Wednesday, 6 August 2008

ADM in talks to tap ethanol in Brazil

By Hal Weitzmann in Chicago
Published: August 5 2008 15:45

Archer Daniels Midland, the world’s largest grain processor, on Tuesday signalled a wave of expansion in Brazil as it struck a relatively gloomy note on US corn-based ethanol production.
ADM, a leading ethanol producer, has been a cheerleader for the industry in the US but its expansion into Brazil’s sugar-based ethanol industry suggests it wants to diversify from corn-based production.

The US ethanol industry has been under financial pressure in recent months as the price of corn spiralled. Although corn prices have dropped sharply in the past month, the industry still faces difficulties.
The subsidies paid to the industry have come under increasing scrutiny as ethanol production is widely seen as contributing to the rising cost of food.
About one-third of this year’s US corn production is expected to be used to make the fuel. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, is among those who oppose the subsidies.
Last month ADM united with other big pro-ethanol companies in the agribusiness sector such as Monsanto, Deere and DuPont to make its case through adverts and to boost lobbying in the US Congress.
John Rice, executive vice-president, commercial and production, noted on Tuesday that, at the same time that corn prices had increased, the industry was also facing a different series of higher costs.
“The cost to build plants these days – with stainless steel, labour costs and everything else – is going up,” he said. “[Ethanol producers] don’t see the margin out there right now and finding capital is also very tough.”
The downbeat tone on US ethanol contrasted with ADM’s Brazilian plans, as it confirmed reports it was in talks to move into sugar-based ethanol production.
“We have been interested and continue to stay interested in an investment in sugar and ethanol processing in Brazil and we have talked with several potential partners,” said Patricia Woertz, chief executive.
Mr Rice said the company would invest well beyond the ethanol industry. “We’re looking at this as a whole range of new opportunities for ADM,” he said.
Ms Woertz also dismissed Brazil’s threat to take legal action against the US in the World Trade Organisation over ethanol tariffs.
ADM on Tuesday reported quarterly results below Wall Street’s expectations as it failed to translate the commodity price boom into profit growth. Profits fell to $372m or 58 cents per share, down from $955m or $1.47 cents per share a year earlier, although the 2007 figures were boosted by several one-off transactions.
ADM shares were down 5.8 per cent at $25.82 shortly before the close in New York.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Brazil wants US help managing nuclear waste

The Associated Press
Published: August 6, 2008

BRASILIA, Brazil: Brazil asked the United States for help managing waste from its nuclear reactors during a visit Tuesday from American Deputy Secretary of Energy Jeffery Kupfer.
Brazilian Mines and Energy Secretary Edson Lobao said the United States has made significant advances in the storage of residue from reactors.
"We can benefit from the Americans' experience," Lobao said after meeting Kupfer.
Kupfer's visit comes as Brazil is preparing to restart work on its third nuclear plant, Angra 3. One of the requirements for the plant's environmental license was the development of a better waste storage system.
Currently, Brazil's nuclear waste is stored in a system of "pools," long criticized by environmentalists who say the system risks spilling waste into the ocean.

"The United States sees nuclear energy as an essential part of its energy supply into the future. We are in the process of constructing new reactors after a long period and the theme of waste management is an essential component of that process," Kupfer said.
The officials also discussed biofuels, an area led by Brazil, which has the world's largest alcohol-powered fleet.
Brazilian ethanol, made from sugarcane, is cheaper and more efficient than American ethanol, made from corn, but the United States taxes Brazilian ethanol at 54 cents per gallon.
Kupfer said despite Brazilian complaints that they are being frozen out of the U.S. market, those tariffs will remain in place.

Wind and Brazil blowing fair for Cookson

By John O’Doherty
Published: August 6 2008 02:48

The recent surge in wind farm developments and the boom in the Brazilian motor industry helped Cookson lift first-half profits and sales.
The engineering group, which specialises in ceramic components used extensively in the booming steel industry, also revealed a better than expected performance from a recent acquisition. The shares jumped 21p to 621p.

Nick Salmon, chief executive, said: “We’ve seen a big increase in demand for wind turbine components, particularly from western Europe.
“And in Brazil there’s a very vibrant autocomponents industry that is growing rapidly. All the castings that go into that have been fuelling our growth.”
Cookson’s ceramics division, which accounts for more than half of its sales, makes components used in steelmaking and in the production of mould-cast metal components. In steelmaking, Cookson’s ceramic tubes and valves – which are roughly the size of a human arm and have to be replaced every few hours – regulate the flow of molten steel and protect it from exposure to the air.
Cookson’s performance was also helped by its acquisition in April of Foseco, another ceramics maker whose products are used to remove impurities and improve the finish on mould-cast metal products.
“Foseco did even better than we were expecting at the start of the year,” said Mr Salmon.
Correcting for currency fluctuations, Cookson’s revenue for the half year rose 10 per cent to £863.5m, while operating profit rose 5 per cent to £82.3m ($160.9m). Including the Foseco acquisition, revenues gained 26 per cent to £1.1bn and pre-tax profit increased 45 per cent to £99.1m.
The interim dividend is raised 38 per cent to 5.85p on earnings per share of 22.7p (14.1p).
FT Comment
Cookson has significantly, and sensibly, changed the mix of its business in recent years, shifting away from the electronics market to which it was heavily exposed in the early part of the decade. Ceramics now account for about three-quarters of its profits. Cookson’s fortunes are, therefore, more strongly tied to the steel industry, which is in robust health amid surging demand from developing markets.
While some of this demand is reliant on consumers, most of it is fuelled by big long-term infrastructure developments, which are less vulnerable to a downturn. Among its peers, Cookson has a relatively low forward price/earnings ratio of 7.3, with its shares down more than a third since October. Tuesday’s statement makes that look somewhat overdone.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

BP to Invest $90 Million In U.S. Biofuels Producer

By GUY CHAZANAugust 6, 2008

LONDON -- U.K. major oil company BP PLC will invest $90 million in a U.S. producer of cellulosic ethanol, underscoring the growing interest in biofuels made from nonfood feedstocks such as plant waste.
So-called second-generation biofuels are garnering support amid concerns that corn-based ethanol is driving up global food prices and putting pressure on land resources. But even backers of second-generation biofuel say commercial production is a long way off.
BP's partner in the deal, Verenium Corp., produces cellulosic ethanol from bagasse, or sugarcane waste, and energy cane, an inedible cane-like grass.
Under an agreement to be announced Wednesday, BP will pay Verenium, of Cambridge, Mass., to access its technology platform and production facilities; BP also will co-fund Verenium's scientific initiatives. At a later stage, the two companies hope to jointly start commercial-scale production of cellulosic ethanol.
"This deal puts us at the front of the cellulosic biofuels game," said Sue Ellerbusch, president of BP Biofuels North America, in a statement.
The investment marks BP's first venture into cellulosic ethanol. Its rival, Anglo-Dutch major Royal Dutch Shell PLC, has built a visible presence in the sector, investing in a Canadian biotech company that makes the fuel from wheat straw and in a German firm that creates diesel fuel from wood chips. Shell is also attempting to extract biodiesel from algae.
BP previously was more focused on ethanol production. In April, it took at 50% stake in Tropical BioEnergia SA, which is building an ethanol refinery in Brazil.
Some countries have already moved to back the development of second-generation biofuels with legislation: the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2008 requires the U.S. to produce 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol by 2022.
Write to Guy Chazan at
Cost remains chief factor in going green

Published Date: 06 August 2008

ENVIRONMENTALLY conscious consumers are not yet ready to pay more for "green" products and services, Scottish business leaders warned yesterday.
And most people will not sacrifice cost for the sake of buying goods which are environmentally friendly, a debate on "green" business practices was told.Brendan Dick, the director of BT Scotland, told an audience at the debate in Edinburgh, that the country was "a long way from every customer caring about the environment". Dick added: "When people go to buy white goods then the environment still is not top of their agenda. That has to be about education – we have a long way to go there as well."Glen Bennett, the managing director of EAE Distribution, sounded a similar warning.Bennett, who set-up EAE in 1987 to distribute leaflets around Scotland, added: "Clients expect cheaper and cheaper prices."Customers are still not asking about distributors' 'green' credentials. They all talk about it but when it comes to signing a 'greener' contract that's 15 per cent more expensive, they will always go for the cheaper deal."Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland and chairman of the event, said: "I agree that the majority of the public are not ready to pay the price yet but a significant niche are and that why these 'greener' companies exist."For them to lower their prices at the moment would be tantamount to business suicide."Instead, they should lobby government for tighter environmental controls, which would level the playing field with their less 'green' competitors."The panel also said that businesses could not be expected to tackle climate change on its own."We often look at environmental impact and ask what businesses are doing," said Dick."But what we really mean is 'what are organisations doing?'."Consumers, small businesses, large companies and government and public bodies are all using energy and, in Scotland, we should have a collective approach to tackling our environmental impact."McLaren challenged Dick and Bennett to spread the word to other businesses about lowering their carbon footprints and saving money at the same time.But Bennett highlighted some of the problems facing businesses that try to "go green".When EAE moved to Loanhead, in Midlothian, four years ago, he wanted to erect a wind turbine but it took two-and-half years to get planning permission and install the device."Erecting the wind turbine was going against good business sense in many ways because of all the red tape," Bennett explained but added the turbine was now generating between 60 and 80 per cent of the electrical power for his offices.He added that it would take about 25 years to recoup the cost of installing the turbine.Dick highlighted the scale of the challenge facing larger companies, such as BT.He said that, while BT has cut its carbon footprint by 60 per cent when compared with its 1996 levels, it still accounted for 0.7 per cent of the UK's electricity consumption.

Adieu Lamborghini, Aston Martin and Ferrari?

By Pete Harrison Reuters
Published: August 5, 2008

BRUSSELS: As giant European carmakers battle environmentalists and lawmakers over emissions curbs, makers of classic European sports cars like the Aston Martin DB9, Ferrari F430 and Porsche 911 are concerned the new laws will destroy their lifeblood.
Environmentalists say today's supercars, with huge engines pumping out up to three times as much carbon dioxide as the average vehicle, have no place in a world struggling to rein in climate change.
But Lamborghini and its rivals contend that theirs is a rare art that needs protecting, blending classic European design elements with cutting-edge technologies that can help save the planet. They also argue that sports cars usually only leave the garage on the weekend, contributing just 0.3 percent of European Union car emissions.
"As a high-luxury brand we are representing Europe to the world," Lamborghini's chief executive, Stephan Winkelmann, said. "We are a species to protect."
Many European car makers fear that the EU focus on emissions will make them uncompetitive around the world, leading to their eventual demise.

As part of its drive to lead in battling climate change, the European Commission, the EU executive body, has proposed cutting carbon dioxide emissions from new cars to an average of 120 grams per kilometer by 2012 for a car maker's fleet, compared with a current EU average of about 160 grams.
But the EU has come up against the political power of big auto, with its wide range of brands from the tiniest Fiat to the most powerful Porsche.
Sports cars, which typically pump out from 200 to 500 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer, would be handled differently to avoid damaging their ability to compete in international markets, according to the commission's proposal.
"We want a strong outcome for the environment," said a British diplomat in Brussels who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. "But we don't want the rules to disproportionately disadvantage small volume and niche manufacturers, many of which are in the U.K."
Manufacturers making less than 10,000 vehicles a year will be able to negotiate individual targets with the EU Commission.
"We don't believe the intention is to make us extinct," said Bradley Yorke-Biggs, director of strategy at Aston Martin of Britain. But the situation for its Italian and German rivals is far less certain because they are divisions of larger auto companies and cannot argue their own targets.
"We are committed to reduce CO2 emissions heavily in the next years so we are doing whatever is possible without destroying the DNA of the brand to bring them down to a much better level than today," said Winkelmann, of Lamborghini. "But you have to understand, it will never meet the 120 grams or 130 grams per kilometer."
Sports car makers are already cutting weight to improve acceleration and reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Lotus of Britain has managed to get carbon dioxide emissions down to 196 grams per kilometer in its Elise S, using a glass-composite body and aluminum chassis.
Although electric sports cars like the U.S.-based Tesla are available, customers might be slow to embrace that technology. "An Aston Martin is a very emotional drive, and how much of the appeal would be lost with an electric engine?" Yorke-Biggs said. "It would take time for our customer base to accept that."
Peter Everingham, secretary of the British Ferrari owners' club, says fellow Ferrari drivers might accept an electric Ferrari eventually as long as it featured the same perfectionist design qualities they have become used to.
"At the same time you're buying into the history, the Formula One team - all that is part of the passion," said Everingham, who drives a 20-year-old Ferrari 328.
While working to reduce emissions as much as possible, sports car makers still need to work out with EU politicians the details of any exemption to the proposed rules. The commission's exemption for niche manufacturers would cover Aston Martin, which hopes to sell 7,500 cars this year, 60 percent of them in the European Union. It could also cover smaller brands like Lotus and Morgan, which still uses wood in its cars.
But it would not help Ferrari or Maserati. The two brands sell less than 5,000 high-powered cars a year in the EU, but they would be excluded on the grounds they are part of the larger Fiat group with sales of around 1.2 million in Western Europe.
"Fiat does not agree with the current proposal, which would discriminate against Ferrari and Maserati," said a spokesman for Fiat Group, Gualberto Ranieri.
The commission argues Fiat could spread the burden of the sports car emissions across all of Fiat's cars - a scenario that Fiat says would add on average about 1 gram per kilometer to every car.
Everingham says that just as the world is changing to focus more on the environment, so sports car drivers are also changing the way they use their cars, driving more on race tracks and less on crowded highways.
Resorts are cropping up in the United States and Spain where enthusiasts can keep their cars, visiting on weekends to put them through their paces.
"They'll thrash them round the track for a couple of days, send them to the repairers, and then they'll head home," Everingham said.

Coal plugs the energy gap – for now

Cleaner coal plants, like the new Kingsnorth power station, are necessary until alternatives come on stream

David Porter,
Tuesday August 05 2008 17:00 BST

E.ON UK, one of the UK's leading energy companies, has decided that it wants to replace one of its old, coal-fired power stations with a modern one using the latest available coal combustion technology. The new power station will be 20% more efficient than the current power station. It will replace it one-for-one, on the same site – so no additional infrastructure requirements, such as access roads, and no conversion of a site to industrial use. The planning application, one might think, will be a shoo-in.
However, this expectation has been turned on its head. While the debate around UK energy policy rages, the planning application has been with the government since December 2006. Recently, even the developer called for the government's planning decision to be postponed in order to allow for more clarity on energy policy. And this week, the Camp for Climate Action has threatened to shut down the existing power station to protest against the new plant.
Energy policy is complicated at the best of times. It has to reconcile security of supply, affordability and sustainability. Recent retail price increases have focused attention on affordability, and all the while environmental requirements are transforming the industry and pushing up costs. UK electricity generators are increasingly investing in renewable energy sources such as wind, wave and tidal or biomass, to name but a few. Last year, the share of electricity generated from renewable energy sources reached 5%. The most ambitious targets for 2020 only set the share of renewables at 15% of energy and around 30% of electricity. In order to maintain security of supply, the remaining 70% will have to come from other sources.
The other energy sources at our disposal are fossil fuels and nuclear power. Nuclear power is controversial, but emits no greenhouse gases during electricity production. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, do. Since 2005 the amount of carbon emissions from power generation has been limited, though, by the EU emissions trading scheme.
The scheme incentivises companies to become more innovative and invest in greener technologies in order to limit their emissions. Electricity generators are now looking at "greener", more efficient ways of generating and are planning to invest billions of pounds over the next decade. This investment will be crucial as we face the closure of over a quarter of the current power station fleet by the middle of the next decade, as stations come to the end of their lives. Gas-fired power stations are one answer to the energy gap, but companies will not want to become over-dependent on gas, a fuel the UK increasingly has to import. Nuclear power is another part of the answer. Clean coal is the final piece of the jigsaw.
Some campaigners criticise the use of the word "clean" in relation to coal. It might be very confident, but it indicates the direction of travel. It stands for highly efficient technologies, so less coal has to be burnt for the same electricity output, causing fewer emissions. In the long term, the industry wants to use carbon capture and storage (CCS) – a technology which would allow 90% of emissions or more to be captured and stored underground. However, CCS is expensive and unproven, and we need the government to support the development and demonstration of CCS.
If we want diversity of supply – not being overdependent on one fuel, such as gas – and security of supply, we need coal for the foreseeable future. If all "unsuitable" power stations were to stop operating tomorrow, we would be back to the three-day week – indeed the working week might be even shorter than that. Renewables are expanding fast, but they cannot yet meet all our energy requirements, nor all our electricity demand. Coal can help meet the demand for new power stations over the next decade. That is why Kingsnorth power station is so important for the energy future of this country.

Plans for Kingsnorth push ahead despite 'clean coal' talks

· Greenpeace concern over draft planning conditions · Energy firm 'looking to finalise' building contracts
Terry Macalister and Alexandra Topping
The Guardian,
Wednesday August 6 2008

The energy company at the centre of a row over the proposed new Kingsnorth coal-fired power station is pushing ahead to finalise new building contracts, despite its insistence in public that it has put plans on hold until ministers complete a consultation on "clean coal" schemes, documents seen by the Guardian show.
Officials at the department of business who are handling the controversial plant have also completed a revised set of draft planning conditions for the German firm E.ON which make no reference to carbon capture and storage (CCS), news that has angered environmentalists.
The revelations are disclosed in an exchange of emails between the company and government officials, as activists take part in a week of protests against the coal-fired unit. They want to halt plans by E.ON UK to replace the existing Kingsnorth plant. Medway council has approved the scheme, and the final decision will be made by the government.
A note written by Doug Waters, the senior development engineer for E.ON on the Kingsnorth project, to Mohammed Gary, a civil servant at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, calls for a meeting to discuss planning conditions relating to construction "as we are looking to finalise contracts".
The email is dated May 12, six weeks after Paul Golby, the chief executive of E.ON UK, told ministers to defer making a decision on planning permission until after a consultation on clean coal schemes and the use of CCS, which is intended to trap greenhouse gases.
Last night, E.ON said it was natural for a company to proceed with as much work as it could before a final decision was made on how CCS would be organised, and on the wider question of whether new coal-fired power stations would be allowed.
Asked why some planning consent documents did not make reference to the clean coal process, a company spokesman said: "There are many parts of a power station that you can build, such as the boiler house and turbines, that have nothing to do with CCS."
The business department said: "This draft document should not be viewed as signalling anything about our intention to require carbon capture readiness if consent were to be granted to E.ON."
But Greenpeace claimed last night that it was significant that revised planning consents had been drawn up with no reference to CCS, or even to climate change.
Ben Stewart, communications director at Greenpeace, said: "They reveal an extra level of collusion between the government and Britain's biggest single carbon emitter. The energy minister has been telling the public that a new plant could bury its emissions, but privately its department is telling E.ON it won't have to."
At the site of the proposed plant, tensions grew yesterday with police accusing a "hardcore group" of preparing for criminal activity. Makeshift weapons were recovered next to the site on Monday evening, according to police, but no conclusive evidence had been found that they belonged to activists. Police said they had met with physical resistance from some activists, but protesters accused officers of using disproportionate force.

Drax profits halve as UK's largest source of CO2 pays price for soaring cost of carbon credits

· £50m dividend likely despite fall in earnings · Plans to produce 500MW from sustainable sources
Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Wednesday August 6 2008

Drax has seen its profits plunge by almost half as it pays the price for running the UK's biggest single carbon polluting power station in an era of rising CO2 prices.
Last year Drax, the owner of the 4,000 megawatt (MW) coal-fired plant in North Yorkshire, which supplies about 7% of the country's electricity, spent £11m buying CO2 emission allowances to cover its carbon pollution.
But the company has already spent £107m this year under a second phase of the European emissions trading scheme (ETS) when its allocation was reduced.
The higher cost of acquiring carbon credits helped cut pre-tax profits from £273m in the first six months of 2007 to £150m this time round and Drax admits full-year earnings will be considerably lower than before. Additional costs to the group came from the rising cost of its basic feedstock coal, which was 34% higher at £23.6 a megawatt hour.
The company, which plans to hand out £50m to shareholders in dividends despite the profit slump, is now looking to increase the amount of plant-based fuel it burns alongside coal.
The company banged the drum yesterday in favour of Britain building more coal-fired power stations despite deepening worries about climate change.
Dorothy Thompson, (below) chief executive of Drax, said the UK still needed more coal-fired generation because neither nuclear nor wind provided the kind of "variable" power that was needed for a constant supply of electricity.
"I firmly believe that long term, coal will be a key component to global energy supply," she explained .
The whole debate around coal-fired power stations has become increasingly fractious with climate campaigners protesting at the Kingsnorth site in Kent where the German-owned utility E.ON wants to build a new 1,600MW facility, with or without clean coal technology.
Thompson, whose Drax plant near Selby was the target of a similar demonstration last year, said she was convinced that "clean coal" - using carbon capture and storage - was technologically within reach. The only question remained at what price it could be done.
Despite her enthusiasm for coal, Thompson said she was looking at providing 500MW of output from a broad range of sustainable sources, up from a previous target of 400MW.
She said biomass was not as cheap as burning coal but it reduced CO2 emissions, adding: "I am confident we will earn a sufficient economic return on the investment." The technology for burning higher amounts of biomass will be ready by June 2010, later than a previous target of 2009.
The company is building a straw pellet plant in Yorkshire and considering further similar facilities, while also burning elephant grass, wood off-cuts and peanut husks.
Thompson said she would consider burning more crop-based fuels if there were not government caps on coal-fired power stations doing so. Drax has itself been looking at expanding outside of the coal arena by considering whether to buy gas-fired power stations but recently turned down the chance to buy a facility on Teesside because it was deemed too expensive.
Analysts at Deutsche Bank noted the lower financial results but said it remained positive about the future. "Drax is now facing higher prices for CO2, while receiving less free credits, following the start of phase 2 of the EU ETS. However, the outlook for Drax has improved substantially over the last 6-12 months, with higher oil prices more than offsetting the impact of higher coal prices and leading to higher forward margins for Drax," they said.
The collapse in half-year profits at Drax, the UK's biggest single carbon polluter, is proof that the European Union's emission trading scheme (ETS) is working better. The owner of the North Yorkshire coal-fired electricity generator, run by Dorothy Thompson, pictured, saw the allocations it received under the scheme reduced, obliging it to pay more to cover its emissions.
A second phase of the ETS came into force at the start of the year, three years after the first - much criticised - phase got under way. It was widely deemed to have been far too lenient.
Installations in the energy and industrial sectors obtain a ration of free allowances and must buy any more they need on the open market, where the price of carbon has been rising. The current scheme, which runs till 2012, still covers only half of all EU emissions of CO2.