Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Hokkaido Hot Air


Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda tried to set the stage for this week's Group of Eight summit in January by claiming, "Global environmental issues have now gone beyond the discussion stage to become real problems with significant effects on our day-to-day lives and economic activities." Well, it turns out $145 oil is a bigger problem.
The inflationary pain in the major economies is now clear. U.S. consumer price inflation in May stood at 4.2% year-on-year. The Eurozone has seen 4% inflation in the first six months of this year. The OECD reports that average year-on-year inflation among its members in April reached a seven-year high of 3.9%. This, a credit crunch and a slackening global economy are now topping the G-8 agenda.
Most of this tumult comes courtesy of the Federal Reserve's easy money policies, which are flowing through the rest of the dollar bloc nations, especially in Asia. The G-8 can't do much about this directly, though it could help with a clear statement that the leaders are concerned about inflation and want a stronger U.S. dollar. This would require U.S. leadership, however, and the Bush Treasury has too often seemed to favor a weak dollar in the name of pushing exports. One result has been the commodity price explosion that has accompanied the dollar's decline.
The G-8 can also help by breaking down trade barriers and allowing all this extra capital to flow to more productive uses. And maybe, just maybe, the leaders of the rich economies will resist calls to raise global prices even further in the name of averting climate change.
President Bush reiterated his commitment to the Doha Round of global trade negotiations before leaving Washington, promising to "work to tear down barriers to trade and investment around the world." His problem in Hokkaido will be the unwillingness of some of his G-8 peers, and others, to do the heavy lifting required to turn talk into action. Brazil and India are reluctant to come to the table in global trade talks until the European Union and the U.S. cut their agricultural subsidies and improve market access. G-8 host Japan is one of the worst offenders.
Instead, this week's summit is likely to fall back on grandiose rhetoric and handouts. The 2005 huddle in Gleneagles delivered a pledge to double development aid by 2010, to $50 billion. Most of that aid has yet to be delivered. Before today's meeting, the U.S. committed almost $1 billion for "global food security." The Asian Development Bank has promised some $500 million for food aid for poor countries. If history is any guide, most of that money won't be well spent.
As for climate change, Mr. Bush insists that any plan for tackling carbon emissions must include the developing world's big emitters, China and India. Given their longstanding and understandable unwillingness to subject themselves to costly, economy-crippling carbon constraints, we can only hope Mr. Bush's statement amounts to scuppering any major new emissions initiatives this week. In a world preoccupied with inflation, Mr. Fukuda's plan to halve global carbon emissions by 2050 -- dubbed "Cool Earth 50" -- makes little sense.
Already "environmentalism" is contributing to higher food prices. The quest for a more atmosphere-friendly fuel has provided political cover for agricultural interests peddling ethanol as a solution. The result: diversion of agricultural land to corn at the expense of other crops, and diversion of corn to fuel at the expense of food. Corn futures have soared in the last year, closing at $7.70 a bushel in Chicago on Thursday compared with nearer to $4 less than a year ago.
Still, the G-8 summit offers some pluses. A rhetorical bow to the importance of free trade is welcome in a world where politicians like America's Barack Obama are increasingly willing to ignore the evidence of trade's economic benefits. And Hokkaido is a convenient forum for discussions on pressing non-economic issues, especially nuclear proliferation. Mr. Bush met Monday with Dmitry Medvedev, their first meeting since the new Russian President took office. He will interact this week with Mr. Fukuda, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, and Chinese President Hu Jintao. Such face-to-face diplomacy has its uses.
But given the serious economic problems facing the world, it's hard not to think this conclave could do more than it probably will. Only a year ago, the G-8 released a statement calling the global economy "in good condition." We'll take the helpful bits of rhetoric for now, but true action on issues like trade may have to wait until the global economic outlook takes a turn for the worse.

Your Carbon Ration Card

July 7, 2008

While American politicians mull a carbon cap-and-trade system for industry, our British cousins are already contemplating the next step: personal CO2 rations.
A Parliamentary committee in May proposed giving all British adults "carbon allowances" that they would be required to spend – along with, you know, real money – when buying gasoline, airline tickets, electricity or natural gas. Britons who wanted more credits than they were issued could try to buy them – again, with real money – from those who hadn't spent their allotment. All of this is supposed to give people a financial incentive to reduce energy consumption and thus their carbon "footprint."
The Labour government, already in a precarious political state, isn't dumb enough to support the rationing plan, which Environment Minister Hilary Benn calls "ahead of its time." Instead, it favors a climate-change bill that Parliament is on the verge of passing that would lay much of the necessary groundwork. But eco-eager Britons don't have to wait for Westminster. A private test program for personal cap-and-trade began recently with 1,000 volunteers keeping tabs of their gasoline use.
It would cost a country like Britain billions of dollars a year to run a personal cap-and-trade system nationwide, but set that aside. War-time-like energy rations are a clear illustration of the extent to which environmentalists hope to control every aspect of modern life. Do you really want to blow much of your annual "ration" on that long carbon-spewing jet flight to Florida, or should you swap that summer AC for weekend drives in the country?
The global warmists want you to sacrifice for their cause. And the duration of their war on carbon will make the decade-and-a-half of British rationing during and after World War II seem like a fleeting moment. The pending climate-change bill calls for a 60% cut in carbon emissions from their 1990 levels by 2050. Once 2050 rolls around, who exactly will declare the end of hostilities?
The prospect of personal CO2 rations should debunk the idea that the cost of curbing carbon emissions would fall on the owners of dirty old factories. That notion was always a green herring: Like corporate taxes, the business costs of carbon reduction will be passed on to consumers. In that sense, we should be grateful to the Brits for showing us where this anticarbon crusade really ends up.

Ray of Sunshine Emerges In Sagging IPO Market

Alternative Energy Bolsters Hopes For New Offerings
By LYNN COWANJuly 7, 2008;

Even though this summer is expected to be a slow season for new stock offerings, market watchers are already daydreaming about the kinds of deals they would like to see in the wake of Energy Recovery Inc.'s successful debut last week.
The 16% pop by the initial public offering of Energy Recovery, which makes energy-saving devices for water-desalination plants, ended a two-month streak of eight IPOs that didn't gain on their first days of trading.
Noble Environmental Power
An IPO to watch? Wind-farm firm Noble Environmental Power.
While one strong IPO doesn't a trend make, it does have analysts considering which stocks could weather uncertain market conditions like Energy Recovery did -- it rose on the same day the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit bear-market territory.
"Alternative energy plays will continue to attract the attention of investors," says Ben Holmes, publisher of research site Morningnotes.com. "Energy Recovery could be the torchrunner for this industry."
There are just a few alternative-energy IPOs in the U.S. pipeline, according to data from Dealogic, but Mr. Holmes and others said that Energy Recovery could spur more "green" companies to go public.
Linda Killian, portfolio manager of Renaissance Capital LLC's IPO Plus Aftermarket Fund, said deals to watch include wind-farm company Noble Environmental Power Inc.; GT Solar International Inc., which makes equipment to produce the raw materials for solar cells; and Global Energy Inc., which is developing synthetic-gas facilities. However, she warns that investors shouldn't be expecting the kind of buzz that surrounded the largest IPO this year -- Visa Inc.
"In terms of an all-weather deal that would also be well known to people, there's nothing on the calendar like another Visa," says Ms. Killian.
Outside the alternative-energy market, satellite-imagery company DigitalGlobe Inc., website-hosting firm Rackspace Inc. and online college Grand Canyon Education Inc. look promising, says Scott Sweet, managing director of research firm IPOBoutique.com. But that batch will require a better stock market to debut, he says.
"Once the market stabilizes and we don't have these wild gyrations on a daily basis, there's a strong pipeline that could open up in the mid-third to fourth quarter of this year," says Mr. Sweet.
Investment bankers expect the IPO market to be slow at least through Labor Day, but think offerings that share some of the same traits as Energy Recovery will work.
"We need to focus on the basics of what IPOs are about, which is real growth with a strong competitive advantage, as well as good management teams," says John Chirico, co-head of capital-markets origination for the Americas at Citigroup Inc., a lead manager on Energy Recovery's offering.
One offering that hasn't even filed a prospectus is creating some early interest: Russian Internet search engine Yandex, which is rumored to be considering a fall debut in the U.S.
"People are calling me about it already," says Sal Morreale, who tracks IPOs for Cantor Fitzgerald LP. "There hasn't been much to hang your hat on in this market, so this is one to watch."
There also haven't been many tech stocks from Russia, and Yandex is a market leader there, says Tom Blackwell, who heads the Moscow office of PBN Co., an emerging-markets consultant.
"With Google at the back of people's minds, and looking at potential growth in Russia in coming years -- that will be enough to push people toward it," says Mr. Blackwell.
Write to Lynn Cowan at lynn.cowan@dowjones.com

High Energy Prices Drive Innovation


The leaders of the G-8 and of major developing countries will discuss how to respond to the twin challenges of energy security and climate change tomorrow. The first instinct of most leaders will likely be to propose new regulations. Yet market forces may already be solving these problems, as high oil prices drive a shift away from the polluting, petroleum-fueled internal combustion engine to cleaner forms of transportation.
That's a change worth cheering, even if oil prices are painful in the meantime. Oil, a resource that Venezuelan OPEC founder Juan Pablo Perez Alfonzo dubbed the "devil's excrement," figures at the center of the world's most nettlesome economic, environmental and foreign policy conundrums. Oil is the United States' principal transportation fuel, and the source of a third of the country's greenhouse gas emissions. Other major countries are similarly dependent on oil for transportation. As prices have risen, worries about energy security and long-term climate effects have reached a fever pitch.
The 2008 Toyota Prius
History teaches that innovation directed by markets can solve problems such as these. In New York at the end of the 19th century, horses were the main form of transport -- and a major source of pollution. As many as many as 200,000 horses each produced 15 to 35 pounds of manure per day. Manure piles along the roads and in stables produced vast numbers of flies, an important vector for infectious diseases such as typhoid fever. Horses became increasingly expensive, thanks to rising prices for hay, oats and the urban land required for stables.
Initially the automobile, whether powered by gasoline, steam or electricity, wasn't much competition for the horse, except as a plaything of the rich. Then, around the turn of the century, a series of innovations involving the internal combustion engine and manufacturing (mass production, assembly lines and interchangeable parts) improved performance, reliability and costs. As car prices fell, the horse, the manure and the "typhus fly" were done for.
The same thing may be happening today. This March, for instance, American entrepreneur Elon Musk started production of his electric sports car, the Tesla. This car isn't just a fancy golf cart -- it accelerates from 0 to 60 miles per hour in four seconds, tops out at 125 mph, and has a range of 220 miles. The $110,000 price tag limits the Tesla to the wealthy, but mass production models are in the works. General Motors has committed itself to rolling out its electronic vehicle, the Volt, by 2010. Toyota plans a successor to its popular Prius hybrid.
Recent cost comparisons by Deutsche Bank's auto analysts suggest electric cars will be cheaper to operate than conventional vehicles. Fuel costs per mile for gasoline-fueled cars are $0.27 in Germany, $0.24 in Britain, $0.17 in Brazil and $0.11 in the U.S., with differences driven by local fuel taxes. For electric vehicles, the cost per mile is a mere $0.02. If one adds in the cost of a battery amortized over the life of the car, the cost is still only $0.10. Batteries will be expensive, at least in early years, but electric cars won't need costly engines or complex transmissions like today's autos. With few moving parts, reliability will increase.
Cost differentials like those could drive a quick transition to energy-efficient forms of transportation. There would surely be failures along the way -- even Henry Ford had a couple of flops and an encounter with bankruptcy before making it big with his "car for the great multitude" -- the Model T. And it would take a while to replace the existing transportation fleet made up of cars that last 15 years.
Nonetheless, incremental effects on oil demand could be powerful. Developed countries would grow less dependent on oil producers, and transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions could ease (even coal-fired power plants are better than millions of gasoline-powered autos). As costs fall, electric vehicles could be adopted in developing countries, amplifying energy security and climate benefits.
Such a transition would reduce the world's dependence on regimes run by thugs and theocrats. More than 80% of proven reserves are controlled by national oil companies and Russian firms, which don't operate like normal profit-maximizing businesses. (Witness Russian threats to turn off gas supplies to Ukraine and Eastern Europe.) High oil prices have corrupted countries with weak institutions and reinforced misbehavior of international miscreants such as Iran and Venezuela.
Regulation and taxes can of course shape market incentives. But regulation comes with unintended consequences -- the more complex the regulation (think cap-and-trade), the more scope for undesired consequences. High oil prices, as unpleasant as they are, are making a lot of alternative energy and transportation technologies look attractive. The petroleum-powered auto has provided affordable independence to millions for a century, but has brought its own problems. Innovation and markets could well send the internal combustion engine and its oil-related worries the way of the horse and buggy.
Mr. Hunter, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, served as a senior director at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, where he was responsible for international economics.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.

Leave Your Carbon Footprint at the Door

Japanese Model Home Touts Eco-Gadgets for G-8 Summit; Air-Washing the Laundry
By LISA THOMASJuly 8, 2008;

As leaders of the world's most powerful nations discuss climate change at the Group of Eight summit in northern Japan, Japan's big tech companies are displaying some of their most cutting-edge solutions in a nearby "zero emissions house."
The single-story, 2,152-square-foot house generates all the energy required for a family of four, therefore eliminating carbon-dioxide emissions, according to the Japanese government. Products inside, many already on sale in Japan, include a washer that requires no water and an air conditioner that senses where people are in a room and automatically sends cool air in their direction rather than cooling empty space. Yet the eco-friendly products also carry a steeper price tag than traditional appliances.
The house uses a wind-turbine generator and a photovoltaic generation system, which directly converts light into electricity, to produce about 15 kilowatts of energy a day, nearly five times the amount used by a regular household. The government has presented the house as one of its contributions toward helping the world cut greenhouse emissions in half by 2050.
The zero-emissions house is an attempt by Japan's big tech companies to showcase their recent and growing focus on environmental technologies as a future area of growth.
Sanyo Electric
This washing machine made by Sanyo Electric Co. uses air to clean clothes instead of water.
The waterless washer is Sanyo Electric Co.'s latest Aqua washer/dryer, a three-in-one machine that uses high-powered air, or ozone, to wash clothes without a single drop of water. The process of "ozonation" -- which disinfects bacteria on contact -- can air-wash clothes, removing about 80% of biodegradable stains without using any water at all, says Ryo Hagiwara, Sanyo's spokesman.
The company says a full-cycle of air-wash uses about twice as much electricity as a regular wash, but only one-fifth the total energy of a comparable full wash and dry -- in part because the air wash doesn't need a drying system.
The Aqua washer also has a regular wash setting that can purify and recycle water that had been used for a bath, thus reducing the amount of fresh water required by the machine to a mere half-bucket.
The machine is available only in Japan and Taiwan, but the company says it hopes to make inroads eventually in the U.S. and Europe. Sanyo's Aqua washer costs 228,000 yen ($2,135) or about 80% more than an equivalent washer/dryer on the Japanese market.
Human-Sensing AC
The air conditioner is the new, human-sensing air-conditioner by Mitsubishi Electric Corp., which detects a person's motion and location using heat sensors. The machine, which is available only in Japan, then emits air waves specifically targeting the people. That can save up to 50% in energy use, the company says. Still, the air conditioner, which is built into a wall, costs a lofty 200,000 yen ($1,873), or about a third more than conventional air conditioners.
Sharp Corp.
A solar-powered TV made by Sharp Corp. is both thin and efficient, consuming half the energy of current models.
There's also a low-energy television set. Sharp Corp., a leading solar-panel producer, is showing one of the world's thinnest liquid-crystal-display TVs, with a thickness of about three-fourths of an inch. The set, not yet on sale, consumes only half the energy of existing models, the company says.
Sharp is also showing a solar-energy array whose solar cells can be made semitransparent, so they can be put into a window.
Some ideas are simple. Sekisui House Ltd. is displaying a roof-top vegetation system that uses a thin film of moss grown on tile plates attached to the roof of the house.
The housing company says the moss, which can be fitted alongside solar panels on the rooftop, can lower the temperature inside the house by one degree Celsius, helping reduce air-conditioning use. The company plans to start sales in Japan soon.
Seeking Dominance
Squeezed both by low-cost competitors from China and Taiwan and innovative companies like Apple Inc., the Japanese companies that dominated the global electronics industry for decades have been seeking ways to play up their technological manufacturing strengths and know-how to stay ahead.
What's more, competition is fierce as rivals jump onto the environment-friendly technology bandwagon. Just last year, Sharp lost its No. 1 position to Germany's Q-Cell AG in global market share of solar panels.
Japan's model home goes one step beyond previous zero-emissions homes by providing a fully furnished home using cutting-edge household appliances.
Last year, the British government presented a carbon-free home that beefed up heat insulation by using triple-glazed windows, solar panels and low-energy lighting, among other things.
Write to Lisa Thomas at lisa.thomas@wsj.com

Tanti Group unit forms venture to invest in Chinese wind farms


SINGAPORE -- Bahrain-based investment bank Arcapita Bank BSC formed a joint venture with Singapore-based Colossus Holdings, a unit of India's Tanti Group, to invest $2 billion to develop wind farms in China.
The partners signed a definitive purchase agreement to acquire Honiton Energy Holdings PLC, a Chinese wind-energy generation company, with an eye toward developing a 1,650-megawatt portfolio of wind farms in the Inner Mongolia region of China, Arcapita said.
Tanti Group owns Suzlon Energy Ltd., the world's fifth-largest wind-turbine manufacturer by sales. Suzlon, which has expanded rapidly since its launch in 1995, has been moving to improve its technology through the purchase of REpower Systems AG, one of Germany's largest wind-turbine manufacturers. REpower's technology could boost Suzlon's product line and give it access to larger offshore wind technology. The US$1.8 billion deal has been in the works since last year.
Write to P.R. Venkat at venkat.pr@dowjones.com

The $100 tank becomes a reality for U.S. motorists

By Christopher Maag
Published: July 7, 2008

With prices high and rising, a new financial milestone has arrived in the United States: the $100 tank of gasoline.
Bryan Carisone, a heating and air-conditioning contractor in Raritan, New Jersey, "absolutely loves" his new GMC Denali XL, an extra-large sport utility vehicle with televisions built into the leather seats. But in June, one week after he bought it, he pulled into a station on a near-empty tank and watched the total climb higher and higher - to $109.
"It just about killed me," Carisone said.
For decades, the $100 barrel stood as a hypothetical outlier in doom-and-gloom conversations about future oil prices. And nobody could even imagine a U.S. family paying $100 to fill the tank.
But the future is here. Oil passed $100 a barrel in January and hit $145 a barrel last week before retreating. Gasoline prices in the United States surpassed $4 a gallon, or $1.06 a liter, on June 8, stalled for a while, and have been rising again in recent days, setting a record Saturday.

By late spring, owners of pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles with 30-gallon tanks, like the Cadillac Escalade ESV and Chevrolet Suburban, started paying $100 or more to fill a near-empty tank. As gasoline prices continue to rise - the U.S. average stood at about $4.10 a gallon Saturday - membership in the triple-digit club is growing. Now, even not-so-gargantuan Toyota Land Cruisers and GMC Yukons can cost $100 to fill up in the United States.
Data on exactly how often people in the United States pay $100 for a tank of gasoline are scarce, given price variations from market to market and day to day.
But during the first five months of 2008, about 11 percent of U.S. drivers said they bought 24 gallons or more at their last fill up, according to a survey of 81,000 drivers by the NPD Group, a market research firm - which at today's prices would place many of them at or around $100.
For people who love their big vehicles, the pain is acute.
Members of the Chevy Avalanche Fan Club of North America prize the Avalanche, a large sport utility vehicle, for its versatility, including a rear cab wall that slides forward for a larger pickup bed or backward for more passenger room.
But the Avalanche also has a 31-gallon tank, which would cost $127 to fill at Saturday's U.S. average price. Even the truck's most dedicated fans find that a tough bill to swallow. David Obelcz, who founded the club in 2002 and is still a member of the board, sold his Avalanche because he could not afford gasoline for it.
Thirty members of the fan club's Arizona chapter used to attend off-roading and other events three times a month. But now that Avalanche owners pay more than $100 a tank, the club is lucky to attract 10 members once every two months, said Eric Tolliver, a leader of the chapter.
"Everybody's trying to save money on gas, so now we mostly chat online instead of driving," Tolliver said.
Eric Laugen, a firefighter in Seattle, is administrator of the Chevy Avalanche Fan Club of North America. For a trip to Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, he wanted to drive his truck because it has enough room for his fishing and camera gear, as well as space in the back to sleep.
He rode his motorcycle instead. That meant pitching a tent every night, and no fishing.
"Motorcycle touring is a pain," said Laugen, talking on his cellphone from a park in Alaska. "But then I looked at how much gas would cost in the Avalanche. It just doesn't make sense anymore."
Hummer clubs are suffering, too. In Nebraska, Ric Hines of the Omaha Hummer Owner Group - known as Omahog - stopped doing off-road trips this summer and started riding his recumbent bicycle instead.
"I get to camp either way, and biking pushes me to save a few hundred dollars on gas," Hines said.
Mark Price, founder of the Illiana Hummer Club in the Chicago area, owns three Hummer H1s, which get about 8 miles a gallon, or 29 liters per 100 kilometers. "A lot of our members won't travel 70 miles just to support a parade anymore," Price said. "People wait for something a little closer."
Larger families that were accustomed to the convenience of sport utility vehicles are having to cut back as well. Colleen Hammond of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, loves packing her three kids and all their soccer gear into her 2000 GMC Yukon XL.
But she hates paying $160 to fill the 38.5-gallon tank. Last month, she parked the Yukon in her driveway and borrowed her friend's Toyota Land Cruiser.
"I don't know if it gets better gas mileage, but I like her car because it costs $100 to fill it," said Hammond, 40. "I think $100 for a tank of gas is cheap now."
Steve Burtch bought a Dodge Ram last year, when gasoline cost $3.75 a gallon, because he thought gasoline prices had peaked and would start coming down. Instead, he pumped his first $100 tank in June. "I don't know how much longer I'm going to be able to keep this up," said Burtch, 43, who lives in Marion, Ohio.
It seems that plenty of other drivers in the United States are sharing his dismay. An automotive information Web site and market research firm, Edmunds.com, compiled sales data showing that in the past seven model years, Americans bought 25.4 million vehicles with tanks 24 gallons or larger - the point at which three figures for gasoline is a real possibility today. A few big trucks and sport utility vehicles have tanks exceeding 30 gallons.
But people who try to pump $100 worth of gasoline often find that they cannot, since most pumps in the United States that take credit cards shut off at $75 to prevent someone with insufficient funds or a stolen credit card from running off with gasoline. In addition, some older pumps still are not capable of registering triple-digit bills.
Many consumers whose tanks would easily swallow $100 worth of gasoline refuse to pump that much at once, just to avoid the trauma.
"Usually I don't let it get real empty so that I don't have to see that $100 on the pump," said Bob Hammond of Chesterland, Ohio, who drives an Avalanche.
Gary Chamberlain always pays cash for gasoline, so the pump kept right on spinning two weeks ago when he made his first triple-digit fill-up of his Ford conversion van.
"The bill was $104.98, which was a real shock," said Chamberlain of Marion, Ohio. "I never thought I'd see the day."

Johnson drops pollution battle against Porsche

Matthew Taylor
The Guardian,
Tuesday July 8, 2008

London mayor Boris Johnson is to pay about £400,000 to Porsche after agreeing to scrap a plan to levy a £25 charge on the most polluting vehicles in the capital, it emerged last night.
The luxury sports car specialist had begun a legal challenge to the proposal, put forward by the former mayor, Ken Livingstone, earlier this year.
Yesterday Johnson withdrew the proposal, and a court ruled that the Greater London Authority should pay Porsche's legal costs. The company says that it will give the money to Skidz - a charity which offers youngsters training in mechanical skills and maintenance.
Last night Jenny Jones, Green party assembly member, said she was appalled by the decision. "This is a mayor who is telling us he wants to see value for money, and to account for every penny, and here he is paying one of the richest car companies in the world hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money."
A spokesman for Johnson said the mayor was required to cover Porsche's legal fees after agreeing not to contest its original challenge, adding it was the "most cost effective way" to end the scheme.
Johnson said he was pleased Porsche had decided to give the money to charity. "[This] is a generous decision and I am delighted that Skidz will use the money to offer training for young people in the capital," he said. However, Jones said this was unacceptable: "People may, quite understandably, want to see their money spent on things that they voted for."
In February Porsche announced it would take Livingstone to court over charging drivers of the most polluting types of vehicles £25 each time they entered central London. The German firm argued that the rise, due to come into force in October, was "unfair and disproportionate". Throughout his mayoral campaign Johnson said he would scrap the CO2 charge, which he said would hit families and small businesses.

Go-ahead for more biofuels

David Adam and Alok Jha
The Guardian,
Tuesday July 8, 2008

Britain will continue to expand the use of biofuels in petrol and diesel for transport, despite an independent review that found that the fuels can drive up food prices and do little to combat global warming.
Ruth Kelly, the transport minister, said yesterday that Britain needed to press ahead with biofuels as the technology could still prove beneficial, but their introduction would be slowed down. "I believe it is right to adopt a more cautious approach until the evidence is clearer about the wider environmental and social effects of biofuels," she said.
The move follows the publication of a review of the environmental and social impact of biofuels by Ed Gallagher, head of the Renewable Fuels Agency. The report recommended that more effective controls needed to be in place to prevent an inadvertent rise in emissions if, for example, forests are cleared to make way for biofuels. Food prices can also rise as competition for land increases.
The report said that if left unchecked, current targets for biofuel production could cause a global rise in greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in poverty by 2020.

UK biofuel rethink draws criticism

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: July 7 2008 22:14

A government rethink over biofuels regulation, less than three months after its introduction, alienated both the fledgling biofuels industry and green campaigners on Monday.
In his long-awaited review of the sector, Ed Gallagher concluded that biofuels should not be abandoned but that the rate of adoption proposed by the government should slow.

Biofuels companies and farmers attacked ministers for changing their minds so soon; the renewable transport fuel obligation (RTFO), which mandates that 2.5 per cent of the UK’s transport fuels must come from biofuels this year, rising to 5 per cent by 2010, came into force in mid-April after three years of consultation. Green campaigners, however, castigated the review for not going far enough.
If Prof Gallagher’s proposals are accepted by the government – and the signs are that they will be – the 5 per cent target will not come into force until 2013-14, and it will be made dependent on the industry proving its green credentials.
His review also recommended that a separate target be set for “second generation” biofuels, made from waste products such as straw.
Graham Hilton, of the Environmental Industries Commission, a trade body, said changes to the RTFO would create uncertainty when long-term investment in the sector was needed.
The review found that biofuels would contribute about 15 per cent to rises in the cost of grain in Europe by 2020, compared with 2006 prices, if current biofuels targets were followed through. The US would suffer similar price rises, although developing countries would see a smaller increase and the price of other staple crops such as rice would be unaffected.
Only about 1 per cent of the world’s crop land is given over to biofuel production at present, and the review found it was probable there was enough agricultural land available in the world to grow food and fuels at least until 2020.
The review also found, however, that the price of vegetable oils and oilseed was vulnerable to competition from biofuels, and would rise by as much as 70 per cent in the US by 2020, compared with 2006 prices, if biofuels targets were met.
Additional reporting by Sanjay Odedra
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Turning down the fridges and switching off the lights

By Sarah Murray
Published: July 8 2008 00:43

When last year Tesco, the UK supermarket chain, measured the carbon footprint of its operations it correctly guessed that the lion’s share of its greenhouse gas emissions would come from the power it used in lighting its store and powering its fridges. However, it was surprised to find that refrigerant use represented 19 per cent of the total.
“We wouldn’t have come up with a number that big,” says Katherine Symonds, sustainability manager at Tesco. “And one molecule of HFC [hydro-fluorocarbon] is 3,000 times more potent than one molecule of C02 as a greenhouse gas. So that was a surprising hot spot.”
For Tesco, identifying such “hot spots” through the process of measuring its carbon footprint has been an essential part of its response to climate change and the growing pressure on the world’s natural resources.
“It’s allowed us to invest in the things that will really make an impact, such as natural refrigerants,” says Ms Symonds.
The company has set itself some ambitious goals. These include reducing the footprint of existing buildings by 50 per cent by 2020, making sure all new buildings generate, on average, 50 per cent fewer carbon dioxide emissions than a store built in 2006 and cutting emissions from the company’s fleet of vehicles by 50 per cent by 2012.
Tesco aims to cut the amount of packaging it uses by 25 per cent by 2010 – on branded products as well as Tesco own-brand – and to recycle 80 per cent of its store waste by 2009.
Renewable energy is also part of the picture for Tesco. The company has established a £1m ($2m) sustainable technology fund designed to invest in technologies that are not yet commercially viable.
Some of the investment is going into wind turbines, as well as combined heat and power systems and solar panels. The company already has a 500,000 square foot solar panel on the roof of its Californian distribution centre, for example.
“The payback period is longer than our normal business systems would allowed, so we’ve set aside this money,” explains Ms Symonds. “And we need suppliers in place to give us the technologies we’re going to need.”
With environmental systems, materials and technologies still emerging, experimentation is an important part of Tesco’s strategy. It is testing some of these in selected stores. In Shrewsbury and Wick, for example, it used a timber frame in the construction, instead of a steel one.
“We saw it had a really big impact on the embedded carbon of that store. And there are other benefits – it looks nicer and it’s more resilient in the case of fire,” says Ms Symonds. “So it’s unleashing a lot of creativity and lateral thinking.”
Perhaps most daringly, in 2007, the company announced that it would produce a carbon footprint label for all its products. The idea is that shoppers will eventually be able to compare products on their carbon emissions levels in the way they look at price or nutritional value.
Tesco has its work cut out. For calculating the carbon footprint of consumer products is an extraordinarily complex challenge, requiring examination of everything from raw materials to processing procedures, packaging and transportation.
It is hardly surprising, then, that for this particular goal, the company has set no deadline. Nevertheless, Tesco has already made some progress. About 20 products in its stores now have carbon footprint labels, including light bulbs, orange juice, potatoes and washing detergent. “The green message is sometimes confusing and conflicting – we want to make it as simple as possible, and carbon labelling is a great way of doing that,” says Ms Symonds.
The carbon-labelling project is part of the second main prong of Tesco’s sustainability strategy – helping its customers to reduce their environmental impact. “It’s all very well for us to change our light bulbs, but think of the impact if we get 30m weekly customers doing that,” says Ms Symonds. “If we can help them across a range of little decisions, then we’re really going to make a big difference overall.”
One example of this has been rewarding customers for green behaviour with Clubcard points. Encouraging the re-use of plastic bags in this way has helped save 1.6bn carrier bags since August 2006.
Tricky trade offs can emerge when pursuing environmental strategies, however. One that the food retail industry has encountered is the pressure to reduce “food miles”, cutting the distance that food has travelled. Yet the prospect of halting imports of horticultural produce from countries such as Kenya has prompted questions from development professionals and others, who point out that food exports have boosted the economies of such countries.
Tesco has responded to these questions. The company has set a target that less than 1 per cent of its produce will be air freighted, but when cuts need to be made, it says it will not make them from developing countries. “We’ve taken the view that global poverty is as big an issue as climate change,” says Ms Symonds. “And we have no intention of restricting trade with developing countries.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Green thrift

By Brian Groom
Published: July 8 2008 03:00

A silver lining may be hard to find in the economic downturn, but is there to be a green one? Conventional wisdom says concern about the environment vanishes when people cannot make ends meet. But the high fuel price is having more impact on personal behaviour than any exhortation to live a more "sustainable" life.
With a tank of petrol costing more than £50, there are fewer drivers on the roads and many are driving more slowly. Out-of-town shopping centres are worse hit than city-centre ones, with John Lewis reporting sales declines compared with last year of 24.6 per cent at Bluewater in Kent, 17.1 per cent at Brent Cross in north London and 16.4 per cent at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol.
There are other indicators of thrift-induced green behaviour. People may not like bin taxes but the middle class is embracing more sophisticated recycling. British users of Freecycle, a website that allows members to hand on unwanted products, have doubled to more than 1m in a year.
Investment in alternative energy is growing. Globally, a record £73bn at least is likely to be invested in clean technology this year, according to a report by consultants New Energy Finance for the United Nations.
So could this aid the revival of the cities - which use energy more efficiently - and help reverse migration to the countryside, suburbs and market towns? There will surely be an effect if the oil price stays high for long enough but changing a decades-long pattern of settlement and commuting will be painful.
The downturn brings problems for cities, too. Public and private funds for regeneration may dry up. The government's target of 3m new homes looks harder to achieve, whether on brownfield or greenfield sites. The high fuel price does, though, tend to vindicate planning policies that favour higher densities and urban development and discourage out-of-town shopping. And it leaves the government's plan for car-dependent "eco-towns" looking singularly ill-timed.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Food cost link causes retreat on biofuel

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: July 7 2008 21:38

The British government signalled a retreat on its biofuels targets on Monday after the publication of a report showing the fuels contributed to rises in food prices.
A review by Ed Gallagher, former chief of the Environment Agency, which could have international ramifications, recommended that the government put the brakes on its biofuels policy.

The current target is to derive 2.5 per cent of the UK’s transport fuels from biofuels this year, doubling by 2010. But Prof Gallagher said this should be slowed down, with the 2.5 per cent target left in place but raised by 0.5 percentage points a year to 2013-14.
Ruth Kelly, secretary of state for transport, signalled that the government would concede: “I agree with Professor Gallagher that we should take a precautionary approach over the next few years, until we are clearer about their wider effects.”
She stopped short of accepting the report’s recommendations on a revision to the biofuels targets, but announced to MPs a consultation on lowering the targets.
The Gallagher report found that, although there was “probably” enough land to satisfy food and fuel demands to 2020, biofuels did make a small contribution to food price rises.
Prof Gallagher also recommended that the European Union lower its proposed target of deriving 10 per cent of transport fuel from biofuels by 2020.
He will brief EU officials on his findings in the next week. The EU is still debating and approving the European Commission’s renewable energy proposals.
Biofuels industry leaders said they were “concerned” at the government’s apparent backsliding, pointing out that the target, in the form of a renewable transport fuel obligation, only came into force this year, after it was proposed in 2005.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

General Motors kicks off solar power initiative in Spain

By Richard Milne in Milan and Mark Mulligan in Madrid
Published: July 8 2008 03:00

General Motors is to build the world's largest rooftop solar power station at its largest European factory, and is considering similar projects for its other 19 plants across the continent.
The US carmaker will announce today that its Zaragoza factory in Spain, which produces about 500,000 cars a year, will be covered by 183,000 square metres of solar panels.
The investment is worth about €50m ($78.5m) and should provide the equivalent of about a quarter of the factory's power needs at peak times.
GM is working with France's Veolia Environnement and Clairvoyant Energy of the US on the 10MW project and some of the electricity generated will be sold back into the local power grid. GM is likely to make its Russian factory in St Petersburg the next to have such solar panels because of the long daylight hours and it will then evaluate whether to expand the scheme to its other 10 manufacturing and eight component factories across Europe.
The solar project comes amid huge difficulties for GM in the US market, where it is losing money and shedding jobs, meaning it is becoming more reliant on its profitable international activities in regions such as Asia, Russia and Latin America.
It also underlines GM's attempts to cast off its reputation as an environmental laggard after stopping the development of an electric car in the 1990s. It is now making the introduction of a new electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, its "number one priority" and Carl-Peter Foster, the head of GM Europe, will today say the Zaragoza project is part of GM's commitment to greater sustainability.
GM is also involved with Gazprom, the Russian energy group, in trying to set up an alternative infrastructure in Russia for low-emission cars.
In September, the Spanish government is set to ann-ounce its latest pricing regime for generation from renewable sources. Some say it could cut by as much as 30 per cent the current price support to large-scale solar generators, in a move to deter speculators.
However, the government is expected to maintain generous feed-in prices - currently worth about €0.45 per KW hour - for companies and individuals who generate electricity from solar panels on the outside of buildings.
In this way, it hopes to move electricity production from large, isolated solar parks to localised generation units. As the distance between generation source and end-users diminishes, so, too, does waste.
From 44MW of installed capacity at the end of 2005, Spain currently boasts about 800MW of photovoltaic generation, well above original government targets for this year.
Installation has already begun in Zaragoza of the 85,000 lightweight solar modules that are needed to cover more than half of the total roof area of the factory in panels.
The power station, which will be owned and operated by a joint venture comprising Veolia, Clairvoyant and the regional government of Aragon, will sell energy back to the grid equivalent to the need of 4,600 households.
That means the investment should deliver returns in eight to 10 years.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Green practices beyond the marketing

By Ross Tieman - FT
Published: July 8 2008 03:00

The printing industry plays an enigmatic role in the sustainable business agenda.
Making paper requires trees to be felled, and uses lots of energy and chlorine, while printing, historically, requires toxic chemical compounds.
Yet many of the messages that have turned climate change into a leading global concern have been delivered on printed paper.
So the selection of Pureprint, an East Sussex printing company, as Small Company of the Year in the Impact on Society section of the awards is a sign of just how much vanguard companies in the industry are shouldering their responsibilities.
The irony is that the company's forerunner, the East Sussex Press, was a successful pre-green business, founded in 1926. But in 2004 it acquired Beacon Press at Uckfield and, moving its activities on to the site, swallowed Beacon's sustainability agenda lock, stock and barrel.
Renaming the enlarged group Pureprint, it set out to build a business model centred upon the green agenda. It was a smart move because, as studies have shown, 68 per cent of its customers say their decision to buy from Pureprint was influenced by the company's green credentials.
But this is no mere cynical marketing exercise. As Pureprint has rooted itself more deeply in a sustainable agenda, it has not only reaped benefits, but delivered a wider social impact that no-one could have envisaged.
The company has made savings of more that £100,000 a year from the more efficient and environmentally-friendly use of resources, and removed harmful products from its printing processes, resulting in an impeccable health and safety record.
Since 2005 - the year after the Beacon acquisition - the company has reduced by 30 per cent the amount of electricity and by 49 per cent the amount of carbon it produces per million pages printed.
But in last year's customer satisfaction survey, Pureprint also found that 79 per cent of its 160 employees were also satisfied with their jobs, and 43 per cent had been attracted to the company because of its responsible practices. These include investing in apprenticeships for 16 to 17 year-olds, and setting out consciously to be an equal-opportunities employer.
More than half of employees say they have changed their personal behaviour with regard to the environment because of what they have learned and, even more striking, 69 per cent of customers have also changed their views on environmental issues.
And what about all that paper, and all those felled trees?
The company has increased the amount of paper sourced from Forest Stewardship Council certified sustainable forestry and the use of recycled paper. These accounted for 87 per cent of the paper it purchased during the first quarter of 2008.
Its obsession with recycling even extends to the pallets on which supplies arrive at its works. These are turned into nesting boxes for birds, bugs and bats, and distributed to local schools, customers and its staff, building bridges with the wider community, and promoting local wildlife at the same time.
Printing may remain enigmatic, but it can clearly become sustainable.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Climate change: let’s make a deal

Published: July 7 2008 19:54

President George W. Bush believes that climate change cannot be tackled effectively without the co-operation of China and India, and he is right. Yet the question of who must now take action on climate change has become hopelessly confused with the separate issue of who is responsible for previous emissions. In their discussions on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Group of Eight must cut through the confusion and reach agreement on a framework for a future deal on climate change.
China and India, both outside the G8, can rightly point out that G8 members have produced most of the carbon emissions now warming the planet’s atmosphere. The US, especially, has dragged its heels at every opportunity to make amends.
Yet fast-growing China is now the world’s largest carbon emitter. India, another stellar performer in terms of growth, is also a major polluter. What is more, countries least able to cope with climate change, such as the sub-Saharan African nations, fall into neither camp.
So far, political attempts to resolve this conundrum have been unforgivably muddled. But the basic problem is easy to state. The historical problem, the stock of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere, is largely of the G8’s making. The solution has nothing to do with the existing stock and everything to do with stemming future flows of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That is the developing world’s problem as much as the developed world’s.
To put it another way, a fair solution will reflect the G8’s historical culpability, but an effective solution will require action from developing countries, especially India and China. That is partly because of their sheer scale, and partly because their capital stock is still growing rapidly, offering the prospect of “leapfrogging” to low-carbon technology.
The shape of a future deal ought to be fairly clear. Rich countries would acknowledge their historical role and offer substantial compensation, whether in cash or investments in new technology. In exchange, developing countries would agree to bear their fair share of future abatement costs, through full participation in a carbon tax or an auction of tradable permits. This is preferable to horse-trading over national targets, and to the troubled Clean Development Mechanism, the current system for engaging developing nations.
Yet merely to sketch such a deal is to realise the strength of leadership that will be required to reach agreement. Whatever their current problems at home, it is time for the G8 leaders in Japan to deliver.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

G8 wants broad UN deal to halve emissions - draft

Reuters, Tuesday July 8 2008
By Linda Sieg and William Schomberg

TOYAKO, Japan, July 8 (Reuters) - Group of Eight negotiators have reached a tentative agreement on climate change that will be put to their leaders on Tuesday, sources familiar with the talks said, potentially resolving the stickiest issue at their summit.
A statement that goes beyond last year's G8 summit pledge to "seriously consider" carbon emissions cuts of 50 percent by 2050 is especially important for Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who has made climate change the centrepiece of the talks.
But efforts to clinch a deal have been hampered by deep differences within the G8. Details of the agreement, expected to be unveiled later on Tuesday, were not immediately available.
Senior officials from the Group of Eight rich nations met late into the night in Japan to thrash out wording that would allow President George W. Bush to put aside deep misgivings and sign on to a global goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century.
Bush is under strong pressure from Japan and Europe but says he will not back a numerical target unless big polluters including China and India agree to binding commitments to curb their carbon pollution.
The statement on climate change is also likely to highlight agreements to develop new technologies and provide funds to help poor countries limit greenhouse gas emissions. But activists were wary of prospects for real progress until a new U.S. president takes office next year.
"It's a little bit of a kabuki play," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Everyone is just waiting for the next president to see how that changes things."
Global warming ties into other big themes at the three-day meeting at a plush mountain-top hotel on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, where 21,000 police have been mobilised to protect the leaders.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who attended talks on Monday with African leaders, said the drive to reach eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the U.N. General Assembly to reduce world poverty by 2015 was being directly hampered by global warming.
He urged the G8 to send a strong political signal by setting a long-term goal of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, backed by intermediate targets that would set market forces in train to reduce energy consumption.
The G8 will set out its positions on climate change, aid to Africa, rising food prices and the global economy in a raft of statements due to be issued later on Tuesday.
Japan's Yomiuri newspaper said on Monday that the leaders' communique would highlight downside risks to the world economy and label rising food and oil prices a "serious threat".
The higher price of oil, which hit a record high of $145.85 a barrel last week, is taking a particularly heavy toll on the world's poor. A World Bank study issued last week said up to 105 million people could drop below the poverty line due to the leap in food prices, including 30 million in Africa.
"How we respond to this double jeopardy of soaring food and oil prices is a test of the global system's commitment to help the most vulnerable," World Bank President Robert Zoellick said.
"It is a test we cannot afford to fail," he told reporters.
To help cushion the blow, officials said the G8 would unveil a series of measures to help Africa, especially its farmers, and would affirm its commitment to double aid to give $50 billion extra in aid by 2010, with half to go to the world's poorest continent.
The summit wraps up on Wednesday with a Major Economies Meeting comprising the G8 and eight other big greenhouse gas-emitting countries, including India and China and Australia.

ADB plan to buy carbon credits after Kyoto cut-off

By Raphael Minder in Bangkok - FT
Published: July 8 2008 03:00

The Asian Development Bank is setting up a new climate change fund to invest in carbon credits that will be generated after 2012, the -cut-off date for the Kyoto protocol.
Most carbon trading funds do not invest in credits that will be issued after the protocol has expired, given the uncertainty about its successor. Negotiations are on-going but will not be completed until the end of next year.
The Asian lender is hoping the fund will have about $200m, enough to finance about 40 carbon reduction projects. It hopes the move will also encourage other public and private investors to invest in carbon credits that may come on stream after 2012.
"$200m is not a silver bullet to solve the climate change problem but we hope this model can be replicated by others, either development or commercial banks," said Toru Kubo, a clean energy and climate change expert at the ADB who has been involved in launching the fund.
Countries such as Norway as well asthe European Union and US states such as California have made commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2012. However, this week's Group of Eight meeting in Japan is expected to underline divergences on what international targets could be agreed beyond that date.
On arriving in Japan, George W. Bush, the US president, reaffirmed that Washington could agree to goals only if they were shared by China and India, Asia's new economic powerhouses.
Oil's rise towards $150 a barrel is already forcing Asian and other oil importers to promote renewable energy investments more aggressively, in order to cut their ballooning fuel import and subsidy costs. Some of the largest industrial companies in South Korea, the world's fifth-largest oil importer, yesterday agreed to invest Won2,790bn ($2.7bn, €1.7bn, £1.4bn) through 2012 to develop energy-saving facilities. The promise is being backed by the government, which has pledged to boost tax benefits for such investments.
Mr Kubo predicted the new Asian fund would look to finance 10-30 per cent of the total cost of about 40 projects.
The World Bank and the European Investment Bank - in partnership with four European banks - have already announced the creation of post-2012 funds but the ADB said that, unlike their pay-on-delivery ap-proach, it had opted for upfront financing to help projects get off the ground.
While projects will be selected across the AsiaPacific region, including in larger countries such as China, Mr Kubo also suggested that it would mostly benefit smaller developing nations.
"Pay-on-delivery is now the prevailing modality of projects, so that is why large countries have benefited most from the carbon credit market, because they have enough credits to raise money from commercial banks," he said. "Countries like Laos or Vietnam may not have the money to begin the project in the first place, so an upfront payment can really help."
The ADB will be trustee of the fund but is in talks with other entities, public and private, to enlarge its scope.
Its existing clean-energy funding facility, based on carbon credits until 2012, has raised about $150m.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008