Sunday, 31 August 2008

Throwaway razors and nappies should be taxed as luxuries, says Defra

By Sadie Gray Sunday, 31 August 2008

Disposable razors and nappies could be taxed as luxury goods in order to cut the amount of waste going to landfill, a Government-funded report to ministers has suggested.
In the same way as taxes were applied to discourage the purchase of cigarettes and alcohol, they should apply to disposable goods that cannot be reused or recycled in order to prevent people from buying them as cheap and convenient alternatives to reusable items, the report said. Taxes would also encourage manufacturers to focus on the development of more durable products. If disposable razors were taxed at the same rate as cigarettes – about 80 per cent of the price goes to the Treasury – a single Gillette Mach 3 would leap from £1 to £5.
The report, commissioned from Eunomia Research & Consulting by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), says: "Some products considered 'luxury', such as alcohol and tobacco, have heavy duties on them. If disposable products were categorised in a similar way, they could be subjected to similar duties." The report also advocates new taxes on household rubbish, claiming they could halve the amount of waste each person throws away from 800lbs to 400lbs a year.
It also suggests imposing taxes on disposable items such as paper plates and nappies. Some three billion disposable nappies are thrown away every year in the UK, accounting for 4 per cent of all household waste.
Matthew Sinclair, policy analyst for the TaxPayers' Alliance, told the Sunday Express: "Politicians must stop using environmental concerns as a smokescreen for raising taxes."
The TaxPayers' Alliance recently released a report claiming that families were paying an average of £783 a year in environmental taxes.

People will die of cold because of energy firms' greed, say Greens

By Jonathan OwenSunday, 31 August 2008

A deadly combination of rising fuel prices and corporate greed will result in people freezing to death this winter, Britain's foremost Green politician has warned.
Caroline Lucas MEP, who is expected to be elected as the Green Party's first leader later this week, said: "People will be literally dying from cold this winter while companies like Shell and BP are making record profits – that outrages ordinary people and we need a party that is prepared to stand up about that ... rather than having a Labour government that is cowering in a cave and scared of actually speaking out against people in the City."
She is calling for energy companies to be forced to plough some of their profits back into "ensuring that some of the poorest people are able to keep warm", and attacked Labour for presiding "over a period where we now have Victorian levels of social inequality".
The outburst comes as Ms Lucas is set to be confirmed as the first female leader of a political party in Britain since Margaret Thatcher. She will make a rallying call to activists at the party's annual conference this Saturday, calling on them to focus on getting their first Member of Parliament. The party needs to "seize this opportunity to recognise that with two elections in the next two years, we really are poised for this electoral breakthrough", she said.
The Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats have tried to hijack the green vote, according to Ms Lucas. "They might be speaking the green speak but they're certainly not delivering green action," she said.
She said she was clear about what is needed for the Greens to become Britain's fourth political party and said the focus must be on social justice as well as environmental issues.

The wind of change is slow to blow through Britain's energy policy

In Europe, only Malta and Luxembourg make less use of renewables than the UK. So why do ministers still believe they can meet environmental targets? asks Mark Leftly

Sunday, 31 August 2008

In two years' time, the UK seems certain to miss one of the core environmental targets of the Blair-Brown years. The Government pledged that 10 per cent of the country's electricity would be generated from renewable sources, principally from wind farms, but also including tidal and solar power.
Press releases from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Berr) still boast of the target, which was first promised in 2000 and enshrined three years later in the energy White Paper. And in a statement to The Independent on Sunday, a spokesman for Berr insists that all is well and that: "Estimates show there's more than enough renewables developments either up and running or in the pipeline to potentially meet the 10 per cent goal."
But the energy industry does not agree. Senior figures point out that less than 5 per cent of electricity was generated from renewable sources in 2007, up from just over 4 per cent the previous year. This is not, they argue, a sign of rapid progress from a country that that has a far less buoyant renewables industry than Germany and Denmark, although it is far windier.
Despite the impending failure, the Government is pushing for still-tougher targets. The Secretary of State at Berr, John Hutton, is currently consulting with energy companies on plans to generate 15 per cent of all energy – that is, transport fuel and heat as well as electricity – from renewables by 2020 in line with EU ambitions. Responses are due next month, and seem set to recommend that one-third of electricity should come from renewables, to make up for shortfalls in heat and transport. The cost of this is £100bn.
James Vaccaro, managing director of the renewables fund at Triodos, a pioneer in ethical banking, offers one of the gloomier predictions for 2010: that the UK will hit around 6 per cent rather than 10. He recalls a civil servant from the then Trade and Industry Department visiting Triodos's Bristol offices in 2000.
"The official said, imagine the 2010 target as being part of a pie," recounts Mr Vacarro. "He said small commercial projects were a small part of the pie, but it would be big renewables schemes that took up the major share."
Mr Vaccaro countered that there were simply not the available resources in the UK energy market to build the massive wind farms needed to provide the 10 to 15GW to generate 10 per cent of all electricity. Instead, the industry had to be built from the bottom up, with a series of small wind farms of around 10MW that would cost in the region of £12m to £14m. He added that the UK had to get used to the idea of the necessity of these smaller schemes.
It's a view he still holds. As an example, he points to a British Energy/Amec joint venture to build a 650MW scheme off the coast of Scotland on the Isle of Lewis, rejected in April on the grounds that it threatened the island's bird population.
Planning is one of the big problems for these wind farms. Although there are hopes that recent changes to the planning process, such as fast-tracking major infrastructure proposals and revamping the appeals procedure, will enable schemes to be approved faster, there is a huge backlog of wind-farm applications that councils have to go through.
Gaynor Hartnell, deputy director at the Renewable Energy Association, says there are "reams of projects" in the pipeline, perhaps as much as 14GW, mainly in Scotland. This would correlate with the Government's claims that there are "potentially" enough developments to meet the 2010 deadline. However, Ms Hartnell says that delays in granting planning permission – there is also a shortage of qualified planners working for local authorities – means that the UK will not hit the 10 per cent target until 2012.
Juliet Davenport, chief executive of Good Energy, a renewables firm that last week announced interim results showing an 18 per cent increase in turnover to £6.3m, is equally critical of the planning system. And while she remains optimistic that the Government can reach 8 per cent renewables in two years, Ms Davenport has a real planning horror story.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has opposed Good Energy's application to construct a 10MW wind farm, arguing that it could harm its communications ports. However, Good Energy is unable to respond, as the MoD will not provide information on its concerns. Officials say that the relevant documents are classified. "They said that they would not hand them over to us because of the threat of terrorism," sighs Ms Davenport. "You end up going round and round in circles."
It is this type of problem, she adds, that has led to the UK having the lowest renewables use as a percentage of all its energy in Europe, bar Malta and Luxembourg. "We've got the engineers to build the wind farms, but it's a difficult market because of the regulatory regime," she says.
Richard Ford is the UK grid connections manager at Renewable Energy Systems, a company that has developed wind farms for 20 years. What is delaying renewables' progress, he says, is the difficulty of linking the farms to the National Grid. Faced with a huge volume of applications, the grid will not allow power stations to connect until it has developed the extra capacity required to take the additional power.
Mr Ford would like the grid to manage demand, rather than wait until there is space, since a slot might not be available for 10 years. Planning permission lasts five years in England and Wales, and three in Scotland. As a result, a company can build a wind farm and leave it idle for five or seven years, or it can secure a slot and wait to apply for planning permission, which it might not secure.
"We and others are making applications to the grid before we are certain the developments can be built," explains Mr Ford. "We would prefer a 'connect and manage' approach."
The Association of Energy Producers believes some progress has been made. Its chief executive, David Porter, points out that just five years ago, renewables projects accounted for only 2 per cent of the UK's electricity.
Mr Porter's great worry is that this new target of 15 per cent of all energy coming from renewables by 2020, set by the UK in agreement with other EU states, is much tougher. As wind power is by far the UK's most advanced technology, with the Scottish government looking into the possibility of a £5bn off-shore grid to connect turbines, it will be the electricity providers that will have the biggest role to play in meeting this target.
He talks of the need to "minimise the cost impact on consumers", and says a radical overhaul of planning and grid connection is vital "to stand a chance of meeting 2020 targets".
Already, then, the energy industry is playing down its chances of success at this next stage. Berr can talk up its achievements all it likes, but few in the know appear to believe the department will be able to back this up when the first renewables deadline is reached it in just two years.

Wind turbines generate bonus for homeowners

Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Roger Waite

Homeowners who splash out on wind turbines and solar panels are being paid for the electricity they generate, even when they use it all themselves.
The perk can be worth several hundred pounds a year and is being subsidised by other customers through their electricity bills. It is part of a government package to encourage alternative energy sources – but the generous payouts have surprised some homeowners.
“It’s staggering,” said Harry Metcalfe, publisher of the supercars magazine Evo, who has installed a 30ft wind turbine in the grounds of his large farmhouse near Burford in the Cotswolds. “I thought I’d just get paid for the surplus, but not the electricity that I use myself.”
His turbine provides power for his house and for underfloor heating in his garage, where he has a small fleet of sports cars. “I got the turbine because I love technology and am naturally mean when it comes to paying bills,” he said.
Under his agreement with his energy company, Ecotricity, Metcalfe is paid for 9p for every unit of electricity his turbine generates – whether or not it is exported to the national grid. It works out at more than £700 a year and he calculates that the payback period on his £13,000 investment will now be only about seven years.
Dale Vince, managing director of Ecotricity, said that householders facing higher energy bills might balk at the payouts but they were an important incentive to encourage microgeneration, or domestic green power. “The current rate is actually probably too low to bring about the change the government wants to see,” he said.
The payouts are made under the Renewables Obligation Certificate scheme, which rewards power generators, companies and householders who create green power. The scheme costs up to £870m a year and adds about £10 to the average electricity bill.
Homeowners in urban areas are unlikely to benefit, though. Energy advisers say that the type of turbine the Conservative leader David Cameron has installed at his west London home does not generate enough power.
The cash can also be claimed if homeowners install solar panels. Nick and Fiona Mills, both 50, who live in Stroud, Gloucestershire, had 14 panels fitted in April 2007. Their electricity company, Good Energy, pays them 9p per unit of electricity. The panels meet almost all their power needs, and in the first year, they were paid £83 by Good Energy.
The Department for Business and Enterprise said the subsidies were justified because home generators did not produce carbon emissions from fossil fuels. The government wanted 10% of the UK’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2010, and to double that by 2020.

It takes an impending recession to turn drivers into eco-warriors

One of the ways of telling whether a recession is coming is simply to time your journey to work (that is if you drive and if you still have work to go to). I can well recall the early stages of the last recession, in around 1990, and how mysteriously thinner the traffic seemed to become. It is happening again. According to the RAC Foundation, congestion on Britain's motorways and major trunk roads fell by 12 per cent in the first six months of this year compared with the first half of 2007. The northern section of the M25 and the M6 are particular beneficiaries, apparently.
Part of that, of course, is down to the large increase in the cost of fuel, and the switch to public transport is confirmed by the boom in business at Stagecoach and other bus and train companies. Suddenly, one of New Labour's forgotten promises – to get people out of their cars and on to public transport – is being fulfilled, though not, of course, in the way that ministers would have intended. Cycling, too, is obviously enjoying a continuing vogue, no doubt encouraged by the success of Team GB's Olympic cyclists. Recession is good for the planet.
So does all this prove the Greens right? Sadly, I think it does, though I don't think they'll ever win the argument. Restraining economic growth is obviously the surest way of reducing congestion, carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. I feel quite confident that the "planetary crisis" that Al Gore referred to again at the Obama coronation last week will be considerably defused when – not if – the Chinese economy stumbles. Even in the US, where "gas" has reached the "shocking" price of about £2 a gallon, drivers are moving away from their SUVs and into more sensible sedans. This week, by the way, Honda will announce a new petrol-electric hybrid to challenge the Toyota Prius, a small but important example of how capitalist competition can push the boundaries of technology forward for the good of all. Though misguided, the switch to biofuels – a policy endorsed by Obama – also symbolises a change in mentality. Green things are happening, spurred on by the harder economic times.
However, we all know, don't we, that as soon as the economy picks up again, and the price of fuel subsides (as it is already at the wholesale end), we will be back to our old tricks. The urge to become more prosperous – and enjoy the fruits of hard work, such as a nice car – is an irrepressible part of the human condition, as has most recently been pointed out by Richard Parry-Jones. Mr Parry-Jones is a former Ford Motor executive and one of the brightest minds in the auto industry. He has been appointed an adviser to the Government, and has warned ministers off attempts to "unfairly demonise" motorists. He is right about that. But – short of recession – how exactly do we stop the roads getting clogged up?

Green light given to eco-driving test

Published Date: 31 August 2008
By Jeremy Watson

IT'S AN unforgettable rite of passage for anyone seeking the legal right to sit behind the wheel of a car. The dreaded driving test sets pulses racing and stomachs churning in even the most confident of would-be motorists.
But it is no longer enough to be a safe driver. You will now also have to be an eco-safe driver.From next week, everyone who sits the nerve-shredding test will also be assessed on whether they drive their vehicles in a manner that will conserve fuel, help the environment and save money.Although learner drivers will not be passed or failed on the assessment, they will receive the results from their examiner and be given a leaflet on how to adopt eco-driving techniques in their future driving careers.Examination chiefs have not ruled out the possibility the eco-test being made a failure issue in future, however.The new practical assessment has been introduced by the Driving Standards Agency to comply with European Union legislation. The assessment, aimed at creating a new generation of drivers with fuel saving and economy in mind, has already been introduced in Germany.The European Climate Change Programme has calculated that if all drivers across the EU adopted eco-driving, they would save 25 billion litres of fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, blamed for global warming, by at least 50 million tonnes annually. With fuel prices soaring in recent months, the assessment should appeal to increasingly cost-conscious motorists. The DSA estimates that an average driver travelling 12,000 miles a year will save around £150 a year at the pumps if they adopt eco-driving principles. The DSA said there were no plans at present to make eco-safe driving a pass or fail issue.But environmental groups, while welcoming the measure, said it might need to be made a compulsory requirement if motorists failed to heed the lessons.Last year, the DSA administered more than 1.7 million driving tests in the UK with a 44% pass rate. Learners will now be faced with two new boxes on the examiners's test form relating to control of the vehicle and planning for road conditions ahead.They will be assessed by an examiner on how smoothly they drive when starting off, accelerating and braking, and making gear changes.They will be marked down on the assessment for excessive revving, labouring the engine and failing to identify hazards early enough to allow smooth braking time. It will also be noted if they fail to react to hazards ahead, causing them to decrease speed sharply rather than gradually. Whether they pass or fail, candidates will be told of the eco-driving results.The DSA leaflet tells drivers: "Eco-safe driving is a style of driving that has been proven to reduce fuel consumption, emissions, and contribute to road safety. Reducing those emissions, helping to keep yourself safe and saving yourself money, is easier than you think." A spokesman for the DSA said: "The introduction of eco-safe driving techniques into the practical test means we can encourage greener driving habits for learners. "Driving in an eco-safe manner not only means safer driving but can also reduce air pollution. We want learner drivers to understand that the way they drive can improve their safety, help them tackle carbon emissions and save them money."Key tips for eco-friendly driving include: try to avoid excessive revving when starting the engine and moving away; use the accelerator smoothly and progressively and avoid pumping, as this uses more fuel; identify hazards early to avoid sudden braking and acceleration; use engine-braking; switch off the engine when stuck in traffic or waiting for a passenger; and remove roof boxes and racks when not in use.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Areva Net Profit Rises On Gains and Payouts

By ADAM MITCHELLAugust 30, 2008;

PARIS -- French nuclear group Areva SA said its first-half net profit more than doubled, helped by one-time gains and stronger payouts from its stakes in other companies.
The state-controlled nuclear group, which is promoting its European pressurized-water reactor in the U.K. along with Électricité de France SA, said net profit rose to €760 million ($1.12 billion) in the six months to June 30, compared with €295 million the same period a year earlier.
Areva said net profit was helped by a €95 million increase in net financial income, including a gain from the sale of a stake in wind-turbine manufacturer REpower Systems AG.
The contribution to profit from Areva's stakes in other companies, meanwhile, rose to €121 million from €34 million a year earlier, helped by strong income growth at mining and metals company Eramet SA.
"As usual there are a lot of one-offs," Alex Barnett, a Paris-based analyst at Jefferies, said. There are so many items, he said, that it's "hard to read anything in the numbers."
Operating income more than doubled, to €539 million, the company said. Areva also said it had booked an additional provision on its reactor-building contract in Finland. The company didn't specify the size of the provision.
Last month, Areva reported that first-half revenue rose 15% to €6.17 billion, as sales in its reactors and services division surged.
Areva's share price has fallen more than 15% in the past three months to close at €688.36 Friday, as oil prices slipped, taking the edge off investors' enthusiasm for all things nuclear.
There has also been speculation that the French state might push for a tie-up between Areva and heavy-engineering company Alstom SA, in which French conglomerate Bouygues SA holds a 30% stake. Friday, Bouygues's chairman and chief executive, Martin Bouygues, said there has been no movement on this, and the issue doesn't seem to be a priority for the French government.
--David Pearson contributed to this report.
Write to Adam Mitchell at

Coal back-up for wind power 'will cost £100bn'

Published Date: 30 August 2008
By Jenny Haworth
Environment Correspondent

A LEADING power company has claimed wind energy is so unreliable that even if 13,000 turbines are built to meet EU renewable energy targets, they could be relied on to provide only 7 per cent of the country's peak winter electricity demand.
E.On has argued that, during the coldest days of winter, so little wind blows that 92 per cent of installed wind capacity would have to be backed up by traditional power stations.It argues this would require new coal-fired power stations to be built so they could be used in an emergency when little wind blows.This, E.On suggests, will mean that, to meet renewable targets of 20 per cent of energy being provided from renewables by 2020, the UK's installed power base will need to rise from 76 gigawatts today to more than 100GW.The company estimates this could cost £100 billion.The John Muir Trust, which campaigns against wind farms in Scotland's beauty spots, said E.On's claims back its view that the country is depending too heavily on wind power.Helen McDade, the trust's policy officer, thinks instead far more should be done to improve energy efficiency."Energy conservation is by far the best use of money," she said. "The question is why we are not doing more of this."She criticised the "assumption that as long as it's got a renewable tag on it we can carrying on using energy at the level we have been".However, Friends of the Earth Scotland accused E.On, which is trying to build a new coal-fired plant at Kingsnorth in Kent, of "scaremongering"."I'm not at all surprised to find a company trying to build new coal-fired power stations using unfounded assumptions about the renewables industry," he said."Essentially, what they are doing is taking a very simplistic analysis and arguing that we need to massively back up for the worst possible scenarios."Dr Richard Dixon, director of conservation charity WWF Scotland, agreed. "It's not surprising, given their agenda is all about building massive coal-fired power stations," he said.He said by 2020 wind turbines will be more efficient, there will be more storage within the grid, and the UK could be connected to the European grid – all measures which will undermine the need for back-up from coal-fired power stations.E.On argues in its response to a House of Lords inquiry into the economics of renewable energy that if 40,000 megawatts of wind capacity – about 13,000 turbines – is needed to meet renewable targets, just 3,600MW will be able to be relied on to meet the peak demand in winter.It says this is because on the very coldest days there is very little wind, because of anti- cyclones.A spokesman said the question had to be asked how power companies would make money from plants that only run when the wind is not blowing."Under the current trading system for power, you just wouldn't build it so clearly there has to be some sort of encouragement," he said.IN NUMBERS1,382 megawatts of installed hydro power in Scotland.1,367 megawatts of installed wind power in Scotland.100 megawatts of installed energy from waste in Scotland.79 megawatts of installed biomass electricity in Scotland.29 megawatts of installed biomass heat in Scotland.2 megawatts of installed wave power in Scotland.31 per cent of Scotland's electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2011 under Scottish Government targets

Too good to waste?

Reports that sludge from sewage plants is routinely used to fertilise edible crops have caused outrage. Is this simply a prudent use of so-called 'biosolids' or a grave threat to our health? Rose George investigates

Rose George
The Guardian,
Friday August 29 2008

It is my first and last day at sewage school. The premises are nothing much to look at, consisting of a Portakabin in the car park of Barston, a small sewage-treatment works near Birmingham. This classroom is one of five run by Severn Trent, one of the 10 utilities that supply clean drinking water and remove dirty water for the people of England and Wales. The education programme is fully funded by the utility in an attempt to reveal its vital job to a public that doesn't pay it mind. They think it's a good investment.
Today's class comes from a nearby primary school. After a brief trot through the water cycle and some green lessons - washing a car with a hosepipe uses nine litres of water a minute, children, so use buckets - the sewage pupils put on their wellies for the tour. First, the influent, brown water rushing in from the sewers, visible through a hole in the ground. Then the compactor that crunches up objects screened by grills. It's not moving, sir, they say, but it is, spitting out in slow-motion rags and pen caps and hundreds of the yellow sweetcorn kernels that humans can't digest, prized by picnicking birds.
Wastewater treatment is much-tinkered-with - 1,000 works will have 999 different processes, a worker tells me - but the basics are unchangeable. Solids are removed from sewage first by filtering and letting them sink. This is primary treatment. Secondary treatment involves micro-organisms, bolstered by added oxygen, that break down any organic content still in the wastewater. The bacteria-cleaned effluent goes into a nearby stream. The children lean over obediently to look at its colour. It's clear! Not brown! And then it's time to make sewage soup.
It has been a long time since sewage consisted of pure human faecal material. Into sewage, anything goes. An enterprising American sewage-treatment manager once expressed this by producing water bottles supposedly made from sewage effluent. Their labels listed the ingredients: water, faecal matter, toilet paper, hair, lint, rancid grease, stomach acid and trace amounts of Pepto Bismol, chocolate, urine, body oils, dead skin, industrial chemicals (aluminium, copper, zinc, lead, chromium, nickel, molybdenum, selenium, silver, arsenic, mercury) ammonia, soil, laundry soap, bath soap, shaving cream, sweat, saliva, salt, sugar.
So the ingredients of sewage soup are a tankful of water and whatever else the class might have put down the sink, toilet, gutter or drain that day. The children suggest shampoo, soap, toothpaste, washing powder, rice and salt, which the teacher adds into a tankful of water. "Number one" is lime cordial. "Number two" is soggy Weetabix. The rest of the lesson involves filtering the filth out of the water, in an attempt to impart the difficulty - and dubious sanity - of the paradigm of waterborne waste treatment in modern industrialised societies, whereby you take clean drinking water, throw filth into it, then spend millions to clean it again. My team gets a passable liquid from the filtering. They are pleased. But no one has considered the stuff that's been filtered. No one mentions the sludge.
When sewage is cleaned and treated, the dirt that is removed is called sewage sludge. The UK produces 1.44m tonnes of it a year, and it has to go somewhere. The most common options consist of incineration, landfill, application to farmland and dumping at sea. The EU banned ocean dumping in 1998, as the nutrients in human waste - nitrogen and phosphorous, for a start - can, in great quantities, suffocate the life from water. The public doesn't much like incineration, and landfill space is running out. So 68% of our sludge is applied to fields, a fact that translated into newspaper headlines last month as "human sewage [is] used for our cereals," beside a photograph of a woman eating cornflakes. Reader reaction was predictable. One commenter swore never to shop at supermarkets again. Another pronounced the practice "disgusting".
But on the forum of Farmers Weekly, the farmers let rip. "It's great stuff," wrote one, "and probably better than the raw cow muck that goes on." The public's horror was yet another reason that "the general public, and the media, should not be allowed out on farms ... without serious education beforehand". In fact, sludge used as fertiliser isn't news. Nor is it going away, given the rising price of artificial fertilisers. Severn Trent reports a 25% increase in demand from farmers since January. Anglian Water has a waiting list. And why not? Sludge contains nitrogen and phosphorous, which farmers and crops love. It's often given away free, and it saves farmers about £450 per hectare that they would otherwise spend on fertiliser. Water UK, an association of the water utilities, reckons 3,000 farmers - out of 146,000 in total - use sludge each year, applying it to all kinds of arable land.
Nor is it unusual. Human waste has been used to fertilise fields for thousands of years. China's willingness to use untreated sewage on its fields is probably the reason its soil is still fertile after 4,000 years of cultivation, when other civilisations such as the Maya watched their crops wither and their soil erode. A recent report by the International Water Management Institute calculated that 200 million farmers worldwide were using raw sewage to irrigate their crops.
Properly treated, sewage could have a place in the nutrient cycle. Food feeds humans whose waste feeds food. And sludge is not raw sewage, which can carry at least 50 communicable diseases. It is treated and regulated (the better stuff has to have 99.9999% of pathogens, including salmonella, removed; the lower-quality sludge has to have 99%). Heavy metals are also regulated, as are harvesting and sowing times (farmers must wait 30 months before sowing vegetables after using lower-quality sludge, for example). In principle, it makes perfect sense. The British government considers sludge as fertiliser "the best practicable environmental option". Steve Ntifo of Water UK is convinced that sludge is safe "subject to regulation".
But in the US, where 3m tonnes of sludge are applied to farmland, an increasingly vocal anti-sludge movement doesn't agree. Though sludge has been rebranded "biosolids" (after a naming competition that also produced "bioslurp" and "black gold"), the debate over its use has become controversial and bitter. It has involved lawsuits, high politics, secret settlements and scores of allegations of illness. Some of those allegations have come from a quiet corner of South Carolina, from a picture-postcard small white bungalow opposite unremarkable brown fields. The house is owned by Nancy Holt, a retired nurse, whose family have farmed in this area for 250 years. The fields, Holt thinks, are killing her.
I visited Holt on a hot August day last year. She greeted me with a hug and a cold flannel for my head, then sat me down at the kitchen table and prepared the weapons of the grassroots protester: piles of files, dossiers, reports and a scientific vocabulary that she has accumulated along with frustration and disbelief. The year before, she told me, sludge was applied for 33 days straight to the fields. "Based on the number of 6,000-gallon tankers that came to apply it, we came up with the best guess that 9.75m gallons [were] spread on 160 acres. They were doing it 12 hours a day and a truck would arrive every 10 minutes." That was when Holt went blind. She wasn't a well woman to begin with. When I'd called to make the appointment, she'd apologised for misunderstanding something by saying, "I have holes in my head." I took it as a joke, but she does have holes in her head, after surgery which left her with metal clamps in her brain. One time when the sludge was applied - it's been arriving twice a year, spring and summer, for 13 years - the arteries in her brain swelled, pressed on her optic nerve and temporarily took away her sight. The diagnosis was the blood-vessel disorder, giant cell arteritis, but no cause was proven. Holt is sure the cause was the sludge, and she now spends much of her life trying to prove it.
The trouble began in the creeks. In 2001, Holt's grandson and great-nephew were diagnosed with staphylococcus aureus ("staph"), a bacterial infection usually associated with dirty hospitals, and most famous for its antibiotic-resistant superbug strain MRSA. She noticed that they fell sick after playing in the streams running behind the house. Then a local dog fell ill to flesh-eating bacteria. Then someone organised a fundraiser for a couple who both had cancer, and people started taking a tally of incidents. The Cook family: three daughters with breast cancer. The Hoffmans: a mother with colon cancer, a father with prostate cancer and a 13-year-old son with testicular cancer. Five cases of brain cancer in a community of 38 families. Holt started to keep records.
She made a list of health problems associated with exposure to applied sludge that included "increased respiratory distress or breathing difficulties; diarrhoea (chronic during sludge applications, all ages); chronic and acute headaches (persistent after exposure to odours, relieved by leaving residence); staph infections (children covered by staph sores after playing in creeks or streams after significant rains); presumed neurotoxin sensitivity (seizures, nausea, elevated blood pressure, and rash)."
In this, she wasn't alone. Another sludge activist called Helane Shields had compiled a dossier of complaints 500 pages thick. The Waste Management Institute at Cornell University, directed by Professor Ellen Harrison, has gathered 350 sludge-related health complaints, and lists characteristic symptoms as: asthma, flu-like symptoms, eye irritations, lesions, immuno-deficiency, nosebleeds, burning eyes, throat or nose.
Nancy began to read the literature, including news stories about the work of Dr Tyrone Hayes, who found that frogs were being deformed by mixtures of pesticides, even when individual pesticides were well within legal limits. She handed me articles about the transmission of prions - infectious agents linked to BSE - from funeral-home waste, and about outbreaks of e-coli in Californian spinach. She talked at top speed about antibiotics in the sewage, and how only the strongest and fittest survive and that if we wanted to create superbugs, we couldn't do better. She didn't let up for two hours, and by the end was still running on indignation.
People who promote and supply biosolids, depending on how courteous they are, tend to dismiss opponents such as Holt as anything from over-emotive to hysterical. Cranks. Nimbyists. The problem, they say, is about smell, not science. Humans have learned to avoid what is dangerous, and faeces can be lethal. Faecal aversion, one wastewater treatment manager told me, is clouding risk perception. He showed me a bottle of vitamins which contained the heavy metal selenium. "You'd have to eat 212 pounds of our biosolids to get what your body needs."
But criticism of sludge has come from quarters that no one could call over-emotive. Robert Swank, a senior Environmental Protection Agency official, testified to the US Senate in 2000 that US regulations "don't pass scientific muster". In 2002, a senior EPA microbiologist called Dr David Lewis led a University of Georgia study that analysed 53 incidents where health issues had been reported near sludge sites, and found a puzzlingly high incidence of staph infections. Lewis thought chemical irritants in sludge may be causing lesions that allowed staph easy access to the bloodstream. He told reporters: "In my opinion, the land-spreading of sludge is a serious problem. We have mixed together pathogens with a wide variety of chemicals that are known to enhance the infection process. It makes people more susceptible to infections." Taking excrement from hundreds of thousands of people, mixing it and spreading it on land is simply "not a good idea". Not long afterwards, he was fired.
The Harper-Collins Dictionary of Environmental Science defines sludge as "a viscous, semi-solid mixture of bacteria and virus-laden organic matter, toxic metals, synthetic organic chemicals and settled solids removed from domestic industrial wastewater at a sewage-treatment plant". The Clean Water Act keeps it simple and calls it a pollutant. Critics don't just object to possible risks to human health: Ellen Harrison of Cornell University, a soil scientist by training, also worries about the health of soil. In a paper entitled "The Case for Caution", she pointed out that "lead used by Romans persists in the soil two millennia later".
Of course soil science is extremely complex, and long-term tests run by Defra looking at metals in sludge-applied land have found no cause for concern. Even so, Switzerland - which used to land-apply 40% of its sludge - has banned the practice because of fears from farmers that it was harming their soil. The Netherlands has banned agricultural use of sludge, and national farmers' associations in France, Germany, Sweden, Luxembourg and Finland are against it, partly because of concerns about organic contaminants such as PCBs and brominated flame retardants (linked to liver and neurodevelopmental toxicity and hormone disruption), which some research has shown persist in sludge.
Food retailers Del Monte, Kraft and Heinz won't accept produce grown on sludge-fertilised fields. EU organic regulations - which are followed by all UK organic certification bodies - won't allow it, even though the principle of closing the nutrient cycle is one that is dear to organic hearts.
Ntifo attributes the Swiss ban to "a powerful incineration lobby". Opposition from food retailers, meanwhile, is about "a perception of perceptions". Food retailers worry what their customers think. "They are calculating their commercial risk. It's not about the science." Water UK states that "there has never been a recorded outbreak of human ill health in the UK as a result of the practice of recycling biosolids to land."
I don't know who is right. But I see the certainty of the sludge industry, and I think of a different century when engineering and science began to have inordinate confidence, which was expressed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette during an 1870 inquiry into the pollution of the Thames. The vicar of Barking and 123 of his neighbours had objected to Bazalgette's practice of discharging all London's sewage into the river. Bazalgette, called to the inquiry, showed himself to be as sure of himself as the biosolids promoters of today. The possibility that the river was being polluted was, he asserted, "entirely imaginary and contrary to the fact". Eight years later, the Princess Alice steamboat collided with a dredger near the outfall, and more than 600 people died. Survivors reported that they could not swim in such noxious waters, and that they vomited copiously. The outfalls were closed 20 years later. It is not recorded whether Bazalgette ever admitted he had been wrong.
PCBs were considered safe for decades. So was DDT. In the US, the most authoritative document on sludge is still a 2002 report by the National Academy of Sciences, which concluded that "there is no documented scientific evidence that the Part 503 rules [which govern biosolids use] have failed to protect public health". But opponents quote the following sentence instead because it reads: "However, additional scientific work is needed to reduce persistent uncertainty about the potential for adverse human health effects from exposure to biosolids." The sentences are quoted endlessly because, in Harrison's view, "there is a dearth of investigation in this area". Those two sentences are the scraps that each side fights the other over. In between, there is space for speculation and fear.
In the US, the fate of the biosolids industry may be decided by lawyers. Though three deaths of young men allegedly from sludge-linked staph infections didn't reach court (one was settled by Synagro, a sludge-applying giant now owned by the Carlyle Group), those of cows have. In 2006, a Georgia court awarded damages to a dairy farmer when 30% of his cattle died after eating sludge-applied hay, 10 times the normal mortality rate. An Associated Press investigation found that levels of thallium - a metal that can cause nerve damage - in the herd's milk were 120 times those allowed in drinking water (and that the milk was still sold for human consumption). This year, Judge Anthony Alaimo of Georgia found that another dairy farm had been acutely contaminated by sludge. Scientific data supplied by the municipality of Augusta that claimed to prove the safety of biosolids was, the judge declared, "unreliable, incomplete and in some cases fudged".
Are biosolids safe? "I am always hesitant to answer that," says Eric Davis, the land application manager for Burlington, North Carolina, which supplies the biosolids that are spread on the fields near Holt, "because safe means something to some folks and something else to others. That doesn't mean we're trying to hide anything. If safety means compliance with the letter of the law, then our biosolids are safe. There are a finite number of constituents we can test for: outside those, you're in the realm of unknowns. We're always trying to figure out the next step. We're willing to change as technology changes."
This wouldn't comfort the lone voice of opposition on the Farmers Weekly forum. Though in the minority, he was forthright. "I won't have sludge on my land. The heavy metals just sit in the plough layer waiting until someone realises there are long-term problems for animals, crops and us. I honestly believe that all those who [use sludge] will live to regret it."
• Rose George is the author of The Big Necessity: Adventures in the World of Human Waste, published by Portobello Books on Monday priced £12.99

Routemaster to take the green road

By Peter Marsh
Published: August 29 2008 19:08

Alexander Dennis, Britain’s biggest bus maker, is stepping up efforts to design a new version of the popular Routemaster bus for London, based around low-energy drive technology such as the use of novel “hybrid” engines.
Colin Robertson, chief executive of the Falkirk-based company, said 80 development engineers were devoting more time to the Routemaster project, following the call by Boris Johnson, the London mayor, to come up with a replacement for the vehicle by the time of the London Olympics in 2012.
“We’ve got a leading position in providing buses for London and we want to keep our top-dog position when it comes to the Routemaster,” Mr Robertson said.
The hybrid engines – based around a system of combining the propulsive power from diesel engines with energy stored in electric batteries – could form the basis for the designs.
Mr Robertson said its output of hybrid buses could rise from about 20 this year to “three or four hundred” by 2012, with a large proportion of these vehicles potentially for London.
The buses use of drive technology designed by BAE Systems for military vehicles.
Mr Robertson hopes to sell the hybrid engine-powered buses in overseas markets, including the US, China and Dubai. He said Alexander Dennis was considering options for building buses in the US, probably in collaboration with a US manufacturer.
It also hopes to build on a partnership in southern China where the company is this year making more than 50 buses on a site run by WZL, a Chinese bus maker, with most vehicles bound for Hong Kong.
Hybrid buses can save up to 30 per cent of the fuel used by conventional diesel-powered buses. The technology is particularly attractive for buses because their slower speeds and continual stopping and starting make the consequent cuts in energy use higher than in the case of hybrid cars.
Mr Robertson said Alexander Dennis’s sales this year should be about £315m, up from £235m last year.
About three-quarters of this year’s sales are expected to be in the UK, with a likely output of buses of about 1,600, split equally between single- and double-deckers.
Operating profits this year are expected by Mr Robertson to be about 5 per cent of sales, up from 4.3 per cent in 2007.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

'Environmental volunteers' will be encouraged to spy on their neighbours

Councils are recruiting residents to report anyone who drops litter, fails to recycle their rubbish properly, or who allows their dog to foul the streets.

By Lucy Cockcroft Last Updated: 12:33PM BST 30 Aug 2008

Adverts are springing up around the country asking people to tell them if anyone's not sorting their rubbish out properly.

Advertisements looking for people to sign up for the unpaid "environmental volunteer" jobs have been posted across the country in recent months.
Critics said the scheme is encouraging a Big Brother society where friends and neighbours will be encouraged to "snoop" on one another.
The recruitment drive follows news that the Home Office is granting police powers to council staff and private security guards, allowing then to hand out fines for low-scale offences and ask for personal details.
Matthew Elliott, of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "Snooping on your neighbours to report recycling infringements sounds like something straight out of the East German Stasi's copybook.
"With council tax so high, the last thing people want to pay for is an army of busybodies peering through their net curtains at their neighbours as they put out their rubbish."
Eastleigh council, in Hampshire, has said it wants residents to "monitor local environmental quality" to combat issues involving recycling and waste.
The local authority has already employed about a dozen people who answered an advert in a council newsletter which said: "Volunteers will be involved in reporting issues in their area such as recycling, waste, fly-tipping, graffiti, dog fouling and abandoned vehicles".
And the borough of Tower Hamlets, in east London, is advertising for similar roles within its environmental department, while other councils are expected to follow suit.
The volunteers are not asked directly to spy on neighbours, but they are encouraged not to ignore tip-offs.
A spokesman for Tower Hamlets said: "These are all people who care about the environment and they will be ambassadors for their area.
"They will be there to report graffiti, abandoned vehicles and local vandalism, but not to report on other individuals."
"And they might go to an over-60s club and talk about recycling."
The Local Government Association said: "Environment volunteers care passionately about their area and want to protect it.
"They are not snoopers. They will help councils cut crime and make places cleaner, greener and safer."

Economics is not a value-free science

Bjorn Lomborg reduces everything to numbers. But by putting a price on the priceless, we risk losing it

Oliver Tickell,
Friday August 29 2008 13:15 BST

To a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. To Bjorn Lomborg, every problem is reducible to a cost benefit analysis. At the end of it a number emerges – if it is positive, there is a benefit, if it is negative, there is a cost. Faced with a choice of policy options, all we have to do is to carry out a cost benefit analysis of the alternatives, and go with the biggest number. All other considerations are extraneous.
In Lomborg's world, the numbers he plays with take on a godlike role as representations of Platonic truths. But they are, of course, no such thing. Reality is complex and tangled – so your model has to be a highly simplified before it is even computable. Numerous assumptions must be made, and fudge factors applied. All of these inevitably reflect the values of the modeller. And so do the numbers that emerge at the end of the exercise.
For example, Lomborg's analysis of climate change impacts is entirely indifferent as to who wins and who loses. All that matters is the sum of gains and losses. This automatically places a far higher value on the interests of rich countries, where assets are valuable and incomes are high, than on those of poor countries, where assets are cheap and incomes low.
It would thus be a benefit to increase the gross product of the USA ($14tn) by 1% – a gain of $140bn – while halving the combined gross products of Nigeria ($200bn) and Bangladesh ($70bn) – a loss of $135bn. A small increment in the incomes of 300 million mainly rich people outweighs a collapse in the incomes of 300 million mainly poor people.
And then how do you put a price on Venice? On the life of a child? On the biodiversity of all those ecosystems and species at risk from climate change, from coral reefs to tropical forests, from penguins to polar bears? For the sake of simplicity many economists simply ignore the issue. And so the invaluable becomes without value.
Economic methods also systematically undervalue the future. Typically economists value a gain a year hence as worth a few percent less than the same gain right now. Applied over a longer time span, this makes a gain worth taking today if balanced by a loss 10 times greater in a century's time, or by a loss 10,000 times greater after four centuries. The Lomborgian oracle speaks: profit now, even at the risk of ruinous catastrophe a few hundred years' hence.
This may explain why Lomborg's discussion of sea-level rise stops at 2100, at which time the IPCC conservatively projects a sea-level rise of under 0.6m. Potential sea-level rises of tens of metres by 2300 simply don't matter, as the costs, however huge, can be discounted to the point of irrelevance. Just as the disastrous losses of the world's poorest billion people under the regime of drought, flood, storm and famine predicted by the IPCC is as nothing to a small increment in the wealth of the richest billion.
Not that I disagree with Lomborg about everything. He proposes a tenfold increase in expenditure on energy R&D, which he has argued elsewhere, should be financed by a global $2 carbon tax, raising some $50 billion. This is a perfectly sensible suggestion, and indeed financing for energy R&D on this scale forms part of the package of measures proposed in Kyoto2.
But this alone is an insufficient response. Clean energy sources need to be deployed as well as developed, and especially in poor countries that will otherwise commit to fossil fuel based economies. Experience shows that R&D spending will produce some wonderful new technologies, but it is only with mass production that they will become commercially competitive against fossil fuels. This deployment phase will require additional spending in poor countries many times greater than the initial R&D cost, and will need to be stimulated in the developed world by a long-term carbon cap.
The global carbon market, or a carbon tax as proposed by Lomborg, is the obvious place to look for the funds to finance our clean energy revolution. We also we need to help poor people, and poor countries, adapt to the climate change to which the Earth is already committed, to the tune of $100 billion per year. The same goes for programmes to preserve forests, maintain peatlands and sequester carbon into soils – essential measures to buffer continuing emissions from fossil fuels, increase the biosphere's resilience in the face of climate change, and conserve biodiversity.
Lomborg already supports one component of the Kyoto2 package. If he considers it with an open mind, further points of agreement may yet emerge. But first he needs recognise that economics is not a pure, value-free science. Economic models reflect the values of their creators. If an economic model tells us that it is correct to risk extinguishing much of the world's life, and perhaps the human species in the process, it is not because life is uncompetitive – the fault is in the economics.

Treasury Taps PizerTo Oversee Energy

August 29, 2008;

William A. Pizer was named as the Treasury Department's deputy assistant secretary for environment and energy.

Mr. Pizer, who goes by Billy, will head a newly created office that will oversee Treasury's role in fostering the energy and environmental agenda of the U.S., both nationally and internationally.
Mr. Pizer's office will oversee such things as the newly created Clean Technology Fund, which was announced by President Bush to help encourage the development of cleaner technologies and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
Mr. Pizer spent 12 years as a researcher with Resources for the Future, a Washington-based think tank that studies global warming issues and served as an economist at the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
The office was created by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, an avid conservationist who chaired the Nature Conservancy while also running Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Despite high gas prices, Europeans find driving a hard habit to break

By Elisabeth Rosenthal
Published: August 29, 2008

ROME: High oil prices and high taxes on gasoline and diesel pushed prices at the pump to new heights in much of Europe this summer. Yet transportation experts in this laboratory of sky-high fuel prices say that many Europeans, out of necessity, habit or love, have proved surprisingly willing to bear the extra cost of driving.
That raises questions as to how effective high prices by themselves can be in achieving the ambitious targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions that European leaders have committed themselves to meeting.
Fuel prices have prompted some people to drive less, and gasoline purchases in Italy dropped 10 percent from a year earlier. Sales of gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles have plunged across the Continent, just as they have in the United States.
But there have been few signs of the wholesale shift away from driving habits that environmental economists contend is needed for European countries to meet emissions control targets. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says meeting the targets is crucial if the world is to prevent the worst effects of global warming, but car rental companies say their business is up this summer.
Many consumers appear willing to economize in other parts of their lives - eliminating vacations, movies, even birthday gifts, for example - before choosing not to drive.

"We do see reports of a significant change in the types of cars people are buying, but I've been mostly surprised at the lack of a reaction," said Peder Jensen, a transportation expert at the European Environment Agency, an arm of the European Union in Copenhagen. "One had hoped that these prices would deter driving, but people have coped better than we hoped they would."
Although sales of new cars in both Europe and the United States have slumped this year, the number of cars per person has continued to rise, partly because many people now have more than one car, according to statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Partly because of high fuel prices here, European cars are already far more efficient than those sold in the United States. The average new European car gets about 100 kilometers on just under six liters, or 40 miles to the gallon, which is double the average for new cars sold in America.
Even so, total carbon emissions from all forms of transportation in Europe are rising. They are about a quarter higher today than they were 20 years ago, while emissions from industry have declined in the same period.
The European Union has committed to reducing its overall carbon dioxide emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020 and by half by 2050. To achieve those goals, the region will have to reduce auto emissions, most likely through changes in car design, fuel types, traffic control and driving habits.
"We believe that CO2 from personal transport has to be decreased in a holistic way, with contributions from all sectors - no one thing will bring levels down," said Ivan Hodac, secretary general of the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association in Brussels. He said that if all sides cooperated, levels could come down 25 percent in the next five to seven years.
The industry is investing heavily in improving the fuel efficiency of conventional cars as well as in designing hybrids and vehicles powered by alternative energy sources like electricity and hydrogen, Hodac said. But these design changes will take at least five years to come to market, and will not solve emissions problems on their own, he added.
"Everyone puts all the pressure on the manufacturers, and we're doing our part," he said. "But others should do their part as well; nothing much has been done with driving, improving infrastructure."
For individuals, lowering transportation emissions can involve choosing more efficient vehicles, using public transportation or bicycles, driving at the most fuel-efficient speeds and avoiding trips in congested areas. Several years ago, the Netherlands instituted a program to promote such behavior, achieving a modest emissions reduction.
Recent studies have shown that rising fuel prices have to be combined with government intervention to force lasting changes in the transportation choices that people make.
Phil Goodwin, a professor of transportation policy at the University of the West of England, said research showed that a 10 percent increase in motor fuel prices produced a 6 percent to 7 percent drop in fuel consumption over five years, because people drive less and switch to cars that are more fuel efficient.
"Price appears to be a highly effective way of influencing behavior," Goodwin said. "However, price alone doesn't win popular support or acquiescence. There has to be a package of a variety of different policies, including improvements to public transport, walking and cycling."
In studies performed for the British government last year, Ben Lane, a transportation consultant based in London, found a "very wide gap" between people's attitude toward the environment and their willingness to change their driving behavior.
The costs of buying and using a car are "weak but necessary" factors in pushing people to lower their transportation emissions, he said. More effective are laws that charge people for driving based on the estimated emissions of their vehicles.
Several years ago, London instituted a hefty "congestion charge" for traditional vehicles entering the city center; hybrids and electric cars were exempt. Now, the London area has by far the greatest proportion of these alternative-fuel vehicles in the country, Lane said.
The resistance to changing driving behavior in part reflects practical problems in cities like Los Angeles and Rome with poor public transportation. At a time of low fuel prices, people bought homes and accepted jobs in locations that required a car. Malls and offices are often built where land is cheap and there are few public transportation options.
Moreover, some people seem to have the same cost-is-no-object attitude toward cars that they have toward health. Valerio Roselli, 27, who works for Warner Brothers in Rome, continues to drive his SUV to drive to work even though he could readily use public transportation. Rome's buses are hot, erratic and overcrowded, he said.
High fuel prices in Italy have forced many people to modify their habits, at least temporarily. Traffic dropped on the autostrada, a toll highway, by 2.5 percent between March and June. New car registrations are down 18.2 percent this year compared with last. Sales of Alfa Romeos, high-performance vehicles not known for the fuel economy, have dropped by 27 percent. That may reflect the flailing economy here as well as high fuel prices.
Some experts say it may take a few years to see whether Europe and the United States are nearing a tipping point for fuel prices that could affect where people live and how they get around.
"People cope for a while, and then it is not until the next time they move home or job or other such 'life events' that a new travel pattern emerges," said Goodwin, the transportation-policy professor.
"So the effect on new car sales, month by month, of changes in fuel price will be quite damped. This has led some people to think there is little or no effect, but that is probably wrong."

Johnson unveils secret weapon in war on climate change - the roof garden

· London mayor announces plan to soak up rainwater· Strategy outlined to deal with heatwaves and floods
David Adam, environment correspondent
The Guardian,
Saturday August 30 2008

To some they are a rural escape in the centre of the city, to others they are a chance to test their green fingers and design skills. Now London mayor Boris Johnson has found a new use for urban roof gardens - as a key weapon on the front line against global warming.
An increase in the number of rooftop gardens to soak up rainwater across the capital is among a series of measures suggested by Johnson yesterday, as part of efforts to prepare London for the effects of climate change.
The mayor's adaptation strategy, billed as a world first, aims to address the challenges of flooding, extreme temperatures and drought. It calls for compulsory water metering, greater awareness of flood risks and more tree planting, alongside stronger efforts to resist attempts by local authorities and insurance companies to fell existing urban trees.
The mayor's team said they were also looking to copy a heatwave emergency plan used in US cities, including Philadelphia, where old and vulnerable people are collected in air-conditioned buses and taken to cool public buildings, such as libraries, shopping centres, churches and offices.
Despite previously attacking the Kyoto Protocol - which regulates international carbon emissions - as "pointless" and saying that anxiety over climate change was "partly a religious phenomenon" Johnson now admits that the 2006 Stern review on the issue had convinced him of the need to act. "When the facts change, you change your mind," he said.
Launching the strategy at the Thames Barrier, in east London, he said: "We need to concentrate efforts to slash carbon emissions and become more energy efficient in order to prevent dangerous climate change. But we also need to prepare for how our climate is expected to change in the future. The strategy outlines in detail the range of weather conditions facing London, which could both seriously threaten our quality of life, particularly that of the most vulnerable people, and endanger our pre-eminence as one of the world's leading cities."
He said the strategy, which is a legal requirement under the Greater London Authority Act, put London in a strong position.
"London is not unique. All major cities, such as New York and Tokyo, are at risk from climate change," he said.
The strategy does not address so-called mitigation of climate change - measures to reduce emissions - but Johnson said he supported a target set by the previous mayor, Ken Livingstone, to slash carbon pollution 60% by 2025. He said measures to meet the target would include incentives for Londoners to better insulate their homes and switch to more efficient condensing boilers. His team is assessing whether households could be given council tax rebates for adopting such energy-saving measures.
Global warming is expected to give London and its surrounding area longer, hotter summers as well as warmer, wetter winters with the added problems of more frequent heatwaves, droughts and flash floods from rising sea levels and downpours. About 600 Londoners died as a result of the 2003 heatwave that killed about 15,000 in France, while low rainfall during 2004 and 2005 led to water shortages in the capital.
Fifteen per cent of London is at high risk from flooding due to global warming - an area including 1.25 million people, almost half a million properties, more than 400 schools, 75 underground and railway stations, 10 hospitals and London City airport. At stake is an estimated £160bn worth of assets, not just in London, but along the Thames estuary, where large housing developments are planned.
Johnson said work was under way to address stifling summertime temperatures on the underground network, with air cooling on subsurface tube lines to begin in 2010. By 2015, he said all trains on subsurface lines, around 35-40% of the network, would be air-cooled.
The draft adaptation strategy, which will be finalised next year, calls for a citywide "urban greening" programme, using green spaces and trees to absorb and retain rainwater, and pledges to map London's drainage network to reduce surface water flood risk. It also recommends greater use of rainwater harvesting and "grey water" recycling in new buildings, as well as London-specific guidance for designers and architects to reduce the risk of buildings overheating in summer.
Jenny Bates, of Friends of the Earth, said: "It is essential that the capital prepares for the impacts of climate change, which is already affecting Londoners through increased flood risk, heavier and more frequent downpours and extreme heat. But Boris Johnson is also committed to cutting London's carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2025 in order to prevent dangerous climate change, and has so far failed to explain how he will achieve this.
"The mayor must provide a comprehensive action plan for reducing emissions that includes ways to make it cheaper and easier for Londoners to go green."
Key points
On flooding
Citywide urban greening programme based on green spaces and trees to soak up water
Campaign to raise public awareness of flood risk
Identify and protect critical infrastructure and vulnerable communities
On drought
Reduce leakage from water mains
Compulsory water metering where feasible
Rainwater harvesting and 'grey water' use
On heatwaves
Enhanced access to air-cooled buildings for London's vulnerable people
Specific guidance to architects
Requirement for new developments to help cool the city

The mayor must act on global warming

I welcome today's strategy on coping with climate change, but it's time Boris Johnson backed up his amusing words with action

Jenny Jones,
Friday August 29 2008 15:30 BST

I'm asking myself when the honeymoon period for the new mayor will be over, and when Londoners can be expected to see real progress rather than lots of erudite chatter and vague promises. This administration seems to lack any sense of urgency about the terrifying issue of climate change, preferring instead to tackle the issue of drinking on the tube (when was that a problem?) and cutting as much as they can from the GLA budget without first understanding what valuable work, and where, was being done.
The mayor's adaptation strategy, launched today, is about how London will cope with the changes to its climate from carbon emissions that have already been produced and are already doing damage. I welcome its arrival and look forward to the companion piece, the mitigation strategy, later this year. Having the adaptation strategy does not mean you accept future emissions, just that you are preparing to deal with already unavoidable climate changes due to emissions produced so far. The mitigation strategy is about how to reduce our future emissions and our burden on the rest of the planet.
However, this adaptation strategy is largely the same as that prepared under the previous, much-maligned administration. All the ideas are sound, all are component parts of resisting the inevitable encroachment of climate change, with its floods and shortages, but the crucial part is understanding when and how it will be delivered.
Therefore, Greens are now calling for strong and timely action from the mayor. A litmus test would be support for speedy delivery of the East London Green Grid, a massive project that has mapped all the green areas in the Thames Gateway and seeks to protect them for food growing space, leisure space and flood defences. It will mean that the future development of that area, with its houses, shops and businesses, will be better to live in, work in and visit. It's an excellent and necessary scheme for the health of us all, delivered by Design for London, which Johnson has wound up. So in spite of all his fine words so far on the environment, will projects like the Green Grid, nurtured by the previous mayor, be thrown out because he doesn't really get the environment?
Please, enough very amusing chat, just get on with the job.

London's defences against climate change to tackle heat and rain

The mayor of London has outlined his strategy to protect the city from the effects of global warming, including turning the rooftops of the city into gardens to soak up downpours
David Adam,
Friday August 29 2008 17:06 BST

To some they are a rural escape in the centre of the city, to others they are a chance to test their green fingers and design skills. Now London mayor Boris Johnson has found a new use for urban roof gardens – as a key weapon on the frontline against global warming.
An increase in the number of rooftop gardens to soak up rainwater across the capital is among a series of measures suggested by Johnson today, as part of efforts to prepare London for the effects of climate change.
The mayor's adaptation strategy, billed as a world-first, aims to address the challenges of flooding, extreme temperatures and drought. It calls for compulsory water metering, greater awareness of flood risks, and more tree planting, alongside stronger efforts to resist attempts by local authorities and insurance companies to fell existing urban trees.
The mayor's team said they were also looking to copy a heatwave emergency plan used in US cities including Philadelphia, where old and vulnerable people are collected in air-conditioned buses and taken to cool public buildings. They said libraries, shopping centres, churches and offices across the city could be used.
Johnson, who has previously dismissed the Kyoto Protocol, which regulates international carbon emissions, as "pointless" and said anxiety over climate change was "partly a religious phenomenon" said the 2006 Stern Review which investigated the issue had convinced him of the need to act. "When the facts change, you change your mind," he said.
Launching the strategy at the Thames barrier, he said: "We need to concentrate efforts to slash carbon emissions and become more energy efficient in order to prevent dangerous climate change. But we also need to prepare for how our climate is expected to change in the future. The strategy outlines in detail the range of weather conditions facing London, which could both seriously threaten our quality of life, particularly that of the most vulnerable people, and endanger our pre-eminence as one of the world's leading cities."
He said all major cities were at risk from climate change, and that the strategy, which is a legal requirement under the Greater London Authority Act, put London in a strong position. "London is not unique. All major cities such as New York and Tokyo are at risk from climate change."
The strategy does not address so-called mitigation of climate change, measures to reduce emissions, but Johnson said he supported a target set by previous mayor Ken Livingstone to slash carbon pollution 60% by 2025. He said measures to meet the target would include incentives for Londoners to better insulate their homes and switch to more efficient condensing boilers. His team is assessing whether households could be given council tax rebates for adopting such energy-saving measures.
Global warming is expected to give London and its surrounding area longer, hotter summers as well as warmer, wetter winters with the added problems of more frequent heat waves, droughts and flash floods from rising sea levels and downpours. Some 600 Londoners died as a result of the 2003 heat wave that killed about 15,000 in France, while low rainfall during 2004 and 2005 led to water shortages in the capital.
Some 15% of London is deemed at high risk from flooding due to global warming – an area including 1.25 million people, almost half a million properties, more than 400 schools, 75 underground and railway stations, 10 hospitals and London City airport. At stake is an estimated £160bn worth of assets, not just in London, but along the banks of the Thames estuary, where large housing developments are planned.
Johnson said work was under way to address stifling summertime temperatures on the underground network, with air cooling on sub-surface tube lines to begin in 2010. By 2015, he said all trains on subsurface lines, around 35-40% of the network, will be air cooled.
The draft adaptation strategy, which will be finalised next year, calls for a citywide 'urban greening' programme, using green spaces and trees to absorb and retain rainwater, and pledges to map London's drainage network to reduce surface water flood risk. It also recommends greater use of rainwater harvesting and "grey water" recycling in new buildings, as well as London-specific guidance for designers and architects to reduce the risk of buildings overheating in summer.
Jenny Bates of Friends of the Earth said: "It is essential that the capital prepares for the impacts of climate change, which is already affecting Londoners through increased flood risk, heavier and more frequent downpours and extreme heat.
"But Boris Johnson is also committed to cutting London's carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2025 in order to prevent dangerous climate change, and has so far failed to explain how he will achieve this. The mayor must provide a comprehensive action plan for reducing London's emissions that includes ways to make it cheaper and easier for Londoners to go green."

Friday, 29 August 2008

Sasol coal-to-oil plant planned in China ditched


BEIJING -- South Africa's Sasol Ltd. said Thursday it was scrapping one of its two proposed coal-to-liquids projects in China, after Beijing indicated it was scaling back a drive to produce synthetic fuels from its largest energy source.
Sasol said it was no longer proceeding with plans for a CTL project in the northern province of Shaanxi and would focus fully on a feasibility study of a plant in the neighboring Ningxia Hui autonomous region, with a capacity of 80,000 barrels a day.
The proposed site at the Ningdong Chemical and Energy Base has excellent infrastructure and a significant amount of preparation work has already been completed, Sasol said, adding the project has the full support of Ningxia Gov. Wang Zhengwei.
Sasol is joining Shenhua Ningxia Coal Group, a unit of big Chinese coal miner Shenhua Group, in the Ningxia project study.
"This strategy aligns with a recent notice issued by the National Development and Reform Commission," Sasol said. The commission is China's economic planning agency.
Although there has been no official confirmation of a new national policy on CTL in China, a notice on the Web site of Ningxia's planning body Thursday said China would only allow two projects to proceed and all others should be put on ice.
Regarding its other feasibility study for a CTL plant in Shaanxi, which would no longer proceed at this stage, Sasol said Shenhua and itself would maintain the good relationships with the province which have been established over many years.
The two projects are Sasol's proposed facility in Ningxia and Shenhua's wholly owned plant in Erdos city in Inner Mongolia, which has a planned annual output of 1.08 million metric tons in its first phase before ramping up to three million tons.
Shenhua's plant is due to be commissioned next month. If confirmed, China's new policy on CTL projects will deal a blow to other foreign investors seeking access to the country's growing market for transport fuels by liquefying coal.
Write to David Winning at

Tesco pulls out of eco-towns project at Hanley Grange

From The Times
August 29, 2008
Jill Sherman, Whitehall Editor

Gordon Brown's plan for eco-towns was unravelling last night, with Tesco withdrawing from one of the proposed greenfield developments.
The supermarket chain, which owns 80 per cent of the land, was providing most of the financial backing for an eco-town with 7,000 homes at Hanley Grange, near Cambridge. But the project has been heavily opposed by local campaigners and all the surrounding councils. Yesterday Tesco pulled the plug.
It means that a quarter of the developers on the Government's shortlist of 15 eco-towns have now abandoned the schemes, which have prompted widespread protests.
Ministers have deferred until the new year the decision on which projects will proceed. But it is likely that only three or four will be given the go-ahead for the first phase. The developments, of 5,000 to 20,000 homes, are supposed to include a high percentage of affordable homes, with zero-carbon flats and houses surrounded by green spaces. Car use is to be curtailed through both incentives and restrictions.

The economic climate has caused some firms to withdraw; others have complained that the uncertain bidding process is expensive and risky.
Tesco maintained last night that it would try to press ahead with a conventional development on the same site by starting afresh through the East of England regional strategy plan. However, the chances of getting this through are slim.
Insiders privately admitted that the cost of devising detailed plans for an eco-town that might in the end not be accepted by the Government was too “high-risk”. One said that the bidding process alone would cost Tesco millions - with no guarantee that its proposal would be accepted.
Tesco's decision delighted the Stop Hanley Grange campaign group, which had been planning to hold a protest rally on Monday attended by local MPs. Last night the organisers said that the event would be a celebration instead.
Julie Redfern, chairman of the group, said: “We are delighted that Tesco have seen sense, and this is a victory for local democracy.”
Grant Shapps, the Shadow Housing Minister, said: “Eco-towns started off as an idea that sounded good, but Labour's incompetent handling of the project has led to distrust amongst the public and developers alike. Now, even those who are behind the applications have decided that it is better to go it alone and forget the government-sponsored eco-con scheme.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government insisted that Tesco's move would not derail the project. “The whole point of developing a long list of potential locations was to get down to a shorter final list, and we remain committed to announcing this final shortlist of up to ten potential locations early in the new year,” a spokesman said.

UK Coal raises output to capitalise on higher prices

Mark Milner
The Guardian,
Friday August 29 2008

UK Coal is seeking to cash in on rising energy prices through higher production and the end of long-term, low-priced legacy contracts.
The company is already investing £55m each in its collieries at Thoresby in Nottinghamshire and Kellingley in West Yorkshire to open up new reserves and is expected to decide within the next six months whether to reopen the Harworth mine near Doncaster, which has been mothballed for more than two years.
Chief executive Jon Lloyd said he believed it was accepted that in the face of higher energy prices, and despite the impact of the large combustion plants directive, which limits power station emissions, coal would play a "significant and perhaps major part in the UK's energy mix over the next two decades".
"There will be environmental challenges but frankly it's a political must to keep the lights on," Lloyd said.
He said the company would decide on Harworth either late this year or in the first quarter of 2009. If it was reopened, at a cost of up to £175m, it would eventually provide another 2.2 m to 2.3 m tonnes of coal a year. The key factors would be the geology, which would determine the cost of accessing the reserves, and their size — thought to be 25m to 40m tonnes.
Although the UK Coal chief executive is bullish about the outlook for the industry, he said it was unlikely that Britain would see any new coal mines. "To start from scratch, to drive shafts would cost about £1bn and take eight or nine years — even if you find the people who know how to drive shafts any more."
Yesterday UK Coal reported an interim pre-tax loss of £9.9m against a profit of £40.6m in the same period last year. However, the company, which operates a property portfolio, said it was confident of meeting expectations for the full year. City analysts have pencilled in profits of around £70m.
UK Coal said first half coal production had been lower than expected and it was more committed to meeting long-standing lower-priced contracts, so the benefits of the 45% increase in prices had been muted. However it said the second half would see "significantly higher production at a significantly higher sales price."
Lloyd said UK Coal was committed to delivering 10m tonnes of coal on lower - priced legacy contracts but by the end of 2009 that would have fallen to between 3m and 3.5m tonnes.
UK Coal said that despite the problems facing the property sector in the face of the credit crunch, the like-for-like value of its property portfolio had risen by 5% to £438.4m and that it expected to see a further increase in the second half.
Lloyd said the company's portfolio had benefited from its holdings of agricultural land, where values had risen, and because many of its developments were at an early stage and thus less vulnerable to the impact of the downturn. While an upturn could be some way off , Lloyd said the company would be well-positioned to take advantage of the eventual rebound in demand.

Amazon rainforest was giant garden city

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Last Updated: 7:01pm BST 28/08/2008

The "pristine" Amazon rainforest was covered by a vast sprawl of interconnected villages between 1,500 and 500 years ago, according to a study that shows how nature has felt the impact of man for much longer than realised.

Explorers have long sought lost cities of the Amazon, now almost entirely obscured by forest. Today it turns out that the "garden cities", which date back 1500 years, were too spread out to make sense of on foot.

Aerial shot of an Amazon village showing central plaza and the roads radiating from the centre
Assisted by satellite imagery, researchers have spent more than a decade uncovering and mapping the lost and obscured communities to show they held more than 1000 people each and were once large and complex enough to be considered "urban" as the term is commonly applied to medieval European and ancient Greek communities.
In the Xingu region of the Brazilian Amazon, these garden cities radiated out over a diameter of 150 miles, covering an area of 18,000 square miles that exceeds the sprawl of Los Angeles by 35 fold.
However, they only held around 50,000 people, compared with the 13 million in LA.
The extraordinary conclusion is reached by anthropologists from the University of Florida and Brazil, and a member of the Kuikuro, an indigenous people who are the descendants of the settlements' original inhabitants.

"If we look at your average medieval town or your average Greek polis, most are about the scale of those we find in this part of the Amazon," said Prof Mike Heckenberger of the University of Florida, lead author of the paper published today in the journal Science.
"Only the ones we find are much more complicated in terms of their planning."
The paper also argues that the size and scale of the settlements in the southern Amazon in North Central Brazil means that what many scientists consider virgin tropical forests were shaped by human activity hundreds of years ago.
Not only that, but the settlements - consisting of networks of walled towns and smaller villages, each organised around a central plaza - suggest future solutions for supporting the indigenous population in Brazil's state of Mato Grosso and other regions of the Amazon, the paper says.
Around the communities the scientists found dams and artificial ponds that indicate the then inhabitants farmed fish, which today could be a valuable new food resource.
Prof Heckenberger and his colleagues first announced the discovery of the first settlements in 2003, revealing the largest date from around 1250 to 1650, when European colonists and the diseases they brought likely killed most of their inhabitants.
The communities are now almost entirely overgrown. But Prof Heckenberger said that members of the Kuikuro, a Xinguano tribe that calls the region home, are adept at identifying tell-tale signs of old settlements, from "dark earth" that indicate past human waste dumps or farming, concentrations of pottery shards and earthworks.
The new paper reports that the settlements consisted of clusters of 150-acre towns and smaller villages organised in spread out "galactic" patterns.
None of the large towns was as large as the largest medieval or Greek towns. But as with those towns, the Amazonian ones were surrounded by large walls - in their case, composed of earthworks still extant today.
Each settlement had an identical formal road, always oriented northeast to southwest in keeping with the mid-year summer solstice, connected to a central plaza.
The findings are important because they contradict long-held stereotypes about early Western versus early New World settlements that rest on the idea that "if you find it in Europe, it's a city.
If you find it somewhere else, it has to be something else," Prof Heckenberger said. "They have quite remarkable planning."
Because it means at least one area of "pristine" Amazon has a long history of human activity, the find could change not only how scientists assess the flora and fauna, but also how conservationists preserve the remains of forest so heavily cleared it is the world's largest soybean producing area.

City breathes easy after air quality results

THE quality of air in Edinburgh is significantly better than most towns and cities in Scotland, a study has found.
A year-long project by the Environmental Health Surveillance System for Scotland found that the levels of pollution were well below the national average in the centre of the Capital.At 27 micrograms, the level of nitrogen dioxide – mainly caused by traffic fumes – is lower than Aberdeen (62), Dundee (53), Glasgow (70) and Perth (60). The Scottish average is 40.There are also several small towns across the country where pollution is worse, including Cupar in Fife.A reading of nine at the Bush Estate in Midlothian was the second lowest in the country.The information was gathered by a device placed in the St Leonards area of the city.

Weather Eye: the not so bracing sea air

Paul Simons

Exactly a century ago John Hassall drew his poster of a jolly fisherman skipping over a sandy beach with the slogan “Skegness is SO Bracing.” It summed up how the Victorians loved the seaside air, as a tonic to breathe in deep for health and wellbeing. But new evidence shows it to be the opposite.
A recent study discovered that dirty smoke from ships is polluting coastal air. Ships burning a cheap sulphur-rich fuel called “bunker oil” produce clouds of tiny sulphate particles. These specks of dirt pose a serious health hazard when breathed in. Air samples taken from the coast of California revealed that sulphates from ships made up almost half the fine particles floating in the air. However, from 2015 United Nations international maritime regulations will make ships burn cleaner fuels when they come near to coastlines.
Another problem floating around at the seaside is entirely natural. The Victorians thought that the bracing air and distinctive smell of the seaside was created by ozone, and that this was wonderful for health. They were wrong on both counts – the smell is not ozone, which is extremely harmful. Instead, University of East Anglia scientists found the smell comes from dimethyl sulphide (DMS), which in high concentrations can irritate the eyes and lungs. DMS released from the oceans affects the weather by helping to seed clouds. With more clouds, less sunlight reaches the sea and so cools off temperatures over oceans. Many scientists believe that DMS is one of Nature’s checks and balances to keep the climate in harmony, and may help to offset global warming.

Africa climate conference delegates not offsetting flights

By Mike Pflanz
Last Updated: 1:01pm BST 28/08/2008
More than 1,700 delegates at two conferences on global warming being held in Kenya and Ghana have largely failed to carbon-offset their travel to the meetings, The Telegraph has learned.

Some 140 participants have flown from as far as Japan to Nairobi for a forum of scientists and African and European MPs to discuss the devastating impact of climate change on the world's poorest people.

The flights to the Nairobi conference will produce 2.6 tonnes of CO2
But few have opted to pay for the greenhouse gases that their travel to Nairobi produced, which totals 2.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide for each return flight from Japan, for example.
That is almost nine times the per capita CO2 output for the average Kenyan.
A straw poll of 29 participants found only one, a British climate researcher, who had offset his flight. Ten members of the organising committee had also paid the surcharge.
"We were not told anything about that, and these flights are expensive enough already", said Adam Boni Tessi, an MP from Benin in West Africa, whose 5,300 mile round trip produced 0.9 tonnes of CO2.

Others from Germany, Uganda and Ivory Coast all admitted that they had not paid. One Ugandan delegate said the conference organisers should have told them about carbon offset schemes.
"Whether to fly carbon neutral was a decision which was left up to each of the delegates themselves," said Femke Brouwer from European Parliamentarians for Africa (Awepa), the organisers of the Nairobi forum.
"I think you will find that the vast majority will not have [paid], but we as Awepa are developing a policy which will allow our members to fly carbon neutral, which will be in place for the next meeting early next year."
A separate conference with 1,600 participants is being held at the same time in Ghana's capital, Accra, for the latest round of UN-backed talks linked to implementing the Kyoto Protocol.
Again, organisers could not confirm that air travel was carbon neutral because the decision whether to pay the green surcharge on each flight was left to each delegation.
"It's up to the parties to decide for themselves," said Caroline Keulemans, spokesman for the Accra conference.
"The UN is working towards a mechanism in which all emissions for UN conferences will be offset. For now it's up to the parties, but as the UN we would very much like that all of these conferences would be carbon neutral."
Ms Keulemans could not say when this scheme would be introduced.
The conference organisers had advised delegates not to wear jackets and ties, to allow "discussions in a more comfortable environment, as well as [to] limit the use of air conditioning and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions", its website said.
Indonesia paid to offset all greenhouse gases produced during last year's Bali climate conference by planting 79m trees, but it was not clear if Ghana had made plans to do anything similar.

Households paying £800 too much in green taxes, says report

James Kirkup, Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 28/08/2008
Households are paying hundreds of pounds more in "green taxes" than is justified by the environmental cost of their carbon emissions, a new study claims today.

Britain paid £19.6 billion too much in green taxes lastyear, or £783.34 per household
The Taxpayers' Alliance has calculated that every household in the UK is paying as much as £800 a year more in environmental taxes than is necessary.
Its analysis claims the Treasury made £20 billion in "excess" revenue from environmental taxes last year - from supposedly "green" levies on motoring, energy bills and waste disposal.
The report is the latest attack on the Government's use of green taxes and will strengthen suspicions that ministers are using the environment as a cover for revenue-raising measures.
The TPA said its figures showed ministers were "wrapping revenue-raising tax hikes in a green banner." However, the Treasury rejected the group's figures as misleading.

The study focuses on five so-called "green" taxes: fuel duty; Vehicle Excise Duty - or car tax as it is commonly known; the landfill tax paid by council tax payers; the climate change levy and the renewables obligation.
These final two are both levied on utility bills and are intended to fund investment in renewable energy sources.
The TPA report calculates that in 2007/08, the Exchequer took a net £24.2 billion from those taxes, after the costs of maintaining the roads network are subtracted. The equivalent financial "cost" of Britain's carbon dioxide emissions is significantly less, it says.
According the methods used by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UK's emissions in 2007 did £4.6 billion worth of damage to the environment.
By that figure, Britain paid £19.6 billion too much in green taxes last year, or £783.34 per household.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs uses a much higher figure, based on the Stern Report by Sir Nicholas Stern, a former Treasury economist. It says that the cost of Britain's emissions is £16.3 billion.
But even using that total, the annual "excess" green tax revenue is £7.9 billion or £315.81 per household.
Matthew Sinclair, the author of the TPA report, said green taxes were putting an "unfair burden" on families and companies.
He said: "With the credit crunch squeezing household budgets, people can ill afford this extra tax grab. It's dishonest and unjust for politicians to wrap revenue-raising tax hikes in a green banner. The Government are talking about raising taxes even further, but our conclusions show that green taxes should be kept as they are or cut."
By far the biggest "green tax" cited by the TPA is fuel duty. Levied at 50.35 pence per litre, the tax raised a gross total of £24.9 billion for the Treasury in 2007/08
The Treasury strongly disputed the TPA's calculations last night, insisting that fuel duty should not be considered a "green" tax because it is not imposed purely to reflect the environmental impacts of fuel consumption.
Still, the TPA report is not the first to suggest that road tax revenues exceed environmental costs.
In July, an academic study commissioned by the Institute for Fiscal Studies concluded that road fuel duty is already well above the level that can be justified by the damage done by vehicles' CO2 emissions.
Ministers are also under intense pressure over a plan to raise road tax by as much as £245, a plan justified as "green" despite the Treasury having no estimate of how much carbon dioxide it will save.
A Treasury spokesperson said: "The estimate of green taxes is wrong as it includes taxes used to fund core public services, rather than simply offsetting the cost of CO2.
"For example, while fuel duty recognises the environmental costs of driving, it also pays for important public services, including new roads and public transport and efforts to tackle child poverty."
The TPA analysis also found that the gap between emissions and green tax payments "varies significantly" between suburban and rural areas and urban districts. Residents of rural areas may face much higher "excess" green taxes compared to residents of cities and towns.