Saturday, 23 August 2008

Europe starting search for shale gas

By David Jolly
Published: August 22, 2008

PARIS: While American shale-gas recovery efforts are booming, Europe is just getting into the game.
The first hurdle is to learn just how much shale gas might be available for recovery. Europe has numerous sites of potential interest.
"There's a possibility that under our feet are the same kind of shale-gas deposits that you have in the United States," said Brian Horsfield, a professor of organic geochemistry at the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences in Potsdam, Germany. "There are many of the same types of shale formations in Europe."
Working with institutions in France, the Netherlands and elsewhere, GFZ scientists will in January begin a six-year industry-financed study to map possible shale-gas sites in Europe. They will investigate the possibility of commercial recovery, using the Barnett shales around Fort Worth, Texas, as a yardstick. Their first project involves shale deposits in Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany, but there are other shale deposits in Austria, France, Poland and elsewhere.
New gas supplies would be welcome news to European Union officials, who have grown anxious over their increasing energy dependence on a resurgent Russia. Gazprom, the Russian state monopoly, already supplies more than a quarter of European natural gas needs.
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"The Europeans have to hope that these shales will do for them what eastern shales have done for the U.S. gas supply, which is to boost the main supply that is coming from the Gulf of Mexico," said Don Hertzmark, an oil and gas consultant in Washington. "That would reduce the prices the Russians were able to charge the final consumers in Europe."
Companies are reticent about discussing their exploration activities, possibly because they fear land speculation could raise their costs. In Texas and Louisiana, mineral rights prices skyrocketed after the discovery of recoverable shale gas. Horsfield said the same land-rush mentality has begun to appear in Europe, with "huge interest, not just from locals, but also from as far away as Canada and Australia."
OMV, an Austrian energy company, has been conducting tests of gas shale in the Vienna Basin, an area that has provided hundreds of millions of barrels of oil since the 1930s. Ashiq Hussain, an OMV executive, was quoted in a March interview with Platts's International Gas Report as saying the gas deposits in the basin were "quite substantial," though he noted that the deposits lay far deeper than those of the Barnett shale in Texas. The deeper the gas deposits, the higher the market price of gas would need to be to make recovery economically feasible.
"We've started with projects on shale gas, but we're actually in the first phase of evaluation," said Christa Hanreich, an OMV spokeswoman.
Elsewhere, Royal Dutch Shell has obtained contracts to explore for gas in two sites in southern Sweden. And Lane Energy Poland is exploring in that country.
"Nobody even knew what we were talking about when we got started 18 months ago," said Kamlesh Parmar, director of Lane Energy Poland. The company was granted licenses in October to explore one million acres, or 405,000 hectares, in Poland's Baltic Basin region.
Despite the new enthusiasm, it will take years to develop Europe's gas resources, assuming doing so is economically feasible.
"It's at a very embryonic stage in comparison to the United States," said Alastair Syme, an energy-sector analyst at Merrill Lynch in London. "It's a story for the middle of the next decade, not for right now."

High gas prices are keeping Americans off the roads

By Floyd Norris
Published: August 22, 2008

High gasoline prices and a weak economy have combined to persuade Americans to do something they rarely do. They are driving less.
The trend to lower driving seemed strong as this summer began, with reports of highways that were far less crowded than normal on Memorial Day, the first holiday weekend of the season. As summer nears an end, the trend seems to be stronger than ever. In the week ended Aug. 15, Americans purchased 7.8 percent less gasoline than they had in the same week a year earlier, according to MasterCard Spending Pulse. That is the biggest weekly decline of the year.
But in between those two weeks, there seemed to be reason to suspect that the effect of high fuel prices might be wearing off. The year-over-year declines began to shrink, even as gasoline prices kept rising.
Could it be that despite the weak U.S. economy and high gasoline prices, Americans were unable to part with their cars? Even if fewer Americans than ever were telling pollsters they would take driving vacations, was the lure of the car too great?
Perhaps it will turn out to be, once the economy starts to grow. But it is probably no coincidence that the relapse of conservation came after most of the tax rebate checks - the centerpiece of the government's economic stimulus package - had been sent out.

The last of those checks were sent during the week ended July 11. Gasoline prices peaked the following week, and have fallen since. But without those checks to help pay for filling the tank, Americans seem less eager to do so. Because week-to-week figures can be volatile due to weather, the accompanying chart plots the year-over-year change in gasoline prices over moving four-week periods. The peak four-week decline this year came in the week ended May 23, when the fall-off was 6.3 percent. It is now back to 4.8 percent, after dipping below 3 percent as the checks were being cashed.
The Department of Transportation has been estimating the number of miles driven by Americans on a monthly basis for more than 20 years. For most of that time, miles driven rose by 3 percent or more per year. There were more drivers using more roads and, in many cases, facing longer commutes to work.
As can be seen in the other chart, which shows year-over-year changes in miles over six-month periods, recessions have produced brief periods of slow growth in that figure. Now, however, it is declining.
In the first six months of 2008, the number of miles driven fell 2.8 from a year earlier.
Those reductions are not spread evenly across the United States, however. The larger declines have been in rural areas, part of which could be caused by a decline in vacationing, or by residents making fewer trips into town. The Transportation Department reports a 3.6 percent decline in travel on rural roads, compared with a 2.4 percent fall for urban roads.

Areva moving ahead on construction plans

The Associated Press
Published: August 22, 2008

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho: Officials with the French-owned energy services company Areva NC Inc. plan to submit an environmental impact report on the company's proposed $2 billion uranium enrichment plant in eastern Idaho.
In a meeting with 70 members of the Idaho Falls-based Partnership for Science and Technology on Thursday, company officials said they will submit the report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in October.
Bob Poyser, Areva's vice president for environmental affairs and sustainable development, said the company has a deal to buy 4,000 acres (1,618 hectares) for the plant and expects to begin enriching uranium by 2014, the Post Register reported. Poyser said the company is looking for office space in nearby Idaho Falls.
The proposed Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility would be built near the Idaho National Laboratory, where scientists have done research on nuclear energy since the 1940s.
Areva NC, based in Bethesda, Maryland, is a subsidiary of France's Areva Group. Areva also is building a similar, larger uranium enrichment plant in France, which gets 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors.

Five other states had been competing for the project. Idaho was chosen after state lawmakers this year extended a sales tax exemption for production equipment that handles nuclear fuel and capped property tax valuations at $400 million for the proposed plant.
Beatrice Brailsford of the Snake River Alliance, an Idaho-based nuclear watchdog group, said the group questions how nuclear waste from the plant would be stored.

Sanyo in talks to supply hybrid car batteries

Heath Aston and agencies

Sanyo, the Japanese electronics giant, said today that it is in talks with six car makers about the supply of batteries for fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles — one of few growth areas in the automotive industry.
“We are talking with more than five or six car makers on the co-development and supply of auto-use batteries," Masato Ito, Sanyo Electric's senior vice president, told Reuters.
Sanyo and Volkswagen have been jointly developing lithium-ion batteries as the race to the next generation of hybrid cars speeds up. Lithium-ion batteries are capable of holding more power than the nickel batteries that power the current hybrids.
Toyota plans to start producing lithium-ion batteries for its market-leading Prius next year in a joint venture with Matsushita Electric Industrial. Nissan has a joint venture with NEC to do the same.

Sanyo has conducted discussions with manufacturers in the US, Europe and Japan, Mr Ito said.
The pinch of higher oil prices on consumers around the world is expected to speed the move to hybrids and virtually every big car maker is developing new dual-fuel models.
Honda, which has positioned itself at the forefront of the hybrid shift, particularly in the US, will produce 200,000 units of its new hybrid hatchback in Japan — half of which will be sold in North America. Sales of Toyota’s Prius, the world's biggest selling hybrid, rocketed 69 per cent in the US last year as Hollywood stars including Leonardo Di Caprio and Cameron Diaz became converts.
GM and Lexus have produced a range of hybrids, while Hyundai is also working on a hybrid version of its solid-selling Sonata sedan.
European makers, including BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, are all scrambling to bring a hybrid to market.

Carbon permit funds may go to poor

By Jim Pickard and Ed Crooks
Published: August 23 2008 02:06

Energy companies would have to pay up to £1bn for carbon permits to pay for help for vulnerable customers this winter under a plan proposed by Gordon Brown’s fuel poverty tsar on Friday night.
Derek Lickorish, newly appointed head of the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group, told Channel 4 News that the government could use the money raised through the sale of permits in the European Union’s emissions trading scheme to help the poor in the coming winter.

He said: “That could raise this winter somewhere between, say, half a billion and a billion pounds. That would be a substantial sum in order to deal with the issue for this winter.”
The cash should be spent on “customers who are vulnerable or in receipt of certain benefits who will have difficulty in paying their energy bill this winter”.
The auction process for the second phase of the EU’s emissions trading scheme, which runs until 2012, has already begun, with up to €2.4bn ($3.6bn, £1.9bn) likely to be raised over the period.
More of the permits will be bought in the first two years of the scheme and Mr Lickorish on Friday night seemed to suggest this front-loading could raise a one-off sum to tackle fuel poverty.
The government is also considering making electricity generator companies buy 10 per cent of the permits rather than the current 7 per cent.
Ministers were looking at a payment to 7m families receiving child benefit as part of the economic recovery package, it emerged earlier this month. They are looking at up to £150 per family, a sum that would leave the taxpayer with a £1bn bill.
Raising the cash to fund that from the auction of emissions permits would avoid some of the problems potentially associated with a windfall tax, such as the risk that North Sea oil and gas production would be hit. It would affect all generators, not just the energy retailers, and would bear most heavily on those with the highest carbon dioxide emissions.
The latest round of energy price rises has revived calls for stronger measures to help vulnerable customers.
Scottish & Southern Energy and Eon this week became the latest energy suppliers to raise bills – by averages of 25 and 22 per cent respectively.
EDF Energy and Centrica, owner of British Gas, have raised the cost of fuel after rises in wholesale gas and electricity prices.
Energywatch, the consumer watchdog, estimated that more than 5m people would be pushed into fuel poverty, defined as spending more than 10 per cent of their disposable income on energy bills.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

UK risks climate leadership over dirty coal, say US groups

The British government risks scuppering a global deal to cut emissions if it presses ahead with a new generation of dirty coal power, says a powerful coalition of US scientists and environmentalists
Juliette Jowit,
Friday August 22 2008 14:20 BST

US scientists say Britain's new generation of coal-fired power stations would undermine climate change efforts.
The British government will lose its leadership position on climate change and risk scuppering a global deal to cut emissions if it presses ahead with a new generation of dirty coal power, say leading US scientists and environmental leaders.
The heads of three influential groups, representing more than 2 million members, have written to the foreign secretary, David Miliband, warning that the UK proposals for up to eight new coal plants threatens the chance of the US joining a post-Kyoto international agreement to be agreed in 2009.
It is the first public sign of growing international anger over the plans and will add to pressure on Miliband and the environment secretary, Hilary Benn, to oppose the government's new coal policy in cabinet. Most immediate is the decision on whether to approve the first major planning application for a new coal plant at Kingsnorth in Kent, the site of this month's Climate Camp protest.
In the UK, there has already been heavy criticism of the plans to build new coal plants, without technology to capture and bury the large volumes of carbon dioxide emitted. Lord Smith, the new head of the government's Environment Agency, recently added forcefully to condemnations by the Environmental Audit Committee, the Royal Society, City investment groups, the government's environmental advisor Jonathon Porritt, former chief scientist Professor Sir David King, and the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank.
The letter, now revealed to the Guardian, is signed by the heads of the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defense Council. It argues Britain is in a particularly important position because of "your government's historic commitment to lead on global warming in Europe and around the world."
It adds: "As proposed, these conventional coal plants lack any limits on their emissions of carbon dioxide and would drastically increase the UK's carbon dioxide emissions and make achievement of your stated pollution reduction goals extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible. Building new conventional plants and setting the UK up to fail and lose its leadership mantle will make our work in the US all the more difficult."
Tim Jones, climate policy officer for the World Development Movement anti-poverty campaign group, said the concern was shared across the developing world, especially where emerging environment campaigns are arguing for much poorer nations to cut emissions, and rich countries like the UK are being blamed for changes such as typhoons, drought and rising sea levels.
"They can adapt to one to two degrees of warming, but if it's more than that they can't adapt; they are just filled with despair," said Jones.
British officials and ministers are understood to have already been challenged over plans for unabated coal power by other governments.
The US intervention - signed by Carl Pope, the Sierra Club's executive director, Kevin Knobloch, the UCS president, and Frances G Beinecke, the NRDC director – follows an unprecedented campaign against new coal power in the US which has led to 66 of a proposed 150 new plants being abandoned or rejected by politicians and the courts, and most of the remainder locked in legal battles.
But although the two main candidates for the US presidential election in November, John McCain and Barack Obama, have both declared their support for international emissions cuts, campaigners warn that any deal would also have to be approved by Congress, which would need to know there was public support for such a move, particularly during a recession.
'If the UK takes a firm stand and rejects conventional coal it will send a strong, clear message to our new President and a new Congress, as well as to other countries considering new coal plants,' the letter adds.
Replying for the British government, the energy minister at DBERR, Malcolm Wicks, said "as a 'live' planning case I cannot comment on the merits or otherwise…or on the timing of any decision".
In a Guardian interview earlier this month, Wicks widened the government's argument in favour of coal, saying that new power stations were not just essential for energy security but also to allow the development of carbon capture and storage technology. Without that technology, "all is lost on global warming", he said, because of China's reliance on the fuel. "The idea that if we showed some kind of lead and we in Britain say no to coal and China will say 'OK we will follow' is just daft," he said. Green campaigners reject the idea that CCS cannot be developed without new, unabated power stations.
A recent report by the IPPR said the European Union's goal of reducing emissions from the power sector and heavy industry through its emissions trading scheme would collapse if the go-ahead were given to seven new coal plants in the UK and up to 75 across Europe.

UK coal plans 'threaten global emissions deal'

Juliette Jowit
The Guardian,
Saturday August 23 2008

The British government will lose its leadership position on climate change and risk scuppering a global deal to cut emissions if it presses ahead with a new generation of dirty coal power, say leading US scientists and environmental leaders.
The heads of three influential groups, representing more than 2 million members, have written to the foreign secretary, David Miliband, warning that the UK proposals for up to eight coal plants threaten the chance of the US joining a post-Kyoto international agreement, due in 2009.
It is the first public sign of growing international anger over the plans and will add to pressure on Miliband and environment secretary Hilary Benn to oppose the government's new coal policy in cabinet. Most immediate is the decision on a new coal plant at Kingsnorth in Kent, the site of this month's Climate Camp protest.
There has been heavy criticism of the plans to build coal plants without technology to capture and bury their large volumes of carbon dioxide. The letter, revealed to the Guardian, is signed by the heads of the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Natural Resources Defence Council. It argues Britain is in a particularly important position because of "your government's historic commitment to lead on global warming in Europe and around the world".
Energy minister Malcolm Wicks said: "As a 'live' planning case I cannot comment on the merits or otherwise ... or on the timing of any decision." In a Guardian interview this month, he said new coal power stations were essential for energy security and to allow development of carbon capture technology. Without that technology, "all is lost on global warming", he said, because of China's reliance on coal.

Sunergy Scrambles to Lock In Polysilicon

Forget the sun. China Sunergy investors are hoping it rains polysilicon.
With demand for solar energy rising, solar companies are trying to increase production of the wafers that turn sunlight into power.
The problem for China Sunergy: Solar companies that went public early -- circa 2005 -- locked in longer-term supplies of polysilicon used to fashion wafers. Sunergy, which went public in mid-2007, only recently began locking up supply, and in some cases still buys it at spot prices of about $400 a kilogram -- double or more the contract prices.
Investors are hoping that when the Nasdaq-traded company posts results Friday, it says other contracts are forthcoming. Other solar companies, including Solarfun Power Holdings, report next week.
Sunergy, based in Nanjing, China, makes some of the most energy-efficient wafers in the business, meaning it produces more watts per wafer. That ultimately lowers costs and lets the company command premium prices. But Sunergy can't just ramp up production wildly. It needs that supply of contracted silicon because "buying poly at the spot price means messing up your margins," says Sanjay Shrestha, at Lazard Capital Markets.
If Sunergy can nail down supply, says Rob Stone at Cowen & Co., margins should increase markedly in 2009.
And that would have investors singing in the sun.

New catalyst boosts hydrogen as transport fuel

Scientists have developed a cheaper way to make hydrogen from biofuel that could be a solution to previous difficulties with storage and transport of the gas
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent,
Thursday August 21 2008 09:57 BST

A cheaper way to produce hydrogen from biofuels has been developed, a step that could overcome some of the critical obstacles blocking the gas's widespread future use as a green transport fuel.
Hydrogen is often touted as a transport fuel of the future since it produces only water when it is burned. If the gas is produced from sustainably grown biofuels, its use results in very low carbon emissions. Car manufacturers are already developing vehicles that can run on hydrogen fuel cells but moving to a fully-fledged hydrogen transport system requires solving several key issues. These include how to produce the gas efficiently and transport it, which requires very high pressure containers. Building the infrastructure for consumers to fill their cars with hydrogen is another problem.
Umit Ozkan, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Ohio State University, has led a team of scientists to develop a catalyst that can make hydrogen from ethanol without the need for high temperatures or expensive materials such as platinum or rhodium. The work could circumvent some of the storage and transportation problems.
"Instead of making hydrogen from biofuel at a centralised facility and transporting it to gas stations, we could use our catalyst inside reactors that are actually located at the gas stations. So we wouldn't have to transport or store the hydrogen – we could store the biofuel, and make hydrogen on the spot." The research was presented on Wednesday at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting in Philadelphia.
Catalysts that can make hydrogen from biofuels already exist but usually need rare, expensive ingredients. "Precious metals have high catalytic activity and, in most cases, high stability, but they're also very expensive," said Ozkan.
She said that her goal from the outset was to develop a cheaper catalyst, one that was based on readily-available metals. The resulting catalyst is made from calcium, cobalt and small grains of cerium oxide, a common ingredient in ceramics. According to the researchers, it an produce hydrogen with 90% efficiency at around 350C – a low temperature by industrial standards. "Rhodium is used most often for this kind of catalyst, and it costs around $9,000 (£4,800) an ounce," said Ozkan. "Our catalyst costs around $9 a kilogram."
She added that operating at lower temperatures would also bring energy savings. "And if the catalyst is highly active and can achieve high hydrogen yields, we don't need as much of it. That will bring down the size of the reactor, and its cost".
The production of hydrogen from ethanol produces waste gases such as carbon dioxide and methane – the former can be trapped and stored while the latter can be burned to supply some of the energy needed for the conversion process itself. Though the team's current research focused on ethanol, the researchers believe it could be adapted to other liquid biofuels.
Ozkan said that a preliminary economic analysis of her technique showed that the price of hydrogen could approach that of petroleum. "As gasoline prices continue to rise, hydrogen produced from renewable sources such as bio-liquids will be more and more competitive. Also, the possibility of using hydrogen in fuel cells will provide much higher efficiency than internal combustion engines can. So the actual cost, in dollars per mile, may already be lower."
Friends of the Earth's biofuels campaigner Kenneth Richter warned that hydrogen was only as clean a source of power as the energy used to produce it. "Rather than being a clean alternative to fossil fuels, biofuels are actually increasing carbon dioxide emissions. Hydrogen-fuelled cars are still a long way off – the immediate priority for cutting emissions is smarter cars that burn less fuel."

Wind-farm inquiry is halted by mix-up over documents

Published Date: 22 August 2008
By Robert Fairburn

A COSTLY public inquiry into a controversial wind farm has been halted after it emerged documents for public inspection were put on display in the wrong library.
The blunder by Scottish Borders Council came to light four days into the hearing on whether 22 wind turbines should be allowed to go ahead at a Berwickshire beauty spot.A member of the public told the inquiry background papers had been held at Duns Library, when it had been agreed they should have been at Eyemouth Library 12 miles away.The Scottish Government Reporter in charge of the inquiry – which has already cost taxpayers £20,000 – immediately abandoned the hearing and fixed a new date for September 30.This will allow the documents to be lodged at Eyemouth Library and made available for the public to look at for the advertised period of 28 days.John Lamont, the MSP for Berwickshire and Roxburgh, criticised the "simple mistake" which will delay the inquiry.But he added: "This episode highlights the burden these inquiries are putting on local authorities such as Scottish Borders Council. I understand it costs the council more than £20,000 each time an applicant appeals against a decision – money that could be spent on front-line services the council provides."Eight days had been set aside into the appeal by PM Renewables against the refusal of their application for the wind farm at Drone Hill on Coldingham Moor.Scottish Borders Council confirmed the documents had been placed in the wrong library but would not comment on whether the delay would result in additional costs to the authority.In a statement, the council said: "In order to provide people with the best opportunity to assess this information, the inquiry has been adjourned for five weeks".

FCC of Spain buys into wind energy

Published: August 21, 2008

SYDNEY: Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas, or FCC, one of the largest Spanish builders, agreed to pay €190 million for Babcock & Brown Wind Partners' wind energy assets in Spain.
FCC will assume €590 million, or about $880 million, in debt as part of the deal, the company, which is based in Barcelona, said in a filing to regulators. The assets include 14 wind parks with capacity of 421 megawatts.
The purchase marks FCC's first investment in energy as it embarks on a €4 billion drive announced in May to diversify its business as the Spanish building market slumps. The sale of the assets will yield a profit of about 266 million Australian dollars, or $234 million, for Babcock & Brown Wind Partners, the company said in a statement to Australian regulators.
"The size of the total portfolio is substantial and will allow FCC to become the sixth-largest wind-energy operator in Spain," Alejandra Cosio, an analyst at Ahorro Corporación Financiera, wrote in a note.
Buying the Spanish wind parks gives FCC assets with capacity to produce energy for a city of 200,000 people, FCC said. The transaction includes an additional 45 megawatts of capacity still under development, FCC said.

Babcock & Brown Wind Partners said in February that it might sell assets in Europe to benefit from increased valuations from projects that were not reflected in its own market value.
The price for the Spanish assets "produces a large gain on sale for BBW and, importantly, is materially higher on a per megawatt basis than the current market implied value of BBW's total portfolio," said Miles George, chief executive Babcock & Brown Wind Partners.
FCC fell 7 cents, or 0.2 percent, to €33.10 in Madrid trading. Babcock Wind fell 16 cents, or 12 percent, to 1.15 dollars in Sydney. The Spanish assets represent about 17 percent of its total wind portfolio.
Babcock & Brown Wind Partners decided not to sell its assets in Germany, after reviewing offers it received for the ventures. A divestment process for projects in Portugal and France has been extended and any sale would be agreed in the fourth quarter, it said.

UK should be self-sufficient in energy by 2050, says Lib Dem leader

Nick Clegg says Britain needs 'Apollo project' on par with effort to put man on moon
Andrew Sparrow and agencies,
Thursday August 21 2008 11:59 BST

An oil rig in the North Sea. Photograph: AP
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, today called for Britain to become self-sufficient in energy by 2050 without building new coal-fired or nuclear power stations.
He said that the country needed an "Apollo project", on a par with the effort the US invested in putting a man on the moon in the 1960s, to ensure a massive increase in the use of renewable energy.
As part of his vision, Clegg called for huge improvements in the energy efficiency of housing and a greater commitment to renewable generation.
He accused the government of scaremongering about a possible energy gap to gain backing for a new generation of nuclear power plants.
Clegg said that a renewables delivery authority should be established to achieve the changes, and claimed that the UK could again become a net exporter of energy, as it was when North Sea oil and gas production was at its height.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, Clegg called for a "complete revolution in the new green, sustainable energy sources that we use", such as wind, wave and biomass power.
He said there was a need for an energy efficiency drive, particularly in Britain's housing.
"Our housing stock produces about 27% of our carbon emissions. We can do so much more to be efficient in the way we use energy."
Clegg said that the Liberal Democrats were not aiming for 100% of power to be generated from renewables, but said the "net effect up to 2050 would be that we become once again ... net exporters".
Attacking Gordon Brown's belief in the need for a new generation of nuclear plants, he said: "The government has spooked everyone into thinking that we need nuclear by saying: 'There's going to be a terrible energy gap. The lights are going to go out in the middle of the next decade.'
"There's actually no evidence that that is the case at all. They have raised the wrong problem in order to push the wrong solution.
"The real problem is that our energy mix is not green enough and that we are overdependent - as many people now realise because of the crisis in Georgia - on oil and gas from parts of the world that aren't very reliable."
In an assessment of the scale of the challenge, Clegg said: "I think it is a question of political will. If we have been able to put a man on the moon, been able to create the welfare state, we could revolutionise the way in which we produce energy."
Speaking at an offshore energy farm in the North Sea today, he added: "We need an 'Apollo project' for British energy independence."
Publishing his plans in an energy independence document, Clegg identified five key priorities:
• forcing energy companies to improve energy efficiency and tackle fuel poverty,
• requiring all new homes to be built to the GreenHouse heating efficiency standard by 2011,
• providing incentives for a massive expansion of renewable projects in the North Sea and elsewhere,
• creating a renewables delivery authority, modelled on the Olympics delivery authority, to ensure renewable targets are met, and
• abandoning plans for a new generation of power stations.
Clegg also revealed today that he had cut back on his car usage and ditched the vehicle allocated to him as party leader.
He told the Independent: "I hardly drive a car any more. I bought an electric moped which I think is the technology of the future.
"I got rid of the leader's car shortly after I got in."
He also repeated his pledge to double the party's current 63 seats in two general elections, dismissing Labour under Brown as having "run out of road" and attacking the "arrogance" of David Cameron.
"Something very big is going on, particularly in urban Britain," he said.
"Out of the 30 British cities, we now lead 12. That has been going on for years.
"That is where the great battlegrounds will be between ourselves and Labour at the next general election. There are a lot of seats up for grabs in those areas."
Outlining his strategy to tackle a resurgent Conservative party, he said he would target a "handful" of Tory seats and said he was "working extremely hard" to hold seats where Cameron's party are challengers.

Hotel's silver for going green

A LEADING hotel in the Capital has been recognised for its work in reducing its environmental impact.
The Roxburghe Hotel was given the silver Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS) award in recognition of its efforts in marketing, management and communication.Among its efforts that were applauded were its signage on its towel policy and switching off electrical appliances.The GTBS is the leading sustainable tourism certification scheme in the UK. Businesses are assessed against a rigorous set of criteria, including energy and water efficiency, waste management, biodiversity and more.General manager Chris Wayne-Wills said: "This is a fantastic award and we are extremely proud of our green credentials. We will be doing everything in our power to achieve the gold award

Environmental campaign fury as demands on flight pollution watered down

THE head of a leading environmental campaign group has accused the Scottish Government of ignoring 21,000 people who responded to the consultation into its climate change bill.
Almost all the 21,046 people who offered their views in the consultation into the Scottish Climate Change Bill called for emissions from international aviation to be included in the legislation.It was one measure that environment groups argue must be taken to make sure the new laws, which will set out the Scottish Government's targets for action to tackle climate change, are rigorous.The director of WWF Scotland is furious because, he claims, all responses sent to the government as part of campaigns by environment groups have been lumped together in the analysis of the consultation.This means almost 21,000 responses generated by eight campaign groups are being counted as just eight responses.As a result, the government is claiming just a third of respondents called for aviation emissions to be included.Instead, Dr Richard Dixon, the director of WWF Scotland, insists that figure should be closer to 99 per cent.He said it was a "real insult to democracy"."They are basically ignoring 21,000 people who made the effort to put in a response," he said, adding: "This is a very worrying sign that the government is backing away from the world-beating climate bill that they have promised."A climate bill that ignores international aviation is like a diet that still lets you eat chocolate – it won't work."He argues that, just because many of the responses were solicited by campaign groups and sent on campaign cards, they should still be included as individual representations.He compared it with the consultation the Scottish Government carried out into the smoking ban legislation, when they advertised for people to send in text message responses."When the government themselves solicited tens of thousands of responses on the smoking ban, they were delighted to count them all."However, with more than 20,000 people telling the government to do the right thing by including flying in the climate bill, it is hugely disappointing that they have gone out of their way to sideline these responses."A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "Unlike previous consultations, the vast majority of campaign responses were based on a core script which individuals were encouraged to adapt. The analysis of these responses took account of both the core script statement, plus amendments and additions by individuals. Every single response was read and counted."He said international aviation emissions are not included in the Scottish government's target, because of complications from allocating emissions from passengers who take more than one flight to reach their final destination.Instead, he said the Scottish Government supports an international solution, and said if Scotland takes action alone it could simply shift emissions elsewhere, rather than delivering reductions.

My plan for a zero-carbon Britain - Nick Clegg

We need to set ourselves an ambitious goal: to become energy independent within the EU by 2050

Nick Clegg,
Thursday August 21 2008 14:31 BST

Britain has a big choice to make. A generation of power stations based on old technologies are reaching the end of their useful life. Now is the moment for us to choose a green, renewable future, where Britain relies on its immense natural resources, instead of sticking with old technologies we know are destroying our planet.
It's going to be a huge challenge, requiring the kind of vision, application and political will that succeeded in putting man on the moon. But it's got to happen. That's why today I launched detailed plans for an Apollo Project for British energy independence.
Historically the UK has been dependent on energy imports, and unless we do more to focus on our own resources, this reliance will increase. It's bad economics, and bad politics. The cost of fossil fuels is rising and reliance on imported energy from places like Russia and the Middle East also distorts our foreign policy. Our position on the international stage is weakened by our need for fuel.
The truth is Britain has no credible energy policy, just a potential economic, environmental and national security disaster waiting to happen. We need change. We need to set ourselves an ambitious goal: to become energy independent within the EU by 2050 as part of a push for a zero carbon Britain.
To make it possible we need to be at the vanguard of green technology. This is a huge economic opportunity for Britain to lead the world in renewable technologies, creating jobs and revitalising industrial capacity. Even the government's measly existing plans for renewables would create about 160,000 jobs, so just imagine how many jobs we could find if we took the big leap to a truly green economy.
We've got to slash the amount of energy we use, with a sustained drive to increase energy efficiency and end fuel poverty so everyone can keep warm and keep the lights on without costing the planet. We'd push this forward through the energy companies, asking them to fund a major programme to insulate every British home over 10 years and install "smart meters" that cut help families use less.
Reducing energy use is important, but we also need to make sure the energy we do use is renewable. A massive expansion of renewable projects in the North Sea and elsewhere would help develop mature markets for a range of renewable technologies and provide investors with more long term stability. The introduction of "feed in tariffs" – where people who generate renewable energy can sell it into the national grid at a guaranteed price – would help too.
This is a tremendous opportunity for a different future: a stable, prosperous and green future. We need to seize it.

Time for a revolution

There can be no state solutions to climate change: governments won't give up the powers that lead to environmental ruin

Ewa Jasiewicz,
Thursday August 21 2008 08:00 BST

There was a joke going round the Climate Camp in the last days. As well as the "wellbeing tent", which dealt with mildly traumatised activists on the receiving end of 5am police batons, someone proposed a "wellmeaning" tent. It would accommodate those who'd like to include state and capitalism-based solutions in the movement to reverse climate change. The camp's outer fence would curve into the wellmeaning tent to create a round-table for stakeholders including the police (successfully kept out of the site after days of stand-offs), E.ON UK and other energy industry representatives – tea and hand-wringing optional.
The joke was prompted by a controversial presentation by George Monbiot, in which he endorsed the use of the state as a partner in resolving the climate crisis. Monbiot held the audience rapt as he explained the fundamental incompatibility of economic growth with the emission cuts needed to avert catastrophic climate change. Yet he confessed not knowing where to turn next to solve the issues of how to generate the changes necessary to shift our sources of energy, production and consumption, and where the state and capitalism fit in. He ended by endorsing the use of the state: "By God, let's use it". Amid the applause, some were appalled. Let me explain why.
Many of the organisers of the climate camps honed their skills in the anti-roads movement of the mid-1990s. Some came from the traveller, squatter and free party communities, an alliance of resistance built up to counter the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which criminalised travellers and activists reclaiming land and buildings for social, cooperative use. These activists came from a culture of anti-authoritarian anti-capitalism – rejecting the property ladder and the commodification of living space, and embracing collective enjoyment, dance and music.
The continuum of this culture of resistance, of a struggle for a commons, for control over one's own and one's family's life, for non-alienated labour and social interaction, stretches back to the Diggers, Levellers and the Luddites – English radicals struggling against the monarchy, taxes, land enclosure and austerity measures designed to empower a new industrial class, funded by a feudal and colonial land-grab and slavery.
This historical memory, and these beliefs in a global commons, in leaderless, participative organising and grassroots anti-state and anti-capitalist action run deep through the camps. They're also informed by a culture of direct action and a refusal to accept top-down solutions and a system of parliamentary democracy that reduces participation in politics to 16 "X"s in a box in an average lifetime.
But did Scargill and Monbiot really "get" the camp and its cultures of resistance? The latest edition of the NUM's newsletter criticised the camp for being too middle-class, anti-miner, and alienated from "real", genuine working class "realities". Are these representations fair? Many participants in the camp could be defined as the "precariat" – neoliberalism's answer to the proletariat. No longer an urbanised worker in a regular job in for a majority of their working life, the precariat lives and works in a precarious state, at the mercy of a deregulated labour market. Work is dominated by casualisation, flexible and migrant labour, zero-hour contracts, temping, seasonal work, home working, self-employment and unemployment. Many at the camp form a part of this working class, no more in the control of the means of production than energy industry workers here or China or Poland.
State solutions to the climate crisis were presented to us 10 years ago through the Kyoto protocol – what were they? To privatise the air we breathe and turn carbon emissions into commodities, to buy and sell atmospheric poison, to create a new market of trading in the means of ecological destruction. It's no wonder many at the camp reject state solutions to climate change.
Entertaining as the two-minutes-in-a-room-full-of-poison standoff between Monbiot and Scargill is, this gesture politics isn't getting to the heart of the fight. The question is, who and under what conditions, controls decision-making, and has climate-changing power? Who will pay the price of exile from family and common land, water and food insecurity, as land and rivers become polluted or diverted into the energy industry's use, for bauxite, uranium, coal, and iron-ore to build new infrastructure, power nuclear energy, expand the global coal market and concomitant infrastructure to perpetuate the whole process?
How do we bring about a transformation which empowers us all? Grassroots organising in cooperative, low-impact, sustainable ways, glimpsed at the Climate Camp, and practised daily by millions, is one way towards this. Another is to live at the sharpest end of climate chaos today.
So how about this for a challenge, George and Arthur? Spend two months, not two minutes, (together!) living in Matlu Camp in Jharsuguda, in Orissa province, India. One of the poorest states on earth, here in the heart of India's coal belt, are families displaced by mining, living in a polluted form of captivity. Where our very own Department for International Development has been restructuring governance, reinforcing the mining industries, and guiding land reforms allowing for the felling of pristine forest, more tribal resettlement and more environmental destruction.
Changing our sources of energy without changing our sources of economic and political power will not make a difference. Neither coal nor nuclear are the "solution", we need a revolution.

Lib Dem leader's green plans more than a moon shot

Nick Clegg has outlined his party's intention to make Britain self-sufficient in energy and carbon neutral by 2050. But are his plans realistic, asks David Adam?
David Adam,
Thursday August 21 2008 15:35 BST

The Lib Dems compare the effort needed on green energy to the Apollo moon landings
"Dealing with climate change is the number one challenge facing the world today," said the Lib Dems last summer when they announced ambitious plans to make Britain zero carbon by 2050.
Climate change is still a challenge, but energy security is a sexier topic right now, and a new leader needs a new message. Hence, Nick Clegg's shift to focus on reducing Britain's "ever increasing dependence on vulnerable foreign energy supplies". Climate change and energy security are two sides of the same coin, after all, and measures to address one help with the other.
The measures may be a year old, but are they any good? They were certainly widely lauded last year, mainly because they called the Labour and Conservative bet to reduce carbon pollution 60% and 80% respectively, and went all-in with a pledge to eliminate them completely.A carbon neutral Britain in a little over four decades (perhaps as few as eight parliamentary terms) would be an astounding accomplishment, given that greenhouse gas emissions from almost all aspects of UK society are rising.
Companies and politicians promise, and sometimes deliver, cuts in emissions, but check the small print: often the reduction is only against "business as usual" – in other words, emissions have still gone up, just not by as much as they were expected to.
Britain is on track to meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, but only because some major carbon sources (aviation and shipping most prominently) are left off the balance sheet. By any reasonable measure, Britain produces significantly more carbon dioxide pollution than in 1990.
The refined Lib Dem energy strategy certainly identifies the problem correctly. It focuses on our fossil-fuel dependent electricity generators and our woefully insulated houses. It wants a massive investment in renewable energy to address the first, and promises beefed up building regulations and insulation paid for by the utility companies on the second.
A ban on nuclear and coal would place a giant demand on new renewable sources, though the Lib Dem document fails to say how much renewable capacity it aims for. The short-fall will be made up by EU-sourced natural gas, with the carbon dioxide captured and stored. Again, no hard figures – and no technical guarantee it will work on the required scale either.
The Local Government Association reckons £500m a year would insulate the leakiest 12m houses and reduce household emissions by a fifth, though the utility companies will be in no mood to cough up from their weakened profits.
The move to install smart meters looks a good one (and one the present government is poised to announce) but we cannot be sure that the promised cuts in consumer electricity use will be sustained in the long term. But the pledge to make every new home built to a zero-carbon rating in a little over two years looks unrealistic, given the costs involved and the current problems in the building industry.
Ambitious targets can be a good thing, of course, and a reluctance to think big has certainly hampered Britain's attempts on renewables so far. Perhaps their sluggish deployment could be accelerated by a quango body similar to the Olympic Delivery Authority, as the Lib Dems suggest. But do even these ambitious promises go far enough?
Nick Clegg calls today for an "Apollo project" to make Britain energy independent by 2050. The government's renewables advisers say it will cost £100bn to boost our renewable energy provision to just 15% by 2020. The cost of the decade long Apollo programme in today's money? £70bn. Compared to fighting climate change (or tackling energy security), putting a man on the moon is small change.

Insurance for our planet

Spending money now to slow global warming can ensure that ruinous catastrophe never happens

Oliver Tickell,
Thursday August 21 2008 11:00 BST

Björn Lomborg accuses me of scare tactics in my article on the catastrophic consequences of a 4C temperature rise. But his confidence that global warming on this scale would have only moderate impacts, knocking global GDP by a mere 3.5% by 2300, is dangerously misplaced. Against Lomborg's outdated econometric models stands something infinitely more dependable and less reassuring: the geological record.
The Earth has in the past undergone rapid and dramatic climate change. It is quite capable of maintaining a "hothouse" state as much as 10C warmer than today with ice-free poles and sea levels up to 100m higher - as it did between 100 and 40 million years ago. And an initial warming pulse of 5C or less - caused perhaps by an asteroid strike on limestone or coal deposits releasing thousands of gigatonnes of carbon to the atmosphere, or by volcanic eruptions - can trigger further warming processes that can multiply the intial temperature rise.
It has happened before, and it could happen again. In geological terms there is little to choose between an a carbon release caused by an asteroid strike, and one caused by our burning fossil fuels. Already we are witnessing positive feedback processes in the climate system that threaten to amplify the warming pulse of just under 1C that humans have already delivered. If we ever reach 4C of warming there are likely to be many more such feedbacks, perhaps enough to flip the climate system into "hothouse" mode.
If this should ever happen, the elaborate cost-benefit analyses of Lomborg and colleagues at his Copenhagen Consensus will be so much waste paper. But that is not to dismiss economics as a whole - on the contrary. Nicholas Stern's famous 2006 review marked a major step forward in applying economics to climate change and yielded many useful findings - not least that swift and decisive action to mitigate climate change is the "pro-growth strategy for the longer term", and the sooner we do it the less it will cost us.
But Stern's analysis, though powerful, is incomplete and understates the case for action. In particular it does not adequately encompass the risks of truly catastrophic change, as opposed to modulations applied to a business-as-usual scenario. A small perturbation - a temperature rise of 1C, for example, and a sea level rise of 0.1m - can fairly be considered in conventional terms. There will be both costs and benefits, but on the whole the world will carry on much as before.
But the conventional approach breaks down entirely in the face of a very large change - such as a warming of 10C and a long-term 100m sea level rise. We need not lose any sleep over whether our descendants in 2100 might be a few percentage points richer or poorer than otherwise - after all, Lomborg assures us, they will be 1,700% richer on average. But we should be deeply concerned that we may leave them a seriously damaged world, incapable of supporting life - including human life - on anything like the scale and diversity we presently enjoy. It is hard, and arguably impossible, to put a figure on the economic cost of such an outcome, but it is certainly enormous.
And as Martin Weitzman, professor of economics at Harvard University, points out in his widely-acclaimed paper On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change (pdf), very high-cost, low-probability outcomes are systematically ignored by current economic methods, when they should be placed at centre-stage. In Weitzman's own words, spending money now to slow global warming is not about "optimal consumption smoothing" (as Lomborg would have it), but about "how much insurance to buy to offset the small chance of a ruinous catastrophe that is difficult to compensate by ordinary savings".
Taking out Weitzman's climate insurance means spending now to ensure that the "ruinous catastrophe" never happens. And to achieve this aim by investing $1 trillion per year (about 2% of World Product) as proposed in Kyoto2 is positively good value - all the more so as all the investments would bring about important additional human, economic and environmental benefits. Even without the threat of global warming the world would be better off by shifting towards renewable energy, raising energy efficiency, reversing deforestation, and ensuring the long term productivity of the world's farmland. Kyoto2 is the "best solution" that Lomborg is searching for.

3i Group creates Web site on corporate responsibility

By CATHERINE CRAIGAugust 22, 2008

U.K.-listed 3i Group PLC has become the first private-equity firm to create a Web site entirely dedicated to corporate social responsibility, as the firm aims to be carbon-neutral by 2010.
The site comes nine months after David Walker, the former chairman of Morgan Stanley International, produced a report for the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association that demanded greater transparency from the industry.
The site contains details of the firm's corporate social-responsibility policies, case studies giving practical examples of its work, its in-house corporate-responsibility committee, and investment-performance data that values the firm's portfolio at £6 billion, or more than $11 billion.
Ben Harding, spokesman for international buyout firm Apax Partners, said 3i presented a model to aspire to in terms of the detail it provided concerning corporate social responsibility -- the measure of a firm's consideration for its employees, the environment and society at large.
But the move is unlikely to be welcomed by all members of the industry. Some have criticized the increasing amount of information about corporate responsibility available to the general public as excessive.
In November last year, Alchemy Partners founder Jon Moulton labeled the increased levels of disclosure expected from private-equity firms as "mildly nuisancesome" and was critical of the moves being made by buyout groups toward disclosure akin to that of public companies.
In its 2008 report on corporate social responsibility, 3i said it had embarked on a three-year program last year to achieve carbon neutrality -- the act of neutralizing its carbon emissions through reduction and offset schemes -- by 2010.
• From Financial News at