Thursday, 31 July 2008

Report finds US is world's top wind producer

McClatchy newspapers,
Wednesday July 30 2008

The American Wind Energy Association is expected to release a survey next month that says the US has become the world's leading wind producer, and that the industry expects rapid growth to continue in places like Texas, the Great Plains and California.
The survey calculates that the US wind industry now tops Germany in terms of how much energy is being produced from wind.
Germany still has more installed capacity - 22,000 megawatts compared with 17,000 in the US at the end of 2007. But the average wind speed is stronger in America, which means more energy is being generated, the group said.
And this year, Germany will add only about 1,600 megawatts of wind energy, while the US will add more than 6,000 megawatts, said Randy Swisher, executive director of the association.
"The numbers themselves are not what matters," said Swisher.
"What matters is that the wind industry around the world recognises that the US is the largest market."
That's important because many of the world's leading wind companies are not US companies, and they will need to move manufacturing jobs to the US as the wind industry grows, Swisher said. His group says 4,000 wind-related manufacturing jobs have been added in the US since 2007.
Currently, wind provides about 1% of US electricity.
In California, Pacific Gas & Electric has been using wind power for decades, and has been aggressive in adding new contracts for wind energy in the last four years as it strives to meet the state's renewable energy goal of 20% by 2010.
PG&E has 1,164 megawatts of wind energy in operation or under contract, said spokeswoman Jennifer Zerwer.
The cost of wind power is almost comparable to fossil fuels such as coal, at between 4.5 and 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour, according to FPL Energy, builder of the country's largest wind farm in Horse Hollow, Texas.
But building a wind farm costs more than a fossil-fuel plant - between $1.5m and $2m per megawatt of capacity compared with $800,000 for a natural-gas plant.
Once constructed, though, wind plants have no fuel costs compared with coal and natural gas plants.
The industry says that 250 to 300 average US homes are served by one megawatt of wind energy.

Green lessons for Lothian firms

BUSINESSES in the Lothians are getting the opportunity to find out how to count and cut their carbon emissions.
A workshop in Dalkeith, the first of its kind in Scotland, is aimed at helping companies assess their carbon footprint, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut costs."Higher fuel bills are having a major impact on businesses and their profitability," said Jo Paulson of the Business Environment Partnership, which is organising the event in conjunction with Lancaster University-based Carbon and Environment Solutions. "This workshop will help them understand their own impact on the environment and what they can do to minimise it while saving money at the same time."'Practical Carbon Footprinting' will be held at Hardengreen Business Park in Dalkeith from 9am to 5pm on September 11.

Republicans Block Action on Senate Tax Bill

By MARTIN VAUGHANJuly 31, 2008;

WASHINGTON -- Republicans again turned back a Democratic attempt to bring an energy- and business-tax bill to the Senate floor, likely delaying action on the package until September at the earliest.

The bill would extend tax incentives for wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy, and would renew a host of expired tax cuts, such as the research tax credit and the state-sales-tax deduction. It would also protect most taxpayers from the alternative minimum tax in 2008.
The move failed on a 51-43 procedural vote, dashing Democrats' hopes that their recent additions to the bill would draw more Republican support.
The White House said senior advisers will recommend a veto should the Senate tax bill reach the president's desk in its current form. The White House had earlier threatened a veto of similar legislation passed by the House.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said Tuesday that if Republicans continued to block the tax bill, he wouldn't allow amendments on a separate bill to curb oil-market speculation.
In a bid to draw more Republican votes for the tax bill, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) last week added disaster relief for Midwestern states and a requirement that health plans cover mental illnesses on par with physical diseases.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) said following the vote that the two sides remain divided over the extent to which tax cuts in the bill should be offset to keep the deficit down. Sen. Grassley voted against the Democratic efforts to limit debate on the bill.
Republicans have argued that permanent tax changes shouldn't be used to offset the temporary tax cuts in the bill. They have proposed that Democrats use the offsets in the bill -- a loophole-closing provision that bars hedge-fund managers from shielding offshore income from taxes and a delay in a scheduled tax cut for multinational firms -- to make one or more of the tax cuts permanent or extend them. For example, the bill could extend the research tax credit for five to seven years instead of just one, Sen. Grassley said. But Democrats aren't biting. "They're holding their ground," he said.
In a nod to Republican concerns, the latest version of the bill calls for the offsets to expire in 2018. But a White House statement condemned that as a "gimmick."
The White House also criticized a provision in the Senate bill that would transfer $8 billion from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund so projects don't go unfunded because the government is collecting less revenue than projected from gasoline taxes. The provision creates a "dangerous precedent that shifts costs from users to taxpayers at large," the White House said.
The House approved the Highway Trust Fund transfer last week on a 387-37 vote.
Write to Martin Vaughan at

Spain cuts speed limit and turns out lights

By John LichfieldThursday, 31 July 2008

Spain has seen the future and it is slow, dim and uncomfortable. A swingeing series of energy-saving measures announced by the Spanish government may be a foretaste of the kind of policies which will be forced upon an energy-hungry industrial world in the coming decades.
To protests from motorists and mockery in parts of the press, the Socialist government plans to cut motorway speed limits to 50mph and town speeds to 25mph. New austerity rules will be imposed on the air conditioning and heating of all public buildings. Street-lighting will be cut by half.
Almost 50 million low-energy light bulbs will be handed out by the government in an attempt to drive high-consumption bulbs out of the market in the next four years. The government will also sponsor a project intended to introduce a million electric or hybrid electric-petrol cars on to Spanish roads by 2014.
The sweeping plans, intended to reduce Spain's huge dependency on imported oil by 10 per cent, were mocked by one newspaper as an "operation light bulb" which was doomed to fail. However, the Industry Minister, Miguel Sebastian, adopted the celebrated exhortation to patriotism and self-sacrifice of the US President John F Kennedy when he took office in 1961. It was time, he said, for Spaniards to "ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."
"Every time we lift our feet off the accelerator, we are improving GDP and employment," Mr Sebastian said. "The era of cheap energy has passed."
The energy shock caused by the boom in oil prices in the past year has hit Spain especially hard. Spain has scant energy resources of its own and is more dependent on fossil fuels for its energy needs – 84 per cent – than any other European Union country.
Mr Sebastian said that Spain had spent €17bn (£13bn) on importing oil in the past 12 months. The country's trade deficit is expected to soar this year by 13 per cent to €42.8bn.
Among the 31 measures announced to parliament on Tuesday night, there were two or three which would – if implemented – radically change the Spanish way of life. The speed limit on dual carriageways would be cut from 100kph to 80kph (50 mph). The urban speed limit would fall to 40kph (25mph).
Despite Spain's baking summers, air conditioning systems in public buildings would be set no lower than 26C. In winter, the heating would be limited to 21C. Hospitals will be exempted, and so will private homes and offices.
The government also plans to remove, or dim, millions of street lights, to reduce their energy consumption by half. Public transport in many cities will operate into the early hours at the weekends to persuade motorists to leave cars at home. All Spanish government vehicles will be expected to cover one fifth of their energy needs with bio-fuels.
But a poll of Spanish motorists by a TV channel found little evidence of the JFK spirit. Manolo of Madrid said: "Tell the minister that things are just fine as they are. We don't want to cut our speed. People would be honking their horns all the time if they had to go that slow."

How green are the Tories?

Preparing for Power - The Environment: In the fourth of our week-long series, Andrew Grice, Political Editor, examines David Cameron's appeal to 'Vote Blue, Go Green'
Thursday, 31 July 2008

If there was one change that symbolised David Cameron's mission to transform the Conservative Party, it was putting the environment at the top of his agenda. And if there is one abiding image of his leadership, it is his "hug a husky" moment during his visit to the Arctic two years ago to see the impact of climate change.
Yet, in recent months, there have been some signs the Tory leader's passion for the green cause has cooled, that it may have served its purpose of illustrating change, so he is reverting to more traditional Tory tunes such as law and order. Green campaigners smelt a rat in May after Mr Cameron failed to mention the words "environment" or "climate change" in a 1,200-word statement about his priorities for government.
The party leadership denies it has diluted its commitment to the environment and has been working hard to reassure its new green friends. Mr Cameron and the shadow Chancellor George Osborne have made "green" speeches in the past six weeks, which steadied some nerves. Mr Osborne's address to the Green Alliance played particularly well. Yet some environmentalists believe the Tories are doing only what they judge necessary to head off attacks by green groups.
The missing piece of the Tory jigsaw is its commitment to green taxes. Officially, the Opposition remains committed to raising green taxes and putting "every penny" raised into a "family fund" that would cut taxes paid by families. Mr Cameron insisted: "The truth is: it's not that we can't afford to go green – it's that we can't afford not to go green."
However, it appears such taxes may play a smaller role in trying to change people's behaviour than Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne originally envisaged, with incentives to "go green" playing a bigger part. "Green taxes are taking more of a back seat," one Shadow Cabinet minister admitted. "The problem is it is difficult to talk about raising taxes during a downturn. People think green taxes are stealth taxes because Gordon Brown has given them a bad name."
Another issue of concern for some is that the Tories are warming to nuclear power. Last year, it viewed a new generation of nuclear power stations as "a last resort" but would now support the move if there were no taxpayers' subsidy.
The party's environmental spokesmen, Peter Ainsworth and Greg Barker, and Alan Duncan, the shadow Business Secretary, are believed to be sceptical about an expansion of nuclear. But Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne appear to have overruled them. Private signals have been sent to prospective builders of nuclear plants that they "don't need to worry" about the attitude of a Tory government.
Until the recent wobble, the wooing of the green movement had been highly successful. Pressure groups and think-tanks describe MrAinsworth, the shadow Environment Secretary, as "more engaged" in green issues than government ministers. The Tories led calls for a ground-breaking Climate Change Bill to set a target for cutting Britain's carbon emissions by 2050, and, in a rare coup for an opposition, persuaded the Government to act.
Yet the early hopes raised by Mr Cameron's "vote blue, go green" campaign were always going to be hard to fulfil. A very green blueprint was produced last year by the party's "quality of life" group, led by John Gummer and Zac Goldsmith. Proposals included parking charges at out-of-town supermarket and shopping malls; a moratorium on airport expansion and increased taxes – including VAT – on short-haul domestic flights. Mr Cameron distanced himself from the report, saying it was "to" and not "for" the party, and making clear he would not impose parking charges on the weekly shopping trip.
One green campaigner said "brand Cameron" would be seriously damaged if the Tories did not produce a manifesto that lives up to their rhetoric. "They have symbolic positions on aviation tax, EU efficiency standards and micro-generation, But there is no broader framework to underpin these and other commitments," he said.
While green groups do not doubt Mr Cameron's commitment, they sense a big gap between him and the rest of the party on issues such as renewable energy, and are looking for reassurance.
Steve Shaw, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "We're delighted that David Cameron seems to recognise the important role green action can play in strengthening the economy, especially at a time of economic instability.
"Ending our fossil-fuel addiction has never been more important. Cameron must increase political pressure on the Government to deliver an energy policy based on fuel efficiency and renewable power. A low-carbon economy will tackle rising costs, generate new jobs - and provide a safer, cleaner future."
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said: "The Tories are still talking seriously about green issues, that has to be good. But how deep does the environment run in their veins? They've ruled out unabated coal-fired power stations like Kingsnorth [in Kent] but left open the possibility of expanding Heathrow. If they are serious, they must say categorically that there will be no third runway at Heathrow."
Stephen Hale, director of the Green Alliance, said: "David Cameron's environmental speeches cannot be faulted. But the gap between his aspirations and commitments is alarming. It needs to be filled very fast, if the Conservative are to become a credible government in waiting."
Face to watch: Zac Goldsmith
Former editor and now chairman of The Ecologist magazine and son of the late Sir James Goldsmith, the billionaire Eurosceptic. Was vice-chairman of the Conservative Party's quality of life group which produced a set of green policy ideas last year. Has enjoyed a lower profile since then, but Mr Cameron's allies say he remains an influential adviser to the Tory leader. Has good chance of becoming a Tory MP at the next general election, after being chosen as a candidate for Richmond Park. Could emerge as the green conscience of a Conservative government.
Key policy commitments
"Cap and trade" scheme to reduce carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050; replace climate change levy with a carbon levy.
No new coal-fired power stations unless they have a carbon capture and storage facility; decentralised energy in towns and cities with small local power stations rather than huge regional ones; German-style feed-in tariffs allowing people who produce their own energy to sell surplus to the grid.
Air travel
Heathrow airport should be made "better, not bigger".
Unanswered questions
* How much would a Conservative government raise from green taxes, such as those levied on domestic flights and the worst gas-guzzling vehicles?
* Would the Tories' traditional Euroscepticism prevent them from effectively taking action at European Union level to combat climate change?
* Would a Conservative government definitely reject proposals to build a third runway at Heathrow airport, despite fears over the effects of air travel on the environment?
* Would the Tories' attitude to the role nuclear power would play in the UK's future energy mix be any different from the current government's?

Grass ceiling: How corporate culture is going green

It's got intelligent lighting, low-energy air-con and London's biggest living roof. But this is no eco charity HQ
By Rob SharpThursday, 31 July 2008

In central London there is a lawn of luscious green, in which insects merrily scurry. Feeding on them are birds, which can nest nearby in specially installed wooden boxes. They are observed by office workers eight storeys above ground level, where a view of Saint Paul's Cathedral matches any vista in the capital.
This glorious scene takes place on the top floor of the recently completed headquarters of law firm Eversheds. The building, contrary to what you might expect from a conventional office block for grey-suited solicitors, is one of the greenest in the capital. In this edifice, there are no swathes of air conditioning units and energy-wasting lighting. Instead, the office has the biggest green roof in London and features an abundance of other eco-friendly features. The £11m landmark joins a host of other environmentally sensitive office buildings springing up all over the country.
The idea to make One Wood Street green was spearheaded by Eversheds' senior partners, according to the building's project manager, Gareth Griffiths, of construction consultancy Capita Symonds. "It was a conscious decision to enhance the green credentials of the building because the consensus in the City is that we have to be responsible members of society," he says. "Offices are a significant contributor to carbon dioxide emissions because of their high energy consumption. A high-profile firm such as Eversheds can make a considerable impact on that. Additionally, the environment is becoming an important issue to clients, and so having an office which follows green ideals leads by example."
The green roof, which can be visited by employees on request, is made of a spongy roll of the succulent plant, sedum. It is durable and needs no watering. "Mud baths" will be added, to encourage a roof-level "mini-ecosystem" in which insects provide food for birds. It is hoped the bird boxes will attract peregrine falcons – which have nested at nearby Tate Modern – swifts, and redstarts.
Such eco-consciousness is proving popular with employees. Bo Kehinde, a solicitor at the company says: "The green roof is wonderful to be associated with. Up there it is quite tranquil. The sedum is low and soft to walk on and it is a peaceful place."
The building's designer, Ray Holden of Fletcher Priest Architects, says green roofs are increasingly becoming a coveted addition to modern offices. "Roofs are often wasted spaces. It is a whole floor that people build that is never normally used," he explains. "But we can be more responsible as designers by using them in a green way. Conventional roofs absorb a large amount of heat, making London hotter. But because green roofs are full of water, which evaporates when heated, they make the city a lot cooler. And they also bring in wildlife."
But "greenness" is not confined to the roof at One Wood Street. Clever gizmos are peppered across all of the building's 160,000 square feet. These minimise power consumption and include intelligent lighting, which senses when people are absent from the office floor and switches itself off accordingly. And "Chilled beams" – long oblongs of hollow metal containing water, provide an energy-efficient method of cooling, having no moving parts. Indeed, it is so quiet with the beams, compared with the hum of air conditioning, that artificial noise is pumped into the Eversheds HQ. This is to muffle conversations – an important factor if confidential deals are being discussed. But the open plan design also means less power is used. Instead of many rooms, each with their own lighting and temperature controls, there is just one.
One Wood Street is at the forefront of a wave of offices winning or set to win plaudits for their environmental credentials. They include another office by Fletcher Priest, London's Watermark Place, also in the City, to be finished next year, which also will boast a large green roof. And then there is the new headquarters for PricewaterhouseCoopers, to be built on the More London development, next to Tower Bridge, by 2010. While it doesn't have a green roof, it will have hot water heating by solar energy.
These projects will join the National Trust's headquarters in Swindon (which is naturally ventilated) and the Wessex Water building in Bristol, which uses a third of the energy normally consumed by an office building. Its makes use of solar power and minimises artificial heating.
"Sustainability has gripped the office community, I have never known anything like it," says Richard Kauntze, chief executive of the British Council for Offices, which advises on best practice for designers, operators and managers. "It's what everyone is talking about. The buildings we live and work in use massive amounts of energy. There is a real desire to change and a clear acceptance that the way offices have been designed and managed cannot continue. The bigger challenge is with existing buildings. Computers, lights and heating should all be reduced; that can make a big difference and can cost very little."
Turf at the top
1. The Office Group, Gray's Inn Road, London
A green roof for meetings or lunch, and provides a useful habitat for insects. Also features an outdoor classroom for children from the local area.
2. Norfolk Community Primary School, Sheffield
Built as a condition of planning permission due to storm-water overflow problems. The roof has lowered the likelihood of vandalism, and improved rainwater management.
3. Moorgate Crofts Business Centre, Rotherham
When the business centre's management decided they wanted conference rooms on the roof, a green roof was used to create sustainable surroundings.
For more information on green roofs see

Arctic ice shelf splits in big melt

By Paul Eccleston
Last Updated: 8:01pm BST 30/07/2008
Part of the Arctic ice shelf has sheared off creating two huge ice islands, Canadian scientists have revealed.

Ice melting in the Arctic: break-up of ice is seen by scientists as symptomatic of the warming of polar areas
Together the two islands cover an area of seven square miles and marked the biggest break up of the ice for three years.The scientists say they believe the split was almost certainly caused by the warming climate which is affecting polar regions more than anywhere else.
The chunks broke off from the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf on the coast of Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago to form new floating islands.
Scientists confirmed the break up by flying over the scene and by analysing satellite data.
The north side of Ellesmere Island in Canada's Nunavut territory is surrounded by plateaus of thick and floating ice believed to be thousands of years old with the largest - Ward Hunt - covering 171 square miles.

"We ascertained that in the 20th century 90 percent of the ice surface area (in the region) has been lost," said Derek Mueller, a Polar specialist at Canada's Trent University.
"So, this phenomena has been ongoing on for a long time, but we're now seeing punctuated events."
He said the Petersen Ice Shelf, which lost a third of its surface area between 2005 and 2007, was a good example.
The break-up of ice, known as calving, is regarded by scientists as being symptomatic of the warming of polar areas.

Trying to curb global heat, UN to turn up its own

By Neil Macfarquhar
Published: July 31, 2008

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations has long been accused by its detractors of generating hot air. Starting in August, a glance at the thermostat in the Secretariat building will provide confirmation.
To set an example in the effort to curb energy use that contributes to global warming, the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, has approved a one-month pilot project to raise the thermostat throughout much of the landmark building to 77 degrees from 72 degrees.
The thermostats in the often windowless conference rooms, where much of the heavy haggling and some of the more impenetrable seminars unroll, will be set at 75 degrees, up from 70 degrees.
The building's carbon dioxide emissions are expected to drop by an estimated 300 tons, and costs are expected to decrease by $100,000, according to Michael Adlerstein, who announced the experiment on Wednesday and who will oversee building renovations. He said savings could reach $1 million annually if the United Nations mandated temperature changes year round.
Achieving a uniform temperature in the 39-story building, which was built in 1952, ranks up there with world peace as a noble, if unlikely, goal. Some rooms, notably the General Assembly and the basement, are frigid. Others feel distinctly tropical.

Among other problems, the interior space of the building has been carved up so many times that thermostats no longer correspond precisely to the rooms they control, Adlerstein said. He said the determining factor in whether the United Nations decided to adjust its thermostats for the long term — including keeping the building colder during winter — was the effect on productivity. Naturally, diplomats had strongly diverging views on how they would be affected.
"If the rise in the temperature could cut back on the interminable negotiations running late into the evening for often disappointing results, then the outcome of the initiative would be a very good one," said David Malone, a former Canadian ambassador.
One African envoy involved in countless heated negotiations recently said a compromise could prove more elusive at higher temperatures than it already is. (The diplomat and others interviewed found even the temperature a potentially sensitive topic and spoke anonymously.)
"When it is warm in the room, you are not fully attentive," the envoy said, "And when you are not fully following, you will not be in the mood to compromise."
To help speed the transition, "there is going to a be a relaxing of the dress protocols," said Adlerstein, which in nondiplomatic terms means he jettisoned his coat and tie for the news conference. There are serious doubts that will fly.
"People walking around without jackets on are not taken seriously" said one man from an organization that promotes renewable energy. "You have to follow protocol."
What if Ban sets the example by removing his own tie, as his office said he would?
"Then the protocol will change," the man said.

Can open fields be turned into forest?

Despite its reputation as a green and pleasant land, much of Britain's ancient woodland has been lost. Now the Woodland Trust plans to transform 850 acres of Hertfordshire countryside into England's biggest new continuous forest. Patrick Barkham explains how

Patrick Barkham
The Guardian,
Wednesday July 30 2008

A patchwork of wheat and barley unfolds over gently undulating fields just north of St Albans. This pretty - and pretty unremarkable - 850 acres of Hertfordshire countryside looks just like the kind of peaceful greenbelt that is always the flick of a planner's pen away from being bricked over by developers or divided by a motorway. Instead, it is now the target of a much more beautiful project: to create from scratch the biggest continuous native forest in England.
The £8.5m scheme close to the village of Sandridge will be undertaken by the charity the Woodland Trust. It is, however, far more complicated than simply grubbing 600,000 native trees, including oak, ash, hornbeam and field maple, into the ground. It may even be controversial.
The importance of conserving our unique landscape has been a dominant theme of England's development for more than 100 years, but we have still managed to destroy half the ancient woodland - areas defined as continuously wooded since 1600 - that we had 70 years ago. There are bigger old woodlands in the country than the new, as yet unnamed, forest but most are fragmented, tiny remnants of past glories in what is now one of the least wooded countries in Europe.
What we have lost is irreplaceable. "You can't recreate ancient woodland," says Toby Bancroft, project manager for the Sandridge project. "The blend of trees, soil and climate over hundreds of years is what makes it distinct." However, the new area includes almost 50 acres that will be made up of small pockets of existing ancient woodland. "Our focus will be to protect and buffer those fragments of ancient woodland," says Bancroft. These unique areas, which include a local beauty spot famed for its bluebells and wood anemones, will be encouraged to extend beyond their boundaries through natural regeneration.
Plants are, by nature, slower-moving than animals. Many species are unique to ancient woodland and do not expand their range quickly. The new wood will never take on all the richness of an ancient woodland but even creating a new broadleaf forest is a complex challenge.
It is also expensive: with soaring land prices, the Trust still needs to raise almost half its £6.6m start-up costs by the end of September to complete the purchase of the land. If all goes to plan, the first trees will be planted later this year, with large-scale planting underway by autumn 2009. The Trust plans to plant 600,000 trees, most of which will be 45cm-high, two-year-old seedlings. People love to plant trees and the Trust hopes schoolchildren and donors will join in and get digging. The uniqueness of a natural woodland cannot be mimicked and trees will have to be planted in rows so that they can be protected and maintained in the early years. However, the forest-builders will "wiggle" the rows so it won't become a visible grid of trees.
The Trust will also try to minimise the less environmentally friendly aspects of tree planting and use straw mulch instead of chemical weedkillers to protect the trees from being swamped by weeds as well as minimising the use of protective plastic sheaths for the small trees. Trees can instead be shielded from rabbits and deer with fencing, which may have to remain in place for 10 years as the trees grow.
Within months of the first trees going in, new species will colonise this fertile ground. Bancroft expects the wood's early years of small trees, shrubs and wild grassland to provide rich habitat for small mammals such as voles, pygmy shrews and mice. These should enable barn owls and other predators to establish themselves. Badger setts have already been found in the area. Dozens of other creatures found within 10km of the site are predicted to flourish in a new protected woodland. These include Daubenton's bats, hares, dormice, great crested newts, slow worms, nightingales, hobbies, lesser spotted woodpeckers and white-letter hairstreak butterflies.
"If we are successful and are able to create England's largest continuous native forest, we hope to attract species that have not been previously recorded in the area," says Bancroft. Red kites, for instance, could find a large area of native woodland extremely attractive.
The irresistible natural flowering of a growing forest must first clear a man-made hurdle: an environmental-impact assessment. If it sounds like bureaucratic madness to have to assess the benefit of a beautiful woodland, it must be remembered that a large new forest would drastically change a landscape of rolling fields. New trees could have an impact on the water table and local archaeological sites. Some may argue that it is taking farmland out of production while others may worry that their homes will be overshadowed (they won't).
Bancroft admits that it is vital to involve local residents and allow them to help decide the shape of the forest. The Trust will also plant native shrubs, such as hawthorn and blackthorn, and sow wild and woodland flower seeds. But is this fake nature? The truth is that even ancient woodland is a man-made environment and many unique species, including butterflies, birds and plants depend on historic forms of woodland management such as coppicing.
In this case, the new forest may mimic certain features of established woods, such as fallen, trees - a haven for insects such as the increasingly rare stag beetle. Bancroft has already found a stag beetle on the site and says that the Trust would consider placing dead wood in the forest as a habitat. The Woodland Trust's guiding principle is not, however, direct management for particular species but the creation of a diverse habitat, which will be allowed to change and grow naturally in ways that may not be easily predictable.
Of all the species the woodland will attract, the most important is probably homo sapiens. The Trust has deliberately chosen a site less than 30 miles from the centre of London that can be reached by train and bus. The wood will be crisscrossed by public footpaths and new routes for walkers and cyclists, a green lung of living calm in our increasingly urban lives.
"We want people to come out and experience woodland," says Bancroft. "We feel that people are losing touch with nature and we want them to watch the woodland as it grows up".

Climate activists occupy proposed site for coal-fired power station

Environment: · £1bn project could be first of six in UK, say protesters · Impact on environment 'would be catastrophic'

Matthew Taylor
The Guardian,
Thursday July 31 2008

Climate change activists yesterday occupied the proposed site for Britain's first coal-fired power station in 30 years, claiming the development will cause huge damage to the environment if it goes ahead.
More than 150 protesters descended on the site near the village of Kingsnorth in Kent ahead of next week's Camp for Climate Action, which is expected to attract thousands of environmentalists.
Activist Connor O'Brien said: "The purpose of the climate change camp is to target those businesses and companies who are involved in bringing about destructive climate change. This is the first of six coal-fired power stations being planned in the UK and if they go ahead the impact on the environment will be catastrophic."
The protest started on Sunday when environmentalists gathered at Heathrow airport - the scene of last year's camp - before travelling across London in a "green caravan", stopping off each night to highlight their objections to the proposed power station. The caravan is expected to arrive at Kingsnorth on Sunday along with hundreds of other protesters.
O'Brien said: "We want to make the issue of coal-fired power stations so big and so toxic that they will be widely opposed by the public and it will be impossible for them to go ahead. What we need is properly sustainable solutions."
Medway council in Kent has already given the green light to the £1bn plant, which has been proposed by the German-owned gas and electricity provider E.ON.
The final decision rests with the business secretary, John Hutton, who is expected to make an announcement later this year.
E.ON has argued that the plant will produce power from coal more efficiently and cleanly than ever before in Britain, leading to a cut in carbon emissions of almost 2m tonnes a year. It has also claimed that the plant could help Britain develop carbon-capture and storage (CCS) technology.
The project has received the backing of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, which said Medway council had made a "commonsense" decision. But green groups are fiercely opposed to the plans, arguing they are at odds with the government's commitment to reduce emissions by 60% by 2050.
"The claims about new carbon-capture technology ... are pure greenwash," said O'Brien. "This camp will draw attention to the science behind these claims and outline real sustainable alternatives."
The group had promised to infiltrate the site by digging under fences, or dropping in by air. One group, dubbing themselves the Great Rebel Raft Regatta, is planning to enter the site on pirate ships and boats.
Protesters said they were planning a "rolling programme" of action against Kingsnorth and said other coal plants would be targeted.
The group is well known for its dramatic protests. In June campaigners halted a coal train outside Drax, Britain's biggest power station, and shovelled its contents on to the line into the plant. More than 20 tonnes of coal blocked the tracks as protesters strung ropes between the train and the girders of a river bridge.
Their concerns have attracted wide support. Some 228 MPs signed an early-day motion calling on the government to hold a public inquiry before deciding whether to consent to the Kingsnorth plant. Actor Robert Redford wrote to the climate camp organisers backing the campaign.
A spokeswoman for Kent Police said yesterday that they were monitoring the situation at the Kingsnorth camp.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Councils must take the lead on tackling energy costs

Paul Bettison
The Guardian,
Wednesday July 30 2008

You can bet that jaws will drop across the nation. As the cost of heating and lighting a typical home blasts through the £1,000-a-year mark, and the number of householders in fuel poverty nears 6 million, the main utility companies begin publishing their interim results this week - and the picture is expected to be one of healthy profits.
The Local Government Association (LGA) will be quoting the announcements in repeating its call for the government to levy an annual charge of £500m on the energy companies for at least five years. The LGA wants the money to insulate half of all homes in England and Wales, knocking £200 a year off the fuel bills of 10 million consumers, lifting 500,000 households out of fuel poverty, and cutting domestic carbon emissions by 20%.
You and I already pay an extra £33 towards our fuel bills to fund home insulation schemes run by the utility companies. What we are arguing is that the suppliers should match these contributions pound for pound out of their profits. Councils should lead this programme to tackle the pitfalls of existing schemes because local authorities would ensure a more efficient method of carrying out the work, greater accountability, and a better chance of encouraging householders to take part.
During a debate around the climate change bill, environment minister Phil Woolas said he supports the principle behind our proposals - but that the sticking point for the government is that, without changing how the energy market is regulated, it is not possible to stop the utility companies from passing on the charge to consumers.
I would argue that this stumbling block can be surmounted - it just needs a display of political will.
Energy regulator Ofgem has signalled a possible solution. Referring to the energy industry benefiting from a £9bn windfall in tradable permits under the European Emissions Trading Scheme, Ofgem chief executive Alistair Buchanan said: "That is why Ofgem is renewing its proposal that this windfall could be used to help customers in fuel poverty, who have been hardest hit by the recent energy price rises."
When Gordon Brown was challenged this month by Nick Clegg MP about fuel poverty, he said that winter allowance is paid to 11 million pensioners at a cost of £2bn, and that the utility companies are paying £100m to help low-income families. We support these measures, but they do not encourage people to reduce energy use over the long term, nor improve the housing stock.
Energy suppliers are making hefty profits at the expense of householders. Councils are the link between national aspirations and individual actions to tackle climate change. We should seize this chance to pay for a massive drive to insulate people's homes, providing a long-term solution to rising fuel costs and cutting carbon emissions.
· Paul Bettison is chairman of the Local Government Association's environment board.

Salmond pushes £22m wind-power expansion

Published Date: 30 July 2008
By Jenny Haworth

ALEX Salmond yesterday said the past ten days were the most exciting in the history of renewables in Scotland, as he gave the go-ahead for a major wind farm to expand.
Another nine turbines will be built alongside the 77 already given approval at the Crystal Rig wind farm, near Dunbar in East Lothian.The First Minister announced the extension during a visit to Natural Power, the company behind the project.The extra 27MW capacity provided by the £22 million extension could power more than 13,000 homes.Mr Salmond said the move "completes the most exciting ten days in the history of renewables in Scotland."Last week, he said that the largest wind farm in Europe would be built in Scotland.The 548MW Clyde project in South Lanarkshire is double the size of the largest wind farm in Europe outside Scotland. A 45MW biomass plant was also granted permission at the Tullis Russell papermill site in Markinch, Fife, ten days ago.

Digesting the problem

Britain has fallen well behind much of Europe when it comes to utilising manure from farms and waste from abattoirs and food processors to create gas and electricity. But that could soon change. Terry Slavin reports
Terry Slavin
The Guardian,
Wednesday July 30 2008

Looking at the cows on his dairy farm in Devon, Winston Reed does not see what many environmentalists do: animals burping up vast quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than CO2. He is more concerned with what comes out of the animals' other end - and it offers hope for the planet. As Reed says: "The poo from four cows can produce enough energy to heat and light a house for a year."
Unlike the methane that cows and other ruminants exhale as their stomachs convert grass into milk, and which is believed to be responsible for up to a quarter of "manmade" methane emissions worldwide, the gas in their manure can be harnessed as a force for good. And the same goes for all other forms of organic waste that would otherwise rot in landfill sites.
Reed, 35, is seeking planning permission to build an energy centre on his farm, in a rural community on the outskirts of Tiverton, near Exeter, taking in manure from local farms and waste from local abattoirs and food processors. It would not be the first of its kind in the UK, but it would be by far the most ambitious - creating electricity to light 6,000 local houses and £700,000 worth of heat for local industries, including a sawmill plant making wood pellets for biomass boilers. Since Tiverton's population is only 20,000, it will go a long way to making the town self-sufficient in energy, he says.
More than that, it will help address the issues of food and fuel security by making them more sustainable, at a time when both are in short supply.
The plans hinge on a technology called anaerobic digestion (AD). Organic material is fed into heated tanks, where natural fermentation breaks it down into methane and carbon dioxide - the same basic ingredients as natural gas. This biogas can then be burned to generate electricity in a combined heat and power plant, or, as many countries in Europe do, upgraded so it could be fed into the gas grid or used in vehicles modified to run on compressed natural gas. The only byproduct of the process is an organic fertiliser.
Such alchemy has been worked for decades in some parts of Europe - Germany has 3,000 on-farm AD plants - but has been relatively unknown in the UK, except in the sewage-treatment industry.
Play catch-up
That, however, is something that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) wants to change. This month, three Defra ministers met with representatives from agriculture, the supermarkets, waste and water and energy companies, as well as local government, to discuss how Britain could play catch-up with Europe. The department sees the potential not only in terms of generating renewable energy but also in addressing the issue Gordon Brown highlighted at the G8 summit last month: the amount of food Britain wastes.
According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), UK households throw away almost a third of the food we buy: that's 6.7m tonnes of food waste. The CO2 generated in producing food that is wasted, and then the methane it gives off as it decomposes in landfill sites, results in the equivalent of 18m tonnes of avoidable CO2 emissions a year, Wrap says.
About a tenth of local authorities offer weekly food waste collection, but Defra wants to see this increased, and last year's waste strategy for England urged local authorities to consider AD for all their food waste. There are only a few large-scale AD plants in the UK, including one in Ludlow, south Shropshire, that processes 80 tonnes of kitchen and garden waste a week from 20,000 local homes and businesses. But earlier this year, Defra announced it would spend £10m to get more of these off the ground. Under proposed changes to the government's funding scheme for green electricity, AD plants will from next April earn double the Renewables Obligation credits, which can be swapped for cash.
However, Reed says the real key to success for AD may lie with major food retailers rather than the government. Many have been looking into AD as a solution for cutting food waste for some time.
Another pressing problem faced by supermarkets striving to cut their carbon footprints - the difficulty of sourcing "green electricity" - could also be solved by AD. Marks & Spencer is encouraging its suppliers to build AD plants on their farms, to process waste such as grass and manure, and is offering contracts to purchase the "green" electricity they produce. Richard Gillies, in charge of the company's £200m eco-plan, says AD not only makes sense from a carbon footprint perspective but is also a winning proposition for its suppliers. "It is an efficient way to deal with waste, which they would otherwise have to pay to dispose of," he says. "They get organic fertiliser, and they get an income stream from the electricity they generate. You are turning what would have been costs into benefits."
But there are even more efficient uses of AD than generating electricity, says John Baldwin, managing director of CNG Services, a member of the Greener for Life consortium that will build the Tiverton energy centre. He points out that one of the problems with generating electricity with AD is what to do with the spare heat, which, unlike electricity, must be used near where it is generated. Only 20% of it is used to heat up the digester. The rest, unless piped into a nearby leisure centre or hospital, goes to waste - and there isn't much call for a leisure centre near a sewage treatment plant or landfill site.
Unless there is a local use for the heat, it is far more efficient to do what countries such as Sweden do: clean up the biogas produced and put it straight into the gas grid. "The Swedes would not dream of burning valuable renewable methane for electricity production alone," Baldwin says. " If we had AD plants everywhere in the UK, we could get 20% of our gas from this very renewable resource."
At the moment, there is no incentive to do this in the UK. Only electricity from AD plants, not biogas, is lined up to get double credits from next year. Baldwin says the UK is also far from exploiting AD's other great potential: converting biogas into a compressed natural gas and using it to fuel cars and buses. This is what is happening in the French city of Lille, where most of the city's buses and refuse lorries are running on biomethane generated by domestic household waste and sewage.
Baldwin points out that biomethane has the lowest "well to wheel" CO2 emissions of any transport fuel, being almost twice as efficient as diesel at turning biomass into transport fuel - with no particulates and almost no other emissions. The problem, of course, is having the cars and lorries that can run on compressed natural gas, and infrastructure to support them. Unlike in Europe and even in a countries such as India - the city of Delhi runs most of its buses and taxis on it - CNG vehicles are not commercially available in Britain.
Fleets of lorries
Reed says Britain's retailers, with their fleets of delivery lorries, could again provide the answer. Tiverton's energy centre will initially use biogas to create electricity, but longer-term plans are to upgrade it to biomethane. This will then be combined with 7% hydrogen to create hythane, an even greener fuel, with half of biomethane's emissions.
The ideal customers for the fuel would be supermarkets, with their big fleets of lorries that can fuel up at centralised distribution depots, and Reed says he is currently in discussions with a retailer trying to tie up an agreement.
"It all boils down to food and fuel security," he says. "You can't have one without the other." And the cows on his farm are as good a place as any to start.
· The UK generates about 30m dry tonnes of agricultural manure and food waste each year - capable of producing methane with an energy content equivalent to 6.3m tonnes of oil. That could meet 16% of transport fuel demand.
· Just 6m tonnes of food waste could produce enough biogas to generate 1GWh of renewable electricity - about the same as a power station.
· Biogas-fuelled vehicles can reduce carbon emissions by between 75% and 200% compared to fossil fuels, but there is virtually no refuelling infrastructure in Britain. Germany has installed 800 natural gas filling stations in the last three years.
· Biogas gives lower exhaust emissions than fossil fuels, improving air quality.
· Experts say biogas could be produced in the UK for 50p-60p per kg, about the same as the current price of compressed natural gas.
· Running a vehicle on biogas is 40% cheaper than on diesel, and 55% cheaper than petrol. But high capital and maintenance costs make HGVs the only economic biogas vehicles so far.

New Delhi races to win nuclear deal approval

By Amy Kazmin in New Delhi and Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Published: July 30 2008 01:38

India has gone into diplomatic overdrive to persuade the United Nations nuclear watchdog and nuclear technology exporters to lift a decades-old embargo on New Delhi’s access to atomic energy technology, despite its refusal to give up its weapons programme.

India’s Congress-led ruling coalition won a domestic political fight last week over a landmark nuclear energy deal with the US. But New Delhi and Washington are facing an uphill battle to secure the necessary international and US congressional approval before President George W. Bush leaves office in January.
Ending its status as a nuclear pariah requires India to win endorsement from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for its planned safeguards to prevent foreign nuclear technology from being diverted to military use. The 35-member IAEA governing board is due to vote on India’s plan on Friday. Washington hopes the 45-member NSG will meet within the 10 following days.
Mr Bush last week reassured Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, that he wanted to complete the deal as soon as possible. But domestic delays in India have greatly reduced the chance of US congressional approval this year.
India’s quest for foreign nuclear technology may also face resistance from countries unhappy with its rejection of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Brahma Chellaney, a strategic studies professor at New Delhi’s Council for Policy Research, says the NSG – formed after India’s first nuclear weapons test in 1974 – may impose conditions before giving India the green light. Scandinavian countries, with their opposition to nuclear weapons proliferation, and Pakistan, India’s neighbour, are seen as potential obstacles.
“The future of the [Indo-US nuclear] deal is far from certain,” said Mr Chellaney. “This elation among proponents that the way has been cleared is so misplaced. It’s very likely that this deal will pick up more conditions when it goes through the NSG.”
George Perkovich, a non-proliferation expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said one possibility was that the NSG would seek a ban on countries exporting civil nuclear technology to India if New Delhi – which also tested nuclear devices in 1998 – carried out further tests.
China, India’s neighbour and strategic rival, has so far remained quiet on any objections it might have, at the official level at least.
“We believe different countries can co-operate on peaceful use of nuclear energy on the premise of observing international obligations,” Liu Jianchao, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said this month. But any deal, he added, “should be ... conducive to strengthening the international non-proliferation efforts”.
Some Chinese analysts argue that the introduction of advanced US nuclear techniques to India could upset the strategic balance in south Asia and stimulate a new nuclear arms race. The fact that India is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty could also weaken the authority of the international non-proliferation system, other Chinese experts contend.
Pakistan, which sits on the IAEA governing board, has objected to an Indian inspections regime and called for the agency to draft a “non-discriminatory” safeguards plan applicable to all countries, which could delay IAEA approval for India.
Japan, a member of the IAEA board and the NSG, appears to have concluded that having a strong India as a strategic counterweight to China overrides unease on welcoming a new nation to the nuclear club. “India and Japan are strategic partners,” said Tomohiko Taniguchi, a foreign ministry spokesman.
The Bush administration hopes to have IAEA and NSG approval in time to notify Congress in early September. But unless Congress goes into recess later than scheduled – currently late September – lawmakers may not have the 30 days required before they can vote on the deal.
The Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill has also ruled out holding a “lame duck” session between the presidential election and the inauguration of the next president in January. A congressional aide said it was unlikely to be a priority early in a new administration.
Additional reporting by Farhan Bokhari, David Pilling, Chris Mason, Hugh Williamson and Geoff Dyer
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Indonesia Has Lots of Coal -- And Blackouts in Capital

Low Electric Rates Drive Producers To Export Market
By YAYU YUNIARJuly 29, 2008;

JAKARTA -- Indonesia is the world's largest producer of thermal coal, which is used to generate one-third of the nation's electricity. So why are factories, businesses and ordinary citizens around this sprawling capital city facing chronic blackouts?
The answer: Indonesian coal producers would rather export at a higher price than sell locally to PLN, the state-owned electricity utility. That has left PLN with a coal deficit in recent months, forcing it to turn the power off in sections of Jakarta for hours each day.
In a desperate move to reduce power usage, the government is forcing factories in industrial zones around Jakarta to shut for two days between Monday and Friday and move those working days to the weekend. And it is trying through television advertising campaigns to persuade consumers to switch off lights and minimize power consumption.
The troubles are one example of how attempts by governments in many parts of the developing world to control prices for consumers can lead to problems. In Indonesia, the government sets low rates for electricity that don't reflect its real cost. That has contributed to years of underinvestment in power infrastructure. As the international market price for commodities like coal rises, Indonesian producers can often get a better price by exporting than by selling to their home market.
The power issue is hurting Indonesia's attractiveness as an investment site. More than 400 Japanese companies -- making everything from food to textiles -- jointly issued a formal complaint to the government this month about the frequent cuts to power supply and threatened to pull out unless the problems are resolved quickly.
The power shortages are "sending negative signals and discouraging investment," said Adam Sack, Indonesia head of the International Finance Corporation, the corporate investment arm of the World Bank.
Other Asian countries are also facing electricity shortages caused by rising coal prices, which have more than doubled in the past year. China is rationing electricity during the peak-usage summer season. High coal prices have already forced many small power producers there out of business, exacerbating supply shortages.
The coal squeeze reflects competition among Asia's still-expanding economies for resources to meet their power needs. In India, Tata Power Co. is investing $4 billion to develop one of the world's largest coal-fired power plants by 2012. To ensure coal supplies for the plant, Tata last year agreed to pay $1.1 billion for a 30% stake in two large Indonesian coal mines, further draining supply for domestic Indonesian users.
Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest economy, has abundant resources of commodities including natural gas, palm oil and nickel. Balancing exports of these commodities to hungry consumers in China and India with Indonesia's domestic needs has proved tricky. The economy is forecast to expand 6% this year, largely because of the commodity exports. Yet the power shortages may hurt growth.
Indonesia suffers from years of slow investment in new power plants and power transmission lines. Since the 1997-98 Asian financial crises -- which led to the collapse of a number of joint-venture independent power projects -- foreign investors have shunned Indonesia's electricity-generating sector. One problem is that investors can't be sure the government will set the conditions enabling them to make a return.
"Indonesian decision making is so slow and unclear," said Hongjoo Hahm, a specialist on infrastructure with the World Bank in Jakarta.
With the country's main Java-Bali grid heavily overloaded, Jakarta introduced a plan in 2006 to quickly build coal-fired plants with a capacity of 10,000 megawatts. It lined up Chinese state-owned companies to participate. These projects were supposed to come on line by 2010, but construction has been delayed because of uncertainties over Indonesian government guarantees that PLN will buy the electricity generated.
Officials hoped that coal would be a cheaper source of fuel for Indonesia's power plants than oil and diesel. But international thermal coal prices have risen by about 160% in the past year to $180 per metric ton. With coal shortages globally, many big Indonesian miners say they can get higher prices selling to Indian or Chinese customers. Meanwhile, cash-strapped PLN, which relies heavily on government subsidies, is unable to match global prices.
"It's a free market and one can not blame coal producers," said Supriatna Suhala, director of the Indonesian Coal Miner Association. Indian buyers, he said, are willing to pay about a third more than PLN per tons of coal. "Not to mention that payment [from PLN] is often delayed up to five months," Mr. Suhala added.
Write to Yayu Yuniar at

Permit talks put brakes on drive to target gas guzzlers

Published Date: 29 July 2008

MOVES to introduce higher parking charges for the most polluting cars are set to be stalled as the controversial plans are put out for public consultation.
The proposals aimed at encouraging people to switch to greener vehicles have divided opinion in the Capital and were set to be discussed at today's council transport committee.But a final decision now looks to be months away as city leaders today pledged to carry out a public consultation. The plans would mean owners of the biggest gas-guzzlers would see the cost of an inner zone permit double from the current £160-a-year to £320. But drivers of the least polluting vehicles in the outer zones could see their charge fall from £80 to just £15. Residents would also face higher charges for second vehicles. The move for more consultation has today won broard support from some opposition politicians, but the Greens said their rivals' environmental credentials were on the line if they fudged a decision today. Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie said: "We are concerned that this might end up as some sort of trendy window dressing exercise without actually making much of a difference to the problem they are trying to address. "We need to take a proper look at this as I don't see where ability to pay has been taken into consideration. It just needs to go out to a wider consultation."Council officials estimate that more than 11,000 people will pay less under the scheme, with just 3348 residents paying more. The council expects this to result in a drop in income of nearly £44,000. Tory group leader Iain Whyte said: "The officers claim in the report there had been some consultation but there was not any widespread consultation as far as I'm aware."The proposals as they stand are turning parking charges into a tax whereas they were originally meant to cover the cost of the parking operation."Any changes to parking permits would involve a new traffic regulation order, which could result in a public hearing before the scheme was adopted. Therefore, any new scheme is not likely to be in place before 2010 at the earliest. The city's Labour transport spokesman, Councillor Ricky Henderson, said: "The broad principle is fairly sound but I think we do need to look again at how we incentivise people to look more carefully at their cars and the environment.Councillor Steve Burgess, the Green's environment spokesman, said: "All political parties should be supporting this move rather than trying to scupper it. Any claim to having green credentials is on the line here."City leader councillor Jenny Dawe, said:"We fully understand that this is not something that could be implemented straight away and we will use the report from officers as a basis for going out to consultation on the issue."

Green light for carbon credit saleBy David Litterick

Last Updated: 12:19am BST 30/07/2008

The Government yesterday unveiled its plans to auction off carbon credits in the first stage of a process that could eventually net the Treasury around £2bn a year.
The first auctions will take place later this year as part of European Union and Government plans to cut carbon emissions.
Over the next four years, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, through the Debt Management Office will auction some 85m credits, each representing one tonne of carbon.

The auctions represent around 7pc of the credits the Government can allocate and is the second phase of its strategy for dealing with climate change.
Phase one of the scheme began in 2005 and was criticised for issuing too many permits and not offering enough incentives to cut emissions. As a result the number of permits has been tightened up and auctions will be held.
Companies, mainly those from heavy industry and the power sector, will name the amount they are prepared to pay for a given number of credits. A complex process will then allocate the credits.
With credits being bought and sold in the market for around £20, that could raise the Government around £1.7bn by 2012. At that point the Government is considering auctioning almost all the permits, which experts believe could raise around £2bn a year.
The Government, which has said the money raised will go to the Exchequer, remains on a collision course with the EU, which has insisted that any monies raised from carbon permit trading should be used to fund projects designed to combat climate change.

US environmental agency silences employees on climate change

Elana Schor in Washington,
Tuesday July 29 2008

Amid intensifying scrutiny of its failure to act on climate change, the US environmental protection agency (EPA) has ordered employees not to talk to internal auditors, Congress or the media, according to a leaked email released yesterday by green campaigners.
The EPA has refused repeated requests from Congress to explain its December denial of California's request to regulate greenhouse gas emissions - a move that overruled the agency's own career scientists.
Three Democratic senators have scheduled a press conference today to discuss the controversy.
On June 16, after an email from the campaign group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Peer), the EPA told its enforcement officials not to answer questions on the issue - even those from the agency's in-house auditors.
"If you are contacted directly by the [auditors'] office or [congressional investigators] requesting information of any kind … please do not respond to questions or make any statements," the email said.
Enforcement officials were told to refer all questions to specific EPA representatives.
The issue is whether White House officials, including aides to vice-president Dick Cheney, improperly influenced the process by pressuring the EPA to reject California's bid to regulate emissions.
Peer, a non-profit group founded to fight political influence on government scientists, called the email proof of a "bunker mentality" at the agency.
"Inside the current EPA, candour has become the cardinal sin," Peer's executive director, Jeff Ruch, said.
"The clear intention behind this move is to chill the cubicles by suppressing any uncontrolled release of information."
Peer questioned whether the email could be a illegal obstruction of the EPA inspector general (IG), which conducts independent audits of the agency. IG auditors are given broad freedom under US law to examine internal policies at government agencies.The EPA spokeswoman Roxanne Smith said the email was partly a response to a 2007 report by agency auditors on how to streamline communications. That report made no specific suggestions about how the EPA could make its process more efficient, however.
"There is nothing in the procedure that restricts conversation" between EPA staff and investigators, Smith said via email. "The procedure simply ensures timely responses and assists in tracking and record-keeping obligations."
One of the senators set to discuss the issue today, the environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer, accused the EPA chief, Stephen Johnson, of kowtowing to industry opponents of carbon regulations.
"Stephen Johnson is turning the EPA into a secretive, dangerous ally of polluters instead of a leader in the effort to protect the health and safety of the American people," Boxer, from California, said.

Emission permit auctions to net £2bn

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: July 29 2008 03:42

Auctioning off the right to emit carbon dioxide is likely to net the government nearly €2.5bn (£2bn, $3.9bn) over the next four years, under plans to be announced on Tuesday.
The terms on which the emissions permits will be sold for the first time this year will be set out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Treasury.

The power sector will be most affected, as electricity generators will have to buy almost a third of their permits to produce carbon, instead of receiving them all free of charge as they have done since 2005, when the European Union’s emissions trading scheme started.
Other sectors in the scheme, such as steelmakers and cement-makers, will continue to receive all of their permits for nothing, at least until 2013.
However, the government has yet to set the date for the first annual auction to begin.
Phil Woolas, environment minister, said: “Auctioning [permits] marks an important step forwards in developing a system where market forces create financial incentives for major carbon emitters to reduce their emissions. This will help stimulate the development of green technology and British business can begin to realise the benefits of being leaders of the low carbon revolution.”
Scheme sets quotas for carbon dioxide production
Companies covered by the European Union’s emissions trading scheme may only produce a certain quota of carbon dioxide each year.
They are given permits, each representing a tonne of the gas, to do so. Companies that need to emit more than their quota can buy spare permits from cleaner businesses.
The permits were issued free in the first phase, from 2005 to 2007, but from this year governments can auction a proportion.
Electricity companies gained hundreds of millions of pounds a year from the first phase of the scheme by passing on to customers the theoretical cost of buying the permits, although they received them free. They will be the only sector forced to buy any permits at auction in the 2008-12 phase of the scheme, but this should not raise power prices as the cost of permits has already been included.
Paying for permits should not prompt power producers to raise their prices, however, as the cost of buying permits has already been factored into electricity prices since 2005.
Some 85m permits – about 7 per cent of the total number of permits allocated to UK companies in the current phase of the scheme – will be auctioned by 2012. But the government plans to “front-load” the auctions so that more are sold this year and next year than in 2011-12.
Monday’s price for this year’s permits stood at about €25, with permits for 2012 selling in the forward market at nearly €30.
At these prices, the permit auctions would yield the government between €2.1bn and €2.4bn in total by 2012.
The next phase of the scheme, from 2013, is likely to swell the government coffers by much more. Paul Klemperer, professor of economics at Oxford university, estimates that the government would gain about £2bn a year from auctioning permits if the power sector were forced to buy all its permits, as the European Commission proposes.
Under the government’s plans for the first permit auction, bidders will be given two months’ notice of the auction date. The auction will run for a few days at most, and bidders will submit their bids, detailing how many permits they want to buy and at what price, electronically. The auctions, which will be open to banks and brokers as well as companies covered by the trading scheme, will be administered by the UK Debt Management Office.
Once all the bids are in, the government will calculate a single settlement price for all the permits available. This will be done by taking the lowest price at which all the permits can be sold to the bidders.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

As Americans sharply cut driving, highway trust fund faces multibillion dollar shortfall

The Associated Press
Published: July 28, 2008

NEW YORK: The soaring price of fuel and other strains on the U.S. economy have caused Americans to cut back sharply on driving, which jeopardizes the federal fund for building and repairing the country's highways.
The federal highway trust fund — which relies on per-gallon taxes that don't rise with price — faces a multibillion dollar shortfall next year, down from a surplus of more than $10 billion just three years ago.
According to Federal Highway Administration data released Monday, Americans drove 9.6 billion fewer miles (15.3 billion fewer kilometers) in May 2008 than in May 2007, the third-largest monthly drop in the 66 years the data has been collected.
The May decline continues a seven-month decrease in driving that has amounted to 40.5 billion fewer miles (64.8 billion fewer kilometers) traveled since November 2007 compared with the same period a year earlier.
May's drop comes during a month that traffic usually rises due to the Memorial Day holiday and the start of the summer vacation season.

Not only are Americans cutting back on their own driving. They are increasingly using fuel-efficient vehicles, carpooling and taking mass transportation.
Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said in a statement Monday that the drop in driving miles demonstrates that the federal gas tax is no longer sufficient to finance the nation's transportation infrastructure.
The highway trust fund gets 18.4 cents per gallon (3.8 liters) from gasoline sales and 24.4 cents per gallon from diesel sales.

South African says it will shift energy policy from coal to combat climate change

The Associated Press
Published: July 28, 2008

CAPE TOWN, South Africa: The South African government said Monday it would move away from cheap coal — long the engine of its economic growth — and embrace nuclear and renewable energy in a bid to combat climate change.
South Africa relies on its coal mines for 90 percent of its energy and has sought to attract electricity guzzling industries such as aluminum smelters as a key plank of its foreign investment policy.
But Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said that would now change under a newly agreed Cabinet policy.
"We are saying to business and society at large that we have to move away from dirty coal as a dominant energy source," he said. Instead, the government would promote greater use of renewable energy and nuclear fuel.
"The longer we wait the more expensive it will become," he told a news conference.

Africa is the continent expected to be hardest hit by global warming. According to U.N. climate projections, the western part of South Africa faces increasing drought and declining crop yields, while the eastern part risks more torrential rain and flood-related devastation.
In the Kruger National Park, a temperature increase of 2.5-3 degrees Celsius could lead to the extinction of more than one quarter of its mammal and bird species and decimate butterfly populations. Cape Town's fruit and wine industries could become history, and its famed fynbos vegetation devastated.
Like other developing countries, South Africa is pushing the United States and other industrialized countries blamed for most of the global warming to slash their greenhouse gas emissions. Van Schalkwyk said developed countries must agree to cut emissions by 25 to 40 percent of 1990 levels by 2025 and by 85-90 percent by 2050. This has so far been resisted.
South Africa and other developing countries must also play their part, van Schalkwyk said. If the country took concerted action now, its greenhouse gas emissions should stabilize by 2025 and then decline. Without government intervention, emissions might quadruple by 2050, he said.
Van Schalkwyk said the government would come up with concrete measures by next year — including mandatory energy saving measures and a possible carbon tax.
He said the environmental benefits of the new policy would offset the economic costs, with government models predicting no net job losses in a country struggling with nearly 30 percent unemployment.
South Africa's boon days for energy ended abruptly at the start of the year when rolling blackouts brought industry to its knees. The acute energy shortage was caused by lack of planning amid sustained economic growth since the end of apartheid in 1994, including several years of 5 percent expansion.
The International Monetary Fund predicts South Africa's growth will slow to 3.8 percent this year, and possibly lower given the nation's energy crunch.
Van Schalkwyk indicated the new energy policy would have no immediate impact on national utility Eskom's plans to build a new coal-fired power station by 2013 and bring two obsolete ones back into production to offset the electricity shortage. But he said that, in the future, the government would only allow the construction of new power generators that were committed to "capturing" carbon dioxide emissions.
Even with electricity costs rising to fund Eskom's new investments, South Africa has the world's cheapest coal-fired energy at 22 cents (11 U.S. cents) per kilowatt/hour, compared with solar energy at 46 cents (7 U.S. cents) and wind energy at 57 cents (8 U.S. cents).
The government has long used this as an excuse not to invest in alternative forms of energy even though the country is sunny and with a long, windy coastline that make it ideal for solar and wind power.
The country's first wind farm came into operation this year near Cape Town, but produces only a fraction of national energy needs and uses only four wind turbines. By comparison, there are 19,000 turbines in Germany.
The government is also investing heavily in nuclear power and has asked U.S. and French companies to build a second nuclear plant alongside one near Cape Town.
Van Schalkwyk said this was part of South Africa's greenhouse gas goals, which he described as "progressive" compared with many other countries.
"This Cabinet decision is sending a very strong message that, as a government and country, we are committing ourselves to a low carbon economy," he said.
There was no immediate reaction from industry. But the World Wildlife Fund South Africa welcomed the announcement.
"This statement signals clear recognition by government as a whole that the transformational change required in response to global warming is fully consistent with addressing immediate development needs and inequality within our society," said the organization's CEO, Morne Du Plessis.

Beijing shuts all building sites and more factories to clear the smog

· Drastic steps to protect games as air quality falls · Officials pin hopes on cleansing rainstorms
Jonathan Watts in Beijing
The Guardian,
Tuesday July 29 2008

Beijing's Olympic organisers are planning new emergency measures to reduce pollution after the draconian steps introduced a week ago failed to stop a grimy haze from smothering the host city.
Air quality has failed to reach national standards for four of the seven days since the city took more than 1m cars off the roads and shut hundreds of factories.
With less than two weeks until the opening ceremony, organisers are planning more drastic steps to ensure that the "Greyjing" tag does not undermine the promise of a green Olympics and force endurance events such as the marathon, triathlon and 10km open-water swim to be postponed.
According to the China Daily, all building sites and more factories in and around Beijing may be temporarily closed if the air quality deteriorates during the games.
Further traffic restrictions could also be imposed. Controls currently allow vehicles on the roads on alternate days according to their number plates. The measures have been extended to neighbouring Tianjin.
"We will implement an emergency plan 48 hours in advance if the air quality deteriorates during the August 8-24 games," Li Xin, of the Beijing environmental protection bureau, was quoted as saying.
After a few days of clear skies following the recent traffic controls, air pollution has built up amid heavy humidity and a lack of wind.
According to the Beijing authorities, the amount of particulate matter in the air did not reach the national benchmark of 100mg a cubic metre for the past four days. Today, it rose to 113, more than double the far tougher standard of 50 set by the World Health Organisation.
This does not include ground-level ozone, which is not measured in China even though high levels can be hazardous to the respiratory system during humid summer weather.
The data highlights a typically Chinese phenomenon: compared to the past, the situation is much better. But set against international standards, the country is lagging by some distance. Beijing is proud of the environmental gains of recent years. Millions of coal-burning homes have been converted to gas and production at the biggest iron company has been cut by 73%. More than 2,000 buses and 5,000 taxis are being upgraded or replaced with cleaner models, and five new urban railways have been added to the public transport system.
Environmental groups applauded the measures, but said they were unlikely to satisfy global expectations.
"Despite the efforts of the government, Beijing air quality probably is still not what the world is expecting from an Olympic city," said Greenpeace campaign director Lo Szeping. "The athletes will be breathing 150 litres of air per minute ... So for athletes this is a particular concern."
The organisers are seeking solace from the heavens. A storm front is heading towards Beijing, with a 90% chance of rain. "This is a blessing. It could not happen at a better time.
"Help from Mother Nature is very welcome," said Jeff Ruffolo, a spokesman for the Olympic organisers. "We haven't had a good rainstorm for a couple of weeks. We could do with some of that right now."
Scattered thunder showers are forecast to last until at least Wednesday next week. If the rain persists, it could affect the opening ceremony two days later, which is due to include a spectacular firework display.
The government scrapped plans to build a roof on the stadium. According to the organisers, there is a 50-50 chance of rain on August 8, the opening day.

Beijing weighs added pollution plans for Olympics
By Jim Yardley
Published: July 29, 2008
Ducks swim past reflection of National Olympic Stadium, also known as Bird's Nest, in a man-made lake at Olympic Green on Monday. (Jason Lee / Reuters)
BEIJING: Less than two weeks before the Olympics, Beijing's skies are so murky and polluted that the authorities are considering emergency measures during the Games beyond the traffic restrictions and factory shutdowns that, so far, have failed to clear the air, state media reported on Monday.
For the past five days, Beijing has been a soupy caldron of humid, gray skies. Local pollution ratings have exceeded the national standard for acceptable air since last Thursday, despite a temporary air pollution control plan that began on July 20.
Under that plan, officials have used odd-even license plate restrictions — limiting motorists to driving on alternate days, depending on whether the last number on their license plate is odd or even — to reduce daily traffic by two million vehicles, or more than half the city's total. Production at some factories has also been curtailed in Beijing and outlying areas.
But on Monday, China's official English-language newspaper, China Daily, ran a front-page story under a boldfaced headline: "Emergency green plan for Games." The article warned that officials might force far more vehicles off city streets — possibly 90 percent of the city's total — and temporarily close more factories.
No timetable was announced, but a senior city engineer told China Daily that officials would inform the public as early as possible about the details of the plan. The Olympics' opening ceremony is on Friday of next week, Aug. 8.

Pollution has been a pressing concern for the Games. Local organizers have promised to hold a Green Olympics, despite air that often ranks among the most polluted in the world. Some Olympic teams, including that of the United States, are providing optional breathing masks for their athletes to protect them from respiratory problems.
Before Monday, Beijing officials had taken a determinedly upbeat approach to the pollution situation. At various news conferences, Beijing officials said pollution levels in July had fallen 20 percent compared with the same period a year ago. They blamed the problems on recent weeks of unusually heavy rains that left behind a humid summer haze. Even though emissions have fallen, pollution was still being trapped in the haze because of a lack of dispersing winds, they said.
"We are very confident about the effectiveness," Du Shaozhong, a deputy director of Beijing's environmental bureau, said of the traffic and industrial restrictions during a news conference on Sunday at the new Olympic media center. "We are going to ensure a good air quality during the Games."
Statistics suggest that the city's daily air pollution index has improved somewhat compared with 2007. Beijing measures four primary air pollutants through its "Blue Sky" air quality monitoring program. A system of monitoring stations calculates a daily air quality rating on a scale of 1 to 500, with 500 being the worst. The accuracy of the system has been questioned, but Beijing officials have steadfastly defended it.
Under the system, any rating under 101 is considered acceptable. The recent run of bad days began last Thursday with a rating of 113. Friday brought a 109; Saturday a 118; and Sunday a 113. Monday's rating has not yet been announced.
Even so, these numbers are better than those in the same month last year when the ratings reached as high as 151 in late July. But such statistical improvements hardly fulfill the expectations that the July pollution control plan would sweep away foul air and render Beijing a city of clear blue skies, at least for the Olympics.
When officials opened the Olympic Village over the weekend, visibility was sharply limited by clotted skies. At a news conference on Friday, a Chinese reporter asked if there were any recommendations to help Olympic visitors discern the difference between polluted skies and cloudy ones.
Zhu Tong, a professor at Peking University who is serving as an air quality adviser to the Beijing Olympics, said unfavorable weather conditions, especially a lack of wind, have prevented the usual patterns for dispersing foul air.
"Usually, stagnant air only stays for three or four days," Zhu said in a telephone interview. "But it has been here for more than a week, which means more pollution is accumulating."
He said officials were discussing more contingency measures, though no decisions had yet been made.
"The air quality is worse than we expected," he said. He said officials were continuing to examine how to reduce emissions by making the traffic flow more efficient. He also expressed optimism that the current weather pattern would break by Tuesday.
"We believe that once this weather moves out, we have a low chance to see it again," he said.
Another Chinese newspaper, Science and Technology Daily, reported on Monday that a broader emergency plan for Beijing and surrounding areas had been submitted for final review to the State Environmental Protection Administration and could be announced this week.

The street in Leeds that leads the way to greener living

A competition is showing the way to cut fuel bills by a third and carbon by a fifth
Martin Wainwright
The Guardian,
Tuesday July 29 2008

Bethany Lewis is a nippy defender for Farsley Vixens under-11 football XI, but for the past six months her sharp eyes have been fixed on a mantelpiece digital monitor at her home in Leeds.
Its flickering numbers show the cost of the household's power, minute by minute, and if it climbs up beyond a couple of pence an hour, Bethany wants to know why.
Her vigilance, matched in 63 other homes on eight streets around Britain with the word green in their name, underlies a dramatic claim that simple good housekeeping could save Britain £4.6bn in domestic fuel bills.
"When I come in from school, I check the numbers," the nine-year-old says. "If they've gone up, I go to the telly to see if it's been left on, so that the video's on standby. If it has, I'll unplug it."
Thousands of similar small acts have put the Lewises' street, Green Lane in the suburb of Cookridge, into the lead in the national Green Streets competition. Halfway through the contest, which began in January, the gently sloping double row of 1960s terraces, semis and bungalows has cut costs by 29.32%.
Its seven rivals haven't done quite as well - Manchester is bottom with only 8.56%. But the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) thinktank, which is monitoring the exercise for British Gas, calculates the £4.6bn - and a 20% fall in carbon emissions - from the eight streets' average score.
Energy use is moving rapidly up the political agenda as prices rise and put pressure on household budgets. Only last week one of Britain's biggest suppliers, EDF Energy, announced that it was raising gas prices by 22% and electricity by 17%. Its five major rivals are expected to follow with similar increases in price.
Creative choices
"We need creative approaches to energy efficiency like this, if the UK is to reach its CO2 reduction targets," says Matthew Lockwood, senior fellow in the IPPR's climate team. Bethany's mother Janine, an insurance team leader, agrees - but adds that it isn't rocket science.
"We've had a new energy-efficient boiler fitted as part of the competition," she says, "but what's struck us is that it's our behaviour which really makes the difference. Just the simplest things, like drawing the curtains later at night in the summer and keeping the lights off. Not putting the children's school uniform in the washing machine every day. Not leaving things on standby."
"And swapping our electric lawnmower for a manual one," adds her husband Ian, a copytaker with the Press Association. "It's just as good and it gives me a bit of a workout."
The Lewises have saved 27% on power bills so far - a handsome figure but one that is dwarfed by the Neysari family at the top of the hill. You won't miss their house, say Ian and Janine, because it's got great solar panels on the roof. Gleaming in the July sun, they have reduced the last six months' costs by half.
"We're heading for saving £500 on gas alone this year, half our previous bill," says Rebecca Neysari, an accountant currently at home with her hands full with three-year-old Cyrus and one-year-old Kiyana. The contest, which has equipped all 64 entrants with energy-efficient technology, has also fitted the house with a new water tank and boiler and individual room valves on all central heating radiators.
Friendly competition
Child power rules here, too. "Cyrus is always telling me to turn things off," says Neysari, wading through a roomful of mostly clockwork or push-and-pull toys. Group support plays an important part too; there's friendly competition between the eight households, but much more in the way of swapping tips.
"We meet regularly to see how everyone's doing," she says, adding that the one gizmo nobody in Green Lane likes is the one-cup kettle donated by British Gas. Halfway up the lane, immersed in her garden's ranks of plump peapods and swelling onions, Shirley Carter denounces it with vim.
"Hated it, I'm afraid," she admits. "I didn't consider it was properly boiled water, just not good enough for a proper cup of tea. I persevered for a while but we've gone back to the old kettle. But I always put lids on pans now, which we didn't used to do."
She and Neysari share Bethany's fascination with the digital monitor, the smallest but most significant of all the extras fitted to the contestants' houses, from Greenway Road in Cardiff to Edinburgh's Colinton Mains Green. "It shoots up when you've got something power-hungry on," Carter says. "Off you go, to find out what it is and do something about it."
Her list of tips includes solar-powered lights in the garden - for vegetable-watering at dusk, which was previously, expensively lit by electric lamps round the Carters' ornamental pond - and a security floodlight over their conservatory. Like Neysari, who now only uses her top oven for the children's meals, Shirley is also debating the "cooking Scrooge" gambit: turning the oven off five to 10 minutes before the end of the recommended cooking period, because it maintains sufficient heat.
Halfway through the competition, the IPPR is publishing three draft recommendations. In keeping with the Bethany/Cyrus approach, the suggested reforms are simple.
The first, says Lockwood, is extending the competition, central to the Green Streets project, by offering £4m annually from the Treasury as prizes for similar inter-town energy-saving contests. Secondly, IPPR suggests recruiting a national force of energy advisers similar to the British Gas experts who have been attached to Green Streets.
"It would be impossible to replicate this competition's ratio of one adviser for eight households," says Lockwood, "but if we had one for every 20 streets, that would be 10,000 advisers."
IPPR puts the cost at £500m annually, against the £4.6bn saving on national energy costs, which currently total about £23bn.
The final reform would repeat on a national scale the £30,000 British Gas has given to the eight streets to pay for new equipment such as the Lewises' boiler and the Neysaris' solar panels. Green mini-mortgages are suggested to fund, for example, a £524 package for cavity wall and loft insulation. A three-year loan at a 7% rate of interest would be offset by £395 annual savings in fuel bills, the thinktank says.
And the whole exercise is not a return to the shivering, primitive past, according to the Leeds energy adviser, Alan Pickard. "One of the most striking things has been how cosy everyone feels because of their new insulation," he says. "You don't have to suffer by saving energy."
How to shrink your footprint
· Turn off all appliances on standby
· Use natural light as much as possible, fitting blinds for privacy
· Turn off oven five minutes before recommended cooking time
· Put lids on all pans
· Wash clothes at lower temperature, less often but with a full load
· Use dishwasher, not sink, but only full loads (stack carefully to avoid chips)
· Take fewer baths
· Use thermostats to the full and ideally lower by at least one degree celsius
· Fit valves on all radiators
· Lower hot-water temperature in summer
· Wash hair early in the evening and allow to dry naturally
· Overfill kettles
· Use a tumble dryer
· Use a hairdryer
· Let freezer frost up
· Draw curtains early and switch on lights
· Use powered equipment in small gardens
· An energy-efficient boiler
· Cavity wall, loft and underfloor insulation
· Solar panels
· Double glazing
· Draught-proofing
· Pipe-lagging
· Electronic timing

Campaigners seek an end to production of CO2-intensive 'unconventional fuels'

· Ethical investment groups try to halt tar sand projects· Oil firms to spend $125bn to exploit new sources
Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Tuesday July 29 2008

Shell, BP and other oil companies at the centre of the tar sands revolution in Canada are facing a backlash from the Co-operative and other members of the ethical investment community determined to bring a halt to these operations for environmental reasons.
A joint report from Co-operative Investments and the wildlife charity WWF released today will be followed up in September by a meeting of the UK Social Investment Forum (UKSIF) to press for an end to this carbon-intensive activity.
The tar sands business, by which crude oil is produced through highly carbon and water-intensive extraction and treatment procedures, risks tipping the world into an irreversible process of global warming, critics claim.
The Co-op and WWF are calling for a global halt to new licensing for tar sands and similar oil operations known as "unconventional fuels".
They want the UK and other countries to prohibit the sale and distribution of any oil products with higher emissions than traditional petrol.
The move comes as Shell and other industry leaders have pledged to spend more than $125bn (£63bn) by 2015 to develop these new sources of petrol at a time of very high crude prices and fears of supply shortages.
The oil companies say the world needs these reserves, which are expensive to produce but are located in a politically stable area, unlike the traditional reserves of the Middle East or Russia. But critics say the environmental price is disastrous.
Paul Monaghan, head of social goals and sustainability at the Co-op group, said: "The current rush to invest in unconventional fossil fuels is wholly inappropriate and, due to their carbon intensity, these projects risk dangerous levels of climate change."
The new report, Unconventional Oil: Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel, will be used as the basis for discussion with the Co-op's 6.5 million customers and for garnering support from more than 200 other members of the UKSIF.
James Leaton, senior policy officer at WWF-UK, said: "Unconventional fuel sources may seem attractive in the short term but ultimately the environmental and economic costs are unthinkable.
"Companies and investors claim to recognise the need to tackle climate change and support international efforts such as Kyoto [climate change protocol]. In oil sands we have an activity that is going against this imperative and undermining Canada's Kyoto commitments, so it is time for investors to challenge this strategy."
Shell said: "The global demand for energy is growing. This will mean greater demand for oil and gas, too. Supplies of accessible, conventional oil and gas cannot keep up with the demand growth. As a result, society has little choice but to add other sources of energy including 'unconventional' fuels like oil sands."
BP said fossil fuels were still going to be needed well into the future even if there were tough restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions.
"Reserves of oil sands represent a significant untapped resource from a politically stable country. The Husky joint venture [BP is planning] will use a process known as steam-assisted gravity drainage, not mining, which produces oil in-situ with a significant reduction of both water use and overall environmental footprint," it said in a statement.
BP added that it was a "keen" supporter of mandatory market mechanisms such as cap-and-trade programmes on greenhouse gases: "We support national and international trading programmes and have factored the future costs of carbon in our analysis of the project's value."
There are estimated to be 1.1tn barrels of extractable unconventional oils in North America - Canadian tar sands and US oil shales - according to the Co-op and WWF report. In Canada alone it is hoped to produce 5m barrels a day, which would make the country one of the world's largest oil producers. The extremely energy intensive process means that if all of the reserves were exploited in the next century it would result in emissions of 980 giga-tonnes of CO2. This equates to an estimated rise in CO2 emissions of 49 and 65 parts per million when the world is already at 430ppm - 450 is considered to be a tipping point, the two organisations argue.