Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Families unfairly targeted in drive to cut waste

British households are being unfairly targeted by the Government in the drive to cut refuse and other waste, an influential House of Lords committee warns today.

By Robert Winnett, Deputy Political Editor Last Updated: 2:58PM BST 20 Aug 2008

The government must start focusing on a long term plan to tackle industrial waste according to a group of peers.
Ministers should focus their efforts on getting supermarkets and other businesses which are responsible for producing the vast majority of waste to cut back rather than "solely making demands of consumers".
The peers also express concern over the country's increasing "throwaway society" and urge that firms acting "irresponsibly" by creating unnecessary waste should be penalised financially.
Lord O'Neill, who headed the Lords inquiry, told The Daily Telegraph that British consumers faced "excessive packaging". He also accused supermarkets of being "overly cautious" when putting best-before dates on fresh food which was encouraging consumers to throw produce away prematurely.
Gordon Brown called on British households last month to reduce food waste but the latest analysis suggests that supermarkets must share the blame.
The House of Lords Science Committee has published its 127-page report amid growing public anger over draconian refuse collection rules. Millions of families across the country have lost their weekly rubbish collections yet face fines if they overfill bins or fail to recycle. Ministers are also trialling new "pay-as-you throw" bin taxes.
However, in today's report, the Lords argue that the Government is wrong to single out consumers for criticism and penalties as they are responsible for less than 10 per cent of Britain's waste.
Lord O'Neill, a former senior Labour MP, said: "The target regime for local authorities must be changed, so instead of a focus only on individuals' waste, priority is given to ensuring businesses are doing their bit to reduce waste. An important step would be to introduce true individual producer responsibility for waste associated with a company's products so manufacturers who behave irresponsibly face financial consequences and those who are doing the right thing are supported."
He added: "There is excessive packaging on a number of items - chocolate biscuits, Easter eggs and so on - and people should be alerted to the fact that this is not an efficient way for businesses to operate. Wasteful packaging was something we thought needs to be addressed."
The peer also criticised the application of best-before dates. "Early sell-by dates enables supermarkets to turn round their stock more quickly and they are obviously loathed to expose themselves to legal action if there is something wrong with their food," he said. "Therefore, perfectly good food may be thrown away because of a mixture of supermarkets being overly cautious and being keen to move stock along."
The report was welcomed by the Conservatives. Eric Pickles, the Shadow Secretary for Communities and Local Government, said: "This independent report highlights the failings of the Government to tackle the vast amount of waste produced by businesses, and the lamentable record of this Government in helping firms increase their recycling. Labour Ministers seem obsessed with hammering householders with heavy-handed bin taxes, bin fines and bin cuts, despite the fact that domestic rubbish is a small fraction of the total amount that we throw away."
The Lords' inquiry also call on the Government to offer lower VAT rates for products which have longer life-spans and for those that can be easily repaired rather than replaced.
VAT should also not be levied on electrical repairs in a bid to end the UK's throwaway culture where companies make higher profits if consumers discard their products regularly. The report concludes that there needs to be a radical shift in focus to cut waste from consumer goods - ranging from cars to electrical goods to food packaging - rather than simply penalising households who produce too much waste.
"Such a change could lead to manufacturers adapting their business model to encourage more sustainable consumption amongst their customers," the Lords conclude.
Cheap clothes which are designed to be thrown away after only being worn a few times are also singled out for criticism. "The Committee looked at the growth of 'fast fashion' and point out that the increased use of cheap fabrics for clothes intended to be worn for a short period of time and then thrown away makes recycling of fabric more difficult and is reflective of an increasing 'throwaway society'", the report states.
The Lords analysis was also welcomed by local authorities who have campaigned for supermarkets to cut their packaging which they claim is often excessive.
Paul Bettison, chairman of the Local Government Association's Environment Board, said: "Businesses need to match the efforts local people have made in recent years to reduce this country's reliance on landfill. It is unfair for them to profit at the taxpayers' expense as councils are left to deal with the rubbish they create.
"Reducing packaging is vital if we are to avoid paying more landfill tax and EU fines, which could lead to cuts in frontline services and increases in council tax. The days of the cling film coconut must come to an end. We all have a responsibility to reduce the amount of waste being thrown into landfill, which is damaging the environment and contributing to climate change."
An estimated 32 million people have now lost weekly refuse collections across the country. It recently emerged that ministers have quietly abandoned proposals that would have ensured that local waste authorities could only scrap weekly collections or impose bin taxes following a unanimous council vote.
Environment minister Joan Ruddock defended the Government's approach. ``It's quite wrong to suggest that the Government is over-focused on individuals when it comes to waste," she said. "The landfill tax escalator specifically targets business and commerce as high waste producers. We have a big programme of engagement with business and have invested over £650m in the last three years."

Millions eating food grown with polluted water, says UN report

Study of 53 cities across the world finds 'widespread' use of waste water contaminated with heavy metals and sewage
John Vidal,
Monday August 18 2008 12:28 BST

Sewage water from a sea food market is drained into Jialing River, a branch of Yangtze River. Photograph: Reuters/China Daily
At least 200 million people around the world risk their health daily by eating food grown using untreated waste water, some of which may be contaminated with heavy metals and raw sewage, according to major study of 53 world cities.
Urban farmers in 80% of the cities surveyed were found to be using untreated waste water, but the study said they also provided vital food for burgeoning cities at a time of unprecedented water scarcity and the worst food crisis in 30 years.
The study from the UN-backed International Water Management Institute (IMWI), said the practice of using waste water to grow food in urban areas was not confined to the poorest countries.
"It's a widespread phenomenon, occurring on 20m hectares across the developing world, especially in Asian countries like China, India and Vietnam, but also around nearly every city of sub-Saharan Africa and in many Latin American cities as well," said IWMI researcher Liqa Raschid-Sally.
"Nor is it limited to the countries and cities with the lowest GDP. It is prevalent in many mid-income countries as well", she said. The report, launched today at World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, found the practice "widespread and practically inevitable".
"As long as developing countries lack suitable transport to deliver large quantities of perishable produce to urban areas, urban agriculture will remain important. In the face of water scarcity generally and a lack of access to clean water, urban farmers will have no alternative except to use … polluted water", write the authors.
The report found that few developing countries have official guidelines for the use of waste water in agriculture. Even if they do, monitoring and enforcement rarely happen and may not be realistic. As a result, though the practice may be theoretically forbidden or controlled, it is "unofficially tolerated."
Earlier in 2008, the UN's World Health Organization stated that a global environmental and health crisis was unfolding with more than 200m tonnes of human waste a year being dumped untreated in water systems, exposing hundreds of millions of people to disease.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said on Sunday that rivers around the world are now seriously polluted "to the brink of collapse".
"Many rivers in developing countries and emerging economies are now polluted to the brink of collapse. For example, the Yangtze, China's longest river, is suffering because of pollution by untreated waste, agricultural run-off and industrial discharge", said a spokesman.

UK adds to drain on global water sources

Felicity Lawrence
The Guardian,
Wednesday August 20 2008

The Albert Bartlett factory near Glasgow has a prodigious thirst. One in six of all the potatoes, carrots, parnsips and onions eaten in the UK are washed and packed by the company and about six tonnes of tubers move through its Scottish packhouse's 21 giant washing barrels an hour. Here two-thirds of all Sainsbury's potatoes and supplies to most of the other leading supermarkets are cleaned, bagged and dispatched 24/7. To process them requires 85 cubic metres of water a day.
The potato packhouse finds itself on the frontline in the latest environmental battle. Its heavy demand for water is typical of modern processing but by harvesting rainwater from its vast roof and recycling the water from its washing machines through a water treatment plant, it has made itself a paragon of hydrological efficiency and saved itself more than £275,000 on five years of water bills at the same time.
The Scottish packhouse gutters are filled by 114cm (45in) of rainfall a year and there is no local water shortage, but in East Anglia, where Albert Bartlett also operates, water scarcity is already a problem. Companies there have found their expansion curtailed by limits being applied to how much water they can abstract.
Water, or lack of it, has moved rapidly up the agenda for British businesses. A report published today by the environmental group WWF highlights why the issue is suddenly being taken so seriously. UK Water Footprint calculates for the first time how much water British consumers use, not just directly, but also indirectly due to the large volumes required to produce the globally-sourced, all year round foods and textile fibres which we now take for granted. According to WWF, each UK resident uses 4,645 litres of the world's water every day, compared to people in poor countries who subsist on 1,000 litres of "virtual water" a day.
We take 62% of our water needs from other countries, importing most from Brazil, France, Ireland, Ghana, and India thanks to our consumption of meat, soya, oil seed, rice, coffee, tea and cocoa.
But where water comes from, and when, is more important than just the quantity used, the report concludes. Many of the countries from which we import this virtual water have acute water shortages.
Stuart Orr, WWF's water footprint expert and joint author of the report, predicts water will "emerge as a profound issue for our generation in Britain". "Blue" water, withdrawn from ground and surface reserves, is more of an immediate problem than "green" water, from rainfall or the soil, but climate change will mean changing patterns of rainfall too. "There are so many local water crises globally and when that comes together with climate change and population growth, we are setting ourselves up for a real fall. "
The UK sources out-of-season fruits and vegetables from Morocco, but it takes 13 litres of water to grow one tomato in that country. Overpumping of Morocco's aquifers in the main agricultural region has resulted in the water table dropping 20 metres in 35 years. By 2020, at current rates, groundwater will be effectively exhausted. Spain, the 10th largest supplier of our virtual water imports, is already in crisis. Current water use in Almeria is four to five times more than the region's annual rainfall and is mainly drawn , some of it illegally, from deep wells with high salinity.
A shirt made from cotton grown in Pakistan or Uzbekistan requires 2,700 litres of water, which may have come from depleted sources such as the Indus river that often runs dry before it reaches the sea, or from Aral Sea that has lost 80% of its volume in the last 40 years because of excess irrigation.
Jacob Tompkins, of UK charity Waterwise, sees a parallel with biofuels. "People didn't realise what impact they would have on food and food prices. We've had discussions with big retailers about water but because it's not a globally traded commodity I don't think most have grasped the enormity of what is going on in their supply chains and the impact of drought on prices. Will they actually change them? We have to ask: are we exporting drought?"
Virtual water Alternatively called embedded, is water that has been used in the production of food and fibres. Includes resources also for irrigation, processing and packaging of produce.
Water footprint Amount of virtual and visible water used by a country, businesses or individuals.
External water footprint Quantity of virtual water deriving from other countries in imported goods.
Green water That which derives directly from rainfall or from the soil. Generally replenished, but climate change will alter patterns of rainfall and there could be a decline in many parts of the world.
Blue water Withdrawn from ground-water or surface reserves. In many areas blue water is being used faster than nature replenishes it.

Dounreay clean-up turns nuclear waste into water

Published Date: 20 August 2008
By John Ross

MORE than 1,500 tonnes of radioactive material have been turned into harmless seawater as part of the clean-up of the Dounreay nuclear plant.

The liquid sodium metal is the first of the major hazards to be destroyed. It is seen as a milestone in decommissioning the Caithness plant, which is due to be returned to a greenfield site by 2025 at a cost of £2.7 billion.

Attention will now turn to cleaning out the last few tonnes of residue still inside the reactor circuits to allow the whole system to be cut up safely and disposed of.

The Prototype Fast Reactor, which operated from 1974 to 1994, had already had its fuel removed and the next stage was the destruction of 1,533 tonnes of sodium coolant in the reactor after the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate gave its consent.

Dounreay's two fast reactors were Britain's only nuclear power plants to use liquid metal.

E.ON looks at £300m investment to build Britain's largest biomass plant

Mark Milner, industrial editor
The Guardian, Wednesday August 20 2008

E.ON, the energy company whose plans for Britain's first new coal-fired power station for more than two decades have sparked fierce protests, said yesterday it was considering a £300m investment in building one of the country's biggest biomass power plants.

The company said it wanted to construct the 150 megawatt plant at the port of Bristol as part of its multimillion-pound investment programme in a range of generating technologies.

Paul Golby, the chief executive of E.ON UK, said the Royal Portbury Dock renewable energy plant would make a significant contribution towards helping the government meet its renewable energy targets.

"Schemes such as this, together with cleaner coal, gas and new nuclear, will help us to keep the UK's lights on, while reducing carbon emissions and ensuring energy is as affordable as possible for our customers," he said.

E.ON's investment programme in Britain includes one of the world's largest gas-fired power stations, at the Isle of Grain in Kent, as well as the gas-fired plant at Drakelow in Derbyshire; an offshore wind farm in the Solway Firth and plans for the Humber Gateway wind farm. It is also a partner in the London Array wind farm and has invested in marine energy projects in Cornwall and Pembrokeshire.

The company is also looking at the possibility of building at least two nuclear power stations.

But its proposal to replace its existing coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent with a £1.5bn coal plant has attracted fierce controversy.

Earlier this month environmental protesters held its week-long Climate Camp outside the existing Kingsnorth power station as part of the campaign of opposition against the new plant.

Yesterday Greenpeace's Jim Footner said that if E.ON wanted to be seen as one of the country's leading green generators it should drop its plans for the Kingsnorth power station, which dwarfed the planned biomass plant.

"E.ON does have investment in renewables and they are pushing forward this scheme. We want them to go down this road and use that expertise and technology and stop cancelling it out by pushing forward a coal-fired power station."

According to E.ON's statement outlining the proposals for the planned biomass plant, which has been issued to North Somerset council and the Department for Business and Enterprise, the plant would be able to generate enough electricity to supply 250,000 homes and would cut carbon dioxide emissions by 500,000 tonnes a year - the equivalent of taking 175,000 average-sized cars off the road.

The plant would burn some 1.2m tonnes of fuel, most of which will be wood chip, brought in by ship and supplemented by regionally sourced recycled wood.

As well as generating electricity, the biomass plant would be capable of supplying heat to neighbouring industrial establishments.

If the proposal does win approval, E.ON is hoping to start work in 2010, with the first power produced in 2013 and the plant coming into full operation in 2014.

The Portbury dock plant will be the company's third biomass development in Britain.

Business leaders: Make renewable energy cheaper

The Associated Press
Published: August 20, 2008

LAS VEGAS: Representatives from Google Inc. and General Electric Co. said Tuesday that widespread use of renewable energy in United States would be possible — if it were cheaper.
Renewable energy options will remain "boutique" industries unless their costs are cut to make them competitive with coal and other widely used power sources, said Dan Reicher, director for climate change and energy initiatives at, the company's philanthropic arm.
Reicher spoke to a group of politicians and energy experts at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas. The meeting's attendees said they hope to develop a national energy agenda to take to the Democratic and Republican parties at their upcoming conventions.
"There's a whole set of factors that go into the ultimate cost of energy," Reicher said after announcing a plan for Google to invest more than $10 million to develop "enhanced geothermal systems" technology to generate energy from rocks deep below the earth's surface.
Google's project replicates traditional geothermal systems deep below the Earth's surface by circulating water through hot rock and running the steam through a turbine that generates electricity.

Google said its goal was to produce one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity — enough to power a major city.
"These are all high-capital-costs projects," Reicher said.
One by one, speakers at the meeting touted the benefits of various energy-related initiatives, including how large-scale solar power could generate thousands of jobs and why wind power could lessen America's dependence on foreign oil. Extending tax credits, establishing caps on carbon emissions and modernizing the nation's electricity grid were also ideas that speakers said would be crucial to building a "green" economy.
General Electric chief executive Jeff Immelt did not attend, but said in a video presentation that the government and the business community need to move forward.
"The technology exists, the time is now," he said. "We need a call to action — not a call to go to another conference."
Former President Bill Clinton laid out a 10-point plan Monday that included expanded research for carbon dioxide storage and accelerating a shift toward plug-in hybrid electric cars.
Texas oil baron T. Boone Pickens also presented his plan to develop wind energy to generate 20 percent of the nation's electricity, then use natural gas to power cars until hydrogen or plug-in electric cars become widely available.
"I don't see many people from my party," said Pickens, a Republican. "I'm making new friends, and that's good."
On the Net:
National Clean Energy Summit:

Barbados considers Brazilian ethanol plant

The Associated Press
Published: August 20, 2008

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: Brazil is partnering with a Barbados businessman in a proposal to build a US$36 million ethanol plant near the capital.
Etanol de Costa Rica SA says the plant would produce about 132 million gallons (500 million liters) of ethanol a year, refining ethanol imported from Brazil. Spokesman Fabio Chazyn says the fuel would be sold to the U.S. through Caribbean duty-free concessions not available to Brazil.
Planning officials are reviewing the proposal. Chazyn said Monday that if approved, construction could start in about five months.
Other Brazilian energy companies are investing in the Caribbean. Infinity Bio-Energy is boosting its ethanol production with help from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

Morris and Spottiswood go green

MORRIS & Spottiswood – one of Scotland's leading housing fit-out and maintenance providers – has concluded the purchase of what will be its first dedicated "green office".
The company is to open the office, which will also be a "live showcase" for clients looking at their own green fit-outs, at the Gyle Business Park.The new 7500 sq ft office will be fitted out according to a high environmental specification using initiatives such as sustainable lighting, recycling technology and environmentally friendly furniture, materials, products and control systems. Craig Murie, the firm's business unit director, said: "We want to be proactive in our approach to climate change and environmental sustainability, and feel we should be taking a leading role in implementing sustainable practice."

How catching cold mountain air could save Europe's glaciers

By Tony Paterson in BerlinWednesday, 20 August 2008

The Rhône glacier in the Swiss Alps is melting fast as a direct result of global warming

A German geography professor has developed a controversial system of mountain "wind-catching" screens which he claims could slow or even halt the dramatic rate at which Europe's glaciers are melting.
Glaciers across the globe are shrinking fast as a consequence of global warming. In Europe alone, some researchers have predicted that all its glaciers will have vanished by 2100.
However, Professor Hans-Joachim Fuchs from Germany's Mainz University claims to have found at least a partial answer to the problem. His technique involves capturing the power of cold mountain – so-called kabatic – air streams with wind-catching screens installed on melting glaciers.
The screens are designed to harness the dense kabatic air streams which flow downhill and deflect them directly on to the surface of the glaciers, thereby cooling them enough, it is hoped, to counteract the effects of global warming.
In early August, Professor Fuchs and a team of 27 student researchers from Mainz university travelled to the Rhône glacier in Switzerland. There they installed a 15 metre-long, 10 metre-high wind catching screen at an altitude of 2,280 metres on the glacier in the country's Valais region.
Monitoring has shown that the Rhône glacier is shrinking seven metres a year. However, Professor Fuchs insists that his wind- catcher will help to combat this. "We hope that our installations will bring about a net cooling of the area," he said in a statement. "If the meltdown is not stopped, we hope that it will at least be slowed down," he added.
Glacier experts say that wind-catching screens to stop ice melting are a completely new idea. Until now, the only part answer to the problem has been to cover sections of shrinking glaciers with giant reflective covers that help to cool the ice by deflecting sunlight.
Covers have been used mainly to help preserve Alpine ski slopes. A cover system was set up more than a decade ago at a ski resort on southern Germany's Zugspitze mountain. But it has proved effective only on small areas. It is impractical for entire glaciers, which cover dozens of square miles.
However, not all glacier experts are convinced that his screens will work. The idea has been dismissed outright by Swiss glacier scientists at Zurich's Technical Institute. "If you are trying to cool a glacier, wind screens are a crazy idea," said Martin Funk from the institute. Mr Funk maintains that glacier melt rates are far less influenced by wind temperatures than by the effects of the sun's rays and the atmosphere. "These are the main factors and that is why the covers are so effective," he said. "They reduce melting by about 80 per cent."
However, Mr Funk also agrees that covers are not the answer: "They are just for ski tourists."
Andreas Bauder, another of the Zurich Institute's glacier experts, argued that it would take years to alter measurably the development of a glacier.
Professor Fuchs insists that his project is just a "little test". He added: "We've got lots of sponsors. If all goes well, we shall go ahead with something larger."

Sending waste to China saves carbon emissions

· 4.7m tonnes of paper exported by UK each year· Advantage of recycling abroad over landfill can be tenfold
John Vidal,
Tuesday August 19 2008 16:03 BST

Britain exports 500,000 tonnes of plastic bottles a year for recycling. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Sending old newspapers and plastic bottles 10,000 miles for recycling in China produces more carbon savings than landfilling it in Britain and making new goods, reveals a study from the government body charged with reducing UK waste.
In the last 10 years annual exports of paper, mainly to India, China and Indonesia, have risen from 470,000 tonnes to 4.7m tonnes, while exports of old plastic bottles have gone from under 40,000 tonnes to half a million tonnes.
Now the counterintuitive conclusions of the report from the Waste Resources Action Programme (Wrap) suggest that the advantage of recycling over landfilling is so great that it makes environmental sense to ship waste right round the world if it can be used again.
The journey taken by the waste involves travelling hundreds of miles within Britain to ports, then thousands of miles on some of the world's biggest ships to China, and then more road travel to recycling plants. But for paper, this odyssey incurs only a one third of the climate-warming emissions that are saved by recycling, the report says. For plastics, the report found it even more advantageous to export for recycling.
There is a further factor in favour of exporting the waste. The imbalance of trade between China and the UK means that the majority of container ships head back to China empty and produce CO2 emissions whether or not they are carrying cargo. "If you take this into account, the transport emissions are even smaller – less than one-tenth of the overall amount of CO2 saved by recycling," says Wrap.
The study estimated the transport emissions from exports to China and compared them with benchmark savings from recycling. It found that 1300kg-1600kg of CO2 was saved for each tonne of waste.
"The growth in exports is in part a success story, reflecting the rapid development of the UK's collection infrastructure and increase in recovery rates. Exports to China are bridging the gap between plastic bottle collections being established and the future development of domestic reprocessing capacity," says the report.
However, the report does not consider the environmental or social advantages of establishing a significant UK manufacturing industry to produce goods from the recycled waste and the authors stressed that it does not show that exporting waste was desirable.
Liz Goodwin, chief executive of Wrap, said: "It may seem strange that transporting our unwanted paper and plastic bottles such a distance would actually be better for the environment but that is what the evidence from this study shows."
"We do not have a manufacturing base here. Ideally, it would be dealt with here. But we would far prefer to see it recycled in China, where it is a resource, than landfilled in Britain", said a spokesman for Wastewatch, an independent group.

U.S. Appeals Court Overturns EPA's Pollution Rule

By IAN TALLEYAugust 20, 2008;

WASHINGTON -- In a blow to oil refiners, chemical makers and other polluting industries, a federal appeals court threw out a rule that prevented states from implementing tougher pollution-monitoring requirements.
The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit could lead to higher compliance costs and give states, local authorities and environmentalists more data that could be used to prosecute polluters, environmentalists said.
The decision marks the latest instance in which a federal court has rejected the approach to regulating harmful emissions taken by the administration of President George W. Bush. "It is a pretty serious rebuke of the Bush administration's efforts to tie the hands of states at the behest of industry," said John Walke, director of the clean-air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. The court found the Environmental Protection Agency's rule under the Clean Air Act "is contrary to the statutory directive that each permit must include adequate monitoring requirements."
EPA spokesman Timothy Lyons said the agency "will determine an appropriate course of action" after it reviews the decision. Historically, the EPA has had little success in getting decisions from the appeals court reversed.
The American Petroleum Institute, whose members include Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips, was a party in the case in support of the EPA. API spokeswoman Cathy Landry said the organization's lawyers were "in the process of reviewing the decision to determine the impact on the industry."
Amendments to the Clean Air Act enacted in 1990 compelled industrial polluters to obtain state and local permits that identify all emission limits and include "monitoring...requirements to assure compliance with the permit terms and conditions." Because the existing monitoring requirements didn't always assure compliance, some states wanted to add more requirements. The Bush administration rule prohibited state action.
The court's decision was one in a string of rulings scrapping Bush administration air-quality policies. Last month, the same court struck down the administration's signature air-quality program, the Clean Air Interstate Rule -- one of the few Bush administration efforts applauded by the environmental community. The regulation, announced in 2005 and covering more than two dozen states, sought to slash emissions that contribute to respiratory illnesses by instituting a "cap and trade" system in which companies that exceed their emissions caps can buy allowances from companies that do not.
The EPA had predicted the rule would prevent about 17,000 premature deaths a year. The court, in response to a suit brought by power companies, invalidated the regulation.
In February, the appeals court rejected the EPA's decision to remove mercury from a list of pollutants the agency is required to control at each power plant. Last year, a divided Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the Clean Air Act, and that the Bush administration had wrongly refused to limit emissions of those gases.