Friday, 18 July 2008

Bill for Britain's nuclear clean-up increases by another £10bn

· A week after MPs criticise accounts, numbers go up· Repairing broken reactors brings cost total to £83bn
Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Friday July 18, 2008

The credibility of the nuclear industry was shaken last night after the estimated cost of cleaning up Britain's atomic waste was raised by a further £10bn.
The latest clean-up estimate from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) suggests the commonly accepted figure of £73bn should rise to £83bn. But the agency insisted that £10bn of income from generating and fuel reprocessing plants should also be taken into account.
It said the most accurate estimate of the clean-up bill over the next 130 years was £73bn, which included £10bn for the future construction of a high level waste depositary. The NDA's estimates for that project have not been revealed before.
The government agency blamed the latest rise in costs on the decision to tackle more complicated hazard problems at Sellafield along with rising inflation in the engineering sector, and a lack of income from the Thorp and Mox fuel reprocessing plants, which have been hit by a succession of problems.
The latest clean-up estimates came as a newly restarted fuel reprocessing plant was taken out of action until the end of the year and British Energy said four broken-down reactors would not be repaired on time or within budget.
But an NDA spokesman said there was good news in its annual report and accounts because the lifetime cost of running the Drigg low-level waste depositary - now under private management - had fallen by 18% and the cost of cleaning up the Dounreay site was down by 10%.
Further savings would come from placing Sellafield under private management, he said, but admitted there could be no guarantee that the clean-up bill would not rise again: "Obviously, with a civil engineering project over 130 years there will always be risks."
Last week a report from the Commons public accounts committee criticised ministers over last year's clean-up estimate and complained about the lack of certainty over the projected cost of decommissioning Britain's nuclear sites.
Greenpeace said the NDA figures were alarming. It questioned the agency's reliance on gaining £10bn of income from plants such as Thorp, which has a history of breakdowns, and pointed out that the plant had effectively been taken out of action for the rest of the year while a new evaporator was fitted.
"In just three years the estimated cost for dealing with our nuclear legacy has risen by over £20bn," said Greenpeace's senior nuclear campaigner, Ben Ayliffe. "It now stands at over £73bn and is spiralling out of control. The NDA admits that they have no idea what the final bill will be.
"They're stuck in a radioactive quagmire and as usual it's the public who will have to carry the can. It beggars belief that Gordon Brown and his nuclear stooges want to build more atomic plants when the plans for cleaning up after our existing reactors are such a drain on this country's coffers."
The latest clean-up figures came as British Energy, the UK's main nuclear power generator, admitted that the cost of bringing back on stream two key plants that had encountered problems nine months ago would be "significantly higher" than expected and would take considerably longer to fix than anticipated.
The company originally estimated that it would cost £50m to repair reactors at the Hartlepool and Heysham 1 facilities. But yesterday BE chairman Adrian Montague said a much more complex engineering solution was required and "the final costs will be significantly higher than this initial estimate".
The four broken reactors have already soaked up a million man-hours of work and while good progress has been made, British Energy said it could not be sure of bringing the units back into service until the last quarter of this calendar year. More specific details of the cost overrun would be given next month alongside first quarter earnings.
The latest difficulties to have beset British Energy were revealed by the chairman at the company's annual shareholders' meeting in Edinburgh. Montague admitted the performance of the nuclear power stations was "disappointing", with Hartlepool and Heysham's difficulties coming on top of boiler problems at Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B.
"However, these large events mask the continued improvement in what we have seen in many of our underlying operating metrics, notably the record low level of small generation losses and the strong and sustained safety and environmental performance achieved across the fleet," he said.
Turning to expectations that a new generation of atomic power plants would be constructed in the UK, British Energy said it was making prudent investments "to secure a pivotal role" in any such developments, most obviously from preparing some of its existing sites for new plant.
"We have recently held a series of public meetings with the communities around Sizewell about our proposals for a twin nuclear unit there, and we are scheduling similar meetings for our other lead sites at Hinkley Point, Dungeness and Bradwell," Montague said.
The company, whose nuclear plants generate 14% of the UK's electricity, last month rejected takeover overtures from EDF, the French nuclear power operator which is interested in British Energy primarily for the sites which could be used for its own new atomic stations. "Our dialogue is therefore continuing and a further announcement will be made in due course," the chairman said.
£73bn The NDA's figure for clean-up costs: it says £10bn will be offset by income
130 The number of years the nuclear clean-up is expected to take
14% Percentage of the UK's electricity generated by British Energy plants

Windfall tax threat turns sentiment against Drax

From The Times
July 18, 2008
Market report
Robert Lindsay

A six-month surge for Drax Group, Britain’s single-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, was choked yesterday by fears that the Government would hit the company with a windfall tax.
The owner of the giant coal-fired power station that produces 4 per cent of the country’s CO2 emissions lost 39½p to 714½p after analysts at Cazenove and JPMorgan both cautioned that the risk of tougher carbon taxes was growing. Cazenove reiterated its “underperform” advice saying that Drax, whose free carbon dioxide permits account for more than 40 per cent of its forecast earnings this year, was the generator most exposed to tougher carbon taxes.
Evolution said Drax’s recent strong run was driven by the rising oil price and if oil’s run came to an end, the company, which has benefited from relatively cheap coal and high electricity prices, would feel a disproportionate amount of pain.

Whitehall to become carbon neutral with aid of smart PCs

Allegra Stratton, political correspondent
The Guardian,
Thursday July 17, 2008

The government plans to become the first in the world to make all of its computers carbon neutral.
In a speech at the Science Museum today, Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson is to announce 18 measures that will change the habits of civil servants throughout Whitehall.
The proposals, including desktop computers that switch themselves off if they are inactive for too long, are aimed at making energy consumption from all of Whitehall's information and communication technology carbon neutral by 2012.
Watson hopes that by 2020 government technology will be carbon neutral throughout its lifetime, including manufacture and disposal. "We won't just do this by offsetting but by making serious changes to the way we do business," Watson will say.
The government is the largest buyer of information and communications technology in the UK and its IT equipment is responsible for up to a fifth of the government's carbon emissions - 460,000 tonnes a year. Watson will say: "Worldwide, computers are responsible for the same quantity of carbon emissions as the airline industry."
His proposals follow claims that the government has been falling short of its declarations that it will lead by example by reducing its carbon emissions.
This month a cross-party group of MPs said the government was "lagging far behind" in this area. In March the annual report of the government's independent watchdog, the Sustainable Development Commission, said more than half of Whitehall departments were failing to reduce their carbon emissions by enough to meet their targets.
"Turning off every desktop PC in central government for the 16 hours that fall outside the standard working day could save up to 117,500 tonnes of CO2 per year," a Cabinet Office briefing document says.
A government source told the Guardian that a centralised system would switch off computers detected as inactive.
Watson will also ask departments to remove active screensavers, which use the same amount of energy as a screen in full use. Civil servants will also be urged to ensure re-use of PCs which are discarded but are still serviceable.
John Higgins, director general of technology sector organisation Intellect, welcomed Watson's initiative. He said: "These 'quick wins' - rationalising servers and data centres - are a credible series of first steps."
The Sustainable Development Commission's report said that apart from the Ministry of Defence, which significantly reduced its emissions in 2005-06, government departments emit 22% more CO2 than they did in 1999.

Environmentalists sue EPA for cleaner water rules

The Associated Press
Published: July 17, 2008

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.: Five environmental groups sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday, claiming the federal government is violating the Clean Water Act by failing to set standards for farm and urban runoff that is polluting Florida's waterways.
The plaintiffs hope a favorable ruling would force the EPA to implement standards for every state, most of which have only vague limits on such pollution, said Earthjustice attorney David Guest.
The groups say rain sends the runoff, which includes fertilizers and animal waste, into rivers and lakes, contaminating waterways and nourishing algae blooms that poison the ecosystems.
"This is endemic throughout the United States," Guest said. "When you fertilize the water, it makes it so that only one instrument in the ecological orchestra can play. Where you used to have this vast ecological orchestra, now it's only the algae playing."
He said the runoff can also contaminate drinking water supplies and sicken or kill people.

The federal lawsuit was filed in Tallahassee by the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and the St. Johns Riverkeeper.
Guest said the algae blooms are fueled by nutrients from the runoff, which spread throughout waterways, then die and suck up all the oxygen, killing most other life.
EPA said it is reviewing the lawsuit, but noted states should develop their own guidelines.
"It's a priority for EPA to have states adopt science-based numeric standards to control nutrient pollution," EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Benjamin H. Grumbles said in an e-mail Thursday.
Florida's Department of Environmental Protection is still working to set guidelines, which are complex because the agency hasn't determined exactly how much runoff can continue without harming ecosystems, spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said.
According to the lawsuit, the EPA acknowledged 10 years ago that Florida needed to promptly develop runoff standards to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act.
The EPA noted in 1998 that "nutrient pollution is the leading cause of impairment in lakes and coastal waterways," according to the lawsuit. At the time, the agency also said the nutrients in runoff had been linked to so-called "dead zones" in the Gulf of Mexico and outbreaks of Pfiesteria, a microscopic organism that lives in estuaries and could harm humans and fish.
Congress enacted the Clean Water Act in 1972 "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation's waters."
But Guest noted that the Chesapeake Bay, for instance, has been suffering for years from toxic algae blooms caused by water pollution and runoff from development. At times, large swaths of the bay contain so little oxygen that little life remains.
"No other life can live there besides the algae," Guest said. "This is about fertilizing water, and when you fertilize water, algae goes crazy and everything else gets pushed out."

Eco-town strategy suffers fresh blow

By Daniel Thomas, Property Correspondent
Published: July 18 2008 02:42

Plans to create a network of “eco-towns” suffered another blow on Thursday after one of the landowners of a high-profile potential site near Cambridge pulled out.
The Wellcome Trust, the medical research charity, has decided not to proceed with the proposal to develop an environmentally friendly community on the Hanley Grange site, where it owns 270 acres.

The decision throws doubt on the feasibility of the Hanley Grange project and is a fresh knock to ministers’ plans to promote the development of 10 eco-towns – the first new towns for 40 years.
The 12,000-home scheme, proposed by a company called Jarrow Investments, which owns much of the remaining land and is acting for supermarket giant Tesco, has met fierce local opposition. Wellcome Trust said it had given “very careful consideration to the approach” but decided not to go ahead. It offered no further details.
Matt Bradney, a Cambridgeshire county councillor, said: “This represents a major blow to the plans for an eco-town at Hanley Grange as it reduces the land by a third.” The council opposes the project.
Nick West, project director for Hanley Grange, said: “The project team will now look at the potential options for moving forward, but no decisions have yet been made.”
Several proposed sites on a shortlist of 15 have already been withdrawn, including Marston Vale in Bedfordshire, Curborough in Staffordshire and Manby in Lincolnshire. The government plans to pick 10 towns from the shortlist.
Many of the proposed sites are on greenfield land, raising the hackles of local campaigners and many councils. Critics have also suggested the proposals are no more than traditional housing schemes with a green tag, since there is still uncertainty about what eco-towns will offer above the government’s plans for all housing to be zero-carbon by 2016.
A decision on the eco-town shortlist has been delayed until early next year.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

$10m prize to develop jet fuel alternative

Alok Jha,
Thursday July 17, 2008

The X Prize Foundation, which awards prizes encouraging innovation in everything from spaceflight to genome sequencing, is moving into green aviation with $10m on offer for the developer of an environmentally sustainable replacement for jet fuel.
The US Department of Transport (DOT) has awarded the foundation a planning grant of $500,000 through its Volpe national transportation systems centre, in a bid to kickstart innovation in alternative fuels and new technologies.
"The race to refuel American aviation is on and our hope is that the X Prize will jumpstart investment and spur innovation," said Mary Peters, secretary of the DOT.
Sarah Evans, vice-president for communications at the X Prize Foundation, said that the foundation would bring together experts in the aviation and green technology sectors, including representatives from the Federal Aviation Authority's commercial aviation alternative fuel initiative, to hammer out the exact details of the competition, with the aim of announcing final plans in summer next year.
"We hope to achieve new technological solutions in order to lower airborne pollution from air travel and to change public perceptions of what is possible in the field of alternative aviation fuels and technologies," she said.
"Clean fuels and technologies are critical to maintaining our productivity as a society and we are thrilled to receive this funding to explore options for alternative aviation fuels," said Peter Diamandis, chairman and chief executive of the X Prize Foundation.
"In working with this grant, the X Prize Foundation will utilise its comprehensive capabilities in the areas of energy and the environment, including clean fuels, renewable power, efficient homes and buildings and environmental protection."
The first $10m X Prize, for the invention of a reuseable craft that could get into sub-orbital space, was awarded in 2004 to Scaled Composites, the company led by Burt Rutan and supported by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. Rutan designed and successfully tested Space Ship One, which forms the basis for the spacecraft that will be used by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic.
Since then, three further X Prizes have been announced for genomics, lunar exploration and the design of more efficient cars.
Evans said the aim of the prizes was to draw in ideas from the widest array of innovators possible, even those working in fields where the specialties are not obviously relevant. "X Prizes are about encouraging maverick thinking, as well as motivating key opinion leaders to solve specific challenges."
Friends of the Earth's aviation campaigner Richard Dyer said: "Aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of carbon dioxide in the world. Urgent action is desperately needed to tackle it.
"New technology has a role to play in moving towards a low-carbon future – and we need to encourage innovators to come up with genuinely green solutions that cut emissions without threatening global biodiversity or food production."
He added: "But urgent government action is also needed to cut the growth in air travel and make the cost of aviation reflect its impact on climate change.
"And the US, along with other nations, must press for international aviation emissions to be included in the post-2012 international climate change agreement."

Biofuels producers hit back at Opec over oil price

Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Thursday July 17, 2008

The global biofuels sector has launched a ferocious attack on the Opec oil cartel by accusing it of deliberately "misleading" the public about who is responsible for soaring fuel prices.
An open letter to Chakib Khelil, president of Opec, from the main biofuel organisations in Europe, North America and Brazil accuses him of providing self-serving explanations by claiming that 40% of the $140-a-barrel crude price results from the intrusion of bioethanol into the market.
"Since you, as head of Opec, provide no explanation for what in our view constitutes a self-serving and misleading statement that goes counter to any independent analysis of the fuels market today, one can only conclude that Opec views competition with biofuels as a direct threat," says the letter signed by the European Bioethanol Fuel Association, the Renewable Fuels Association in the US, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association and the Brazilian sugar-cane producers of Unica.
The organisations point instead to a recent piece of research from the investment bank Merrill Lynch suggesting that biofuels push crude prices 15% lower than they otherwise would be. They note that petrol prices in Brazil have not risen in two years because of competition from sugar cane-derived ethanol.
Last month Opec warned western countries that their efforts to develop biofuels as an alternative energy source to combat climate change risked driving the price of oil "through the roof".
Abdalla el-Badri, secretary general of Opec, said the cartel was considering cutting its investment in new oil production in response to moves by the developed world to use more biofuels.
The biofuels industry says Opec members are heading for revenues of $1.2tn (£600bn) this year as a result of the "exorbitant" price of oil. "We realise that biofuels may be reducing your windfall profits," said the letter, which was published as a whole-page advert in the FT. "But, perhaps, the time for Opec to face some competition has finally arrived."

First tidal power turbine gets plugged in

Alok Jha, science correspondent,
Thursday July 17, 2008

Switched on ... the marine turbine in Strangford Lough will eventually power 1,000 homes
An underwater turbine that generates electricity from tidal streams was plugged into the UK's national grid today. It marks the first time a commercial-scale underwater turbine has fed power into the network and the start of a new source of renewable energy for the UK.
Tidal streams are seen by many as a plentiful and predictable supply of clean energy. The most conservative estimates suggest there is at least five gigawatts of power in tidal flows around the country, but there could be as much as 15GW.
The trial at Strangford Lough, in Northern Ireland, uses a device called SeaGen and generates power at 150kW. However, engineers have plans to increase power to 300kW by the end of the summer. When it is eventually running at full power SeaGen will have an output of 1,200 kW, enough for about 1,000 homes.
SeaGen was designed and built by the Bristol-based tidal energy company Marine Current Turbines (MCT), which also installed the test device at Strangford in May.
"The best way to think of it is an underwater windmill," said Martin Wright, managing director of MCT. "There are big masses of water moving on the Earth's surface as a result of the gravitational attraction of the moon. Therefore you have streams occurring where you have accelerated flow."
Tidal generators harvest the energy of these moving streams with the added advantage that the resource is, unlike wind, predictable.
The secretary of state for business, John Hutton, said: "This kind of world-first technology and innovation is key to helping the UK reduce its dependency on fossil fuels and secure its future energy supplies.
"Marine power has the potential to play an important role in helping us meet our challenging targets for a massive increase in the amount of energy generated from renewables."
The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform supported Seagen with a £5.2m grant, helping take its plans from the drawing board to the first demonstrator.
The cost of installing the marine turbines is £3m for every megawatt they eventually generate, which compares to £2.3m per megawatt for offshore wind. The costs will drop if the technology is more widely adopted.
Robin Oakley, head of Greenpeace UK's climate and energy campaign, welcomed the SeaGen trial: "Britain should be at the forefront of marine renewable energy development. Our windswept island has huge renewable resources and we should seize the opportunities to secure energy from around our coasts.
"Clean reliable tidal stream power can make a massive contribution to Britain, cutting CO2 and fuel consumption. But it also offers a chance for us to be world leaders in a new and potentially huge industry."
After SeaGen starts operating at full capacity, MCT plans to build a farm of turbines before 2011. "Our next site will be off the coast of Anglesey, the initial farm is about 10.5MW," said Wright. "The resource up there is around 350MW."
The Pentland Firth, the Channel Islands and the Severn estuary are also potential hotspots for tidal energy.
Wright said: "I hope it makes people believe that tidal power isn't 20 to 30 years away and a dream, but it is something that, if we get the right resources around it, could become a significant reality and contributor much quicker than that."

Texas commission approves largest US wind power project to get energy to urban areas

The Associated Press
Published: July 17, 2008

AUSTIN, Texas: Texas, headquarters of America's oil industry, is about to stake a fortune on wind power.
In what experts say is the biggest investment in the clean and renewable energy in U.S. history, utility officials in the state gave preliminary approval Thursday to a $4.9 billion plan to build new transmission lines to carry wind-generated electricity from gusty West Texas to urban areas like Dallas.
"People think about oil wells and football in Texas, but in 10 years they'll look back and say this was a brilliant thing to do," said Patrick Woodson, vice president of E.On Climate & Renewables North America, which has about 1,200 megawatts of wind projects already in use or on the drawing board in Texas.
Texas is already the U.S. in wind power, generating about 5,000 megawatts. But wind-energy advocates say the lack of transmission lines has kept a lot of that power from being put to use and has hindered the building of more turbines.
Supporters say Thursday's 2-1 vote by the Texas Public Utility Commission is critical to getting that energy to more people.

"We will add more wind than the 14 states following Texas combined," said PUC Commissioner Paul Hudson. "I think that's a very extraordinary achievement. Some think we haven't gone far enough, some think we've pushed too far."
Most of Texas' wind-energy production is in petroleum-producing West Texas, where nearly 4,000 wind turbines tower over oil pump jacks and capture the breeze that blows across the flat and largely barren landscape. The new plan would not directly build a slew of new turbines, but would add transmission lines capable of moving about 18,000 megawatts. One expert said that is enough to power more than 4 million Texas homes.
Supporters predict the plan will spur new wind power projects, create jobs, reduce pollution and lower energy costs. Texans pay some of the highest electric rates in the country, in part because of congested transmission lines.
Texas electric customers will bear the cost of construction over the next several years, paying about $3 or $4 more per month on their bills, according to Tom Smith, state director of the consumer group Public Citizen. But he predicted that increase would easily be offset by lower energy prices.
Smith called Texas' current transmission lines a "two-lane dirt road" compared to the "renewable energy superhighway" the plan would build.
"We have all these wind plants up and operating. What we're asking for is the superhighway to get the energy to the cities," Smith said. "This will send signals to manufacturers all across the world Texas is ready to be a world-class player in renewable energy."
The plan still needs to receive final approval later this year from the PUC. The transmission lines would not be up and running for three to five years. Who would build them and other details have yet to be worked out.
Environmentalists and landowners have launched protests against wind turbines from Cape Cod in Massachusetts to Idaho and Texas' South Padre Island, complaining that wind turbines spoil the view and threaten migrating birds.
But the turbines are already in West Texas, a sparsely populated region already pockmarked with oil drilling and exploration equipment. And this project will build only transmission lines.
PUC Commissioner Julie Caruthers Parsley was the lone dissenter, arguing the plan may add too much power for the electric grid to handle. She also worried it could delay other projects, such as construction of nuclear reactors.
The conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation said companies that build wind and solar farms should bear more of the cost of the new lines, and it warned that those power sources cannot be expected to consistently produce abundant energy.
Even with the run-up in natural gas prices, more gas plants would be a good backup "because the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow all the time," said Drew Thornley, a policy analyst for the organization.
The wind energy industry has benefited from the support of billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens, who is planning to build the world's largest wind farm on about 200,000 acres (80,938 hectares) in the Texas Panhandle. When completed, Pickens' 2,700 turbines will be capable of producing enough electricity to power 1.3 million homes.
Pickens has become an evangelist for wind power as a way to break the nation's dependence on foreign oil, launching an advertising blitz in which he warned: "I've been an oilman all my life, but this is one emergency we can't drill our way out of."
"It's a good decision," Pickens spokesman Jay Rosser said of Thursday's PUC vote. "It recognizes the important role wind in Texas will play in meeting the state's growing energy and energy stability needs."

Texas Approves Wind-Power Project

Associated Press: July 17, 2008 2:49 p.m.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas officials gave preliminary approval Thursday to the nation's largest wind-power project, a plan to build billions of dollars worth of new transmission lines to bring wind energy from gusty West Texas to urban areas.
Texas is already the national leader in wind power, and supporters say Thursday's move by the Public Utility Commission will make the Lone Star State a leader in moving energy to the urban areas that consume it.
"We will add more wind than the 14 states following Texas combined," said PUC Commissioner Paul Hudson. "I think that's a very extraordinary achievement. Some think we haven't gone far enough, some think we've pushed too far."
Environmentalist and consumer groups called the move a critical expansion of the "renewable energy superhighway," predicting it will spur wind energy projects, create jobs, reduce energy costs and reduce pollution.
Texas electric customers will bear the cost of the $4.9 billion plan over the next several years, paying about $4 more per month on their electric bills, according to Tom Smith, director of the Texas office of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. State officials, however, say those increases could be several years away, and the payments would be no different than the current system of paying for new transmission lines from power plants.
The 2-1 vote by the PUC, however, didn't commit to as large a project as some environmental groups and state lawmakers had wanted. The plan would transmit a little more than half the energy some advocated.
Texas already generates about 5,000 megawatts of wind power, more than any other state. The new plan would add transmission lines to boost capacity to about 18,000 megawatts.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas says one megawatt of power provides enough electricity for 500 to 700 average homes under normal conditions in Texas, or about 200 homes during hot weather.
"The capacity for wind generation in west and north Texas is so great that we could position ourselves in Texas to be the world leader in wind and renewable energy in the next 100 years, just as we were the world leader in oil and gas for the past 100 years," Democratic state Rep. Mark Strama said earlier this week.
Copyright © 2008 Associated Press

Gore seeks 100% green energy

By Fiona Harvey in London
Published: July 18 2008 01:34

The US should aim to generate all of its electricity from zero-carbon energy sources within a decade, Al Gore, the former vice-president, urged on Thursday.
In a speech in Washington he argued that only by making such a commitment could the US solve the pressing problems of the high oil price, the export of jobs abroad and climate change.

“Our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core of all three of these challenges – the economic, environmental and national security crises,” Mr Gore said. “We are borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet. Every bit of that’s got to change.”
Mr Gore called on the candidates in the presidential race this autumn to take up the green energy challenge: “I for one do not believe our country can withstand 10 more years of the status quo.”
Comparing such a commitment to President John F Kennedy’s pledge to put a man on the moon, Mr Gore insisted that generating all of America’s electricity from renewables was achievable. The cost of power from renewable sources, such as the sun and wind, had been rapidly reduced in recent years, and the high price of fossil fuels made such energy sources more competitive with conventionally produced electricity.
The US would have to keep its existing nuclear and hydroelectric plants to meet the target. Mr Gore is an investor in renewable energy technologies, through his chairmanship of Generation Investment Management, a fund management company managed by David Blood, former head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.
Since last year, he has also been a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, the Silicon Valley venture capital fund, which is seeking to make sizeable investments in renewable energy companies.
Jonathan Lash, president of the World Resources Institute, an environmental group, said: “We need to change the debate in this country from what we can’t do to what we can. America has led every major technological shift in the last 100 years, and we can lead the next one as well. The problem is not technology, it is political will.”
But critics pointed out that US citizens worried about high oil prices and the credit crunch might be less receptive to Mr Gore’s message.
Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington thinktank, said: “Mr Gore has moved a long way from the solutions recommended in An Inconvenient Truth: replace your light bulbs with compact fluorescents, buy a hybrid car, and telecommute from home.
“We couldn’t come close to [his] goal of producing all our electricity from solar, wind, and geothermal energy in 10 years without coercive, even authoritarian government.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Gore Urges Congress to Maintain Ban on Offshore Drilling

By STEPHEN POWERJuly 18, 2008

WASHINGTON -- Former Vice President Al Gore urged Congress not to overturn a federal ban on offshore drilling and complained that lawmakers are "being stampeded by lobbyists for special interests" eager to lift the moratorium.

Former Vice President Al Gore spoke about America's energy needs at in Washington.
In a speech and interview, Mr. Gore called for moving the U.S. toward "zero-carbon" electricity over a decade, and reiterated his support for a carbon tax accompanied by a "sharp reduction" in payroll taxes.
"We have to switch from carbon-intensive fuels to renewable energy," Mr. Gore said. Although some recent opinion polls have found evidence of a shift in public opinion toward favoring more domestic drilling as a response to high oil prices, Mr. Gore declined to read much into those findings.
"The larger point for me is that it has nothing to do with short-term relief from gas prices, and probably nothing to do with long-term relief," he said of calls to lift the moratorium. "You take an oil deposit right off the coast of California -- that's more likely to be sold to China."
Mr. Gore's comments come amid signs that climate change is sliding down Washington's priority list, as lawmakers have pivoted to voter concerns about high fuel prices. A bill to create a system for capping emissions of greenhouse gases in the U.S. economy was shelved in the Senate in June. A growing number of Democratic lawmakers also have said publicly in recent weeks that they could support a relaxation of the current drilling ban as a response to high oil and natural-gas prices.
Separately, Democratic leaders are under pressure from environmentalists to curb the U.S. consumption of fossil fuels, amid new warnings about climate change's effects. A government report published on Thursday said climate change "is very likely to accentuate the disparities already evident in the American health-care system," with expected health effects -- such as heat-related illnesses and the spread of certain diseases -- likely to fall disproportionately on the poor, elderly, disabled and uninsured.
Mr. Gore called for a huge upgrade of the nation's electric grid, while "helping our struggling auto giants" switch to manufacturing plug-in electric cars. The Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan group Mr. Gore leads, put the cost of his plan to switch to an entirely carbon-free electricity supply at approximately $1.5 trillion to $3 trillion, and said most of that investment could come from private sources with the right mix of government policies.
Write to Stephen Power at