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


Network for Business Sustainability eNewsletter | e-bulletin du Réseau entreprise et développement durable

Thanks to Tom for forwarding this list of article

Welcome to the Network for Business Sustainability's eNewsletter! 
Featured here are top stories about the Network and links to the latest business sustainability knowledge and opportunities. We are pleased to introduce into the newsletter French stories developed by our Montréal office.
Bienvenue sur le e-bulletin du Réseau entreprise et développement durable!
Vous y trouverez de l'information sur le Réseau et pourrez accéder directement à des connaissances sur le développement durable en entreprise. Nous sommes fiers d'introduire dans ce bulletin du contenu français développé par le pôle francophone du Réseau à Montréal.


Insurers lead climate change adaptation: Business adaptation to climate change report
This NBS report -- a thorough review of over 200 studies since 1997 on how businesses adapt to climate change -- includes a sector-by-sector analysis of the risks and opportunities climate change brings and tools to help businesses adapt.

Consumers will pay small green premium but need to feel they're making a difference: Socially conscious consumerism report
According to a new NBS report, consumers are willing to pay a small premium for sustainable goods and services, but are even more likely to change their purchasing behaviours. They are more likely to buy green and pay a premium when they feel they're making a difference.

Français: Le B.A.-BA des lignes directrices ISO 26000
En 2004, l'International Standard Organization (ISO) invitait ses pays membres à participer au développement d'une norme internationale sur la responsabilité sociale. De ce processus multipartite regroupant aujourd'hui plus de 400 experts de 91 pays, a émergé des lignes directrices qui promettent de définir la responsabilité sociale et ses principes. Coup d'œil sur une norme nouveau genre.

Research Insights
The Network publishes insights based on the best academic research in the world. The insights are focused on the top knowledge priorities facing business today: climate change, consumerism, stakeholder engagement, valuing business sustainability, and business sustainability.
Read our four featured RIs for this newsletter.

A Network Opinion: How and when to adapt to climate change
The relevant questions have shifted from why and whether to adapt to climate change, to how and when. The Network's Managing Director discusses the evidence, which will help managers begin the conversation within their organizations about when and how to adapt to climate change.

Français: La portée d'ISO 26000 en droit international et dans les politiques gouvernementales
Quels sont les rapports entre la responsabilité sociétale, les codes de conduite qui la promeuvent et le droit international ? Comment les États peuvent-ils s'approprier la responsabilité sociétale ? C'est à ces questionnements que ce court article s'intéresse ici.


Business Sustainability Photo Contest
The Network is currently seeking photo submissions to build the imagery on its website, reports, presentations and other materials. Winners will receive Cdn$250 for each photo chosen and will have their work proudly displayed on the Network's website and/or other materials.
Opportunities in Business Sustainability
Check out the latest
funding opportunities for researchers, call for papers, job opportunities, and lists of experts and potential research collaborators working on ISO, poverty, climate change, and supply chains. Of particular interest may be a communications job opportunity at the Network (apply by Nov 16) and the UofT Press call for proposals for books on Business and Sustainability.

Students making an Impact!
Recognizing the need to foster tomorrow's sustainability leaders, the Network partnered with The Co-operators to launch a national student sustainability conference. Video highlights are available.
Français: Discussion sur la Norme ISO 26000
Le CPEQ et la BNQ en collaboration avec le Réseau organisaient le 29 octobre dernier une journée de commentaires sur le projet de norme ISO 26000 réunissant praticiens du milieu des affaires et chercheurs intéressés par la RSE.
Other Events
Connect with the business sustainability community at upcoming events across North America.

Learn more
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Green newsclips for 11-11-2009: IBM & Green innovation; Smart commuting; Green hotels; and the future of food: GMOs and .... good English red wine!

Where Does IT Fit in IBM's Top Green Innovations?
By Matthew Wheeland
Created 2009-11-11 03:37

IBM holds a lot of patents -- in fact, it earned the most of any organization in 2008, with 4,186 new patents to its name.

And as readers of our sites should know, IBM is focused in a big way on sustainability and the role technology can play in achieving greener operations in any number of arenas, from 
water to supply chainsdata centers to traffic.

But a new announcement from Big Blue this week serves to underscore the shifting role that technology can play in environmental issues, and how IBM is changing its own role to focus on that shift.

IBM yesterday announced the top five technologies developed under its Corporate Environmental Innovation Program in the past year, the five solutions that can have a significant impact on energy efficiency or environmental impacts.

Of the top five, only three are traditional IT-related technologies, with the remaining two falling under what has become known as "Green IT 2.0," or technologies that can be applied to business operations beyond the data center or computer fleet, putting computing power to work on the firm's environmental footprint.

"Part of IBM's credo is 'innovation that matters, for our company and for the world,' and that's especially relevant to protecting the environment," Wayne Balta, IBM's vice president of corporate environmental affairs and product safety, said in a statement announcing the list. "The five innovations we've selected exemplify the very best of this belief in action. We hope they inspire other IBM employees to apply their talents and ingenuity to these and other conservation and environmental challenges."

The full list is as follows:

• iDataPlex Server, a highly energy efficient, high-volume server;
• Systems Director Active Energy Management, a data center energy management program that IBM says can cut facility energy use by up to 30 percent;
• Measurement and Management Technology, a real-time data center temperature and humidity management program;
• SmartBay Galway, a water-quality monitoring program in Galway Bay, Ireland; and
• the Stockholm Congestion Pricing Solution, a traffic-monitoring and reduction system that has 
cut congestion by 18 percent in the Swedish city.

With pure IT plays making up just over half of the top five this year, I wonder how that list will look in the future. With IBM putting big money and big brains behind its Smarter Planet and Big Green Innovations projects, I wouldn't be surprised to see data center hardware and software fall into the minority in next year's list.

One item that neither made the list this year nor is likely to make the list next year, but which is nonetheless deserving of some attention, is the 
Eco-Patent Commons, which while not exactly an in-house IBM innovation, was spearheaded by IBM and takes these ideas even further.

Rather than limiting innovation to "green IT 2.0," the Eco-Patent Commons could be the first step toward something we could call "green IP 2.0," where companies can share the innovations that have helped them achieve environmental successes can be applied and even expanded to fit organizations of all sizes and in any industry.

When I 
interviewed Wayne Balta right after the launch of the Eco-Patent Commons, he mentioned this point exactly:

Matthew Wheeland: How does this fit into IBM's larger big green strategy?

Wayne Balta:
 Well, as I hope you know, we at IBM have been working hard to identify how we as a company can continue to help others innovate and succeed in addressing the environmental challenges they face. Now, you may know that IBM is a company that's driven by its values, dedication to every client's success, innovation that matters, and trust and personal responsibility in our relationship. If we look at the values by which we govern our company and if you look at our interest in what we've referred to as Big Green, an effort like Eco-Patent Commons clearly resonates with that. Because it goes part and parcel to our value of innovation that matters to our company and to the world.

If we're looking to meet others and collaborate with them to solve problems, it certainly goes to the heart of dedication to client's success. And we think there's also a resonance for trust and personally responsibility in our relationships. So as we try to roll out our continued efforts on environmentally effective technologies, products, and processes for all industries across the world; something like Eco-Patent Commons clearly has a place at that table.

Smart Commuting Could Save 4.6 Million Work-Hours per Day
By GreenerComputing Staff
Created 2009-11-10 15:20

LONDON, United Kingdom — Out of the 26 million hours a day British workers spend commuting to and from work, 4.6 million of those hours are wasted, according to a survey released this week during National Commute Smart Week

The survey found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, 62 percent of commuters want to spend less time traveling to and from work; and although workers want to embrace flexible schedules and remote work options, but their bosses are the biggest obstacle to doing so.

The study was conducted by Citrix GoToMyPC, which as a maker of 
remote-work and teleconferencing programs clearly has a horse in the game, and was timed to highlight the goals of the week-long campaign to reduce the strain of work commutes on people, national infrastructure and the environment.

Asking nearly 2,000 adults about their commute challenges, Citrix found that supervisors are the biggest obstacle to remote working, with 46 percent of respondents saying their bosses want them working regular schedules, regardless of the wasted hours in their commute days.

Among the solutions respondents proposed to alleviate their painful commutes include working from home some or all of the time, working off-hour schedules to miss peak traffic, and technology assisted remote working.

Related News & Blogs

Where Does IT Fit in IBM's Top Green Innovations?
Smart Commuting Could Save 4.6 Million Work-Hours per Day
TV Recycling Picks Up Speed with LG, Waste Management Partnership
Fortune Data Centers Lands LEED Gold Certification, Facebook as Tenant
ICT's Carbon Impacts Must Figure into Copenhagen Talks, Analysts Say

Adopting some of these tactics could make the workplace happier and healthier, too: Respondents expressed a willingness to exercise more and cook healthier meals with the time saved in their commute, though that too should be taken with a grain of salt.

But letting workers off the leash could boost productivity as well as satisfaction with work by allowing people to work when they're most motivated as well as giving them more control over their workdays.

"Commute Smart week is all about looking at ways that U.K. workers can improve their work-life balance by reducing the strain and stress caused by commuting," Phil Flaxton, CEO at Work Wise U.K., the group organizing National Commute Smart Week, said in a statement. "The GoToMyPC survey reveals there is a lot of frustration amongst British workers that could easily be reduced if more businesses adopted and embraced smarter working practices."

Virtual meetings and remote work are increasingly ways organizations are working to address their impacts, as well as provide more satisfying work situations for employees. Telepresence technologies fall under the category of "
Green IT 2.0," the term for technologies that go beyond the IT infrastructure of an organization to reduce the impact of other elements of its operations.

Cisco last week announced that it was using its own TelePresence technology to 
link 100 additional sites to the upcoming U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen next month. And earlier this fall, Hewlett-Packard released its low-cost SkyRoom virtual meeting technology, aiming to allow organizations of any size to embrace virtual-meeting and remote-workforce practices.

A white paper laying out the Citrix survey results is available online at, and more details about National Commute Smart Week, which runs through Saturday November 14th, is online at

Marriott Plans to Expand 'Green' Hotels by 1000%
Posted By Environmental Leader On November 11, 2009 @ 12:13 am In ConstructionConstruction & RefittingEnergy EfficiencyFeatureProducts & Planning | No Comments
marriottMarriott says it plans to learn from its "green" hotel prototypes and expand the program by a measure of tenfold over the next five years.

A central part of the hotel's efforts is a hotel design that will be "pre-certified" to LEED standards, according to a press release [1]. The design is tailored to Marriott's Courtyard brand, which has more than 160 hotels in development worldwide.

Marriott plans to increase its green hotel portfolio without driving construction costs through the roof.

The hotel says it will shave about $100,000 in construction expenses and six months in design time, and cut energy and water consumption by a quarter, when compared to national averages. Combined with local and regional incentives for green building, Marriott estimates that the expense in achieving LEED certification could be recouped within two years.

The U.S. Green Building Council, which conducts LEED certifications, calls Marriott's new design a "volume-build" certification, because of the ability to pre-certify structures.

Eventually the strategy will be extended to other Marriott brands, including Fairfield Inn, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites and TownePlace Suites. Those hotels have a total of 290 locations under development.

Marriott's new hotel design for the Courtyard division will be available in April 2010. The Courtyard Settler's Ridge in Pittsburgh, Penn., which will open next summer, will be the first hotel designed and constructed to these standards.

This latest effort marks a ramping-up of Marriott's environmental design efforts. In May [2], the hotel chain had about 30 hotels under development being built to LEED standards.

Article printed from Environmental Leader:

URL to article:

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Climate Change Makes English Winemakers See Red
Date: 11-Nov-09
 Tom Bergin

Climate Change Makes English Winemakers See Red Photo: Jas Lehal
Grape pickers walk between the vines as they take a break at the Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking, southern England, October 22, 2009.
Photo: Jas Lehal

DORKING - The pickers working their way along the hillside, clipping bunches of small, dark purple grapes from the rows of vines and dropping them into plastic buckets are harbingers of a warmer planet.
In recent years, aided by milder springs and autumns, a few British wineries have revived a red winemaking tradition which died around 600 years ago.
Wine aficionados are mixed about the results so far, but say the finest red wines may in future come from north of the English channel if a 190-nation conference in Copenhagen next month fails to agree a strong new U.N. climate change pact.
"We've benefited from global warming," said Chris White, General Manager of Denbies Vineyard, 24 miles south of London, watching plastic trays of Pinot Noir grapes being emptied into a stainless steel wine press in his winery.
"Climate determines the grape varieties you can grow."
Climate scientists have warned that global warming will shift growing patterns for crops, to the point that some developing countries may become too hot or dry to grow enough wheat and maize to feed themselves.
Most experts are too cautious to claim evidence of this theory in actual crop failures caused by droughts or flooding.
However, winemakers are clear that rising temperatures have already redrawn the international wine map, with wine regions developing characteristics of areas further to the south.
"Burgundy has got bigger and riper," wine writer Robert Joseph told Reuters. "Alsace, in North East France, which used to make very light red wine, now makes much fuller red wine. Germany, which used to make very light red wine, is now making fuller red wine."
Wine is especially sensitive to weather and temperature because its only value lies in its taste.
If it's too cold, grapes will not develop fruity flavors or produce enough sugar, giving a wine that tastes acidic.
However, if it is too warm, the grapes produce too much sugar, giving a wine that tastes jammy and heavy.
"For a wine to work a grape should have a harmonious balance of sugar and acidity," said Simon Field, English wine buyer at wine merchant Berry Brothers and Rudd.
Sparkling wines are the most forgiving of under-ripe grapes: red wines need warmth and sunshine the most.
"In the sparkling, we don't need the complex flavors you'd expect in a red," White said.
This is why the Champagne region in France, which has a similarly cool climate to southern England, can make what are seen as the finest sparkling wines. The regions also have the same chalky soil, which explains the small chips of white stone in the soil at Denbies estate.
These similarities have helped English sparkling wines to beat their Champagne rivals in occasional blind tastings.
However, the UK is far north of the narrow bands in temperate latitudes where red grapes have traditionally grown.
Citing research from the University of Burgundy, Greenpeace said in a report in August the best latitudes for winemaking in the northern hemisphere may move 1,000 km (620 miles) north by the end of this century if nothing is done to stop global warming.
The report prompted 50 famous French chefs and sommeliers to write an open letter to President Nicolas Sarkozy urging action as fine wines, "jewels of French culture," were in danger.
English winemakers see the trend partly as the pendulum swinging back in their favor.
Britain experienced a "Medieval warm period" in the centuries around 1000 A.D., said Philip Brohan, climate scientist at the UK's national weather service, the Met Office.
This allowed winemaking, introduced to Britain by the Romans, to thrive under the Normans before declining, said Professor Richard Selley, author of "The Winelands of Britain."
Historians say an increase in trade with France and King Henry VIII's 16th-century dissolution of the monasteries -- which operated many vineyards -- were also likely factors.
Brohan said the current warming cycle is more severe than the medieval one, and scientists stress carbon dioxide emissions are behind the man-made climate change of the present day. Nonetheless, UK vineyards still struggle to ripen grape varieties which produce the most popular red wines.
Pinot Noir produce the fine Burgundy reds but it is only every few years those grown in English vineyards ripen sufficiently to allow the production of a single variety wine.
Most years in the past decade or so that UK growers have been making reds, they have blended Pinot Noir with other grapes such as Dornfelder, a Germanic variety which ripens more easily but which is not considered as flavorsome.
So far, producers have not managed to master the varieties behind the famous full-bodied wines of Bordeaux, such as Merlot, Carbernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, although some have tried to grow these under plastic sheeting.
This has yielded reds that are generally lighter in color and taste, and less alcoholic than wines from warmer climates.
Visitors sampling the red wines in Denbies cellar said they were pleasantly surprised.
"It's tasty," said Mario Garcalo from Portugal, as he sipped a Pinot Noir-Dornfelder blend in the large, musty, barrel-lined underground tasting room.
Not everyone is won over. Wine buyer Field said while some "very nice" reds are being made, Berry Brothers has been unable to find one it feels is good enough to stock.
Another factor working against English reds is cost. With annual red wine output of around 400,000 bottles and total output of just over 2 million bottles, against 7-8 billion bottles in France, the industry lacks economies of scale.
English red wines retail at around 8 pounds ($13.09) a bottle, against an average price of 4.26 pounds/bottle for wine in the UK, according to consumer data provider Nielsen.
For the time being, the economics favor production of sparkling wine, where English producers find it easier to compete both in terms of price and quality, said Chris Foss, Head of the Wine Department at Plumpton College in East Sussex.
That may change if Copenhagen fails to curb carbon dioxide emissions.
"It's a disaster in lots of other ways but I'm looking forward the UK making some interesting Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Francs," Foss said.

The Fight Over The Future Of Food
Date: 11-Nov-09
 Claudia Parsons, Russell Blinch and Svetlana Kovalyova

The Fight Over The Future Of Food Photo: Alessandro Garofalo
A worker collects rice at a plantation in Belcreda Gambolo, 30 km (20 miles) southwest of Milan in northern Italy November 6, 2009.
Photo: Alessandro Garofalo

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON/MILAN - At first glance, Giuseppe Oglio's farm near Milan looks like it's suffering from neglect. Weeds run rampant amid the rice fields and clover grows unchecked around his millet crop.
Oglio, a third generation farmer eschews modern farming techniques -- chemicals, fertilizers, heavy machinery -- in favor of a purely natural approach. It is not just ecological, he says, but profitable, and he believes his system can be replicated in starving regions of the globe.
Nearly 5,000 miles away, in laboratories in St. Louis, Missouri, hundreds of scientists at the world's biggest seed company, Monsanto, also want to feed the world, only their tools of choice are laser beams and petri dishes.
Monsanto, a leader in agricultural biotechnology, spends about $2 million a day on scientific research that aims to improve on Mother Nature, and is positioning itself as a key player in the fight against hunger.
The Italian farmer and the U.S. multinational represent the two extremes in an increasingly acrimonious debate over the future of food.
Everybody wants to end hunger, but just how to do so is a divisive question that pits environmentalists against anti-poverty campaigners, big business against consumers and rich countries against poor.
The food fight takes place at a time when experts on both sides agree on one thing -- the number of empty bellies around the world will only grow unless there is major intervention now.
A combination of the food crisis and the global economic downturn has catapulted the number of hungry people in the world to more than 1 billion. The United Nations says world food output must grow by 70 percent over the next four decades to feed a projected extra 2.3 billion people by 2050.
International leaders are gathering in Rome next week for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's World Summit on Food Security and will hear competing arguments over how best to tackle the problem. One of the fiercest disputes will be over the relative importance of science versus social and economic reforms to empower small farmers to grow more with existing technology.
Much of Europe has moved away from an agricultural system of small farms to mass commercial farming, but Italy still retains a base of family farmers who produce everything from olives to mozzarella cheese.
Oglio is one of them. A charismatic 40-year-old, he dropped out of an agricultural school after growing disillusioned with the farming methods being taught there. Today, he lets nature run its course as he grows cereals and legumes on his small family farm in Belcreda di Gambolo, about 20 miles southwest of Milan.
He does not use any chemical, or even natural fertilizers or pesticides. He does not weed his fields. "All you need to do is observe nature, listen to it, do what nature suggests and it will take care of everything," he said.
His fields, in a low-lying plain that has a long history of growing rice used for risotto, replicate patterns found in nature. For example, clover and millet grow together, feeding each other with necessary minerals.
Oglio said his farm is eco-sustainable. He has slashed operating costs by eliminating expensive commercial products like herbicides and by reducing the use of agricultural machinery to a minimum. Such cheap and low-maintenance farming could be adopted in Africa and other regions hit by poverty and hunger, he said.
"Natural farming will not save the world. But it can feed poor families," he said.
But it's unlikely it can do so on the scale that most experts believe is necessary. And therein lies the rub. Affluent consumers may prefer the Oglios of the world to the Monsantos, but their skittishness about high-tech agriculture is making it more difficult to grapple with the mounting crisis over the lack of food.
The last time the world faced such dire predictions of famine was before the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, when countries like India and China transformed their agricultural systems to become self-sufficient in food. They did so by harnessing plant-breeding technology to raise yields on rice, wheat and other staple crops.
Through massive state investment in hybrid rice, China, the world's most populous country, raised its yields from two tons per hectare in the 1960s to more than 10 tons per hectare by 2004. Chinese scientists seek further gains -- 13.5 tons per hectare by 2015, according to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which cites China's rice program as one of the true success stories in agricultural development in a study out this week (November 12) called "Millions Fed."
To be sure, the Green Revolution had its downsides -- environmental damage, to name one. In India, for example, water tables are drying up and the soil has been degraded by pesticide and fertilizers. The movement also contributed to the rise of big commercial farms at the expense of small holders, fueling resentment from its early days at what critics see as the "corporatization" of food.
But millions of people were saved from starvation, and the movement's architect, Norman Borlaug, received the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize.
With their populations soaring, however, India and China -- not to mention most of Africa -- still face challenges, especially as climate change exacerbates environmental problems that have already slowed growth in food production.
IFPRI, part of a global network of agricultural research centers, said last month lower yields due to climate change would cut "calorie availability" for the average consumer in a developing country in 2050 by 7 percent, compared with 2000.
Higher temperatures reduce crop yields while encouraging pests and plant diseases. For almost all crops, South Asia would experience the largest declines in yields. IFPRI said rice output in the region would be 14 percent lower than if there were no climate change.
"India sorely needs another Green Revolution," said Kushagra Nayan Bajaj, joint managing director of Bajaj Hinduthan, India's top sugar producer, which is importing raw sugar after a drought hit the domestic cane crop.
But a second green revolution would face a strong counterinsurgency, even in a place like India that benefited so profoundly from the first one.
"The point is that chemicals destroy the sustainability of productivity in the long run ... Yes, a second green revolution is indeed very essential -- the very need of the hour. But it should not be the same kind of green revolution that the first was," said P.C. Kesavan, a fellow at the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, set up by the father of India's Green Revolution.
Economists and scientists in India are demanding a raft of policy initiatives, including allowing genetic engineering, which its proponents argue does the same job as traditional plant hybridization, only quicker and more efficiently.
India has so far allowed GM seeds only for cotton, which has boosted productivity, but suggestions of allowing such seeds for edible crops have always evoked strong protests.
It's a similar story in Mexico, where Borlaug started his pioneering research in the 1940s at the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program. Mexico issued permits last month for the first time for farmers to grow genetically modified corn.
Considered by many the cradle of corn, Mexico is home to more than 10,000 varieties, used to make the classic tortilla, a staple of the Mexican diet. Corn was first planted in Mexico as many as 9,000 years ago and the grain was adapted by Spanish conquerors in the early 1500s and eventually spread to the rest of the world.
Mexico faces the same dilemmas over GM corn as do many developing countries -- balancing consumer fears with the need to grow more food.
"We see corn as our cultural heritage, our legacy. For us it's not just a question of food, but about conserving our traditions," said Celerino Tlacotempa, who works for an organization of native Nahuatl farmers in the southern mountains of Guerrero state.
"With genetically modified seeds we will lose our varieties of colored corn. There will be no more purple corn, black corn, white corn," Tlacotempa said. "Above all, we will be condemned to buy seeds from companies like Monsanto. It's not sustainable. It's a real risk for the wellbeing of these communities."
At the same time, other Mexican farmers in the north of the country have been cultivating GM seeds smuggled over the border from the United States for some time, attracted by the crops' greater resilience to drought and pests and higher yields.
Tomas Lumpkin, director of CIMMYT, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center that Borlaug started in Mexico, said the country now imports about half of the corn it consumes. With climate change and other pressures, he said, it was vital to raise production using all tools available.
"It is a much more complex and difficult world than Borlaug faced, but we have much more powerful tools than he had, and we need to start testing those and deploying those," he said.
"GMOs are just another set of tools in the toolbox, but we need to be able to use those tools," Lumpkin said. "If we could deploy those varieties so that the farmer in the developing world has the same powerful seed as the farmer in Iowa, why should they be handicapped?"
Monsanto launched the world's first genetically modified crop in 1996 and GM crops are now grown in countries ranging from Australia to South Africa, the Philippines and Brazil.
Up to 85 percent of the massive U.S. corn crop is genetically engineered, as well as up 91 percent of soybeans and 88 percent of cotton, according to U.S. data.
As ingrained as GM crops may seem, a backlash against the technology appears to be growing.
Opposition to genetic modification of seeds has long been strongest in Europe. The European Union severely restricts use of GM seeds on its territory, as well as imports of products containing GM-derived food. Individual countries including Germany ban even GM seeds that are authorized, such as an insect-resistant maize type, MON 810, developed by Monsanto.
Now consumer resistance to what British tabloids long ago dubbed "Frankenfood" is taking root in the United States too.
With North America's industrial farming system, consumers who buy packaged goods from grocery stores are likely eating GM products without even knowing it, according to environmental group the Center for Food Safety. The group, which was involved in a successful court battle to stop introduction of Monsanto's genetically engineered alfalfa seed, also contends that up to 70 percent of soda, soup, crackers and other processed goods sold under major household brands are GM derived.
"There really is no human health analysis of GM crops," said William Freese, science policy analyst for the center. "It's a real result of the policy that our government has put in place, which is basically a presumption of innocence."
A banner issue for U.S. anti-GM crusaders is genetically engineered growth hormones for dairy cows, known as rBGH. Introduced in the United States in 1994, rBGH is a drug to extend milk production after a cow gives birth. It was developed by Monsanto but recently sold to Eli Lilly and Co.
Health Care Without Harm, a global coalition of hospitals and other health groups, believes the drug is dangerous because it increases the likelihood of infection in the cow's udder, which leads to greater antibiotic use in the animals. That contributes to antibiotic-resistance in humans, they argue.
Other critics say it may be linked to cancer in humans, despite U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals.
Proponents have won over a string of big names to reject the drug, including the big yogurt makers Yoplait and Dannon, and have also lobbied coffee chain Starbucks to oppose rBGH.
A Starbucks spokesman said the firm's entire core dairy supply comes from suppliers that do not use the hormone.
"Our core products, coffee and tea, are not genetically modified," the spokesman said in a statement. "We have no plans to purchase coffee or tea that is derived from GM sources, now or in the future."
The industry notes that GM research is supported by a number of august groups, including the Royal Society of Britain and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Keywords: FOOD/
For those seeking to end global hunger, rather than just satisfy rich consumers' craving for cappuccino, Africa presents the greatest challenges.
Monsanto, together with corporate rivals, is working with poor countries and charitable groups such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, set up by Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates and his wife.
At the annual World Food Prize forum last month, Gates warned that the fight to end hunger was being hurt by environmentalists who insist that genetically modified crops should not be used in Africa. He said it was vital to help small farmers there boost production by all means, including GM crops, fertilizer and chemicals.
"This global effort to help small farmers is endangered by an ideological wedge that threatens to split the movement in two," Gates said at the forum for the prize, which was created by Borlaug, who died in September at the age of 95.
"Some people insist on an ideal vision of the environment," Gates said. "They have tried to restrict the spread of biotechnology into sub-Saharan Africa without regard to how much hunger and poverty might be reduced by it."
Rajul Pandya-Lorch, who has worked for the IFPRI thinktank on food for 22 years, summed it up like this: "I'm a Kenyan. I resent very much people telling us in Africa 'OK, this biotechnology is not good for you.' Well, we have different problems than you do, and if it helps us to solve a problem, we should try it."
Yet, even in Africa, there is suspicion of GM technology. Many countries there, such as Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania, do not allow GM seeds.
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, a Kenya-based group set up in 2006 with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Gates Foundation, targets its programs specifically at small-scale farmers.
Three-quarters of the world's poorest billion people live in rural areas, dependent on farming for their livelihoods.
AGRA's Program for Africa's Seed Systems uses conventional breeding to develop new varieties of maize, cassava, beans, rice, sorghum, and other crops resistant to diseases and pests. The goal is to develop and release more than 1,000 improved crop varieties over the next 10 years.
"We've adopted a small grant mechanism that gets money out to plant breeders on the ground, so that they can, over a period of years, and selections and lots of consultations with local farmers, and access to the world's gene banks, come up with something that's truly novel, much higher yielding and resistant to local diseases and with the taste and texture that local people want," said Joseph DeVries, director of PASS.
"To leap to the GM model at this stage, just seems like it's ignoring a lot of the things that make sense locally, that people can do locally without it," he said.
Kostas Stamoulis, director of the FAO's Agricultural Development Economics Division, said only a few food crops are in wide use in genetically modified forms, and most are not well adapted to the varied and often extreme environmental conditions in sub-Saharan Africa.
Africa has eight or more staple crops that are grown in a wide variety of climates and conditions, making it far more of a challenge than in Asia, where single staple crops, such as rice, are grown in relatively homogenous conditions over wide areas. Stamoulis emphasized the need for all kinds of technology, including traditional plant breeding.
He said there should be a balance between "people that, in my view, make the extraordinarily dangerous proposition that you can feed the world with organics, which is absolutely crazy, and those who are fanatic about GMOs without looking at the full balance of options."
The FAO said last month the world needs to invest $83 billion a year in agriculture in developing countries to feed a predicted population of 9.1 billion people in 2050.
To achieve that, both public and private investment on a grand scale is needed, but the trend on the public side has been discouraging. Official development assistance to agriculture plunged 58 percent in real terms from 1980 to 2005, dropping from 17 percent of total aid to 3.8 percent over that period. It now stands at about 5 percent, the FAO said.
Yet, the payoff from agricultural investment, particularly by governments, can be seen in Brazil, a case study in how the Green Revolution transformed a developing country.
Within a few decades it developed from a producer of a handful of cash crops into one of the world's largest producers of food stuffs, with an agriculture business worth nearly 300 billion reais ($172 billion) in annual sales.
Brazil began its Green Revolution in the mid-1970s, with the creation of the government farm research firm Embrapa, which resulted in increased diversification and productivity of crops as well as the expansion of cropland.
Each year Embrapa measures the return to society from research in agriculture. Latest figures show that each dollar spent on agriculture research generates a return of $13.50.
Last year's food crisis, when fears of food shortages gripped grain markets -- sending wheat and rice prices soaring to record highs and sparking hoarding and riots -- was a wake-up call, one that experts hope will translate into sustained investment.
The unrest was a powerful reminder of the risks of food insecurity and helped spur the world's richest nations to promise to spend $20 billion over three years to help small, subsistence farmers improve their productivity.
U.S. President Barack Obama has launched a $3.5 billion hunger and food security initiative focused on agriculture.
Back on the farm in Italy, Oglio said an operation like his can be run on a shoe-string budget, without the sort of subsidies that prop up agriculture, even in the wealthy European Union.
The 87-acre (35-hectare) farm that his parents used to run in a conventional way was on the edge of bankruptcy 20 years ago, burdened by high operating costs and competition in the changing economy of Europe.
With his back-to-nature methods, Oglio turned the farm around and now makes profits.
But that is a very European story. His customers, he admits, are willing to pay more for his healthful products because many of them are environmentalists.
The world's poorest people -- 1 billion of them -- may not have the luxury of making that choice.

Carbon newsclips for 11-11-2009: Carbon Capture in Canada, and carbon prices must double

Canada Seen Funding New Carbon Capture Plans
Date: 11-Nov-09
 Joshua Schneyer

NEW YORK - Canada may soon fund carbon capture and storage (CCS) in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, expanding its plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt told Reuters on Tuesday.
Canada's central government in Ottawa, which has committed about half of the C$1 billion it set aside earlier for CCS projects, is in talks with natural gas producing companies in the two western provinces regarding new projects, Raitt said in an interview.
Last month, Canada's national and provincial governments announced CCS project funding worth more than C$1.6 billion ($1.5 billion) for a TransAlta-operated coal-fired power plant and a Royal Dutch Shell-operated crude upgrading plant, both in Alberta province. The companies plan to match government funding with their own investments.
"The third area that we're looking at is natural gas, the application of carbon capture and storage for gas," Raitt said.
"We're talking to a number of proponents and hopefully will be having some kind of announcement in the coming months."
Raitt declined to name specific companies involved in the talks.
CCS projects -- which mostly use technology to capture carbon emissions and sequester them underground -- are "the best tool we have right now" to cut emissions from Canadian hydrocarbons projects, Raitt said.
Canada is betting billions of dollars in CCS investment will help it to cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20 percent before 2020, even as it ramps up production of crude from its bitumen-rich oil sands in Alberta.
"In terms of North American energy security, the oil sands are going to play a very important role. We have the means to transport more crude safely to the United States, and the infrastructure is there," Raitt said.
"What we need to do is deal with the reality of environmental sustainability," she added.
Canada has become the top supplier of crude to the United States. Exports of more than 2.5 million barrels a day in August were more than double supply levels from any other exporting country, according to U.S. government data.
Canadian supplies have risen to record levels as Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Venezuela have reduced U.S.-bound crude shipments. Two new U.S.-bound pipelines are due to start pumping more Canadian oil into the U.S. Midwest next year.
But Canadian oil sands projects have been criticized for spewing high greenhouse gas emissions. Raitt said she met with business people and politicians in New York to reassure them Canada is working to make its energy projects cleaner.
"We're engaging on harmonization of cap and trade (programs), but also energy security," she said.
(Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Watchdog warns CO2price must double
By Carola Hoyos and Ed Crooks in London
Published: November 11 2009 02:00 | Last updated: November 11 2009 02:00

The International Energy Agency has warned that the price of carbon credits will have to more than double from the levels they now trade at in Europe to make high-tech solutions to climate change economically attractive.
In its annual World Energy Outlook report released yesterday, the rich countries' watchdog also warns that the world's use of fossil fuels - coal, oil and natural gas - will have to peak by the early 2020s.
Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist, argues the world needs a "revolution" in the energy and vehicle industries.
"We need a deal in Copenhagen [at the climate talks]. We need a signal for the energy industry. Without that, nothing will move," he says.
In industrialised countries the price of a permit to emit a tonne of carbon dioxide will need to reach $50 by 2020 and $110 by 2030. In developing countries the price would need to reach $30 a tonne by 2020 and $50 by 2030.
Carbon permits now trade at $21 a tonne in the European Union. In the US a carbon trading scheme is still being negotiated. The Senate, which is unlikely to pass any bill before next year, has set $48 as the maximum that carbon prices would be allowed to rise to by 2020. By 2030 that ceiling increases to about $90.
But the IEA argues that important technology, such as carbon capture and storage, and widespread use of electric and hybrid cars would be economic only if a high price for carbon penalised those extracting and using dirtier energy sources, such as coal and petrol.
Mr Birol says the IEA's recommendation "is much higher than the current EU price and higher than the discussions taking place in the US and elsewhere. But to encourage the investment and make the substantial change that is necessary, we need this price".
Better energy efficiency, especially in power use, rapid growth in renewable energy, and increased use of nuclear power will also be critical to move the world away from fossil fuels, the IEA believes. Second generation biofuel, which uses plant waste rather than crops, will only make a small contribution, it says.
The greatest responsibility to reduce emissions and help others to do so lies with the US, the IEA says. But China has the largest potential to make an impact.
If it meets its own targets, China will be responsible for more than a quarter of the emissions reductions the IEA says are needed to avoid the worst climate change risk.
If the world fails to move to lower emissions, not only the environment will suffer. The IEA warns that a quick rebound in global economic growth could again lead to an energy supply crunch similar to the one that helped tip the world into recession in July last year, as supply is constrained by political barriers and the recent drop in investment.
Mr Birol is optimistic that the world will pass energy legislation that will keep atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases at 450 parts per million - the level that scientists believe gives the world a 50 per cent chance of keeping the increase in global temperatures within limits thought to be safe.
He said: "I would bet on something closer to the 450 scenario than the reference scenario given the change in the mood of the governments."
Lex, Page 12


Alternative Energy newclips for 10 November 2009: Smart plugs from ZeroFP, Spanish Wind Turbines produce 53% of spanish electricity (for a time), and watch out -- peak oil is closer than it may appear

Smart Plugs (TalkingPlugs) for Your Home
Zerofootprint has created a new "TalkingPlug" that will help you to better monitor the energy usage of different appliances and electronics.

By: Zachary Shahan

Zerofootprint has created a new "TalkingPlug" that will help you to better monitor the energy usage of different appliances and electronics. How? By making your electrical sockets smarter.

Zerofootprint already helps corporations and governments in evaluating and reducing their carbon emissions through various methods. It also helps households through innovative technologies such as this one. This new TalkingPlug is for corporations or households (or anyone with electrical sockets) and will have an initial price tag of about $50. The price may go down considerably if it can make the product on a larger scale.

How does it work? What are its advantages compared to Google's PowerMeter and other similar up and coming technologies?
How Does a TalkingPlug Work?

TalkingPlug fits right onto the top of existing electrical sockets. It is also "equipped with componentry to make it a controllable node on a network, including an RFID chip, microprocessor, and wireless networking."

TalkingPlugs can identify exactly how much electricity an individual appliance or electronic is using, but they can also be used to control electronics (i.e. program TVs to turn on and off at different times).

TalkingPlugs allow you to compare your energy usage with others' as wellMartin LaMonica reports: "A set of plugs create a mesh network and can send information via a home or office building router to Zerofootprint. The company's software processes and analyzes the data, showing people how the energy use compares to others."

Ron Dembo, CEO of Zerofootprint, very reasonably says that it makes the most sense to use the plugs for things using a lot of power — home computers, entertainment centers. However, if Zerofootprint can make the plug on a larger scale, the price is expected to drop from $50 to something much lower and they can be used more ubiquitously by more people.

Zerofootprint has just developed an early version of this product and is looking to get companies (i.e. utilities and appliance makers) to test it out. They are expected to introduce the product next week.
How Does the TalkingPlug Compare to Google's PowerMeter and Other Up & Coming Products?

Google's PowerMeter can monitor home energy usage in great detail as well but it generally requires that an electrician install a smart meter or a home energy display. LaMonica reported a couple months ago that IBM and the utility company Consert have been working together on a smart grid program where major appliances can be hooked up to controllers and can communicate with a meter in much the same way as these TalkingPlugs do. With this system, a person can view the data and even control appliances on the web as well. The end use is much the same as these TalkingPlugs.

These products all have a lot in common. However, the benefit of these TalkingPlugs is that if they are produced on a large scale, they should be much more affordable than these other technologies.

This looks like a good step forward in home energy monitoring and control. As Zerofootprint CEO Ron Dembo believes: "It will completely transform our world when plugs talk to each other and interact with each other."

Google PowerMeter available to U.K. residents
by Candace Lombardi
Font size

Google PowerMeter software monitors home energy usage in real time and can be accessed from a person's iGoogle home page.

(Credit: Google)

U.K. residents will now be able to monitor and regulate their home energy usage from any Web-enabled phone or computer regardless of whether their energy provider uses smart meters.
Google announced two U.K. partnerships this week concerning its PowerMeter software, one of which completely bypasses the need for cooperation from an energy provider.
Since the U.K. electricity and gas supplier First Utility began offering customers free smart meters in September 2008, it has had 30,000 customers take them up on the offer. Now, as a result of a Google partnership announced Tuesday, First Utility smart meter customers will have the option of allowing their info to be relayed to Google's PowerMeter so their smart meter data and control can be Web-accessible. The service will become available to Midlands customers in early November 2009, and eventually extend it to the entire U.K.
Google also announced Wednesday that its PowerMeter software will be compatible with AlertMe, a U.K. self-install energy monitoring system that works regardless of a resident's energy provider or the type of meter installed in the home.
Unlike smart meters, the AlertMe system does not communicate with an electricity utility's smart grid to advise on low-peak usage hours. It consists of a meter reader that clips on to a home's existing electric meter, smart plug adapters for appliances, and a wireless hub that plugs into a home's broadband connection. The hub wirelessly communicates between the meter reader, smart plugs, and AlertMe service.

AlertMe's smart plug, meter reader, and wireless hub.

(Credit: AlertMe)

The device's non-evasive nature makes it an option for renters as well as homeowners. And AlertMe is clearly attempting to target that renter market by pointing out in its quirky infomercials (see video below) that its device is unobtrusive. Unlike smart meters, it does require the usual landlord permission to be installed.
The kits costs 69 British pounds ($113) plus a required 12-month contract for its 2.99 pounds-per-month ($4.90) communication service, which requires that the home have broadband access. The total cost, including one free month of service, comes to 101.89 pounds ($167.55).
On Wednesday, the company also announced the start of itstrial with British Gas on an AlertMe kit for monitoring and controlling heating from gas that will tie into the gas utility's smart meters. Since AlertMe monitors are now compatible with Google's PowerMeter, the software will be available to British Gas customers who join that smart meter program.
The Google PowerMeter software that ties in to First Utility, AlertMe, and (by default) the British Gas trial program, is currently free. It makes real-time usage data collected from the companies available by cell phone or computer. The data can then be charted in hourly, daily, monthly, and yearly segments for analysis, allowing users to basically conduct their own personal green-living and energy-usage experiments.
A person could test if shutting off their TV and its electronic accouterments for one week, as opposed to leaving them in standby mode, really makes a dent in their home's overall energy consumption. AlertMe subscribers could also use the PowerMeter software to remotely turn specific appliances on or off.
Both AlertMe and First Utility have said they've found their consumers really do tend to adjust their usage habits to save energy and money, once they come face to face with their own usage data.
"At the end of the day, if you can't measure and view your energy use, it's very difficult to make savings," First Utility's CEO Mark Daeche said in a statement.

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet,, and GameSpot. E-mail her at She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

Networked 'smart plug' gets energy info flowing
by Martin LaMonica
Font size
What if you could better control home appliance energy use by making your wall socket more clever?
That's the idea behind TalkingPlug from Toronto-based Zerofootprint, a company that makes software for measuring and monitoring corporate carbon emissions.
TalkingPlug is a plug that fits on top of existing electrical outlets. But it's equipped with componentry to make it a controllable node on a network, including an RFID chip, microprocessor, and wireless networking. The company plans to introduce the product next week.

Zerofooprint's wireless plug, coupled with hosted software, is designed to let people view energy use and program appliances.

(Credit: Zerofootprint)

The "smart plugs" will be able to give detailed information on how much electricity individual appliances are using. Because it's programmable, people can also control appliances. For example, a person could have a TV set-top box turn off at midnight and turn on again at 7 in the morning.
A set of plugs create a mesh network and can send information via a home or office building router to Zerofootprint. The company's software processes and analyzes the data, showing people how the energy use compares to others.
"It will completely transform our world when plugs talk to each other and interact with each other," said Ron Dembo, the CEO of Zerofootprint.
For residential customers, it makes most sense to use plugs for areas that draw a lot of power, such entertainment centers and home computers, Dembo said. He estimated the cost is about $50 now but he expects that price would drop significantly if made at larger scale.
The company has built early versions of the product and is seeking companies willing to test it out, such as utilities or appliance makers looking for a way to get information on products.
There are many companies developing energy-management software and devices aimed at helping people reduce wasted electricity use. One of the main technical challenges is getting information from appliances.
For example, IBM and utility Consert are running a trial smart-grid program where large appliances, such as HVAC systems and hot water heaters, are equipped with controllers that can feed data to a meter with two-way communications. Data is collected using a home's Internet connection, and the consumer can view energy data and control appliances from a Web page.
Google's energy-monitoring application PowerMeter can get detailed data using either a smart meter or a home energy display, typically installed by an electrician. Zerofootprint's Dembo said that the TalkingPlug approach, where monitoring and control is placed at the point of use, can be cheaper than existing methods once products are made at large scale.
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer for CNET's Green Tech blog. He started at CNET News in 2002, covering IT and Web development. Before that, he was executive editor at IT publication InfoWorld.E-mail Martin.

Spain's wind turbines supply half of the national power grid

Graham Keeley in Barcelona
Spain was celebrating its commitment to renewable energy yesterday after wind turbines dotted across the country produced more than half of all its electricity for the first time.
High winds across Spain on Sunday meant that for over five hours, over 53 per cent of the country's power came from wind energy. The towering white wind turbines which loom over Castilla-La Mancha — home to Cervantes's hero Don Quixote — and which dominate other parts of Spain, set a new record in wind energy production.
Most of the wind power was used immediately, 6 per cent was stored and 7.7 per cent was exported to France, Portugal and Morocco.
In the past decade Spain has relentlessly invested in wind power, along with other renewable sources, making it the third-biggest supplier after the United States and Germany. Luis Atienza, president of Red Eléctrica which runs Spain's electricity grid, said: "This makes us proud. There is no other country of our size which has completed and bettered a renewable energy production of over 50 per cent in such a timescale."

Energy shortfalls are a danger in ten years

Rise of the monster wind farms

Future of wind farms in doubt

José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain's Prime Minister, a strong believer in renewable energy, has hinted his Government may phase out nuclear plants.
The move has provoked opposition from within the nuclear industry, his own party and from the opposition conservative Popular Party.
Spain began its wind power push in 1997, but five years ago critics believed it could not produce more than 14 per cent of the country's electricity.
Wind farms have produced 17,700 megawatt-hours (mWh) of electricity so far this year, but renewable energy industry figures believe this figure could rise to 40,000mWh by 2020.
Spain's Socialist Government invested €991 million (£890 million) in wind power in 2007. Already it has reaped a return on its investment; in 2007 it saved €1 billion on fossil fuels, according to the Spanish Environment Ministry.
José Donoso, president of the Spanish Wind Energy Association, said: "A few years ago no one would have predicted these figures but we believe we can go on rising.
"It will be good for the environment and reduce our importation of fossil fuels."
Red Electrica said this year wind power is expected to produce 13 per cent of all electricity, hydroelectric power 10 per cent and solar power 2.5 per cent. Spain's solar industry is one of the fastest growing in the world.
Nuclear energy produced 20.9 per cent of Spain's energy needs last year and critics claim the country cannot dispense with a source which supplies almost a fifth of its power.
One admirer of Spain's sustainable energy programme is President Obama.
During a meeting with Mr Zapatero at the White House last month, the US President praised Spain as a "worldwide leader" in renewable energy.

Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure, says whistleblower

Exclusive: Watchdog's estimates of reserves inflated says top official

Buzz up!
Digg it (22)

Terry Macalister, Monday 9 November 2009 21.30 GMT
Article history
The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.
The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.
The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation's latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.

'There's suspicion the IEA has been influenced by the US' Link to this audio
In particular they question the prediction in the last World Economic Outlook, believed to be repeated again this year, that oil production can be raised from its current level of 83m barrels a day to 105m barrels. External critics have frequently argued that this cannot be substantiated by firm evidence and say the world has already passed its peak in oil production.
Now the "peak oil" theory is gaining support at the heart of the global energy establishment. "The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year," said the IEA source, who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. "The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today's number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.
"Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources," he added.
A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was "imperative not to anger the Americans" but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. "We have [already] entered the 'peak oil' zone. I think that the situation is really bad," he added.
The IEA acknowledges the importance of its own figures, boasting on its website: "The IEA governments and industry from all across the globe have come to rely on the World Energy Outlook to provide a consistent basis on which they can formulate policies and design business plans."
The British government, among others, always uses the IEA statistics rather than any of its own to argue that there is little threat to long-term oil supplies.
The IEA said tonight that peak oil critics had often wrongly questioned the accuracy of its figures. A spokesman said it was unable to comment ahead of the 2009 report being released tomorrow.
John Hemming, the MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on peak oil and gas, said the revelations confirmed his suspicions that the IEA underplayed how quickly the world was running out and this had profound implications for British government energy policy.
He said he had also been contacted by some IEA officials unhappy with its lack of independent scepticism over predictions. "Reliance on IEA reports has been used to justify claims that oil and gas supplies will not peak before 2030. It is clear now that this will not be the case and the IEA figures cannot be relied on," said Hemming.
"This all gives an importance to the Copenhagen [climate change] talks and an urgent need for the UK to move faster towards a more sustainable [lower carbon] economy if it is to avoid severe economic dislocation," he added.
The IEA was established in 1974 after the oil crisis in an attempt to try to safeguard energy supplies to the west. The World Energy Outlook is produced annually under the control of the IEA's chief economist, Fatih Birol, who has defended the projections from earlier outside attack. Peak oil critics have often questioned the IEA figures.
But now IEA sources who have contacted the Guardian say that Birol has increasingly been facing questions about the figures inside the organisation.
Matt Simmons, a respected oil industry expert, has long questioned the decline rates and oil statistics provided by Saudi Arabia on its own fields. He has raised questions about whether peak oil is much closer than many have accepted.
A report by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) last month said worldwide production of conventionally extracted oil could "peak" and go into terminal decline before 2020 – but that the government was not facing up to the risk. Steve Sorrell, chief author of the report, said forecasts suggesting oil production will not peak before 2030 were "at best optimistic and at worst implausible".
But as far back as 2004 there have been people making similar warnings. Colin Campbell, a former executive with Total of France told a conference: "If the real [oil reserve] figures were to come out there would be panic on the stock markets … in the end that would suit no one."

Green newsclips for 10 November 2009: No more "old" arctic ice, competition in the green patent space, Obama might go to Copenhagen, India doesn't believe glaciers are melting, and watch out for carbon-based trade disputes -- they may do more harm than good

Multiyear Arctic Ice Is Effectively Gone: Expert
Date: 30-Oct-09
 David Ljunggren

Broken Arctic sea ice as seen from a window in from a U.S. Coast Guard C130 flight over the Arctic Ocean September 30, 2009.
Photo: Yereth Rosen

OTTAWA - The multiyear ice covering the Arctic Ocean has effectively vanished, a startling development that will make it easier to open up polar shipping routes, an Arctic expert said on Thursday.
Vast sheets of impenetrable multiyear ice, which can reach up to 80 meters (260 feet) thick, have for centuries blocked the path of ships seeking a quick short cut through the fabled Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They also ruled out the idea of sailing across the top of the world.
But David Barber, Canada's Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba, said the ice was melting at an extraordinarily fast rate.
"We are almost out of multiyear sea ice in the northern hemisphere," he said in a presentation in Parliament. The little that remains is jammed up against Canada's Arctic archipelago, far from potential shipping routes.
Scientists link higher Arctic temperatures and melting sea ice to the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.
Barber spoke shortly after returning from an expedition that sought -- and largely failed to find -- a huge multiyear ice pack that should have been in the Beaufort Sea off the Canadian coastal town of Tuktoyaktuk.
Instead, his ice breaker found hundreds of miles of what he called "rotten ice" -- 50-cm (20-inch) thin layers of fresh ice covering small chunks of older ice.
"I've never seen anything like this in my 30 years of working in the high Arctic ... it was very dramatic," he said.
"From a practical perspective, if you want to ship across the pole, you're concerned about multiyear sea ice. You're not concerned about this rotten stuff we were doing 13 knots through. It's easy to navigate through."
Scientists have fretted for decades about the pace at which the Arctic ice sheets are shrinking. U.S. data shows the 2009 ice cover was the third-lowest on record, after 2007 and 2008.
An increasing number of experts feel the North Pole will be ice free in summer by 2030 at the latest, for the first time in a million years.
"I would argue that, from a practical perspective, we almost have a seasonally ice-free Arctic now, because multiyear sea ice is the barrier to the use and development of the Arctic," said Barber.
Fresh first-year ice always forms in the Arctic in the winter, when temperatures plunge far below freezing and the North Pole is not exposed to the sun.
Shipping companies are already looking to benefit from warming waters. This year two German cargo ships successfully navigated from South Korea along Russia's northern Siberia coast without the help of icebreakers.
The Arctic is warming up three times more quickly than the rest of the Earth, in part because of the reflectivity, or the albedo feedback effect, of ice.
As more and more ice melts, larger expanses of darker sea water are exposed. These absorb more sunlight than the ice and cause the water to heat up more quickly, thereby melting more ice.
Barber said the ice was now being melted both by rays from the sun as well as from below by the warmer water.
Scientists are also seeing more cyclones, which pick up force as they absorb heat from the warmer water. The cyclones help generate waves that break up ice sheets and also dump large amounts of snow, which has an insulating effect and prevents the ice sheets from thickening.
After a long search, Barber's ice breaker finally found a 16-km (10-mile) wide floe of multiyear ice that was around 6 to 8 meters (20-26 feet) thick. But as the crew watched, the floe was hit by a series of waves, and disintegrated in five minutes.
"The Arctic is an early indicator of what we can expect at the global scale as we move through the next few decades ... So we should be paying attention to this very carefully," Barber said.
(Editing by Rob Wilson)

Everybody in the Pool of Green Innovation

A POPULAR children's song has a refrain — "the more we get together the happier we'll be" — that may sound like a simplistic formula for solving the complex challenges of climate change and sustainability. But if any area is ripe for sharing and collaboration among organizations, it's green innovation.

"We all want to save the planet, and the problems are bigger than any one firm, sector or country," says Dr. Sarah Slaughter, coordinator of the M.I.T. Sloan Sustainability Initiative. In that spirit, several major corporations have taken inspiration from the open-source software movement and are experimenting with forums for sharing environmentally friendly innovations and building communities around them. The first such effort, the Eco-Patent Commons, was started in January 2008 by I.B.M.NokiaPitney Bowes and Sony in collaboration with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The concept is straightforward: Companies pledge environmental patents to the commons, and anyone can use them — free.

Many patented environmental technologies are not strategic, so sharing maximizes the social benefit without sacrificing competitive advantage, says Wayne Balta, vice president of corporate environmental affairs and product safety at I.B.M. For instance, I.B.M. contributed a recyclable cardboard packaging insert that requires less fossil fuel to create and transport than the foam inserts that are now commonly used.

Other examples include a DuPont method for better detecting pollution in soil, air or water by using a microorganism that produces light when exposed to a pollutant. There are also methods from Xerox for removing toxic waste from contaminated groundwater, as well as a cleaning technique for semiconductor wafers from I.B.M. that uses ozone gas and eliminates chemical contaminants that result from other processes.

By assembling these patents in one easily accessible location — anyone can search through them on the council's Web site — the hope is to encourage their widespread adoption, particularly in the developing world. Since its start, the commons has grown to 100 patents from 31, with 11 companies now participating.

Although there are no formal mechanisms for tracking who has used the commons, participating companies are sometimes contacted by users. For instance, Mr. Balta said that Yale had put into effect an I.B.M. method for decreasing the use of hazardous solvents in its quantum computing device research.

The Creative Commons, a nonprofit organization that previously developed licensing programs to help in sharing creative and scientific content, is also planning to branch out into the environmental arena.

In collaboration with Nike and Best Buy, it plans to start a sharing initiative, the Green Xchange, in early 2010. The program will include both patented technologies and forums for continuing exchange of innovations such as Best Buy's system for rating the sustainability of a supply chain. Companies that contribute patents to the Green Xchange will have the option of charging users a fixed annual licensing fee and can also restrict any licensing by rivals or for competitive use. In addition, even if no annual fee is charged, patent users must register so there is a record of who is using what technology.

Though more complex than that of Eco-Patent Commons, the structure of Green Xchange will yield greater numbers of high-quality inventions, says John Wilbanks, GreenXchange coordinator and vice president for science at Creative Commons.

"We don't depend on altruism," Mr. Wilbanks says. "This system helps the environment while enabling a firm to make money from patents in applications outside its core business."

For instance, Nike's air-bag patent for cushioning shoes is crucial to its core shoe business, but may have environmental benefits in other industries — perhaps in prolonging the useful life of tires. Green Xchange could enable Nike to license the air-bag technology selectively to noncompeting companies.

ACCORDING to Kelly Lauber, a global director in Nike's Sustainable Business and Innovation Lab, sharing technology can have tremendous environmental impact. By sharing its water-based adhesive technology and working with footwear makers, Ms. Lauber estimates that average levels of environmentally harmful solvents used by Nike's suppliers have decreased to less than 15 grams per pair of shoes from 350 in 1997.

Perhaps the biggest upside of Green Xchange may come from the development of communities that collaborate in innovation and the exchange of ideas. To encourage that kind of interaction, will provide a search engine, making it easy to find patents. And collaboration platforms from companies like 2degrees and nGenera should make it easy to identify companies with common interests.

Despite the obvious advantages, sharing patents isn't as easy as it might sound.

"Numerous features of the intellectual property system, particularly the ability of companies to claim large swaths of technology through patents, play havoc with collaborative efforts," says Josh Lerner, a professor at Harvard Business School.

Henry Chesbrough, the executive director of the Center for Open Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley, says it is surprisingly hard to give away technologies. "If it is not done carefully," he said, "the companies that use a donated technology might find themselves liable for infringement of another company's patent."

Both the Eco-Patent Commons and the Green Xchange pose organizational challenges for participating companies.

"Deciding which patents to pledge or license to a commons," says Andrew King, a professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, "requires that the legal counsel, R.& D. staff, business unit and corporate sustainability groups all work together, and most organizations just aren't set up for that."

Weaving corporate togetherness, it seems, isn't so easy — though green innovations offer many more reasons to try.

Mary Tripsas is an associate professor in the entrepreneurial management unit at the Harvard Business School.

Obama Will Go To Copenhagen To Clinch Deal
Date: 10-Nov-09
 Patricia Wilson and Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday he would travel to Copenhagen next month if a climate summit is on the verge of a framework deal and his presence there will make a difference in clinching it.
It was Obama's strongest assertion yet he may go to Denmark in mid-December to help secure a new global compact in the fight against climate change, a process clouded by disputes between rich countries and big developing nations.
"If I am confident that all of the countries involved are bargaining in good faith and we are on the brink of a meaningful agreement and my presence in Copenhagen will make a difference in tipping us over edge then certainly that's something that I will do," Obama told Reuters in an interview.
Obama, who has faced resistance from opposition Republicans and even some fellow Democrats to setting caps on greenhouse gas emissions, acknowledged that the U.S. Senate would not pass climate change legislation before Copenhagen.
Delays in the U.S. Congress have rankled European allies and added to questions about how significant the deal that emerges from Copenhagen will ultimately be.
But Obama insisted he remained optimistic that the December 7-18 summit could yield a "framework" agreement.
"I think the question is can we create a set of principles, building blocks, that allow for ongoing and continuing progress on the issue and that's something I'm confident we can achieve," he said.
Obama made clear he considers his talks with Chinese leaders during an Asia tour later this month to be crucial in clearing remaining obstacles to some kind of accord.
"The key now is for the United States and China, the two largest emitters in the world, is to be able to come up with a framework that, along with other big emitters like the Europeans and those countries that are projected to be large emitters in the future, like India, can all buy into," he said.
"I remain optimistic that between now and Copenhagen that we can arrive at that framework," he added.
(Editing by Doina Chiacu)

India 'arrogant' to deny global warming link to melting glaciers
IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri accuses Indian environment ministry of 'arrogance' for its report claiming there is no evidence that climate change has shrunk Himalayan glaciers

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Randeep Ramesh in Delhi, Monday 9 November 2009 16.17 GMT
Article history
Himalayas: Mount Kanchenjunga from Darjeeling
The Himalayas. The IPCC has warned that Himalayan glaciers are receding faster than in any other part of the world and could "disappear altogether by 2035 if not sooner". Photograph: Frederic Soltan/© Frederic Soltan/Corbis
A leading climate scientist today accused the Indian environment ministry of "arrogance" after the release of a government report claiming that there is no evidence climate change has caused "abnormal" shrinking of Himalayan glaciers.
Jairam Ramesh, India's environment minister, released the controversial report in Delhi, saying it would "challenge the conventional wisdom" about melting ice in the mountains.
Two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN agency which evaluates the risk from global warming, warned the glaciers were receding faster than in any other part of the world and could "disappear altogether by 2035 if not sooner".
Today Ramesh denied any such risk existed: "There is no conclusive scientific evidence to link global warming with what is happening in the Himalayan glaciers." The minister added although some glaciers are receding they were doing so at a rate that was not "historically alarming".
However, Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC, told the Guardian: "We have a very clear idea of what is happening. I don't know why the minister is supporting this unsubstantiated research. It is an extremely arrogant statement."
Ramesh said he was prepared to take on "the doomsday scenarios of Al Gore and the IPCC".
"My concern is that this comes from western scientists … it is high time India makes an investment in understanding what is happening in the Himalayan ecosystem," he added.
The government report, entitled Himalayan glaciers (pdf), looks at 150 years' worth of data gathered from the Geological Survey of India from 25 glaciers. It claims to be the first comprehensive study on the region.
Vijay Kumar Raina, the geologist who authored the report, admitted that some "Himalayan glaciers are retreating. But it is nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to suggest as some have said that they will disappear."
Pachauri dismissed the report saying it was not "peer reviewed" and had few "scientific citations".
"With the greatest of respect this guy retired years ago and I find it totally baffling that he comes out and throws out everything that has been established years ago."
In a remarkable finding, the report claims the Gangotri glacier, the main source of the River Ganges, actually receded fastest in 1977 – and is today "practically at a stand still".
Some scientists have warned that the river beds of the Gangetic Basin – which feed hundreds of millions in northern India – could run dry once glaciers go. However, such concerns are scotched by the report.
According to Raina, the mistake made by "western scientists" is to apply the rate of glacial loss from other parts of the world to the Himalayas. "In the United States the highest glaciers in Alaska are still below the lowest level of Himalayan glaciers. Our 9,500 glaciers are located at very high altitudes. It is completely different system."
"As long as we have monsoons we will have glaciers. There are many factors to consider when we want to find out how quickly (glaciers melt) … rainfall, debris cover, relief and terrain," said Raina.
In response Pachauri said that such statements were reminiscent of "climate change deniers and school boy science".
"I cannot see what the minister's motives are. We do need more extensive measurement of the Himalayan range but it is clear from satellite pictures what is happening."
Many environmentalists said they were also unconvinced by the minister's arguments. Sunita Narain, a member of the Indian prime minister's climate change council and director of the Centre for Science and Environment, said "the report would create a lot of confusion".
"The PM's council has just received a comprehensive report which presents many studies which show clear fragmentation of the glaciers would lead to faster recession. I am not sure what Jairam (Ramesh) is doing."

Awaiting Climate Accord, Governments Toy With Dubious Measures
Nations may enact unilateral policies that would distort free-trade

In the lead up to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December, developed and developing nations are already preparing themselves for the outcome, a multilateral deal or not. This approach is bound to harm the prospects for reversing global warming, for fostering free trade, and for ensuring competition, according to World Trade Organization Counselor Doaa Abdel Motaal. Many countries plan to enact unilateral measures to prevent domestic industries from losing competitiveness and to stem "carbon leakage," the shift in emissions from countries that cap emissions to those that don't. Dispelling the worries that underpin such measures is key. It is possible to lower emissions while remaining profitable, according to one study Motaal cites. And the race for industries to move to less carbon constrained countries or be overwhelmed by imports is overstated. If a congeries of unilateral measures get enacted, the potential for discord over tackling climate change is likely to become more pronounced. Such strife would do little to help the environment. – YaleGlobal

Doaa Abdel Motaal
YaleGlobal , 6 November 2009
Bad climate, bad policy: Even before the Copenhagen meeting, governments are adopting bad policies

GENEVA: How do we protect the environment and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, while preserving our economic growth? In the run-up to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December, this question has been on the minds of big and small players, developed and developing countries, alike. Meanwhile, as the multilateral negotiations proceed, a number of developed countries are hedging their bets by preparing legislation that would go into effect with or without a multilateral deal. But unfortunately, some of the unilateral measures they are contemplating may fail in reversing global warming, potentially distorting world trade and harming competition.
If a multilateral deal were concluded many of the targets under different pieces of legislation would be boosted, such as the target GHG-emissions cut of the EU, which would rise to 30% below 1990 levels by 2020, instead of the mere 20%. If a multilateral deal is not concluded, several developed countries would unleash all sorts of unilateral carbon-equalization measures to offset the competitive disadvantage that their industries may suffer from acting first, and would also attempt to prevent "carbon leakage." So what does the new "carbon leakage" buzzword actually mean? It is a term used to refer to a potential shift in emissions from the carbon-constrained parts of the planet (i.e. countries that accept a cap on their total emissions) to the non-carbon constrained (i.e. countries that reject such a cap).

But where is the pessimism that underpins this debate coming from, one might ask? Does environmental regulation necessarily reduce competitiveness? In a recent survey conducted by the Climate Group, entitled Carbon Down, Profits Up, researchers find that it is exactly the opposite which is happening today. In reviewing 84 corporations, 36 city and 17 regional governments, which together emit about 8% of global CO2-equivalent emissions, the survey finds that these entities have collectively managed to cut their emissions by 14% while scoring economic gains. Dow Chemical, for example, managed to save US$4 billion between 1994 and 2005 from reduced energy use, while DuPont saved US$3 billion between 1990 and 2005.
What the survey does not comment on are the many economic benefits that would ensue from actually preventing our climate from changing; such as lower risks of being swept away by flash floods or inundation. These benefits are not minor. They represent a life or death difference for people as well as industries. The secondary benefits too must be considered, like the reduction in local air pollution, and the reduced number of sick-leaves; a not-so-insignificant cost for industry. In Egypt, numerous studies have shown that traffic controllers have had particularly elevated concentrations of lead in their bloodstream due to their routine exposure to car exhaust, in particular prior to the phase-out of leaded gasoline.

What lesson then can we draw from this survey? Surely, that carbon regulation does not destroy the competitiveness of economic actors, but can actually enhance it. Much depends on what a company chooses to do with the carbon price, once it exists. It could sit back and moan, and see its competitiveness and market-share eroded, or it could respond pro-actively, unleashing its full resourcefulness and creativity. The evidence shows that early movers in climate mitigation can see their reputation enhanced, their brand value increased, their operational costs reduced, and the emergence of new business opportunities. In short, they can be, and no doubt will be, the leaders of the future. Rather, at present, it is the companies that are swimming against the global tide of climate regulation that will have to plead for lifejackets soon.
In fact, pleading for lifejackets appears to have already started. On both sides of the Atlantic countries are considering allocating pollution permits for free to industries that may be in danger of losing their competitiveness, as well as to prevent leakage, under these countries' cap-and-trade schemes. A subsidy of sorts. Proposals to penalize carbon-intensive imports at the border also abound. Some would have importers face an obligation to buy pollution permits upon entry, and others would simply slap imports with a tax equivalent to their carbon emissions. 

Countries contemplating such measures are resorting to highly complex systems to identify the industries that are at risk of losing their competitiveness. While the EU has identified these economic sectors mostly on the basis of the "cost increase" that they may face, and their degree of exposure to international trade, the US may choose them on the basis of their energy and greenhouse gas emissions intensity, with trade-intensity also playing a role. The assumption behind both approaches is, of course, that the higher the compliance costs, and the higher the exposure to international competition, the more firms would be likely to lose market share to imports, and the greater their temptation to relocate to areas with weaker carbon regulation. But as Paul Krugman reminds us, international competitiveness is a dangerous obsession, with most of the goods and services that we produce being consumed locally, despite all the hype about globalization. In other words, the risks of being swept away by imports, or of relocating overnight, are grossly overstated. In fact, the avant-gardes may actually see their competitiveness increased from proper carbon regulation.
Worse, it is the myriad of lifejackets that we are now building into our carbon regulations that may be the greatest threat to healthy competition, and industrial competitiveness, in future. While unilateral carbon-equalization equalization projects at the border may extend the lifetime of a carbon-uncompetitive industry for a while, by penalizing competing imports, how long can they do so? These actions may also endanger the world's ability to reach to global accord. At the negotiating session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn this August, India and China, supported by the rest of the G-77 group of developing nations, all asked for a ban on the use of unilateral measures to fight climate change. They perceive the many unilateral carbon-equalization projects that are underway to be a hostile act; one that must be constrained. And, if carbon leakage is the worry, in reality no unilateral measure, however strong, can prevent it. The only real solution to leakage is a world in which carbon reduction commitments are assigned to all, based on the environmental principle of "common but differentiated responsibility."

As to the free allocation of permits, it sows the seeds of "climate injustice" at home, and leads to a race for such acts of charity abroad. Assume that a country with an emissions cap has two polluters, polluter A and polluter B, and that it decides to help polluter A reduce its emissions by giving it free pollution permits while giving no assistance to B. A greater share of the emission reduction burden would automatically fall to B. The country's pretext would be that since polluter A has always done badly, and has always had higher energy intensity or has always emitted more, it needs special assistance to comply. But where is the justice in this approach? Worse, distorting competition in the home market will lead to inevitable calls for such distortions in other countries too, where the competitors of polluter A will want a helping hand too. Is this really the sort of foundation on which the world wishes to build a climate accord?

Doaa Abdel Motaal is Counselor in the Office of the Director-General of the World Trade Organization. This article is written entirely in her personal capacity and does not reflect the views of the organization.