Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Landfill taxes push councils to incinerators

More than 30 waste incinerators are set to be built around the country as councils seek to avoid substantial hikes in landfill taxes, it has been claimed.

By Rosa Prince, Political CorrespondentLast Updated: 11:51PM BST 21 Jul 2008

Under European Union rules, landfill charges are set to rise from £32 to £48 a tonne by 2010, and local authorities have struggled to increase recycling rates to levels which would substantially reduce the rubbish mountain.
Many are now said to be considering incineration as a means of replacing expensive and environmentally damaging landfill sights.
According to Channel 4 News, 30 sites have been selected already, as councils spend Government-allotted waste management funds on long-term contracts with multinational waste companies.
Based on information from local campaign groups, the Environment Agency, and the Chartered Institute of Waste Management a list has been drawn up showing that incinerators are planned across the UK, from St Dennis, Cornwall to Elgin in Morayshire, Scotland.
Other sites in England are said to include Capel, near Dorking, Surrey, Newhaven in East Sussex, a site near Beaconsfield, in Buckinghamshire and Peterborough.
Also on the list are Sterwartby, in Bedfordshire, Rainworth in Nottinghamshire, Exeter, Plymouth and Shrewsbury, Shropshire, as well as Belvedere in Bexley, south east London.
In Wales, an incinerator is reported to be earmarked for Cardiff, while a total of four plants are set for Scotland, including Dumfries, Dunbar and Perth.
At present, there are 23 existing incinerators in the UK, meaning there are likely to be more than 50 by the next decade.
At least 12 of the 30 are said to be already under construction or in the planning or procurement stage. A decade ago, there were only 15 incinerators in the whole of the country.
Environmental campaigners have complained that incinerators cause pollution and pose a potential health hazard, while residents groups have raised concerns that changes to the planning laws will result in objections to proposed incinerators being ignored.
England and Wales produce about 435 million tonnes of waste a year, of which just 20 per cent is sent for recycling - one of the lowest rates in Europe.
A spokesman for the Department for the Environment said she did not "recognise" the 30 figure, but added that the siting of incinerators was a matter for local councils as long as the environmental impact of new plants was taken into consideration.
She added: "We do not believe that incineration should be given priority over recycling and composting."

Will the Green New Deal deliver?

Today's proposals by finance, energy and environment experts could bring long-term benefits – provided politicians take them to heart

Stephen Hale
Monday July 21, 2008

The "Green New Deal" is a fantastic catchphrase. A new slogan can take even an old idea a long way, as the proponents of Nudge have proved recently. How important is this one?
The Green New Deal team deserve praise for sketching out a solution to the triple whammy of the downturn, rising oil prices and climate change. As they argue, our failure to break our oil addiction is a significant cause of the current downturn. There is no long-term route out of this unless we break the habit, and take radical action on climate change.
Their report is targeted at politicians. But climate campaigners must also take it to heart. We (Green Alliance included) worry too much about which political party would take up our cause, and who might win the next election. The impact of the economic downturn is already greater than anything that will follow the next election. We need new proposals and alliances that will succeed in this new world.
The proposals are another blow to the doomsayers. Two months ago, the May local elections and the economic downturn were being widely hailed as the end of the environment as a public and political priority. But neither businesses, politicians or the public see it this way. There was a decline in concern for the environment in the recession of the 1990s. But today is different. The high oil price creates some synergies between environmental and economic action, and public awareness and commitment is far greater now than it was then.
The prime minister has been far too slow to see this, though his rhetoric has improved since he returned empty-handed from a trip to Jeddah pleading for higher oil production. The New Deal team want him to commit to their proposals in the autumn. I support many of them, such as decentralised energy, and funding for developing countries to adapt to climate change. I hope the prime minister takes them up on these.
But for me the prime minister must go further. The Green New Deal package would deliver in the long-term, but increase household and industry bills in the meantime. That could well provoke a public backlash that would unravel these commitments. So we need the prime minister to take actions that benefit people much more quickly. Otherwise (to paraphrase Keynes) in the long-run all these climate change policies could be dead.
That means radical action that delivers quickly, above all on efficiency. The high and rising cost of fuel and energy make efficiency a critical part of a politically sustainable strategy. The high oil price should be the springboard for an efficiency revolution – in households, in business and in all forms of transport. It would yield rapid and high returns for those who made it. Governments should lead the way. The proposed "carbon army" should be put to work on this, and fast.
The public are feeling the pinch, and need help now to play their part in this transition. People are driving less – but they need better alternatives. People want to make their homes more energy efficient – but need a quick and attractive way to do it.
The Green New Deal team is onto something very important. The policies need work to make them benefit the economy, people and the environment. But they must also work politically. That means we need action that delivers benefits quickly to a public that is already hurting. Green Alliance will play our part in the struggle to find a green route out of the impending recession.
Stephen Hale is the director of Green Alliance, an environmental thinktank that aims to place environmental solutions at the heart of British politics.

Energy-sufficient homes for sale

Alok Jha in Barcelona
The Guardian,
Tuesday July 22, 2008

"Smart" homes that will be virtually self-sufficient in energy are to be made commercially available in Barcelona and Paris next year.
As well as tried and tested technologies such as wind turbines and solar panels, the homes will use energy management systems that can, for example, use sensors to work out where people are in a house and adjust heating and lighting accordingly.
The project will be coordinated by the Smart Energy Home consortium, a collaboration of university researchers, chemical companies and construction companies. The group also has plans to build smart homes in Warsaw and Berlin, and a UK project is being discussed.
Rudiger Iden of BASF, one of the companies in the consortium, outlined the plans at the Euroscience Open Forum in Barcelona on Sunday. In Paris there will be an apartment block containing 200 dwellings, and in Barcelona about 40 flats.
Among the more advanced ideas, the buildings will use phase-change materials to even out temperatures. These wax-like materials are embedded in the walls, storing heat when temperatures are high by melting, and releasing the trapped heat back into the house when external temperatures drop.
The first phase of the project will renovate older apartment blocks.

Self sufficient 'smart homes' promised by 2010

Alok Jha, science correspondent in Barcelona
Monday July 21, 2008

The world's first commercially available "smart" homes, which will be virtually self-sufficient in energy terms by using cutting-edge efficiency and microgeneration technologies, will be available by the end of 2009 for rent in Barcelona and Paris, developers told a conference in Spain yesterday.
The Smart Energy Home (SEH) consortium, a collaboration of university researchers, chemical and construction companies, hope that the homes will demonstrate the potential for cutting down personal energy use in the home, with plans for further homes in Warsaw and Berlin and ongoing discussions about a project in the UK.
Rudiger Iden of BASF, one of the companies in the consortium, outlined plans for the demonstration homes at the Euroscience Open Forum meeting in Barcelona. In Paris there will be an apartment block containing 200 dwellings, while in Barcelona, the SEH consortium will build around 40 flats.
On average, a family expends around 3,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year and around 70% of that is used up in and around our homes. Iden said that SEH was aimed at reducing the environmental impact of this proportion virtually to zero.
Some of the technologies slated for use in the homes are tried and tested, such as using renewable energy sources to generate electricity - either wind turbines or solar PV panels and concentrators on the roof - and better thermal wall insulation. The SEH homes could also use smart energy-management systems that can, for example, use sensors to work out where there are people in a house and turn heating and lighting on and off depending on where it is needed.
Other ideas will be more advanced, such as the use of phase-change materials to even out fluctuations in temperature inside a building. These wax-like materials are embedded into the walls, storing heat when temperatures are high by melting. When external temperatures drop, the materials solidify and release the trapped heat back into the house. To even out seasonal changes in temperature, homes could collect excess energy during summer and use it to freeze a block of water in their basement. When the building next needs cooling, the water can be melted.
Next-generation energy-efficient appliances and organic LED lights will also be used in the SEH demonstration projects to cut primary energy use.
Iden said that previous attempts to use smart technologies in homes had foundered because of the way they had been designed so far - each technology in isolation from the others. "Innovative homes are currently substantially more expensive than standard houses due to low production volume of the products and lack of easy design solutions."
He also pointed to the lack of inspiring or visible examples of innovative homes across the world.
By contrast, the SEH consortium will design its homes as a whole unit. The first phase of their project will renovate older apartment blocks. "The lowest hanging fruit, the easiest money to be made is in existing buildings," said Laszlo Bax, director of the SEH project. "Of course, in a new build you can go further and have a better result in the end."
Eventually the consortium plans to build zero-emission homes from scratch and then "active houses" which can provide energy for themselves and sell excess into the public grid.
SEH was set up by an EU-funded project called SusChem aimed at introducing new sustainable technologies into building, will be formally launched in the coming weeks when the building contracts for the first apartment blocks are signed.
Bax said the consortium was set up to show that smart homes could be built using available technology and that people should be able to buy into the homes without having to choose between environmental sustainability and modern living. "The concept is not just sustainable from the point of view that's its good for the planet to have zero-emission homes but we'd also like to combine it with something that is seductive or persuasive for people who need to buy into such a home."
He added: "Trying to avoid having to make a choice of 'do I want to be sustainable or something that's nice for myself', we'd like the choice to be the same choice of choosing a smart energy home which is being good to the planet while being good to yourself."

Capital forces drivers to pay up or go green

Published Date: 22 July 2008
By Michael Howie

THOUSANDS of motorists in Scotland's capital will have to pay up to £240 a year more to park their cars under radical plans aimed at encouraging people to switch to greener vehicles, The Scotsman can reveal.
Owners of the biggest gas-guzzlers in central Edinburgh will see their annual parking permit fee increase from £160 to £320 under the proposed scheme, which will also see owners of "second" vehicles pay up to £400 – 150 per cent more than current charges.The charges would be based on a vehicle's emissions for cars registered after 2001. Older cars will be graded according to engine size. Fees will also vary for cars parked in the city's central zones and those in the outer areas.The owner of a Lexus IS 250 who currently pays £160 to park in the inner zones or £80 for the outer will see their charge double to £320 or £160.And a motorist who applies for a second permit to cover a Volvo C70 2.4i will see a rise of £240 in the inner zone and £120 in the outer districts.However, thousands more motorists will benefit from the proposals, with owners of the least-polluting cars seeing the cost of their permit plummet to £30 for those living in the city's central parking zones, and £15 for those in the outer zones, where permits cost £80.So the owner of an Audi A32.0 TDi parking in the centre of Edinburgh will pay £30 less and a Mini Clubman Cooper D driver, living in the centre of the capital, will see a reduction of £60.Edinburgh city council claims that the plan, which would be the first of its kind in Scotland, will financially benefit two-thirds of permit holders, with 20 per cent paying more and 14 per cent unaffected.But the plans, to be considered by councillors next week, are sure to be controversial, with many motorists struggling to deal with the high cost of fuel and already facing proposed increases in road taxes.Many families will also be hit in the pocket by a proposed 25 per cent surcharge on second permits – meaning households with several car owners are likely to suffer the most.The move is intended to encourage people to switch to less-polluting vehicles – and tackle complaints from residents who say they cannot find a space to park despite owning a permit.Robert Aldridge, the council's environment leader, told The Scotsman it was "reasonable" that motorists who own 4x4s and other big polluting vehicles should pay more.He said: "There is a national acceptance that more needs to be done to influence the vehicle choices that people make. If this is to happen, then local authorities need to play their part and take action to bring about local change."It is clear to me that, with ongoing monitoring identifying several key locations in the city where levels are causing concern, it is our responsibility to take measures designed to make city centre residents consider the impact that their vehicle choice has on our city."There are currently about 17,000 permits in Edinburgh, an estimated 3,500 of which are for "second cars".A report to be discussed by the council's transport, infrastructure and environment committee next Tuesday will state that the scheme will make relatively little difference to council revenues, with an anticipated £50,000 reduction in the £1.7 million that is generated from parking permits every year.The report signals that owners of vehicles with large engines, and which emit large amounts of , are likely to be increasingly targeted by local authorities as well as central government, where Prime Minister Gordon Brown is driving forward plans to impose swingeing road tax increases for many."(The] national acceptance that measures need to be taken ... should be seen as an indication that local authorities should also be prepared to take appropriate actions to bring about local change," the report states.Taking their cue from London scheme CONTROVERSIAL "differential charging" schemes for parking permits in London have provided the inspiration for Edinburgh's latest plan to tackle air pollution and congestion.Andrew Mackay, the author of the report that councillors will consider next week, looked at similar charging schemes in Camden, Richmond and other boroughs.Richmond was the first local authority to link the price of residents' parking permits to engine emissions, in 2006. A survey revealed 49 per cent of residents supported the idea, while 39 per cent were opposed. Two-thirds of respondents suggested the plans would make them consider buying a less-polluting vehicle.The Liberal Democrat council has since gone further, introducing plans to charge parents up to £75 a year for parking permits allowing them to drop their children off on the school run. A pilot project will start in September.The move in Edinburgh, which is governed by a Liberal Democrat/SNP coalition, follows a Lib Dem manifesto commitment before the 2007 election to consider a scheme like the one in Richmond.

British International Motor Show: Green gloss masks red shift for car industry

Last Updated: 2:05am BST 22/07/2008

In the week of the British International Motor Show, car makers are being hit by the double whammy of soaring costs and falling sales, reports Russell Hotten
Car industry chiefs gather at this week's British International Motor Show desperate to bolster consumer confidence, but knowing that in reality they face a long haul out of recession.

Cars running on alternative energies will be a big theme of the show as manufacturers unveil their products of the future. But it is today's financial turmoil, not tomorrow's greener technology, that is exercising the minds of car consumers and producers.
European car sales fell 7.9pc in June year-on-year and manufacturers are reining in production. Fiat, Italy's largest car maker, is extending summer plant closures, and Renault, France's second largest producer behind PSA Peugeot-Citroen, is scaling back production of its mid-sized Laguna hatchback.
Things are even worse in America. US car sales last month hit a 15-year low. Ford's sales were down 28pc year-on-year, and Chrysler's drop was 36pc. General Motors, still marginally above Toyota as the world's largest car maker, is cutting jobs, selling assets, and has announced that the dividend will be scrapped - the first time in 22 years GM has not paid out.
More on autos

Several major European manufacturers and tyre companies report profit figures over the next week, with analysts and investors forecasting a string of warnings about market conditions. Second-quarter numbers from Volkswagen, Europe's largest car maker, might be a ray of sunshine in the gloom, with commercial vehicles in the past three months having been particularly strong.
Elsewhere, however, there are likely to be revisions to more optimistic sales forecasts made at the start of the year. Arndt Ellinghorst, analyst at Credit Suisse, says in a research note: "Most companies are still heading for 'old world' financial targets for this year and for 2009. Since executives can't perform miracles, the unprecedented external environment will more likely lead to target revisions."
Falling sales are allied to soaring raw material costs - steel prices are up 63pc on 2007 - and investments needed to meet new CO2 emission targets. Mr Ellinghorst said: "We expect earnings revisions from Renault, BMW and potentially Michelin. But besides official profit warnings, 'soft' company outlooks will undoubtedly reflect increased macro concerns."
Even in places such as China, Asia's biggest car market, which has offset failing sales in Europe, US and Japan, times are getting tougher. China's stock of unsold new vehicles rose 50pc in the first six months of 2008. According to official figures, the unsold stock was 170,000, up from 110,000 at the end of 2007. Average new car prices fell 3pc.
Western and Japanese car makers are estimated to have invested more than $20bn in China's automotive market in recent years.
"Auto makers were too optimistic when planning their capacity expansion and didn't expect the slowdown," said Tang Jun, an analyst at Guangfa Securities, in Guangzhou. "Dealers are hit the most by rising inventory and may have to slash prices further to help with liquidity." The stock market prices of Chinese car makers, including Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation and Dongfeng, have fallen sharply in recent weeks.
It is evidence that no corner of the globe is unaffected by economic woes in the motor industry. Whatever green gloss manufacturers put on this week's motor show, it is the spilling of red ink that is more of a worry as company profits tumble.

Draughty companies seen wasting billions

Published: July 22, 2008

LONDON: Businesses are wasting 2.5 billion pounds a year in energy bills swollen by inefficiencies such as draughty windows or leaving lights and computers on, the Carbon Trust said on Tuesday.
Racing oil prices have added to the cost of wasted energy but businesses are not responding far enough according to the private, government-funded agency whose mandate is to drive cuts in UK carbon emissions and so help fight climate change.
"We're talking about money that could be saved by making quick and easy changes such as encouraging staff to turn off computers and lights, turning down the heating, or maintaining equipment properly," said Hugh Jones, solutions director at the Carbon Trust.
Oil was trading at around $130 on Monday compared with $75 at the same time last year, a doubling in prices that has driven up linked gas and electricity prices.
Businesses were starting to conserve energy more, to help them weather a global economic slowdown.

A fifth of nearly 900 surveyed senior business managers had stepped up efforts to cut carbon emissions in the past six months compared with 9 percent who said this slipped down their priorities, the Carbon Trust report said.
"Our research shows that energy efficiency measures, not job cuts or salary freezes, are the cost-cutting steps businesses are considering first during this economically challenging time," Jones said.
The Carbon Trust receives 100 million pounds in annual government funding to drive cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, leading to cuts of up to 2 million tonnes of CO2 in 2006-2007 described as "small" but "commendable" by government funding watchdog the National Audit Office.
Total UK greenhouse gas emissions were 656 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2006, down less than 0.5 percent on 2005 levels.

Carmakers need extra help to cut down on carbon emissions

By Bill Parfitt
Last Updated: 2:05am BST 22/07/2008

Britain's carmakers, which assemble 1.7m vehicles a year and employ 800,000 people, will this week commit themselves to cutting oil dependence and reducing CO2 emissions as senior executives from the global motor industry converge on London for its biannual motor show.
Few outsiders think the motor industry is leading the way in developing and bringing to market technologies to cut emissions dramatically. But the array of low-emission vehicles on show in London - featured in the first "green pavilion" - reflects heavy investment in clean technology, even at a time of unprecedented industry turmoil.
That turmoil has been characterised by rising oil prices, fragile consumer confidence, general price erosion, rising raw material costs and regulatory uncertainty.

Last week, GM reacted to the market upheaval with a plan to bolster liquidity by $15bn (£7.5bn) next year, enabling the company to continue investing in a competitive product line-up. Already, that investment has enabled GM to adopt low-carbon technologies, including biofuels - an energy source that has attracted controversy in the UK.
The controversy intensified earlier this month, when the UK government's biofuel review by Professor Ed Gallagher, chairman of the Renewable Fuels Agency, called for a slowdown in biofuel development amid fears of an adverse impact on food prices and climate change.
More on autos
GM and other carmakers are conscious of these concerns. But we believe biofuels should be embraced as one of the key strategies to meet continued global demand for cars, given that E85 - a common biofuel - can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 85pc on a "well to wheels" basis.
Biofuels will be one of the alternative sources of energy for new cars, alongside electricity and hydrogen, as the industry serves fast-growing new markets and existing ones with cleaner vehicles.
The development of such vehicles is particularly urgent given current oil prices and the rising cost of processing remaining stocks. That cost includes the potentially serious impact on the environment from continued hydrocarbon extraction, production and utilisation.
The need for alternative fuels and vehicles capable of running on them will become even more pressing as other macro-economic issues and geopolitical tensions affect oil's availability and price.
One solution to the concerns about alternatives such as biofuels, which the auto industry could endorse, is sustainability certification of all fuels, to give consumers better information to make more informed choices about the vehicles and fuels they use.
Such measures would complement the development of ultra-low emission vehicles. Even so, many of these cars will not be in showrooms overnight. So the entire industry must adopt a phased approach to cleaner technologies.
Frankly, there is no magic silver bullet to reduce CO2 from cars. Any workable strategy needs to take advantage of all available technologies, many in combination with one another.
Hence at GM, our strategy has short, medium and long-term objectives. Short-term, we aim to squeeze even more efficiency out of conventional petrol and diesel engines. Beyond that, we are rolling out many more vehicles using renewable alternative fuels such as bioethanol and biogas. In the medium term, we are focusing on extended-range electric vehicles, while our long-term focus remains hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles emitting only water vapour.
Some of those vehicles will be on show in London, including a Saab Biohybrid concept and an extended-range Vauxhall Flextreme plug-in electric vehicle.
But the car industry cannot make this journey alone. Consumers have a role to play in deciding what car to purchase and by using them responsibly. Fuel suppliers must do more to make lower-carbon fuels available. And given congestion on our roads, infrastructure providers need to focus on improving the road system.
Vitally, governments need to send the right policy signals, with a workable tax framework and regulatory models that give manufacturers credit for investing in cutting-edge, very low-carbon technologies. That requires an integrated policy framework sending complementary signals to automakers, fuel companies, infrastructure providers and consumers to reduce CO2 emissions.
To achieve the economies of scale necessary to make these technologies affordable, these policy signals need to be harmonised as much as possible across the entire EU to take advantage of a single, internal market of more than 15m vehicles annually.
This message will be reinforced at the British International Motor Show, where more low-emission vehicles will be on display than ever before. By doing so, the industry is demonstrating its determination to do its part to cut CO2. We will continue to do so. But it is time other stakeholders showed a similar, workable, commitment.
Bill Parfitt is chairman and managing director of General Motors in the UK and Ireland

MPs call for coal power stations to adopt carbon capture and storage

By Paul Eccleston
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 22/07/2008

MPs have called on the Government to get tough with coal-fired power plants. They say coal power stations should be given a deadline to adopt carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology or face closure.
By setting a limit of capturing at least 90 per cent of carbon emissions the Government would send out a strong signal to the power generation industry that it has to clean up its act.

Chimneys of coal-fired Drax power station near Selby, Yorkshire
But if it allows coal stations - a major source of CO2 emissions in the UK - to continue unabated then it is likely to miss its own carbon reduction targets.
The warnings come in a new report from the Environmental Audit Committee which slams the Government for its slow process in developing CCS which has the potential to cut emissions from coal plants by 90 per cent.
It involves the removal, capture and storage of CO2 from coal before or after it is burnt and then stored in natural geological caverns deep underground.
But the Committee claims Whitehall dithering means that a demonstration plant won't be operational much before 2015 and wide-scale deployment could be as far away as 2020.

And their report warns:
"Until CCS is developed, all existing and new coal-fired power stations will be running unabated, with all the negative environmental impact this entails.
"We cannot emphasise strongly enough that the possibility of CCS should not be used as a fig leaf to give unabated coal-fired power stations an appearance of environmental acceptability.
"This increasing acceptance of coal gives us cause for considerable concern. It is based on security and affordability rather than environmental concerns; emissions reductions through CCS are no more than a promise for the future, and a long way from being a certainty.
"We are concerned that coal is being embraced as the line of least resistance, regardless of the damaging environmental consequences.
"Although our support for the development of CCS necessarily implies an acceptance of the continuing role of coal, coal plant must be developed with extreme caution, and with due regard for its substantial environmental implications."
The select committee report claims there is a danger that the development of new coal-fired power stations could leave the UK 'locked-in' to high levels of emissions for decades to come. It says the Government must make clear that it will not permit the operation of unabated coal-fired power stations in the longer-term.
The Chairman of the Committee, Tim Yeo, said: "Carbon capture and storage has undoubted potential, but there is a real question about when it will become technologically and, equally importantly, commercially viable. We cannot afford to develop new coal-fired power stations when we have no guarantee about when they will be fitted with CCS, if at all.
"It is absolutely crucial for the Government to take a strong line on this. It must tell the industry that carbon capture and storage will be required, and that coal-fired power stations will not be permitted to operate unabated.
"By setting a deadline for power stations to meet a certain emissions standard, the development and deployment of CCS will be given a much needed push in the right direction, and the environmental damage caused by these stations will be minimised."

Coal-fired power stations will lock UK into a high-emissions future, say MPs

· Energy CO2 capture must be made mandatory, report urges · Protesters target planned plant in Kent next month
David Adam and Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Tuesday July 22, 2008

No clean-coal plant that buries carbon has yet been built to replace coal-fired power stations such as Drax in North Yorkshire. Photograph: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
The government will come under increased pressure today to ban new coal-fired power stations such as the one planned for Kingsnorth in Kent unless they are equipped to trap and store carbon pollution underground, as a committee of MPs publishes a critical report.
The environmental audit committee urges ministers to make it clear that coal power plants that do not fit carbon capture and storage (CCS) equipment will be closed down. It says the government must set a deadline, after which the operation of unabated coal-fired power stations should not be permitted.
Tim Yeo, chairman of the committee, said: "We cannot afford to develop new coal-fired power stations when we have no guarantee about when they will be fitted with CCS, if at all."
A failure to set such a deadline would make it difficult for the UK to meet carbon-reduction targets, the committee said.
The government is debating whether to allow the German-owned utility E.ON to press ahead with a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent. The company wants to proceed with the scheme, promising to fit CCS later if it can be proved to be technically and financially viable.
Environmentalists see the Kent project as a vital test of the government's green credentials and want Kingsnorth given the go-ahead only if CCS is installed. Greenpeace believes the environmental audit committee's conclusions support its case and leaves the government with its back against the wall.
John Sauven, Greenpeace's executive director, said: "Gordon Brown must now show he has the courage to tackle the threats of energy security, climate change and high energy prices by introducing tough new standards for power stations that limit global-warming emissions. And, in doing so, he must rule out current plans for Kingsnorth."
Last month, David Cameron said a future Conservative government would impose such emissions restrictions, to in effect ban new coal plants without CCS.
Today's report said CCS technology could "contribute significantly to emissions reductions" and could play a decisive role in the battle against global warming. But that progress has been "regrettably slow".
No full-scale CCS project that buries pollution from a power plant has yet been built, though the UK government is running a competition that aims to demonstrate the technology by 2014.
Supporters say the technology could remove 90% of the carbon emissions from coal and will be critical in developing countries such as India and China. However, critics say it is unproven and that governments have underestimated the scale and expense of the vast infrastructure that would be needed.
Even with the promise of CCS, the committee warned that coal should be seen as a last resort in the UK. The committee said the government could be considering a new era of coal-fired power stations because it was the easy option, and warned that such an approach was extremely dangerous.
With no certainty about when the technology will be commercially available, the MPs said, plans to develop new coal-fired power stations would lock the country into a high-emissions future.
Tim Jones, climate policy officer at the World Development Movement, which campaigns against new coal-fired plants, said: "The government should be closing down dirty coal-power stations, not allowing new ones to be built. And the government certainly should not be relying on carbon capture and storage to justify new coal-power stations." Next month's planned climate protest camp will target the Kingsnorth site.
The Royal Society wrote to ministers in April to suggest that new coal-fired power stations were only allowed on the condition that they lose their permit to operate if they failed to capture 90% of carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.
Sir Martin Rees, president of the society, said: "This will give a clear signal to industry and provide the conditions in which the government and industry can work together to take a lead on developing a very valuable technology."
The energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, said he was "pleased" that the environmental audit committee recognised the steps Britain had taken towards developing clean coal technology with the UK carbon capture and storage demonstration project, but insisted that coal was vital for the future.
"We are committed to the development of CCS technology and we intend to be one of the first countries to demonstrate the technology for a coal-fired station on a commercial scale," he said. "Coal is and will remain a vital part of the global energy mix, and this will be the case for many years to come."
Which plants meet EU directives
Plants with sulphur and Nox filters
Drax (Drax Power) 3,960MW; Eggborough (British Energy) 2,000; Cottam (EDF) 2,000; Ferrybridge (SSE) 1,000; Fiddlers Ferry (SSE) 2,000; Ratcliffe (E.ON) 2,000; Rugeley (International Power) 1,000; West Burton (EDF) 2,000; Longannet (Scottish Power) 2,304; Aberthaw (RWE npower) 1,500; Kilroot (AES) 520; Uskmouth (Uskmouth Power) 393. Total 20,677MW
Opted out - due to close by 2015
Ferrybridge (SSE) 1,000; Didcot A (RWE nPower) 2,000; Tilbury (RWE npower) 1,520; Kingsnorth (E.ON) 2,000; Ironbridge (E.ON) 1,000; Cockenzie (Scottish Power) 1,152. Total 8,672MW

Cars powered by rubbish 'in two years time'

Last Updated: 11:01am BST 21/07/2008
Cars run on fuel made from household waste could be on the streets within two years, it was announced today.

INEOS, the world's third largest chemical company, said it aimed to produce commercial quantities of bioethanol fuel from biodegradable municipal waste by 2011.
Peter Williams, chief executive of INEOS Bio, the part of the firm which makes bioethanol fuel, said: "Our technology will make a major contribution to reducing greenhouse gases and the world's need for fossil fuels.
"This is a very robust and flexible process, and we have everything we need now to take it to a commercial level.
"This is very attractive from the perspective of the food versus fuel debate, as it takes fuel production away from corn."
The process produces ethanol by mixing a biological catalyst with carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which are produced by burning the biodegradable waste.
The innovation is supported by The National Non-Food Crops Centre (NNFCC) the UK's national centre for renewable fuels, materials and technologies. Dr Geraint Evans, from the NNFCC, said: "This is the next generation of biofuels.
"It's quite a breakthrough - but it's not out of this world - it can be done. The process could be used to run cars today."
"There is enough rubbish in Humberside to make around 200,000 tonnes of ethanol for fuel. There's a lot of rubbish around, and this is an ecologically sound way of using it."
But environmental groups have treated the announcement with caution. Kenneth Richter, biofuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: "While efforts must be made to develop more sustainable alternative fuel sources, they are years away from being commercially available and are not a sure-fire fix for future petrol demand.
"Instead of gambling on second-generation biofuels, we must urgently invest in real green transport solutions like more fuel efficient cars, better public transport and safer routes for cycling and walking."

Internet entrepreneur returns to solar energy

By Nichola Groom Reuters
Published: July 20, 2008

LOS ANGELES: In 1973, when Bill Gross was 15 and cars were lined up at every gas station in Southern California, he wanted to do something about high energy prices.
An aspiring engineer, he figured out how to build parabolic concentrators and Stirling engines to capture the sun's energy, selling the plans for $4 apiece through ads in Popular Science magazine.
Gross, now 49, is again building solar power projects after a lengthy detour through the early days of the Internet.
His company, Idealab, created a series of Web businesses in the 1990s, including the pay-per-click advertising pioneer GoTo.com and the toy retailer eToys, which he said eventually "outspent its leash."
"Everything we touched was turning to gold for a while and then the crash came," Gross said in an interview at his office in Pasadena, California.

In its heyday, Idealab was planning an initial public offering and had 5,000 employees in offices in Boston, San Francisco, London and Pasadena. It now has a work force that is at least one-fifth that size and one office.
In the earlier period, Gross also faced accusations - since dismissed or settled - by some of Idealab's shareholders that he used company assets to finance a lavish lifestyle.
Two years ago, Gross was spared financial ruin again when shareholders agreed to pay off a $50 million personal loan he owed to a bank.
As the Internet boom melted down, however, the California energy crisis of 2000 was rekindling Gross's teenage passion for alternative energy.
It turned out that solar technology had not advanced much since he gave up his mail order business to start writing software in the early 1980s.
Idealab embarked on a mission few others were embracing at the time: developing green energy technologies.
A mechanical engineer by training, Gross is hands-on. A smattering of solar projects are crammed onto the roof of the company's small building in downtown Pasadena, and he explains them all in rapid and minute detail.
His idea for small, prefabricated solar-powered thermal power plants, being developed by the Idealab company eSolar, caught the eye of Oak Investment Partners and Google. Bandel Carano, a managing partner with Oak who also sits on eSolar's board, called Gross's solar thermal technology a breakthrough equivalent to the advantages of PC computing over mainframes.
Half of Idealab's 16 companies are focused on energy.
"We used to have 40 ideas a year and do one company a month," Gross said. "Now we have 40 ideas a year and we're doing one company a year."
This is no repeat of the Internet boom, when companies with little revenue and no profits attracted millions of dollars in capital, he said. "Now we say 'Treat these dollars as if it's the last dollars you'll ever see,"' Gross said.

Skills shortage threatens Britain's nuclear drive

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy and Environment Editor

Britain’s main nuclear safety regulator is struggling to halt a staff exodus that threatens to delay construction of a new generation of nuclear power stations.
A brain drain of senior inspectors and engineers has left the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) so seriously understaffed that only 16 people are overseeing a highly complex approval process for new nuclear reactors that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says requires at least 40 people.
The Times has learnt that the Government is so concerned about the situation in the NII that it is considering radical changes, including inflation-breaching pay increases, moving the agency from its base in Bootle, Merseyside, and introducing a new corporate governance structure. “They are trying to stop the brain drain,” one nuclear industry executive said.
He pointed out that skilled nuclear engineers are already a rarity in the UK and the nuclear industry’s renaissance is compounding the NII’s problem by triggering departures of staff to private sector companies.

“People with good UK regulatory knowledge are getting poached left, right and centre,” he said. “There’s a real risk of serious delays, which could jeopardise the whole programme.”
A spokesman for the HSE acknowledged that a lack of resources was “undeniably an issue” in the NII and that there was a risk that it would lead to delays in the new-build programme.
Faced with a yawning gap in Britain’s power-generating capacity as old plants are retired, the Government wants the first new nuclear plant to be operational by 2017 or 2018. With basic questions such as the ownership of British Energy, the nuclear power producer, still unresolved, many experts believe that this is a highly ambitious timetable.
The NII, part of the HSE, employs 159 inspectors, responsible for ensuring safety at all of Britain’s nuclear power stations. The HSE admits that it needs many more and the NII is seeking dozens of staff.
It needs more than 30 simply to complete its work programme of preparation for the new nuclear building programme.
Since the Government’s decision in January to give a green light to new plants, the NII has also been given the complex task of assessing and approving reactor designs and sites – a key role involving highly detailed engineering reports and safety studies.
However, an acute shortage of skilled nuclear engineers and low pay and morale in the NII have left it facing a widening skills gap.
The reform of the NII is being led by Tim Stone, a partner in KPMG, who is advising the Government on a range of nuclear issues. He is understood to be drawing up an action plan to strengthen the organisation.
Dr Stone’s proposals include ending public sector pay constraints, drafting in senior managers and creating an advisory board to boost efficiency. A chief operating officer may also be appointed.
The recommendations will be considered by John Hutton, the Business Secretary, in the autumn in consultation with the HSE.
A lack of skills is viewed as one of the biggest challenges facing Britain’s nuclear industry. Only one nuclear power station, Sizewell B, has been built in Britain since the 1970s. Many universities closed their nuclear engineering departments decades ago on cost grounds and because there was so little interest in the speciality.
Although the Treasury has awarded only limited extra funding for the NII, the agency’s problems are viewed within government as a key concern.

Nuclear pressure groups learn to tread carefully

By Geoff Dyer in Rushan
Published: July 22 2008 03:00

When Hou Guanghui first visited Yintan - or Silver beach - as a 12-year-old, he was so enthralled that he wrote an essay for school, entitled "The First Time I Saw the Sea". So when the former Communist party official retired two years ago, he put down a deposit on a flat near Silver beach.
A week later, he received unwelcome news. The government had unveiled plans to build a nuclear power station at Rushan, near his new retirement home in Shandong province on China's east coast. "We all felt fooled and deceived," he says.
Mr Hou, who divides his time between Silver beach and the industrial city of Zhengzhou in central China, did not take the news lying down. He helped to organise a coalition of opponents that brought together pensioners-turned-activists, an environmental non-government organisation from Beijing and a law professor who was once a student radical. So far, they have managed to halt construction of the plant.
The campaign against the Rushan nuclear power station highlights both the potential and the limits facing pressure groups in China. Beneath the surface of China's communist political system, there are stirrings from a society that wants to be more engaged in decision-making. According to official figures, there are 354,000 registered non-government organisations. But thousands more NGOs are not registered and, collectively, the groups are playing an ever-growing role. "They are a lot more diverse and numerous than many people realise," says Shawn Shieh, a professor at Marist College, in Poughkeepsie, New York, who is writing a book on Chinese NGOs. "But despite all the activity, a lot of them are fragile and want to stay beneath the radar."
A flurry of private efforts after the devastating Sichuan earthquake in May has raised hopes that NGOs will enjoy increased space. Their real test in China, however, is when, as in Rushan, their campaigns challenge the government rather than shadow its own moves.
Rapidly rising demand for energy, and widespread pollution from coal-fired power stations, have created a nuclear enthusiasm in China, and the government plans to build 30 new plants by 2020 - the biggest such programme in the world. One of the plants was to be sited near Rushan, only a few kilometres from Silver beach.
Mr Hou and several residents founded a website, called The Best Beach on the Earth, which started collecting signatures of people who felt the proposed plant was too close to a large population. When the website was blocked, they enlisted the help of Dahai (Ocean) Commune, an environmental NGO in Beijing.
Yi Wuchen, a former scriptwriter who runs Dahai, helped to organise the petition, and lodged the 5,000 collected signatures at the State Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa).
Rather than confront the government, the campaigners peeled off potential allies in the state bureaucracy by arguing that the project had not been subject to the correct environmental assessments. Sure enough, while construction work has begun on two other nuclear plants in Shandong, Sepa said in January that the Rushan project had yet to be given the go-ahead.
Hao Xiaofeng, a nuclear safety official at Sepa, says the campaign has had a big impact.
"The region has changed, so the project should be evaluated again," he says. "It is not just about geology, but the broader impact on development."
Even if the plant goes ahead, some campaigners think it has scored a victory by imposing a more transparent decision-making process on planners.
"I think it is progress because the government will no longer build nuclear plants without paying some attention to local people's voices," says Mr Yi of Dahai Commune. Yet the Rushan protest also exposes the restrictions that NGOs face. To deflect potential criticism from the authorities, the Rushan protesters stressed that they were not against nuclear energy as such - only that particular plant.
Such a position makes it hard to find common cause with other campaigns that would raise pressure on the government. "Without any real leaders and without networking, you cannot talk in terms of an anti-nuclear movement in China," says Wen Bo, who runs the China programme of Pacific Environment, a US-based NGO. "These campaigns are still mainly not-in-my-backyard cases."
In order to register in China, NGOs need to find a partner in a government body. Many choose not to, and therefore exist in a legal grey area.
Political acceptance varies from case to case. In some cases, activists flourish. Yet Wu Lihong, a campaigner who complained of pollution in east China's Tai Lake before an environmental disaster poisoned the water last year, is serving a three-year jail sentence over blackmail allegations his family say are fabricated.
For all these reasons, the Rushan campaigners say they will only organise petitions, not demonstrations, and Mr Yi says he would not campaign against other nuclear plants. "If we want to maintain living space for NGOs in China, we have to carry out activities on a limited scale," he admits.
Additional reporting by Wang Bing
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Let's Have Some Love for Nuclear Power

By WILLIAM TUCKERJuly 21, 2008;

All over the world, nuclear power is making a comeback. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has just commissioned eight new reactors, and says there's "no upper limit" to the number Britain will build in the future. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has challenged her country's program to phase out 17 nuclear reactors by 2020, saying it will be impossible to deal with climate change without them. China and India are building nuclear power plants; France and Russia, both of whom have embraced the technology, are fiercely competing to sell them the hardware.
And just last month John McCain called for the construction of 45 new reactors by 2030. Barack Obama is less enthusiastic about nuclear energy, but he seems to be moving toward tacit approval.
M.E. Cohen
In the U.S. at present, 104 nuclear plants generate about 21% of our electric power. Last November, NRG Energy, of Princeton, N.J., became the first company to file for a license to build a new nuclear plant since the 1970s. Almost a dozen more applications have now also been filed.
While we may be at a turning point, one enormous question still hangs over this revival of nuclear power in the U.S.: Who is going to pay for it? The construction of reactors in the rest of the world is essentially a government enterprise. Private investment and even public approval are not always necessary. In the U.S., however, the capital will have to be raised from Wall Street. But not many investors are willing to put up $5 billion to $10 billion for a project that could become engulfed by 10 to 15 years of regulatory delay -- as occurred during the 1980s. The Seabrook plant in New Hampshire went through 14 years of that before opening in 1990. The Long Island Lighting Company's Shoreham plant began in 1973, but was shut down by protests in 1989 without generating a watt of electricity, and the company went bankrupt as a result.
If we are now going to choose nuclear power as a way to resolve both our concerns about global warming and our looming energy shortfalls, we are first going to have to engage in a national debate about whether or not we accept the technology. To begin this discussion, I suggest redefining what we call nuclear power as "terrestrial energy."
Every fuel used in human history -- firewood, coal, oil, wind and water -- has been derived from the sun. But terrestrial energy is different.
Terrestrial energy is the heat at the earth's core that raises its temperature to 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hotter than the surface of the sun. Remarkably, this heat derives largely from a single source -- the radioactive breakdown of uranium and thorium. The energy released in the breakdown of these two elements is enough to melt iron, stoke volcanoes and float the earth's continents like giant barges on its molten core.
Geothermal plants are a way of tapping this heat. They are generally located near fumaroles and geysers, where groundwater meets hot spots in the earth's crust. If we dig down far enough, however, we will encounter more than enough heat to boil water. Engineers are now talking about drilling down 10 miles (the deepest oil wells are only five miles) to tap this energy.
Here's a better idea: Bring the source of this heat -- the uranium -- to the surface, put it in a carefully controlled environment, and accelerate its breakdown a bit to raise temperatures to around 700 degrees Fahrenheit, and use it to boil water. That's what we do in a nuclear reactor.
Because the public first became aware of nuclear energy through warfare, reactors have always been thought of as "silent bombs." But nuclear plants cannot explode. The fissionable isotope of uranium must be enriched to 90% to create a weapon. In a reactor it is only 3%. You could not blow up a nuclear reactor if you tried.
Nor is the threat of terrorists crashing an airplane into a reactor and setting off a holocaust very plausible. The Department of Energy once crashed an F-4 jet going 500 miles per hour into a concrete wall the thickness of a nuclear containment structure. The plane vaporized while the concrete was barely dented. (You can watch it on YouTube: "Plane crashes into wall.")
Finally, the problem of radioactive waste has been absurdly exaggerated. More than 95% of the material in a spent fuel rod can be recycled for energy and medical isotopes.
We have a nuclear waste problem in this country because we gave up reprocessing in the 1970s. The fear was that terrorists or foreign nationals would steal plutonium from American reactors to build bombs. This is a bit like worrying that terrorists will steal all the gold from Fort Knox. Other countries have built bombs in the intervening years. They didn't need American plutonium to do it.
Meanwhile, France has proved that reprocessing works. With a fully developed nuclear cycle, the French now store all the waste from 30 years of producing 75% of its electricity beneath the floor of one room at La Hague in Normandy.
Three days after Sen. McCain made his proposal on June 18, Admiral "Skip" Bowman, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, wrote an op-ed asking for yet more government support in developing nuclear energy. It can't work this way.
If nuclear energy is to progress, it must stand on its own. That means Wall Street has to invest. And convincing Wall Street to invest means persuading the public that there is nothing unacceptably dangerous or diabolical about nuclear power.
Mr. Tucker's book, "Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Power Can Lead the Green Revolution and End America's Long Energy Odyssey," will be published in September by Bartleby.

Scottish site for Europe's largest windfarm

Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent
The Guardian,
Tuesday July 22, 2008

Europe's largest windfarm is to be built alongside the M74 in south-west Scotland after Scottish ministers approved plans to erect more than 150 turbines on surrounding moors. The £600m project is likely to produce enough electricity to power more than 250,000 homes by the time it is completed in 2011, and is well over twice the size of Europe's largest existing windfarm, at Guadalajara in Spain.
The approval was announced yesterday by Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister, at a world renewable energy congress in Glasgow, although it later emerged that Salmond and Scottish executive officials had exaggerated the scale of the project, by quoting the maximum legal limit for the windfarm. The SNP leader claimed the windfarm would have a 548MW capacity, capable of supplying electricity for 320,000 homes.
The power company behind the Clyde windfarm, Scottish and Southern Energy, said it actually planned to install 152 less powerful wind turbines which would generate 456MW, approximately a fifth less than claimed by ministers. The turbines - each 125 metres from ground to blade tip - will be built in two large clusters joined by a long string of towers between Moffat and Biggar in South Lanarkshire, positioned alongside the line of the motorway.
The programme was welcomed by environment campaigners as evidence that big onshore windfarms were economically and politically viable. Doug Parr, chief scientist with Greenpeace UK, said Scotland was at the forefront of exploiting renewable energy sources. Jason Ormiston, chief executive of the Scottish Renewables Forum, said similar projects were needed if the UK and Europe were to meet ambitious renewable energy targets.

Scottish & Southern gets nod for wind farm

From The Times
July 22, 2008
Robin Pagnamenta, Energy and Environment Editor

Scottish ministers approved plans for Europe's largest onshore windfarm yesterday, giving a significant boost to government proposals to increase the amount of wind-generated electricity.
The planning decision will allow Scottish & Southern Energy to erect 152 125-metre turbines in south Lanarkshire. The £600 million Clyde windfarm, between Biggar and Moffatt by the M74, will be able to generate 456 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 320,000 homes. Construction is expected to start this year, with the first turbines operational by 2011.
The approval was welcomed by Britain's wind energy industry, coming only three months after Scottish ministers had rejected plans for another giant wind farm on the Isle of Lewis amid concerns about wildlife.
Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister, made yesterday's announcement at the World Renewable Energy Congress in Glasgow. “The Scottish Government has an ambitious target to generate 31 per cent of Scotland's electricity demand from renewable sources by 2011 and 50 per cent by 2020,” he said.

Under European Union targets adopted this year, the UK as a whole is committed to generating about 40 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020, up from 4 per cent. The bulk of this is expected to come from the expansion of wind-generated electricity.
It also emerged yesterday that the world's largest offshore windfarm in the Thames Estuary will go ahead after a decision by E.ON, the German utility, and Dong Energy, of Denmark, to buy out Royal Dutch Shell, their partner, for an undisclosed sum.
— Government plans to cut Britain's carbon emissions will fail unless a deadline is set to abolish the use of conventional coal-fired power stations, MPs have said in a report by the Commons' Environmental Audit Committee. It also leaves the Government increasingly isolated in its support for E.ON to build a £1 billion coal-fired power plant in Kent, the UK's first in more than 20 years.

US takes wind-power lead

By Sheila McNulty in Houston
Published: July 22 2008 03:50

The US rush into wind power has enabled the country to pass Germany to become the world’s biggest generator of such energy, according to estimates for the first half of 2008 from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
The US had not been expected to reach this milestone until the end of next year. It achieved this early, while still running behind Germany in total installed capacity, because its average wind speed in significantly stronger.

The total capacity of wind installations in Germany was 22,000 megawatts in 2007, compared with 17,000mw in the US.
Nonetheless, with growing attention on wind energy in the US, the AWEA says the country could well take the world lead in installed capacity as well by the end of this year.
“We expect to come out with a detailed analysis within the next few weeks,” said Randall Swisher, the AWEA’s executive director.
Last week, Texas gave approval for a $4.9bn (€3bn, £2.4bn) plan to build transmission lines to channel wind energy from the plains of west Texas to large cities, such as Dallas.
Interest in wind power has been growing. More than 13,000 people turned out for this year’s AWEA annual conference – an 85 per cent increase over last year.
Earlier this month, T. Boone Pickens, the veteran Texan oilman and latter-day wind advocate, unveiled the “Pickens Plan”, which calls on the US to use wind power to generate the 22 per cent of its electricity now drawn from natural gas – freeing that fuel to be used for transportation.
Mr Pickens is now spending billions of dollars to build the world’s largest wind farm in Texas.
Despite the growing interest and milestones passed, wind meets only about 1 per cent of the current US energy demand. Mr Pickens says building wind facilities from Texas to North Dakota could produce 20 per cent of electricity used by the US at a cost of $1,000bn.
It would take another $200bn to build the capacity to transmit that energy to urban areas across the country. “That’s a lot of money, but it’s a one-time cost,” he said. “And, compared with the $700bn we spend on foreign oil every year, it’s a bargain.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

European utilities acquire Shell's stake in world's largest offshore windfarm

Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Tuesday July 22, 2008

The world's biggest offshore windfarm was put back on track yesterday as the UK energy minister boasted that the technology could attract £3bn investment to the north-east of England alone.
A host of wind schemes have been hit by planning delays, cost-inflation fears and opposition from the Ministry of Defence over concerns that turbines damage the efficiency of local radar.
The German-based energy group E.ON and the Danish utility Dong Energy have agreed to acquire Shell's 33% stake in the 1,000-megawatt London Array scheme for an undisclosed sum. The firms, which each own a one-third stake, are to become 50-50 partners in the windfarm, which could supply electricity to more than 750,000 homes in Greater London from the windfarm off the coast of Kent.
Paul Golby, chief executive of E.ON UK, who was angry when Shell first announced it wanted to pull out, said: "We hope to be able to keep the project on track and we should be able to complete the first phase by the end of 2012, subject to securing a number of contracts, such as those for the wind turbines."
The purchase is a major relief for the government and came on the day the biggest onshore windfarm in Europe - planned for the Clyde - was given the green light by ministers. John Hutton, secretary for business, welcomed the deal, saying: "It is great news that E.ON and Dong Energy will be taking this exciting project forward."
Shell decided to withdraw from the project in May after a strategic review saying it did not meet its financial rates of return. Industry-wide cost inflation brought about by the oil price boom has raised the cost of the project to more than £2.5bn, way above the original estimates of £1.5bn three years ago.
On a visit to unveil a new renewable energy centre in Blyth, Northumberland, the energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, said the north-east's traditional manufacturing expertise could be utilised in the green energy sector.
"Offshore wind will play a significant role in helping us meet our challenging targets for a massive increase in the amount of energy generated from renewables.
"With our plans to increase the financial support for offshore wind, it is evidence of our commitment to make the UK one of the most attractive places to invest in green energy," the minister said
He said the Californian energy group Clipper Wind planned to develop the world's largest wind turbine - almost 10 times taller than Gateshead's Angel of the North - at the Blyth centre.

Shell sells wind power stake

By Sanjay Odedra
Published: July 22 2008 03:00

Royal Dutch Shell, Europe's biggest oil company, has agreed to sell its stake in the London Array wind power project to former partners Eon and Dong Energy for an undisclosed sum.
Shell's one-third holding in the 1,000 megawatt development, the world's largest offshore wind farm proposal, will be split evenly between Germany's Eon and Denmark's Dong, leaving them with 50 per cent each. The scheme's future had come into doubt after Shell announced that it was withdrawing in May. Analysts attributed the move to soaring costs, which have leapt from an original estimate of £1.5bn to £2.5bn.
Eon now expects the wind farm's first phase to be completed by the end of 2012, with up to 341 turbines set to be built in the Thames Estuary.
Shares in Shell rose 13p to £18.08. Sanjay Odedra
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Shell Sells Wind-Project Stake

By a WALL STREET JOURNAL Staff Reporter: July 22, 2008;

The U.K. arm of German utility E.On AG and Denmark-based DONG Energy said they bought Royal Dutch Shell PLC's stake in the U.K.'s London Array offshore wind project for an undisclosed sum, giving each company a half share in the project. Paul Golby, chief executive of E.On U.K., said the first phase of the project is on track to begin operation in 2012, subject to securing a number of important contracts, such as those for the wind turbines.
Before the deal, the three companies each held a one-third stake in the project. "We're pleased that, together with DONG Energy, we've been able to secure the future of the project," he said.
The announcement could help to boost confidence in the U.K. offshore wind sector, which is more costly and riskier than onshore wind and took a battering after Shell said in May that it was pulling out to invest in U.S. onshore wind instead.
The U.K. is counting on offshore wind to provide the bulk of the power needed to help meet a binding European Union target to get 15% of the country's total energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Why does Channel 4 seem to be waging a war against the greens?

As Channel 4 is once again fiercely criticised by the TV watchdog for distorting the views of climate scientists, George Monbiot lays bare the channel's shameful history of misleading its viewers on global warming

George Monbiot
The Guardian,
Tuesday July 22, 2008

So here we go again. For the second time, Channel 4 has been fiercely criticised by the broadcasting regulator for a programme attacking environmental science. For the second time, the director was Martin Durkin.
Ten years ago, his series Against Nature was found to have misled his interviewees about "the content and purpose of the programmes" and distorted their views "through selective editing". Now Ofcom has ruled that the programme he made last year — The Great Global Warming Swindle — treated two scientists and an organisation (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) unfairly. For the second time, Channel 4 will have to make an embarrassing primetime statement.
But while the new ruling exposes some of the channel's practices, it also exposes the limitations of the regulator. The programme was peppered with distortions and misleading claims. But despite being presented with a vast dossier of evidence by climate scientists, Ofcom decided that it could not rule on the matter of accuracy. While news programmes are expected to be accurate, other factual programmes are not, and Ofcom "only regulates misleading material where that material is likely to cause harm or offence."
It decided that The Great Global Warming Swindle had not caused actual harm to members of the public: merely misleading them does not count. In fact, it is precisely because "the discussion about the causes of global warming was to a very great extent settled by the date of broadcast", meaning that climate change was no longer a matter of political controversy, that a programme claiming it is all a pack of lies could slip past the partiality rules. The greater a programme's defiance of scientific fact, the less likely Ofcom is to rule against it. This paradoxical judgment allows Channel 4 to keep getting away with it.
The Great Global Warming Swindle is part of a long-standing pattern. Channel 4 upsets all sorts of people, and it has every right to do so. On all other issues it appears to do so in a random fashion, sometimes attacking people on one side of the debate, sometimes on the other. But one polemical position has kept recurring over the past 18 years: a fierce antagonism towards environmentalism. Some of these programmes have used misrepresentation, distortion or fabrication to sustain claims that environmental concerns are the fantasies of self-serving scientists. It is arguable that no organisation in the United Kingdom has done more to damage the effort to protect the environment.
For the first eight years of the channel's life, its coverage of environmental issues was broad, diverse and often stimulating. It broadcast 20 programmes a year in its Fragile Earth slot. But two years after Michael Grade became chief executive, in 1987, its programming began to change. The trend continued after he left.
In 1990, Channel 4 screened a documentary called The Greenhouse Conspiracy, directed by Hilary Lawson at the company TVF. It maintained that "there is no evidence at all" for dangerous climate change. There is a conspiracy among scientists, it said, to talk up the dangers in order to win funding. No reasonable person would dispute that Channel 4 should show countervailing views, or would claim that it has an obligation to take an environmentalist line. But there were three problems with this programme, which appear to characterise several of the channel's films about the environment.
The first is that it was billed as a science documentary, rather than a one-sided polemic. It had an anonymous and authoritative voiceover, rather than the onscreen presenter you would expect to see in a polemical film. It presented as hard fact statements that were extremely contentious and often plain wrong. The second is that contributors' commercial interests were not mentioned. The third problem is that though the majority of scientific opinion was at odds with the line the programme took, the opposing point of view was scarcely represented. The contribution of a very eminent climate scientist was edited to make him seem like an inconsistent crank, while maverick outsiders were presented as the voices of scientific orthodoxy.
But this film became a template for the channel's environmental coverage over much of the following 17 years. Its most prominent films about the environment screened in this period took the same line as The Greenhouse Conspiracy, which created the impression that environmental problems do not exist and that environmental scientists are mendacious fanatics.
In 1997, Channel 4 broadcast a series across three hours of prime time on Sunday evenings, called Against Nature. Made by Martin Durkin, then working for the production company RDF, it claimed that the greens are modern-day Nazis who have been "needlessly consigning millions of people in the third world to poverty and early death". The programme's publicity stated that it "highlights the absence of scientific rigour behind notions like the greenhouse effect and global warming", yet the series made the most elementary scientific blunders, describing sulphur dioxide as a greenhouse gas and the oceans as the major net source of carbon dioxide.
Like The Greenhouse Conspiracy, Against Nature was billed as a science programme, rather than a polemic. It had no onscreen presenter. It amplified the credentials of some of its contributors and failed to reveal that some were funded by fossil-fuel industries. The programme makers duped and misrepresented the environmentalists they featured. This series was subject to one of the most damning verdicts that Ofcom's predecessor, the Independent Television Commission, has ever handed down.
None of this, or subsequent distortions, stopped the channel from continuing to pay Durkin to pursue what looks like a personal crusade against science. In 1998, he hired a research biochemist and TV researcher called Najma Kazi to help him with a film for Equinox called Storm in a D-Cup claiming that breast implants are completely safe. After two weeks she walked out. "It's not a joke to walk away from four or five months' work," she told me, "but my research was being ignored. The published research had been construed to give an impression that's not the case. I don't know how that programme got passed."
In 2000, he made another film — a 90-minute special — for Equinox about genetic engineering. He interviewed the environmentalist Dr Mae-Wan Ho. "I feel completely betrayed and misled", she said. "They did not tell me it was going to be an attack on my position." Neither of these programmes, however, was criticised by the regulators.
During this period, Channel 4 broadcast several environmental programmes that were vicious and grossly unbalanced denunciations of environmental science . But, as independent film-makers I have spoken to testify, proposals for programmes which expressed concern about the environment were rejected out of hand. When I went to speak to the man who was then the director of programmes, Tim Gardam, to ask why the channel seemed so hostile to the environment, he told me something that shocked me more than any defensive statement: "I don't know what's important any more."
The list of environmental programmes Channel 4 has sent me shows a sharp reduction in output during the years 1992 to 2006. But in mid-2006 I was told by an executive that the channel had realised it had been misled by people who were sponsored by the fossil-fuel industry. It seemed as if the dam had broken. Channel 4's new commissions suggested that it was at last beginning to wake up to the fact that environmental issues were not just the crazy fantasy of a group of green fascists. That was until March 2007, when The Great Global Warming Swindle was broadcast, backed by a massive promotional campaign. The director, yet again, was Martin Durkin, and once more he was given 90 minutes of prime time.
The first thing I noticed about The Great Global Warming Swindle is how similar it is to The Greenhouse Conspiracy, broadcast 17 years before. The two programmes made the same claims, using some of the same contributors. They were now a little greyer and fatter, but they repeated their line almost verbatim. A vast accumulation of evidence in the intervening years, contradicting the programme's thesis, was ignored — it appeared that very little had changed since 1990. Indeed much of the manipulation employed by Durkin involved the freezing of timelines at points convenient to his argument, producing a misleading impression of current evidence.
Some of the graphs Durkin used in the programme, for example, seem to have been altered, changing the historical record. A graph of 20th-century temperatures was attributed in the programme to Nasa. In reality, it was first published by an Exxon-funded lobby group and creates the false impression that most of the rise in temperature occurred before 1940, after which there was a sharp fall. The data it used ended in the mid-1980s. On Durkin's version, however, the timeline was extended to 2005 — the change of dates on the graph appeared to support his argument. Following complaints, the dates were corrected when the programme was rebroadcast.
He used a graph of temperatures over the past millennium to make the claim that they were higher during the 12th century than they are today. But again the timescale was altered. An arrow marked "Now" points to data which in fact end at 1975. A third graph had been mislabelled in the same way: the arrow marked "Now" points to the global temperature 108 years ago, in 1900. On a fourth graph, the film-makers altered part of a curve, creating the impression that temperature has precisely tracked changes in sunspot cycles. The author of the original graph complained that the film had presented "fabricated data . . . as genuine" to make its case. In response, Durkin said it was a mistake.
It would require a book to catalogue all the distortions and fabrications The Great Global Warming Swindle is alleged to have included. A complaint by a team of senior scientists — the first peer-reviewed submission ever made to Ofcom — runs to 176 pages. Not only did the film inflate credentials of some of the contributors; some of them appear to have been made up altogether. The climate sceptic Tim Ball, for example, was said to be a professor at the department of climatology in the University of Winnipeg. There is no such department and he has not held a professorship since he retired in 1996. Philip Stott, the programme claimed, is a professor at the department of biogeography, University of London. While he was once a professor of biogeography, there was no such department, and Stott retired some time ago, becoming professor emeritus. Piers Corbyn was given a doctorate he does not possess and described as a "climate forecaster". He is, in fact, a weather forecaster — a very different matter — and has published no peer-reviewed papers on either topic since 1986. Fred Singer is said to have been the director of the US National Weather Service. In reality he was director of the US National Weather Satellite Center.
Far from revealing its contributors' financial interests, the film created the impression that they have taken no money from the coal or oil industries. In truth, 10 of its protagonists have either been funded directly by fossil-fuel companies, or have received paid employment from lobby groups funded by these companies, which campaign against taking action on climate change. Tim Ball claimed in the programme that "I've never received a nickel from the oil and gas companies." But he has received fees from two groups which lobby against taking action on climate change — Friends of Science and the Natural Resources Stewardship Project — both of which receive major funding from energy companies. The Great Global Warming Swindle looks like free, undisclosed propaganda for coal and oil firms. But Ofcom decided that it is "unable to assess or adjudicate on the relative merits of these strongly disputed allegations".
The film invoked an extraordinary conspiracy theory to explain why governments have tried to tackle climate change. It began, the Swindle claimed, with the British coal miners' strike. "The miners had brought down Ted Heath's Conservative government. Mrs Thatcher was determined the same would not happen to her. She set out to break their power ... At the request of Mrs Thatcher, the UK Met Office set up a Climate Modelling Unit, which provided the basis for a new international committee called the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC." In reality, Mrs Thatcher did not make a public statement on climate change until 1988, three years after the miners' strike ended in their defeat. The IPCC was established in the same year — not by the UK Met Office but by the World Meteorological Organisation and the UN — and the Climate Modelling Unit (the Hadley Centre) did not open until two years afterwards, in 1990.
Here, too, were inaccuracies of the same stamp as those that appeared in Against Nature. The Great Global Warming Swindle claimed that volcanoes produce more CO2 each year than all sources of man-made carbon dioxide put together. In truth, they produce less than 1%. It maintained that "the biggest source of CO2 by far is the oceans" (they remain a net carbon sink). Sea level changes have "nothing to do with melting ice" (melting ice is, in fact, responsible for about 40% of the rise), and so on and so forth. One of the contributors to the Great Global Warming Swindle, Carl Wunsch, says that he was duped into appearing in the documentary and his words were "grossly distorted by context". His complaint was partly upheld.
Perhaps the cruellest deception perpetrated in Durkin's programme was the claim, also carried in Against Nature, that environmentalists are condemning the poor to live without electricity and to cook their meals on smoky fires, causing millions of premature deaths from respiratory disease. The film interviewed a Kenyan official at a rural clinic, whose solar panels did not produce enough power to run both the fridge and the lights. This was apparently the fault of western environmentalists, who had somehow obliged the clinic to use solar power, which is "at least three times more expensive than conventional forms of electrical generation".
In reality, it is much cheaper to install solar panels in parts of rural Africa that do not have transmission lines than to build a new grid connection, which is probably why the clinic was using them. If they are providing insufficient power, the cheapest solution is to install more panels and batteries. The solar fridge, developed by the British environmentalist and engineer Guy Watson, has saved countless lives, as it permits vaccines and blood which would otherwise be degraded by heat to survive in even the remotest locations.
Environmentalists have been among the most outspoken campaigners against cooking on smoky fires, partly because of the health effects, partly because they use huge amounts of wood and partly because the black carbon they produce is a cause of global warming. This was the only partiality issue on which Ofcom was prepared to rule, because it regards the treatment of the poor, by contrast to climate change, to be a "matter of major political controversy". It decided that in this respect the programme breached its rules.
This film was presented as a dispassionate science documentary. We were not told whose opinions the anonymous narrator represented. Outrageous claims were stated as bald fact. Ofcom has decided that there is "no ... requirement" to disclose the personal views of the presenter "in relation to factual programmes".
The Great Global Warming Swindle, like Against Nature, had a huge impact, persuading many people that man-made climate change is not taking place. I attended a presentation by a pollster from Ipsos Mori who showed that there had been a decline last year in the number of people who believed that global warming was a real phenomenon — primarily, she said, as a result of Durkin's film. This is hardly surprising. No one unfamiliar with the channel's record on this issue could have imagined that a public service broadcaster would have transmitted a programme containing so many distortions.
This became a personal issue when the man who commissioned The Great Global Warming Swindle, Hamish Mykura, appeared on the Today programme to defend the film. It was, he said, part of "a season of opinionated polemical films about global warming", and was balanced by a film I had made, broadcast in the same week, for Dispatches. I was flabbergasted. Neither I, nor the audience, nor anyone on the production team had been told that my programme was part of "a season of opinionated polemical films about global warming", or that it would be linked to The Great Global Warming Swindle. Had I known this, I would have pulled out. When I asked Mykura for evidence — some memos or publicity material about this "season", for example — he was unable to provide any.
My film was subjected to such a rigorous process of fact-checking that it was, in effect, edited by Channel 4's lawyers. While this made it rather dull, it also meant that it was robust and unchallengeable: any claim which would not stand up to rigorous academic scrutiny was excluded. Despite this, it was billed as a controversial polemic and my own personal view (I was the onscreen presenter). Durkin's film, by contrast, appears to have been exempted from such rigorous fact-checking and was not presented as his opinion. Why did such radically different standards apply? And in what sense did my film "balance" Durkin's? Mine was about policies seeking to address climate change: I was not asked to demonstrate that man-made global warming was taking place. Even if that had been my aim, Channel 4 misunderstands its public service obligations if it believes it has to strike a balance between truth and falsehood. I was glad to see that Ofcom found that the other programmes in the channel's schedule "were not sufficiently timely or linked" to the Swindle to balance it.
The channel appears until now to have shrugged off criticism of these programmes: even, in fact, to have enjoyed it. They create "noise", which is considered by some executives to be the only thing that counts. Mykura, the man who commissioned The Great Global Warming Swindle, has since been promoted. Channel 4's spokesman tells me: "It would be wrong to suggest that Channel 4 has an agenda regarding environmental programmes. The vast majority of Channel 4's programmes on environmental issues over the last 20 years have reflected the opinion of the majority of scientists on man-made global warming ... to the best of our knowledge, since 1990 there have been five and a half hours of programming giving voice to the minority of scientists who question man's role in global warming." This, it says, "is against the background of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] stating that there is a 90% certainty that the causes of global warming are man-made, it follows that there is a 10% uncertainty. Yet this 10% uncertainty receives a disproportionately small amount of airtime."
I find this argument extraordinary. A 90% level of confidence does not mean that 10% of the evidence suggests that an effect is not occurring — in fact, there is no reliable evidence showing that man-made global warming is not taking place. It is expressed in this way because there is no absolute certainty in science. The "very high confidence" the IPCC expresses in the global warming thesis is the strongest statement any reputable scientist would make about his area of study. It is legitimate and right to stress that there can be no absolute certainty about global warming. But this is not what Channel 4 has done. The five-and-half-hours of programmes which attack the thesis (and there have been many more which savage other aspects of environmentalism) express absolute certainty that man-made global warming is not happening.
So why does Channel 4 seem to be waging a war against the greens? I am not sure, but it seems to me that much of its programming — whether it concerns property, celebrities or contestants seeking fame and money — is aspirational. Environmentalism is counter-aspirational. It suggests that the carefree world Channel 4 has created, the celebration of the self, cannot be sustained.
It is against my interests to publish this article. I would like to continue making programmes for Channel 4. I recognise that what I have written may jeopardise this work. But these matters are far more consequential than my own employment. By broadcasting programmes that appear to manipulate and even fabricate evidence, it has impeded efforts to forestall the 21st century's greatest threat. For how much longer will this be allowed to continue? And for how much longer will Ofcom forbid itself to state that a programme is misleading?
George Monbiot's book Bring on the Apocalypse: Six Arguments for Global Justice, is published by Guardian Books, at £10.99.

Channel 4 ruled 'unjust and unfair' in climate change documentary

Mark Sweney
Monday July 21, 2008

The Great Global Warming Swindle: Ofcom found scientists had been treated unfairly by the programme. Photograph: Channel 4
Ofcom has ruled that Channel 4 breached broadcasting codes on impartiality and was "unjust and unfair" in the way it represented individuals in its controversial documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle.
Ofcom has ordered Channel 4 to broadcast a summary of its adjudication on the programme, which was aired on Channel 4 and E4 on March 8 last year.
The show challenged the theory that human activity is the major cause of climate change and global warming.
Ofcom's investigation found that the Nobel prize-winning UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the government's former chief scientist Sir David King and professor Carl Wunsch "were treated unfairly in the programme".
"In particular, the programme made some significant allegations without offering an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond," Ofcom said. "In the case of Sir David King, the programme-makers also criticised him for comments he did not make."
Ofcom also found Channel 4 in breach of impartiality "on matters of major political and industrial controversy and major matters relating to current public policy".
The media regulator said that the final part of the programme, which focused on policies adopted by the United Nations and western governments to tackle global warming, was in breach of the "due impartiality" requirements of the broadcasting code.
"The programme was required to include an appropriate wide range of the significant views. The programme-makers failed to do this," said Ofcom.
However, Ofcom found that the first four parts of the programme, which focused on the scientific debate about the causes of global warming, did not breach the broadcast code.
"Ofcom concluded that these parts of the programme were not matters of political or industrial controversy or matters relating to public policy and therefore the rules on due impartiality did not apply," it said.
The media regulator also said that while it had concerns about "aspects of the presentation (and omission) of fact and views within the programme, it did not believe, given the nature of the programme, that this led to the audience being materially misled".
"We are pleased that Ofcom has ruled the film did not materially mislead the audience," said Hamish Mykura, the Channel 4 head of documentaries.
"The film acknowledged the majority scientific and journalistic consensus in support of man-made global warming, but legitimately sought to present the viewpoint of the small minority of scientists who do not believe global warming is caused by anthropogenic production of carbon dioxide."
However, the media regulator admitted that it only regulates "misleading material where that material is likely to cause harm or offence".
Ofcom added: "As a consequence, the requirement that content must not materially mislead the audience is necessarily a high test."
Ofcom said that, therefore, its job in this case was not to ascertain whether the programme was "accurate".
"It is not within Ofcom's remit or ability in this case as the regulator of the 'communications industry' to establish or seek to adjudicate on 'facts' such as whether global warming is a man-made phenomenon."
· To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email editor@mediaguardian.co.uk or phone 020 7239 9857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 7278 2332.

C4 reprimanded over Climate Change documentary

By Ben Fenton
Published: July 22 2008 03:00

Channel 4 was reprimanded by Ofcom yesterday over a documentary on climate change that breached impartiality rules, writes Ben Fenton .
The broadcasting regulator ruled that The Great Global Warming Swindle had unfairly treated some experts, including Sir David King, formerly the government's chief scientific adviser. The programme challenged the view that humans are responsible for the warming of the planet. Ofcom said however that the programme did not breach rules on accuracy because it had not materially misled its audience in the presentation of the scientific debate.
But the documentary had "made some significant allegations without offering an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond".
Channel 4 will be required to broadcast Ofcom's findings but was not fined.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008