Sustainablog

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

10.8.07

The Energy-Efficient Supply Chain: How to reduce energy consumption and carbon output in procurement, production, and distribution.


The Energy-Efficient Supply Chain
by Peter Parry, Joseph Martha, and Georgina Grenon
 
8/09/07
How to reduce energy consumption and carbon output in procurement, production, and distribution.

As concerns mount about fuel prices, long-term energy availability, and climate change, companies' attention is finally turning toward one of the most pervasive places where energy can be conserved: the industrial supply chain. Simply put, the supply chain is the production and distribution network that encompasses the sourcing, manufacturing, transportation, commercialization, distribution, consumption, and disposal of goods, from the ore mine to the trash can.

Four primary factors drive businesses' interest in the energy-efficient supply chain. First is the desire to cut energy costs. Second is concern about regulation — through trading permits, mandated caps, and other means, governments will increasingly press businesses to limit the amount of carbon they release. Third, a growing segment of customers favor companies that credibly demonstrate reduction of carbon impact. The fourth driver is productivity: The economies that a company like Wal-Mart or Tesco puts in place to reduce emissions can reduce other costs and improve operations as well.

On January 18, 2007, Tesco CEO Terry Leahy announced that the retail chain would reduce the carbon footprint of all stores and distribution centers by 50 percent over the next 15 years. That kind of target cannot be realized by placing unilateral pressure on suppliers. It requires efforts that build trust and transparency along the value chain. When suppliers and customers understand one another's contributions to carbon emissions, they can identify ecological and economic waste that would otherwise be hard to see.

For example, in 2006, the Carbon Trust, a United Kingdom–based research and advisory group, discovered a "perverse incentive" in the sourcing of raw potatoes for manufacturing snack foods. (The analysis appeared in the group's report, "Carbon Footprints in the Supply Chain: The Next Step for Business.") Charged with studying the carbon footprint of potato chips, the Trust's researchers found that because prices are set by weight, farmers typically control humidification to produce moister and therefore heavier potatoes. Even within the strictly limited specifications of moisture content set by the food manufacturers, these few grams of extra water are significant. The extra cooking needed to burn them off accounted for an unexpectedly high percentage of the chips' energy consumption.

An obvious solution, wrote the Carbon Trust, would be to change the procurement contract — to provide farmers with an incentive to produce potatoes with less moisture. This would better position the manufacturers to take advantage of carbon trading credits and other regulations for greenhouse gas reduction. And it would set a precedent for further collaboration between food makers and their agricultural suppliers.

Similar approaches have been used to study the energy footprints of a range of products, from the United Kingdom's Mirror newspaper chain, to Unilever's Vaseline hand lotion, to cameras made by Kodak and Hewlett-Packard. Even though it has been 15 years since the pioneer packaging-reduction incentives of Germany's "Green Dot"  labeling program were put into effect, there is still much to learn about the waste of energy and materials in the typical supply chain.

In the potato chip case, for example, production-related greenhouse gases dwarfed the emissions from transportation. In other cases, transportation and logistics are much bigger factors, with enormous potential gains. A 1993 study of Landliebe Yogurt (a local brand made and sold in Stuttgart, Germany) revealed that the ingredients in a single container — including milk, strawberries, wheat, cultures, glass for the jar, paper for the label, and aluminum for the lid — had traveled a total of more than 9,100 kilometers (about 5,600 miles) before reaching the consumer's hands.

Some of the innovations of the next five years will focus on reducing this type of inefficiency. Marks and Spencer, for example, has a specific initiative under way to reduce "food miles," sourcing its wares from nearby locales and working with local farmers to increase the growing season. Other initiatives will increase transportation efficiencies: A truck that once carried 150 items will now carry 300, or carry the same volume of goods with less fuel. Other projects will reduce and simplify packaging, closely track the joules consumed, or switch to less carbon-intensive materials and energy sources (such as renewable energy and more efficient lighting sources). Already, some business-to-business producers and service providers, including gasoline retailers and airlines, are using government-mandated pollution credits to offer climate change–conscious services for customers ("buy our product and help offset your own greenhouse gas impact").

As businesses become more and more serious about this, managers will increasingly find themselves asking, What is it about the way we operate that causes our entire supply chain to waste energy? There will be many surprises. One should not conclude that all lightweight snacks, nearby farms, or recycled materials are preferable from a climate change perspective. Every supply chain is different, with unique opportunities for using information technology, management practice, incentives, and sheer common sense to reduce the carbon footprint.

The first step is thus understanding the specific carbon footprint of your business's supply chain, in the context of overall strategy and operations. The second step is discerning the extent to which emissions are related to your specific needs, versus those inherent in supply chain management. The third is defining your approach. It is likely to be a combination of three types of measures: reducing your footprint through demand reductions and energy efficiency in design, construction, and operation; replacing conventional energy sources and materials with low- or zero-carbon alternatives, including materials and equipment with low-embodied carbon; and offsetting unavoidable carbon emissions through a program of credit trading and other verified means. 

Author Profiles:


Peter Parry (parry_peter@bah.com) is a vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton in London. He specializes in global energy and has 25 years of experience in corporate strategy development, technology management, and commercial negotiations. He has worked extensively with governments, national and international oil companies, and independent oil and service companies.

Joseph Martha (martha_joseph@bah.com), a vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton in McLean, Va., is the coauthor, with David Bovet, of Value Nets: Breaking the Supply Chain to Unlock Hidden Profits (Wiley, 2000). He has worked with numerous manufacturing, distribution, and retail companies in the areas of supply chain management, logistics strategy, distribution operations, and information systems.

Georgina Grenon (grenon_georgina@bah.com) is a senior associate with Booz Allen Hamilton based in Paris. She is the director of the firm's business development and intellectual capital efforts involving manufacturing and cross-industry supply chain issues.

Also contributing to this article were Booz Allen Vice President Nick Pennell and Senior Consultant Timothy Gange.

Thin-film solar to see bright days ahead: Solar cells made from thin-film technologies could make up about one-third of the fast-growing solar photovoltaic market by 2015


(Thanks to Drew for this one)


August 9, 2007 7:32 AM PDT
Thin-film solar to see bright days ahead
Posted by Martin LaMonica



Green tech

Solar cells made from thin-film technologies could make up about one-third of the fast-growing solar photovoltaic market by 2015, a research firm predicted.

NanoMarkets on Monday released a report that forecast a rapid uptake of thin-film photovoltaics with spending set to grow from $1 billion this year to $7.2 billion by 2015.

The researcher listed several advantages that thin-film photovoltaics offer over traditional solar cells, which are made out of crystalline silicon wafers.

Thin-film solar cells, which can be made from a range of materials, can be put onto flexible substrates, which means that manufacturers can build electricity-producing walls, roofs or even windows.

Conventional photovoltaic cells, which convert light to electricity, are also expensive to make, compared to thin-film manufacturing processes, according to the report.

Despite those advantages, thin-film has its drawbacks. The efficiency of thin-film photovoltaics is typically lower than silicon and some of those materials have shown degradation over time, notes industry Web site SolarBuzz.

The market share for thin-film PV is in the single digits--around 5 percent--and they are most often in niche applications like low-power consumer electronics.

NanoMarkets said that solar cells based on organic materials offer a more environmentally friendly approach than current processes. It predicted that shipments of organic PV will be about 500 megawatts by 2015.

For comparison, SolarBuzz said that 1,744 megawatts of solar PV were installed in 2006.


8.8.07

[Energy newsclip] Curbing deforestation 'key' to fighting climate change


Curbing deforestation 'key' to fighting climate change

SciDev.Net, 11 May 2007 - Reducing deforestation in developing countries could become a key strategy in fighting climate change, says a group of forest and climate experts.

Their paper, published online yesterday (10 May) in Science finds that tropical deforestation produces 20 per cent of all carbon emissions caused by humans and destroys long-term carbon sinks.

Reducing tropical deforestation to 50 per cent of its current level over the next 50 years ― and then maintaining that level until 2100 ― would, it says, reduce carbon emissions by 50 gigatonnes this century; the near equivalent of six years' global fossil fuel emissions.

Josep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project and co-author of the paper, points out that such a "50/50/50 option" could achieve 12 per cent of the total emissions reduction called for by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to stabilise atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at 450 parts per million.

The team's finding also challenges previous models that predict climate change will make tropical forests more prone to conversion into drier ecosystems such as savannahs, thus releasing carbon (see One fifth of Amazon rainforest 'savannah by 2099').

The new-generation climate models used in the study predict that global tropical forests will remain net carbon sinks ― albeit declining ― even under the IPCC's mid-range emissions scenario.

"The paper gives strong confidence that tropical forests are here to stay, even with moderate global warming," Canadell told SciDev.Net, adding, "Therefore it is worthwhile to invest in their protection as a potentially cost-effective option for climate change mitigation."

Slowing tropical deforestation is one of the least expensive options to fight climate change proposed by the IPCC in a major report last week (4 May) (see IPCC: We have the means to fight climate change ).

Many developing countries have already expressed a desire to reduce tropical deforestation, but will require financial and technical support to do so from developed countries.

Developing countries from across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Central and South America and Oceania released a joint statement in March this year of "commitment and solidarity" to reduce emissions from deforestation.

The statement was submitted to international delegates at a conference for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany, where discussions are currently underway to develop a global policy for reducing emissions from deforestation (7-18 May).

Reference: Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1136163

[CSR newsclip] World's Most Ethical Companies List Unveiled


World's Most Ethical Companies List Unveiled

GreenBiz.com, 11 May 2007 - Ethisphere Magazine, a national print publication dedicated to illuminating the important correlation between ethics and profit, has released its first listing of the World's Most Ethical Companies.

Out of thousands of organizations that the editors surveyed over a six-month period, fewer than 100 companies made the final list. "It was a rigorous selection process. The organizations chosen for the list of World's Most Ethical Companies possess strong internal systems that encourage ethical behavior not only from its leaders but from its employees," said Alex Brigham, executive editor of Ethisphere Magazine. "These companies go beyond making statements about doing business ethically; they translate those words into actions."

The process included reviewing the companies' codes of ethics, litigation and regulatory infraction histories; evaluating companies' investment in innovation and sustainable business practices; looking at activities designed to improve corporate citizenship; studying nominations from senior executives, industry peers, suppliers and customers; and working with consumer action groups for feedback and rating.

Researchers included editors from Ethisphere Magazine as well support from SustainAbility, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Trillium Asset Management Corporation, Winslow Management Company, ForestEthics, Women's Equity Fund, The Center for Business Ethics, and New Alternatives Fund.

"These organizations demonstrate real and sustained ethical leadership, and realize that with this commitment comes increased competitive advantage and long-term profitability," said Stephen Martin, editor-in-chief of Ethisphere Magazine. "They have each scored materially higher in the evaluations than their industry competitors, and set the bar on ethical leadership for other companies to either follow...or fall behind."

The list of the world's most ethical companies spans a range of sectors, including agricultural, automotive, financial services, computers, telecoms, engineering, retail, insurance and more.

Among the companies Ethisphere editors singled out for recognition are Alcoa in the Metals and Mining category, Eaton in the Industrial Manufacturing category, media company Kiplinger's, General Electric in the Diversified Industries category, Kellogg's and John Deere.

The full list includes 90 companies spanning the globe in 29 sectors.
Ethisphere Magazine has the full list on its website.

[Energy newsclip] Eat a steak, warm the planet


Eat a steak, warm the planet

AFP, 18 July 2007 - A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of beef causes more greenhouse-gas and other pollution than driving for three hours while leaving all the lights on back home, according to a Japanese study.

A team led by Akifumi Ogino of the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Tsukuba, calculated the environmental cost of raising cattle through conventional farming, slaughtering the animal and distributing the meat, New Scientist reports in next Saturday's issue.

Producing a kilo (2.2 pounds) of beef causes the equivalent of 36.4 kilos (80.08 pounds) in carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas, Ogino found.

Most of these greenhouse-gas emissions take the form of methane, released from the cow's digestive system.

That one kilo (2.2 pounds) of beef also requires energy equivalent to lighting a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days. The energy is needed to produce and transport the animals' feed.

A Swedish study in 2003 suggested that organic beef emits 40 percent less greenhouse gases and consumes 85 percent less energy because the animal is raised on grass rather than concentrated feed.

The study appears in full in a specialist publication, Animal Science Journal.

[CSR newsclip] Workers Want Companies to Be More Socially Conscious, Survey Finds


Workers Want Companies to Be More Socially Conscious, Survey Finds

GreenBiz.com, 16 July 2007 - Americans' expectations of businesses are at an all-time high, with more than two-thirds of Americans saying they take a company's business practices into account when they consider their purchases, according to the latest Cause Evolution Survey from marketing and public relationships company Cone.

The study also found a a substantial increase in the number of American workers who want their employers to support a social cause or issue. Cone's researchers said the results suggest that the country has undergone an evolution in consumer thinking about the ways businesses interact with society.

"Good business primarily used to be about providing fair value, decent service, and high quality. Then it expanded to include a company's societal role and contributions," said Julia Hobbs Kivistik, executive vice president of Cause Branding at Cone. "Now, companies have a strategic imperative to also consider their operating practices and how they impact their social commitments. Today's informed consumers are now asking, 'Is this a good company?' and 'What does it stand for?'"

About one-third of American shoppers responding to the survey said that, across a range of industries, business practices are now an additional purchasing influence, and another third of consumers consider both social issues and business practices when deciding what to buy. The overwhelming majority of Americans -- 85 percent -- say they would switch to another company's products or services if a problem with business practices was uncovered.

The survey found that Americans are more likely than ever before to reward companies for their support of social issues. Eighty-seven percent are likely to switch from one brand to another (price and quality being about equal) if the other brand is associated with a good cause, an increase of more than 31 percent when the question was asked in 1993.

"Cause marketing has come of age," says Carol Cone, the company's chairman and founder. "Consumers expect companies to support social issues, and companies have responded in a variety of ways, from multi-year, multimillion dollar commitments, to something as simple as adding a ribbon to a package or ad and donating funds to a nonprofit."

Cone added that simply "ribbonizing" a product is no longer sufficient, and that as consumer awareness about these issues has increased, companies must both identify the causes their customers most care about and develop "authentic, sustainable, transparent and well-communicated" programs to address the causes.

Attitudes in the workplace have undergone a similar revolution, the survey found. 72 percent of employees said they wished their employers would do more to support a social issue, an increase of 38 percent since Cone's 2004 survey on the subject.

"Because of the advancements in technology and the Internet, there is no longer a separation between the workplace and community," Carol Cone said. "The workplace has become community for today's employees, so it is important for companies to deeply engage with them through purposeful work around causes and through communications about their business practices which are aligned with these causes."

Many companies are choosing which issues to support based on where they can deliver the most meaningful business and social results to their stakeholders. Nine in 10 Americans say companies should support causes that are consistent with their responsible business practices. Eighty-seven percent say they want a company to support issues based on where its business can have the most social and/or environmental impacts.

The top issues that survey respondents want companies to address are health, at 80 percent, and education, environment and economic development following closely at 77 percent.

[Energy newsclip] Asked in April to name the world's biggest environmental problem, a third of Americans cited global warming - double the figure from just a year before. Air pollution trailed a distant second at 13 per cent.

[CSR newsclip] WBCSD Launches Global Water Tool to Help Companies Manage Water Use


WBCSD Launches Global Water Tool to Help Companies Manage Water Use

Geneva, 7 August 2007 – The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) will officially launch its Global Water Tool during World Water Week in Stockholm on 15 August 2007.

It's a free and easy-to-use tool for companies and organizations to map their water use and assess risks relative to their global operations and supply chains.

Under the old business adage "what gets measured, gets managed", the tool should help companies better manage their water use. Better local management leads to better global management. (The tool is downloadable from www.wbcsd.org/web/watertool.htm )

The Global Water Tool allows companies to quickly and accurately answer such key questions as:

  • How many of our sites are in extremely water-scarce areas? Which sites are at greatest risk? How will that look in the future?
  • How many of our employees live in countries that lack access to improved water and sanitation?
  • How many of our suppliers are in water-scarce areas now? How many will be in 2025?
It does not provide specific guidance on local situations, which require more in-depth, systematic analysis.

Through an easy to manage process, the tool allows companies to quickly and accurately:

  • Compare their water use (including staff presence, industrial use, and supply chain) with validated water and sanitation availability information, both on a country and watershed basis;
  • Calculate water consumption and efficiency;
  • Establish relative water risks in their portfolio;
  • Create key water Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) indicators, inventories, risk and performance metrics;
  • Enable effective communications between internal and external stakeholders on water issues.
How it works

The tool has two parts: the input sheet and the online map. The input sheet contains the company's site location and water use information.

After entering the company's water use figures, the sheet automatically provides outputs, including GRI water indicators and downloadable metrics charts that demonstrate the company's data combined with both the country and watershed figures.

The online mapping feature enables companies to plot their sites with external water datasets and download those locations in a map. These datasets provide several key metrics including renewable water resource per capita, mean annual relative water stress index and access to improved sanitation.

The tool is connected with Google Earth, which provides spatial viewing of a company's site locations in relation to detailed geographic information, including surface water.

Advisory Board

The WBCSD's Water Working Group stewarded development of the Global Water Tool. WBCSD Member and global engineering company CH2M HILL led the tool's development.

An Advisory Board comprised of 22 WBCSD Member Companies in a wide range of industries provided oversight and pilot testing:


The WBCSD's Water Project is directed by Co-Chairmen Steve Loranger, Chairman, President and CEO of ITT Corporation, and John Taylor, CEO of Borealis Group who supported the development of the tool and pilot testing at their respective organizations.

Data provided by:

WHO & UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme

Expertise provided by:


Company leaders say:

CH2M HILL
"Water risks to business and society are significant now and expected to increase due to the impacts of climate change. The WBCSD Global Water Tool is an example of the way business must innovate in the future to proactively identify and address risks to protect our shareholders, employees, communities and the environment."

Ralph Peterson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

ITT Corporation
"The Global Water Tool is valuable for companies around the globe that understand clean water resources are critical to business success and must be managed effectively. The tool is not an end to itself, but rather the beginning of a much deeper understanding of the water situation in local business communities. We are committed to using the tool at ITT to inform decision-making across our company."

Steven Loranger, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer

Borealis
"The Global Water Tool provides a comprehensive and dynamic picture of our operations' water footprint and is the basis for the strategic management of water risks."

John Taylor, Chief Executive

Tool users say:

The Dow Chemical Company
"The WBCSD Global Water Tool has provided a unique and valuable perspective on the water use and relative corporate risks in our global operations. We have used the metrics and mapping results to review corporate risks and communicate with internal stakeholders. The user-friendly outputs in terms of Global Reporting Initiative metrics are especially useful and we plan to use the outputs of this tool in further external communication to stakeholders as well."

PepsiCo International
"The new WBCSD Global Water Tool is a significant step in addressing world water issues. It is the first tool of its kind available in the public domain, and will have marked impact in helping companies, governments, and other interested stakeholders proactively assess and manage their water resource risks.

The WBCSD Global Water Tool is intuitive to use, so the user is able to get up to speed almost immediately on the basic functionality of the Tool. As the user's familiarity increases, so do the evident power and impact of the Tool.

The proactive assessment and management of water resource risk are so critically important, and yet there has never been a comprehensive Tool with which to conduct these assessments available in the public domain for all sectors to use. With this new Tool, the WBCSD continues to show their global leadership in the area of sustainable management of water resources."

Petro-Canada
"The Tool provides a company with a singular and holistic view of its operations relative to water scarcity. Petro-Canada intends to introduce the Tool to our business units and encourage them to include its use in project decision making. We are looking forward to the future development of the Tool to provide greater information and therefore increased value to our business."

Alcan
"Water for Alcan is a key component to business sustainability and a top priority in delivering on our EHS FIRST TM commitments. The WBCSD Global Water Tool is a powerful and very user-friendly application to assess our global and regional water footprint in order to visualize, communicate and assist in high-level decision making to deliver value for internal and external stakeholders."

DuPont
"DuPont supported the development of the WBCSD Global Water Tool as we saw it as an effective means of putting our science to work to develop sustainable, global solutions. The collaboration among companies from major industry sectors has been remarkable and has resulted in a tool of widespread applicability and value. In our pilot testing, we found that this tool aligns with our company's publicly stated water conservation goals by enabling us to focus our resources more effectively on operations in locations where water resources are, or will be, under stress. The Global Water Tool is already helping DuPont towards achieving our vision of creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, healthier life for people everywhere. We're confident that others will find this tool to be just as valuable in helping them with their sustainability efforts."

Unilever
"This tool should really help the new swimmers in the stream of water business risk awareness to start to understand their own issues; it is a really practical follow-up to the Water Scenarios which should have raised the issue of Water for Business."

Shell
"Water is a strategic issue for Shell in our operations and communities around the world. Since we are active in over 130 countries and territories, we saw value in the development of a tool that could provide portfolio perspective for identifying and managing risk. We found the Global Water Tool easy-to-use and the presentation of the output tables of great value for communication on global water risk. We are also exploring how the tool can be linked to our annual sustainability report."

About the WBCSD

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) brings together some 200 international companies in a shared commitment to sustainable development through economic growth, ecological balance and social progress. Our members are drawn from more than 30 countries and 20 major industrial sectors. We also benefit from a global network of about 60 national and regional business councils and partner organizations.

Our mission is to provide business leadership as a catalyst for change toward sustainable development, and to support the business license to operate, innovate and grow in a world increasingly shaped by sustainable development issues.

Our objectives include:

  • Business Leadership – to be a leading business advocate on sustainable development
  • Policy Development - to help develop policies that create framework conditions for the business contribution to sustainable development
  • The Business Case - to develop and promote the business case for sustainable development
  • Best Practice - to demonstrate the business contribution to sustainable development and share best practices among members
  • Global Outreach – to contribute to a sustainable future for developing nations and nations in transition.

Further information

[CSR newsclip] Yahoo! to Go Carbon Neutral in 2007


Yahoo! to Go Carbon Neutral in 2007

GreenBiz.com, 17 April 2007 - As part of an ambitious new plan to fight global warming, the internet giant will reduce its energy use and invest in emissions-fighting projects to make its operations carbon neutral.

By the end of 2007, Yahoo! intends to be fully carbon neutral. The company says it has already begun reviewing proposals for the first carbon-offset projects it will invest in, and reviews of the final batch of projects will occur over the rest of 2007.

In order to determine how much carbon-dioxide the company would have to offset, Yahoo! first measured its total carbon-dioxide output from October 1, 2005, to September 30, 2006. When the results are validated by a third-party, the company will be able to accurately gauge how well it's achieving its goal.

In a blog post today, Chief Yahoo David Filo wrote, "While doing our homework on this, we measured our carbon footprint and discovered that Yahoo! going carbon neutral is equivalent to shutting off the electricity in all San Francisco homes for a month. Or, pulling nearly 25,000 cars off the road for a year."

Among the steps Yahoo! has already undertaken to reduce its energy use are purchases of green power near its California headquarters; running its Hillsboro, Mass., office on 100 percent renewable energy; using power management controls to turn off non-essential and unused lighting. The company also provides incentives to employees to reduce the pollution caused during their commutes, by offering Wi-Fi-enabled shuttle vans, encouraging employees to bike to work and discounts on public transit tickets.

Yahoo! is also seeking input from its uses through a thread posted by Filo on
Yahoo! Answers .

[Energy newsclip] Leaders Overcome Impasse on Ethanol


Leaders Overcome Impasse on Ethanol

IPS, 17 April 2007 - The controversy over whether to put the accent on fossil fuels or biofuels was overcome by the presidents in the first South American energy summit with the assertion that the answer depends on each country's specific circumstances, and that the different national policies are complementary to each other, not contradictory.

The ministers who drafted the final document for the meeting on Venezuela's Margarita Island in the Caribbean "established something that is fundamental: that there is no opposition between biofuels and fossil fuels, but rather that there are different national circumstances and experiences, and that they are complementary," Marco Aurelio García, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's foreign affairs adviser, told journalists.

Over the last few weeks, Lula and host President Hugo Chávez were at the centre of a heated debate on the pros and cons of ethanol. Brazil produces 17.3 billion litres a year of the biofuel from sugar cane -- nearly as much as the United States produces from corn.

The rising interest in biofuels is occurring in a context of soaring oil prices and scientific reports that the burning of fossil fuels is the main culprit in global warming.

Washington and Brasilia agreed last month to foster the development of a large global market for ethanol, which in the case of Brazil will mean a more than ten-fold increase in its current output within the next decade, while other countries in Latin America as well as African nations would dedicate large extensions of land to growing crops for biofuel.

When Lula signed the accord with U.S. President George W. Bush, Cuban leader Fidel Castro complained about the "internationalisation of genocide" that he said was implicit in the growing of crops for producing fuel instead of food for the hundreds of millions of hungry people in the world.

Chávez, whose government had agreed with Cuba and Brazil to dedicate 270,000 hectares to producing sugar cane for ethanol, underwent an apparent change of heart after his close ally Castro criticised the large-scale production of biofuels.

Venezuela currently imports nearly 30,000 barrels (4.7 million litres) of ethanol a day to mix with gasoline.

The Venezuelan leader lashed out at "the madness of producing food, not for people but for rich people's cars," and said prior to the summit that Latin America should stop worrying about guarantees of energy supplies, because Venezuela would put at the region's disposal all of the oil and gas that will be needed over the next 100 years.

But most countries in the region have welcomed the plans to produce crops for biofuel. Argentina is moving ahead with its plans to produce biodiesel, Uruguay and Chile have expressed great interest, Colombia has reached a deal with the United States to encourage the industry, and Ecuador has made a similar deal with Brazil.

Before heading to the summit in Venezuela, Lula said he did not "understand yet what is the technical or scientific basis for the criticism" voiced by the governments in Caracas and Havana, which invoked "ethical and environmental" reasons.

Chávez said the expansion of the agricultural frontier would not only lead to the destruction of forests, but would also threaten the world's fresh water reserves.

The backdrop to the debate is the political and diplomatic standoff between Washington and Caracas, despite which the United States is the biggest client for Venezuelan oil, purchasing nearly half of the 2.4 million barrels a day that are exported by this country.

On Margarita Island, García summed up Brazil's position, which helped pave the way for a consensus: fossil fuels and biofuels are complementary, and food production will not be neglected. A mere one percent of farmland in Brazil currently goes towards biofuel production.

The agreement between Brasilia and Washington involves cooperation to develop a new technology based on hydrolysis, which according to studies could boost productivity per hectare by 40 percent.

The ethanol producing crops in Brazil will be grown on land that "is not in the Amazon region," and therefore will not harm the rainforest, according to García. In addition, he said, jobs and incomes for thousands upon thousands of small farmers and agribusiness workers can be provided.

In conclusion, according to the Brazilian point of view, countries can at one and the same time reduce their dependence on imported fuels, and export a proportion of their biofuels, which would help their trade balance.

While ministers drew up the final document, the presidents, in a climate of consensus, approved other initiatives, such as renaming the South American Community of Nations, created in 2004, as the South American Union of Nations, UNASUR.

The organisation will have a permanent secretariat based in Quito, the presidents agreed in informal talks ahead of the formal session of the summit this Tuesday, which was attended by the presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Venezuela.

Guyana, Peru, Surinam and Uruguay were represented by their vice presidents or ministers.

A South American Energy Council, led by the energy ministries of each government, will be in charge of formulating harmonious strategies for the region. Chávez formally proposed that a South American Energy Treaty be adopted in a few years' time, to establish "a secure energy production and supply system for our nations."

According to García, "If we are intelligent, we will completely transform South America into the world's biggest energy power," because the region has oil, gas, hydroelectric power, wind power, biofuels and even nuclear energy.

This potential, and the overcoming of mutual differences, was demonstrated on the eve of the summit by Presidents Lula and Chávez, who laid the cornerstone of a petrochemical complex in Barcelona, Venezuela on the mainland opposite Margarita Island, in the presence of Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Nicanor Duarte of Paraguay as their invited guests.

The new petrochemical plant is a joint 50-50 Venezuelan-Brazilian venture costing five billion dollars. It is to be constructed by Brazilian company Braskem and the state Venezuelan enterprise Pequiven, and from 2009 it will produce several million tons a year of ethylene, polyethylene, polypropylene and plastic supplies.

As for the controversy about ethanol, Chávez had already changed his tune before the summit, saying "what the United States proposes is to substitute gasoline with products derived from corn, while in the case of Brazil they are seen as complementary sources of energy."

With Lula seen on the closed-circuit television view of the summit listening and smiling, Chávez emphasised Tuesday: "I want to clarify that we are not against biofuels, in spite of certain elements of the press who claimed there was a fight between Chávez and Lula."

"Biofuels are a valid strategy so long as food production is not affected, and they are extracted from sugar cane or castor oil plants," Chávez said, adding that far from opposing them, his country could buy 200,000 barrels a day to improve the gasoline produced by Venezuela's state oil giant PDVSA's refineries in Venezuela and the United States.

[Energy newsclip] EU plans shipping emissions cap


EU plans shipping emissions cap

EurActiv.com, 17 April 2007 - The Commission has said that it will draft legislation, by the end of the year, aimed at tackling the shipping industry's rapidly growing contribution to climate change, by including the sector in Europe's carbon dioxide cap-and-trade system.

Background

Carbon dioxide emissions from shipping are thought to be double those of aviation and could rise by as much as 75% in the next 15 to 20 years if world trade continues to grow and no action is taken.

While aviation has come under heavy pressure to cap its CO2 output in order to contribute to the battle against climate change (see our LinksDossier on Aviation and Emissions Trading ), shipping has thus far been spared any significant cuts as CO2 emissions from ships do not come under the Kyoto Agreement or any proposed European legislation.

But pressure is mounting on all sides for the situation to change.

As well as carbon dioxide, shipping is a major source of other air pollutants, including nitrogen (NOx) and sulphur oxides (SOx), which are responsible for acid rain.

Issues

The Commission confirmed on 16 April 2007 that it will propose adding shipping companies to the emissions trading scheme (ETS), the EU's principal tool for fighting global warming and meeting its Kyoto commitments.

Up to now, work on reducing CO2 emissions from ships has been carried out within the framework of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), but it has focused mainly on establishing methods to calculate emissions, rather than concrete measures to reduce them.

The threat of unilateral action from the EU, which controls 41% of the world's fleet, could stimulate the debate.

But there is also a risk it could trigger a transatlantic dispute similar to that caused by draft EU rules, published late last year, to impose emissions trading on all airlines flying to and from European airports as of 2012. The US has threatened legal action if the EU goes ahead with these plans.

Positions

Barbara Helfferich, environment spokeswoman for the Commission , confirmed that the EU would propose including the shipping industry into the ETS rather than waiting for action at the international level: "Not enough progress has been made in the international framework," she said. "We think it's important to do something on our side."

She said that a decision would "probably be taken after the summer", but added that it was still too early to say how and when the industry would be introduced into the scheme and how much of the world's fleet would be covered.

European Community Shipowners' Association (ECSA) Secretary General Alfons Guinier stressed that, while shipping may be the transport mode with the largest CO2 emissions in terms of sheer volume, this was down to the fact that ships carry 90% of world trade. "In reality, shipping produces less greenhouse gases per tonne-mile than any other form of transport," he said.

He nevertheless told EurActiv that the shipping industry was "not against" a proposal to include it in the ETS "depending on the practicalities". Among others, European shipowners are worried that they will be the only ones carrying the extra cost of cutting CO2 emissions while foreign transporters continue to pollute freely.

He added that work was already being carried out within the IMO to reduce other forms of pollutants, such as sulphur emissions, through setting international standards, but added that much of the work will have to be carried out by oil companies. "We can only burn what we have," he said.

He rejected the idea of introducing taxes to tackle the sector's emissions and warned that work on reducing all types of pollutants must be carried out in an integrated manner, because reducing one type of emission can result in increasing another.

Chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Spyros Polemis confirmed: "IMO should carefully review the environmental necessity of banning the use of higher sulphur fuels in the middle of the ocean, when the results of decisions could be to increase CO2 emission by oil refineries," he said, explaining that more CO2 is churned out during the energy-intensive refining process.

João Vieira of the green NGO T&E (European Federation for Transport and Environment) said: "We welcome the fact that the EU is finally waking up to the environmental impact of shipping, the second-fastest growing source of climate-changing CO2 emissions. So far, the international community has manifestly failed in its responsibility to clean up shipping in the decade since Kyoto was signed."

But, he added that emissions trading alone would be insufficient to address the full environmental impact of the sector. "The EU's estimates for aviation suggest that emissions reductions through trading will be offset by less than one year's growth of the industry. With shipping the situation will be similar. We urge the EU to consider other, more effective measures such as differentiated port charges, en-route charges and fuel taxes," he said.

[Energy newsclip] Retired generals warn that warming threatens U.S. security


Retired generals warn that warming threatens U.S. security

Greenwire, 16 April 2007 - Global warming poses a "serious threat" to U.S. security and should be elevated to the highest levels of military preparedness, according to a report published today by 11 former generals.

Released as the United Nations Security Council prepares for a first-ever meeting tomorrow on climate change, the Pentagon retirees offer a stark look into the threats from global warming to U.S. interests at home and around the world.

The generals examine the effects of a parched Middle East and an increase in refugees from drought-stricken African nations. In conclusion, the report finds that climate change "acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world."

"Projected climate change will seriously exacerbate already marginal living standards in many Asian, African and Middle Eastern nations, causing widespread political instability and the likelihood of failed states," the report says.

The nonprofit CNA Corporation organized the military study team, which includes retired Admiral T. Joseph Lopez and retired Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a frequent critic in recent years of Bush's Iraq War strategy.

Among the report's five final recommendations, the generals urge a more aggressive U.S. response to reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions. They also call on the U.S. military to think beyond its traditional mindset.

"Unlike most conventional security threats that involve a single entity acting in specific ways and points in time, climate change has the potential to result in multiple chronic conditions, occuring globally within the same time frame," the report says. "Economic and environmental conditions in already fragile areas will further erode as food production declines, diseases increase, clean water becomes increasingly scarce and large populations move in search of resources."

Historic meeting at U.N.

The warnings for U.S. security come on the eve of a historic daylong meeting on the same subject before the United Nations Security Council.

Margaret Beckett, foreign secretary under British Prime Minister, will run the session as the United Kingdom holds the council's rotating 6-month presidency.

In an interview today, a top U.K. government official explained that Blair wanted to put climate change at the forefront of the U.N. agenda as a way to spark more international attention to the issue. John Ashton, special representative for the U.K. on climate change, said he likened tomorrow's climate debate to a 2000 forum in the same United Nations venue on HIV.

"That was the moment the international community got real about HIV," he said.

As of Sunday night, Ashton said 38 U.N. members had signed up to speak during the security council meeting. The United States will send its top United Nations representative, Alejandro Wolff.

A White House spokeswoman today referred questions on Wolff's remarks to the State Department. A spokeswoman there declined to comment.

Opposition to the U.N. meeting's focus on climate change has also emerged from the Group of 77 and China. In a letter sent today to U.N. leaders, Pakistan's permanent representative to the United Nations complained that climate change does not belong in front of the security council.

"We hope that the decision by the Council to hold this debate does not create a precedent or undermine the authority or mandate of the relevant bodies, processes and instruments, which are already addressing these issues," wrote Munir Akram, chairman of the Group of 77 and China.

Ashton replied that the goal is not to force an official act from the United Nations.

"There isn't a procedural outcome we're trying to get," Ashton said. "We're not trying to negotiate a security counsel resolution. What matters for us is the debate itself. It is now legitimate to focus on the security implications of this."

Long-debated topic

In some circles, the security implications from climate change have long been a topic of discussion.

For example, French President Jacques Chirac warned at a 2005 meeting on climate change in Montreal that the world faces more natural disasters, wars and refugees if international negotiators fail to make headway on new commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Last month, Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) cosponsored S.1018, legislation that would require the daily National Intelligence Estimate to assess the security risks from climate change. The latest security report made the same recommendation to attach climate issues into the NIE.

Security issues will also be the topic for Wednesday's inaugural hearing of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, chaired by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

At the White House Council on Environmental Quality, spokeswoman Kristen Hellmer said today that she has not had a chance to review the latest report.

While Hellmer said she was not certain if the current National Intelligence Estimates examine climate change, she replied that the U.S. military is ready for global warming.

"Our military works hard to be prepared for a wide range of scenarios that may affect our national security," she said. "In addition to focusing on direct threats like terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, all those things, the military is also prepared for the potential effects of both human and natural changes such as those outlined in the report."

Hellmer also defended the administration's record on climate change, explaining that Bush's latest proposal to reduce U.S. gas consumption would improve energy security and cut carbon emissions.