Sustainablog

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

27.1.07

California utility Pacific Gas & Electric previews future energy grid


California utility Pacific Gas & Electric previews future energy grid

Posted Jan 27th 2007 3:06PM by Jeremy Korzeniewski
Filed under:
Emerging Technologies, Etc., EV/Plug-in, Solar

Pacific Gas & Electric's Hal LaFlash recently sat down with Todd Woody of Green Wombat and Business 2.0 a preview of some of the new-tech and green-tech changes we can expect to see in California and the rest of the country. Here's the list:

  • Solar stations - Large-scale plants using new thermal and photovoltaic technologies will operate in Southern California and the desert Southwest.
  • Solar buildings - As solar cells are integrated into rooftops, walls, and windows, homes and office towers will become miniature power stations, generating their own electricity and feeding excess power back into the grid.
  • Wind power - Anywhere the wind blows is a potential site for a turbine, but the Great Plains is the place utilities are eying for giant wind farms.
  • Wave power - PG&E is looking at the Northern California coast for potential sites for wave energy generators. The Northeast coast is another prime source of as-yet-untapped wave power.
  • Cow power - California has 1.7 million cows and more than 2,000 dairies. A dozen dairies have already installed methane digesters to turn cow manure - a source of one of the most destructive greenhouse gases - into electricity. The digester extracts methane gas from cow poop and uses it to power an electricity-generating turbine. Other dairies have plans to produce a bovine biogas that will be piped to power plants.
  • Car power - PG&E is developing technology that will allow future "plug-in" hybrid vehicles not only to recharge their batteries but also to feed electricity back into the power grid during peak demand.
  • Clean-coal plants - Located mainly in the East and Midwest, these plants will gasify coal, stripping it of pollutants. Carbon dioxide will be captured before it can be released into the atmosphere.
  • Smart grids - Interactive power grids will communicate with smart agents embedded in household appliances, allowing power to be distributed where it is needed most.
I was intrigued by a few of these technologies, notably vehicle-to-grid. Wouldn't it be nice to hear news stories talking about the automotive impact on the environment in a positive way?

[Source Business 2.0 via Tree Hugger]

[The scariest thing you will read today] The US Government wants the world's scientists to develop technology to block sunlight as a last-ditch way to halt global warming


US bid to block sun to stop warming

January 28, 2007

The US Government wants the world's scientists to develop technology to block sunlight as a last-ditch way to halt global warming.

It says research into techniques such as giant mirrors in space or reflective dust pumped into the atmosphere would be "important insurance" against rising emissions.

It lobbied for such a strategy to be recommended by a major UN report on climate change, the first part of which was published yesterday.

The US has also attempted to steer the UN report, prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), away from conclusions that would support a new worldwide climate treaty based on binding targets to reduce emissions.

It demanded a draft of the report be changed to emphasise the benefits of voluntary agreements and to include criticisms of the Kyoto Protocol, the existing treaty the US Administration opposes.

The final IPCC report, written by experts worldwide, will underpin negotiations to devise an emissions treaty to succeed Kyoto, the first phase of which expires in 2012. World governments were invited to comment on a draft of the report.

26.1.07

[New Statesman focuses on global warming] No time to lose; Businesses are vying to save the planet, and getting rich. But does it matter? Yes, we can save the world . . . if we want to... And why is the Defense Ministry so seriously concerned about global warming?


Climate crisis: No time to lose

Tony McDermott

Published 29 January 2007

This week the New Statesman focuses on global warming. Starting here with Al Gore's adviser arguing the world must urgently face up to the global violence and conflict that would result from rapid climate change

On 2 February, a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, based on the work of 2,500 scientists, will give its strongest warning yet that we face potentially catastrophic climate disruption. The developed nations have barely begun to consider the impact of these changes, as President Bush's inadequate measures in a so-called "environmentally centred" State of the Union address made clear.

On these pages our specialist contributors spell out a stark message. Chaotic weather change poses grave threats to economic stability and social cohesion. If we act now mankind has a future. But it must be a radically different one.

Barbara Gunnell

There are some aspects of global warming that we have barely begun to understand. Yet climate change will trigger enormous physical and social changes, including water scarcity, population movement, pollution and natural disasters.

The security implications of this are unprecedented. They are enormous in scope, redefining what we think of as a global threat. We should prepare for climate change to intensify political conflict and violence. If we don't reposition policies to address the so far invisible threats posed by global warming - for example, the struggle for land in drought-stricken areas, or the displacement of people in coastal zones and small islands - the consequences could be catastrophic.

First, though, we must accept the science. We need to know what to expect. Some facts are well documented and widely acknowledged: increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes; increased average surface and ocean temperatures; increased global rainfall from increased evaporation; greater variability in rainfall and temperature, including more frequent and severe floods and droughts; rising sea levels, exacerbated by melting continental ice fields; extended ranges and seasons for mosquitoes and other tropical-disease carriers.

Such changes may be gradual or happen abruptly - we don't yet know. However, scientists are increasingly concerned at the possibility of abrupt, catastrophic climate change. One scenario puts Britain's coastline seriously at threat - as David King, the UK government's chief scientific adviser, said of the melting of the Greenland ice sheet: "The maps of the world will have to be redrawn." A different scenario, a sudden shift in the Gulf Stream, would leave western Europe without the warm waters that keep its climate hospitable, thrusting it into a new ice age. Such physical changes could generate any number of adverse socio-economic impacts, including shortfalls in drinking water and water for irrigation, with risks of famine; sudden increases in the rates and geographic scope of malaria and other diseases; associated shifts in economic output and trade patterns; changes and large shifts in human migration patterns; and major human and economic losses resulting from extreme weather events such as hurricanes.

The security implications are highly significant. Climate change has already altered the distribution and quality of fresh water, arable land and coastal territory. Researchers have speculated that these changes could cause or prolong armed conflict. The link between the environment and armed conflict is well established. Competition for natural resources (such as diamonds, timber, oil, water and even narcotics) has motivated violence in such disparate places as Kuwait, Colombia and Afghanistan. Natural resources have helped finance insurgencies in Angola, Sierra Leone and elsewhere. Environmental degradation - for example, soil erosion and deforestation resulting from regional climate change - is likely to make such conflicts more likely.

The examples of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita should leave us in no doubt that natural disasters can be a great security threat. Many of those affected by such disasters become refugees or internally displaced persons. The experience of Hurricane Katrina was shocking enough, in an advanced economy with a highly developed infrastructure. But where a country lacks the capability or will to help affected popu lations, the security issues may be huge. Local and national government can be undermined; grievances increased; the rule of law itself threatened.

Severe impact

The consequences of a collapse of health services in some countries are a further consideration. A recent study by the World Health Organisation and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimates that global warming may already be responsible for upwards of 160,000 deaths a year from malaria and malnutrition. The authors of the study estimate that this number could double by 2020.

Climate-related security risks will affect some governments more than others. Three types of nation are particularly vulnerable: the least-developed, weak states and undemocratic countries. The poorest countries are the most likely to suffer. They lack the economic, governance or technical capabilities to adapt. They lack the capacity to prevent or react to humanitarian disasters such as floods. Developing nations in the tropics face the most severe consequences of climate change, including extreme weather, drought and disease.

Weak states - those with weak institutions of government, poor control over their borders, repressed populations or marginal economies - also run a high risk of being destabilised by climate change. Such failed or failing states have almost no capacity to respond to climate change or prevent it from triggering a large-scale humanitarian disaster.

We have seen this in Somalia, where drought, crop failure and subsequent state failure led to tens of thousands of deaths in the 1990s. Vulnerability to drought in the Darfur region of Sudan is now exacerbated by the country's ongoing internal conflict. Whether or not these droughts are attributable to climate change, the episodes indicate what one would expect with global warming.

Twenty years ago, the economist Amartya Sen noted that democracies - in which leaders have to be responsive to people who can vote them out of power - do not produce famines. The 20th century is full of examples of undemocratic regimes failing to protect populations at risk of drought, floods and other weather-related phenomena. Populations in undemocratic states will be particularly vulnerable to the humanitarian crises induced by climate change.

The United States causes 30.3 per cent of all global warming and must take a leading role in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. It can be done, but only with a leadership willing to accept the science and make saving the planet a priority.

Concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases are higher than they have ever been and these concentrations will climb for some time, even if a mitigation agenda succeeds. So, a two-part strategy is needed to deal with the adverse effects of climate change. First, we have to strengthen programmes for handling disasters and humanitarian crises in the countries that are already beginning to take climate change into account. But clearly, we must also focus effort on predicting and handling global-warming-related disasters in those poor, weak and undemocratic states where the consequences of sudden climate change will be most catastrophic.

If we are not to face a future that includes persistent armed conflict and violence, then the rich world's most significant policy challenge is to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Tony McDermott is international presenter for Al Gore's Climate Project

Read more from this climate change special report

Yes, we can save the world . . . if we want to by Chris Luebkeman
Chris Luebkeman asks whether we are ready to change everything

A matter of security by Josh Arnold-Forster
Why is the MoD so seriously concerned about global warming? Josh Arnold-Forster on the social collapse we are not prepared for

The green rush by James Harding
Businesses are vying to save the planet, and getting rich. But does it matter, so long as they deliver the goods? By James Harding


The green rush

James Harding

Published 29 January 2007

Businesses are vying to save the planet, and getting rich. But does it matter, so long as they deliver the goods?

There are two dirty secrets and one redeeming truth behind British business's sudden eagerness to kick off its brogues and slip into a pair of Birkenstocks.

The first is that the modern "green rush" is motivated by the same force that drove men to the Klondike. In the long term, it may be about saving the planet. Meanwhile, it's about turning a profit. More precisely, it's about marketing.

When Chevron changed its advertising message to focus on renewable energy, the US oil giant saw a marked pick-up in trade on the forecourts of its petrol stations: the commitment to deal with scarce energy resources delivered more customers at the pump. Likewise, both Shell and BP are investing heavily in renewables, but still draw the vast bulk of their profits from hydrocarbons.

In the retail sector, the economics of climate-change PR are even more compelling. Marks & Spencer recently announced a £200m environmental programme and a pledge to go carbon-neutral. Three days later, Tesco declared it would "carbon label" all the goods on its shelves. Sir Nicholas Stern, the author of last year's government report on the economics of climate change, had been invited up to the Tesco headquarters in Cheshunt a couple of weeks earlier to brief senior managers on global warming and the power of business to alter public behaviour and curb the rising temperature.

Sir Terry Leahy, the Tesco chief executive, says that the supermarkets are simply responding to customers. This is true, but there is a bit more to it than that. Retailers are not just answering a need, they are cultivating it. For retailing is a cut-throat business, historically driven by competition on price.

Nice little earner

Tesco's appeal to shoppers is fundamentally a value proposition. The past few years have seen competition drive down prices and the supermarkets left with wafer-thin margins. The environment offers retailers the chance to appeal to shoppers' values and earn themselves a slightly thicker margin. TNS, a research firm, reported that a quarter of UK shoppers say they are prepared to pay more for goods that come from companies that pay employees a fair wage and protect the environment. Organic food, line-caught fish, locally sourced produce, biofuel delivery vans and a clampdown on plastic bags all offer retailers the chance to get into higher-margin product ranges and services. Waitrose is the most expensive of the big supermarkets and the pioneer in organic food. Its pricing model is pitched above the national average, but it has shown the higher margin available to retailers perceived to be selling groceries and the greater good.

A green competition has broken out on the high street, not because the CSR crunchies have taken over the boardroom. In fact, it is not really about corporate social responsibility at all. It's about marketing and margins.

For many companies, going green can be cheap. Bradford & Bingley, I was told, overhauled its entire operation in six months and at a net cost of £50,000 and, as of this year, the building society can boast throughout its high-street network and in all its promotional materials that it is a carbon-neutral company. Vincent Tchenguiz is one of Britain's most successful property investors. He is known for his billions, his houses scattered across the UK and the Med, and his array of sports cars. He told me he had decided to go carbon-neutral, offsetting his jet-setting footprint at a total cost of £5,000.

Companies that have gone carbon-neutral are transforming the culture of business. They have shown courage to bring to their boards proposals that do not obviously chime with the interests of shareholders. And they create a climate of expectation that all companies should be striving to minimise emissions. But Al Gore's corporate storm troopers are the companies that have found it, both financially and logistically, easy. They are not mining companies such as Anglo American, or power generators such as Drax. They are organisations such as Man Group, the hedge fund, and Sky, the broadcaster.

Still, for all the distrust of corporate greed, the redeeming truth is that business is doing good, unbidden. On the issue of global warming, the corporation, on the verge of becoming a dirty word in the heyday of anti-globalisation, has become the most energetic agent of change for the public good.

Companies have eclipsed politicians, individuals and NGOs in committing unprecedented resources to addressing a problem that does not show up on their balance sheet. The Stern report deemed climate change the most catastrophic market failure in human history. The market did not reject the charge, but has responded to it. Cometh the hour, cometh the chief executive.

James Harding is business editor of the Times

"The flat earth committee still has the president in thrall"
US congressman Jay Inslee, House committee on energy and commerce, after hearing the president's State of the Union address

"If no action is taken, we will be faced with an economic downturn of the kind that we haven't seen since the Great Depression"
Government's chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, responding to the Stern report

"When the realisation of what's coming begins to dawn on people, oh boy!"
Tim Barnett, marine physicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, on seeing a draft of the IPCC report

Read more from this climate change special report

No time to lose by Tony McDermott
The world must urgently face up to the global violence and conflict that would result from rapid climate change, warns Tony McDermott, adviser to Al Gore

Yes, we can save the world . . . if we want to by Chris Luebkeman
Chris Luebkeman asks whether we are ready to change everything

A matter of security by Josh Arnold-Forster
Why is the MoD so seriously concerned about global warming? Josh Arnold-Forster on the social collapse we are not prepared for


Yes, we can save the world . . . if we want to

Chris Luebkeman

Published 29 January 2007

Chris Luebkeman asks whether we are ready to change everything

We can now do just about anything when it comes to the design and construction of the built environment. We know how to make buildings of all sizes that cover their own energy consumption; we know how to make wonderful spaces and places for people to thrive in; we can make materials that essentially last for ever, as well as materials which decompose on demand; we can fly faster than sound and trap molecules in optical "tweezers". Yet, how often do we pause to ask: "Should we do this differently?"

For many, this question is simply too hard. Yet rapid urbanisation demands that we ask it. It is expected that by 2030, 60 per cent of the world's population will be urban dwellers.

This poses a considerable infrastructure problem. What kind of growth could it be? Is it possible to make an urban centre not just carbon-neutral, but carbon-positive? Can new cities be planet-friendly? Our future is very tied in to how we resolve and manage growth of our cities. Their health has to be top of the global political agenda.

The traditional city is a great consumer of energy. City life requires electricity. Urban dwellers use cars. There is no way of tackling the problems created by climate change without looking at the rapid increase in cities.

This is why Arup, the civil engineering company responsible for the Sydney Opera House, the Pompidou Centre and Tate Modern, is creating Dongtan, the world's first eco-city, on an island off Shanghai.

Dongtan represents the response of some of the world's best brains to the problem of climate change. It will be a city for hundreds of thousands and as close to carbon-neutral as is possible today. All housing will be within seven minutes' walk of public transport. Most citizens will work within the city, which will produce sufficient electricity and heat for its own use, entirely from renewable sources. There will be no emissions from vehicles. Food will be produced on the island. Buildings (of local materials) will use traditional and new construction technologies.

And yet it is not good enough. We know that it is the best achievable based on contemporary knowledge, but we also know that we have to do better. Dongtan is a holistic, systemic view of a city - something unfortunately rare. It is easier to hide behind departmental boundaries and targets than to deal with uncomfortable issues. But holistic, systemic thinking is now vital.

Someone calculated that if every Chinese citizen drove a car, the world's known oil supply would be consumed in six months. One need only visit any major city to grasp the cruel reality and sheer enormity of this truth. Traffic jams are a ubiquitous urban experience. At some point, the clogging of these arteries, the deep blockages, will reach a critical point. The question is not if, but how soon?

IMF data reveals that as an economy moves from the agrarian stage through industrialisation to full consumption, there is an equal rise in energy consumption. There are three crucial things to note about this. First, that there is a one-to-one relationship between the availability of energy and the viability of an economy. Second, that the nation which has been the greatest consumer of energy per person, the United States, has also used up most of its internal energy sources. Third, that the two most populated nations in the world, China and India, currently low users of energy, are intent on moving up the ladder.

China is on the way to becoming the most polluted country in the world. Simultaneously, it is the most aggressive in setting more eco-friendly design standards. In this ambivalent role, it represents many of us.

Population shifts, increasing scarcity and the wanton consumption of arable land and natural resources (renewable and non-renewable) are pushing us ever closer to global disaster.

This is a crucial and sobering point in history. Despite setbacks and mistakes, progressive national and local governments are taking the initiative. There is still time for corrective action.

Our future is very much ours to decide. It will not ultimately depend on technology or the economy. What we leave to those that come after us will be determined by us, and whether or not we rise to the challenge we now face.

Chris Luebkeman is a director and leader of Arup's global Foresight and Innovation initiative

Read more from this climate change special report

No time to lose by Tony McDermott
The world must urgently face up to the global violence and conflict that would result from rapid climate change, warns Tony McDermott, adviser to Al Gore

A matter of security by Josh Arnold-Forster
Why is the MoD so seriously concerned about global warming? Josh Arnold-Forster on the social collapse we are not prepared for

The green rush by James Harding
Businesses are vying to save the planet, and getting rich. But does it matter, so long as they deliver the goods? By James Harding

A matter of security

Josh Arnold-Forster

Published 29 January 2007

Why is the MoD so seriously concerned about global warming? Josh Arnold-Forster on the social collapse we are not prepared for

The Ministry of Defence is not known for its concern for the environment. Nevertheless there is one group of people at the MoD very interested in climate change and, in particular, catastrophic climate change - namely the strategic planners.

They know that the armed forces can react and adapt very rapidly to limited changes in the strategic environment. What the forces cannot do is meet a fundamentally different kind of challenge from the one with which they are equipped to deal. In 1939, the British army was the wrong size, had the wrong equipment and, most dangerously, the wrong doctrine to meet the threat from Germany.

That is why the MoD's planners insist on trying to look ahead several decades. Of course, much of this futurology is speculative, subjective and all too frequently wrong. But one trend on which there is ever greater scientific certainty is the impact of climate change.

In the 2003 defence white paper the MoD argued: "Religious and ethnic tensions, environmental pressures and increased competition for limited natural resources may cause tensions and conflict - both within and between states. The UK may not remain immune from such developments."

More recently in an MoD discussion note, climate change was one of four themes identified as strategically important: "The combined effects of increased global human activity, economic output and population growth look likely to intensify pressure on the environment and food, water and energy resources. This trend will be exacerbated by urbanisation and the creation of 'mega-cities', while industrialisation and personal expectations in developing countries will strain all resources." In Darfur, environmental pressures (through lack of water) have already contributed to generating an internal conflict that is rapidly becoming regional. In Afghanistan, a recent six-year drought has helped to impoverish people, making young men more willing to accept cash inducements to join the Taliban and farmers more likely to grow opium.

These influences are small compared to what may be the start of far more disturbing changes. What happens if, or when, sea levels rise and force millions from their homes in Bangladesh, the Nile Delta and the coastal regions of China? What happens when floods, landslides and storms regularly leave millions unemployed and homeless?

Many in the MoD strongly believe that these are not just environmental or development issues, but vitally important security questions that need to be given far more serious consideration, both within government and by the public. Naturally, failed states and international terrorism are significant current threats to security, but that does not excuse us from focusing on future threats.

Rapid response

There are two ways in which the UK's armed forces will have to respond to challenges presented by climate change.

First is disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. In principle, civil organisations could play a bigger role in disaster relief. Sadly, so far none has been willing to stump up the very large amounts of cash required to gain the military's ability to provide rapid response, or operate in very difficult terrain.

The second and more difficult task that the armed forces may face is the potentially huge security challenge created by climate change. No one knows how this will manifest itself. As more and more people in Bangladesh seek sanctuary from rising sea levels, will the tensions created lead to a collapse of the state and war with India? Will poverty caused by growing water shortages in North Africa boost support for international terrorism? Will floods and environmental degradation in China lead to economic collapse and a rise in nationalism?

In an ideal world, the best and cheapest methods of dealing with these scenarios would be non-military. Appropriate diplomatic action and well-targeted humanitarian assistance can do much, and these need to be well funded. But we do not live in an ideal world, and the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office may fail to meet these challenges. One way or another, Britain's armed forces will become involved - in the best scenario as part of a UN peacekeeping force, but possibly having to take more drastic action to protect our security interests.

Climate change is already making the world more dangerous and no one knows how much more dangerous it will become. A Labour government which ignored this growing threat would be repeating the tragic mistake of George Lansbury in his opposition to rearmament in the 1930s.

Josh Arnold-Forster was special adviser to John Reid at the Ministry of Defence from 2005 to 2006

Countdown to climate disaster

8 out of 10 of the warmest years since records began in 1860 have occurred in the past decade
60,421km2
annual rate of decline of sea ice
43cm
estimated maximum rise in sea level by the year 2100
100 million
combined population of the 13 most populous coastal cities in the world
11.55pm
time on the Doomsday Clock, now set closer to midnight as a result of global warming

Research by Mosarrof Hussain

Read more from this climate change special report

No time to lose by Tony McDermott
The world must urgently face up to the global violence and conflict that would result from rapid climate change, warns Tony McDermott, adviser to Al Gore

Yes, we can save the world . . . if we want to by Chris Luebkeman
Chris Luebkeman asks whether we are ready to change everything

The green rush by James Harding
Businesses are vying to save the planet, and getting rich. But does it matter, so long as they deliver the goods? By James Harding

London Times: Right problem, George. But wrong solution -- What America needs is not arbitrary quantitative targets but a set of incentives that will allow consumers and businesses to make decentralised decisions on the behaviour changes that will work best


(Thanks to Brian for this one)

Right problem, George. But wrong solution
Anatole Kaletsky

President Bush is all at sea over global warming
 
 
As has become the norm under the Bush Administration, America has promised much and delivered almost nothing. President Bush's State of the Union address was billed in advance by the White House as an historic turning point in the interconnected battles against Islamic terrorism and global warming, linked as they are through America's addiction to imported oil.
The good news on Tuesday night was that the State of the Union speech did not seem to pave the way for any outright insanities or disasters, such as a US attack on Iran. The bad news was that, despite the expectations of significant new announcements on energy policy, the speech actually ruled out any serious progress so long as Mr Bush remains in power.
 
To start with the positive, this week's state of the union offered a welcome contrast to the "Axis of Evil" speech exactly five years ago, when President Bush, intoxicated by the US military's apparently effortless victory in Afghanistan, essentially declared a global war against any country he might deem a "rogue state". This time the President tried to sound as chastened and conciliatory as he was arrogant and belligerent five years ago. This means that the presidency has been reduced to near-impotence and Mr Bush may no longer have the power to block the urgent changes, both in energy policy and in Middle Eastern diplomacy, that American voters, military leaders, scientists and businessmen are starting to demand.

Bush's most important announcement was his first-ever personal acknowledgment of the "serious challenge of global climate change". This comment, in just one throwaway phrase, incongruously squeezed behind a promise to promote more oil drilling, was not the Damascene conversion some commentators had predicted. But the fact that millions of Americans have now heard from the President's own mouth that climate change is indeed a "serious challenge" could substantially change the terms of engagement in the political battles over carbon emissions, not only in Washington but also in the world.

From now on, it will no longer be politically acceptable for big businesses such as Exxon and General Motors to deny the reality of global warming or to subsidise researchers attempting to prove that climate change has nothing to do with carbon emissions. The result will be to shift the debate in American politics and media from whether global warming is real to how it can be prevented.

Given the American "can-do" ethic, especially among the business community, the consequence of this political shift will be an upsurge in research and investment in new energy technologies. Moreover, the pork-barrel system of political lobbying in Washington will also ensure that industries that can no longer hope to win subsidies or political protection by denying the reality of global warming will switch to the opposite tack and try to squeeze money and favours out of Congress on the pretext of enhancing energy security and combating climate change. A stampede of American businesses is now likely to follow the small elite of forward-looking companies such as General Electric, Toyota, Siemens and Du Pont, which began to see climate change some time ago as a huge business opportunity, rather than a threat.

In short, dealing with climate change will soon become a big and hugely profitable business. And climate change will become big business whether or not it is really true that we now face an existential threat to the entire global ecosystem. To see what I mean, just think of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent around the world on averting the so-called millennium bug, which turned out to be nothing more than a science-fiction fantasy, supercharged with millenarian paranoia and marketing hype.

To make this comparison is not to imply that global warming is another such illusion. There is far more evidence for global warming than there ever was for the millennium bug and the risks are infinitely greater. My point is rather to suggest that efforts against global warming could turn out to be wasteful and ineffective if governments create perverse incentives that businesses and scientists then pursue.

This is exactly what the Bush Administration now seems to be doing. All three of the President's new energy policies ideas announced on Tuesday — to increase the use of corn-based ethanol in US petrol from 5 per cent to about 30 per cent, to raise fuel-economy standards by 10 per cent and to promote "clean coal" technology for electric power generation — will distort investment and research spending, channelling the lion's share of available resources into some of the least promising solutions to climate change.

Extracting ethanol from corn, for example, is less than one-tenth as efficient as distilling it from sugar cane. But because of the lobbying power of agribusiness in the Midwest cornbelt, the US severely restricts the import of Brazilian sugar-ethanol and will now spend vast amounts on technology and subsidies designed to undercut the sugar-ethanol technologies with far greater potential for reducing global carbon emissions at reasonable cost.

Similarly, the 10 per cent proposed improvement in vehicle economy standards is so modest that it will divert investment from the much bigger improvements in fuel consumption that could easily be achieved if US consumers could be persuaded to drive lighter and better-designed cars. The same could be true of "clean coal" technology, which may well end up far less clean than its promoters are contending and will deflect resources from nuclear and solar research.

What policies, then, should America have adopted and how could President Bush's successor improve on this week's feeble start? The answer is quite clear. What America needs is not arbitrary quantitative targets — 35 billion gallons of ethanol, 10 per cent more fuel economy and so on — but a set of incentives that will allow consumers and businesses to make decentralised decisions on the behaviour changes and new technologies that will work best.

The way to create such rational incentives is through a well-regulated system of trading in carbon emission rights. A fully global system of carbon trading — even if China and other developing countries refused to participate, a system embracing just America, Japan and Europe — would be infinitely preferable to the Stalinist-style production quotas proposed this week by President Bush.

He appears to prefer a communist-style central planning to the use of market-based incentives and prices. What an ideal opportunity for Democrats to show that this supposedly pro-business President does not even understand the rudiments of market economics.

25.1.07

Green shoots will take time to flourish: we have yet to accept the implications of higher energy prices, which will be felt most by the poor. Short-term hype can drive us to short-term action, but will not build green energy into a sustainable market economy

Green shoots will take time to flourish
Graham Searjeant, Financial Editor


Green is this year's business obsession. American corporations have called for carbon emission schemes or standards so that they can plan ahead. Climate change is high on the agenda at the World Economic Forum. This year's UPS Europe Business Monitor, which often reflects current moods, found that protecting the environment was the top political priority for 1,450 directors and senior managers in seven Western European nations.

In Britain, more than half put it top of their list, well ahead of sustaining economic growth and more than double the numbers anxious for progress on free trade. The Doha round is yesterday's story, mentally shelved.




President Bush cannot be said to have gone green, but his State of the Union proposals were apple white. He sees cutting petrol consumption by a fifth as a way to promote energy security rather than cut carbon emissions but the effect is the same. According to the UPS survey, European business seems to agree. Nine out of ten in the survey thought Europe should stake its energy future on renewables or nuclear power, with Russian gas, Middle East oil and coal coming nowhere.

Financial markets have caught the mood. Having pushed crude oil above $78 per barrel in August, speculators turned bears of mineral oil and bulls of vegetable sources. Prices of maize, a leading feedstock for ethanol in America, jumped by 15 per cent in a month and almost doubled in a year. Wheat saw a late autumn surge as did rapeseed oil, a leading European source of biodiesel. Euronext Liffe started new derivatives contracts in rapeseed oil this week.

Citigroup has launched an analysis of scores of companies that could win from a move to a less carbon-intensive economy. As it notes, however, the panic over climate change is strongest in government, has been taken up by business but has evoked little response in consumer behaviour. If that is the case, consumers are probably wise. These periodic obsessions are not fads. Rather, they can overcome inertia to get a trend going, whereupon it becomes economically self-sustaining.

Looking back at earlier UPS surveys, a seeming obsession with the internet at the turn of the century coincided with government awareness campaigns and the appointment of e-commerce czars. The hype spawned the dot-com bubble on the world's stock markets and now seems silly but only because we now take the internet for granted. It has settled down to its proper, growing place in commerce, communication and consumer spending.

The "war against terror" was at the height of our consciousness after the September 2001 attacks on America and subsequent outrages. It brought rapid advances in routine security that have helped us to return more or less to previously normal travel. The next tide of opinion was on corporate governance and business malpractice after the collapse of Enron and WorldCom. The UK and Europe wisely resisted panic. America is now seen to have gone too far. The mayor of New York is one of those trying to reverse the ensuing regulatory excesses, claiming that Wall Street is losing its place as the world's top financial centre.

In economic terms, going green is more akin to the war on terror than the online revolution. There are more minuses than pluses and it will be a long while before cuts in carbon emissions are meshed fully with free market forces.

If cutting carbon emissions is really the top priority, for instance, other governments will follow France's big switch to nuclear power. Biofuels for transport will be as prominent in Europe as in Brazil. But complex and sustained interference with current free market pricing will be needed to achieve this without economically crippling costs.

The plunge in oil prices and the surge in vegetable feedstocks, however temporary, reminds us how difficult this will be to sustain, how hard it will be to give confidence to invest in long-term alternatives to Middle East oil or Russian gas. And we have yet to accept the implications of higher energy prices, which will be felt most by the poor. Short-term hype can drive us to short-term action, but will not build green energy into a sustainable market economy.

graham.searjeant@thetimes.co.uk


The greening of America: How America is likely to take over leadership of the fight against climate change; and how it can get it right


The greening of America
Jan 25th 2007
From The Economist print edition



How America is likely to take over leadership of the fight against climate change; and how it can get it right




A COUNTRY with a presidential system tends to get identified with its leader. So, for the rest of the world, America is George Bush's America right now. It is the country that has mismanaged the Iraq war; holds prisoners without trial at Guantánamo Bay; restricts funding for stem-cell research because of fundamentalist religious beliefs; and destroyed the chance of a global climate-change deal based on the Kyoto protocol.

But to simplify thus is to misunderstand—especially in the case of huge, federal America. One of its great strengths is the diversity of its political, economic and cultural life. While the White House dug its heels in on global warming, much of the rest of the country was moving (see article). That's what forced the president's concession to greens in the state-of-the-union address on January 23rd. His poll ratings sinking under the weight of Iraq, Mr Bush is grasping for popular issues to keep him afloat; and global warming has evidently become such an issue. Albeit in the context of energy security, a now familiar concern of his, Mr Bush spoke for the first time to Congress of "the serious challenge of global climate change" and proposed measures designed, in part, to combat it.


Hot for the time of year

It's the weather, appropriately, that has turned public opinion—starting with Hurricane Katrina. Scientists had been warning Americans for years that the risk of "extreme weather events" would probably increase as a result of climate change. But scientific papers do not drive messages home as convincingly as the destruction of a city. And the heatwave that torched America's west coast last year, accompanied by a constant drip of new research on melting glaciers and dying polar bears, has only strengthened the belief that something must be done.

Business is changing its mind too. Five years ago corporate America was solidly against carbon controls. But the threat of a patchwork of state regulations, combined with the opportunity to profit from new technologies, began to shift business attitudes. And that movement has gained momentum, because companies that saw their competitors espouse carbon controls began to fear that, once the government got down to designing regulations, they would be left out of the discussion if they did not jump on the bandwagon. So now the loudest voices are not resisting change but arguing for it.

Support for carbon controls has also grown among some unlikely groups: security hawks (who want to reduce America's dependence on Middle Eastern oil); farmers (who like subsidies for growing the raw material for ethanol); and evangelicals (who worry that man should be looking after the Earth God gave him a little better). This alliance has helped persuade politicians to move. Arnold Schwarzenegger, California's Republican governor, has led the advance, with muscular measures legislating Kyoto-style curbs in his state. His popularity has rebounded as a result. And now there is movement too at the federal level, which is where it really matters. Since the Democrats took control of Congress after the November mid-term elections, bills to tackle climate change have proliferated. And three of the serious candidates for the presidency in 2008—John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama—are all pushing for federal measures.


Europe's good, and bad, example

Unfortunately, Mr Bush's new-found interest in climate change is coupled with, and distorted by, his focus on energy security. Reducing America's petrol consumption by 20% by 2017, a target he announced in the state-of-the-union address, would certainly diminish the country's dependence on Middle Eastern oil, but the way he plans to go about it may not be either efficient or clean. Increasing fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks will go part of the way, but for most of the switch America will have to rely on a greater use of alternative fuels. That means ethanol (inefficient because of heavy subsidies and high tariffs on imports of foreign ethanol) or liquefied coal (filthy because of high carbon emissions).

The measure of Mr Bush's failure to tackle this issue seriously is his continued rejection of the only two clean and efficient solutions to climate change. One is a carbon tax, which this paper has long advocated. The second is a cap-and-trade system of the sort Europe introduced to meet the Kyoto targets. It would limit companies' emissions while allowing them to buy and sell permits to pollute. Either system should, by setting a price on carbon, discourage its emission; and, in doing so, encourage the development and use of cleaner-energy technologies. Just as America's adoption of catalytic converters led eventually to the world's conversion to lead-free petrol, so its drive to clean-energy technologies will ensure that these too spread.

A tax is unlikely because of America's aversion to that three-letter word. Given that, it should go for a tough cap-and-trade system. In doing so, it can usefully learn from Europe's experience. First, get good data. Europe failed to do so: companies were given too many permits, and emissions have therefore not fallen. Second, auction permits (which are, in effect, money) rather than giving them away free. Europe gave them away, which allowed polluters to make windfall profits. This will be a huge fight; for, if the federal government did what the Europeans did, it would hand out $40 billion-50 billion in permits. Third, set a long time-horizon. Europeans do not know whether carbon emissions will still be constrained after 2012, when Kyoto runs out. Since most clean-energy projects have a payback period of more than five years, the system thus fails to encourage green investment.

One of America's most admirable characteristics is its belief that it has a duty of moral leadership. At present, however, it's not doing too well on that score. Global warming could change that. By tackling the issue now it could regain the high moral ground (at the same time as forging ahead in the clean-energy business, which Europe might otherwise dominate). And it looks as though it will; for even if the Toxic Texan continues to evade the issue, his successor will grasp it.


Copyright © 2007 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.


Waking up and catching up

Jan 25th 2007 | AUSTIN, CHICAGO, LOS ANGELES AND WASHINGTON, DC
From The Economist print edition

Belatedly, and for many reasons, America is embracing environmentalism

Getty Images

WHEN Jim Webb, the new Democratic senator from Virginia, replied to George Bush's state-of-the-union message, he could bear to endorse only one of the president's proposals. This was the idea of cutting America's petrol (gasoline) consumption by 20% in ten years, by increasing ethanol production to 35 billion gallons a year and raising fuel-efficiency standards for cars.

Such a plan would reduce America's dependence on imported oil from dangerous places (as would Mr Bush's plan to double the country's petroleum reserves). But it would address global warming only tangentially. The Democrats in Congress are weighing much more dramatic measures, including across-the-board cuts to the greenhouse gases that are heating up the planet. At the state level, politicians of all stripes are already taking more radical steps. Even big business is coming round. Mr Bush may be dragging his feet, but America is greening fast.

 

The Democrats' victory in last year's elections means that Congress's stance on environmental issues has changed dramatically. In one race for the House of Representatives, a Democratic consultant on wind power defeated a Republican ally of the oil industry. Barbara Boxer, an ardent advocate of firm action on climate change, has taken over the chairmanship of the Senate Environment Committee from James Inhofe, who often described global warming as "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people".

Since Congress convened earlier this month, the Democrats have got to work fast. The House has passed a bill that would eliminate a tax break for oil production in America, and would impose penalties on firms that refuse to renegotiate the absurdly generous leases the government accidentally granted them in the late 1990s. The proceeds—perhaps $15 billion over the next decade—would be used to fund renewable energy schemes.

Nancy Pelosi, the new speaker of the House, is now turning her attention to global warming. She is setting up a committee to address both that issue, and America's dependence on imported fuel. She wants to see legislation before July 4th, so that she can declare "energy independence" on the same day that the founding fathers severed political ties with Britain.

Meanwhile, some half-dozen bills on global warming are circulating in the Senate. Several propose cap-and-trade schemes, whereby the government would create a fixed number of permits to produce greenhouse gases and then auction them or allocate them to businesses. Firms without enough permits to cover their emissions would either have to pollute less, or buy up spare ones from firms that had managed to cut back.

John McCain, a leading Republican presidential candidate, and Joe Lieberman, a former Democratic one, are behind the most prominent cap-and-trade scheme. Barack Obama, one of the Democrats' current presidential aspirants, is a co-sponsor. It is the most ambitious of the bills with serious backing: it would cut carbon emissions to 2004 levels by 2012 and then mandate further reductions of 2% a year until 2020. Although these targets are less onerous than those of the Kyoto protocol, the United Nations' treaty on climate change, most analysts reckon they will prove too exacting for Congress.

An alternative cap-and-trade scheme, sponsored by Jeff Bingaman, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, suffers from the opposite problem: excessive modesty. His plan would aim to slow the growth of emissions, and ultimately stabilise them at their 2013 level by 2020. It includes a safety valve, under which the government would automatically issue more permits to pollute if the price of those permits rose too far. The economic impact would be much smaller than under the McCain-Lieberman plan but so, too, would the reductions in emissions.

Dianne Feinstein, a Democratic senator from California, is proposing a third approach. She wants to create cap-and-trade mechanisms within industries rather than across the economy as a whole. She has, for instance, proposed legislation that would cut power companies' emissions by 25% of their projected levels by 2020.

All these initiatives face an uphill battle. The previous Senate rejected the McCain-Lieberman plan twice—by a bigger margin the second time around. Any bill that involves mandatory caps on greenhouse-gas emissions would need 60 of the chamber's 100 votes to succeed, since Mr Inhofe has pledged to filibuster all such measures. In the House the Energy Committee is chaired by John Dingell, a Democrat from the carmaking hub of Detroit who has long opposed mandatory caps. Mr Dingell, who says Ms Pelosi's new committee is "as useful as feathers on a fish", will still have a big say in any legislation. And even if a bill overcomes all these obstacles, it would risk a presidential veto.


A matter of security

But whatever the fate of these proposals, the political climate is changing faster than the weather. Almost all the leading presidential candidates favour emissions caps. One of them, Hillary Clinton, has condemned the Bush administration's failure to act as "unAmerican". That is a remarkable change since 2000, when Al Gore toned down his environmental rhetoric during his presidential campaign for fear of sounding pious and obsessive. Indeed, activists are so convinced that the next president will be greener than Mr Bush that they are debating whether to settle for immediate but modest measures on global warming, or wait for a new administration to take bolder steps.

The Democrats have always been the greener party, but environmentalism is budding among Republicans too. Take Saxby Chambliss, a moderate senator. He voted against the McCain-Lieberman bill in 2005, but changed his mind after visiting Greenland to view the melting ice cap. "There really is something to it," he now says.

AP A no-brainer in Missouri

Many factors lie behind the party's shift. Most have to do not with sudden sentimentality in the face of Nature, but with national security (a motivation that lies, too, behind Ms Pelosi's new committee and Mrs Clinton's patriotic posturing). Fiscal hawks fret about the impact of growing oil imports on the dollar. Military types fear global conflict for dwindling resources in the event of catastrophic global warming. Neoconservatives worry about America's dependence on oil imports from unstable if not openly hostile countries in Latin America and the Middle East. Some think the solution is simply to pump more oil at home, but others argue that America needs to move away from oil altogether. One such figure, Jim Woolsey, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, pointedly drives a Toyota Prius, a famously fuel-efficient car.

At the same time, a growing number of evangelical Christians are beginning to see global warming as a moral issue. They argue that mankind, as steward of God's creation, has a duty to protect the environment. One outfit, the Evangelical Climate Initiative, encourages prominent pastors and theologians to sign a "Call to Action". Another group, the Evangelical Environmental Network, runs a website called "What would Jesus drive?" Last year Pat Robertson, a prominent televangelist, told his flock, "We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels."

The Republican Party has a strong, albeit fitful, tradition of environmentalism. Teddy Roosevelt expanded America's national parks. Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mr Bush's father, when he was president, signed off on America's first nationwide cap-and-trade scheme to control emissions of the gases that cause acid rain.

But the strongest force propelling environmentalism among Republicans is self-preservation. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the decidedly green governor of California, was one of the few luminaries in the party unaffected by last year's electoral meltdown. Republicans in other western states, where a Democratic tide is rising and a pristine landscape is a major tourist attraction, are following Mr Schwarzenegger's moves with interest. They fear the party may lose ground with moderate middle-class types who dislike urban sprawl and unfettered oil-drilling.

The destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 had a big influence on voters, according to Jonathan Lash of the World Resources Institute. Americans seem to view the increasing incidence of freakish weather as proof that climate change is real. Many of them paid to see Mr Gore's film on the subject, making it the third-most-successful documentary of all time (and now a candidate for an Oscar). Polls show that Americans are gradually growing more exercised about global warming, although they are still less anxious than Europeans or Japanese.


The business view

Even big business, which stands to lose most from stricter environmental regulation, is beginning to accept that change is in the air. Exxon Mobil, led until recently by a fierce sceptic of global warming, now concedes that there is a problem, and that its products are contributing to it. Last year four-fifths of utility executives polled by Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consultancy, expected mandatory emissions caps within a decade.

If regulation is indeed on its way, many firms would like Congress to fix the rules sooner rather than later, to help them plan investments in factories and power plants with long lifespans. Earlier this week ten companies, including Alcoa, Caterpillar and DuPont, called for Congress to set up a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases as quickly as possible. Since most of the firms involved produce clouds of emissions, they would obviously like to influence future legislation.

But the firms' bosses claim to see emissions caps as an opportunity, not a threat. GE, a member of the group, wants its executives to use their "ecomagination". By the same token Rick Wagoner, the head of GM, the world's biggest carmaker, recently hoped aloud that oil prices would remain high, so that his firm would keep its incentive to develop fuel-efficient cars. Wal-Mart, America's biggest retailer, hopes to double its sales of low-watt lightbulbs.

Lots of firms are growing healthily on the back of America's sudden enthusiasm for alternative energy. Americans invested almost $30 billion in the sector in 2006, according to New Energy Finance, a research firm. American venture capitalists lavish seven times more on greenery than their counterparts in Europe. Ethanol production was expected to double in the next few years, even before the latest boost from Mr Bush. Wind and solar power are also booming. And the bigger green firms become the more influence they will have over politicians.


States to the fore

At the very least, businesses want to avoid a patchwork of conflicting local regulations on environmental matters in general, and greenhouse-gas emissions in particular. There is already a bit of a muddle, since several states have taken much bolder and more experimental steps than the federal government. California, the boldest of all, has taken on carmakers, electricity companies and the EPA, to name a few. Its politicians vie to out-green one another. Some 40 of its legislators drive hybrid cars. Mr Schwarzenegger, not to be bested, has converted one of his fuel-swigging Hummers to run on hydrogen.

Congress may be thinking about tackling greenhouse-gas emissions, but California has already done it. Its Global Warming Solutions Act, which was passed last year, aims to cut them to 1990 levels by 2020—an ambitious target for a state that has grown rapidly in the past 15 years and will probably continue to do so. The details have yet to be fleshed out, but the reductions will come from both a cap-and-trade scheme for industry and regulations of various sorts.

Mr Schwarzenegger issued the first such regulation earlier this month, obliging producers of petrol and other fuels to cut the emissions of carbon dioxide from their products by 10% by 2020—presumably by mixing in more ethanol and other biofuels. It is not California's first attempt to reduce emissions from transport: its legislature voted for stringent cuts in 2002. That move has become snarled in a court battle over whether states have the right to set fuel-economy standards. Meanwhile, the politicians keep trucking. In September, the state showily sued six car manufacturers, alleging they had damaged its climate. It is also suing the EPA, for failing to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions.

California's politicians are keen on renewables too. State law requires utilities to generate 20% of the power they sell from sources such as windmills and biomass plants by 2010, and 33% by 2020. Solar power has won even greater favour: under the "million solar roofs" scheme, the state plans to spend more than $3 billion over the next decade subsidising the installation of solar-power panels.

California has also pioneered the practice of "decoupling", which deprives power firms of their incentive to sell as much electricity as possible. Instead, the local regulator has devised a formula to reward firms whose sales are lower than expected, and to allow the recovery of the costs of energy-efficiency schemes.

Such measures (along with high power prices to pay for them) have helped California rein in its electricity consumption—although lovely weather and a relative lack of heavy industry have also played a part. Power use per person has remained roughly stable in the state since the 1970s, even as it has doubled in the rest of the country (see chart above). As a result, California's greenhouse-gas emissions per person are on a par with those of Denmark. Relative to the size of its economy, they are lower.

But California is not America's only green enclave. Nine states in the north-east have combined to reduce emissions from power generation through a cap-and-trade scheme. Two of them plan to auction all the permits, unlike the countries in the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme, which handed them out for nothing. Ten states have signed up to follow California's standards on car exhaust, including its requirements on greenhouse gases. Many more promote ethanol, or renewables, or energy-efficient buildings (see chart below).

On the whole, left-leaning states are keener on greenery than right-wing ones, which tend to be more energy-intensive. But politicians of all stripes in the Midwest are keen to promote ethanol for the sake of local farmers, who grow the corn from which it is made. And Texas recently overtook California as the country's biggest generator of wind power.

Greenery is also popular at the local level. Almost 400 cities have devised plans to curb or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Many buy only fuel-efficient cars for their municipal fleets. Laura Miller, the mayor of Dallas, has spoken out against the plans of local utilities to build 17 new coal-fired power plants. What is the point of her city buying police cars fuelled by natural gas, she asks, when they will soon be overshadowed by clouds of soot?

Despite all this grassroots environmentalism, America remains the biggest contributor to global warming, accounting for roughly a fifth of all the world's emissions. The federal government's recalcitrance on the subject remains the biggest obstacle to an effective global scheme to tackle the problem. But whereas in Europe or Asia new ideas often flow from the centre to the regions, in America the states are the incubators of big shifts in policy. This means that change is coming—fast.

'Fast clothes' versus 'green clothes' — a face-off with environmental impact... The report's suggestions: that people lease clothes and return them at the end of a month or a season, so the garments can be lent again — like library books — to someone else


International Herald Tribune
'Fast clothes' versus 'green clothes' — a face-off with environmental impact
By Elisabeth Rosenthal
Wednesday, January 24, 2007

 

WOKING, England

Josephine Copeland and her 20-year-old daughter, Jo Jo, visited Primark at the Woking Peacock Centre Mall to buy presents for friends, but ended up loaded with clothes for themselves: boots, a cardigan, a festive blouse and a long silver coat with faux fur trim, which cost £12 but looks like a million bucks. "If it falls apart, you just toss it away," said Jo Jo Copeland, proudly wearing her purchase. Environmentally, that is more and more of a problem.

With rainbow piles of sweaters and T-shirts that often cost less than a sandwich, stores like Primark are leaders in the quick-growing "fast clothes" industry, selling low-cost garments that can be used and discarded without a second thought. Consumers, especially teenagers, love the concept, pioneered also by stores like Old Navy and Target in the United States, since it allows them to shift styles with speed on a low budget.

But clothes — and fast clothes in particular — are large and worsening sources of the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, both because of how they are produced and how they are cared for, concludes a thought-provoking report from researchers at Cambridge University entitled, "Well Dressed?"

The $1 trillion global textile industry must become eco-conscious, the report concludes. It explores how to develop more "sustainable clothing" — a seeming oxymoron in a world where fashions change every few months.

"Hmmm," said Sally Neild, 44, dressed in casual chic — jeans and boots — as she pondered the idea, shopping bags in hand. "People now think a lot about green travel and green food. But I think we are a long way from there in terms of clothes. People are mad about those stores."

It is hard to imagine how customers who rush after trends, or the stores that serve them, will respond to the report's suggestions: that people lease clothes and return them at the end of a month or a season, so the garments can be lent again — like library books — to someone else, and that they buy more expensive and durable clothing that can be worn for years.

Perhaps surprisingly, the report highlights the benefits of synthetic fabrics, because they require less hot water to wash and less ironing. It suggests that consumers air-dry clothes and throw away their tumble dryers, which consume huge amounts of energy.

Some large clothing retailers are starting to take notice of the environmental questions and are exploring options.

"Our research shows that customers are getting very concerned about environmental issues and we don't want to get caught between the eyes," said Mike Barry, head of corporate social responsibility at Marks & Spencer, one of Britain's largest retailers, which helped pay for the Cambridge study.

Consumers spend more than $1 trillion a year on clothing and textiles, an estimated one-third of that in Western Europe, another third in North America, and about a quarter in Asia. In many places, cheap, readily disposable clothes have displaced hand-me-downs as the mainstay of dressing in one or two generations.

The result: women's clothing sales in Britain rose by 21 percent from 2001 to 2005 alone, to about £24 billion, or $47 billion, spurred by lower prices, according to the Cambridge report.

And while many people have grown accustomed to recycling cans, bottles and newspapers, used clothes are generally thrown away. Britons on average discard about 65 pounds, or 30 kilograms, of clothing and textiles a year. Only an eighth of that goes to charities for reuse.

"In a wealthy society, clothing and textiles are bought as much for fashion as for function," the report says, and that means that clothes are replaced "before the end of their natural life."

Julian Allwood, who led a team of environmental researchers who worked on the report, noted in an interview that it is easier for British consumers to discard unwanted clothes than to take them to a recycling center, and easier to throw clothes into the hamper for a quick wash and dry than to sponge off stains.

He hopes his report will educate shoppers about the costs to the environment, so that they change their behavior. There are many examples of how changing consumer priorities have forced even the most staid retailers to alter the way they do business.

Last year, Marks & Spencer — Britain's mainstay retail source for products like underwear and shortbread — decided to go organic in its food business; it now sells only "free- trade" coffee and teas, for example. Many executives regarded the shift as a daft and risky decision, but the store found that sales jumped 12 percent. Marks & Sparks learned a lesson that executives think will apply to clothes.

Part of the problem is that neither manufacturers nor customers understand much about how the clothing industry degrades the environment. Significant environmental impact occurs from the harvesting of cotton or the manufacturing of synthetic fibers; the production, packaging and transportation of the clothes; clothes washing; and drying by the consumer, and disposal.

In their efforts to "buy green," customers tend to focus on packaging and chemicals, issues that do not factor in with clothing. Likewise, they purchase "natural" fibers like cotton, believing they are good for the environment.

But that is not always the case: while "organic cotton is exemplary in the way it avoids pesticides, cotton garments squander energy because they must be washed frequently at high temperatures and generally require tumble drying and ironing. Sixty percent of the emissions generated by a simple cotton T- shirt comes from the 25 washes and tumble dryings it will require, the Cambridge study found.

A polyester blouse, in contrast, takes more energy to make, since synthetic fabrics must be processed from materials like wood and oil, but upkeep is far more fuel-efficient, since polyester cleans more easily and dries faster.

Over a lifetime, a polyester blouse uses less energy than a cotton T-shirt.

One way to change the balance would be to develop technology to treat cotton so that it did not absorb odors so readily. "Reducing washing temperature has a huge impact," Allwood said.

The report suggests that retailers could begin to lease clothes for a season — like wedding stores rent tuxedos for a weekend — or buy back old clothes from customers for recycling.

But experiments have faltered. A decade ago, Hannah Andersson, an eco- conscious U.S.-based clothing company, tried offering mail order customers 20 percent credit toward new purchases if they sent back their used garments. The "Hannahdowns" program was canceled after two years as impractical.

To cut back on carbon use and make fashion truly sustainable, shoppers will have "to own less, to have less stuff," Allwood said. "And that is a very hard sell."

Marks & Spencer is thinking about whether its customers will be willing to change their buying habits, to pay more for less fashionable but "sustainable" garments. After all, consumers have shown a willingness to pay more for clothes not made in sweatshops, and some are unwilling to buy diamonds because of forced labor in African mines.

On a recent day outside Marks & Spencer on High Street in Guildford, where everyone was loaded with shopping bags, Audrey Mammana, 45, said she was not "a throw-away person" and would be happy to lease high-end clothing for a season. She would also be willing to repair old clothes to extend their use, although fewer shops perform this task.

But she added: "If you cut out tumble drying, I think you'd lose me. I couldn't do without that."

Davos leaders challenge Bush to be bolder on climate: US President George Bush's proposals for a long-term cut in US gasoline consumption were given a cautious welcome at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday, with widespread calls for bolder action


Davos leaders challenge Bush to be bolder on climate

AFP, 24 January 2007 - US President George Bush's proposals for a long-term cut in US gasoline consumption were given a cautious welcome at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday, with widespread calls for bolder action.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Bush had made "sensible" comments on climate change in his policy-setting State of the Union address on Tuesday but pressed Washington to commit to a global pact on curbing carbon emissions.

"I hear these days messages that are a lot more open and statements from the United States that inspire hope ... that they too know that new technologies for energy efficiency are absolutely necessary," she added.

In his address on Tuesday, Bush described climate change as a "serious issue" and promised to cut US gasoline consumption by 2017 in favour of alternative fuels like corn-based ethanol.

"I think it is a movement in the right direction. There is a recognition of the link between climate change and human activity," said Nicholas Stern, the British government's chief economic advisor, who was attending the forum of global leaders in Davos.

Stern recently penned a major report that warned of dire economic consequences unless swift action was taken against global warming.

But the US president's statement failed to meet growing expectations that federal limits would be imposed on carbon emissions, despite pressure from some states, leading Congressional figures and a growing number of captains of industry.

"You have to recognise what everyone is doing. The United States is doing a lot on technology, a lot on standards. But then of course we have to scale up our action," Stern told journalists.

Dan Esty, director of the Yale centre for environmental law and policy, said Bush had taken "an important first step".

"But I think there were a lot of people across America and across the world who would have liked to have heard a bit more in terms of leadership, to put in place incentives for change that will bring us to a different energy future," he told AFP.

Esty and Stern were key participants in a debate in Davos that revealed strong support from the audience of predominantly business chiefs for government regulation to stimulate action to counter global warming.

Seventy-one percent said in a straw poll that they favoured regulation rather than leaving it up to market forces.

"We need to avoid the tyranny of 'either-or'. We need both," said James Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy, a natural gas and electricity supplier in North America.

Some of corporate America's industrial giants, including Alcoa, General Electric and DuPont, this week called for mandatory caps on US businesses' greenhouse gas emissions, and trading in carbon emissions permits.

Business leaders in Davos said they needed a combination of bolder government regulation -- including caps on greenhouse gas emissions -- to put a price on carbon and stimulate a market for environmentally friendly measures.

Several panellists argued that fossil fuels were not properly priced in the United States. Petrol did not reflect its environmental costs while coal was propped up by subsidies or tax breaks, they said.

"Coal to me is like fast food in America. Yes, it's cheap, plentiful, but it's unhealthy, it ruins our land and it's largely uneconomical," said Vinod Khosla, a former founding chief executive of computer firm Sun Microsystems.

Stern dubbed global warming "the biggest market failure that we have ever seen".

In a report due next week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations' paramount scientific authority on the issue, is expected to reaffirm evidence of the causes and effects of global warming.

"I think there's going to have to be action within the next couple of years. The question is whether President Bush will step up and lead or if we have a new president step up in January 2009," Esty said.

Surveyed Managers Emphasize Socially Responsible Issues: both SRI and mainstreams investors view specific environmental, social, and governance factors as important when applied to certain sectors.


Surveyed Managers Emphasize Socially Responsible Issues

SocialFunds.com, 24 January 2007 - EIRIS' newest survey asserts that both SRI and mainstreams investors view specific environmental, social, and governance factors as important when applied to certain sectors.

Concerns over climate change, the environment, and corporate responsibility are in the forefront of investors' minds reports a new survey conducted by London-based Ethical Investment Research Services, LTD ( EIRIS ). Investors strongly feel that environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues affect market value in over 50% of companies included in the FTSE All World Developed Index . Energy and utility companies were ranked first by investors as the sectors most affected by ESG issues.

Conducted in late 2006, the on-line survey asked 40 socially responsible asset managers and mainstream managers which ESG issues investors considered the most important to investment performance. EIRIS then scrutinized the data, drawing some telling results for companies worldwide.

Stephanie Maier, Strategic Research Development Manager for EIRIS explained to SocialFunds.com: "Investors were asked to attribute a value from 'no impact' to 'over 25% of value' for the sectors and rank issues from 'most financially significant' to 'least financially significant' within each sector."

Ninety percent of investors said that ESG issues would have some impact in the top ten sectors' value over the short to medium term. EIRIS identified the top ten sectors as oil and gas producers, gas, water and multi-utilities, electricity, automobiles and parts, forestry and paper, chemicals, mining, food producers, construction and materials, and travel and leisure.

EIRIS noted five themes that emerged as serious areas of concern for investors across the top sectors. Climate change was one of five most financially significant ESG issues for investors.

Climate change found itself at the top of investors' concerns for the automotive, airline, electricity, and forestry and paper sectors. It ranked second for the oil and gas and the mining sectors. The response to climate control varies from sector to sector, EIRIS pointed out, citing the example that in the automotive sector the focus is on fuel economy while for forestry and paper the focus is on energy intensity.

Environmental degradation topped the list in the mining and oil and gas sectors. Maier noted, "It may be unsurprising that climate change was ranked highly, in a number of sectors, as the issue with potential to impact companies financially. However, it may come as a surprise to some investors that environmental degradation was ranked above climate change as the top issue for the oil and gas and mining sectors."

Environmental degradation ranked second for the chemicals and construction and materials sectors. Environmental degradation got the silver from the travel and leisure sector as investors question the role tourism plays on eliminating bio-diversity.

The top issue for both food producers and food and drug retailers was product safety, including genetically modified foods, food additives and food contamination. Product safety was also an issue for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and leisure goods sectors. Although product recalls and litigation can be expensive for these sectors, it is often the damage done to a company's brand or reputation that has a longer-term effect.

As the risks of man-made chemicals become clearer to consumers, chemicals of concern was the top ranked issue for the chemical and household goods sectors. It ranked second for the leisure goods sector. Public health worries over chemicals in the environment, in homes and workplaces adds pressure on companies to improve the safety of their products. Many international initiatives have been passed and contribute to the financial response to chemicals in the environment.

"Other themes that emerged--environmental degradation and chemicals of concerns in products--show that environmental issues are not just limited to climate change," Maier said to SocialFunds.com.

Several sectors had specific issues that could have potential financial impact. For example, in the gas, water and multi-utilities sectors, investors voted the security of supply as the issue of most concern. In the banking sector, customer policy was ranked first including concerns about consumer debt, high interest rates, and high banking charges.

Another example of an issue facing a specific sector is obesity. Maier added, "Last year EIRIS launched a risk briefing analyzing the risks and opportunities that obesity posed for companies and how well companies were responding to this challenge through their management response."

The non-profit EIRIS conducts independent research into corporate responsibility and sustainability issues for the benefit of investors. Instead of looking at a company's financial operations, EIRIS explores the company's social, environmental and ethical policies and practices. EIRIS does not offer financial advice.

With more than seventy institutional clients, including banks, charities and religious institutions in Europe, the United States and Asia, EIRIS has conducted comprehensive research of more than 2,800 companies in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.

EIRIS looks at over forty different areas to research individual company including environmental issues, governance, animal testing, military, environmental performance, nuclear power and human rights. However, EIRIS stresses that they do not promote one view or take a view on what they research. EIRIS then works with individual clients to set up specific screens.

Maier concluded, "ESG issues will continue to create both risks and opportunities for investors. The survey findings confirm the focus of EIRIS research and fits with the previous research EIRIS has conducted on issues such as 'Beyond REACH – Chemical safety and sustainability concerns.'"

The Growth of Green Business: While businesses may be tempted to adopt environmentally friendly practices for benevolent reasons—sustaining the environment, promoting community goodwill—the big incentive is the extra green it puts in their wallets


The Growth of Green Business

Hemispheres, 22 January 2007 - While businesses may be tempted to adopt environmentally friendly practices for benevolent reasons—sustaining the environment, promoting community goodwill—the big incentive is the extra green it puts in their wallets.

Money talks … especially in business.

If a new strategy, product, or technology boosts profitability, companies not only sit up and take notice; they embrace it with open arms.

That's why more and more U.S. and international companies are going green in their workplaces, their day-to-day operations, their products and services, and their business and supplier relationships.

"Going green is no longer just about protecting the environment or even providing a healthier and more productive workplace for employees," says Peter J. Miscovich, a principal within Deloitte Consulting LLP. "Green is also about improving the bottom line. Thus, corporations will drive sustainable practices into the mainstream, yielding tremendous environmental and social benefits while generating increased corporate profits and shareholder value."

Every company that adopts green policies becomes a change agent, because those policies affect and educate everyone who comes into contact with that firm—employees, suppliers, technology providers, clients, and customers. People touched by that greenfocused company will, in turn, carry their newfound knowledge about sustainability into their private lives, workplaces, and communities.

Green Workplaces
An increasing number of companies are choosing green workplaces because they provide such bottom-line benefits as higher work force productivity, greater attraction and retention of skilled workers, and lower overhead costs, including electric and heating and air-conditioning bills.

Citigroup owns and leases more than 13,000 properties in more than 100 countries. The company has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its buildings by 10 percent by 2011. Citigroup also is investigating what levels of renovation are necessary to earn Energy Star and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) ratings for its existing buildings in the U.S., and it has established a LEED-Silver rating as a target for its new office and operation-center facilities worldwide.

Citigroup has 300,000 employees around the world. "Our experience is that employees care tremendously about green issues," says Pamela Flaherty, senior executive vice president of Citigroup's global community relations.

"The way they see that a company is serious about caring for the environment is through their workplace. They may know about the company's other green policies, but those policies are not part of employees' everyday lives. When they see the company implementing green policies in their workplace, however, they know the company is serious about its commitment.

"Young people in particular are very interested in a company's corporate citizenship and environmental responsibilities," Flaherty continues. "We've also seen that many of our younger bankers are interested in working with clients on green issues. Thus, green has become a huge recruiting tool for attracting the best and brightest people."

Corporate headquarters have gotten the most media coverage, but sustainability is applicable beyond white-collar workplaces. These policies benefit a variety of blue-collar workplaces too.

Toyota Logistics Services' new 85-acre Port of Portland vehicle distribution center in Portland, Oregon—which serves the company's import vehicle processing and logistics functions—has earned a U.S. Green Building Council LEEDGold rating for sustainability.

"We integrated a wide variety of green design, materials, and technologies into every aspect of the buildings and site," says Bob Bonney, the executive vice president of MNB Architects/Engineers of Portland, which designed the project.

The vehicle distribution center features a 6.7-acre riverfront greenway, Energy Star roofs, natural daylighting and outdoor views for 96 percent of the buildings' interior space, and occupancy sensors, which automatically turn off lights in unoccupied spaces. "We used green building materials like zero-VOC [Volatile Organic Compound] composite wood and low-VOC adhesives, sealants, paints, and carpet that don't off-gas toxins like standard building materials do," Bonney says.

Day-to-Day Operations
As companies embrace the benefits of green buildings, they're discovering that sustainable business practices in their daily operations bring many additional benefits: a stronger bottom line, a more satisfied work force, and greater community goodwill.

India-based Taj Hotels, which has more than 50 luxury hotels and resorts around the world, has instituted a corporate environmental policy—Eco Taj—that addresses many aspects such as conserving energy and water, purchasing eco-products, and minimizing waste.

In London, Taj's 51 Buckingham Gate hotel near Buckingham Palace has reduced energy consumption by more than 22 percent, cut natural gas consumption by more than 32 percent, and lowered water usage and costs by 25 percent since 2005. The hotel also recycles a variety of materials, including coat hangers, paper and cardboard, glass, and food containers.

"We don't buy anything that comes in plastic," says resident manager Paul Brackley. "Plastic gives off toxic fumes, and it's awful for landfill. We look for everything that can be recycled, and we look for relationships with suppliers that can buy into our policies."

Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, is adopting green practices, which will have a significant impact globally. Its year-old, experimental green supercenters outside Dallas and Denver, for example, are testing a wide variety of sustainable design strategies, materials, and technologies for use in new and existing stores around the world. Wal-Mart plans to increase its fleet efficiency by 25 percent over the next three years and double it within 10 years. It is investing $500 million annually in technologies that will reduce greenhouse gases at existing stores by 20 percent over the next seven years.

Wal-Mart's long-term environmental goals are to use 100 percent renewable energy, to create zero waste, and to sell products that sustain natural resources and the environment. "We are a large company," CEO Lee Scott said in his October 2005 "Twenty First Century Leadership" presentation to employees.

"For Wal-Mart to be successful and continue to grow, we must operate in a world that is healthy and successful."

Products and Technologies
Around the world, farsighted companies are creating new green products and technologies. "Green is going to be the industry of the 21st century," says Thomas L. Friedman, the influential New York Times columnist and author of the best-selling book The World Is Flat.

United Technologies Corporation (UTC) certainly agrees. The company's hydrofuel-cell bus, for example, helps to reduce air pollution and a municipality's energy costs, and it educates those who use or see the buses about the practicality of alternative-fuel vehicles.

UTC also is developing technologies that reduce a building's energy consumption and costs. UTC's Otis Gen2 Elevators, for example, not only use 70 percent less energy than comparable models 10 years ago, but also generate energy that can be used to power building systems, a significant benefit for building owners and the environment.

The European Union is rapidly upgrading its environmental standards, creating many new opportunities for companies. Finland's Proventia Group and its subsidiaries produce machines that cut, separate, and recycle reusable components in television sets and computer monitors, such as leaded and unleaded glass.

With the mainstreaming of green buildings, other companies are creating - and profiting from - the growing market demand for reasonably priced, environmentally responsible construction materials. Chinese companies have developed porous pavement bricks that allow rainwater to percolate down through the pavement into the ground and underground aquifers, thereby replenishing water supplies while reducing stormwater runoff and the threat of flooding.

Dow BioProducts (a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company) manufactures strawboard (rather than formaldehydelaced particle board) that can be used for cupboards and desks. Bio-Based Systems of Rogers, Arkansas, has created an effective soybean-based foam insulation to replace standard chemical-laden insulation.

Australia's TecEco Pty. Ltd. has created Eco-Cement, made of reactive magnesia and industrial byproducts and requiring lower temperatures and less energy to produce than standard cement. Equally impressive, although standard concrete generates about 10 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, Eco-Cement absorbs (sequesters) carbon dioxide.

Business and Supplier Relationships
As companies reap the many benefits of green, something interesting happens. They begin insisting that suppliers and business partners adopt green policies, too.

Wal-Mart is creating a program that gives preference to suppliers who aggressively reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Wal-Mart also is working with its suppliers to create less packaging overall, increase the recycling of packaging, and increase the use of recycled materials.

Bank of America is acting as a green agent in many ways. Its Bank of America Tower, now under construction in Manhattan, is on target to earn a LEEDPlatinum rating. That effort affects every professional, contractor, and supplier on the project. Bank of America requires its hundreds of vendors to comply with its environmental standards. All paper suppliers must provide independent, third-party certification of their sustainable forestry practices for all forests they own or manage. In addition, Bank of America reduced its paper usage by 32 percent between 2000 and 2005, even though its customer base grew by 24 percent. "We are also recycling 30,000 tons of paper a year," says Mark S. Nicholls, senior vice president of Bank of America's corporate workplace.

Leading corporations are forming organizations with strong sustainable goals. More than 180 international companies have joined the World Business Council for Sustainable Development based in Geneva, Switzerland, an organization committed to environmentally responsible economic growth. One current council initiative will identify practical strategies to construct buildings that consume "zero net energy."

The three Ps—People, Profits, and the Planet—will all benefit from this worldwide change in corporate attitudes about sustainability and the environment.

"I think that over the next five to 10 years, green practices will become embedded in how companies conduct all of their business," says Citigroup's Flaherty. "Green practices will be the standard way that we address the environmental and human impact of building development and renovation and the standard way we interact with our clients, our employees, and our suppliers."

That optimism may be the best evidence that the growth of green policies is rooted in a burgeoning bottom line.

Charles Lockwood is an environmental and real estate consultant based in Southern California and New York City.

Food miles' campaigns bad for Africa's development


Food miles' campaigns bad for Africa's development

SciDev.Net, 22 January 2007 - There is growing concern that carbon dioxide emitted when transporting food over long distances contributes significantly to global warming.

But researchers at the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) have urged British policymakers and consumers not to undermine the trade in fresh fruits and vegetables flown from sub-Saharan Africa in efforts to reduce these 'food miles'.

They argued at a meeting last week (16 January) that the impact of air freighting vegetables from Africa is small compared to Britain's overall emissions.

Food miles campaigns could undermine the social and economic development of African countries and be 'disastrous' for many poor African farmers, they warned.

Bill Vorley, a senior researcher at IIED said, "Climate change is going to affect the poor in Africa harder than anyone else. These are the people who have done least to cause the problem. They shouldn't be made to pay the cost of fixing it too."

He noted that more than one million Africans depend on exporting fruit and vegetables to the United Kingdom for their livelihoods.

Climate change researcher David Wasawo at the University of Nairobi, told SciDev.Net that for most countries in Africa, food miles are the least of their climate change worries.

He called for more research into the impact of climate change on Africa, not Africa's impact on climate change.

According to James MacGregor of IIED's Sustainable Markets Group, the link between climate change and food miles should be weighed against other sources of fossil fuel pollution.

"In the UK, domestic food miles on roads and customers driving to shops are the main contributors to carbon dioxide emissions," says MacGregor.

He argues that people in the developed world should instead focus their behaviour change on the 99.9 per cent of their emissions that come from things like energy use and leisure flights.

Related links:

Lack of Incentives Prevent Employees Going Green at Work


Lack of Incentives Prevent Employees Going Green at Work

GreenBiz.com, 19 January 2007 - Lack of incentive and leadership from bosses is causing UK employees to leave their environmental conscience at home, leading to higher energy bills and emissions by companies, according to independent research commissioned by Logicalis.

The
survey of over 1,000 employees, undertaken in December 2006 across UK public and private sector organizations, found that despite a clear understanding of the steps they need to adopt to become more environmentally friendly, employees still look towards their employer to lead by example when it comes to being environmentally responsible.

Just under two thirds (62 percent) of staff said their employer should offer incentives for being green in the workplace while 57 percent said they could be encouraged to act greener if their employer 'led by example'.

The survey found that workplace attitudes sit in stark contrast to environmental efforts at home, where an impressive 94 percent of people switch off lights, 85 percent switch off their home PC after use, and over half (54 percent) save energy by regularly using only the minimum amount of water needed when boiling the kettle. Comparatively only 66 percent, 53 percent and less than 10 percent of employees respectively, carry out these simple green practices in the office.

Tom Kelly, managing director, Logicalis UK, "What the research is telling us loud and clear is that there is a huge, wasteful consumption of energy and resources taking places in offices throughout the UK, and that organizations must tap into the environmental consciousness being displayed in the home to cut business energy costs and reduce the carbon and environmental footprint."

Such dichotomized attitudes between work and home can perhaps be explained by the fact that just under half (43.3%) of all those surveyed believed their employer only pays lip service to environmental issues, or is simply not interested in them at all, despite increasing environmental legislation and awareness, and increasing government scrutiny of the environmental impact of businesses in the UK.

This belief is supported by the research which found that three quarters of employers provide facilities for recycling paper, but don't use recycled materials themselves. Moreover, while three quarters of staff have access to double-sided printing and copying facilities, less than a quarter had been offered training in using the equipment.

Questioned about the environmental impact of their own organizations, 49 percent of staff believed their company wastes too much electricity, and a similar figure (45 percent) believed their employer should put schemes in place to help save resources in the work place. Over a third (37 percent) of staff said they would like more training on how to be environmentally friendly.

Chris Gabriel, head of solutions marketing, Logicalis UK, "This research shows that 2007 must be the year for turning well-meaning talk into action. The first step to achieving this is to put environmental issues at the top of the boardroom agenda, so that environmental best practise can filter throughout the organization from the top down. Only through strong, deliberate environmental leadership, and a commitment from government, business and employees to work together, will we see a meaningful reduction in carbon emissions from UK plc. Tokenism will no longer cut it."

In light of the independent research and its work with government environmental charity, Global Action Plan, Logicalis suggests some key steps where organizations can focus their environmental efforts to ensure employee buy-in:

Incentives: Organizations must look to offer incentives to employees to bring their good environmental practice into the workplace. Schemes to promote environmental responsibility must provide either a financial or personal incentive, such as 'energy savings profit sharing' or a change in working contracts, to encourage more flexible working practices and a better work life balance. Government must also look to using more 'carrots' in corporate and personal tax liabilities to encourage this behaviour.

  • Leadership: Organizations must demonstrate a commitment to the environmental and energy agenda before employees will feel committed to take part. 80 percent of staff whose employers don't have an environmental policy, say they would like them to have one. Corporate and Social Responsibility must leave the boardroom and become ingrained in an organization's culture, in order to create a shared sense of responsibility.
  • Innovation: Employees want their workplace to be more environmentally friendly and want to be able to control their own impact. Increased use of traditional approaches such as recycling must be complimented with building and workplace innovation, removing the feeling of lack of control from the employee and embedding it within the working environment. Investments in intelligent building systems that automatically manage heating, lighting and cooling would demonstrate commitment from the employer and encourage better overall working practices.
  • Technology: The deployment of low-carbon and high-efficiency products can have a dramatic effect on the way people work and the amount of energy they use. Suggestions range from the basic, such as eco-friendly kettles in all communal kitchens which use up to 30 percent less electricity than normal kettles, to using technology such as video conferencing, to reduce corporate travel. Half (46 percent) of staff have access to tools such as remote email which enables home working, and reduces a company's carbon foot print, but only 15 percent of contracts support them working in this way.
  • Education: Helping employees understand the impact of their actions is a cheap and effective way to encourage them to adopt a more environmentally friendly attitude in work. An average PC is responsible for almost 1,000 pounds of CO2 emissions annually - 15 PCs can generate the equivalent CO2 that a typical car produces in a year. Just by switching off PCs when not in use, an SME could save one tonne of carbon - enough to fill four double-decker buses.

Companies, Activists Launch U.S. Climate Partnership


Companies, Activists Launch U.S. Climate Partnership

GreenBiz.com, 19 January 2007 - A group of ten major corporations has formed a partnership with four leading environmental groups to seek a U.S. cap on greenhouse gas emissions along with a reduction of up to 15 percent within 15 years.

The broad coalition, known as
U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP), will unveil the most detailed and most aggressive proposal yet for legislation endorsed by any group of major corporations to date.

"We expect this action to demonstrate that the political ground has shifted fundamentally - that businesses are now joining with our community to urge prompt and strong action by Congress to cut global warming pollution," said Natural Resources Defense Council president Frances Beinecke.

Members of the coalition are DuPont, GE, Duke Energy, BP America, Alcoa, PNM Resources, PG&E, Caterpillar, Florida Power and Light, and Lehman Brothers, along with the World Resources Institute, NRDC, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, and Environmental Defense.

The "Call for Action" urges Congress to adopt comprehensive global warming legislation without delay, and it specifies a detailed time-line for emission reductions, starting now and increasing in stringency through 2050. The recommended emission reductions are expressed as a range of reductions below current levels in order to garner broad agreement among all the members of USCAP. The higher end of the range is consistent with the most aggressive emission reduction targets that have been proposed to date.

"The Call for Action" does not contain legislative language for a draft bill or legislative specifications for all significant provisions that would be in a comprehensive bill. However, criteria for defining these specifics are set forth in the document.

The group says it is committed to working together to promote the objectives articulated in the "Call for Action." There are some important substantive provisions that USCAP will not make a specific recommendation on and are not prevented from supporting legislation that may differ from "the Call For Action." However, USCAP members say they do share a desire for prompt enactment of a strong bill and we are working to bridge our differences while also adding additional members to our coalition.

The idea for this initiative arose out of conversations that NRDC, WRI, ED and Pew had with GE and other USCAP companies in recent years. About a year ago, the group convened a group of companies, including CEOs, and began forging a collective call for action. The "Call for Action" is the result.

Says NRDC's Beinecke: "Going forward, we expect additional organization and companies to join USCAP, and together we will continue to press for the passage of historic legislation to slow, stop and reverse global warming pollution.

China pledges billions for green energy: China plans to invest 45.6 billion yuan (Cdn. $6.8 billion) to more than triple its wind power generation capacity by 2010


China pledges billions for green energy

GLOBE-Net, 19 January 2007 - China plans to invest 45.6 billion yuan (Cdn. $6.8 billion) to more than triple its wind power generation capacity by 2010, an industry official says. Also this week, the Chinese government announced that it will spend a further 1.5 trillion yuan (Cdn. $226 billion) to make existing buildings more energy efficient by 2020, and will strengthen efficiency standards for new construction.

According to media reports, Li Junfeng, secretary-general of the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, says that the government has raised its wind power target to 8,000 megawatts by 2010 from 5,000. Last year, China added 1,000 MW of capacity to reach a total of 2,300 of installed wind power.

"The government's preferential policies and companies' willingness will enable us to exceed the original target,'' said Li, reports Bloomberg.

A recent report projects that China will become the world's largest wind power producer by 2020, as all signs point towards a massive expansion of renewable energy in the country.

China plans to invest heavily to increase the use of renewables and reduce its growing economy's reliance on coal and oil; China is the world's second largest consumer of oil and the largest consumer of coal.

A new coal plant large enough to power a North American city of 2.5 million people opens nearly every week in the country, often without modern technologies which can improve efficiency and reduce emissions. China is expected to overtake the United States as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2015, and the country is paying the price of rising toxic emissions with increased health problems in cities.

In response, the country has targeted a huge increase in wind power and will also subsidize solar power, biodiesel, and ethanol projects.

The 2006 Annual Report on China's New Energy Industry, produced by consulting firm Bilin International, notes a Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) projection that China will reach 15,000 megawatts of wind power capacity by 2020, making it the world's largest wind energy producer. The report says that of the country's estimated 3.2 million kilowatts of wind power potential, around 1 million megawatts could be developed.

China has set up more than sixty wind power farms around the country, developed key technologies and trained personnel specialized in designing and operating wind power farms, making the country well prepared to large-scale development of the industry, the report notes.

During the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010), China will set up about 30 large wind power projects of 100 MW each at regions with abundant wind power resources, such as eastern coastal areas, Hebei Province and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in north China.

In terms of small wind power projects, China has already developed the largest market in the world. By the end of 2005, China had installed 320,000 small wind turbine generators to supply power to residents in remote areas with a total capacity of 65,000 kw, according to the report.

$200B for energy efficiency

Also this week, China's Vice Minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing said that the country could save 350 million tonnes of coal in the next fifteen years if existing buildings were made more energy efficiency and new construction met stricter standards. Environmental degradation and energy waste are an obstacle to China's economic growth, he noted.

Already, China has failed to meet energy efficiency targets in previous government plans. To address this, Qiu said that investment would be made in upgrading existing buildings, but that the top priority would be to set stricter efficiency standards for new construction. Around 10 percent of new construction projects violated existing standards, he added. The tighter standards reduce allowable energy consumption of heating, cooling and lighting by up to 65 percent.

Half of the world's buildings constructed between now and 2020 are expected to be in China. Construction consumes over one quarter of China's energy supply.

Buildings account for over 40 percent of energy use in developed countries and almost one-third of greenhouse gas emissions. Efficient technologies can drastically cut that consumption, and the application of renewable energy technologies can make some buildings net energy providers.

Energy efficiency has been dubbed "the biggest fuel" available to the world, and analysis by the International Energy Agency has shown that improved energy efficiency using today's technologies can reduce expected growth in electricity demand by half, and cut the need for added generation capacity by one-third.

If you had it in your backyard, you wouldn't even notice it...


... well, maybe you would if you looked up.

Thanks to Bryan for these pics...
http://www.hadel.net/autos/html/d_akt_cux_repower5m_13.html

Der Rotor hebt ab!

 

An einem fast windstillen Morgen war es dann soweit: Der Rotor wurde gehoben.

Die Montage der Flügel an die Nabe dauerte rund einen Tag.

Für die Justierarbeiten und Abschlußkontrolle wurde ein weiterer Tag benötigt.

Der Ballastträger war mit 280 Tonnen Gegengewicht bestückt.

Auf Schwebeballast konnte beim Rotor verzichtet werden.

Die Flügellänge beträgt 61,5 Meter, der Durchmesser insgesamt 126 Meter.

Das Gesamtgewicht am Haken lag bei rund 120 Tonnen.

Nun mußte nur noch das Hubgeschirr vom unteren Flügel entfernt werden.

Innerhalb weniger Minuten schwebte die Nabe bereits in Höhe des Maschinenhauses.

Die Nabenhöhe der beiden Anlagen in Cuxhaven liegt bei 117 Metern.

Nun mußten die Monteure im Maschinenhaus als Einweiser per Funk helfen.

Bei der ersten REpower 5M konnte der Rotor erst am späten Abend gehoben werden.

Die letzten Zentimeter dauern immer am längsten .

Und bereits einige Momente später konnte mit dem Anschlagen der Nabe begonnen werden.

Über 1000 Tonnen an einem Kranhaken? Hier gibt es Fotos des Hubs...

Making responsibility work for banks and financial institutions


Making responsibility work for banks and financial institutions

Ethical Corporation, 17 January 2007 - Many big financial institutions now accept socially and environmentally responsible investment policies, but this can alter the dynamics of their stakeholder relationships, says Matthew Yeomans Today's forward thinking financial institutions have come to understand the importance of sustainable management and investing strategies as a good business risk.

At the same time, a commitment to ethical and sustainable business brings with it a new set of challenges – not least the institution's relationships with its stakeholders.

Describing Barclays' commitment and approach to corporate responsibility, group vice-chairman Gary Hoffman highlights the important role played by consumers.

"People hold companies more to account nowadays. They are saying 'Don't assure me but show me, report it and prove to me that you act responsibly,'" Hoffman says.

At Barclays, sustainability is a board level priority for a very simple reason.

"CR is becoming a competitive advantage," says Hoffman. He points to Barclays' business strategy of expanding financial inclusion through microfinance and affordable credit services. This, he points out, "makes a social difference and also provides opportunities for the company".

One country where Barclays is particularly active in microfinance is Ghana. As Hoffman explains, Barclays microfinance programmes could not have happened without input from NGOs and other regional stakeholders.

Accountable to all?


Overall, the business imperative for successful sustainable banking is to be as transparent as possible. But, cautions Hoffman, "It is fashionable in some quarters to be accountable to everyone – yet is it possible or desirable to be accountable to all stakeholders?"

Different stakeholders have conflicting interests after all and "those who shout the loudest aren't always the ones that mean what they say", he warns.

Successful corporate responsibility involves finding the best balance possible between all stakeholder aspirations. For Barclays, says Hoffman, "It is important that we stand for social cohesion as well as business development."

Balancing stakeholder relations is also a high priority for Standard Chartered, says head of sustainability, Chris Smith.

Standard Chartered is a major presence in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and with that footprint comes a number of corporate responsibility challenges – not least the desire to introduce sustainable business approaches in countries that are very much focused on rapid economic growth.

The last thing Standard Chartered wants to project is a "colonial" attitude, says Smith. Yet promoting effective CR is crucial not just for developing nations but also for the bank's bottom line.

Healthy workforce


In Zambia, Standard Chartered pays $684 per employee per year in HIV antiviral drugs. Promoting more responsible social attitudes to HIV can only help the company both in terms of healthy employees and customers.

Likewise, drought conditions in East Africa and flooding in India and Bangladesh are likely to create huge economic and societal problems as climate change intensifies. Faced with this global picture, "Clean energy offers a great investing opportunity," says Smith.

Trying to be a force for good while taking account of the business needs of its customers can be a high wire act, Smith says, and guarantees that some stakeholders (often those pesky NGOs) will always be unhappy.

Five years ago, Smith says, "NGOs were seen as 'let's ignore them and maybe they'll go away.'" Today listening and working with all sides makes good business sense.

"You'll never make everyone happy. It's about ensuring we still have a sustainable business in 50 years time," Smith says.

It is a sentiment echoed by Gregory Larkin, lead financial sector analyst for Innovest Strategic Value Advisors.

"Stakeholder engagement is hard, takes a long time and doesn't always show up on an earnings statement. But it is a critical investment for a bank to make and will lead to stronger, more substantial returns to the bank and society as a whole," Larkin says.

24.1.07

EU railway rules 'bad for commuters'


EU railway rules 'bad for commuters'

EurActiv.com, 10 January 2007 - Focusing on "glossy" international rail projects could hinder the development of suburban railways that are essential to tackle congestion and environmental problems in European cities, according to new research.

Background

With climate change and environmental issues topping the EU agenda, there is an increasing focus on the need to develop more energy-efficient means of transport, including rail.

Work on strengthening the European railway sector has been ongoing over the past 15 years, with the adoption of two packages of legislation that aim to open up rail transport to competition and harmonise standards across Europe.

A third legislative package, aimed at liberalising international passenger transport and improving passenger-rights protection, was proposed by the Commission in March 2004 and is currently being examined by the Parliament in second reading.

Issues

The third railway package focuses predominantly on international services and problems related to cross-border operation, despite the fact that the rules will also, in many cases, be extended to suburban and regional railways.

This could severely hinder the development of such domestic short-distance operations, according to rail and public transport operators.

A new study, conducted by the International Association for Public Transport ( UITP ) in the frame of the European Rail Research Advisory Group ( ERRAC ) and presented on 9 January 2007, reveals that there are nine times more passengers using commuter and regional rail services (to carry out short journeys of around 25km on average) than those on international or long-distance trips.

Short-distance European railways carry nearly seven billion passengers per year, against 1.25 billion passengers over the past 25 years for France's TGV, for example.

Despite the importance of this sector, its specificities are being ignored by EU rules, says the UITP.

A particular concern for the business sector is the Parliament's decision to extend legislation on international passenger rights and certification of train crews to all domestic services.

Application of ill-adapted, overly bureaucratic rules could hinder the development of a transport sector crucial to helping European cities deal with congestion and pollution problems .

According to UITP figures, the use of regional and commuter trains helps Europe avoid each year:

  • 24 million km of traffic jams;
  • 30 million tonnes of CO2, and;
  • 1,312 human deaths and 36,800 injuries.
Positions

Hans Rat, secretary-general of the International Association for Public Transport (UITP) , said that the EU focused much too much on "glossy" trans-European projects, such as high-speed trains. He stressed that it needed to re-direct its attention towards regional projects that play a "decisive role" for the revitalisation of cities and the improvement of public transport services.

Michel Quidort, chairman of the UITP Regional Railway Committee , said: "The trend to encompass al railways in the same policies and to request the same inter-operability demands and technical specifications is hindering the development of regional rail."

He particularly emphasised that EU rules on passenger rights must not be applied to regional rail, saying that this issue must be dealt with inside a contract between the local authority and the local operator. "The subsidiarity principle must be applied to avoid creating an impossible bureaucratic situation and to accommodate very specific local conditions," he stressed.

Also, on certification of train crew, the UITP believes that the single driver licence proposed by the Commission is "in contradiction with the need to have specific knowledge of the line and the rolling stock". Laurent Dauby of the UITP, in charge of the study "Suburban and Regional Railway Landscape in Europe" , insisted that even if some recommendations are welcome at the European level, many of the demands made by European legislation will bring "zero added-value for the customer".

While cautious about demanding the full exclusion of suburban and regional rail from the third railway package, he insisted on "at least a serious economic evaluation to see if it makes sense to include this segment in the legislation".

The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) stressed that the application of harmonised passenger rights on a national level would prove unworkable and urged the EU to respect the variety of national conditions and railway system realities. It gave an example: "Only 3% of the stations in Hungary are physically accessible to persons with reduced mobility, compared to 75% in the UK. Hungarian trains are on average nearly 29 years old, and inevitably less reliable than modern trains in Western Europe…huge investments would be necessary to achieve the same passengers' rights standards throughout Europe. The problem is that today, in central and eastern Europe the money is urgently needed for the basic operation of the system itself."

However, consumers want the rules applied to all rail services. The European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC) stated: "We do support the application of the regulation to every passenger, i.e. international and national as we think that every passenger should be able to benefit from the same minimum level of protection across the EU…It would be difficult to argue that national passengers have more limited rights compared to international passengers."

The Parliament's Transport Committee agreed with consumers that: "Ordinary rail passengers should not be left out in the cold," and decided, in December 2006, to extend proposals on international passengers' rights and obligations to domestic rail traffic. Belgian rapporteur Dirk Sterckx (ALDE) said that there was no point in drawing up a regulation which applied only to the 5% rail passengers who use international train services. The Committee felt that this regulation should give European citizens the confidence that, in the event of problems, there were certain minimum rights upon which they could rely.

Latest & next steps

  • 19 December 2006: second reading vote held in the EP's Transport Committee.
  • 17 January 2007: probable second reading in Parliament.
  • The conciliation procedure will likely be necessary to solve differences of opinion between the EP and Council.
Links

EU official documents

Industry federations and trade unions

Norway to buy emission quotas for state employees' flights


Norway to buy emission quotas for state employees' flights

AFP, 2 January 2007 - Norway has pledged to buy CO2 emission quotas run up by state employees' official overseas flights in a bid to fight global warming, Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has announced.

"We want to set an example," Stoltenberg said in his traditional New Year's Day speech broadcast by Norwegian public service television channel NRK.

State employees affected by the plan make some 20,000 international flights a year. The cost of buying emission quotas for these flights would be around 2.5 million kroner (405,000 dollars, 305,000 euros), Norwegian news agency NTB said.

Stoltenberg challenged major Norwegian companies to follow his government's example.

"We have had our warmest autumn and winter months for 100 years, a warning that must be taken seriously," Stoltenberg said.

Norway's biggest oil producer Statoil -- majority-owned by the Norwegian state -- reacted favourably to the government plan.

"It's good for the environment," vice president of technology and projects at Statoil, Gine Wang, told AFP.

Leading Norwegian environmental group Nature and Youth reacted with scepticism to Stoltenberg's announcement.

"The government should first reduce its ambitions for the oil and gas sector in Norway, which accounts for a third of emissions of greenhouse gases," head of the group Baard Lahn said.

New 90% Cleaner Trucks Set to Roll Off Assembly Lines: This year is the first step toward near-zero emissions for diesel truck engines. Additional changes take place in the 2010 model year that will further reduce NOx by a total of 90 percent from 2004 levels.


New 90% Cleaner Trucks Set to Roll Off Assembly Lines

GreenBiz.com, 9 January 2007 - With new clean diesel heavy- duty engines set to roll off of assembly lines nationwide this year, the diesel industry says it has met the technological and regulatory challenges of manufacturing trucks that produce up to 90 percent fewer emissions than the previous generation of diesels, helping to usher in a new era of clean air progress.

"This new year signals the arrival of a new generation of clean diesel trucks that will fundamentally change the way people think about diesel engine technology in this country," said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum. "New clean diesel trucks sold beginning in 2007 will produce 90 percent fewer emissions of particles and significantly lower emissions of nitrogen oxide [NOx] than trucks built in 2006. The exhaust from these trucks is so clean they even pass the 'white handkerchief test,' and more importantly, they will play a key role in helping states and communities around the country meet more stringent clean air goals."

Developing these new generation clean diesel engines and trucks has required industry-wide multi-billion dollar engineering and research investments by emissions control manufacturers and engine and truck makers that have been underway since the beginning of this decade. In addition to requiring the use of ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel, these trucks and engines deploy the latest state-of-the-art technology in engine management, fuel injection, emissions reduction and turbocharging innovations.

"With the seamless transition to cleaner diesel fuel last October, we're confident that these new advanced technology trucks will soon hit the streets and highways with even greater success," Schaeffer added. "These trucks are the most tested in history, racking up millions of miles in real-world pre- production fleet-testing programs," continued Schaeffer. Achieving extremely low emissions is technically demanding because engines must meet the low standards for at least 435,000 miles. Manufacturers must also simultaneously optimize key customer attributes such as fuel efficiency, operating costs, maintainability and reliability.

"Manufacturers are ready to deliver new clean trucks with the power and performance truckers demand," Schaeffer added. "Growth in the economy means growth in moving goods and trucking, and diesel trucks are the lifeblood of moving goods in this country, accounting for 94 percent of consumer retail items delivered to store shelves. Diesel's unique combination of energy efficiency, reliability and durability has made it the undeniable choice for the nation's trucking industry."

This year is the first step toward near-zero emissions for diesel truck engines. Additional changes take place in the 2010 model year that will further reduce NOx by a total of 90 percent from 2004 levels.

Clean diesel will ultimately bring emissions reductions across a range of applications, including:

  • Trucks and Buses -- New trucks and buses will be the first class of equipment to benefit from clean diesel. While 2006 trucks or buses already produced only one-eighth the tailpipe exhaust compared to those built in 1990, new vehicles will be even cleaner. It will take 60 trucks built in 2007 to equal the soot emissions of one truck sold in 1988. The EPA predicts that these new trucks will reduce emissions of smog-forming gases by 2.6 million tons each year and cut soot emissions by 110,000 tons annually once they fully replace the existing fleet.
  • Increased Demand For New Fuel -- The roll-out of these new cleaner engines follows the October 2006 introduction of ULSD fuel, containing only 15 parts per million (ppm) sulfur content, compared to 500 ppm for the old fuel, for a 97 percent reduction in sulfur. Clean diesel fuel is critically important because sulfur tends to hamper the effectiveness of diesel exhaust-control devices, much the way lead once obstructed the catalytic converters on gasoline cars.
  • Passenger Vehicles -- Clean diesel technology -- designed to deliver 20-40 percent greater fuel economy -- also can be found in several new diesel cars, trucks and SUVs, the market for which is expected to expand in the next several model years, according to auto industry forecasting experts.
  • Construction Equipment -- Since 1996, when EPA first issued emissions regulations for off-road equipment, industry has made dramatic progress. For some categories of equipment, such as backhoes and excavators, emissions levels have already been reduced by more than 80 percent. Off-road machines and equipment will also move toward adoption of clean diesel fuel and technology starting June 1, 2007 with the use of low-sulfur diesel required for off-road machines.
The Diesel Technology Forum is a partner in the Clean Diesel Fuel Alliance , which provides a resource on technical issues regarding the introduction of the cleaner fuel and engine technology.

Honda says fuel-cell cars can be mass-produced by 2018: report


Honda says fuel-cell cars can be mass-produced by 2018: report

AFP, 29 December 2006 - Japanese carmaker Honda believes it can mass-produce environmentally friendly fuel-cell cars by 2018, a press report said Friday.

Honda Motor Co., Japan's third biggest vehicle maker, plans to begin leasing a pricy new hydrogen-powered fuel-cell car in Japan and the United States in 2008.

"By evolving a next model based on this, I think the level of technology will become very close to that of mass-produced ordinary vehicles within 10 years or so," Honda president Takeo Fukui said in an interview with Kyodo News.

"In 2018, I believe the development (of a fuel-cell car) will have been very advanced," he said. "It will become a real possibility to a large degree."

The world's leading carmakers are developing fuel-cell cars which drastically cut emissions. But the high price of such cars, currently estimated at more than 100 million yen (840,000 dollars) each, has been a major barrier to the commercialisation of hydrogen-powered cars.

Fuel cells produce electricity through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, leaving water as the only by-product.

Fukui told Kyodo that there will be many customers who want to buy a Honda fuel-cell car if it goes on sale for 10 million yen in the general market.

Honda has already unveiled a so-called FCX concept model, a fully functional futuristic sedan concept car powered by a hydrogen fuel.

But before the next-generation car becomes more common, Fukui said there are still some technological challenges the automaker needs to overcome.

He said the challenges include how to reduce the amount of noble metals used for fuel cells, how to improve hydrogen storage and how to make hydrogen at lower costs.

U.S. airlines gird for battle over growing emissions: the aviation industry is almost certain to see its share of greenhouse gas emissions grow in coming years, and its output could reach as high as 6 to 9 percent of total global GHGs by 2030


U.S. airlines gird for battle over growing emissions

Greenwire, 17 January 2007 - When British Environment Minister Ian Pearson accused U.S. airlines recently of being "completely irresponsible" about global warming, the carriers responded with a shrug. Such admonishments seemed to hardly register on the radar of an industry beset by financial woes and viewed as a small contributor to total global greenhouse gas emissions. But that's changing.

With experts projecting major increases in air travel, the aviation industry is now among the fastest growing sources of carbon dioxide (CO2), accounting for 11 percent of transportation emissions in the United States and 2.7 percent of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Jet engines also spew significant quantities of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxides (SO2), aerosols, particulate matter and water vapor -- emissions that contribute directly or indirectly to global warming, according to scientists who study aircraft emissions.

Moreover, FAA estimates that aircraft-related greenhouse gases, principally CO2 and NOx, will increase by 60 percent in coming decades, passing the 300 million-metric-ton-per-year mark by 2020.

Such projections have stirred new interest in airlines among climate scientists, international governing bodies and advocacy groups, some of whom say the industry must be more proactive in mitigating climate change.

"It's no excuse for them to just throw up their hands and say, 'It's not our problem,'" said Doug Cogan, an environmental economist with Institutional Shareholder Services, a consulting firm that advises companies and shareholders on corporate governance. "It is their problem."

European regulators are taking steps to put the airlines on notice. Last month, the European Commission, which sets policy for 27 European Union countries, proposed to include the aviation sector in its carbon emissions trading scheme, raising the prospect that U.S. carriers will be regulated.

In the wake of the E.U. announcement, the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) -- the industry's lobby group -- issued a statement denouncing the proposal as "a misguided decision [that] clearly violates international laws and bilateral air service agreements."

But U.S. carriers may have little choice if the E.U. proposal becomes law and takes effect as scheduled in 2012.

Airlines might also face pressure on Capitol Hill where the Democratic leaders say they will make curbing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions a priority. In the last week, senators have introduced three major bills designed to combat global warming.

'Weight-loss program'

To date, little attention has been paid in Congress or in corporate boardrooms to airlines' role in global warming as the industry and its supporters have been consumed with the burden of remaining profitable during an era of rapidly escalating costs.

One major component of the airlines' cost equation is jet fuel, whose price tripled between 2003 and 2005 before settling back in the $70-per-barrel range at the beginning of this year.

Airline officials maintain that their efforts to cut fuel costs, by improving efficiencies both on the ground and in the air, are consistent with broader objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from aircraft engines. In fact, the industry argues, airlines have outpaced other economic sectors in terms of trimming their fuel consumption.

"We've been on a weight loss program for a lot of years and we've gotten close to fighting weight," said Dave Castelveter, a spokesman for ATA in Washington. "Others have just started their weight programs a year or two ago."

The airlines shrinking fuel consumption translates into millions fewer tons of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions daily, Castelveter said. It is important for policymakers, both at home and abroad, he said, to take note of that before imposing new regulatory schemes that could drive more airlines into bankruptcy.

"At the end of the day, you have to look at who is emitting more than us and who is emitting less," he said. "We think we stack up pretty well against our peers on that scale."

Airlines are also lobbying to overhaul the nation's air traffic control system to allow aircraft to fly more direct routes and reap even greater fuel savings.

The current system, devised in the 1950s, relies on ground radio beacons that send electronic signals to aircraft, essentially acting as homing devices for aircraft.

The system requires pilots to fly a zig-zagging path rather than plot the most direct routes between destinations, ATA says. Such inefficiencies are particularly apparent in the eastern United States, where there are more planes and more airports, and along the Atlantic Coast where flight densities are the highest.

The system results in airlines burning more fuel than would be necessary under a satellite-based system. Airlines have told the FAA that new navigation technology would allow them to reduce fuel consumption on many flights by as much as 25 percent.

Atmospheric stew

No one argues that fuel efficiency gains are important to the airlines' effort to curb emissions. But experts maintain it would not be enough to meet ambitious targets, particularly in Europe, to reduce global greenhouse gases.

A report commissioned last year by FAA and NASA on the impacts of aviation on climate change reiterated a point made eight years ago by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an advisory body to the United Nations.

"The effects of aircraft emissions on the current and projected climate of our planet may be the most serius long-term environmental issue facing the aviation industry," the panel declared.

"With extensive growth in demand expected in aviation over the next few decades, it is imperative that timely action is taken to understand and quantify the potential impacts of aviation emissions to help policymakers address climate and other potential environmental impacts associated with aviation," the panel said.

Don Wuebbles, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Illinois and chairman of the workshop that produced the "findings and recommendations" report for FAA and NASA, said in an interview this week the aviation industry is almost certain to see its share of greenhouse gas emissions grow in coming years, and its output could reach as high as 6 to 9 percent of total global GHGs by 2030.

"The concern is about how much aviation is expected to grow over the coming decades," Wuebbles said, "and also how much [air pollution] controls are installed on other industries that emit greenhouse gases."

While aviation is not likely to ever become the largest source of greenhouse gases, its growth rate may well outpace all other sectors, Wuebbles said.

FAA estimates that by 2025, U.S. air traffic will increase threefold, with a significant uptick in both commercial aviation and the use of smaller private aircraft that fly at the same altitudes and along the same routes as passenger and freight jets.

Beyond the immediate challenges related to airspace congestion, there will be additional impacts to the climate as well, experts say. The most immediate effect on the climate could come from greater inputs of CO2 and water vapor, both of which have a direct warming effect, that are emitted from jet engines into the atmosphere at elevations of 30,000 feet or more.

In addition to CO2 and water, nitrogen oxide emissions from aircraft flying at high altitude can affect the production and distribution of atmospheric ozone and methane, both of which contribute to warming.

Finally, according to findings from the Wuebbles-led panel, aircraft emit aerosols containing sulfates, organic compounds and soot particles, which produce radiative changes on their own as well as contribute to the formation of condensation trails and cirrus clouds.

Calls for 'corporate stewardship'

Of all the known aircraft emissions and their effects, CO2 poses the greatest concern because it persists in the atmosphere for centuries or longer, the report says. By contrast, methane can remain in the atmosphere for years before breaking down into its chemical components, while the effects of aircraft NOx emissions on ozone will last for weeks to months.

Wuebbles noted that concentrations of all of these gases have increased more rapidly in the Northern Hemisphere than in the Southern, in part because of air traffic between North America, Europe and Asia.

While Wuebbles was cautious about making policy recommendations for the aviation industry, noting some large gaps in scientific knowledge, he was clear on one point: "Does it make sense to recommend to the airlines and aircraft producers to put a heavy emphasis on producing aircraft that are more energy efficient? Definitely," he said.

Other critics agree. However, they said U.S. airlines in particular could be much more proactive in addressing climate change issues.

Economist Cogan prepared a report last year that ranked U.S. airlines at the bottom of a list of 10 major industry sectors whose operations involve emissions of CO2 or other greenhouse gases.

Beating out the airlines, at least in terms of corporate governance on climate issues, were the oil and gas industry, the electric power industry, automakers and the chemical industry, Cogan said. The report was prepared for Ceres, a coalition of investors and nonprofit groups engaged on climate change.

"That's not a very good sign of corporate stewardship on this issue," Cogan said.

While Cogan's review did not cover all U.S. airlines, it found that three major representative passenger carriers -- AMR Corp., parent of American Airlines, UAL Corp., parent of United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines -- performed dismally on its scale 0-to-100 point scale for corporate governance on the issue.

Not one of the U.S. airlines ranked above a 10 on the Ceres scale, and on several performance indices, such as "emissions accounting," all three carriers rated a 0. On measures of "board oversight" and "management excecution," the highest score earned by U.S. passenger carriers was a 2. The highest score given to a U.S. carrier was a 5 to AMR Corp. for "strategic planning."

The survey's findings for U.S. airlines contrast with those of carriers British Airways and Air France-KLM Group, which rated scores of 27 and 23, respectively. U.S. based freight carriers also scored higher on the Ceres scale, with United Parcel Service earning a 30 rating, while FedEx Corp. registered an 18.

Mirroring U.S. policy

While U.S. airlines could improve their standing with modest changes in their policies, Cogan acknowledged that the industry's priorities simply reflect those of the federal government, which to date has show little interest in regulating CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

U.S. EPA did tighten emissions standards for nitrogen oxides in 2005, following the lead of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency based in Montreal.

Still, some critics say the measure was insufficient, and at least one lawsuit has been filed against EPA for not doing enough to control NOx from commercial aircraft.

Bill Becker of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies and a plaintiff in the lawsuit against EPA's NOx rule for aircraft, said, "EPA has for many years ignored the serious contribution of air pollution from airplanes," yet there is little opportunity for recourse from U.S.-based advocacy groups because virtually all aircraft emissions standards are set by ICAO.

"You would think that as with many other issues, our country would be a leader on this, just like we are with many other pollution problems," Becker said. "But in aviation, we are at the end of the line. We are following others and aren't really imposing any serious controls on aircraft."

Since 1981, ICAO has tightened standards on aircraft pollution, but the agency has shown less resolve on CO2 and other greenhouse gases, in part because CO2 is a common byproduct of jet fuel combustion and the industry has few alternatives.

In 2004, ICAO called for continued study of policy options "to limit or reduce the environmental impact of emissions, and to develop concrete proposals and provide advice to the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change."

Yet ICAO decided against setting a CO2 standard, in part, because "there is already intense economic pressure to keep fuel consumption to a minimum and, in addition, there would be significant difficulties in designing a certification condition."

Industry favors voluntary approach

It remains to be seen whether ICAO's position will change given the new reality in Europe, where an aviation-specific emissions trading program is on the horizon.

Under the emissions trading scheme, any U.S. carrier flying to and from European destinations would have to account for its emissions in the host country and be subject to E.U.-imposed caps on CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The provision, if finalized, would be implemented in 2011 for European carriers and in 2012 for foreign carriers.

U.S. carriers remain adamantly opposed to the measure. "We certainly do not oppose curbing emissions, but we think the best approach is through a voluntary set of programs," like those advanced by ICAO, ATA's Castelever said. "We don't think telling U.S. carriers you have to fly through some artificially created emissions program is the right answer."

But the Europeans are not likely back down. "Aviation too should make a fair contribution to our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions," E.U. Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in Dec. 20 statement. "Bringing aviation into the EU emissions trading scheme is a cost-effective solution that is good for the environment and treats all airlines equally."

Banks on the path of development cooperation


Banks on the path of development cooperation

Speech by Bert Heemskerk, Chairman of the Executive Board, Rabobank Nederland, at the "Mind the Gap - Bankable approaches to Increase the Access to Finance" Conference, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2 November 2006)

"4 billion people have no access to financial services. If we are to achieve the millenium development goals (a.o. a 50% reduction of poverty) the development of proper financial institutions in developing countries is crucial", said Bert Heemskerk, Chairman of Rabobank's Executive Board, at a recent conference on bankable approaches to increase access to finance.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am pleased to participate in this conference on bankable approaches to increase access to finance. Pleased for two reasons: first because this conference offers an excellent opportunity to stress the importance of organisations like nfx to promote access to finance for poor people in developing countries.

Second reason is because the very roots of Rabobank were also to make financial services available to poor farmers who before that were excluded. The importance of access to financial services for the poor cannot be emphasised enough I think.

Rightly so that Muhammed Yunus and the Grameen bank received the Nobel Peace Prize for their invaluable work in the field of Microfinance. But also here in the Netherlands in recent years a number of initiatives were taken in the field of giving more people access to finance.

One of these initiatives is NFX. NFX is a key instrument in bringing two different parties together, viz microfinance and professional banking. They should not be two separate worlds but two necessary stages in one process.

As already said the history of Rabobank is an excellent example to illustrate this. Cooperative banking was in the 19th century a practical solution to give people low level access to banking services. It effectively was microfinance in those days.

Rabobank emerged indeed in the late 19th century in Dutch rural areas to relieve the poor circumstances farmers lived in. The commercial banks in those days, operating in the big cities, were not prepared to lend money to farmers. Thus farmers were in hands of loan sharks or worse no loans at all.

At the same time, because of modernisation of agriculture, there was a strong need for capital. On the basis of Raiffeisen's principles (individual responsibility, self-governance and self-reliance) local initiatives were taken to establish local cooperative banks. At same time in Germany lived other reformer Karl Marx. Both shared their care for working classes and farmers. Both developed systems.

Marxism failed after 80 years, whereas the credit union financial system prospers with 40.421 credit unions and 123 million customers in 84 countries. These initial mfi's, the very roots of Rabobank, appeared to be very successful. And they were the basis of prosperity in rural areas over the last century in the Netherlands.

And success of its customers is reflected in success of Rabobank itself. Nowadays Rabobank ranks among 30 largest banks worldwide. Crucial in this success from small microfinance institutions to professional full fledged banks was the consolidation of the local co-operative banks (the 'mfi's') into one group.

They indeed established already at the end of the 19th century a central institution (an apex-bank), which today is called Rabobank Nederland. Through this step a strong cooperative group was created which developed into a real bank, offering not only lending, but offering full range services.

Ladies and gentlemen, our example shows, as I said before, that the world of mfi and the banking world are two stages in one process. In our opinion what worked out so well in the 19th and 20th century in rural Holland, could very well be a practical solution in developing countries in the 21st century.

4 billion people have no access to financial services. If we are to achieve the millenium development goals (a.o. A 50% reduction of poverty) the development of proper financial institutions in developing countries is crucial. The western world spends the major part of its development aid for good reasons on health and education. But without sound economic development, sustainability of health and education is at risk.

And not surprisingly as we saw in the Netherlands economic upturn coincides with development of a healthy banking system for which microfinance lays foundation.

To give another example: in his publication 'Hollands Gouden Glorie' Marius van Nieuwkerk stipulates that the golden age in the Netherlands would not haven taken place without a sound banking system. The Amsterdamsche Wisselbank acted as the most important world trade bank.

What do we learn from this?

Microfinance is often the start and the fundament of financial service delivery. Micro finance institutions (mfi's) provide people with opportunities and means to improve their future by f.i. by saving part of their income. For us this all sounds very obvious; but people that never saved, have to put a lot of discipline in their behaviour once they manage to save, they are eligible for credit and this poses an other challenge; how to spend money in a productive manner.

And as a second step mfi's have to develop into full fledged professional banks. Because of our roots Rabobank regards it as a key mission to assist in the development of mfi's into sound banking systems in developing countries.

At the same time however, we need partnerships to realise this ambition. Through more cooperation we can all be more effective in our efforts. Let me show some examples of what Rabobank is doing in developing world and that not just recently but already for three decades:

Already for 30 years Rabobank foundation provides grants and local currency loans for a total amount of € 77 million. It has supported some 1500 local credit co-operatives and other producer co-operatives in some 69 countries like Uganda, Ghana, Honduras, Equador, Latvia, Romania, Albania, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Widely known and acknowledged is our support to Cameroon, where we supported the union bank of Cameroon and its local credit unions for more than 30 years. Now they have 180.000 members and a sustainable position in the market. In India Rabobank is supporting from the start the 'working womens forum' since 1979, the year of the child.

They started with 700 women and are now at 700.000! Their working area includes 1700 slums and 3000 villages.

But Rabobank is also active in developing mfi's into professional banks. Rias (Rabo international advisory services) provided for more than 15 years consultancy and technical assistance to some 100 banks in 50 developing countries. Thus we were instrumental in the development of the Banco Romaneska and Banco Agricola in Romania, the Akiba bank in Tanzania, and the bank for agriculture and agriculture cooperative in Thailand.

In addition, 2 years ago we launched Rabobank development program: Rabobank is set to implement its rural, professional banking model in some 15 countries. The objective in this Rabo development program is indeed to develop micro financial institutions and small credit cooperations into full fledged rural retail banks, offering all services. In this position, Rabobank will act as integrator and it will link up with existing mfi's in order for them to avail of the benefits of a group. We have allocated as first step to invest € 25 million equity in banks. Many Rabobank specialists will be involved in this exercise of sharing knowledge and expertise.

We are setting up an internal training school (class) for those of our staff willing to spend their sabbatical or being seconded for 1-2 years assignments. We will focus on 15 countries only, incl. Brasil, Bolivia, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, Peru, Tanzania and Vietnam.

In Tanzania we took a participation of 37% in NMB Bank of Tanzania. We are making a similar investment in Zambia. But as I said before, partnerships are needed to realise this ambition. In Mozambique for instance we will take part in a new rural bank for microfinance and savings together with partners like Norfund and Kfw. The development agencies of both Norway and the Netherlands support this project also financially.

In all these development activities we indeed wish to cooperate with those institutions in Netherlands and abroad who envisage similar objectives. Thus we (Rabobank foundation) cooperate closely with institutions like Icco & Oikocredit in the Terrafina initiative.

And last week we signed a cooperation agreement with Cordaid targeted at microfinance. Another important partner that complements banking knowledge and skills is Dutch foreign aid from Ministry of Development Cooperation as the most prominent donor.

And last but not least in 2005 the Netherlands Financial Sector Development Exchange (NFX) was created in which all large Dutch banks participate. The objective is to export Dutch expertise in the financial sector. Start-ups of mfi's and their conversion into financial institutions into rural banks do need strong donor support indeed.

We as Rabobank realize that, whatever our efforts are, our help is just a drop in the ocean and our competences as banker are limited. A joint effort one way or another is therefore vital. We hope this meeting will take us a step closer towards a more sustainable future for everybody.

Thank you.


Measuring the development footprint of six multinational companies: A generic framework to measure the contribution and impact of the private sector on the Millenium Development Goals (MDG) has been developed and will be made available as a web-based tool to companies


Measuring the development footprint of six multinational companies

A generic framework to measure the contribution and impact of the private sector on the Millenium Development Goals (MDG) has been developed and will be made available as a web-based tool to companies that wish to measure their own contributions to the MDGs.

In 2005, the Dutch National Committee for International Cooperation and Sustainable Development (NCDO) commissioned Dutch Sustainability Research (DSR) to develop a generic framework that measured the contributions of the private sector and civil society to all eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The framework was revised in 2006 to focus on measuring the impact and indirect contributions of the private sector to the MDGs.

The new MDG framework includes 77 indicators consisting of a series of questions that investigate policies, management systems and performance, both positive and negative.

The six companies measured in the study were ABN AMRO, TNT, Philips, Heineken, BHP Billiton and Akzo Nobel. DSR collected and analyzed public and corporate information of the participants and allocated scores within the MDG framework.

The results were discussed with the participating companies and new information was incorporated into the framework.

Key Findings

  • The study found that all six participating companies contribute positively to the MDGs and have taken proactive steps towards implementing the MDGs into their operations.
  • Some of the companies tested contribute directly to the MDGs by developing products and services particularly aimed at developing countries while others have limited opportunity to contribute to the MDGs due to the nature of their business. The contributions of these companies are exclusively derived from how the companies operate in developing countries.
  • The framework provides useful insights when looking at a single company's performance over time or when comparing companies within the same sector but is limited in terms of the comparability across different sectors.
In 2007, NCDO aims to launch a web-based tool with which companies can independently measure their MDG contributions.

Further information

Oil price surges on Bush proposal: President George W Bush yesterday triggered the largest one-day jump in oil prices in 16 months when he set out plans in his State of the Union speech to double the US strategic oil reserves and reduce dependence on foreign oil


Oil price surges on Bush proposal

By Caroline Daniel in Washington

Published: January 24 2007 02:00 | Last updated: January 24 2007 02:00

President George W Bush yesterday triggered the largest one-day jump in oil prices in 16 months when he set out plans in his State of the Union speech to double the US strategic oil reserves and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

Oil prices rose 4.7 per cent to $55 a barrel after Mr Bush pledged to double the size of the reserves by 1.5bn barrels by 2027. Sam Bodman, energy secretary, predicted that his department would start "purchasing crude oil in the spring at a rate of about 100,000 barrels per day".

The speech marked Mr Bush's strongest effort yet to slow the growth of greenhouse gases. His plan would cut US demand for petrol by 20 per cent over the next 10 years by raising fuel-economy standards and setting targets for a shift to alternative fuels. "The plan will confront climate change by stopping the projected growth of carbon-dioxide emissions from cars, light trucks and SUVs within 10 years," according to a White House document ahead of the speech.

That goal marks a significant shift for the White House towards focusing on the need to address domestic demand for oil. It bows to pressure from international leaders for the US to act on climate change and recognises that Democrats have radically shifted the focus of energy policy towards energy efficiency.

The president prepared his address facing a newly assertive Congress and the lowest approval ratings for any president ahead of a State of the Union since Richard Nixon in 1974. Dan Bartlett, White House counsellor, said the speech reflected the fact that officials were "under no illusions about the atmosphere we are operating in".

Amid rising Republican dissent about Mr Bush's plans for a surge of 21,500 troops in Iraq, Mr Bush defended his strategy. Officials said he would not ratchet up the rhetoric about Iran and would "explain why it is time for the Iraqi government to act".

Tesco boss hits back in stores inquiry


Tesco boss hits back in stores inquiry

By Elizabeth Rigby, Michael Peel and Jim Pickard

Published: January 24 2007 02:00 | Last updated: January 24 2007 02:00

Sir Terry Leahy led a Tesco rearguard action yesterday after the Competition Commission singled out the supermarket chain in its inquiry into the £120bn a year grocery market.

The chief executive of the UK's biggest retailer went on the offensive after Peter Freeman, the commission's chairman, named Tesco as a potential cause for concern.

"We plucked the question [of its dominance] out of the undergrowth, not because we see Tesco as the target, but others have focused on it," said Mr Freeman. "We are not here to punish success or individual retailers, but we are concerned whether Tesco, or any other supermarket, can get into such a strong position, either nationally or locally, that no other retailer can compete effectively."

Sir Terry said the inquiry was "more and more about less and less". "Any evidence that has come forward has dispelled many of the myths which have been asserted predominantly by our competitors, whether that has been on suppliers, on land or pricing policies."

His attack came after rivals complained that Tesco's pipeline of new stores could give it irrevers-ible dominance. Tesco is thought to have a claim to at least 50 per cent of the 1,000 land holdings that the commission is believed to have found supermarkets are stockpiling.

However, the commission has denied a suggestion by J Sainsbury that Tesco's market share could swell to 43 per cent by 2010 on the back of its pipeline.

Sir Terry attacked Sainsbury, saying: "That projected share is nonsense, so what does that say of the credibility of the evidence provided by that party?"

It is not Tesco's national might that concerns Mr Freeman; he is seeking to determine whether competition is working at the local level. In pursuit of that goal, yesterday's "emerging thinking" document highlighted two main areas for study.

First, are super-markets using planning laws and land banks - land acquired without there necessarily being specific plans for development - to hinder competition? Second, are suppliers living in a "climate of fear" as the big four chains march ever onwards?

"We will be looking at the local market going forward and the planning system and uses of land. But we are also still looking at supply-chain issues and I would not want to think that area had been closed off," he said.

The commission is studying land banks to see if supermarkets are using their holdings against competition. "We know about the extent of retailer's land holdings, but it's how these are used at local level, and the related effect of the planning system, that matters," said Mr Freeman. It would be a "cause for concern" if the chains were in a position to increase prices because of a lack of effective competition.

The watchdog is thought to have identified up to 1,000 sites, owned by, or managed by a third party on behalf of, the six biggest chains - Tesco, Asda, J Sainsbury, Wm Morrison, Somerfield and Waitrose. That could represent up to 16m sq ft of new floor space based on the average size of a supermarket. Space now stands at 186.5m sq ft, says IGD, the food and grocery research body, which thinks it could grow to 189.7m sq ft in 2011.

It is understood the commission's estimates of land holdings are more than twice the 451 sites the Office of Fair Trading identified when it referred the sector to the watchdog last May.

Lawyers and property experts said the planning issue was not the hot potato some had expected.

Ian Anderson, director of retail planning at CB Richard Ellis, property advisers, said supermarkets did not buy sites solely to block rivals, given that a plot could cost between £10m to £20m.

The commission hopes to publish its final report by November.

Additional reporting by William MacNamara

Six years in, Bush gives warming his State of the Union debut


Six years in, Bush gives warming his State of the Union debut

E&E Daily, 24 January 2007 - Until last night, President Bush had never specifically mentioned global warming in a State of the Union speech. But appearing for the first time before a Congress entirely controlled by Democrats, Bush yesterday touted the climate change benefits associated with a pair of domestic energy proposals for automobile efficiency and alternative fuels.

"America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil," Bush said. "And these technologies will help us be better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change."

Bush's comments drew a standing ovation from most Democrats in the House chamber. About half of the Republicans were swept to their feet, as well.

As is customary after a State of the Union speech, lawmakers were quick to search for the meanings and motivations behind just a few remarks -- particularly because they come with Democrats planning to advance legislation that aims to curb heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.

"I think people stood up because he mentioned the words," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, in an interview after the address.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said she was looking across the aisle during the climate change section and noticed Democrats "who were smiling broadly just at the mere mention."

Murkowski added, "If you look at what he said, it was not that significant a statement in the sense of what do we do about it. But the simple fact he used the phrase and acknowledged that it is an issue we must deal with, I think for many is a very strong signal."

"He didn't say much about it, but he at least acknowledged it is here," commented Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), the ranking member of a key House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the environment, said Bush's remarks were more than an acknowledgment of man-made climate change. They were an "olive branch" to Democrats on the issue.

"Isn't it a success for his opponents that he said something?" Shimkus said. "I've got to believe it is a start of a dialogue with the executive branch. He's got to sign a bill. That's his trump card. He's at least said the words."

The White House package

Bush's climate comments came packaged with a pair of energy proposals designed for the transportation sector of the U.S. economy, the source of about a third of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. While Bush did not go into specifics in his speech, the White House earlier in the day did release a "fact sheet" describing the benefits of its proposals.

By 2017, Bush's new energy policies would cut annual emissions from cars and light trucks by as much as 10 percent, the White House said.

That's 175 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or equal to zeroing out the emissions of 26 million automobiles. Over a decade, the White House also trumpeted data saying their plan "could cumulatively prevent the buildup of more than 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions."

White House spokesman Tony Snow said, "The carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles and other such sources will actually stabilize and begin to decline in future years. So that's a very significant goal."

Environmentalists did not dispute the White House's figures, but they did question how much of a contribution the new policies would have when the nation's overall emission rates remain uncapped and seem likely to continue rising.

Dan Lashof of the Natural Resources Defense Council said that overall U.S. emissions over the next decade will be roughly 70 billion metric tons. The White House's 600-million-metric-ton figure, he explained, pales in comparison. "The bottom line is U.S. emissions are going up," he said.

Achieving 'critical mass'

Several Democrats said Bush's remarks were a starting point for upcoming climate debates, but they planned to go much further.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said Bush "has missed a real opportunity" by not endorsing a mandatory cap-and-trade program. Bingaman holds the first climate change hearing of the 110th Congress today and also plans a Feb. 13 session on a recent report on the economics of climate change from former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern.

Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), the chairman of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, said he planned to tack a global warming resolution onto the upcoming fiscal 2008 spending bill for U.S. EPA that would put lawmakers on record in support of limiting emissions. The language would be identical to a measure Dicks almost succeeded in attaching to EPA's budget last year.

Some Hill Republicans, meanwhile, said they were interested in examining climate change issues but urged Democrats to tackle it with moderation.

"There are approaches you can do that are not harmful to industry," Shimkus said. "If you approach it in a manner that has a compromise, and you bring in industry and business and try to get to an objective without doing great harm to job expansion, let's give it a look."

Asked about recent Republican interest in global warming, Murkowksi replied, "It's more of a recognition that we are getting to that critical mass on an issue where we know we've got to do something about it. There is a level of consciousness amongst our constituents, amongst the public, that pushes Congress to act. I think that's where it is. I don't necessarily view it as an erosion, but as more of a recognition and perhaps an awakening that it may be fast upon us that we need to act legislatively."

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, issued a press release questioning Bush's commitment to nuclear power as part of the solution to global warming. "Nuclear energy received only a passing mention in his speech," Domenici said. "Expanding our use of nuclear power is the single most significant thing we can do to confront climate change."

A long-standing opponent to mandatory climate programs showed no sign of budging. Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) said he and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) remain in the same camp against mandatory programs to deal with global warming. "That's a pretty good combination bipartisan way of saying cap and trade and command and control does not work," Craig said.

Yet Dingell issued a statement critical of Bush's view. "I'm glad the president raised the issue of climate change, but addressing this problem will require a broader vision," he said. "Unfortunately, the president did not offer significant new initiatives to implement this subject of growing public concern. Addressing climate change will require a substantial contribution from every sector of our economy."

Subtle changes at the White House?

Off Capitol Hill, sources tracking the climate policy debate gave Bush mixed reviews.

Myron Ebell of the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute said he wanted Bush to delve deeper into how mandatory emission limits in some other countries have not worked.

The president of the League of Conservation Voters, Gene Karpinski, criticized the White House for falling short of his expectations.

"President Bush's rhetoric and goals on global warming have improved, but his proposed solutions are flawed and inadequate," Karpinski said. "His plan to address global warming is like fighting a forest fire with a garden hose."

Sensing an opening was Jason Grumet, executive director of the National Commission on Energy Policy. Grumet said the administration's support for two new energy mandates marks a shift in the White House's thinking on environmental issues -- and it could be a precursor to even greater movement on climate change.

"They're explicitly noting the climate benefits as a rationale for the mandates," Grumet said. "The idea of supporting a broader market-based mandate seems much closer to the moment than it might of a few months ago. To the extent the administration's support for voluntary measures was a strongly held philosophical notion, that philosophical line has just been crossed."

Senior reporter Ben Geman contributed to this report.

23.1.07

Several big American firms call for mandatory measures to cut greenhouse-gas emissions: more than four-fifths of the electric power industry’s top managers expected binding carbon-emissions mandates to be in place within a decade


The business of climate change

Jan 23rd 2007
From Economist.com

Several big American firms call for mandatory measures to cut greenhouse-gas emissions

Photodisc

FOR a country that is often cast as evil incarnate when it comes to the environment, America has amassed an impressive array of green credentials of late. Even the National Football League plans to offset the greenhouse gases generated by this year's Super Bowl in February. The day before George Bush was due to use the state-of-the-union message to unveil his latest environmental measures, some of America's biggest firms made their move. On Monday January 22nd, ten big corporations, including General Electric, Alcoa, DuPont and Duke Energy, in cahoots with leading environmental groups, called for measures to combat global warming.

America produces a quarter of the world's greenhouse gases, the main causes of global warming. America refused to ratify the Kyoto protocol and so far efforts to regulate emissions have been piecemeal and usually at state level. The US Climate Action Partnership is seeking to change this. It wants a mandatory nationwide cap on emissions of carbon-dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, and reductions by as much as 30% from today's levels, within the next 15 years. It also calls for a carbon-trading system and strongly discourages the building of coal-fired power stations, unless technology allows them to operate more cleanly. The latter belch out carbon dioxide at a significantly quicker pace than other electricity-generating plants.

 

The new formal rules would impose something of a burden on their proponents (though perhaps other sorts of business might suffer more). But there seem to be strong reasons why American firms would want to act now. In part it is becoming clear that mandatory federal controls over carbon emissions are on the cards anyway. Leading politicians have become more receptive to proposals to mitigate climate change in the past few years.

California, so often at the forefront of green thinking (and action) in America, last year introduced legislation to cut greenhouse gases by a quarter in the state by 2020. Seven north-eastern states have joined together to force power generators to reduce emissions too. In a case currently under consideration by the Supreme Court, a dozen states (including California and those in the north-east) are suing the federal government to force it to curb carbon-dioxide emissions, using laws drafted to regulate pollution from vehicles. And the pressure from the states is being supplemented in Washington, DC.

Since the Democrats captured both houses of Congress in November, a welter of federal environmental bills have been proposed. Nancy Pelosi, the new speaker of the House, wants a special committee to produce laws to help the diversification of energy supplies and cut greenhouse gases. Barbara Boxer, leader of the Senate's environment and public works committee, has organised a hearing on January 30th when senators will be encouraged to introduce their own legislation to combat global warming. She considers mandatory caps essential and has given warning to Mr Bush that the bipartisan support likely for such bills will make it tricky for him to use a veto.

The flurry of legislative activity has spurred the companies to act, as mandatory caps seem to become inevitable. A poll last year suggested that more than four-fifths of the electric power industry's top managers expected binding carbon-emissions mandates to be in place within a decade. The goal of the firms, therefore, is to influence legislators and avoid laws that are too burdensome or costly. As important, firms would prefer to see a consistent national system, without the uncertainty of environmental rules that change between states. Getting a predictable system in place early would also allow firms to make informed decisions over long-term projects, for example in building factories and power plants.

The firms may have also made a canny political move. Although Mr Bush promptly rejected the proposals in favour of his own plans to foster alternative sources of energy to fossil fuels, many other leading politicians—including several contenders for next year's presidential election—favour mandatory caps.

Abundant Geothermal Energy - Assessing the potential of a neglected energy source.


Thanks to Norbert for this one

Content:

http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/posts.aspx?id=17509



Monday, January 22, 2007
Abundant Geothermal Energy
Assessing the potential of a neglected energy source.
By Kevin Bullis

Concerns about global warming and volatile energy prices have researchers and policymakers dusting off projects from earlier energy crises to find ways to produce abundant clean energy. Now a comprehensive report concludes that drilling wells to harvest heat deep underground--a project first financed by the government in the 1970s and 1980s--could meet ten percent of the United States' current massive energy needs in less that fifty years, and provide much more than that in the future. But it will take sustained investment to make this happen.

Technology Review talked to one of the leaders of the report last summer about the potential of geothermal energy. (See Abundant Power from Universal Geothermal Energy.) The new 400-page report, along with an executive summary, can be found here.

Copyright Technology Review 2007.





Idaho National Laboratory

  • Geothermal Energy The Idaho National Laboratory is operated for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology by Battelle Energy Alliance

    Department of Energy

    • Geothermal Energy
    Geothermal Energy
    Photo of Old Faithful

    Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park

    The mission of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Geothermal Program is to work in partnership with U.S. industry to establish geothermal energy as an economically competitive contributor to the U.S. energy supply. Since 1974, the INL has been a key laboratory in executing the Department of Energy's Geothermal Program, investigating and developing geothermal resource technologies for both direct use and electricity generation, particularly those resources considered marginally economical. Working closely with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and other national laboratories, the INL ensures availability of nationally recognized geothermal leadership to implement a successful national program. Working with both the states and the DOE, INL has assumed leadership in optimizing the region's geothermal resources. INL is the lead laboratory for the DOE Geothermal Energy Program's geoscience research, focused on characterization and management of geothermal reservoirs. INL also coordinates the international geothermal program for DOE as well as both managing and performing research and development activities on many of the other major activities in DOE's Geothermal Program, including the Heat Cycle, Enhanced Geothermal Systems, and Exploration programs.

    In addition, the INL is a key participant in GeoPowering the West. This DOE activity is targeted at reducing cost and increasing deployment of geothermal electric and direct-use applications in the western United States.

    NEW

    "The Future of Geothermal Energy – Impact of Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) on the United States in the 21st Century," a report prepared by an MIT-led interdisciplinary panel, was released to the public January 22, 2007. The report suggests that 100,000 MWe of electrical generation capacity can be met through EGS within 50 years with a modest investment in R&D. (14.1MB PDF)

    See all publications.

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    Joel Renner, (208) 526-9824,
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BT renews and extends its climate change commitments: The way to disarm the cynics is to show that these positive actions also make good business sense - we look forward to BT demonstrably proving this case.


TELECOMS AND SOFTWARE NEWS

Mike Cansfield

BT renews and extends its climate change commitments

BT has both renewed and extended its commitments to reduce carbon emissions and increase use of renewable energy resources. It announced yesterday that it has extended its Green Energy contracts with npower and British Gas who will provide it with 1 terawatt (TWh) from renewable energy sources and 1.2 TWh of accredited combined heat and power (CHP). BT has also pledged to further reduce carbon emissions (already down by 60% between 1996 and 2006) and incorporate environmental factors into procurement processes going forward.

Comment: In a EuroView Daily article before Christmas - see The environment is no longer a marginal issue (EuroView Daily, 21 December) - we concluded by saying the environment and climate change is a strategic hot topic because it makes business sense. Today's announcement is the second of two initiatives taken by BT in one area this month.

On 12 January the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) set up a climate change task force. The task force is chaired by BT's CEO Ben Verwaayen, and comprises Barclays' Chairman Marcus Agius, BP MD Iain Conn, Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy, and BA CEO Willie Walsh. As the CBI director-general said, 'The time for debate_..has passed. The science is clear. The challenge now is for the business community, government and society as a whole to decide how to respond'.

BT's announcements yesterday were all about stepping up to the plate on the issue of climate change and the environment. This shows through in terms of what it is doing as a buyer and consumer. As a buyer it is making it clear to its suppliers that to win their business they will have to show their green credentials. This is seen through the renewal of its 2004 Green Energy contract, and the approach to procurement in the future. But as a consumer BT is also pledging (a good choice of word) to do more itself to reduce what it does by its own actions (e.g. energy consumption of data centres, engaging its own workforce to reduce their personal carbon footprints) to address the climate change issue.

BT's press release included quotations from BT, npower, and British gas but also included comments by Steve Howard CEO of The Climate Group (an independent non-profit organisation dedicated to advancing climate change issues) and David Miliband the UK government's Environmental Secretary. Clearly BT has a lot of backing on this initiative. Despite (and because) of this it is also tempting to dismiss this as PR and spin, but to do so is to take the role of curmudgeon too far.

Credit should be given where credit is due. Well done BT we say. We look for more in the industry to follow this lead.  The way to disarm the cynics is to show that these positive actions also make good business sense - we look forward to BT demonstrably proving this case.


Watchdog urges overhaul of green energy scheme: Developers of renewable energy schemes such as wind farms are profiteering from the Government's drive to curb carbon emissions by making customers pay more for their electricity than is necessary


Watchdog urges overhaul of green energy scheme
By Michael Harrison, Business Editor
Published: 23 January 2007

Developers of renewable energy schemes such as wind farms are profiteering from the Government's drive to curb carbon emissions by making customers pay more for their electricity than is necessary, the energy regulator Ofgem warned yesterday.

Publishing figures which reveal that the cost of the so-called "renewables obligation" is at least eight times greater than other schemes designed to combat climate change, Ofgem called for a wholesale shake-up of the current arrangements.

The obligation works by requiring energy suppliers to buy a certain proportion of their electricity from renewable sources or buy certificates to cover the shortfall. The cost of this is then passed on to the end customer.

Ofgem calculates that since the obligation was introduced in 2002 customers have been overcharged by £740m. The scheme adds £7 to the average annual bill at present, but by 2015 this will have risen to £20. At present, 5 per cent of the UK's electricity comes from renewable sources, but this is due to rise to 20 per cent by 2020.

The regulator said the way the scheme worked meant that customers paid more even if renewable generation projects did not get built or were delayed, for instance by planning problems.

It also said that because the level of subsidy under the scheme was not linked to the wholesale price of electricity or the market price of carbon, developers were benefiting at customers' expense, as electricity prices rose. "This is leading to much higher returns for current renewable generators than investors expected or required."

The regulator calculates that it costs between £184 and £481 to cut a tonne of carbon under the renewables obligation. This compares with a cost of between £12 and £70 under the European Union's emissions trading scheme and £18 to £40 under the Climate Change Levy.

The Department for Trade and Industry last night rejected Ofgem's criticisms, saying: "The Renewables Obligation is here to stay." However, it is proposing changes to the obligation so that subsidies are banded according to the type and cost of technology involved.

Ofgem said this did not go far enough, and called for a new scheme under which the level of subsidy is linked to the wholesale electricity price and long-term contracts are auctioned to guarantee renewable developers a fixed return.

Alistair Buchanan, chief executive of Ofgem, said: "We think that a review of the scheme could provide more carbon reductions and promote renewable generation at a lower cost to consumers who are already facing higher energy bills."

Companies make time for flexible hours: managers of Microsoft's MSN portal in the UK were shocked to find that 64 per cent of staff were thinking of quitting because they were fed up with having to work long hours in the office


Companies make time for flexible hours

By Alison Maitland

Published: January 23 2007 02:00 | Last updated: January 23 2007 02:00

In an employee survey just over two years ago, managers of Microsoft's MSN portal in the UK were shocked to find that 64 per cent of staff were thinking of quitting because they were fed up with having to work long hours in the office.

The company set about changing the culture to one of "management by objectives", in which employees can work hours that suit them provided they meet their commitments, keep colleagues and customers in-formed of their availability and adapt their schedules if necessary.

Productivity and customer service improved sharply, says Dave Gartenberg, the human resources director of Microsoft UK.

While staff with young children benefited, about three-quarters of MSN's, mostly young, employees did not have children and used the flexibility to pursue outside interests - including one who learned to play polo.

Central to the programme, which has since been rolled out across Microsoft UK, was that managers should lead by example. Mr Gartenberg gets home most evenings in time to eat with his three young sons, dealing withe-mails after they have gone to bed.

Bronwen Kunhardt, head of citizenship and a UK board director, works one day a week in the office and the rest from home.

Ninety per cent of the 2,400 employees now take advantage of flexible hours in one form or another, Mr Gartenberg says. "We see this as a competitive advantage."

Staff attrition last year was 7 per cent compared with an industry average of 15 per cent. In a recent staff survey, 80 per cent said they planned to stay for four years or more.

Microsoft's experience is an example of how flexible working can serve the interests of the business as well as its employees, says a report published today by Britain's Equal Opportunities Commission.

"Innovation and technology provide the potential to redefine the way we work so that businesses can operate longer and achieve better results faster in more varied ways - and with a modern, flexible and productive workforce," says the interim report of a two-year investigation by the EOC into the future of work.

This transformation would boost the economy, bringing millions of people back into work, helping businesses meet 24-hour customer dem-and, reducing traffic congestion by staggering rush hours and responding to the aspirations of today's workforce, it says.

New research for the EOC shows that 52 per cent of men and 48 per cent of women would like more flexible hours. This trend is likely to grow as more people study, more women work, the population ages and retirement is pushed back.

Yet many employers continue to see flexible working as a minority issue, treating it purely as an employee benefit aimed at parents of young children, which often equates with reduced hours, lower pay and poor career prospects, the report says.

"The way we work is still largely designed around a mid-20th century lifestyle - sole-breadwinner men with stay-at-home wives.

"This is a 'thing of the past' for new generations. Increasingly, people of both sexes are seeking spatial and time flexibility - doing the same work but at different times and in different places, for the same pay."

Andrew Woolley, a former partner in a big Midlands law firm, set up as a "virtual" solicitor more than a decade ago to avoid the high cost of premises by usinge-mail, a website, a phone and software to serve clients swiftly.

As the business grew, he found he was hiring high-quality lawyers from other big firms attracted by the above-average pay and flexibility he offered.

"The last person to join us said his main reason was so that he could have more time with his kids," says Mr Woolley. "He takes a couple of hours during the day to look after them, then works in the evening."

His 10 solicitors, who specialise in divorce and business cases, operate from their homes across the country. The head office is a post office box in his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon. All support functions are outsourced.

Mr Woolley says flexible working has never been an issue with clients. "We try very hard to - and normally do - answer calls ourselves. Our service standards re-quire us to respond within one working day to any message.

"The guiding principle is that the client has to be able to get hold of their lawyer and be kept happy."

If Tesco and Wal-Mart are friends of the earth, are there any enemies left? The superstores compete to convince us they are greener than their rivals, but they are locked into unsustainable growth


If Tesco and Wal-Mart are friends of the earth, are there any enemies left?


The superstores compete to convince us they are greener than their rivals, but they are locked into unsustainable growth


George Monbiot
Tuesday January 23, 2007

The Guardian

You batter your head against the door until you begin to wonder whether it is a door at all. Suddenly it opens, and you find yourself flying through space. The superstores' green conversion is astonishing, wonderful, disorientating. If Tesco and Wal-Mart have become friends of the earth, are there any enemies left?

These were the most arrogant of the behemoths. They have trampled their suppliers, their competitors and even their regulators. They have smashed local economies, broken the backs of the farmers, forced their contractors to drive down wages, shrugged off complaints with a superciliousness born of the knowledge that they were unchallengeable. For them, it seemed, there was no law beyond the market, no place too precious to be destroyed, no cost they could not pass on to someone else.


We environmentalists developed a picture of the world that seemed to be repeatedly confirmed by experience. Big corporations destroy the environment. They are the enemies of society. The bigger they become, the less they can be constrained by democracy or consumer power. The politics of scale permit them to bully governments, tear up standards, and reshape the world to suit them. We also recognised that this was a dialectical process. As businesses began to operate globally, so could the campaigns against them. By improving global communications and ensuring that we could all speak their language, they helped us to confront them more effectively.

But hardly anyone believed that change could happen so fast. Through the 80s and 90s, they brushed us off like dust. Then, as a result of powerful campaigns against sweatshops in the US and Europe, some of the big clothing and sports retailers broke ranks. Soon after that, the energy companies started announcing big investments in renewable technologies (though not, unfortunately, any corresponding disinvestments in fossil fuel). But the supermarkets have shifted faster than anyone else. Environmental campaigners are partly responsible (listen to how the superstore bosses keep name-checking the green pressure groups); even so, their sudden conversion leaves us reeling.

Embarrassingly, for those of us who have scorned the idea of corporate social responsibility, some of these companies now claim to be setting higher standards than any government would dare to impose on them. Marks and Spencer, for example, has promised to become carbon neutral, to cease sending waste to landfill by 2012, and to stop stocking any fish, wood or paper that has not been sustainably sourced. Tesco promises to attach a carbon label to all its goods. Wal-Mart now says it will run its US stores entirely on renewable energy.

These standards, moreover, are rather higher than those the British government sets for itself. M&S has pledged to use carbon offsets (paying other people to make cuts on its behalf) only as "a last resort". The government uses them as a first resort. Could it be true, as the neoliberals insist, that markets can do more to change the world than governments? If so, it reflects democratic failure as much as market success. Held back by forces both real and imagined, politicians have failed to confront the environmental crisis, just as they have failed to tackle inequality, or to challenge the power of the White House, the media barons, the corporations and the banks. The choice between two rival brands of margarine appears to have become more meaningful than the choice between Labour and the Conservatives.

It is also true to say that The Wal-Mart Effect is a real one. When a huge company changes course, the impact is felt all over the world. One positive decision by the leviathan rumbles more widely than a thousand decisions by its smaller competitors. But those of us who have fought for the environment and against big business have not yet become redundant. There is plenty to celebrate in the recent announcements and plenty to suspect.

Tesco, for example, has made some bold commitments, to which it might eventually be held. At the moment they are weeviled with contradictions and evasions. In his speech on Thursday, the company's chief executive, Sir Terry Leahy, spoke of the sophisticated new refrigeration techniques that Tesco will use, which will allow it to reduce its consumption of climate changing gases called hydrofluorocarbons. But at no point did he mention an environmental technology called the door. How can you claim your stores are sustainable if the fridges and freezers don't have doors?

Tesco's press officer was unable to tell me whether the energy savings the company has promised (50% per square metre by 2010) will be independently audited. If not, the promise is worthless - a company can make any claim it likes if there is no outside body to hold it to account.

Leahy announced that he would respond to one of the biggest complaints of the green groups by cutting the distance Tesco's products travel, especially by air. He would also switch some of the chain's road freight (he did not say how much) to rail. But he said nothing about reducing the journeys made by his customers. Shopping accounts for 20% of car journeys in the UK, and 12% of the distance covered. By closing their out-of-town stores and replacing them with warehouses and deliveries, the supermarket chains could reduce the energy costs of their buildings and (according to government figures) cut the transport emissions caused by shopping by 70%.

Today, the Competition Commission publishes the initial results of its inquiry into the market dominance of the superstores. One of the issues it is investigating is the "land bank" accumulated by Tesco - a huge portfolio of sites on which the company appears to be sitting until it can obtain planning permission. Many of them are out of town. If Tesco develops them, it will drag even more cars on to the road. Out-of-town shopping is incompatible with sustainability.

So, perhaps, is the sheer scale of the business. Wal-Mart and Tesco can change the world at the stroke of a pen, but one decision they will not make voluntarily is to relax their grip on local economies. It will always be harder for small businesses to work with a global behemoth than with the local baker or butcher; Tesco's economy will continue to favour the big, distant supplier over the man down the road. And what of the sense of community that independent small shops help to foster, which encourages people to make their friends close to home? If love miles are the most intractable cause of climate change, we need to start cultivating as much community spirit as we can.

But there is a bigger contradiction than this, which has been overlooked by the supermarkets and by many of their critics. "The green movement," Leahy tells us, "must become a mass movement in green consumption." But what about consuming less? Less is the one thing the superstores cannot sell us. As further efficiencies become harder to extract, their growth will eventually outstrip all their reductions in the use of energy. This is not Tesco's problem alone: the green movement's alternatives still lack force.

The big retailers are competing to convince us that they are greener than their rivals, and this should make us glad. But we still need governments, and we still need campaigners.

www.monbiot.com

French nuclear group moves into green power business: Areva, the world's biggest builder of nuclear power stations, yesterday signalled an expansion drive in renewable energy by offering to buy German wind-turbine maker REpower


French nuclear group moves into green power business


David Gow in Brussels
Tuesday January 23, 2007

The Guardian

French energy group Areva, the world's biggest builder of nuclear power stations, yesterday signalled an expansion drive in renewable energy by offering to buy German wind-turbine maker REpower in a deal valuing it at €850m (£560m).

The French group, which already owns 29.99% of REpower, said it was seeking a majority stake in the German company and could take this as high as 100% control. Its offer is a 17% premium to REpower's close on Friday.

Areva, which is helping to build western Europe's first nuclear power plant for 20 years in Finland and is suffering losses on the contract because of delays, is already active in building biomass-fuelled power plants, mainly in Brazil, and owns Jeumont, a small business making and maintaining windmills.

Areva became an investor in Repower in 2005. The offer for the remaining stock would add sales of about €450m and is timed with a global surge in wind-power projects as national governments seek to cut carbon emissions and reduce dependence on oil and gas.

It said its plans to take over REpower, which is 25% owned by a Portuguese company, reflected its strategy of investing in carbon-free electricity generation which would be what Anne Lauvergeon, the chief executive, called "the driver of utilities in the years to come."

The German company, which employs 740, specialises in producing bigger offshore turbines capable of generating 5 megawatts and is the country's third-largest manufacturer. It had installed 142 turbines by mid-2006, with an order book for a further 821. It is active in France, Britain and the US and has joint ventures in China and India. Ms Lauvergeon said she hoped to complete the deal in the second quarter after winning the backing of the German company's management . "Being in a position to provide financial guarantees for large-scale offshore projects will accelerate REpower's development," she said.

Areva, which had global sales of €10bn in 2005, has warned that last year's operating income would be significantly lower because of the Finnish problems. It is a driving force behind the EU's campaign to promote new generation nuclear plants in European countries willing to embrace the controversial technology.

22.1.07

Companies Press Bush, Congress on Climate: Ten major US corporations are joining environmental groups to press President George W. Bush and Congress to address climate change more rapidly.


Companies Press Bush, Congress on Climate
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US: January 22, 2007


NEW YORK - Ten major US corporations are joining environmental groups to press President George W. Bush and Congress to address climate change more rapidly.


The coalition, including Alcoa Inc., General Electric Co., DuPont Co. and Duke Energy Corp., plans to publicize its recommendations on Monday, a day ahead of the president's annual State of the Union address, the Natural Resources Defense Council said.

The group, known as the United States Climate Action Partnership, also includes Caterpillar Inc., PG&E, the FPL Group PNM Resources Inc., BP America Inc. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.

"Caterpillar believes in the need for a market-based approach to the aggressive development of current and future clean technologies that reduce emissions and sustain the environment," Chief Executive Jim Owens said in a statement.

The group will call for a nationwide limit on carbon dioxide emissions that would lead to reductions of 10 percent to 30 percent over the next 15 years, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

According to a draft of the principles, obtained by Reuters, the coalition would also call for a market-based emissions trading program and emission reductions from the transportation sector.

The group also plans to strongly discourage building new coal-fired power plants that cannot easily capture and store carbon dioxide emissions. Coal-fired plants produce significantly more greenhouse gases than other types of power plants.

There is currently no viable technology available to capture carbon dioxide emissions.


COMPANIES JOCKEY FOR POSITION

Few of the companies in the group have much to lose from setting limits on greenhouse emissions.

PNM Resources and Duke Energy derive a portion of their power generation from coal, but the other utilities in the group have little coal-fired generation.

And Duke Energy is positioned well for a carbon-limited world because "it is already a substantial nuclear power," said Kevin Book, senior analyst at Friedman, Billings & Ramsey.

GE is making a big push into alternative energy, with products ranging from wind turbines to solar power equipment, and Caterpillar builds diesel engines using low-emission technology.

The companies are trying to work out the rules now before the end of the Bush presidency. Many of the leading presidential candidates, both Republican and Democrat, have come out in support of some type of emission controls.

"It's choosing the devil you know over the devil you don't know," said Peter Fusaro, chairman of energy advisers Global Change Associates.

Friedman, Billings & Ramsey's Book said companies are trying to get certainty for the future and to prevent something draconian from passing.

The Democratic party retook Congress this year and party leaders indicated that the control of greenhouse gas emissions, widely blamed for global warming, would be a priority.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday she is forming a special committee aimed at producing legislation that would diversify the nation's energy supply and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Bush will also likely address climate change in his annual speak to Congress next week. Sources familiar with White House plans on Tuesday said Bush will call for a massive increase in US ethanol usage and tweak climate-change policy, but will stop short of pushing for mandatory emissions caps.

"The companies now recognize carbon limits are coming and they want to get ahead of the game a little bit by shaping what limits will be," said Frank O'Donnell, President of Clean Air Watch in Washington, D.C., which is not part of the coalition.

Still, some business leaders believe that despite the momentum for climate-change legislation, not much will be accomplished during the next two years.

"Little will be accomplished substantively," David Parker, chief executive of the American Gas Association, a natural gas trade group, told an industry luncheon on Thursday. (Additional reporting by Robert MacMillan, Tim Gardner, Dan Wilchins, Michael Erman, Matt Daily and Euan Rocha in New York, and Scott Malone in Boston)

Calls to Act on Global Warming Precede Bush Speech: Bush is expected to call for a big increase in the use of ethanol in Tuesday's speech, but probably will not advocate limits on the emission of greenhouse gases


Calls to Act on Global Warming Precede Bush Speech
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US: January 22, 2007


WASHINGTON - Environmentalists, evangelical Christians and congressional and corporate leaders have called for action on global warming in the days leading up to President George W. Bush's State of the Union speech.


Interest is particularly keen because of what Bush said in last year's address to Congress and the nation: that "America is addicted to oil" and that this addiction should be broken with technological advances and alternative fuels.

Since then, environmental activists and others concerned about the impact of global climate change -- more severe storms, destructive droughts, rising sea levels and higher insurance costs -- have looked for substantial steps from the White House.

Many have expressed disappointment. Bush's 2006 State of the Union speech may have unduly raised expectations, said Ben Lieberman of the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

"I thought using the extreme rhetoric last year -- 'addicted to oil' -- was a mistake, because it could make people expect extreme action, and there really hasn't been," Lieberman said in a telephone interview.

Asked what the Bush administration has done in the last year to cut US dependence on oil, federal officials said highlights include a US$1 billion tax credit for construction of clean coal plants, a US$16 million research program on recycling nuclear fuel, US$250 million to study new biological fuels, and a tightening of fuel efficiency standards for light trucks.

The Bush administration's moves did not impress environmental groups on a telephone news conference on Friday.


'HELPING BIG OIL'

"We have a White House that has yet to deliver on its own rhetoric about ending our dependence on fossil fuels, and up to now has placed its emphasis on helping Big Oil," Betsy Loyless of the National Audubon Society said at that briefing.

Bush is expected to call for a big increase in the use of ethanol in Tuesday's speech, according to sources familiar with White House plans, but probably will not advocate limits on the emission of greenhouse gases -- including carbon dioxide given off by power plants and vehicles -- which contribute to global warming.

That may not be enough for some major US corporations, which formed a coalition with environmental advocates to urge Bush and Congress to fight climate change faster.

Known as the United States Climate Action Partnership, the group includes Alcoa Inc., General Electric Co., DuPont Co. and Duke Energy Corp. It plans to publicize its recommendations Monday, a day before the big speech.

In another unlikely pairing, evangelical Christians and scientists from Harvard Medical School and elsewhere also banded together last week to fight global warming, and called on Bush and others in power to do the same.

The climate change issue prompted bipartisan cooperation in Congress, where Sen. Joe Biden, a Delaware Democrat who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, joined the ranking Republican, Indiana's Richard Lugar, to introduce a resolution urging a US return to international negotiations on climate change.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who has long advocated environment-friendly policies, said on Friday, "It is important to our children's health and their global competitiveness to rid this nation of our dependence on foreign oil and Big Oil interests."

Pelosi also announced the creation of a new congressional committee dealing specifically with global warming, and the House of Representatives passed legislation aimed at "Big Oil" that would roll back industry tax breaks and force energy companies to pay more drilling royalties.

Swiss to Probe use of Snow-Preserving Chemicals


Swiss to Probe use of Snow-Preserving Chemicals
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SWITZERLAND: January 22, 2007


ZURICH - The Swiss Environment Ministry said on Friday it would investigate the use and effect of chemicals which help preserve snow on ski runs in high temperatures.


"It wants to gain an overview of this practice in Switzerland: where, when and what quantities of auxiliary products are used to prepare pistes and what are the effects of these products on the environment," the Environment Ministry said in a statement.

The ministry said it would then decide what measures, if any, to take against the use of such products.

The ministry said it was not concentrating on the world-famous Lauberhorn run in Wengen, where last weekend's World Cup races were only able to go ahead because the resort used artificial snow and chemicals to preserve the piste.

Climate Change Seen Harsh in Latam, Africa, Canada


Climate Change Seen Harsh in Latam, Africa, Canada
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SWITZERLAND: January 22, 2007


ZURICH - Central and South America, central Africa and northern Canada are likely to be hardest hit by climate change in the period from 2071 to 2100, an index compiled by scientists at Swiss university ETH showed.


The Amazon Rainforest and the Congo Basin regions are expected to experience around 13 years of extreme drought in the period, according to the study recently published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Northern Canada would also be hard hit. Many studies project that the Arctic could be free of ice in summers by 2100, threatening livelihoods of indigenous peoples who hunt animals such as seals and walrus.

The United States, Central Europe, Australia, central Asia and India are seen escaping the most serious impacts of climate change, it said.

The Swiss scientists said they looked at 2071 to 2100, the last three decades normally surveyed in UN studies to 2100 about the effects of global warming, widely blamed on greenhouse gasses released by the burning of fossil fuels.

UN Climate Panel to Step up Warnings on Climate


UN Climate Panel to Step up Warnings on Climate
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NORWAY: January 22, 2007


OSLO - A UN panel on climate change is set to give its strongest warning yet that human use of fossil fuels is stoking global warming, informed sources said on Friday.


A draft of the report by 2,500 scientists says it is "very likely" that human activities were the main cause of warming in the past 50 years, strengthening a conclusion in their last study in 2001 that it was "likely", they said.

But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will also project less extreme bands than it did in 2001 for temperature and sea level rises in the 21st century. That means toning down both the most catastrophic and least damaging scenarios.

The report is due to be unveiled on Feb. 2 in Paris, after final review and approval by governments.

"It is very likely that ... greenhouse gas increases (from human activities) caused most of the globally average temperature increases since the mid-20th century," a source who had seen the draft quoted it as saying.

The 2001 report defined "very likely" as meaning a 90-99 percent probability and "likely" as a 66-90 percent chance.

The draft projects that world temperatures will rise by 2.0-4.5 Celsius (3.6-8.1 Fahrenheit) by 2100 unless the world manages drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from factories, cars and power plants.

Such a temperature rise could cause huge disruption to agriculture, trigger more floods, heatwaves and desertification and melt glaciers. The 2001 report had projected a wider possible range, of between 1.4-5.8 (2.5-10.4) Celsius.

The sources said the IPCC would also narrow both ends of the band of projected sea level rises, projected in the 2001 report at between 9 and 88 centimetres (3.5-34.7 inches) by 2100. Details were not available.

"There's good news that the top extremes for temperature and sea level rises have been cut," one source said. "But anyone hoping that the rise will be at the bottom end of the range will be disappointed."

"This is still a draft and its a draft until it's been approved by governments," another scientific source said.

Canada Revives Renewable Energy Support: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced C$1.5 billion (US$1.3 billion) in funding for renewable energy on Friday but the opposition Liberals said the Conservative government was just resurrecting their old environmental programs


Canada Revives Renewable Energy Support
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CANADA: January 22, 2007


OTTAWA, - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced C$1.5 billion (US$1.3 billion) in funding for renewable energy on Friday but the opposition Liberals said the Conservative government was just resurrecting their old environmental programs.


The money will help produce electricity from wind, biomass, small hydro projects and ocean energy. A 10-year incentive program will fund projects built over the next four years.

"There is no end to the potential of alternative, nonpolluting energy sources," said Harper, who opposition parties say is not doing enough on environmental issues or to fight global warming.

The Liberals, who were defeated by the Conservatives a year ago, said that when they were in government they had promised C$1.8 billion over 15 years for wind and renewable power incentives, but these plans were frozen six weeks after Harper took office.

"The Conservatives are restoring the Liberal climate change programs they cut one at a time," Liberal environment spokesman David McGuinty said in a statement.

Harper told reporters he had ordered his ministers to review all the Liberal programs to make sure they were effective.

Big business joins greens to pressure Bush on climate: An unprecedented coalition of blue-chip US companies and environmental lobby groups will urge President Bush next week to get serious about global warming, calling for caps on carbon dioxide emissions that would cut greenhouse gases


Big business joins greens to pressure Bush on climate
By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
Published: 20 January 2007

An unprecedented coalition of blue-chip US companies and environmental lobby groups will urge President Bush next week to get serious about global warming, calling for caps on carbon dioxide emissions that would cut greenhouse gases by 10-30 per cent over 15 years.

The group, called the US Climate Action Partnership, will unveil the details of its plan on the eve of President Bush's State of the Union speech on Tuesday. The companies involved include some of the old-fashioned pollution-generating industries normally associated with anti-environmental policies and politicians - the chemical giant DuPont, the bulldozer company Caterpillar, the aluminium producer Alcoa and the US subsidiary of BP.

They, and environmental lobby groups such as Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council, said yesterday they will call for "swift federal action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and speeding the adoption of climate-friendly technology".

The initiative was the latest of several indications of a big shift in US attitudes on global warming. The two-week-old new Democrat-led Congress has already generated a flurry of bills offering emissions-reduction targets. Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker, is setting up a dedicated climate change committee in the House of Representatives with the power to recommend legislation.

Ms Pelosi has also promised a legislative package on energy independence, to be delivered by Indepedence Day on 4 July. Her enthusiasm is mirrored in the Senate by Barbara Boxer, the incoming chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, who has called the fight against global warming her number-one priority.

The change in attitudes goes beyond the political arena. The star feature of the Detroit Auto Show last week was a plug-in hybrid vehicle being developed from General Motors.

The age of global warming denial, meanwhile, also appears to be drawing to a close. Exxon Mobil, the world's largest oil company, has cut its funding to groups who argue global warming is a hoax, and is now working to develop strategies it can accept for emissions reduction.

That's a huge change from just a few months ago, when Exxon Mobil's chief executive, Lee Raymond, arguably the world's most prominent global warming sceptic, was still at the helm, and the Senate Energy Committee was headed by the Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, who made it his business to dismiss scientific opinion on climate change as a conspiracy.

The biggest hold-out against radical policy change is probably the Bush White House. Aides to the President have indicated his State of the Union speech will include some provisions on energy, notably championing the use of ethanol-based fuels. The administration remains opposed, however, to any mandatory caps on carbon dioxide emissions.

The White House is likely to come under increasing pressure to do something, however. One possible route has already been taken by Mr Bush's fellow Republican, California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has endorsed a 25 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases in his state by the year 2020.

The Schwarzenegger plan does not operate on a rigid system of emissions caps, but rather offers incentives to companies who move faster than their competitors, who can "trade" their margin of emissions reduction with companies lagging behind. The "cap and trade" system contrasts with a bill championed by Senator Boxer, to mandate a reduction in emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

US Carbon Market Takes Step Closer to Reality


ANALYSIS - US Carbon Market Takes Step Closer to Reality
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US: January 22, 2007


NEW YORK - Carbon market developers hope a potential billion-dollar US market will take a step closer to reality now that major companies are urging legislation to set mandatory curbs on the gases linked to global warming.


"We are ready to jump into the US with both feet," said Richard Rosenzweig, Chief Operating Officer at New York-based carbon asset management company Natsource LLC.

Ten major US corporations, including Aloca Inc., DuPont Co. and General Electric Co., have joined with green groups to form the US Climate Action Partnership, the Natural Resources Defense Council said Friday.

The group will urge President Bush and Congress to pass laws curbing emissions of heat-trapping gases. This would create a market on which companies that cut emissions below the set limit can sell credits to others that are slower to cut outputs of the gasses.

Scientists link the build up of gases, such as carbon dioxide emitted from sources like smokestacks, cars and the burning of forests, to higher temperatures and melting glaciers that could raise the number of deadly heat waves, flooding and storms.

The European Union, which set up a market to meet its emissions requirements under the Kyoto Protocol, has traded about US$20 billion in credits in just a few years.

"This is the next market," said Peter Fusaro, a carbon markets expert and founder of energy advisers Global Change Associates in New York, said about the United States, the world's top emitter of carbon dioxide.

The EU carbon market allows companies to trade permits with each other, or shop around in the developing world for the cheapest ones.

But for such markets to work, governments have to set mandatory limits on the gases. Bush pulled the United States out of Kyoto and has opposed mandatory curbs.

The Climate Action Partnership follows moves by Exxon Mobil Corp. to meet with other corporations on climate legislation options.

The energy giant, long a source of ire of environmentalists and carbon market developers, is in talks with about 20 other companies hosted by Washington, D.C. nonprofit Resources for the Future. The talks are expected to generate a report to legislators by the fall on how climate policy options might affect sectors of the US economy. Exxon has met separately with green and religious groups on warming.

While the Climate Action Partnership supports a carbon market, Exxon, which has long opposed investing in alternative energies that cut emissions like solar power, has not yet changed its position.

But environmentalists and carbon market developers say companies are moving faster on warming now that Democrats won control of US Congress in November. Also, potential 2008 presidential contenders from both parties favor mandatory carbon markets, .

"It's enlightened self interest," said Fusaro about the corporate effort to form favorable legislation. "They want to get in front of the curve and they have technologies to sell."

Companies that own nuclear power plants, for example, could be seeking to make sure the virtually emissions-free power source gets credits in a carbon market. Companies like DuPont, that have already slashed emissions, may be seeking to get credit for their early action.

Still, development of a US market will take years and constraints may not be as strong as those in the Kyoto pact, which many US politicians complained were too stringent.

"What you're likely to see is the US to begin modestly," said Rosenzweig, who worked on climate in the Bill Clinton administration. "You don't have to have emissions (levels) go off a cliff. If you do it in a way that's gradual, companies will adapt and the market will be created.


Story by Timothy Gardner

"Stormblade:" The First Truly Quiet Residential Wind Turbine


thanks to Norbert for these!


http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/01/stormblade_the.php

"Stormblade:" The First Truly Quiet Residential Wind Turbine
by
John Laumer, Philadelphia on 01. 2.07
Business & Politics (news)

stormblade.jpgBeing of newborn prototype, Stormblade, we think, deserves appropriate background music. So, just imagine "Riders On the Storm" playing now, if you will. We found little Stormrider spinning away on "engineer - live" whose motto...you've got to love this...is "for engineers, by engineers." So, in the foreground, we must also supply with our imagination, some engineers with very sexy pocket protectors. Stormblade, works by accelerating the wind onto the blades and is therefore more efficient at low as well as high wind speeds. Accordingly, "Bird and bat friendly, the design does not have the mechanical noise often associated with commercial wind turbines and, as a result, is very silent in operation. It has fewer parts and higher generating capacity than other models and can theoretically, operate at any wind speed...Stormblade Turbine can convert up to 70 per cent of wind power into electricity, double the current average. Operational wind speed is expected to be 7mph to120mph, double the current average range ...". The Stormblade project has a website here.


http://www.jovanovic.f2s.com/page2.html



Our team has made a breakthrough in Research and Development of a new ultra efficient wind turbine design.

Stormblade Turbine will help reduce dependency on fossil fuel sources of energy. Increased power output of clean green energy was the driver behind the research and development.

Stormblade Turbine can convert up to 70% of wind power into electricity, double the current average. Operational wind speed is expected to be 7mph to >120mph, double the current average range.

The new design is less noisy and wildlife friendly. The propeller blades and all the moving parts are housed within the nacelle and therefore pose no danger to migrating birds or bats.

The Turbine is unique in that:

o It produces less drag,

o It can operate at extreme wind speeds,

o It produces more power per rotation,

o It needs less maintenance,

o It is smaller in size,

o It is wildlife friendly,

o It produces less noise.


Which results in:

Aerodynamic efficiency

No need to shutdown

Increased electrical output

Lower cost

Lower visual impact

Compatibility with bird habitats

Reduced stress to residents





http://www.theengineer.co.uk/Articles/294728/Shrouded+in+near-silence.htm

Shrouded in near-silence
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Published: 05 June 2006  11:45 AM
Industry Channel:
Energy & Utilities
Source: The Engineer


A new design of wind turbine could provide significantly better power output than existing mills, while overcoming some of their drawbacks, such as noise and high maintenance requirements.

Victor Jovanovic, inventor of the Stormblade turbine and founder of a UK company with the same name, claimed his design incorporates all the virtues of a partially static turbine design with a more aerodynamic solution to the problem of drag.

One of the biggest problems with current turbines is that once the wind gets above 60mph, they have to be shut down, because at higher speeds, a gyroscopic effect is created in the driveshaft.

Gyroscopic precession tries to twist the turbine, placing stress on the blade and mechanism, causing them to break.

Conversely, if the wind speed drops below about 15mph, the blades' rotation is not fast enough to generate electricity.

An alternative is to use a design where the blades are surrounded by a shroud that channels the airflow onto the turbine — a little like a scoop. Prototypes have shown that the efficiency of power generation is increased significantly — up to three times higher than a traditional three-bladed mill.

However, the shroud facing into the wind, combined with the high speed of rotation of the air current, tends to create a parachute effect, and extreme forces are exerted on the tower.

This means that the tower has to sit on scaffolding, rather than a single pole, and consequently would be both expensive to build and require a large amount of land.

The Stormblade turbine aims to overcome these problems. 'It uses some of the principles of the shrouded system, channelling airflow into the turbine and on to the blades,' Jovanovic said. 'It also overcomes the problem of precession, allowing the turbine to operate at much higher speeds.'

The problems experienced by existing shrouded systems have been resolved by addressing the aerodynamics. Essentially, the shroud cowling is shaped like a jet engine.

Producing less drag

'This shape provides a more slippery profile for the whole unit,' said Jovanovic. 'The jet engine has evolved over the past half-century to produce less drag so the blades rotate more quickly.'

He believes the operational wind speed for the turbine will be from seven to 120mph, allowing much more efficient energy generation.

'For every extra 15mph over 60mph, you get eight times as much electricity,' he said. 'So at 90mph you get 64 times as much, and at 120mph more than 4,000 times as much.'

A normal mill typically delivers between 10 and 30 per cent of the original wind power as electricity, while the new design is expected to be at least 70 per cent efficient.

Because the blades are concealed and there are no gears to grind, it will be much quieter, claimed Jovanovic. 'Gearboxes are the weak point in the system, because they need regular maintenance and repairs.' In addition, concealing the blades makes the design less dangerous to wildlife.

Jovanovic, who is seeking investment and industrial partners, said: 'If all goes well, the turbines could be on the market in 18 months to two years.

'Although using the jet engine shape might reduce the power output, it would be commercially viable — which was the downfall of previous shrouded designs. While it represents something of a compromise, I'm sure that as the design evolves we will be able to get close to its efficiency figures.'

GE, AES Plan Partnership to Offset Climate Emissions





GE, AES Plan Partnership to Offset Climate Emissions
--------------------------------------------------
GreenBiz.com, 17 January 2007 -  AES Corp. and GE Energy Financial Services say they plan to create a partnership to develop greenhouse gas emission reduction projects in the United States.
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http://www.wbcsd.org/includes/getTarget.asp?type=DocDet&id=MjI0MjE



GE, AES Plan Partnership to Offset Climate Emissions

GreenBiz.com, 17 January 2007 - AES Corp. and GE Energy Financial Services say they plan to create a partnership to develop greenhouse gas emission reduction projects in the United States.

The partnership would seek to create an annual production volume of 10 million tons (metric tons) of greenhouse gas offsets by 2010, primarily through the reduction of emissions of methane - a potent greenhouse gas with a warming potential 21 times greater than carbon dioxide. Projects to capture and destroy methane emissions would include agricultural waste, landfills, coal mines and wastewater treatment.

In addition to methane-based projects, the partnership may also pursue development of offsets through energy efficiency projects and electricity generation from renewable sources. The partnership would sell offsets from these projects to commercial and industrial customers seeking to reduce the environmental impact of their operations or to provide climate-friendly products or services to their customers.

"AES is committed to helping address climate change as part of our broader alternative energy strategy," said Paul Hanrahan, President and CEO of AES. "Our partnership with GE will enhance the ability of the United States to expand energy resources while mitigating the negative environmental impacts of growth. We are pleased to team with GE because the combination of our skills will allow us to lead the development of the US market for carbon offsets."

The partnership would invest in projects using equipment from a variety of manufacturers, potentially including GE products certified by its ecomagination program. GE Energy Financial Services and AES are taking this step with an immediate focus on voluntary demand for greenhouse gas reductions but with an eye toward possible future mandatory emissions limits.

"This initiative will help GE Energy Financial Services double its already sizeable $1.5 billion portfolio of investments in renewable energy projects by the end of 2008, and will contribute to GE's ecomagination program," said Alex Urquhart, President and CEO of GE Energy Financial Services.

Through its ecomagination program, GE has committed to help its customers meet their environmental challenges while reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions. GE has pledged to more than double its investment in the development of cleaner energy technologies, from $700 million to $1.5 billion by 2010, reduce its greenhouse gas emissions one percent by 2012, reduce the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2008, and improve the company's energy efficiency 30 percent by the end of 2012.

Kevin Walsh, Managing Director and leader of renewable energy at GE Energy Financial Services, added: "Our capital, sales channels and risk management - along with AES's expertise in project development - make for a powerful combination that will lead the US carbon market."

Last April, AES announced formation of its alternative energy group, making a $1 billion commitment to investments in wind, LNG, and climate change sectors. Last December, AES adjusted its guidance on investment in this sector to potentially as much as $10 billion over the next 5-10 years. It has already announced a target to produce up to 40 million tons of greenhouse gas emission offsets per year by 2012, through development projects under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America.

"Carbon offsets play an important role in the fight against global warming," said William Luraschi, Executive Vice President, Business Development and leader of AES's Alternative Energy business. "AES began investing in greenhouse gas reduction projects in the late 1980's. With our 25 years of experience in energy and a presence in virtually every region of the world, AES is well positioned to play a leading role in this sector."

The AES/GE partnership would establish strict standards for the creation, certification and registration of US greenhouse gas emissions credits. It plans to have internationally accredited and independent environmental organizations assure that each carbon offset meets the highest scientific and technical standards.

This article is reproduced with kind permission of GreenBiz.com.
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21.1.07

Vattenfall: Curbing Climate Change Would Cost 0.6% of Global GDP -- there are considerable hidden possibilities in the industrialized countries, and particularly in the energy-efficiency field, to protect the climate at a negative cost


Vattenfall: Curbing Climate Change Would Cost 0.6% of Global GDP
19 January 2007

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Vattenfall has published its map on an interactive website. Click to enlarge.

A new study released by European energy company Vattenfall concludes that curbing climate change through a sustainable reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is technically and financially feasible if existing technical solutions are applied consistently—and globally.
Vattenfall's Global Climate Impact Abatement Map shows that the cost of stabilizing the concentration of greenhouse gases at 450 ppm by 2030 in an attempt to limit global average temperature increase to 2° C is equivalent to approximately 0.6% of the total gross world product—on condition that all the identified potential is exploited.
The study maps total global reduction potential, analyzed by six major commercial sectors—power, transport, industry, forestry, buildings, and agriculture—and by six major world regions—Europe OECD, North America, China, other industrial countries, transition economies, and the rest of the world.

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Transport sector. Click to enlarge.

Vattenfall concluded that the transport sector, which under the business-as-usual (BAU) scenario would contribute 8.8 Gt (15%) of CO2e of the global 58.2 Gt in 2030, could reduce its emissions by 2.8 Gt. That would represent a 32% reduction in emissions compared to BAU. Transportation would then be responsible for 19.5% of the reduced 31.5 Gt of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, according to Vattenfall. (Chart at right.)
Vattenfall presented its Global Climate Impact Abatement Map at a conference in Berlin on Thursday.
What we are presenting in Berlin here today is an outline of a first global map for measures to curb the climate change. Now we must jointly embark on a voyage of discovery on which we gather new knowledge and new information that we can use to further refine this map. Already today, however, we can see that the active protection of the climate is not a utopia – it is possible with the technology we now have at our disposal, and this technology can also be improved. We must immediately set up a global policy framework to enable us to exploit the potential described here. One absolutely vital precondition is that we put a binding global price on the emission of greenhouse gases.

—Lars G Josefsson, President and CEO

The empirical data gathered also shows that there are considerable hidden possibilities in the industrialized countries, and particularly in the energy-efficiency field, to protect the climate at a negative cost—that is, by applying measures that finance themselves in that they reduce energy costs.
On a global scale, around 7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions could be saved annually, which corresponds to about seven times the total annual emissions in Germany. Vattenfall estimates that the average cost of avoiding emissions would be €15 per ton CO2 equivalent.
The data also reveals that the potential for protecting the climate is relatively evenly distributed between the investigated sectors and geographical regions. Up to 45% of the potential was found in the industrial and energy sectors, while the developing and threshold countries (excluding China) account for more than 40% of the climate-protection potential.
According to the survey, about 40% of the measures in the industrialized countries can finance themselves.
Last week, a delegation of business leaders including Josefsson and Fulvio Conti, the CEO of Enel, another European power company, presented the global 3C (Combating Climate Change) initiative to President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso.
Josefsson suggested the outline for the 3C initiative during the 14th Session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in New York in May 2006. More than 15 companies worldwide have endorsed this initiative, demanding an integration of climate issues into the world of markets and trade: ABB; Alstom; Bayer; Deutsche Post World Net; Duke Energy; Endesa; Enel; EnBW; E.ON; Eskom; General Electric; Norske Skog; NRG Energy; PG&E Corporation; Siemens; Suez; Wallenius Lines; Vattenfall.
Resources:
  • Vattenfall climate abatement website
  • 3C—Combat Climate Change website