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


The Biofuel Dilemma: Is ethanol an ideal alternative fuel after all? That’s the question being raised as increased use of the biofuel puts it in the spotlight... it looks like ethanol has some unique issues of its own.

The Biofuel Dilemma

Is ethanol an ideal alternative fuel after all? That's the question being raised as increased use of the biofuel puts it in the spotlight. Once promoted as a way to avoid problems associated with gasoline, such as energy security and environmental concerns, it looks like ethanol has some unique issues of its own.

One of those has to do with the feedstocks used to produce ethanol. In the United States, most ethanol is produced from corn, which Aaron Brady, a director on the Global Oil research team for CERA, an IHS company, describes as an energy-intensive crop. "It also takes a lot of fertilizer, which tends to leach into the ground," he says.

Soil erosion and nutrient run-off are a big concern with corn, particularly as farmers react to increasing demand for the crop by engaging in continuous corn production processes. The concern is so great that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service has been issuing press releases warning farmers about the dangers associated with such practices.

To alleviate the problems associated with corn, many in the industry are actively investigating the possibility of using more environmentally friendly feedstocks such as switchgrass and other non-food crops to produce ethanol. Referred to as cellulosic materials, these plants don't contain a grain or sugar content, but can be broken down into sugars that can then be fermented into alcohol.

While not economic to produce on a commercial scale today, says Brady, "there's hope that this could be a viable way of making ethanol in the next decade. But there are no commercial cellulosic ethanol plants in existence today. That's not to say that some won't try to be built over the next year or two. But those will be the first-generation industrial-size cellulosic refineries, and they'll probably be more expensive than the conventional ethanol plants. At least until the industry can reduce costs."

To help improve the industry's ability to cost-effectively produce cellulosic ethanol, in March the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced it would be spending more than $23 million on five projects focused on developing highly efficient fermentative organisms that can speed the production of ethanol by converting lignocellulosic biomass material—cellulosic ethanol feedstocks—to ethanol. According to the DOE, the commercialization of fermentative organisms will be crucial to achieving commercial scale in cellulosic ethanol refining.

The five applicants selected to have their projects funded were:

  • Cargill Incorporated to receive up to $4.4 million
  • Celunol Corporation to receive up to $5.3 million
  • E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Company to receive up to $3.7 million
  • Mascoma Corporation to receive up to $4.9 million
  • Purdue University to receive up to $5.0 million
Of course, use of corn is only one issue. As the number of ethanol plants increase—according to CERA 116 plants in the United States are operational, with another 81 plants under construction or expanding—Brady says questions are arising about their environmental impact. "A lot of people are starting to wonder how clean those things actually are."

Ethanol is not the only biofuel that is facing problems. Biodiesel, which is designed to be an alternative to diesel, may not be used as widely as ethanol in the United States, but is the subject of growing interest. And while it can be produced from products such as leftover restaurant grease, it also can be produced from vegetable oil crops such as palm, soybeans and rapeseed—which some critics claim are causing the destruction of old-growth forests as the crops are planted in ever greater amounts in response to growing demand for biodiesel. In addition, studies have shown that biodiesel can lead to an increase in nitrogen oxide emissions, a significant air pollutant.

Despite the issues, people are far from abandoning biofuels.

"On the positive side, there's a lot of R&D into developing next-generation biofuels that would be an improvement on biodiesel and ethanol," says Brady. "There may be surprises there over the next few years."

One fuel under development is biobutanol. Similar to ethanol, the fuel offers better properties such as a higher energy content. (Ethanol provides about 70 percent of the energy of gasoline.) "You can make it out of a sugar plant or corn, but essentially instead of using yeast to ferment the sugars, you're using some sort of bacteria that ferments it differently, so it creates a different alcohol molecule," Brady says.

Researchers are also looking into a process called Fischer-Tropsch. "It involves taking a carbon-based material like natural gas or coal or biomass [biological materials used to create fuel] and gasifying it under high temps. You basically create a synthesis gas and you can recombine the molecules into liquid fuel," says Brady. "The technology has been around for a while but now people are talking about using it with biomass."

The Ethanol Boom

There's no question about it—ethanol usage is booming. The biofuel, which has been produced since the 19th century, is suddenly big business, thanks to what Aaron Brady of CERA, an IHS company, describes as a "perfect storm of overlapping themes."

"You've got people that are interested in ethanol or biofuels in general because of energy security… There's also the idea that the biofuels could be a tool to combat greenhouse emissions. Then there's the whole agricultural support angle… And the automakers are interested in it because they are under pressure to reduce petroleum use. So there's sort of a real overlap of interest that is boosting biofuels," says Brady, a director on CERA's Global Oil research team and a lead author of CERA's new study, Gasoline and the American People.

One big impetus behind the growing use of ethanol in the United States was passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which calls for increasing use of biofuels. The target for this year is 4.7 billion gallons, but by 2012 it will be 7.5 billion gallons.

While some envision a future in which ethanol is used as a primary fuel, most ethanol being consumed today in the United States is as a gasoline additive. It's used to create E10, a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent unleaded gasoline. "Our industry [the petroleum industry] is the biggest purchaser of ethanol," says Al Mannato, fuels issues manager for the American Petroleum Institute (API). He goes on to say, "We see ethanol as an important additive."

So why isn't more ethanol being used as a primary fuel? Brady believes part of the relative lack of interest in E85—a blend of approximately 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline that's considered to be an alternative fuel—has to do with the cost/performance tradeoff offered by ethanol. While being priced approximately the same as gasoline (after applying the 51 cent-per-gallon tax credit), ethanol only provides 70 percent of the energy offered by gasoline.

"If you have an E85 flex-fuel vehicle, and you filled it up, you would only go roughly 80 percent as far as you would go on a gallon of gasoline. So if you were a consumer, you would only want to pay presumably 80 percent of the price of gasoline and ethanol is not priced that way yet," says Brady.

In addition, he says many consumers may be put off by the fact that less energy capacity means they would have to fill up their cars with E85 more often. "So there's kind of an open question about how receptive consumers would be to ethanol as an alternative fuel. But the path of least resistance in the U.S. is just to blend it into conventional gasoline at low-level blends."

Fuel station operators who carry E85 also must adjust how they handle the fuel. Because materials used to store and dispense gasoline may not always be compatible with high-level alcohol blends such as E85, it is important that operators become fully acquainted with all of E85's unique needs. For this reason, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has published Handbook for Handling, Storing, and Dispensing E85. The handbook also discusses E85 standards and specifications, such as the fuel specification ethanol developed by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM), ASTM D5798-99.

A new proposal by the Bush administration that presents a target of 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels use by 2017, however, is already pushing the petroleum and auto industries into exploring the possibility of using higher blends in non-flex-fuel cars. Mannato points to studies being performed that are examining the viability of widespread E20 use. "The Coordinating Research Council, which is funded by the oil and auto industries, is already doing some E20 testing on regular cars to determine if E20 would be compatible with the existing vehicle fleet," he says.

Determining how to best use ethanol is not the only challenge the biofuel faces. Another considerable problem it must surmount has to do with distribution. Because ethanol can absorb the small amounts of water that are present in most pipelines, it is difficult to ship via pipelines and must instead by transported using trains, barges or trucks. Since this isn't the most efficient way to move liquid fuels, organizations such as the API Pipeline Committee are examining the potential of using pipelines for ethanol transit. Until that possibility becomes reality, however, distribution may continue to be an issue that at least partially hinders more widespread ethanol use.

Newscientist article about the Australian drought

Thanks to Brian for this one:

what is worrying is that it could be an indication of what the SE and SW parts of the US may soon experience!



Carbon, Biofuels & Climate Change - 11 Leading Business Events

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Forthcoming Events: Please scroll down for additional information
  • Carbon Markets USA
  • Carbon Markets India
  • Corporate Climate Response - USA
  • Next Generation Biofuels Congress
  • Voluntary Carbon Markets
  • Biodiesel Congress
  • Biofuels Markets Africa
  • Carbon Markets Africa
  • Biogas Markets 2007
  • Renewable Heating & Cooling
  • World Biofuels Markets 2008

11th - 12th September 2007, San Francisco

With the GHG market transitioning from voluntary trading to compliance across several states, 9 climate change bills at Congress and leading US corporates such as General Motors (see Climate Action Partnership) demanding leadership. The pressure is certainly building on the federal government to avoid a complex patchwork of state by state schemes.

With the projections that the annual global volumes of GHG credits will increase from $21.6m (2006) and reach $60 billion (2007-8) and could eventually top $1 trillion (source: The Economist), this is a market that can no longer be ignored.

This unique meeting will bring together the leading US and International experts together for two days of intense, information rich presentations, debates and networking. Understand the latest policy actions in California and globally. Are there technological solutions available? Learn how these will impact upon your business, discover the opportunities in shifting to a low carbon economy and position yourself to benefit from the creative destruction!

Learn from 25 Global Carbon Experts including:

  • Commissioner James Boyd, Vice Chairman, California Energy Commission
  • Terry Tamminen, Energy & Environmental Advisor to Govenor Schwarzenegger
    • Plus senior representatives from US DoE, US EPA, Illinois Climate Change Advisory Group, Chevron, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Agcert International, Stark Investments, RNK Capital, Chicago Climate Exchange, Camco International, Noble Carbon Credits, Point Carbon, Oregon Carbon Allocation Task Force, BIOCAP Canada Foundation, USDA Forest Service, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Pew Center on Global Climate Change and many more
    > View Preliminary Agenda l Register Now


25th - 26th September 2007, Mumbai

The inaugural Carbon Markets India conference is a two day business networking event, run together with the Confederation of Indian Industry, that will bring together the worlds leading carbon consultants, brokers and financiers with Indian business.  

The event brings together the who's who of India's carbon markets including senior experts from Reliance Industries, Gujarat Flurochemicals, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, GTZ, Emergent Ventures, Ernst & Young, Indian Sucrose, RuMeth International, Rabobank, Triveni Engineering and Industries, Vestas Wind Systems and TUV South Asia. A Project Developer/Host Subsidised Scheme is available to encourage some of the CII's 6300 major Indian businesses to attend the event and enter the Carbon Market by hosting GHG mitigation projects.

This event joins the Carbon Markets series from Green Power Conferences and will deliver the same high quality audience and programme as previous events in the series such as Carbon Markets Americas and Carbon Markets Asia.  Over 700 attendees have attended this series of events in the last two years.

> View Preliminary Agenda l Request Further Information (please quote Carbon India in subject line)



25th - 26th September 2007, Chicago

This two-day event will bring together companies that are interested in learning how to reduce their carbon footprint and communicate their response to customers. It's being supported by and will coincide with Chicago's 'Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet' festival.

Corporate Climate Response Chicago will include sessions on energy efficiency, renewables, supply chain management, offsetting, and personal carbon accountability. It will attract 100 delegates from across the Midwest whose main responsibility is to implement climate change solutions for their organizations.

> View Preliminary Agenda l Register Now



4th - 5th October 2007, Amsterdam

As competition between food and fuel threatens to become a pressing constraint on the current biofuel industry, the biofuels world is starting the transition to next generation biofuels.  Emerging powerful market drivers and strong political influences are moving ethanol to the next stage and there is huge interest in the next generation of biofuels from the oil majors.  Could this be the beginning of a new branch of industry that could grow bigger than the existing 1st generation fuel ethanol industry?  Will cellulosic ethanol take off?  How will this nascent industry emerge from the current demo phase to produce commercial-scale quantities of ethanol?  

Find out how the market-leading players plan to tackle these barriers: DuPont, Iogen, Celunol, Poet, MIT, Royal Nedalco, Credit Suisse, Dyadic, Ceres, BioGasol, Firelake Capital Management, Novozymes, Cornell Uni, Green Biologics,  Ernst & Young, Emerald Ventures, UNFCC, Econcern, BMCH, The Copernicus Institute.

This 2 day information-rich, networking conference will build upon the success of the next generation biofuels seminar held in Brussels this March, which attracted over 250 high level executives.

> View Preliminary Agenda l Request Further Information (please quote Next Gen in subject line)



18th - 19th October 2007, Buenos Aires

Developed with support from the Argentine Secretariat of Agriculture and the Asociación Argentina de Biocombustibles e Hidrógeno, the first international Biodiesel Congress will provide an excellent platform to do business with high level executives from across the region.
  • Keynote Addresses from
    • Julio De Vido, Minister of Planning, Argentina
    • Undersecretary Cristian Folgar
    • Plus senior representatives from the Argentine Secretariat of Agriculture, Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Petrobras, Brasil Ecodiesel, Pure Biofuels, SoyEnergy, Inter-American Development Bank, Asociación Argentina de Biocombustibles e Hidrógeno, Frost and Sullivan, ABIOdiesel, Federacion Agraria Argentina
    > Event Details English l Español l Further Information (please quote Biodiesel in subject line)


16th - 17th October 2007, London

Over the past 2 years there has been tremendous well documented growth in the compliance regulatory carbon markets growing from $11bn in 2005 to $24bn+ in 2006, primarily within the EU ETS and the CDM mechanism. There is, however, another large untracked market in CO2 equivalent trading in voluntary markets for carbon offsets that has also grown tremendously ($100m+).

For sellers the markets provide an avenue for carbon projects which are uneconomical via CDM/JI. For buyers the patchwork of different markets can provide risks difficult to determine. Reliable data to the true extent of all voluntary carbon offsets is difficult to find but this event will provide attendees with answers to the following questions:

What, where and how big are the voluntary carbon markets? How do they operate? What are the risks of investing in these markets? What efforts are there to standardise the markets? How will the new standards help improve the liquidity and credibility of the markets? What barriers exist to project developers in generating offsets? What are the major challenges to future growth?

Request Further Information (please quote VCM in subject line)



5th - 6th November 2007, Cape Town

The second annual Biofuels Markets Africa conference will take place in Cape Town this November. The regions first international networking event for the whole biodiesel and ethanol value chain attracted over 200 industry executives from across Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas.

This two day conference will address strategies to develop Biofuels business opportunities in Africa, looking at regulation policies, investment opportunities, current success stories and looking ahead to next generation technologies.  With speakers from all stakeholder areas of the industry this is an essential event for all parties both within Africa & globally.

> View Preliminary Details l Request Further Information (please quote Biofuels Africa in subject line)



14th - 15th November 2007, Cape Town

The inaugural Carbon Markets Africa conference is a two day business networking event that will bring together the worlds leading carbon consultants, brokers and financiers with African business.  This event joins the Carbon Markets series from Green Power Conferences and will deliver the same high quality audience and programme as previous events in the series such as Carbon Markets Americas and Carbon Markets Asia.  Over 560 attendees have attended this series of events in the last two years.

Request Further Information (please quote Carbon Markets Asia in subject line)



November 2007, Europe

The first international Biogas Markets conference drew a crowd of over 100 delegates from 27 countries. Debate covered all angles of Biogas, Biomethane, Landfill gas, SNG, bioSNG and green natural gas.

The 2nd annual European Biogas Markets conference will take place this November. Leading experts from across the biogas value chain will address ways to increase the uptake and usage of biogas systems.

Request Further Information (please quote Biogas Markets in subject line)


November 2007, Brussels

The first international networking conference to address the huge potential of renewable energy in heating and cooling systems will take place in Brussels this November. This exciting new event will address policy, regulation, project financing, biomass heating, solar heating and cooling, geothermal heating and cooling.

Request Further Information (please quote Renewable Heating in subject line)


12-14 March 2008, Brussels Expo, Belgium

Europe's Largest Biofuels Congress & Exhibition.

2007 saw over 1300 attendees from 58 countries attended the Congress and extremely busy exhibition of 60 companies. New for 2008 - the additional of a further 2 streams (total 4), additional indepth pre-Congress seminars, The World Biofuels Markets Gala Dinner and an extension of the exhibition floor to a 100 exhibition stands.

Can you afford to miss Europe's No 1. Biofuels Meeting?

"We were quite amazed by the number of participants and importance of the issues"  European Commission

"Biofuels Markets was a success, we have had a lot of interesting & high level contacts
Desmet Ballestra

Request Further Information (please quote WBM in subject line)

Enhance your Brand Profile

Sponsor one of these leading events and benefit from:

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  • Extensive profiling on the website, brochure and e-marketing campaign
  • Extensive on-site branding at the event
  • Added networking with delegates of colocated events
A range of sponsorship opportunities are available (gala dinner, cocktail reception, bag, lanyard, badge sponsor etc) which offer excellent branding to help promote your company to a targeted group of industry executives.

Contact to discuss your sponsorship and/or exhibition requirements.

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About Green Power Conferences

Green Power Conferences was established in 2003 by a team of professional, environmentally aware event experts. We have since welcomed over 4000 delegates from 76 countries, built a global database of 110,000+ contacts and gained an unparalleled reputation in the industry.

Our events provide high quality information, interactivity and networking to accelerate the uptake of sustainable energy and climate friendly technologies.

Green Power Conferences offsets the impact of its commercial activities towards renewable energy projects in the developing world.


Feedback from our past delegates:

"Your conference last week was excellent, with good speakers covering the  whole area of biofuels. It offered excellent networking opportunities" UK National Farmers Union

"I think that the best thing about this conference was that you gathered in one place people from different institutions (associations, EU authorities, producer, scientists, bankers, lawyers) with different views on the market"
SEB Venture Capital

"I found myself very much satisfied with the Speakers and could generate enough contacts for the supply of equipment, technology and also other value added resource tie-ups like Carbon Credits etc."
Nandan Biomatrix, India

 "Congratulations for the successful biofuel markets conference held in Brussels, it was an excellent conference for people to exchange and share ideas and experiences" ITRI Taiwan


"I thought this conference was really excellent and the fact that a lot of people were still hanging around at the end is a good sign of the networking opportunities they get" Business Council for Sustainable Energy

"I really found it a useful platform to meet other people involved in the sector" Triodos International Fund Management

"I found it to be both a valuable learning and business networking opportunity" LP Power Consult

"Carbon Markets Americas was one of the best climate change events that I have participated in, in the past three years" ICF Consulting

Contact: Annie Ellis, Green Power Conferences, Shakespeare House, 168 Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TF:

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UK’s “First Zero Emission Home” Unveiled ... Green Skyscrapers ... 12 Sustainable design ideas from TED talk

Thanks to Susan for these links

UK's "First Zero Emission Home" Unveiled

Green Skyscrapers

12 Sustainable design ideas from TED talk

Greens take issue with magazine paper: Rolling Stone will be printed on what it calls "carbon neutral paper." It is made through a process that the magazine says adds no carbon dioxide to the atmosphere

International Herald Tribune
Greens take issue with magazine paper
By Andrew Adam Newman
Monday, June 11, 2007


NEW YORK: Just about every major magazine has made some sort of nod to global warming, and Rolling Stone plans to do so in its June 28 issue. On top of the requisite interview with former Vice President Al Gore and an essay by the environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr., the magazine will start printing on paper that is said to have less of a negative impact on the environment.

But as Rolling Stone and others try to be green, they draw criticism from environmentalists who think that if this is walking the walk, it is doing so with a pronounced limp.

Rolling Stone will be printed on what it calls "carbon neutral paper." It is made through a process that the magazine says adds no carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. The paper, which is considerably thinner than what Rolling Stone uses now, is made by a Canadian mill, Catalyst Paper, that the magazine says has reduced greenhouse-gas emissions by 82 percent since 2005 and has been cited by the World Wildlife Fund for its conservation efforts.

Catalyst offsets the small amount of carbon released in making the paper by planting trees that will not be harvested for more paper, but rather left standing to help cool the climate, said Lyn Brown, vice president for corporate relations and social responsibility at Catalyst.

But the new paper has no recycled content, which prompted a mixed review by Frank Locantore, director of the Magazine Paper Project at Co-op America, a nonprofit group that works with publishers to reduce paper use.

"Are the steps that Rolling Stone is taking good and important ones?" Locantore asked. "Yes. But what I'm afraid they are doing in the process is diverting attention away from the need to use recycled paper."

Eric Bates, deputy managing editor of Rolling Stone, said, "We think recycled paper is great."

But, he added, "we're publishing some of the world's greatest photographers and artists," and the print quality on recycled paper does not do them justice. "What we're trying to do is what we can do. We can't put out the magazine we put out on recycled paper."

Mansueto Ventures, which publishes Inc. and Fast Company, announced last week that it had switched both its publications to 100 percent recycled paper and had noticed no slip in quality.

"It did really used to be true that you would lose quality by switching to recycled, but I don't think that's the case anymore," John Koten, chief executive and editor in chief of Mansueto, wrote in an e-mail message.

Hearst Magazines, which publishes 19 magazines in the United States - including Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Esquire and O, The Oprah Magazine - said in April that beginning in July, it would put a "Please Recycle This Magazine" logo prominently in all its magazines. Whether the company, whose Hearst Tower in New York is a much-lauded eco-friendly building, uses any recycled paper for those magazines, though, remains an open question.

In March, Marc Gunther, a senior writer at Fortune magazine, wrote a piece on his Web site about his fruitless attempts to get a straight answer out of Hearst's press office about whether O, The Oprah Magazine has any recycled paper content.

Andrea Faville, a spokeswoman for Hearst, e-mailed what she called "a backgrounder on Hearst's green efforts." It said the company is "using more than 15 percent of post-consumer recycled fiber content across its portfolio of publications."

But is any of that recycled fiber going into magazines, or instead into the company's dozens of newspapers and trade publications? "Right now, we don't have any info for you beyond what is in the backgrounder," Faville responded by e-mail.

Businesses accused of green hypocrisy: Friends of the Earth accused Shell of sponsoring the event in a bid to align itself with green issues while failing to clean up its own act.

Businesses accused of green hypocrisy

Oil firm says one thing and does another, says charity
Blame government, not commerce - Livingstone

Terry Macalister
Tuesday June 12, 2007

The Guardian

The business community was accused yesterday of "cynicism" for saying one thing and doing another in the fight against climate change.

At a "summit" on the issue organised by the Guardian in London, Tony Juniper, executive director of Friends of the Earth, accused Shell of sponsoring the event in a bid to align itself with green issues while failing to clean up its own act.

Shell was spending more on exploiting fossil fuels - as in its carbon-intensive tar sands operations in Canada - while failing to put out its illegal flares in Nigeria, he argued. "Shell needs to move away from PR being a term for public relations and use it for pollution reduction," he said.

But the corporate sector received some support from a surprising quarter when Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, said it was government rather than commerce that was holding up progress on climate change. He said the energy review had been launched with the usual "dishonest spin" and the latest G8 meeting was just a "carnival of debate".

Caroline Lucas, a Green member of the European parliament, said businesses and their organisations were always lobbying her "for the lowest possible denominator" on environmental measures.

Mr Juniper agreed, saying businesses that turned up at conferences and preached a green message should tell the CBI and International Chamber of Commerce that their positions - to lobby against new regulations - were no longer acceptable.

Mr Juniper highlighted recent adverts by Toyota describing a new range of Lexus 4x4s as having low emissions and zero guilt that he believed were "highly misleading". Such behaviour only bred cynicism about the business world.

The wildlife organisation WWF also attacked Shell on its tar sand business while highlighting how its coal-to-liquid fuel technique was also carbon-intensive. "My question is where is the strategy to decrease rather than increase carbon?" asked Keith Allott, of WWF.

Shell UK's chairman, James Smith, insisted his company was taking all sorts of initiatives to drive forward a green agenda with major investment in wind farms, solar power and biofuels. But he admitted that his and other corporations needed to do more "to earn a seat at the [climate change policy] table".

Mr Livingstone insisted that those attending the conference should "roast a minister" rather than a business leader, pointing out how he had been working successfully with firms such as EDF and British Gas. "In this case it is not wicked business holding back," he argued.

The mayor, who has been at the forefront of green initiatives - such as the congestion charge - said no new technology was needed to advance the fight against global warming, just political will, which was desperately lacking. "It's very nice for people that they can take four or five weekend breaks [a year] ... but at what price?" he asked, suggesting there should be a £15 carbon tax on an air ticket.

Mr Livingstone painted a frightening picture of life in 2050 when "tens of thousands" of pensioners could be dying in a London summer heatwave unless radical action was taken to halt additions to carbon levels. The mayor is already in talks with the Royal Horticultural Society about what trees would survive in the temperatures that could be expected by the middle of the century, he revealed.

The government's chief scientific officer, Sir David King, also urged incisive action. Ms Lucas said it was time to stop talking and start acting otherwise "we risk being the only species monitoring its own extinction rather than acting against it".

Climate Resolutions Get Big Support from Shareholders: A resolution asking General Motors' board of directors to commit to hard goals for reducing greenhouse gases received votes representing 25.7 percent of the company's shares

Climate Resolutions Get Big Support from Shareholders

DALLAS, Texas, and WILMINGTON, Del., June 11, 2007 -- Votes for shareholder resolutions that would force General Motors and ExxonMobil to take action on greenhouse gas emissions received record levels of support at the companies' annual meetings.

A resolution asking General Motors' board of directors to commit to hard goals for reducing greenhouse gases received votes representing 25.7 percent of the company's shares. The resolution requires a report on the company's plans by Sept. 30.

Miranda Anderson, a consultant at Ceres, said the G.M. resolution showed a massive increase in support from previous votes. Since 1998, resolutions at the company that sought even simply disclosure of emissions rates received only 3 to 7 percent approval. This year's vote represented a turning point. "If a resolution receives a quarter of shareholder votes, that's enough to make management stop and think about what steps it needs to take," Anderson told Environmental Finance.

And ExxonMobil stockholders backed a similar resolution -- asking the board to set quantitative goals for reducing GHG emissions from the company's operations and products -- was supported by 31 percent of the companies shares. Those supporters represented $121 billion worth of shares, several states' pension funds and the proxy advisory firms ISS and Glass, Lewis & Co., according to Ceres spokesman Peyton Fleming.

Even though the climate resolution was largely supported, only 7 percent of shares voted to force ExxonMobil board member Michael Boskin to step down. Boskin chairs the company's public issues committee and the supporters of that resolution said Boskin has refused to meet with shareholders five different times to discuss climate change issues.

[CSR newsclips] Le climat n'influence pas les investisseme

Le climat n'influence pas les investissements
Ce facteur entre seulement en ligne de compte pour les secteurs soumis au système d'échange de quotas de l'UE
par Alexis Beauchamp
Voir tous les articles de Alexis Beauchamp
Texte mis en ligne le 11 juin 2007 à 11:52

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Le climat n'influence pas les investissements
Les investisseurs institutionnels ne prennent pas les changements climatiques en ligne de compte, selon une étude publiée la semaine dernière. Photo:
Le climat n'influence pas les investissements
Ce facteur entre seulement en ligne de compte pour les secteurs soumis au système d'échange de quotas de l'UE
L'engouement médiatique pour les changements climatiques n'a pas changé le comportement des fonds d'investissement, sauf dans le cas des entreprises spécialisées dans l'investissement responsable.
Un sondage réalisé par HeadLand Consultancy auprès de 19 gestionnaires de fonds britanniques révèle que ceux-ci considèrent les changements climatiques comme un problème à long terme actuellement mal encadré d'un point de vue légal.

Les gestionnaires sondés, qui représentent des intérêts évalués à plus de 6 billions $CA, soulignent également que leurs clients expriment peu d'intérêt à l'effet de tenir compte des changements climatiques. « Si les clients ne le demandent pas, pourquoi les investisseurs et les entreprises devraient considérer les changements climatiques comme une grande priorité ? », se demande un gestionnaire de fonds, questionné par Environmental Finance.

Plusieurs répondants ont également souligné leur scepticisme par rapport aux efforts environnementaux des industries, que les gestionnaires perçoivent comme une manière d'apaiser les intérêts écologistes.

Seules les décisions d'investissement touchant les secteurs industriels couverts par le système d'échange de quotas de l'Union européenne tiennent compte des changements climatiques, conclut HeadLand. Dans le cadre de ce système, les entreprises participantes peuvent être pénalisées ou récompensées pour leurs émissions de GES. Les transactions de crédits sur le marché européen se sont élevées à 24 G$ l'an dernier, selon la Banque mondiale.

Bruxelles étudie actuellement la possibilité d'inclure d'autres secteurs, y compris celui du transport, dans le système européen d'échange de quotas pour la période après 2012. La Grande-Bretagne réfléchit pour sa part à soumettre son secteur des services à un système d'échange de crédits. À terme, les gestionnaires s'attendent d'ailleurs à ce que le marché réévalue les entreprises à la lumière de leur vulnérabilité aux restrictions sur les GES.

[Energy newsclip] Réduire les émissions de GES…informatiques: Un groupe de travail propose de transférer les programmes et applications de votre ordinateur sur un réseau pour économiser l’énergie

Réduire les émissions de GES…informatiques
Un groupe de travail propose de transférer les programmes et applications de votre ordinateur sur un réseau pour économiser l'énergie
par Alexis Beauchamp
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Texte mis en ligne le 12 juin 2007 à 10:45

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Réduire les émissions de GES…informatiques
De grands serveurs informatiques serviront à réduire drastiquement l'électricité consommée par les ordinateurs personnels dans le cadre d'un projet piloté par la ville de Manchester.
Réduire les émissions de GES…informatiques
Un groupe de travail propose de transférer les programmes et applications de votre ordinateur sur un réseau pour économiser l'énergie
Un partenariat public-privé veut s'attaquer aux émissions des technologies de l'information (TI) en remplaçant les ordinateurs que les gens possèdent à la maison par des machines épurées, qui nécessiteraient 75 % moins de ressources à fabriquer et 98 % moins d'électricité pour leur fonctionnement.
Environ 72 % de l'électricité en Grande-Bretagne provient du charbon et du gaz naturel.

La multiplication des équipements de TI et leur puissance toujours croissante fait en sortes que ce secteur génère 35 mégatonnes de GES chaque année en Grande-Bretagne, soit l'équivalent du transport aérien.

Un virage informatique vert

Le groupe « Green Shift », mené par le Conseil municipal de la ville de Manchester en collaboration avec le Research Framework Programme de l'Union européenne, propose de transférer les programmes comme Word, Excel, Outlook ou Firefox sur des serveurs centraux. Ces serveurs serviront également à stocker les fichiers de monsieur et madame tout le monde, ce qui promet de soulever des inquiétudes concernant la sauvegarde de la vie privée.

Plutôt que les ordinateurs classiques, les gens auront un écran, un clavier et un ordinateur « allégé » à la maison.

Green Shift affirme que cette solution permettra de mieux utiliser l'énergie et la mémoire des ordinateurs, qui sont aujourd'hui dotés de capacités beaucoup plus grandes que nécessaires pour la très grande majorité des utilisateurs. Ces nouveaux mégaserveurs seront alimentés par des sources d'énergie propre et utiliseront cette énergie de manière très efficace.

Google propose déjà des applications virtuelles par son service Google Documents, mais cette entreprise ne fait pas partie du PPP britannique. La forme que prendrait le transfert sur réseau des applications et programmes reste à déterminer.

Aucune estimation de prix pour les consommateurs n'a été dévoilée.

La fiabilité et la rapidité des connexions internet seront également cruciales à la réussite du projet pilote, qui devrait entrer en fonction en 2009.

Wall Street Journal: Small Firms See Big Potential In Going Green

Wall Street Journal: Small Firms See Big Potential In Going Green
by Lloyd Alter, Toronto on 06.12.07
Business & Politics


When Eco-Terr (shown above) was launched in 2001, nobody got it."People were skeptical about the durability of the products and if they would last," says founder Ofer Mizrahi. Now it is a booming business. The reason? According to the Wall Street Journal, a fundamental change was taking place. The public had started to see the value of eco-friendly construction materials, thanks in part to a widespread movement toward "green" architecture.

The Eco-Terr line has become a hit "as more people become aware and learn more about green products and technology," Mr. Mizrahi says.

The Journal continues: For entrepreneurs, it's never been a better time to go green. Prompted by fears of global warming and other environmental ills, consumers have started seeking out more eco-friendly products -- giving a big boost to small businesses that serve the niche.

Its good for small business: Many green consumers tend to see a small, local business as naturally more environmentally sound than a sprawling multinational. And small businesses can provide a personal touch that big ones can't -- which can be important when selling complicated eco-friendly wares.

"Small businesses connect with consumers on a personal level," says Michelle Barry, senior vice president of Hartman Group, a research institute in Seattle. ::Wall Street Journal

Small Firms See Big Potential
In Going Green

Consumer Concerns
And a Desire to Buy
Locally Boost Sales


When Ofer Mizrahi launched a line of eco-friendly flooring products and countertops in 2001, the response was lukewarm.

"People were skeptical about the durability of the products and if they would last," says the 43-year-old entrepreneur.

What a difference a few years makes. Revenue at Mr. Mizrahi's Miami-based business, CoveringsETC, soared to $11 million last year from $1.5 million in 2001. The company now has 40 employees and four showrooms in three states.

The explanation? Part of it was simply better marketing: Mr. Mizrahi learned to pay more attention to selling the design and quality of his products. But more important, a fundamental change was taking place. The public had started to see the value of eco-friendly construction materials, thanks in part to a widespread movement toward "green" architecture.

The Eco-Terr line has become a hit "as more people become aware and learn more about green products and technology," Mr. Mizrahi says.

Big Boost

For entrepreneurs, it's never been a better time to go green. Prompted by fears of global warming and other environmental ills, consumers have started seeking out more eco-friendly products -- giving a big boost to small businesses that serve the niche.

Some entrepreneurs have also gotten a hand from government programs that reward them for helping the environment.

Just how strong is consumer interest in green products? Here's one measure. According to the Organic Trade Association, a small-business trade group in Greenfield, Mass., sales of organic foods and beverages reached $16.9 billion last year, a 22.1% increase from $13.8 billion in 2005. Meanwhile, sales for nonfood organic products, such as soaps and paper, was $744 million in 2005. (No data are available for 2006, says the association.)

Many consumers, of course, are turning to large companies, such as Whole Foods Market Inc., for their eco-friendly products -- not small businesses. But ultimately, some experts and entrepreneurs argue, small businesses have an advantage over big ones when it comes to selling green merchandise.

Many green consumers tend to see a small, local business as naturally more environmentally sound than a sprawling multinational. And small businesses can provide a personal touch that big ones can't -- which can be important when selling complicated eco-friendly wares.

"Small businesses connect with consumers on a personal level," says Michelle Barry, senior vice president of Hartman Group, a research institute in Seattle.

Testing Grounds

Small businesses making green products can also gain an edge in new-product development by giving suppliers a home to test new formulations and components.

"We can work with the Procter & Gambles and it will take a year to change the mind-sets about these long-held formulations," says Peter Huntsman, CEO of Huntsman Corp., a $13 billion chemical conglomerate based in The Woodlands, Texas, that makes additives that go in an array of products, including clothes, detergents, furniture and automobiles. "But we are seeing an explosion taking place with the smaller operations that make end-use products for consumers," says Mr. Huntsman.

Mr. Huntsman -- who estimates his company has partnerships with 100 small partners -- says he believes there will be applications for green items that will be specific to certain regions. This, he says, will also open more doors for small firms. For instance, there might be more opportunities for a green laundry detergent out West where there are larger families than in midtown Manhattan, where more people send shirts out to be laundered.

"Typically the revolution will start locally before someone starts tinkering with the Tide laundry detergent," Mr. Huntsman says.

Staying True

Some green entrepreneurs say being small gives them another advantage. Since they aren't answerable to shareholders or big investors, they can stay true to their vision and values. That's why Jeff Mendelsohn, founder of New Leaf Paper, funded the small paper-manufacturing business himself.

He also relies on the personal touch when selling his recycled wares. The 40-year-old entrepreneur sells directly to printers and end users rather than relying on distributors.

"We have a unique product line and story to tell in the paper industry, and we prefer to manage our customer relationship directly," Mr. Mendelsohn says.

Last year, New Leaf Paper brought in revenue of $19 million, up from $1 million in 1998, when the company launched its own paper line.

Bouncing Forward

The government is also giving small businesses a spur to go green. Just as large companies receive government breaks for environmental-friendliness, the Department of Agriculture offers a Small Business Innovation Research Program that offers awards of $80,000 to $250,000 for using certain environmentally friendly practices in selling or processing wares. The Environmental Protection Agency gives grants to small businesses involved in environmental industries and initiatives. On a state level, New York awards funds to small businesses that are involved in projects such as pollution prevention and recycling.

Such grants helped brother and sister Bill and Deborah Robbins, owners of RubberForm Recycled Products LLC, in Lockport, N.Y. The company recycles old rubber, such as tires, and turns it into new products.

"Rubber is a real problem," says Ms. Robbins, a 56-year-old former health-care worker. "We want to do our part by reducing the numbers of used tires dumped into landfills by cleaning up the environment for our children and future generations."

The pair used local, state and federal funds -- as well as private investments -- to launch the business in December. Through the end of May, sales totaled $150,000, and the company recently received a contract from another eco-friendly small business, RubbersideWalks Inc. of Gardena, Calif., to make its rubber-sidewalk footpath products.

Write to Kemi Osukoya at

A D Little to Study Sustainability of Biofuels

A D Little to Study Sustainability of Biofuels

Arthur D. Little is undertaking a study on the Sustainability of Transportation Biofuels aiming to answer the question "given dependency on high oil prices and political support, are transportation biofuels economically sustainable?"

Quoting from their press release:

Despite the current support, there are uncertainties regarding the long-term sustainability of biofuel technologies and applications. This is due to the fact that most biofuels are cost competitive only in times of high oil prices. Also, the competition between fuel crop and food crop needs and the impact on biodiversity may lead to withdrawal or reduction of government support in the long-term. Finally, there is uncertainty regarding those who will be the active players in the value chain. For instance, will there continue to be on-off joint ventures supported by private equity, or will the market be dominated by energy majors and others?

"The biofuel market is thriving in countries which have the most favorable political incentives and availability of cheap feedstocks. But long term survival of the various biofuel options is far from clear, as virtually all are dependent on government support and/or high oil prices," comments Roger Hill, Head of Arthur D. Littles Global Energy Practice.

Adloecd_cost_of_biofuelsTheir biofuels website gives some preliminary answers regarding the profit potential. As can be seen from their chart above, only sugar cane ethanol from Brazil is profitable at a $40/bbl crude oil price, and U.S. corn oil is profitable at a slightly higher price of crude. The other supplies require a much higher oil price or substantial subsidies. At this point (in the study) cellulosic ethanol and biobutanol apparently are not considered. Factors other than cost will obviously be studied.

Tidy Data Centers are Green Data Centers: Surprisingly low-tech innovations are the secret to success for some of the world's greenest data centers, as IBM showed at a demo of its latest, most energy efficient data center in London.

Tidy Data Centers are Green Data Centers

Author: James Murray
Surprisingly low-tech innovations are the secret to success for some of the world's greenest data centers, as IBM showed at a demo of its latest, most energy efficient data center in London.

With the arms race to deliver the greenest data center intensifying by the week, it is sometimes easy to forget that while the leading hardware vendors are spending billions on developing new energy efficient processors or high tech environmental monitoring systems, some of the greenest data centers currently in operation rely on several surprisingly low tech innovations.

This was hammered home to me last week at a demo of IBM's new energy efficient data center facility at its London Headquarters, where many of the key energy saving techniques appeared to be situated on the "why on Earth didn't I think of that" side of simple.

Of course, that is not to say that IBM didn't also have plenty of high tech developments to show off, such as its new "cold battery" that promises to slash the power used in cooling technologies, its enhanced software solutions for managing data centers' power footprints, and improved water cooling technologies.

It is just that alongside these new systems several of the other innovations demonstrated were surprising in both their simplicity and effectiveness. It is easy to imagine countless data center managers having to break off from a tour of the green data center situated in the bowels of IBM's South Bank HQ to physically kick themselves over their failure to implement configurations that once witnessed appear blindingly obvious.

One such example is IBM's approach to under-floor cabling. According to IBM's execs, cabling is often the last thing on a data center manager's mind and as a result the cabling in many server farms is so untidy it makes a teenager's bedroom look like a spotless operating theater.

Before concerns about power consumption made their way to center stage this untidiness was neither here nor there. But the under floor spaces that typically house a data center's network and power cables is also used to distribute cool air around the servers and, according to IBM, blocking up these channels with unbundled cables forces limits the air flow and forces the air conditioning units to work even harder, driving up both energy use and electricity bills.

Chris Scott, site and facilities service product line leader at IBM, said that the company had addressed this problem through its Integrated Rack Solution (IRS), which integrates the cabling into the server racks, neatly bundling cables together to ensure they pose minimal disruption to the all important air flow. By bundling the power and network cables separately the racks reliability is also increased, he added, while the under floor space is left free "for what it was originally designed for -- moving air to cool the servers."

Scott said that IBM's integrated racks had been optimized to enhance reliability, reduce maintenance work, and ensure air flow is maximized, but any data center chief could feasibly enjoy some of these energy efficiency savings by simply bundling their cables together.

Similarly straight forward is IBM's answer to the age old data center problem of having to cool an entire room just to keep a few servers cool.

Datacenter managers have long known that keeping the front of the server racks cool is critical to their reliability and availability and as a result they have typically alternated cold corridors -- where cold air is pumped into a corridor with sets server racks facing inwards -- with hot corridors -- where the hot air is exhausted from the back of the racks and extracted from the data center.

However, whilst this enhances cooling efficiency it is a less than perfect set up because, as every school boy or girl knows, hot air rises and as a result the warm air from the "exhaust" corridor typically "leaks" back over the top of the racks into the cold corridor. As a result the servers housed at the top of the racks are considerably less reliable than those at the bottom and the air conditioning units once again have to work harder to keep the temperature down.

IBM's response to the problem? Stick a glass roof and door on the cold corridor.

Consequently, the hot air is kept away from the front of the servers, as illustrated, and the air conditioning units not only have to cool a far smaller area but are able to do so without warm air seeping into cold corridor. It's hardly high tech, but it works.

IBM reckons that combining these two relatively simple approaches can slash the energy used to cool a data center by up to 50 percent -- which represents a considerable environmental and cost saving given that cooling systems account for over a third of the energy used in a typical data center.

Of course, IBM is not alone in advocating this more holistic approach to enhancing data center energy efficiency, but its demo data center certainly serves to illustrate that alongside all the billions of dollars being invested in enhancing energy efficiency there is still room for simple design innovation.

What's more, data center managers should take heart from the fact that while they may ultimately need to undertake expensive upgrades to bring down their electricity bills there are still simple commonsense steps they can take to enhance energy efficiency.


Call for papers/ contributions on the topic of "Consulting for Business Sustainability":

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Call for contributions on the topic of
"Consulting for Business Sustainability"

Greenleaf Publishing invites contributions for a new series, Consulting for Business Sustainability, to be edited by Dr Chris Galea. Dr Galea is a professor at the Gerald Schwartz School of Business and Information Systems, St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada.

When business struggles consultants step in. As new areas of corporate challenges emerge, companies that find themselves on unfamiliar ground often turn to the expertise of leading-edge practitioners - consultants that have spotted those emerging trends and have positioned themselves ahead of the curve.

This is precisely where practitioners in the field of Consulting for Business Sustainability (CBS) are finding themselves. The strategic and business challenges posed by sustainability are now here to stay; their impact on a firm's profitability is no longer in dispute. In fact, many firms are now waking up to the emerging reality that the demands of sustainability may actually threaten their very business models. Conversely, those very same threats could also be the basis for developing new competitive advantages. Amidst the resulting confusion has emerged a growing plethora of consulting services aimed at helping managers navigate through the confusing morass of issues, challenges and possibilities posed by sustainability.

In light of this, Greenleaf Publishing is inviting leading practitioners and researchers in the field to contribute new perspectives to this vital topic. We aim to publish the most up-to-date collection of material for those who are actively involved in Consulting for Business Sustainability or business leaders who are on the receiving end of such consulting services. The publication will outline the growth and development of the industry, its current breadth and scope, give guidance to those who actively commission consulting services and, finally, outline the future direction that the industry is heading towards.


While the scope of the publication will evolve as authors submit their material, we currently envision five key sections. Though all related material will be considered, we invite contributions that address the following specific areas:

Part 1. Consulting for Business Sustainability: where we have come from and where we are today.

For this introductory section we will be seeking papers that outline the development and growth of Consulting for Business Sustainability - from its nascent patchwork beginnings to today's respectable, vibrant and growing industry. We also welcome papers that provide an outline of the current scope and extent of the sustainable business consulting industry today. Long-time practitioners in the field are welcome to share their experience of "growing up" with the industry and their views on where we have arrived today.

Part 2. Consulting for Business Sustainability (CBS): current best practice

For this section we seek to give readers an understanding of current best CBS practices of leading and emerging practitioners around the world. What innovative approaches have been tried? What has worked or, just as importantly, failed? What key challenges have been faced and how were they overcome?

Relatedly, what have been the internal challenges faced by established consulting firms in developing their own CBS departments? How were these challenges met and what future challenges await? What advice would you give to aspiring consultants in the field or those wanting to branch out into the area?

Part 3. Consulting for Business Sustainability: the parts that make up the whole

This section is meant to give readers a general overview of specific segments of CBS and the particular challenges and issues faced by each sub-discipline. We welcome papers that explored specific areas of CBS such as stakeholder management, sustainable accounting practices, waste management audits, life-cycle analysis, etc.

Part 4. Consulting for Business Sustainability: the view from the receiving end

In this section we welcome the views of the clients who have commissioned and received CBS services. What were your experiences - the bad, the good, the ugly? Would you do it again? Why or why not? How can CBS practices be improved?

Likewise, what works well and should be maintained? What advice would you give to those seeking to make use of sustainable business consultants in the future? If you found yourself sharing a bottle of red wine with your lead CBS consultant, what would you frankly discuss with her or him?

Part 5: The future of Consulting for Business Sustainability

In this last section we seek pieces that push the thinking on Consulting for Business Sustainability. What is the future of the field? What are the forces that are moulding the new approaches? What can/should be done to push the envelope in this crucial area?


The publication is aimed primarily at professionals in the field of Consulting for Business Sustainability - from those who provide the services to those on the receiving end. In addition, the text should be useful to general consultants who are interested in learning about CBS or those who are thinking of making a switch into this area. Finally, the publication such should also be of interest to managers, students, researchers, government and NGO representatives who wish to educate themselves on this growing force in business sustainability.

Given the wide-ranging and practical nature of this series, we encourage contributions from CBS practitioners, those in business, NGOs and governments who commission CBS services, as well as academics and other involved professionals. Final papers should be between 3,000 and 4,000 words in length; shorter papers/opinion pieces and case studies will also be considered. The paper submissions should follow editorial guidelines.

Authors are invited to propose topics and ideas (in the form of an abstract or outline of not more than 300 words) to the Editor. The deadline to do so is 1 August 2007. A selection process will then be put into motion. Contributors whose proposed papers are considered appropriate for the project will either be informed of the acceptance of their proposals and asked to contribute full papers or be invited to revise their proposals. Invited full papers should then be sent as email attachments to the Editor for the review process by 1 November 2007. Contributors whose final papers meet the project criteria will then be either informed of the final acceptance of their contributions or be invited to revise their papers by 1 February 2008. A selection of papers will be published in a special issue of Greener Management International (Summer 2008). The expected publication date of the book with the complete set of papers is Spring 2009.

For further information, to discuss ideas for contributions and to submit manuscripts please contact the Editor:
Dr Chris Galea
Gerald Schwartz School of Business and Information Systems
St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
Tel: +1 902 863 2829
Fax: +1 902 867 5385

Contribution guidelines can be obtained from:
Jayney Bown
Greenleaf Publishing
Aizlewood Business Centre, Aizlewood's Mill, Sheffield S3 8GG, UK
Tel: +44 114 282 3475
Fax: +44 114 282 3476
They are also
available here.


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UK to be 2nd Best Country for Clean Energy - Report

UK to be 2nd Best Country for Clean Energy - Report
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UK: May 30, 2007

LONDON - Renewable energy could boom in Britain under planning and energy policy changes announced last week, making it the second most attractive country for investment in clean energy, analysts at Ernst & Young said.

Although the blustery British Isles have huge potential for wind, tidal and wave power, earlier this year the country slipped down the consultancy's league table of best places to invest in clean energy because of a lack of investment in the power network which is needed to connect new projects.

But last week's energy and planning policy papers have reversed that.

The proposed changes to the way renewables are supported through the UK government's Renewables Obligation and a more streamlined planning system could make Britain equally as attractive as Spain and India but still less of a lure for renewable energy than the United States, the consultancy said.

"The proposed changes to the Renewables Obligation (RO) and reforms to planning should level the playing field for many technologies competing for development capital in the UK," Jonathan Johns, head of Ernst & Young's Renewables Waste and Clean Energy Group, said in a statement.

"The challenge now is for industry and the finance providers to make the necessary investment in these new and emerging technologies in order to meet the UK's goals for renewable energy in the future."

As a result of last week's proposals -- aimed at cutting Britain's carbon emissions while ensuring future energy supplies -- the UK is set to overtake Germany in Ernst & Young's league table of most attractive countries in which to invest in clean technologies.

The government last week put cutting energy use, boosting support for clean technologies and replacing Britain's ageing nuclear power reactors at the centre of its strategy to reduce emissions of the gas largely responsible for climate change.

Under the proposed reforms, which are yet to become law, more expensive and newer technologies like offshore wind and tidal power will get more money than established and cheaper types such as onshore windfarms.

The other countries that Ernst & Young keeps track on are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Poland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Turkey.

IBM and Nature Conservancy Team Up To Save Major Rivers

IBM and Nature Conservancy Team Up To Save Major Rivers, 24 April 2007 - IBM and The Nature Conservancy today announced a new partnership that aims to conserve some of the world's great rivers by meshing extraordinary computing power and science-driven conservation.

Projects launched at the two organizations, The Nature Conservancy's Great Rivers Partnership and IBM's Big Green Innovations project, will work together to create an elaborate computer modeling framework that will give governments, community organizations and individuals unprecedented access to detailed information about the world's threatened Great Rivers.

The project will begin with the Paraguay-Paraná river system in Brazil, and then move to China's Yangtze River and the Mississippi River in the United States. Among the data collected will be information on water flow, erosion rates, potential pollution and nutrient overflow from farming, as well as the historical climate and rainfall of the region.

Once the data is collected, end users will be able to get answers to important questions such as: What impact will development have on water quality for a village downstream? Will clear-cutting a forest in the upper part of a river's watershed imperil fish stocks local people depend on for food?

The proposed system will provide access to wide-ranging data on climate, rainfall, land cover, vegetation and biodiversity and enable stakeholders to better understand how policy decisions impact water quality and ecosystem services. The partnership will create simulation, three-dimensional visualization, and scenario forecasting tools to facilitate more sustainable management of the world's great rivers.

"Part of the challenge is to integrate the data so that it's easily usable by consitutents," said Sharon Nunes, IBM's vice president of Big Green Innovations. "It's important to provide easy access to the framework and the information."

One reason why the partnership made so much sense, Nunes said, was that The Nature Conservancy has long been intensively gathering data on these rivers at the ground level. Coupling this mass of information with IBM's computational power makes it practical, possibly for the first time, to get this level of detailed modeling in the hands of individuals and organizations focused on local water-quality and river improvement projects.

"The lack of suitable water for people and for nature is a growing international crisis, especially within impoverished communities," said TNC's CEO, Steve McCormick, in a statement. "Our partnership with IBM represents the kind of innovation and creativity necessary to preserve freshwater systems at scales that can really make a difference."

Great Rivers Partnership was launched in 2005 to help protect of the world's vanishing freshwater supply and re-shape how large river systems are preserved and protected. In addition to Brazil's Paraguay-Paraná river basin, the Yangtze River in China and the Mississippi River, the Conservancy is also working on the conservation of the Zambezi River.

IBM's Big Green Innovations was launched in 2006 to bring IBM's technological muscle to four key areas. Primarily, the group is focusing on water management, with the Great Rivers Partnership as one example of how this research will benefit the public. But IBM's Nunes said the company also has plans to adapt what they learn from the rivers to help their industrial customers manage their water usage from beginning to end.

BGI will also study the intelligent utility network, Nunes said, specifically, looking to understand how to smoothly integrate alternative energy supplies like wind and solar into the grid. The natural peaks and troughs of energy supplied by renewable sources complicate the energy grid, so one of IBM's innovations will learn how best to adapt our current energy structure to make use of these technologies.

In addition to these two areas, Big Green Innovations will launch studies of greening supply chains and manufacturing processes, as well as a general emphasis on its sophisticated computational modeling operations.

Nunes said IBM expects the first of the Great Rivers projects, the Paraguay-Paraná basin, to go online in the next year to 18 months, with Yangtze river following soon thereafter. But she emphasized that improving water management especially is urgently necessary around the world.

"This is not just an issue related to IBM and The Nature Conservancy -- this is an issue of critical importance around the world. As just one example, how do you get water to support farming in developing countries when we're starting to realize just how serious the water shortages we're facing will soon become? But if you understand [the problem], then you can know what you can do to protect it."

Tapping Hydroelectric Dams for Methane Gas

Tapping Hydroelectric Dams for Methane Gas

IPS, 6 June 2007 - Hydroelectricity is not as clean as most people might believe, because the reservoirs created by dams in tropical areas -- and in forested zones in particular -- emit greenhouse gases from the decomposition of organic material. But this downside can be turned into a benefit, and give a boost to the amount of energy generated.

Some hydroelectric plants in the Amazon hold an added energy capacity of 27 to 53 percent, taking into account the methane bubbles released from the water as it passes through the turbines and spillways, says Fernando Ramos, based on a study he and two colleagues from Brazil's National Institute of Space Research (INPE) conducted at the Balbina, Samuel and Tucuruí dams.

But what his group proposes is to extract methane from the depths of the reservoirs, where there is a higher concentration of the gas.

With an investment of 100 million dollars, one million tonnes of methane a year could be captured at Tucuruí, Brazil's second largest hydroelectric dam, located in the eastern Amazon. The return, considering current prices of the gas, would reach 79 percent, much higher than the 25 percent expected in other Brazilian renewable energy projects.

A million tonnes of methane is the equivalent of 1,760 megawatts -- the potential of a large hydroelectric dam -- and more energy than what would be produced by the third nuclear plant under consideration for construction in this country.

As such, methane could replace several hydroelectric dams planned for the Amazon, and which are criticised by environmentalists because they would flood extensive areas of forest and cause other environmental and social problems.

The gas could be stored and transported for use in other areas, but the best option would be to build a thermoelectric plant at the dam site, taking advantage of the existing infrastructure to transmit the electricity, Ramos said in an interview for this report. Furthermore, it is a good way to avoid emissions of the gases that contribute to climate change, which could generate carbon credits and make the project more profitable.

"This technological idea would meet the criteria of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)" established in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change, and could enter the market of carbon credits, agreed Pablo Fernández, manager of CDM project implementation at EcoSecurities, though he admitted he is "not clear on how the methane would be captured."

EcoSecurities is the company that put together the first Brazilian project that obtained carbon credits, NovaGerar, which extracts gas emissions from a huge garbage dump outside Rio de Janeiro to generate energy.

INPE's Ramos, a mechanical engineer, said "there is no doubt about the feasibility of the technique" for recovering methane from the dams, given that the gas is released when the water passes through the turbines and "pressure falls suddenly, producing bubbles," in a process similar to opening a soda bottle.

The idea is to create a tubing system similar to a pool cleaner, installed on a barge that would move about the reservoir, seeking the areas of highest methane concentration.

The new task that the INPE group hopes to complete by the end of the year is a pilot project to verify its economic viability, he announced.

It is "a new idea, not yet made official in the CDM," and needs to "mature" in technical details and an inventory of the methane held in the Brazilian reservoirs, Ramos acknowledged.

Other reservoirs, including those outside the Amazon region, could have high concentrations of gas from organic material as well, he said.

The INPE scientists rule out trying to capture methane at the dam turbines, because the electric companies don't want to install anything that could alter the functioning of the dams. So the option is to collect the methane before the water reaches the turbines.

However, Alexandre Kemenes, researcher with the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in the Amazon (LBA), proposes capturing the gas released from the water "during and after its passage through the turbines." It is more feasible, he said in an interview, because the area will be limited and it would take advantage of existing installations, and is better for the environment because it would also permit carbon recovery.

Kemenes has already filed a patent request in Brazil and abroad for the "system and method of biogas exploitation" that he designed. It speaks of biogas because it makes use of the mix emitted in the turbines, predominantly methane and carbon dioxide. At the Balbina dam in the state of Amazonas, biogas is just 43 percent methane, and would have to be enriched to be used in generating electricity, which requires a minimum of 45 percent methane.

Balbina has gigantic potential, given that it emits gases that represent 10 times what is contributed to global warming by a thermoelectric plant of equal capacity, run on fossil fuels, or 10 percent of the emissions of Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest and richest metropolis, says Kemenes.

(*This story is part of a series of features on sustainable development by IPS - Inter Press Service, and IFEJ -- the International Federation of Environmental Journalists.)


Purified sewage is unpalatable

[Maybe we should call it pre-owned water -- JFB]

Purified sewage is unpalatable

Financial Times, 18 April 2007 - Despite growing shortages, there are many options that can be explored before drinking waste.

In March this year, Jim Service, the chairman of water supply company Actew Corporation, and councillors from the Australian city of Canberra dutifully drank bottles of purified sewage water as they unveiled plans to recycle part of the city's wastewater into tapwater.

Within days, Professor Peter Collignon, director of infectious diseases and microbiology at the Canberra Hospital, wrote an open letter laying out his concerns about the health implications of the scheme.

What assurance could there be, he asked, that treatment would remove all disease-causing bacteria and viruses, as well as hormones and pharmaceutical compounds present in sewage?

It is a good question. As Antoine Frerot, chief executive of Paris-based global water champion Veolia Water, observes: "Louis Pasteur said 150 years ago that we drink 90 per cent of our illnesses. That is why water treatment was created."

Around the world, water companies and their equipment suppliers insist we have the technology to render sewage safe to drink – but they don't all guarantee they can pick up hormones or unexpected compounds. "This is an area in which we and others are doing a lot of research," says Roger Radke, chief executive of Warrendale, Pennsylvania-based Siemens Water Technologies.

Microfiltration through polymer membranes, followed by reverse osmosis through membranes can remove even viruses if a small enough pore size is specified, says Mr Radke, though to drink the water, you had better then pass it under ultra-violet light to be sure to kill microscopic parasites such as cryptosporidium and giardia.

But this adds expense. In reality, the level of treatment is dictated by standards that have been deemed necessary by regulators for the intended use. And when deployed, it typically comes at the back-end of the traditional waste-water treatment process.

In the case of Canberra, waste water would be treated in the conventional way with chemical and bacteriological processes to remove solids and create water of the quality that is typically released back into rivers around the world.

Actew says it is still investigating exactly which processes the water would then undergo before being pumped into the supply reservoir. It says it would expect to use a combination of micro-filtration and ultrafiltration to remove microscopic particles, contaminants and pathogens; reverse osmosis to remove salts, organic compounds and viruses; and ultra-violet disinfection/oxidation to additionally ensure any trace of organic material is destroyed. A final option is to let the water flow through an artificial marshland before joining the reservoir.

After that, the reservoir water would pass through an existing treatment plant before entering the tapwater distribution system.

Canberra, like many Australian towns, is short of water because of a drought that has proved longer, and more severe, than anyone forecast. Last year, residents of Toowoomba, Queensland, rejected proposals for a similar waste water-to-tapwater scheme in a referendum in which health concerns played a key role. The Canberra proposals could prove equally contentious.

Veolia's Mr Frerot says: "To my knowledge, there are only two places in the world where treated waste water is gradually mixed into tapwater: the town of Windhoek, in Namibia, and Singapore."

In Windhoek, that is because the river is more polluted than the waste water, he says. In Singapore, it is a political choice designed to reduce depend ence on supplies from neighbouring Malaysia – and accounts for less than 1 per cent of water consumed.

Yet all around the world, city populations consume treated water drawn from rivers that receive treated wastewater from communities further upstream. Just as the citizens of Rouen, in France, drink the waste water of Parisians, the same is true in the River Thames in the UK, the Colorado in the US, and the Rhine in Germany and its neighbours. Without wastewater, these rivers would almost run dry.

Treatment prior to drinking is imperative: a 2003 study found the level of hormones in the River Seine sufficient to change the gender of some of its fish. And a study by the Netherlands government found that using Dutch rainwater even to flush toilets would pose a health risk.

If we are going to drink treated wastewater, says Mr Frerot, the best strategy, where geological conditions permit, is to reinject it into aquifers – as happens in Berlin and Adelaide. The soil acts as a natural filter, and the time-lag provides additional water for abstraction in periods of peak summer demand. Man is merely shortening the natural cycle.

Otherwise the most obvious and economically viable solution, he suggests, is to use treated waste water for industry and irrigation. Orange County, in California, adopted Siemens' microfiltration and reverse osmosis to treat waste water a decade ago, initially reinjecting it into aquifers, and subsequently selling additional supplies to farmers and industry – which covers the cost of the additional treatment, says Mr Radke.

In Australia and elsewhere, some towns have a second distribution system for "reticulated" water used by householders for garden watering and washing cars.

Meantime, treated sewage water is widely used to supply industry, farms and golf courses, freeing up "natural" supplies for tapwater. Veolia alone has 100 such facilities in France, and others scattered from Honolulu to Durban in South Africa.

Dégremont, a Suez Environment subsidiary, cleans wastewater from Grasse, France's perfume capital, to bathing standards, says Dégremont chief operating officer Remi Lantier, providing water quality guarantees for fish farms downstream.

Pumping treated waste water into marshlands and reed beds, where sunlight and plants complete the purification, is an option too. But the outfall from even a small town would require a vast swamp to be effective.

The simplest solution for small communities, says Mr Radke, is to buy a Siemens skid-mounted modular unit – the size of a small car – for a few thousand, or tens of thousands of dollars, and turn waste water into irrigation quality water by passing it through membranes.

Dégremont's Mr Lantier says companies like his can produce ultra-pure water in which the only molecules are H20. He likens the safety issue to that in the nuclear industry, standards are that stringent.

Globally, says Mr Lantier, only 45 per cent of the world's collected waste water is treated. The most urgent priority is to treat the 55 per cent released untreated. Of that treated, 20m m3 a day is recycled – about 2 per cent. He expects that proportion to triple in coming decades.

Ultimately, says Mr Frerot, the most cost-effective solution to water shortages developing in many towns and cities must surely be to supply such treated waste water for use in industry and irrigation, in place of the tapwater used today. "That would halve the demand for natural water," he says. "That is what we should do, before talking about drinking waste water."

Greener Jet Fuel

Thanks Norbert!

Greener Jet Fuel by Emily Singer
The CEO of Amyris Biotechnologies says genetically engineered microorganisms could make better jet fuel.

Technology Review - Published by MIT
Monday, June 11, 2007
Greener Jet Fuel
The CEO of Amyris Biotechnologies says genetically engineered microorganisms could make better jet fuel.
By Emily Singer

Carbon-dioxide emissions from jets are a growing environmental concern. In the United States, about 12 percent of carbon-dioxide emissions come from jet fuel, a rate that is expected to rise as air travel increases. In addition, fuel prices have more than doubled from 2000 to 2006, boosting airline operating costs and making airlines increasingly desperate for a more price-stable alternative.

But designing less-polluting new jet fuels is a challenge. Such a fuel must have a freezing point low enough to withstand high-altitude temperatures and an energy density high enough to allow planes to fly long routes without added weight--two requirements that take currently available biofuels out of the running. Ethanol has a low energy content and other problematic properties, and biodiesel's freezing point is too high.

A new biofuel under development by Amyris Biotechnologies, a startup based in Emeryville, CA, could fill that hole. The company's approach is to engineer the metabolic system of microorganisms to create a variety of specialized hydrocarbons. To date, the company has successfully created microbes that can pump out the precursor for a crucial malaria drug called artemisinin. (See "Cheaper Malaria Drugs.") Spurred by interest from the British megaconglomerate Virgin, which has recently launched a fuel division, Amyris has put a new focus on a cost-competitive jet fuel. Amyris scientists say they can now produce hydrocarbons with properties that rival the current jet-fuel industry standard, a kerosene-based product known as jet-A. The microbial factories ferment sugar to produce hydrocarbons, a process that has significantly less impact on global warming than traditional fuel production.

Amyris CEO John Melo, formerly president of U.S. Fuels Operations for British Petroleum, talks with TR about the company's progress.

Technology Review: Why is Virgin so interested in alternative jet fuels?

John Melo: Carbon taxes are coming into play for air travel in Europe, and they are concerned that this is the beginning of a trend that, if it took hold, would significantly take away profit from airlines. In addition, fuel is such a big driver of profit contribution to airlines, they see having an alternative as a critical issue for the future of air travel. Demand growth for jet fuel is about three times the demand growth of gasoline.

We had not given jet fuels a lot of thought until Virgin approached us towards the end of last year. They had learned about what we were doing and wanted to explore if our technology could be used for jet fuel. The fact that no one else was addressing the problem in a sustainable way focused us on the problem. We realized we could make a big impact if we developed a fuel with zero sum carbon emissions.

TR: Developing a new jet fuel has considerable challenges. How did Amyris approach the problem?

JM: We started with the current standard for jets, called jet-A. We asked ourselves if we could generate a fuel with more energy than jet-A and a colder freezing point, which would enable flight over the poles.

We identified a molecule that we believed our core technology could make, and then set out to design microbes to make that product. Now we've been able to make it efficiently enough that we believe it would allow us to make a jet-A equivalent with better properties on energy and freezing point with a $40 barrel cost equivalent by 2010 or 2011.

TR: How difficult will it be to get to that point?

JM: In our first project on artemisinin, we had to generate a million-fold improvement in yield. Using that base technology platform, we now need to generate a three- to four-fold improvement on top of that. That would take us to a point where it is cost competitive with fossil fuel.

TR: Does your fuel have better properties than current jet fuel?

JM: The freezing point is -57 ºC, compared to -40 ºC for jet-A. In the lab, we see a higher energy density than jet-A. But I'd rather set an expectation that we'll be equivalent to jet-A.

TR: How will Amyris fit the new product into existing infrastructure?

JM: We foresee selling our fuels as blends. With ethanol, many infrastructures limit blending to 10 percent. We want to give people the level of blending they see as most reasonable, depending on economics and geography. If consumers want a lower carbon footprint, they should be able to get a 100 percent product.

We're also trying to be pragmatic. I don't think we can deliver the volumes the world will need for transportation fuels in the short term, so we're creating fuels that can be blended.

: Regulatory hurdles to certify a jet fuel are high. Have you started that process yet?

JM: Our approach is to participate in a consortium, like the one Boeing has pulled together with Virgin and General Electric. [In April, Boeing, Virgin Atlantic, and GE Aviation announced an environmental partnership.] The consortium is trying to pool resources and technological talent to identify these products and get them to certification. It would like to start testing a viable renewable jet fuel next year.

The consortium brings to the table a clear understanding of the best attributes of a fuel blend, as well as access to labs and financial resources to support the certification process. We're not yet part of that, but we're looking into it.

Copyright Technology Review 2007.