicles, including SUVs, although most continue to burn only gasoline given the small number of ethanol pumps in the United States.

"I think Ford's turn toward ethanol is a coldly calculated move to continue producing more gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs." said Jennifer Krill of the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network. "Ford's environmental problems are directly linked to its economic problems."


BIG THREE GO FOR BIOFUEL

Ford spokesman Said Deep said that criticism was misplaced since the automaker's commitment to improve fuel economy was unchanged despite the move away from hybrids.

Ford beat its US rivals in offering the first American-made full hybrids, which offer sharply improved gas mileage through the use of a battery that recharges during braking and powers the vehicle at low speeds.

But Ford has to resort to sales incentives to sell its Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid models, a sharp contrast to the success that Toyota has seen with its sold-out Prius hybrid.

Ford's change in strategy comes as US automakers have offered a pledge to more than double their annual production of vehicles capable of running on renewable fuels such as ethanol to two million cars and trucks by 2010.

Ethanol is made from sugar derived from plants such as corn, straw and switch grass. Although it is almost a third less efficient than gasoline, proponents call it a renewable fuel.

The commitment to renewable fuels followed a meeting last month between the CEOs of Ford, General Motors Corp., the Chrysler Group and congressional leaders on efforts to reduce US dependence on foreign oil.

The executives and lawmakers also discussed way to help the struggling Detroit-based carmakers better compete with rivals such as Toyota and Honda Motor Co..

Bill Ford, who assumed operational responsibility in early April for the automaker founded by his great grandfather, told employees that the emphasis on other technologies did not change the company's drive for improved fuel economy and lower emissions of carbon dioxide, linked to global warming.

"While we will continue to develop and expand our hybrid portfolio in the US and around the world, the broader array of technologies we are adopting will yield a net improvement for both customers and the environment," he said.


Story by Kevin Krolicki


Note created Jun 30, 2006
Planet Ark : Ford Drops Focus on Hybrids, Shifts to Biofuels - www.planetark.com/...

UPS 'Green Fleet' Racks up 100 Million Miles


UPS 'Green Fleet' Racks up 100 Million Miles
Source:
GreenBiz.com
ATLANTA, Ga., June 14, 2006 - UPS's fleet of alternative fuel trucks has hit a major milestone, traveling more than 100 million miles to deliver packages to homes and businesses.

The total mileage accumulated just since 2000 now stands at 108 million miles, or the equivalent of circling the Earth more than 4,337 times or traveling from Earth to Venus four-and-a-half times.

"UPS customers benefit from our ability to carefully manage and conserve fuel throughout the business," said Robert Hall, UPS fleet environmental manager. "But our commitment to these technologies goes beyond just saving fuel. We want to reduce emissions and our impact on the environment and operate in a sustainable manner."

UPS operates one of the largest delivery fleets in the world and for decades has actively explored different power technologies. UPS has invested more than $15 million in its alternative fuel fleet, which is currently operating hydrogen fuel cell, liquefied natural gas, compressed natural gas, electric and propane-powered trucks in the United States, Canada, Mexico, France, Germany and Brazil.

The company's use of alternative fuel vehicles began back in the 1930's with electric vehicles in New York. However, UPS did not begin isolating mileage data for its "green fleet" until 2000.

UPS also has partnered with government agencies and major corporations to help advance the state of vehicle technology, including two such partnerships with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). UPS, the EPA and DaimlerChrysler are working together to obtain practical knowledge about operating hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in a commercial delivery fleet.

UPS was the first company in the U.S.to deploy hydrogen fuel cell technology in a commercial fleet. Since that launch in 2004, the vehicles - which emit only water -- have driven 34,000 miles making deliveries.

UPS's second partnership with the EPA includes building and testing the world's first hydraulic hybrid urban delivery vehicle. This multi-phase project includes two UPS truck prototypes with different full-series hydraulic hybrid drivetrains. UPS will begin testing the first vehicle later this year and another next year.

UPS also recently announced it will add 50 hybrid electric vehicles to its fleet over the next year. These electric hybrids will feature third-generation technology and are expected to deliver a 35% improvement in fuel economy over the vehicles being replaced. In addition, UPS will add 4,100 low emission vehicles in 2006 to the more than 8,000 such vehicles already in its fleet.

Note created Jun 19, 2006
GreenBiz News | UPS 'Green Fleet' Racks up 100 Million Miles - www.greenbiz.com/...

Blowhard: Wind power has propelled Tulsi Tanti into the ranks of India's corporate titans


Blowhard
Jun 15th 2006
From The Economist print edition



Wind power has propelled Tulsi Tanti into the ranks of India's corporate titans


Suzlon Energy Limited


IN INDIA, as elsewhere, “rich lists” ranking the wealth of the truly loaded are devoured with fascination and envy. India's latest have also been greeted with some astonishment. They included some well-known names, of course: Lakshmi Mittal, the Europe-based consolidator-in-chief of the global steel industry; Mukesh and Anil Ambani, feuding barons of the now-divided Reliance kingdom; Azim Premji of Wipro, a big technology and outsourcing firm. But in the rankings of billionaires produced in March by Forbes, an American magazine, and in May by the Sunday Times, a British newspaper, such stars were joined by an interloper, whose nearly $6 billion-worth of assets by early May made him the seventh-richest Indian: Tulsi who?

Tulsi Tanti enjoyed what can only (with apologies) be described as an enormous windfall last September. That was when he sold a minority of shares in his company, Suzlon Energy, which makes wind turbines, on the stockmarket. He was in the right business—alternative energy—in the right market, at the right time. Of all the infrastructural bottlenecks impeding India's growth, a shortage of electricity may be the most crippling. And in the three years ending in April, India's stockmarket had outperformed the overall emerging-market index by 45%. The issue was 46 times oversubscribed.

Like many of his fellow tycoons, Mr Tanti has seen a big chunk of his paper fortune blown away in recent weeks on a storm-tossed stockmarket. But Suzlon's results for the year that ended in March vindicated some of the optimistic forecasts made for the business. Sales and profits had both doubled, and it had captured more than half of the Indian market, becoming the world's fifth-largest maker of wind-turbine generators. India now has 4,500 megawatts of installed wind generators, accounting for about 3.4% of total electricity-generation capacity. Suzlon has built about one-third of them. Worries that plague the industry elsewhere—about birds, noise and ugliness—have, so far, left India unruffled. Wind farms are even becoming tourist destinations, claims Mr Tanti, though acquiring the land for them is a headache.

His company is only 11 years old. It is now based in the state of Maharashtra, in Pune, a manufacturing hub that, because of its wealth of colleges, has also become a magnet for the information-technology and outsourcing industries. But its origins are in a neighbouring state, Gujarat, where Mr Tanti started in the textiles business. He found prospects stunted, and identified the main difficulty: “the cost and unavailability of power”, which accounts for a particularly high proportion of operating expenses in that industry. In 1990 he invested in two windmills, saw the potential and became an evangelist for wind power. Having formed Suzlon in 1995, he gradually quit textiles. He now counts 260 mills as customers.

In Pune, too, electricity is in short supply and expensive. Last year, in the sweltering summer months, it was without power for three hours most days. As elsewhere, industrial consumers have paid high tariffs, while, in the countryside, power is subsidised (and, when an election looms, often free). Wind power, as Mr Tanti tells it, is the answer. In India a firm wanting to invest in wind power does not need to build captive windmills. Rather, it can buy a generator to be installed on a shared farm, which delivers electricity to the local state-electricity board. If the buyer delivers to the board enough electricity to cover all his own needs, he is spared scheduled power cuts. Even if it is only part of his electricity needs, he is able to recover the capital cost in four years, and hedge his power costs for 20 (the life of a wind turbine), at a fraction of the normal industrial tariff. “The key driver is the low cost,” says Mr Tanti.


Depreciation costs

Another “key driver” is tax. Rahul Bajaj, chairman of Bajaj Auto, which makes motorbikes and three-wheelers, and is Suzlon's biggest customer, says wind power would not be viable without the tax benefits it brings. Most important is an accelerated depreciation allowance of 80% in the year of installation. That may help explain why Aishwarya Rao, a film star, and Sachin Tendulkar, India's most famous cricketer, have invested in wind power, and why so many turbines are commissioned in March, the last month of the Indian fiscal year. S.K. Sharma, of Pune's income-tax department, says that, in Maharashtra alone, Suzlon had more than 100 buyers last fiscal year whose claims for depreciation should be investigated. He questions whether their turbines had actually supplied power (rather than perform trial runs) by the end of March.

Suzlon is now less vulnerable to a change in the tax rules. Last year only about 8% of its sales (by megawatt) were outside India. Three-quarters of its present order book is international. Part of this is a result of its acquisition in March of Hansen Transmissions, a Belgian maker of wind-turbine gearboxes. This was the second-largest foreign purchase ever made by an Indian firm and part of a strategy of “backward integration” to overcome what Mr Tanti identified as the main bottleneck in the company's growth—the supply of components. Even without Hansen, Mr Tanti says exports would have accounted for 40% of Suzlon's sales. A quarter of its nearly 6,000 staff are based outside India. It is building a rotor-blade factory in Minnesota and has invested $60m in a factory in Tianjin, China.

India, says Mr Tanti, is poised to become a “wind-power export hub”. Some still dismiss the idea that wind power can work commercially as a green pipedream. Government incentives have undoubtedly played a role in developing the industry in India. But, aided by a combination of in-house technology and low costs, Suzlon is well on the way to showing that wind power can indeed be a proper global business.

Note created Jun 16, 2006
Economist.com | Articles by Subject | Face value - www.economist.com/...

BP to spend $500 million on biofuels research institute; but EU biofuels output to fall short of 2010 target


BP to spend $500 million on biofuels research institute

Environmental Finance, 15 June 2006 - BP is planning to spend $500 million to set up a biofuels research centre, the oil major announced yesterday. The laboratory will be attached to a major US or UK university, and will work on improving the efficiency of biofuels.

It will take on "basic" research which will be freely available to the research community, as well as commercial projects to support BP's own biofuels business, the company said. The institute will initially focus on: improving the efficiency of existing biofuels; developing new technology so that more of a crop can be used to make biofuels; and developing new high-energy species of plants.

"We expect demand for biofuels to rise significantly through the next decade to meet consumer desire for more environmentally responsible products and to satisfy the requirements of governments for more energy to be home grown," said BP's chief executive Lord Browne.

"It is clear that this demand will outstrip availability without major investment to stimulate the development of new associated technologies that improve cost-effectiveness and broaden the range of biocomponents available globally," he added.

BP said that the centre – which will be called the BP Energy Biosciences Institute – will train up a new generation of researchers to apply bioscience to energy production.

Researchers will also investigate other ways to apply bioscience to energy in the fields of oil recovery, coal bed methane and carbon sequestration.

Note created Jun 19, 2006
BP to spend $500 million on biofuels research institute - www.wbcsd.org/...

EU biofuels output to fall short of 2010 target

Environment DAILY, 16 June 2006 - EU production of biofuels in 2010 is projected to be just over half of the European commission’s target of 18m tonnes oil equivalent (Mtoe), according to a new survey by Paris-based consortium Eurobserver.

This is despite continued large increases in biofuels production, up by 65.8% to 3.9 million tonnes from 2004 to 2005 alone. Biodiesel accounted for 81% of production. Bioethanol accounted for the other 19%, but grew even faster, at 70% in 2005.

Member states that derive a significant portion of their income from fuel taxes have tended to delay the investments required to meet EU target, the survey explains. However, Eurobserver’s 2010 forecast could be revised upward if they all set up more aggressive policies.

Biogas production too is expected to fall well short of the commission’s target, set at 15 Mtoe by 2010. According to another survey released by Eurobserver, production increased by around 15% to 5 Mtoe in 2005.

Follow-up: See Eurobarometer surveys on biofuels and biogas.

Note created Jun 19, 2006
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Clean energies receive EU research funding boost

EurActiv.com, 16 June 2006 - Members of the European Parliament were voting on the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for research (FP7) in Strasbourg on Thursday (15 June). The EU Council of Ministers is expected to give its final approval to the revised package at a meeting in July.

The overall programme is allocated a total budget of €50.5 billion euros, a substantial increase compared to the €16.3 billion available under the previous programme, FP6 (2002-2006).

Under the amended programme, some 2.4 billion euros are allocated to research on clean energies, with MEPs securing some 1.6 billion to renewable energies and energy efficiency programmes.

Environmentalists commended the Parliament's move as the Commission did not allocate money to specific energy sources in its original proposal, tabled in April last year. "This is €450 million more than the Commission proposed," said Claude Turmes MEP (Greens/EFA, Luxembourg), who campaigned to obtain more money for clean energies.

In a parallel vote, the Parliament allocated about €4 billion to nuclear research and training activities under the European Atomic Energy Community Treaty (Euratom), a separate heading of the EU treaties which dates back to the 1950's.

"This support for nuclear energy is a shameful own goal by the Parliament, which leaves a threatening legacy for the future," said said Frauke Thies, EU renewable energy policy campaigner at Greenpeace European unit.

Links

EU official documents

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UN urges Africa to harness natural resources to beat poverty


UN urges Africa to harness natural resources to beat poverty

AFP, 27 June 2006 - The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) warned Tuesday that Africa will slip further into poverty if its governments fail to adopt eco-friendly policies to sustain and exploit its natural wealth.

The Nairobi-based agency said the continent's fast-degrading environment faces fresh strains from genetically modified organisms, invasive species and a switch in chemical manufacturing from the developed to the developing world.

These new challenges have exacerbated threats already posed by rapid rates of deforestation, land degradation, wasterful water use and climate change, all of which must be urgently addressed, UNEP chief Achim Steiner said.

"If policies remain unchanged, political will found wanting and sufficient funding proves to be elusive, then Africa may take a far more unsustainable track that will see an erosion of its nature-based wealth and a slide into ever deeper poverty," he said.

"Such a track will have disturbing consequences not just for many of the 800 million people here but for the rest of the world," Steiner told reporters at the launch of UNEP's second quadrennial African Environmental Outlook report.

"Nevertheless, I am convinced that we are fast reaching a watershed in Africas response and that the pieces of a sustainable jigsaw puzzle are being steadily put into place," said Steiner, who was appointed to the post in March.
The 542-page report, a survey of Africa's environmental status, lists several areas in which the continent's nations are not using natural resources to their full and sustainable potential.

"The region is only realizing a fraction of its nature-based economic wealth," it said, noting untapped tourism potential and undeveloped or underdeveloped land and water resources that could be used for farming, industry or power-generation.

Africa must also fully exploit raw material, such a minerals and gems, to overcome cyclical poverty, the report said.

"There is a need for Africa to move from being a major exporter of primary resources to being one with a vibrant industrial and manufacturing base," it said.

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Cadbury facing legal action: Consumer backlash catches chocolate giant by surprise as questions grow over health alert delay


Cadbury facing legal action

Consumer backlash catches chocolate giant by surprise as questions grow over health alert delay

Jo Revill, health editor
Sunday June 25, 2006

The Guardian

Chocolate giant Cadbury faces the prospect of legal action and a fine for its failure to tell the authorities immediately that some of its products were contaminated with salmonella.

Yesterday thousands of customers rang the helpline set up by the firm this weekend after more than one million chocolate bars were recalled. Many customers, demanding to know why it had taken the company five months to disclose the danger, found it could take an hour to get through as the company was taken aback by the scale of the reaction.
Health officials warned the public not to eat the eight affected products.

The Food Standards Agency, which oversees food safety in Britain, has begun an investigation, and lawyers from the FSA and the two local authorities covering Cadbury's Bournville headquarters and the Herefordshire factory where the infection was found will meet this week to decide whether to prosecute.

Under the Food Safety Act companies must withdraw food from the market when they have confirmed contamination, and must also tell the authorities.

But Cadbury executives yesterday defended their decision not to recall the products in January, when it was first known that a form of salmonella, known as a montevideo strain, had got into one of its chocolate production lines.

The company's European president, Matthew Shattock, said yesterday: 'Our responsibility is to look after the welfare of our consumers and I can reassure you that our products are perfectly safe to eat and we have no evidence that anyone has been ill from eating them.'

When asked why Cadbury did not contact the FSA immediately he said: 'We were contacted by the FSA and we spoke to them on Monday and it was at that point, in light of the awareness that we then gained of an increase in salmonella in the population, that we decided to conduct a precautionary recall."

The company insists that it met all the legal requirements and was under no obligation to tell the FSA because in January, at 0.3 cells of salmonella per 100g of chocolate crumb, the contamination was below the company's own "alert" level of 10 cells per 100g.

In February it sent the contaminated chocolate for testing at an independent laboratory, which contacted the Health Protection Agency with the details. The HPA, which monitors food poisoning levels, did not realise there might be a problem until this month, when it saw a spike from 12 cases of montevideo food poisoning last year to 45 in the first four months of this year. Half involved children under four. The HPA alerted food standards officials.

Cadbury has denied that there is any confirmed link between the rise in cases and the bacteria found in their chocolate, and says that the products have been recalled simply to reinstate 'consumer confidence'. But the HPA said that if there Cadbury facing legal action Consumer backlash catches chocolate giant by surprise as questions grow over health alert delay was a big drop in cases after the products were taken off the shelves that would constitute 'strong evidence' of a link.

A spokesman for the FSA said yesterday that it was 'surprised' that Cadbury had not alerted it sooner. The spokesman said 'It does pose a real food risk. Salmonella can cause diarrhoea, sickness and fever.'

Cadbury has recalled 250g Dairy Milk Turkish, Dairy Milk Caramel and Dairy Milk Mint bars, eight-chunk Dairy Milk bars, 1kg Dairy Milk bars, 10p Freddo bars and 105g Dairy Milk Buttons Easter Eggs.

· The Cadbury helpline number is 0800 818181. Products should be returned to Cadbury Recall, Freepost MID20061, Birmingham B3O 2QZ for a refund voucher.

Note created Jun 27, 2006
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Briefing talks to Starbucks: Why doesn't Starbucks sell 100% Fairtrade coffee in its stores?


Briefing talks to Starbucks

February 24 2006
by Oliver Wagg, managing editor
Dave Olsen of Starbucks talks to Oliver Wagg about the evolution of CSR at the world's largest coffee chain, why he thinks fair trade is not the only solution to ethical trade and how the company engages with a sometimes hostile community.

How did you first become interested in CSR?

On my very first trip as Starbucks' coffee buyer to Guatemala in the mid 1980s I was inspired by the beauty of the country and the great coffee on the one hand, but overwhelmed by the poverty and the environmental challenges on the other. I came home to Seattle with very mixed feelings. Then in 1991, we made a key decision to work in parallel with coffee traders to the benefit of communities in coffee-growing countries.

How did CSR develop at Starbucks after this initial interest?

In 1994, an organisation in the US - the US/Guatemala Labor Education Project - began to focus their attention on Starbucks just as we were looking at overseas working conditions. In 1995, the company published a Framework for a Code of Conduct, describing Starbucks' approach to improving living and working conditions in coffee growing regions. Through this framework, Starbucks articulated better and communicated more regularly what we cared about and what we were doing about what we cared about. That became a cycle of about every six months - reporting on progress and reviewing the issues and committing to future efforts.

You must have been one of the first companies to start reporting on CSR.

We may have been. I remember speaking at a special coffee conference in Venice in October 1995 to a group of coffee industry people. I knew they spoke English, but they weren't having a very good time understanding what I was talking about! That move into more transparency makes a lot of people nervous. What we expressed in 1995 was a commitment to the quality of coffee, the quality of the environment in which it is grown and the quality of the lives of people involved in the production. And that's a pretty long reach.

Would it be true to say that Starbucks' approach is very much about partnership with the people in these coffee-growing regions?

I remember when we were writing our guiding principle, saying that those communities at the other end of the coffee chain are as much our communities as the communities around our coffee stores. There was no discussion about this, or argument, just a broad realisation that I was right. That leads us to partnering in the more literal sense, with organisations like CARE and like Conservation International.

Why doesn't Starbucks sell 100% Fairtrade coffee in its stores?

Fairtrade is not the only solution. It is not well understood and how small that initiative is when compared to the overall coffee market. We were engaged in practices such as C.A.F.E (Coffee And Farmer Equity) before there was even a Fairtrade mark. We were already in the game before they came along and had developed, to a very sophisticated level, ethical purchasing practices.

A lot of coffee shops in the UK are becoming 100% Fairtrade now, take Marks & Spencer for instance. Where does this leave Starbucks?

You know if I were Marks & Spencer that's probably what I would do. But I'm Starbucks and we have a long history of relationships with a broad range of suppliers, relationships in a wide range of countries, some of which don't even operate fair trade and they're all benefiting from Starbucks' purchasing efforts, in places where there is no such thing as fair trade. So we're aligned 100% with what they [Fairtrade] does, but their focus is very narrow - on small producers organised into co-ops to become Fairtrade certified.

What is your response to people who accuse Starbucks of harming diversity in neighbourhoods? I am thinking of the campaign in Primrose Hill, North London, a few years ago where residents prevented Starbucks establishing a new store.

A lot has been said about this. We could run the whole works and put a different name on each store. But the reality is, I've been to a lot of stores and I can tell you the personality of different stores is driven by who's behind the counter [pointing to a picture of Harold, the Great Portland Street store manager, on the wall]. If everything that was said about Starbucks were true there would be no one here. I understand people's concern; I have share similar concerns myself. I can assure you we are doing everything we possibly can to grow this company in a responsible way and in a way that's responsive to our communities.

Is CSR a response to all the anti-Starbucks campaigns?

For one thing, the CSR efforts across the board pre-date many of that anyway. One benefit that we are very aware of is the positive association that customers get as a result of the efforts we undertake. But that's not why we get involved in the coffee-growing world. We do that as a pure expression of our own values, amplified by the business need to make sure we have the relationships that give us the quality [of coffee]. It's one of the ways, after all, the attract quality employees.

There seems to be a very flat hierarchy at Starbucks - even your job title is written in lower case. Why is this?

People can just pick up the phone and speak to me - it seems to surprise them, but it doesn't surprise me. And when I refer to 'partners' here, I'm talking about employees. I've had a lot of roles in the company, so I'm at least conversant with the people who call me.

Corporate Citizenship Briefing Issue 86, Feb/Mar 2006

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Planting forests of opportunity: The forestry sector arouses a great deal of passion, considering the prosaic nature of its outputs - timber and paper.


Planting forests of opportunity

Financial Times, 26 June 2006 - The forestry sector arouses a great deal of passion, considering the prosaic nature of its outputs - timber and paper. This is not just because forests are an important natural resource - the lungs of the planet, according to wildlife charity WWF, as well as a storehouse of biodiversity, medicines, oxygen, and a regulator of climate change. It is also because they are under threat.

One-tenth of forests has disappeared in the last 25 years, victim of the spread of urban development, illegal logging, land conversion for agriculture or plantations, road building, mining, forest fires and climate change.

As a result, "the bottom line in forestry is sustain­ability", says Jim Lynch, chief executive of Forest Research, a unit of the Forestry Commission.

The industry has high environmental impacts, according to Bethany Murray, research analyst at Eiris, the ethical investment research service. On top of the threats outlined above, pulp and timber mills use a lot of energy, and use harmful chemicals such as chlorine in their production processes.

Growing awareness of the sector's impact and the introduction of the Equator Principles, which govern investment in project finance, have led to pressure on companies looking to build plants. ING, the Dutch bank, recently withdrew its support for plans by Botnia, a Finnish company looking to construct a mill in Uruguay, because of fears over the project's environmental impact. BBVA, the Spanish bank, is under pressure to withdraw its support from plans by Ence, a Spanish company that wants to build another mill in the same town, Fray Bentos.

Growing pressure from non-governmental organisations and consumers has led to increased demand from retailers and governments for certified products to ensure supplies are from sustainable sources, says Susanna Jacobson, research analyst at Innovest. This has led to many certification regimes, such as the inter­national Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification in Europe, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) in the US. European standards are more stringent than elsewhere, Ms Jacobson says.

The certification schemes have led to increasingly sophisticated methods of tracking timber to ensure it has not been illegally logged. These include satellite tracking, barcode technology, supply chain management and responsible procurement policies. Environmental pressures have also led to opportunities for companies - Canada's Domtar has introduced a range of FSC-certified paper called EarthChoice, which is endorsed by the Rainforest Alliance, WWF Canada and Forest Ethics. Many plants are also making use of their own crop as a biofuel.

"The reputation problem the industry faces is that customers, governments, investors and the media find it difficult to differentiate sustainable from non-sustainable," says James Griffiths, forestry project director of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). "But timber and paper are a renewable resource; they absorb carbon as the trees grow, store carbon while in use, can be used as a biofuel and are highly recyclable - it can go through three or four cycles and then still act as an excellent source of carbon neutral energy."

Forests' unique properties give rise to interesting opportunities. Mark Campanale, head of SRI business development at Henderson Global Investors, says that the nature of forestry assets makes them an ideal long-term investment. "Forests play like a property asset, have commodity-like behaviour and a long-term history that allows you to predict returns - it looks like a 40-50 year gilt." There are no listed forestry pure plays, says Mr Campanale, but investors can put their money in Clerical Medical Forestry, which has a large portfolio of hardwood assets, and Aim-listed Fountains Forestry, which manages forestry assets for investors.

"Forests harbour and deliver 'public' goods and services," says WBCSD's Mr Griffiths. "These include biodiversity, improvement of water quality, shade, habitat for wildlife, creation of watershed, recovery of degraded land and cultural value. None of these is fungible at the moment." But that is changing as a result of the Kyoto Protocol and creation of a carbon trading market.

Planting trees creates a "carbon sink" that absorbs carbon dioxide, offsetting the effects of global warming, and companies can gain carbon credits for creating new plantations. The carbon economy is leading to new plantations, particularly in countries such as China, where they can play an important role in combating desertification, says Innovest's Ms Jacobson.

Critics say the scheme is flawed because it provides no incentive to maintain existing forests in tropical countries, which are environmentally more valuable but are being lost to agriculture and urbanisation. Nonetheless, says Mr Griffiths: "Kyoto is starting to reflect the value of carbon sequestration, while forests' role in water creation is also being recognised - in Costa Rica, forest managers are being paid to manage forests for water creation."

Japanese companies such as Oji Paper and Nippon Paper are prominent in plantation development in Asia because Japan suffers from a shortage of harvestable forest, says Ms Jacobson.

One UK company to profit from the forestry sector is Carbon Neutral, to which BSkyB turned to help it become carbon neutral. Forestry projects are among its tools to offset emissions.

Environmental investment funds such as Quadris invest in projects to regenerate forests that have been destroyed by logging or farming in the developing world. Smaller companies such as Bournemouth-based group Oxigen Investments are taking advantage of the demand for sustainable investment opportunities. It uses investors' money to create hardwood plantations in Costa Rica - when the wood is harvested, it reduces pressure on natural rainforests and protects thousands of acres more of previously threatened rainforest. Meanwhile, the scarcity of certified sources of hardwood drives the price up, increasing the benefit to investors.

Economic development and population growth will lead to a huge increase in demand for forestry products and forestry ecosystem services, says WBCSD's Mr Griffiths, but at the same time sustainable management will be a huge challenge. However, according to Ms Jacobson of Innovest, "on balance, climate change will be an opportunity rather than a risk".

Next month: Gas, water and multi-utilities

Mike.A.Scott@ft.com

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US, EU agree to high-level talks on climate change; EU way off course for meeting Kyoto targets: latest figures


US, EU agree to high-level talks on climate change

Environmental Finance, 22 June 2006 - The US and the EU have agreed to work more closely to address the "serious and long-term challenge" of climate change.

At the annual EU-US summit meeting in Vienna this week, attended by US President George Bush and EU President Manuel Barroso, the two parties promised to "act with resolve and urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions", they said in a joint statement.

While efforts will continue under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the parties announced plans for an "US-EU High Level Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development". This will be guided by the aims of the UNFCCC and will meet for the first time this autumn in Helsinki.

The dialogue will discuss: experiences with different market-based mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; promoting clean technologies; energy conservation; renewable fuels; and methane capture, among other environmental issues.

Earlier in the week, EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas told the European Parliament's Environment Committee that "clear market signals" were needed to promote technological solutions to climate change. "Mandatory reductions, an international price on carbon and a global cap-and-trade scheme are necessary," he said.

Dimas also said the EU's climate policy would be strengthened with a legislative framework for carbon capture and storage "that will provide clarity for future investments".

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EU way off course for meeting Kyoto targets: latest figures

AFP, 22 June 2006 - New data published Thursday showed the European Union (EU) remains embarrassingly off track for meeting its pledges under the Kyoto Protocol, the UN climate-change pact it championed after a US walkout.

Instead of falling, EU greenhouse-gas pollution actually rose in the latest year of monitoring, adding to the task of meeting the Kyoto goals, according to figures released by the European Environment Agency (EAA) in Copenhagen. "Despite the various policy initiatives, this report highlights that the trend is still going in the wrong direction," declared EAA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade.

"Europe must implement all planned policies and measures relating to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions," said McGlade.

She warned that EU members needed to take "ambitious" steps when crafting the next phase of their Emissions Trading System (ETS), a Kyoto mechanism designed to reduce pollution by big industry.

The EU-15 has pledged to reduce emissions by eight percent by 2012 as compared with a benchmark of 1990.

But between 2003 and 2004, emissions rose by 0.3 percent, or 11.5 million tonnes, marking the second annual year of increase, the EAA said in its annual report.

Emissions in 2004 were just 0.6 percent lower than the base year of 1990 -- more than four percentage points adrift of where they should have been by that time. For the EU-25, after the "Big Bang" membership enlargement, the increase was 0.4 percent in 2004, or 18 million tonnes, over 2003.

"An increase of 0.4 percent may appear small; however, the magnitude of GHG (greenhouse-gas emissions) is such that the actual increase is significant," said McGlade.

"(It) is comparable to the amount of CO2 emissions released by three million people if they were to drive their cars around the world."

The EU saved Kyoto from collapse after the United States abandoned the treaty, then still in draft form, in March 2001 in one of President George W. Bush's first acts in office.

The pact requires industrialised countries that have ratified it to trim outputs of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases that trap solar heat and could wreak havoc with the planet's delicate climate system.

Making these cuts can carry a significant cost, in making equipment more fuel-efficient and cleaner or in weaning an economy away from dirty fossil fuels and converting it to renewable sources, which is why Bush walked out. The EAA report makes these points:

  • Road transport contributed most to the increase, accounting for a rise of 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) among the EU-15. Iron and steel makers were also culprits, upping their CO2 pollution by eight million tonnes.
  • Spain and Italy had the biggest GHG rise, with 4.8 and 0.9 percent respectively. Spain switched to fossil fuels after the 2003 drought hit power from hydro. Italy emitted more through oil refining and road transport.
  • Germany, Denmark and Finland did best, seeing reductions of GHGs of 0.9 percent, 8.1 percent and 4.9 percent respectively. Germany offset a rise from the iron and steel sector by big reductions in CO2 in households and services. Denmark and Finland made further moves to switch from fossils to hydro in electricity production.
Friends of the Earth Europe reacted bitterly."Europes governments make grand statements about their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas pollution," it said."Yet economy and industry ministers continue to block or water down policy measures to switch to renewable energies, reduce energy waste or introduce fuel consumption standards for cars."

The report is the second bad jolt for the EU's Kyoto ambitions in less than two months.

In April, the ETS, a "carbon market" where companies buy and sell quotas of CO2 under the EU's cap-and-trade system, went into a tailspin. It emerged that some national governments had been hugely over-generous in allocating these firms pollution quotas in the first phase of the scheme.

The EAA report is sent to Kyoto's parent body, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), under clauses requiring signatories to provide an annual inventory of man-made GHGs.

Its sources are national governments, although the data is also reviewed by the European Commission and the EAA.

This article is reproduced with kind permission of Agence France-Presse (AFP)
For more news and articles visit the
AFP website.


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Scientists urge G8 not to forget about global warming


Scientists urge G8 not to forget about global warming

Greenwire, 14 June 2006 - International scientists warned the Group of Eight industrialized nations today not to get so distracted by energy security at their summit next month in Russia that they fail to take promised action on global warming.

"One year on from the U.K. Gleneagles Summit, where the G8 committed to taking action on climate change, this crucial issue must not be allowed to fall by the wayside," said U.K. Royal Society President Martin Rees, a signatory to the statement from scientists in the G8 countries as well as Brazil, China, India and South Africa.

"The G8 must demonstrate that this was a serious pledge by integrating climate concerns with their discussions regarding security of supply," he said. "As some of the most intensive users of energy in the world, the G8 nations bear a special responsibility to help stimulate the clean energy revolution that will deliver economically, environmentally and socially while ensuring the lights stay on" (Jeremy Lovell, Reuters, June 14).

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Hydrogen energy heading for big R&D money?


Hydrogen energy heading for big R&D money?

EurActiv.com, 15 June 2006 - Hype or the 'Holy Grail', hydrogen energy is set to follow in the footsteps of Galileo and become the next EU Joint Technology Initiative.

Background:

There are currently 29 European Technology Platforms (ETP), which are major large-scale research initiatives in key technology areas such as chemicals, nanotechnology, automobiles and food.

They bring together companies, research institutions, the financial world and regulatory authorities to define a common Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) in a specific field. The SRA is the outcome of a stakeholder consensus and expresses the ambition and the long-term vision for that specific sector.

The scope of the research objectives and the scale of the resources involved of such ETPs may justify setting up long term public private partnerships in the form of a Joint Technology Initiative (JTI). The JTIs will implement the Strategic Research Agenda of a specific European Technology Platform.

JTIs combine private sector investment and national and European public funding, including grant funding from the EU Research Framework Programme and loan finance from the European Investment Bank.

The only concrete example so far of a Joint Technology Initiative is the EU satellite navigation system Galileo.

JTIs may be decided on the basis of Article 171 of the Treaty, or on the basis of specific programme decisions in accordance with Article 166 of the Treaty.

Issues:

Hydrogen and fuel cells have been identified, in the Commission's proposal for FP7, as an area for a Joint Technology Initiative (JTI).

"I very much hope that in the near future we will have all the ingredients in place to go ahead with a decision on hydrogen 'JTI'," said the Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potocnik, Speaking at the World Hydrogen Energy Conference (WHEC) on 13 June 2006.

The European Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform was launched in 2004 and presented its strategic research agenda in March 2005 (see EurActiv 17 March 2005). The Platform aims at accelerating the development and deployment of these technologies in Europe. It helps to structure socio-economic and technical research on hydrogen and fuel cells at European level, and stimulates increased public and private investment in R&D. It also helps to develop awareness of fuel cell and hydrogen market opportunities and energy scenarios and fosters future co-operation.

"I believe that an industry-led Joint Technology Initiative can provide the European level platform necessary to make real progress. But we shall need a convincing Implementation Plan backed by the unambiguous commitment of all stakeholders including the member states and the collective will to establish a credible and viable public-private partnership," said Commissioner Potocnik.

The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform is currently preparing its implementation plan, a kind of a proposal for becoming a JTI. "This will be a key document. It will set out targets and priorities for integrated research and demonstration actions needed to take the hydrogen and fuel cells to market readiness in five to ten years," said Potocnik.

In March 2006, the Commission published a Green paper on 'A European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy', which opened the debate on a future common European energy policy. The public consultation will close on 24 September 2006.

Positions:

At least 120 stakeholders have already sent letters to European Commissioners and to the Hydrogen Fuel Cell platform secretariat in which they committed to support a JTI on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells.

"Hydrogen ticks all the right boxes in terms of the global policy benefits it can bring. It may, or may not be the 'Holy Grail' for energy, but I am convinced that it will play a major role in our future energy systems," said Commissioner Potocnik.

Hydrogen face some challenges, though. First, it is not a new energy source, but an energy carrier. Hydrogen needs to be produced using other energy sources and, therefore, the hydrogen energy will only be as clean as the original energy source it is made from (coal, nuclear, natural gas, or renewables). Secondly, production of hydrogen is still very expensive and a hydrogen economy would need a complete new energy infrastructure, expected to cost hundreds of billions of euros.

Not all energy experts are convinced about the future of the hydrogen economy. In a paper entitled 'Does the hydrogen economy make sense', Ulf Bossel of the European Fuel Cell Forum challenges the hydrogen promoters by saying that their claims do not respect the energy conservation principle, one of the fundamental laws of physics. He sees the future of sustainable energy being built on a renewed "electron economy" infrastructure instead of a hydrogen one.

Latest & next steps:

  • A preparatory meeting of the Joint Technology Initiative (JTI) on hydrogen and fuel cells will take place on 29 June 2006.
  • As communicated in a working document in June 2005, the Commission is promoting Joint Technology Initiatives also on innovative medicines, nanoelectronics, embedded computing systems, aeronautics and air traffic management and global monitoring for environment and security. Further JTIs may be identified during the implementation of FP7.
Links

EU official documents

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Beyond propriety: With awful timing, BP is caught in an energy-trading scandal in America


Beyond propriety

Jun 29th 2006
From The Economist print edition

With awful timing, BP is caught in an energy-trading scandal in America

WHAT with the price of oil at levels that anger voters, American politicians have been scouring for evidence of wrong-doing by big oil firms. On June 28th they struck lucky. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which oversees trading in America’s energy derivatives, filed a complaint against BP’s North American subsidiary and against traders in its Natural Gas Liquids business. It charges them with manipulating the price of propane contracts for February 2004 by “cornering the market” for the stuff in Texas. The ultimate buyers of the propane were households and businesses, including many poor rural families living in trailer homes.

The CFTC accuses BP’s traders of buying up supplies of propane towards the end of America’s winter heating season, in an effort to create a temporary shortage. Many OTC traders who had entered contracts to deliver propane at the end of February could not lay their hands on enough barrels to meet their commitments, and so had to buy it from BP at rapidly rising prices.

That was all part of the BP traders’ illegal plan, says the CFTC. The commission is also alleging that BP’s traders tried to manipulate prices in the spring of 2003. BP denies any manipulation and says it is co-operating with the CFTC. But it has fired some of the traders involved for misconduct.

As in other trading suits, the defendants’ own phone calls and other records will provide some of the best evidence against them. The CFTC has tapes of Mark Radley, who ran the Natural Gas Liquid unit’s trading outfit, telling a colleague in January 2004 that the propane market was “tight enough that if someone wanted to play games with it, potentially they could.” The next month, when Mr Radley was describing the new trading plan he said this: “What we stand to gain is, not just that we’d make money out of it, but we would know from thereafter that we could control the market at will.”

Those words will bolster the CFTC’s charges of attempted manipulation. But proving that someone has succeeded in fixing derivatives prices is much harder, says Geoffrey Aronow, the commission’s director of enforcement until 1999. Prices can bounce around for many reasons, making it hard to prove that defendants’ actions have caused the price changes that occur.

Indeed, the CFTC has never won such a case against anyone. The CFTC’s current director of enforcement, Gregory Mocek, seemed to acknowledge the difficulties when he announced that “complex and covert trading patterns” would not deter his outfit from pursuing suspected violators.

Whatever the outcome of the case, however, the publicity will further damage BP’s tarnished image in America. The firm has tried to portray itself as more considerate of the environment than other big oil firms, with slogans like “Beyond Petroleum”. But it has suffered from a series of embarrassing accidents, including a fire at a refinery in Texas in 2005, which killed 15 people, and a big oil spill from a pipeline in Alaska this year.

BP, which is based in London, has repeatedly vowed to improve its oversight and has embarked on management reshuffles to that end. But with each new incident it seems more likely that the company, long admired for the quality of its management, has a serious problem overseeing its global operations.

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EPA to propose credit-trading scheme for alternative fuels this summer


EPA to propose credit-trading scheme for alternative fuels this summer

Greenwire, 16 June 2006 - U.S. EPA will propose a credit-trading system this summer for ethanol and other renewable fuels aimed at helping establish a "functioning market" for alternative transportation fuels, a top agency official said yesterday.

The agency expects to publish the rule notice near the end of the summer and finalize the rule in early 2007, Robert Meyers, associate assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, told a gathering of industry representatives yesterday.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 requires that EPA establish a credit trading system to meet the newly implemented Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), but it gives the agency little direction on what such a system must look like. Meyers said the agency has spent much of the year trying to determine key components of the trading scheme -- including what qualifies as a credit, who is responsible for creating the credits and what should be the credit for "non-ethanol" renewable fuels.

EPA is still working out the details of the proposal, Meyers said.

The energy law requires industry to reach the 4 billion gallon mark this year for use of renewable fuels. But there is no individual liability for fuel refiners, importers or blenders for failing to meet that goal.

By 2007, when the renewable mandate jumps to 4.7 billion gallons, EPA is expected to establish a system that holds individual entities responsible for meeting their portion of the standard.

Establishing credits
Under the proposal being developed by EPA, producers would identify each gallon of renewable fuel with a unique renewable identification number (RIN). A gallon of corn-based ethanol will equal one RIN, while 1 gallon of cellulosic ethanol will equal 2.5 RINs, Meyers said. The agency has not yet figured the RIN credit for biodiesel or other gasoline components -- such as MTBE.

Corn-based ethanol currently makes up about 97 percent of the domestic renewable fuel market, although industry experts anticipate significant growth in the next few years in the use of cellulosic ethanol and other renewables. Since cellulosic ethanol will have a greater "RIN value" than corn-based ethanol it could potentially have significantly more value in the market down the road, Meyers said.

Meyers said the proposal would designate fuel refiners and importers -- not down-stream blenders or distributors -- as "obligated parties" for meeting the RFS mandate. Obligated parties would receive the RIN when purchasing the renewable fuel from producers and can either use it to meet its portion of the RFS or trade it.

RIN credits could be used only in the year that the renewable fuel is produced and the following compliance period. But Meyers said the agency currently trying to make the system does not allow for "infinite credits," where the RIN credits are continuously rolled over from year to year.

Meyers added that he expected the RFS trading system would help establish a marketplace for ethanol and other renewables, but it was unclear how much the standard itself would drive ethanol production or if other factors -- such as state mandates and consumer demand -- would fuel the industry.

"We're well aware that we need a functioning marketplace, and we need to get the rules of the road out there," Meyers said.

The RFS will steadily increase the mandated levels of ethanol use from the 4 billion gallon level this year to 7.5 billion gallons by 2012. After that, the EPA is required to annually set a minimum use of renewable fuels based on several factors written into the law. Some lawmakers have also floated new legislation that would push the renewable fuel mandate far above the current RFS and those proposals appear likely to receive at least some consideration on Capitol Hill.

Note created Jun 19, 2006
EPA to propose credit-trading scheme for alternative fuels this summer - www.wbcsd.org/...

Environmental chiefs join forces to fight growth in air travel


Environmental chiefs join forces to fight growth in air travel
By Michael McCarthy and Clare Kenny
Published: 27 June 2006

Britain's environmental leaders today call on the Government to change course over aviation policy - or pay a huge environmental and social price.

In a letter to The Independent, an unprecedented coalition of senior greens, scientists and politicians demands a radical rethink of current plans for air travel expansion, which they say will lead to an enormous increase in emissions of the greenhouse gases causing global warming.

The letter marks the first shot in a campaign highlighting the consequences of allowing air travel to grow in line with demand - the so-called "predict and provide" approach. This was at the heart of the 2003 Aviation White Paper, which foresaw new airport runways being built across Britain in the next 30 years as passenger numbers grow nearly threefold, boosted by the market in cheap flights.

The message of the Rethink! campaign, organised by AirportWatch, an alliance of environmental organisations and community groups at airports around the UK, and being spread by a series of newspaper advertisements, is that unless the Government alters its approach, the price to pay will be unacceptably high, involving at least a doubling of aviation's contribution to climate change. Aviation is the fastest-growing source of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

It will also involve, the campaign says, the exposure of hundreds of thousands more people to aircraft noise, the destruction of numerous natural habitats and historic buildings, and more pollution for communities near airports.

Today's letter is signed not only by leaders of green groups such as Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Transport 2000, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the World Wide Fund for Nature, but also by Labour, Tory, Liberal Democrat and Green Party politicians, senior scientists such as the chairman of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Sir John Lawton, and the heads of major charities including the National Trust, the Woodland Trust and War On Want.

"We believe that urgent action is needed to bring aviation policy into line with climate change targets," they say.

"The Government must fundamentally rethink its aviation policy so that it plays a part in making the annual cuts in emissions needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change."

Carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft exhausts, if their rapid growth is left unchecked, will alone account for more than the entire amount by which Britain is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gases over the next half-century.

Aircraft currently account for about 4 per cent of the world's CO2 emissions, but by 2030 they could account for a quarter of the total.

Note created Jun 27, 2006
Independent Online Edition > Environment - news.independent.co.uk/...

Put a beet in your tank ... BP plans UK's biggest green fuel plant


Put a beet in your tank ... BP plans UK's biggest green fuel plant

Terry Macalister
Wednesday June 21, 2006

The Guardian

BP has joined forces with one of Europe's biggest food groups to build what they claim will be Britain's largest "green" petrol plant using sugar beet from East Anglia. The move, designed to kickstart a much larger programme involving hundreds of millions of pounds of investment, comes as environmental campaigners declare war on the UK's largest traditional power plant, Drax.

BP and Associated British Foods, along with US chemical group DuPont, say the biobutanol facility at Wissington, Norfolk, will help use up agricultural surpluses and prepare for government-imposed targets on greener fuels. The plant will cost £25m and have capacity to produce 70m litres a year of plant-based fuel, biobutanol, which will be blended with traditional petrol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Article continues



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The companies also plan a feasibility study to build several plants with a capacity of nearly 300m litres which could cost more than £100m each.

George Weston, chief executive of AB Foods, said: "We believe this is the biggest of its kind in Britain and is a good way of dealing with the country's food surpluses." British farms grow between 2m and 3m tonnes too much produce - mainly wheat - for domestic consumption and AB Foods said it would hope to use much of this in future if trials go well.

Up to 10% of traditional petrol can be blended with biobutanol without any modifications to a car engine and the companies believe they can raise this percentage in future.

Meanwhile climate change activists said yesterday they would set up a Camp for Climate Change and aimed to shut down the Drax power station in 10 days of "direct action" planned for August. Drax, in Yorkshire, is being targeted because it burns more than 13m tonnes of coal and emits more than 20m tonnes of CO2 every year, making it the largest single emitter of greenhouse gases in the UK.

Note created Jun 22, 2006
Guardian Unlimited Business | | Put a beet in your tank ... BP plans UK's biggest green fuel plant - business.guardian.co.uk/...

World demand for oil is set to increase 37% by 2030, according to the US-based Energy Information Administration's (EIA) annual report.

World oil demand 'to rise by 37%'


Higher oil prices have increased the appeal of other sources of energy


World demand for oil is set to increase 37% by 2030, according to the US-based Energy Information Administration's (EIA) annual report.

Demand will hit 118 million barrels per day (bpd) from today's existing 86 million barrels, driven in large part by transport needs, the EIA said.

But oil cartel Opec's supply share will fall from 39.7% to 38.4% as West Africa and the Caspian increase production.

Higher demand is expected to come from Asia, especially India and China.

Rising prices

At the same time, oil production in Europe's largest producer, Norway, is expected to decline from this year's 3.6 million bpd to 2.5 million bpd by 2030.

"Much of the world's incremental oil demand is projected for use in the transportation sector, where there are few competitive alternatives to petroleum," said the EIA, the statistics arm of the US Department of Energy.

The US will still be the single largest consumer of petrol, with the EIA predicting it will consume 27.6 million bpd, up from this year's 20.8 million.

Though worldwide oil demand is forecast to increase, the higher price is expected to temper demand and boost the appeal of other sources of energy, such as coal, gas and renewable fuels.

Oil represented nearly 38% of the world's total energy consumption in 2003, but is expected to fall to 33% by 2030.

Oil prices hovered near the $70 mark on Tuesday, with crude oil hitting $68.57 and Brent light oil at $69.40 at 1655 BST, having traded higher earlier in the day.


Note created Jun 22, 2006
BBC NEWS | Business | World oil demand 'to rise by 37%' - news.bbc.co.uk/...

Oil's Share of World Energy Demand to Fall


Oil's Share of World Energy Demand to Fall

By BRAD FOSS AP Business Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Oil's share of world energy demand will decline over the next quarter century, the Energy Department said Tuesday, as high prices spur greater use of alternatives such as coal, natural gas and renewable fuels.

"High prices do matter," said Guy Caruso, administrator of the Energy Information Administration, a division of the Energy Department that released its annual international energy outlook.

The EIA predicted in December that worldwide oil prices would average $57 a barrel in 2030, a 35 percent increase from the long-term forecast the agency had made just a year earlier. As a result, the agency now expects oil's share of total world energy consumption to drop to 33 percent by 2030, down from 38 percent in 2003.

Over that same period, coal's share will rise to 27 percent, up from 24 percent; natural gas will make up 26 percent of consumption, up from 24 percent; renewable fuels like biodiesel and ethanol will rise to 9 percent of total world energy demand, up from 8 percent.

Still, world oil demand will rise to 118 million barrels a day by 2030, up from about 85 million barrels a day now, with more than half of the growth coming from the United States, China and India, according to the EIA's forecast, which assumes no major changes to existing energy policies and regulations.

The oil supply coming from countries outside of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries is expected to rise by almost 24 million barrels per day by 2030. That is 62 percent more growth than is anticipated from OPEC.

"It's not so much the specific numbers. It's the trends we feel very confident in," Caruso explained.

Total world energy demand will rise by 71 percent to 722 quadrillion British thermal units by 2030, Caruso said, with the most robust growth coming from developing nations in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide will rise by 75 percent, to 43.7 billion metric tons, at the same time that coal demand experiences the largest rate of increase. Growth in carbon dioxide emissions is expected to be most rapid in the developing nations of Asia, rising by 3.6 percent a year.

The rapidly growing demand for coal and natural gas is primarily being driven by growth in the power and industrial sectors, he said.

According to the EIA forecast, worldwide electricity demand will rise to 30,116 billion kilowatt-hours in 2030, more than double the 2003 level. Global coal and natural gas consumption will nearly double, too. By 2030, coal demand will rise to 10,561 million short tons, while natural-gas demand will climb to 182 trillion cubic feet.

To meet the world's rising appetite for transportation fuels, Caruso said the energy industry will increasingly rely on so-called unconventional resources, such as oil sands and converting coal and natural-gas to diesel and other liquids. Global unconventional liquids production is forecast to climb to 11.5 million barrels per day in 2030, up from current levels of about 1.8 million barrels per day.

Caruso said there were three "above-ground" factors driving tighter oil supplies and, thus, higher prices:

_ Oil-producing countries are not investing enough to maintain a comfortable level of surplus production capacity.

_ Regulatory "impediments" that include restrictions against drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and off the coasts of the United States.

_ The rising costs of doing business.

Light sweet crude for July delivery fell 3 cents to $68.95 a barrel Tuesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

___

On the Net:

EIA's International Energy Outlook: http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/index.html

Note created Jun 22, 2006
Chron.com | Oil's Share of World Energy Demand to Fall - www.chron.com/...

30.6.06

Ford Drops Focus on Hybrids, Shifts to Biofuels; Ford, GM, Chrysler to Boost Non-Gasoline Vehicles


Sorry for the duplicate



Ford, GM, Chrysler to Boost Non-Gasoline Vehicles

WASHINGTON - Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group plan to more than double annual production of vehicles capable of running on renewable fuels to two million cars and trucks by 2010, the automakers said on Wednesday.

The pledge for more vehicles powered by fuels other than gasoline follows a meeting between the chief executives of the US-based auto giants and congressional leaders last month on efforts to reduce US dependence on foreign oil.

The executives and lawmakers also discussed ways for government to help struggling Detroit carmakers better compete with overseas rivals like Japan's Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co.

Toyota and Honda have gained market share with cars that go farther on a gallon of gas and new gas-electric hybrids, while GM, Ford and Chrysler have slumped with their marquee pickups and sport utilities that are less fuel efficient.

Ford, GM and Chrysler have increased production of alternative or flexible fueled vehicles to retain buyers and attract new ones concerned about high gas prices and the impact of fossil fuels on the environment.

Congress is open to considering new government incentives to accelerate development of alternative fuels and the infrastructure to deliver them. But lawmakers want a firmer commitment from auto companies that they plan serious change, which could also leverage new thinking in the fuels industry.

"Our hope is that with this commitment, fuel providers will have even more incentive to produce ethanol and other biofuels and install pumps to distribute them," the chief executives of GM, Ford and Chrysler said in a letter to members of Congress.

Renewable or biofuels are crop-based products that are mixed with traditional fuels. Experts say they burn cleaner and save energy compared to gasoline. However, the infrastructure for renewable fuels is mainly in the Midwest where much of the crop production occurs.

Currently, there are only about 700 pumps nationwide for the most popular renewable fuel -- an 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline blend called E85. Ethanol is made from corn and sugar cane and biodiesel comes from oil seeds like soybeans.

Story Date: 29/6/2006


Note created Jun 29, 2006
Planet Ark - www.planetark.com/...


Big Three Cars Emit 230 Million Tons of Greenhouse Gas

WASHINGTON - Cars built by the Big Three automakers gave off 230 million metric tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in the United States in a year, more than the biggest US electric utility, environmental researchers said on Wednesday.

General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler cars and light trucks emitted nearly three-fourths of all carbon dioxide from vehicles on US roads in 2004, the year for which statistics were available, according to the watchdog group Environmental Defense.

Nine other car manufacturers with vehicles on the US market accounted for an additional 84 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, bringing the total for all cars and light trucks in operation in 2004 to 314 million metric tons, the report found.

General Motors vehicles gave off 99 million metric tons or 31 percent of the total; Ford vehicles emitted 80 million metric tons or 25 percent and DaimlerChrysler vehicles emitted 51 million metric tons or 16 percent, according to the report.

By comparison, the largest US electric utility, American Electric Power, had emissions of 41 million metric tons.

Greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide, contribute to global warming, which in turn has been blamed for more severe hurricanes, rising seas and other environmental ills. Though greenhouse gas emissions have most frequently been associated with coal-fired power plants, the new report aims to point up comparable emissions from automobiles.

"The image of the power plant, with a smokestack and stuff billowing out of it, creates that sense of a lot of pollution in one place," John DeCicco, co-author of the report, said by telephone. "People don't necessarily understand that the millions of vehicles are part of the problem that is a really comparable scale."

He stressed a shared responsibility among consumers, auto manufacturers and policy makers.

"It's hard to pin just on General Motors the responsibility for that 20-year-old Chevy that's putting carbon up into the air," DeCicco said.

With just 5 percent of the world's population, the United States has 30 percent of the world's automobiles and produces 45 percent of the world's automotive carbon dioxide emissions, the report said. US cars are driven more and burn more fuel per mile than the international average.

Story by Deborah Zabarenko


Note created Jun 29, 2006
Planet Ark - www.planetark.com/...

Ford Drops Focus on Hybrids, Shifts to Biofuels
US: June 30, 2006

DETROIT - In a sharp shift of strategy, Ford Motor Co. plans to focus less on hybrid technology and more on a wider range of alternatives to traditional gasoline-powered engines, Ford Chief Executive Bill Ford told employees of the automaker.

Ford backed away from a commitment made last fall to build capacity to make 250,000 hybrid vehicles by the end of the decade, calling that goal "too narrow" in a company-wide e-mail message released on Thursday.

Ford, which has faced criticism for lacking a consistent vision for its product development, had heavily promoted its commitment to hybrid technology, which taps battery power to boost fuel economy.

The debate over the emerging group of alternatives to traditional combustion engines comes as US consumers put an increasing premium on fuel efficiency and low operating costs in the face of high gasoline prices.

The shift in consumer preference has hurt all of the Detroit-based automakers, but the stakes are particularly high for Ford, whose fleet of vehicles has the lowest average mileage per gallon of any of the automakers and which relies on light trucks for two-thirds of sales.

"Our strategy going forward is not to wed ourselves to a single technology," Ford said. "The strategy doesn't focus on one catch-all solution but offers a flexible array of options, including hybrids, clean diesels, bio-diesels, advanced engine technologies and E85 ethanol."

Environmental activists charged Ford with breaking an important commitment and trying to exploit a loophole that would allow it to raise the reported fuel economy of its fleet by making more vehicles capable of running on ethanol.

"We know now that Ford Motor Company cannot be relied upon to tell the truth or even to compete effectively with the more efficient fleets of foreign competitors like Honda and Toyota," said Dan Becker, director of Sierra Club's Global Warning Program.

Under the US Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, automakers get a credit for producing ethanol-ready vehicles, including SUVs, although most continue to burn only gasoline given the small number of ethanol pumps in the United States.

"I think Ford's turn toward ethanol is a coldly calculated move to continue producing more gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs." said Jennifer Krill of the San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network. "Ford's environmental problems are directly linked to its economic problems."


BIG THREE GO FOR BIOFUEL

Ford spokesman Said Deep said that criticism was misplaced since the automaker's commitment to improve fuel economy was unchanged despite the move away from hybrids.

Ford beat its US rivals in offering the first American-made full hybrids, which offer sharply improved gas mileage through the use of a battery that recharges during braking and powers the vehicle at low speeds.

But Ford has to resort to sales incentives to sell its Escape Hybrid and Mercury Mariner Hybrid models, a sharp contrast to the success that Toyota has seen with its sold-out Prius hybrid.

Ford's change in strategy comes as US automakers have offered a pledge to more than double their annual production of vehicles capable of running on renewable fuels such as ethanol to two million cars and trucks by 2010.

Ethanol is made from sugar derived from plants such as corn, straw and switch grass. Although it is almost a third less efficient than gasoline, proponents call it a renewable fuel.

The commitment to renewable fuels followed a meeting last month between the CEOs of Ford, General Motors Corp., the Chrysler Group and congressional leaders on efforts to reduce US dependence on foreign oil.

The executives and lawmakers also discussed way to help the struggling Detroit-based carmakers better compete with rivals such as Toyota and Honda Motor Co..

Bill Ford, who assumed operational responsibility in early April for the automaker founded by his great grandfather, told employees that the emphasis on other technologies did not change the company's drive for improved fuel economy and lower emissions of carbon dioxide, linked to global warming.

"While we will continue to develop and expand our hybrid portfolio in the US and around the world, the broader array of technologies we are adopting will yield a net improvement for both customers and the environment," he said.


Story by Kevin Krolicki


Note created Jun 30, 2006
Planet Ark : Ford Drops Focus on Hybrids, Shifts to Biofuels - www.planetark.com/...

28.6.06

Top-secret Ford project aims to produce a totally recyclable car by 2008



Top-secret Ford project aims to produce a totally recyclable car by 2008
WHAT'S HAPPENING
  • Beleaguered Ford Motor Company isn’t just getting lean, it’s thinking green. Its top-secret Piquette Project, recently unveiled in news reports, aims to produce a totally recyclable car by 2008, exactly a century after the first Model T rolled off the assembly line of the Piquette Avenue plant in Detroit (Detroit News 1.23.06).
  • Mum’s the word on the specs of the renewable car. But CEO Bill Ford Jr. is building a cross-functional workforce based on Grandpa Henry’s original team and drawing inspiration from the company’s Earth-friendly makeover of its Dearborn industrial complex.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO BUSINESS
  • As the number of eco-conscious consumers grows, so does the demand for automobiles that are environmentally responsible from cradle to coffin.
  • European and Japanese regulatory requirements are slowly raising U.S. consumer awareness of the green manufacturing practices Ford hopes to emulate.

Oakland bans plastic foam takeout containers


Thanks to Guy for this one

Oakland bans plastic foam takeout containers

Associated Press
OAKLAND, California

The city banned restaurants and cafes from using plastic foam take-out containers and will require that they switch to biodegradable and compostable materials.

Eateries found using plastic foam containers after Jan. 1 would face fines up to $500, Councilwoman Jean Quan said Thursday, a day after councilors approved the legislation. A final vote was scheduled for next week.

But the second part of the legislation - the shift to biodegradable and compostable materials - will not be enforced until the city leaders determine they have become more affordable, said Quan, who authored the ordinance.

Until then, businesses can use plastic trays, wax-coated paper boxes, or any material other than plastic foam, Quan said. Compliance will be monitored by city inspectors.

The measure is designed to reduce litter that blights Oakland neighborhoods, contributes to pollution and fills up landfills, Quan said. About 100 cities, including Berkeley and Portland, have adopted similar measures.

The California Restaurant Association and restaurant owners argued plastic foam is the best way to keep food hot, and that meal prices will rise 15 cents to pay for the new materials.