Friday, 8 August 2008

Cash to help make fishing greener

Published Date: 08 August 2008
By Frank Urquhart

THE Scottish Government yesterday pledged £200,000 to help the Scottish fishing industry to develop sustainable fishing practices to conserve threatened stocks.
The funding was announced by Alex Salmond, the First Minister, at a ceremony in Peterhead where the Scottish Pelagic Sustainability Group (SPSG) became the first organisation in the sector to receive eco-label certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for its control of the North Sea herring fishery. The certification scheme is a voluntary fisheries eco-label which recognises responsible and sustainable working practices to conserve stocks.The Scottish North Sea herring fishery is one of only 31 fisheries worldwide to achieve the certification. It is also the first large-scale UK-based fishery to receive the award.Mr Salmond said: "Scotland's fishing industry is to be congratulated on its success in achieving MSC certification for Scottish North Sea herring and its work to harvest fish in a sustainable and responsible manner."Scottish seafood is among the best in the world and contributes more than £400 million to our economy. This new investment of over £200,000 highlights the Scottish Government's firm commitment to Scottish fisheries and to ensuring they are well-managed, sustainable and profitable."All fisheries depend upon well-managed, sustainable stocks, and certification is vital to the future success of Scottish fisheries and their local communities."Mr Salmond added: "Scotland recognises the importance of sustainability and is leading the way in sustainability certification with over 50 per cent of Scottish fisheries currently under full assessment for the MSC certification, and growing."It is clear more and more consumers are looking for a guarantee that the produce they are eating is sourced in a sustain-able manner, and certification schemes such as MSC play a valuable role in promoting fish consumption."The new investment will be used to strengthen the support available to Scottish fisheries seeking sustainability certification and will be used to part-fund Seafood Scotland's environmental manager and the MSC's Scottish outreach officer.Derek Duthie, the secretary of the pelagic group, said: "We are pleased that the SPSG has been successful in bringing together all Scottish fishermen and processors… to achieve MSC certification. This is the first large-scale fishery in the UK to comply with the exacting MSC standard."This is a notable achievement for the Scottish pelagic industry and underlines our commitment to sustainable fisheries."Rupert Howes, the chief executive of the MSC, said: "This is a significant fishery, both in size and location, and the certification means that international consumers will soon be able to buy Scottish-caught and processed MSC-certified herring and kippers."

Nuclear share of electricity output falls to 15 per cent

Robin Pagnamenta and Adam Sage

The share of electricity generated by Britain's nuclear power stations has fallen to 15 per cent of total demand - its lowest level in 21 years - government figures indicate.
The decline from a peak of about 30 per cent in 1996 has resulted from a string of technical problems with British Energy's ageing reactors and the scheduled closure of plants.
At only 52 terrawatt hours of a total 378.5 terrawatt hours supplied last year, the figure was the lowest since 1987.
The Nuclear Industry Association gave warning yesterday that nuclear energy's share could slide farther, to less than 10 per cent by 2011, because of further planned reactor closures at Oldbury, Gloucestershire, this year and at Wylfa, Anglesey, in 2010.

Two more plants, at Heysham, Lancashire, and Hartlepool, are scheduled to close in 2014 and two more in 2016. A spokesman for the association said: “We believe this makes it even more important to move forward towards new nuclear development in the UK in a timely fashion to help to deliver a stable-priced, low-carbon economy for the future wellbeing of the country.”
The steep decline in UK electricity produced from nuclear power has emerged as concern mounts over the safety record of the two French state energy giants bidding to regenerate Britain's nuclear industry after the fourth incident of radioactivity of the summer.
Although authorities in France said that the environmental impact of the leaks was limited, they have sapped confidence just as Paris is pushing to export its nuclear technology.
The latest lapse happened at a nuclear waste plant run by a subsidiary of Areva, the group leading a consortium that is in line to take over the management of Sellafield.
Areva, which wants to design the next generation of British nuclear reactors, faced calls to shut down the Tricastin plant in southern France after it was found to have emitted its annual quota of radioactive gas in only six months.
The French Nuclear Safety Authority ordered the company to cease activities resulting in carbon-14 releases until January after the failing, which involved the treatment of radioactive medical waste.

Coal isn't the climate enemy, Mr Monbiot. It's the solution

We must draw on existing resources as part of an integrated energy policy, not flirt with nuclear, the most dangerous option

Arthur Scargill
The Guardian,
Friday August 8 2008

Coal power is far safer, says former National Union of Mineworkers leader Arthur Scargill in reply to a pro-nuclear article by green campaigner George Monbiot

Has George Monbiot sold out on his environmental credentials or is he suffering from amnesia? In his article on these pages last Tuesday he states that he has now reached the point where he no longer cares whether or not the answer to climate change is nuclear - let it happen, he says.
Has he not read the evidence presented by environmentalists such as Tony Benn and me at the Windscale, Sizewell and Hinckley Point public inquiries? Is he unaware that nuclear-power generated electricity is the most expensive form of energy - 400% more expensive than coal - or that it received £6bn in subsidies, with £70bn to be paid by taxpayers in decommissioning costs? Is he unaware that there is no known way of disposing of nuclear waste, which will contaminate the planet for thousands of years? Has he forgotten the nuclear disasters at Windscale, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl?
We are facing an economic and political crisis on a scale similar to the Wall Street crash in 1929, the mass unemployment which affected the UK and Europe in the 1930s and the energy crisis in the early 70s.
We are facing a monumental energy crisis, yet we live on an island with more than 1,000 years of coal reserves from which we can provide all the electricity, oil, gas and petrochemicals that people need, without causing harm to the environment. Britain - despite its massive indigenous deep-mine coal reserves - has never had an integrated energy policy based on coal and renewables, and as a consequence we are now facing the worst energy crisis in our history.
Since the end of the second world war, both Labour and Tory governments have sought to replace Britain's vast coal reserves with a false promise of "cheap" imported oil, "cheap, safe" nuclear energy and "cheap" natural gas - policies that have not only cost the British people billions of pounds, but resulted in the near-extinction of Britain's deep-mine coal industry, the virtual exhaustion of North Sea gas and oil, and massive economic costs and environmental problems associated with nuclear power.
After the closure of 192 pits since 1980, the loss of 170,000 jobs and the closure or non-operation of nearly 70% of coal-fired power stations on the false premise that they were uneconomic and the worst polluter of carbon dioxide, it is reasonable to expect that there would have been a dramatic fall in CO2 emissions. But in fact CO2 emissions have actually increased - not that surprising, since more than 80% of CO2 emissions are produced by oil and gas from power stations, road transport, industry, shipping and domestic use. That fact alone should cause Monbiot to rethink.
Britain needs an integrated energy policy that will produce 250m tonnes of indigenous deep-mine clean coal per year - from which could be extracted all the electricity, oil, gas and petrochemicals that our people need.
All existing and new coal-fired power stations should be fitted with clean coal technology - including carbon capture that would remove all CO2 - and at the same time we should be developing a massive renewable energy policy based on wind, wave, tide, barrage, hydro, geothermal, solar power, together with insulation, conservation and reforestation.
We must end the import of coal, (currently 43m tonnes a year) which is produced by subsidies, "slave labour" and child labour, and end the import of shale oil, tar sands and other so-called unconventional oils, which are the dirtiest fuels on the planet but are being used to produce electricity.
We still do not know - because of the security and secrecy laws - the full extent of the disaster at Windscale (Sellafield) in 1957 or Three Mile Island in the US in 1979, but we do know that the incidence of cancer and leukaemia - particularly among children - is 10% higher in or around nuclear power stations, and we know from experts such as Robert Gale - who treated the victims at Chernobyl in 1986 - that more than 100,000 will die over a 30-year period.
We need an end to all nuclear-powered electricity generation, the most dangerous and uneconomic method of producing electricity. We need an end to deforestation, which is the cause of 20% of CO2 emissions worldwide, and an end to biofuel development - which not only produces substantial CO2 emissions but is causing mass starvation and higher food prices throughout the world.
Only by the introduction of a real integrated energy policy based on clean coal technology and renewable energies, can we begin to meet the needs of people in the UK and throughout the world.
I challenge George Monbiot to test out which is the most dangerous fuel - coal or nuclear power. I am prepared to go into a room full of CO2 for two minutes, if he is prepared to go into a room full of radiation for two minutes.
· Arthur Scargill is the leader of the Socialist Labour party. He was president of the National Union of Mineworkers 1982-2002

Climate change catastrophe by degrees

Bob Watson rightly warns us to prepare for 4C global warming. To avoid that, we must make drastic CO2 cuts now

Mark Lynas,
Thursday August 07 2008 11:04 BST

Unfortunately, Professor Bob Watson is not speaking out of turn in telling the world to prepare for four degrees of global warming. "Mitigate for two degrees; adapt for four" has long been the catchphrase among climate negotiators and campaigners. Translated, that means: try to reduce emissions to stay below two degrees of warming, but also prepare for the worst.
And Bob Watson should know – he is the former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but was kicked out at the behest of the Bush administration for being too vocal about the threat presented by global warming. (Any sceptic reading who thinks that the IPCC is a conspiracy of environmentalists take note: it is a creature of government as well as of science.) He has long made clear his own personal passion and commitment to tackling the issue – often without mincing his words. He is also someone with a very wide-ranging perspective: after leaving the IPCC, Watson chaired the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a landmark UN study published in 2005 looking at the totality of human impact on the planet's natural systems. (The news wasn't good.)
The problem with the "mitigate for two degrees; adapt for four" strategy is that it is doomed to fail. Yes, we should certainly prepare for the worst as far as possible – with flood defences, drought-resistant crops and strategies to ameliorate the loss of wildlife, at the very least – but a look at the likely impact of a four-degrees temperature rise suggests that such a dramatic change would probably stretch society's capacity for adaptation to the limit, not to mention having a disastrous effect on the natural ecosystems that support humanity as a whole.
By the time global temperatures reach four degrees, much of humanity will be short of water for drinking and irrigation: glaciers in the Andes and Himalayas, which feed river systems on which tens of millions depend, will have melted, and their rivers will be seasonally running dry. Whole weather systems like the Asian monsoon (which supports 2 billion people) may alter irrevocably. Deserts will have spread into Mediterranean Europe, across most of southern Africa and the western half of the United States. Higher northern latitudes will be plagued with regular flooding. Heatwaves of unimaginable ferocity will sear continental landscapes: the UK would face the kind of summer temperatures found in northern Morocco today. The planet would be in the throes of a mass extinction of natural life approaching in magnitude that at the end of the Cretaceous period, 65m years ago, when more than half of global biodiversity was wiped out.
Four degrees of warming would also cross many of the "tipping points" which so concern climate scientists: the Amazon rainforest would likely collapse and burn, as part of a massive further release of carbon from terrestrial ecosystems – the reverse of the current situation, where trees and soils absorb and store a good portion of our annual emissions. Most of the Arctic permafrost will lie in the melt zone, and will be steadily releasing methane, accelerating warming still further. The northern polar ice cap will be a distant memory, and Greenland will be melting so rapidly that sea level rise by the end of the century will be measured in metres rather than centimetres. Hence the current effort – led by scientists, in the main – to drop the two degrees target and talk instead about getting carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere back down to less dangerous levels. This year's CO2 concentration is 385 parts per million (ppm) – now a campaign is forming to get them back down to 350ppm, about the level they were at in the mid 1980s. This isn't just about reducing emissions, it is about getting emissions quickly down to zero (by 2050 or earlier), and then removing some of the excess carbon that humanity has already dumped into the atmosphere. The planet will still get warmer, but on nothing like the scale currently predicted.
The harsh truth is that the latest science shows that even two degrees is not good enough, never mind four. And since four degrees would be a catastrophe that many of us, or our children, would not survive, it is surely our absolute duty to do everything in our power to avoid it.

Green energy: Diageo orders scotch and biofuel cocktail

Simon Bowers
The Guardian,
Friday August 8 2008

Diageo, the market leader in scotch whisky, is to spend £65m on a bio-energy plant at its largest distillery in a move that will turn 90,000 tonnes of "spent wash" from the production process into steam and electrical power.
The drinks group, which makes Johnnie Walker, Bell's and J&B, believes the facility at its Cameronbridge distillery in Fife will be the largest single investment in renewable technology by a non-utility company in the UK. It says the plant will generate 6.5 megawatts of electrical power and 20MW of thermal power, which is enough to heat 12,000 homes.
Spent wash - a mixture of wheat, malted barley, yeast and water - is currently drained and sold to local farmers as wet cattle feed. The remaining liquid is piped out into the firth.
Once the new plant is operational, spent wash will be separated into liquid and solids. The liquid will be converted, through an anaerobic digestion process, into biogas. The dried solids form a biomass fuel. Together they will be used to provide 98% of the thermal steam and 80% of electrical power used at the distillery. The facility will also recover about a third of water requirements at Cameronbridge, Scotland's largest distillery.
The plant will take energy management company Dalkia two years to build.
Bryan Donaghey, managing director of Diageo Scotland, said the project had been drawn up two years ago as an environmental initiative with little financial benefit. But recent rises in gas prices are likely to result in savings. He was unable to say how long the investment would take to pay for itself.
Dr Mark Williamson, director of innovations at the Carbon Trust, said: "Nearly half of the UK's carbon emissions come from heating buildings and industrial processes. We need to urgently accelerate the adoption of biomass heating systems if we are to meet the government's 2020 renewables targets.
"We know the technology is mature and widely used in Europe but the challenge in the UK is to reduce costs, establish robust supply chains and drive widespread market uptake."
Diageo is also undertaking a £100m programme to boost production capacity in Scotland. This includes the first new malt distillery to be built in Scotland in 18 years, at Roseisle.

Kingsnorth climate protesters target biofuel depot

Vopak site in Essex blockaded as part of week-long environment protest
Jenny Percival and agencies,
Thursday August 07 2008 12:40 BST

Climate change activists today blockaded a biofuel depot as part of a week-long protest camp based at Kingsnorth power station in Kent.
The protesters said they were stopping fuel lorries from leaving or entering the Vopak depot in Thurrock, Essex, to show their anger at the environmental destruction caused by biofuels.
Eight people who lay in the road with their arms in "lock-on tubes" to stop police removing them were arrested. Others unveiled a 12-metre banner from the top of one of the site's containers proclaiming a day of action against biofuels. Four people chained themselves to a fuel storage tank.
The campaigners said they stopped the lorries entering the site, but police said the blockade had been broken up.
Vopak said its main concerns were the safe removal of the protesters and the safety and security of its terminal. Its UK operations manager, Craig Garbutt, declined to comment on the protest itself
The blockade is part of the week-long climate camp outside Kingsnorth. The estimated 1,000 campaigners at the site near Hoo are opposed to proposals by its owner, E.On, to build a new on-site coal-fired facility. It would be the first such plant built in Britain for more than 30 years.
The climate activists at Vopak were targeting biofuels - petrol or diesel made from plant materials. Biofuels were originally seen as a greener alternative to fossil fuels, but have been shown to cause deforestation and contribute to food price rises as land use is switched to growing fuel crops such as palm oil and maize.
The protesters said companies such as Greenergy and Tesco, which use the depot for biofuel supplies, were causing food price rises, world hunger, ecosystem destruction and accelerated climate change.
Julia Brownlow, one of the protesters, said: "Agrofuels are destroying the very ecosystems which can stabilise the climate - with the collapse of the Amazon possibly just a few years away I am left with no choice but to take action."
The camp for climate action, which began with a march from Rochester on Sunday, has been marred by clashes between police and campaigners.
Officers confiscated weapons and other items after carrying out a search of trees and undergrowth surrounding the camp site on Monday evening.

U.S. environmental agency won't ease requirements for ethanol in gas

By Matthew L. Wald
Published: August 7, 2008

WASHINGTON: The Environmental Protection Agency rejected on Thursday a request to cut the quota for the use of ethanol in cars, concluding, for the time being, that the goal of reducing the U.S.'s reliance on oil trumps any effect on food prices from making fuel from corn.
The EPA administrator, Stephen Johnson, said that the mandate was "strengthening our nation's energy security and supporting American farming communities," and that it was not causing "severe harm to the economy or the environment."
The effect of the decision on fuel and food markets is hard to determine. Recently, high energy prices have led to even more ethanol production than the quota required. On the other hand, rising corn prices made some ethanol operations unprofitable, especially as oil prices started to fall.
So ending the quota might not have reduced the use of ethanol, but it might decline even with the quotas remaining in place. Still, the debate is fraught with symbolism — as a sign of unease over government intervention in the energy and food markets, with all the unintended consequences that ensue. The decision is an indication that Washington is unwilling to retreat from a policy that is very popular among grain farmers, if not among ranchers.
Companies that use corn to fatten livestock and poultry, along with others in the food business, had called for lifting the requirements, saying that their costs were rising as millions of pounds of corn were diverted from feeding livestock to fueling cars. Farmers argued that the jump in corn prices was driven not so much by the demand for ethanol as by growing demand for grain-fed meat around the world, and their own higher costs for diesel fuel.

Governor Rick Perry of Texas, a leading cattle state as well as a bastion of the oil business, made the request in late April, and the EPA said it received 15,000 comments during its three-month-long review.
The rules that the EPA reconsidered on Thursday set a floor for ethanol use, not a ceiling, and not even the floor was firm, because under the rules, the EPA could issue a waiver if the requirement became "onerous."
Renewable fuel use in 2004 was 3.5 billion gallons, according to the EPA — mostly ethanol, which is a form of alcohol, but including some biodiesel, which contains oil from crops. The goal for this year had been 5.4 billion gallons but in December, with the price of oil soaring, Congress raised the renewables quota to 9 billion gallons for this year, and laid out a schedule of annual increases that would bring it to 11.1 billion gallons in 2009. In 2022, the quota would be 36 billion gallons.
The agency has not completed an analysis of the effect of the mandate as the quota rises.
That target requires not only more ethanol but new cars and new filling station equipment, because nationally, gasoline consumption of fuel for cars, vans, sport utility vehicles and motorcycles is only in the range of 140 billion gallons, and ordinary cars can burn ethanol in blends with gasoline no higher than 10 percent. But ethanol is part of the auto industry's long-term strategy; General Motors plans that by 2012, half the vehicles it builds will be able to accept blends of up to 85 percent ethanol.
The long-term hope, backed up with generous government incentives, is to make motor fuel from "cellulosic," or non-food, sources. Private companies are feverishly pursuing technologies for using wood chips, wheat straw, waste plastic and even municipal garbage to make ethanol and other liquid vehicle fuels. But none of these is commercial at the moment. More Articles in Business » A version of this article appeared in print on August 7, 2008, on page WT1 of the New York edition.

Daschle in talks on ethanol lobby job

By Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington
Published: August 7 2008 22:12

One of Barack Obama’s most important backers is in talks to become an adviser to the Renewable Fuels Association, the most powerful ethanol lobby in the US capital.
Tom Daschle, the former Democratic Senate majority leader who has long been an influential champion of the ethanol industry, told the Financial Times about the move in an interview.

The news underlines what ethanol proponents already believe: that in spite of Mr Obama’s remarks that the US might have to reconsider its ethanol policy in the wake of criticism about its impact on global food prices, the Democratic candidate and his advisers fundamentally support the industry.
John McCain, Mr Obama’s Republican rival, has said he supports ethanol as a fuel but opposes subsidies.
“I think that John McCain will probably try to shut down the ethanol industry. He’s been very overt about that,” Mr Daschle said. “Barack on the other hand recognises the importance of ethanol and of biofuels generally.”
When not acting for the Obama campaign, Mr Daschle works as a special policy adviser at Alston & Bird, a lobby group and law firm.
The former South Dakota senator said he would not serve as a lobbyist nor meet legislators on the RFA’s behalf.
However, he would advise the lobby group on addressing concerns about ethanol’s impact on the environment and food prices as well as how the industry could make a transition from the initial phase of ethanol production to “something more sophisticated and more diverse”.
Mr Daschle, who some tout as a potential chief of staff to Mr Obama, sits on the board of Mascoma, a company that is developing technology for cellulosic ­ethanol technologies.
Ethanol lobbyists have blamed food manufacturers and oil and gas companies for engineering attacks on the ethanol industry, including claims that dramatic increases in food prices are the result of so-called “food to fuel” mandates.
A World Bank report last month also blamed the large increase in US and European biofuel production for rising food prices that have especially burdened the poor in developing countries.
“I would argue that the World Bank was influenced by a lot of the conventional wisdom at the time created in part by the oil companies and the food companies,” Mr Daschle said.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

EPA Declines to Reduce Ethanol Requirements


WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration denied a request to reduce the amount of ethanol that must be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply, dealing a setback to food producers, livestock ranchers and others who say the mandate is contributing to high food prices.
The decision marks a victory for U.S. corn growers and ethanol makers. But it is unlikely to settle the broader debate over U.S. biofuels policy and the degree to which the U.S. should continue to subsidize alternative fuels such as corn-based ethanol. Within minutes of the administration's announcement, groups representing poultry producers, livestock farmers and other industries vowed to take their case to Congress and the next presidential administration.
President George W. Bush has promoted ethanol as part of a plan to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil. Three years ago, he signed a law that mandated that 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuel a year be added to the nation's fuel supply by 2012. Last year, he signed a law that increased that requirement almost fivefold, raising the requirement to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
The government's support for corn-based ethanol has frustrated chicken and hog producers, who say the mandate has increased the cost of feeding their livestock by diverting corn toward ethanol production and away from use as a feedstock. Earlier this year, Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the requirement by half, from the nine billion gallons of renewable fuels mandated for 2008. By law, the EPA may waive the mandate if it determines that the requirement is causing "severe harm" to the economy.
On Thursday, the EPA acknowledged that high commodity prices are having "economic impacts," but it said there was "no compelling evidence" that the mandate is causing "severe economic harm." The EPA's administrator, Stephen Johnson, added that the requirement, known as the Renewable Fuels Standard, "remains an important tool" in the U.S. effort to fight global warming and to lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil "in aggressive yet practical ways."
Corn traders had expected the EPA to reject Texas's request, and the ruling had little effect on prices. September futures rose 14.25 cents to $5.2225 per bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade. Corn prices are down sharply since hitting record prices in June, though they are still high compared with the $2 levels that existed before 2005, before the government increased its support for ethanol.
Annual ethanol demand in the U.S. is currently about nine billion gallons. Annual production capacity is expected to reach roughly 13 billion gallons early next year, according to Eitan Bernstein, an energy analyst at FBR Capital Markets.
Government mandates have been a powerful force behind the ethanol industry's rapid growth. Ethanol production has more than doubled since 2005, the year that Congress established the Renewable Fuels Standard program.
Even if the EPA cut back on ethanol requirements, it might not have much effect, as gasoline companies already are blending in more ethanol than required. They have been encouraged by new production and the recent fall in corn prices.
In recent months, however, policy makers around the globe have been under pressure to cut incentives for biofuels production, as food-price inflation has cut deeper into consumers' pockets. Increases in food prices have sparked riots in some countries. Ethanol producers say biofuels are being used as a scapegoat and that high oil prices are the bigger contributor to food-price inflation.
The Bush administration has been steadfast in its support for the ethanol industry, which has bipartisan political backing throughout the Midwest. Even before Thursday's announcement, some within the administration had expressed concern that easing the mandate would undercut private-sector investment in biofuel technology.
--Doug Cameron and Stephen Power contributed to this article.