Friday, 29 August 2008

Sasol coal-to-oil plant planned in China ditched


BEIJING -- South Africa's Sasol Ltd. said Thursday it was scrapping one of its two proposed coal-to-liquids projects in China, after Beijing indicated it was scaling back a drive to produce synthetic fuels from its largest energy source.
Sasol said it was no longer proceeding with plans for a CTL project in the northern province of Shaanxi and would focus fully on a feasibility study of a plant in the neighboring Ningxia Hui autonomous region, with a capacity of 80,000 barrels a day.
The proposed site at the Ningdong Chemical and Energy Base has excellent infrastructure and a significant amount of preparation work has already been completed, Sasol said, adding the project has the full support of Ningxia Gov. Wang Zhengwei.
Sasol is joining Shenhua Ningxia Coal Group, a unit of big Chinese coal miner Shenhua Group, in the Ningxia project study.
"This strategy aligns with a recent notice issued by the National Development and Reform Commission," Sasol said. The commission is China's economic planning agency.
Although there has been no official confirmation of a new national policy on CTL in China, a notice on the Web site of Ningxia's planning body Thursday said China would only allow two projects to proceed and all others should be put on ice.
Regarding its other feasibility study for a CTL plant in Shaanxi, which would no longer proceed at this stage, Sasol said Shenhua and itself would maintain the good relationships with the province which have been established over many years.
The two projects are Sasol's proposed facility in Ningxia and Shenhua's wholly owned plant in Erdos city in Inner Mongolia, which has a planned annual output of 1.08 million metric tons in its first phase before ramping up to three million tons.
Shenhua's plant is due to be commissioned next month. If confirmed, China's new policy on CTL projects will deal a blow to other foreign investors seeking access to the country's growing market for transport fuels by liquefying coal.
Write to David Winning at

Tesco pulls out of eco-towns project at Hanley Grange

From The Times
August 29, 2008
Jill Sherman, Whitehall Editor

Gordon Brown's plan for eco-towns was unravelling last night, with Tesco withdrawing from one of the proposed greenfield developments.
The supermarket chain, which owns 80 per cent of the land, was providing most of the financial backing for an eco-town with 7,000 homes at Hanley Grange, near Cambridge. But the project has been heavily opposed by local campaigners and all the surrounding councils. Yesterday Tesco pulled the plug.
It means that a quarter of the developers on the Government's shortlist of 15 eco-towns have now abandoned the schemes, which have prompted widespread protests.
Ministers have deferred until the new year the decision on which projects will proceed. But it is likely that only three or four will be given the go-ahead for the first phase. The developments, of 5,000 to 20,000 homes, are supposed to include a high percentage of affordable homes, with zero-carbon flats and houses surrounded by green spaces. Car use is to be curtailed through both incentives and restrictions.

The economic climate has caused some firms to withdraw; others have complained that the uncertain bidding process is expensive and risky.
Tesco maintained last night that it would try to press ahead with a conventional development on the same site by starting afresh through the East of England regional strategy plan. However, the chances of getting this through are slim.
Insiders privately admitted that the cost of devising detailed plans for an eco-town that might in the end not be accepted by the Government was too “high-risk”. One said that the bidding process alone would cost Tesco millions - with no guarantee that its proposal would be accepted.
Tesco's decision delighted the Stop Hanley Grange campaign group, which had been planning to hold a protest rally on Monday attended by local MPs. Last night the organisers said that the event would be a celebration instead.
Julie Redfern, chairman of the group, said: “We are delighted that Tesco have seen sense, and this is a victory for local democracy.”
Grant Shapps, the Shadow Housing Minister, said: “Eco-towns started off as an idea that sounded good, but Labour's incompetent handling of the project has led to distrust amongst the public and developers alike. Now, even those who are behind the applications have decided that it is better to go it alone and forget the government-sponsored eco-con scheme.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government insisted that Tesco's move would not derail the project. “The whole point of developing a long list of potential locations was to get down to a shorter final list, and we remain committed to announcing this final shortlist of up to ten potential locations early in the new year,” a spokesman said.

UK Coal raises output to capitalise on higher prices

Mark Milner
The Guardian,
Friday August 29 2008

UK Coal is seeking to cash in on rising energy prices through higher production and the end of long-term, low-priced legacy contracts.
The company is already investing £55m each in its collieries at Thoresby in Nottinghamshire and Kellingley in West Yorkshire to open up new reserves and is expected to decide within the next six months whether to reopen the Harworth mine near Doncaster, which has been mothballed for more than two years.
Chief executive Jon Lloyd said he believed it was accepted that in the face of higher energy prices, and despite the impact of the large combustion plants directive, which limits power station emissions, coal would play a "significant and perhaps major part in the UK's energy mix over the next two decades".
"There will be environmental challenges but frankly it's a political must to keep the lights on," Lloyd said.
He said the company would decide on Harworth either late this year or in the first quarter of 2009. If it was reopened, at a cost of up to £175m, it would eventually provide another 2.2 m to 2.3 m tonnes of coal a year. The key factors would be the geology, which would determine the cost of accessing the reserves, and their size — thought to be 25m to 40m tonnes.
Although the UK Coal chief executive is bullish about the outlook for the industry, he said it was unlikely that Britain would see any new coal mines. "To start from scratch, to drive shafts would cost about £1bn and take eight or nine years — even if you find the people who know how to drive shafts any more."
Yesterday UK Coal reported an interim pre-tax loss of £9.9m against a profit of £40.6m in the same period last year. However, the company, which operates a property portfolio, said it was confident of meeting expectations for the full year. City analysts have pencilled in profits of around £70m.
UK Coal said first half coal production had been lower than expected and it was more committed to meeting long-standing lower-priced contracts, so the benefits of the 45% increase in prices had been muted. However it said the second half would see "significantly higher production at a significantly higher sales price."
Lloyd said UK Coal was committed to delivering 10m tonnes of coal on lower - priced legacy contracts but by the end of 2009 that would have fallen to between 3m and 3.5m tonnes.
UK Coal said that despite the problems facing the property sector in the face of the credit crunch, the like-for-like value of its property portfolio had risen by 5% to £438.4m and that it expected to see a further increase in the second half.
Lloyd said the company's portfolio had benefited from its holdings of agricultural land, where values had risen, and because many of its developments were at an early stage and thus less vulnerable to the impact of the downturn. While an upturn could be some way off , Lloyd said the company would be well-positioned to take advantage of the eventual rebound in demand.

Amazon rainforest was giant garden city

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Last Updated: 7:01pm BST 28/08/2008

The "pristine" Amazon rainforest was covered by a vast sprawl of interconnected villages between 1,500 and 500 years ago, according to a study that shows how nature has felt the impact of man for much longer than realised.

Explorers have long sought lost cities of the Amazon, now almost entirely obscured by forest. Today it turns out that the "garden cities", which date back 1500 years, were too spread out to make sense of on foot.

Aerial shot of an Amazon village showing central plaza and the roads radiating from the centre
Assisted by satellite imagery, researchers have spent more than a decade uncovering and mapping the lost and obscured communities to show they held more than 1000 people each and were once large and complex enough to be considered "urban" as the term is commonly applied to medieval European and ancient Greek communities.
In the Xingu region of the Brazilian Amazon, these garden cities radiated out over a diameter of 150 miles, covering an area of 18,000 square miles that exceeds the sprawl of Los Angeles by 35 fold.
However, they only held around 50,000 people, compared with the 13 million in LA.
The extraordinary conclusion is reached by anthropologists from the University of Florida and Brazil, and a member of the Kuikuro, an indigenous people who are the descendants of the settlements' original inhabitants.

"If we look at your average medieval town or your average Greek polis, most are about the scale of those we find in this part of the Amazon," said Prof Mike Heckenberger of the University of Florida, lead author of the paper published today in the journal Science.
"Only the ones we find are much more complicated in terms of their planning."
The paper also argues that the size and scale of the settlements in the southern Amazon in North Central Brazil means that what many scientists consider virgin tropical forests were shaped by human activity hundreds of years ago.
Not only that, but the settlements - consisting of networks of walled towns and smaller villages, each organised around a central plaza - suggest future solutions for supporting the indigenous population in Brazil's state of Mato Grosso and other regions of the Amazon, the paper says.
Around the communities the scientists found dams and artificial ponds that indicate the then inhabitants farmed fish, which today could be a valuable new food resource.
Prof Heckenberger and his colleagues first announced the discovery of the first settlements in 2003, revealing the largest date from around 1250 to 1650, when European colonists and the diseases they brought likely killed most of their inhabitants.
The communities are now almost entirely overgrown. But Prof Heckenberger said that members of the Kuikuro, a Xinguano tribe that calls the region home, are adept at identifying tell-tale signs of old settlements, from "dark earth" that indicate past human waste dumps or farming, concentrations of pottery shards and earthworks.
The new paper reports that the settlements consisted of clusters of 150-acre towns and smaller villages organised in spread out "galactic" patterns.
None of the large towns was as large as the largest medieval or Greek towns. But as with those towns, the Amazonian ones were surrounded by large walls - in their case, composed of earthworks still extant today.
Each settlement had an identical formal road, always oriented northeast to southwest in keeping with the mid-year summer solstice, connected to a central plaza.
The findings are important because they contradict long-held stereotypes about early Western versus early New World settlements that rest on the idea that "if you find it in Europe, it's a city.
If you find it somewhere else, it has to be something else," Prof Heckenberger said. "They have quite remarkable planning."
Because it means at least one area of "pristine" Amazon has a long history of human activity, the find could change not only how scientists assess the flora and fauna, but also how conservationists preserve the remains of forest so heavily cleared it is the world's largest soybean producing area.

City breathes easy after air quality results

THE quality of air in Edinburgh is significantly better than most towns and cities in Scotland, a study has found.
A year-long project by the Environmental Health Surveillance System for Scotland found that the levels of pollution were well below the national average in the centre of the Capital.At 27 micrograms, the level of nitrogen dioxide – mainly caused by traffic fumes – is lower than Aberdeen (62), Dundee (53), Glasgow (70) and Perth (60). The Scottish average is 40.There are also several small towns across the country where pollution is worse, including Cupar in Fife.A reading of nine at the Bush Estate in Midlothian was the second lowest in the country.The information was gathered by a device placed in the St Leonards area of the city.

Weather Eye: the not so bracing sea air

Paul Simons

Exactly a century ago John Hassall drew his poster of a jolly fisherman skipping over a sandy beach with the slogan “Skegness is SO Bracing.” It summed up how the Victorians loved the seaside air, as a tonic to breathe in deep for health and wellbeing. But new evidence shows it to be the opposite.
A recent study discovered that dirty smoke from ships is polluting coastal air. Ships burning a cheap sulphur-rich fuel called “bunker oil” produce clouds of tiny sulphate particles. These specks of dirt pose a serious health hazard when breathed in. Air samples taken from the coast of California revealed that sulphates from ships made up almost half the fine particles floating in the air. However, from 2015 United Nations international maritime regulations will make ships burn cleaner fuels when they come near to coastlines.
Another problem floating around at the seaside is entirely natural. The Victorians thought that the bracing air and distinctive smell of the seaside was created by ozone, and that this was wonderful for health. They were wrong on both counts – the smell is not ozone, which is extremely harmful. Instead, University of East Anglia scientists found the smell comes from dimethyl sulphide (DMS), which in high concentrations can irritate the eyes and lungs. DMS released from the oceans affects the weather by helping to seed clouds. With more clouds, less sunlight reaches the sea and so cools off temperatures over oceans. Many scientists believe that DMS is one of Nature’s checks and balances to keep the climate in harmony, and may help to offset global warming.

Africa climate conference delegates not offsetting flights

By Mike Pflanz
Last Updated: 1:01pm BST 28/08/2008
More than 1,700 delegates at two conferences on global warming being held in Kenya and Ghana have largely failed to carbon-offset their travel to the meetings, The Telegraph has learned.

Some 140 participants have flown from as far as Japan to Nairobi for a forum of scientists and African and European MPs to discuss the devastating impact of climate change on the world's poorest people.

The flights to the Nairobi conference will produce 2.6 tonnes of CO2
But few have opted to pay for the greenhouse gases that their travel to Nairobi produced, which totals 2.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide for each return flight from Japan, for example.
That is almost nine times the per capita CO2 output for the average Kenyan.
A straw poll of 29 participants found only one, a British climate researcher, who had offset his flight. Ten members of the organising committee had also paid the surcharge.
"We were not told anything about that, and these flights are expensive enough already", said Adam Boni Tessi, an MP from Benin in West Africa, whose 5,300 mile round trip produced 0.9 tonnes of CO2.

Others from Germany, Uganda and Ivory Coast all admitted that they had not paid. One Ugandan delegate said the conference organisers should have told them about carbon offset schemes.
"Whether to fly carbon neutral was a decision which was left up to each of the delegates themselves," said Femke Brouwer from European Parliamentarians for Africa (Awepa), the organisers of the Nairobi forum.
"I think you will find that the vast majority will not have [paid], but we as Awepa are developing a policy which will allow our members to fly carbon neutral, which will be in place for the next meeting early next year."
A separate conference with 1,600 participants is being held at the same time in Ghana's capital, Accra, for the latest round of UN-backed talks linked to implementing the Kyoto Protocol.
Again, organisers could not confirm that air travel was carbon neutral because the decision whether to pay the green surcharge on each flight was left to each delegation.
"It's up to the parties to decide for themselves," said Caroline Keulemans, spokesman for the Accra conference.
"The UN is working towards a mechanism in which all emissions for UN conferences will be offset. For now it's up to the parties, but as the UN we would very much like that all of these conferences would be carbon neutral."
Ms Keulemans could not say when this scheme would be introduced.
The conference organisers had advised delegates not to wear jackets and ties, to allow "discussions in a more comfortable environment, as well as [to] limit the use of air conditioning and thereby reduce greenhouse gas emissions", its website said.
Indonesia paid to offset all greenhouse gases produced during last year's Bali climate conference by planting 79m trees, but it was not clear if Ghana had made plans to do anything similar.

Households paying £800 too much in green taxes, says report

James Kirkup, Political Correspondent
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 28/08/2008
Households are paying hundreds of pounds more in "green taxes" than is justified by the environmental cost of their carbon emissions, a new study claims today.

Britain paid £19.6 billion too much in green taxes lastyear, or £783.34 per household
The Taxpayers' Alliance has calculated that every household in the UK is paying as much as £800 a year more in environmental taxes than is necessary.
Its analysis claims the Treasury made £20 billion in "excess" revenue from environmental taxes last year - from supposedly "green" levies on motoring, energy bills and waste disposal.
The report is the latest attack on the Government's use of green taxes and will strengthen suspicions that ministers are using the environment as a cover for revenue-raising measures.
The TPA said its figures showed ministers were "wrapping revenue-raising tax hikes in a green banner." However, the Treasury rejected the group's figures as misleading.

The study focuses on five so-called "green" taxes: fuel duty; Vehicle Excise Duty - or car tax as it is commonly known; the landfill tax paid by council tax payers; the climate change levy and the renewables obligation.
These final two are both levied on utility bills and are intended to fund investment in renewable energy sources.
The TPA report calculates that in 2007/08, the Exchequer took a net £24.2 billion from those taxes, after the costs of maintaining the roads network are subtracted. The equivalent financial "cost" of Britain's carbon dioxide emissions is significantly less, it says.
According the methods used by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UK's emissions in 2007 did £4.6 billion worth of damage to the environment.
By that figure, Britain paid £19.6 billion too much in green taxes last year, or £783.34 per household.
The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs uses a much higher figure, based on the Stern Report by Sir Nicholas Stern, a former Treasury economist. It says that the cost of Britain's emissions is £16.3 billion.
But even using that total, the annual "excess" green tax revenue is £7.9 billion or £315.81 per household.
Matthew Sinclair, the author of the TPA report, said green taxes were putting an "unfair burden" on families and companies.
He said: "With the credit crunch squeezing household budgets, people can ill afford this extra tax grab. It's dishonest and unjust for politicians to wrap revenue-raising tax hikes in a green banner. The Government are talking about raising taxes even further, but our conclusions show that green taxes should be kept as they are or cut."
By far the biggest "green tax" cited by the TPA is fuel duty. Levied at 50.35 pence per litre, the tax raised a gross total of £24.9 billion for the Treasury in 2007/08
The Treasury strongly disputed the TPA's calculations last night, insisting that fuel duty should not be considered a "green" tax because it is not imposed purely to reflect the environmental impacts of fuel consumption.
Still, the TPA report is not the first to suggest that road tax revenues exceed environmental costs.
In July, an academic study commissioned by the Institute for Fiscal Studies concluded that road fuel duty is already well above the level that can be justified by the damage done by vehicles' CO2 emissions.
Ministers are also under intense pressure over a plan to raise road tax by as much as £245, a plan justified as "green" despite the Treasury having no estimate of how much carbon dioxide it will save.
A Treasury spokesperson said: "The estimate of green taxes is wrong as it includes taxes used to fund core public services, rather than simply offsetting the cost of CO2.
"For example, while fuel duty recognises the environmental costs of driving, it also pays for important public services, including new roads and public transport and efforts to tackle child poverty."
The TPA analysis also found that the gap between emissions and green tax payments "varies significantly" between suburban and rural areas and urban districts. Residents of rural areas may face much higher "excess" green taxes compared to residents of cities and towns.

HK gas terminal on hold in green move

By Robin Kwong in Hong Kong
Published: August 28 2008 17:46

The Hong Kong government has backed away from approving a controversial natural gas terminal in an ecologically sensitive area, in what is seen as its first serious attempt to tackle air pollution in the territory in recent years.
China Light and Power, Hong Kong’s biggest energy company, has long argued that it needed to build an HK$8bn ($1bn) liquid natural gas receiving terminal to ensure a stable future gas supply for the territory.

Having more natural gas was also a prerequisite for improving Hong Kong’s air quality, according to CLP, which said it now had to burn more coal to conserve its dwindling gas supplies.
However, environmental activists claim that the terminal, which CLP proposed to build on two small islands on the edge of Hong Kong’s territorial waters, will endanger marine life, particularly the rare pink dolphins and finless porpoises that are Hong Kong’s only indigenous marine mammals.
Edward Yau, environment secretary, said on Thursday that the need for the terminal was greatly reduced after Hong Kong signed a series of energy deals with Beijing that will ensure a stable supply of gas to the territory for the next 20 years.
Under the agreement, the state-controlled China National Offshore Oil Corporation will renew its supply agreement to Hong Kong for another 20 years, and Petro­china will still study the feasibility of supplying gas to Hong Kong from central Asia via pipeline as well as an LNG terminal that Petro­china is planning to build in neighbouring Shenzhen economic zone.
A senior government official, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the government expected that, with this agreement in place, CLP would increase its use of natural gas from a third of its fuel mix to half, thus improving Hong Kong’s air quality. CLP is the biggest polluter within Hong Kong, though the territory also suffers from pollution generated by factories across the border.
Andrew Brandler, chief executive of CLP, said he welcomed the agreement, but the new supply will only “partly fill the gas shortage being faced by us”.
“Imports of LNG will still be needed to meet our full requirements as our need for clean natural gas continues to grow,” Mr Brandler said.
While the new gas supply is still subject to CLP reaching a commercial agreement with CNOOC and Petrochina, the senior official said it was “an obvious choice” over CLP building its own terminal within Hong Kong.
The lack of government support for a Hong Kong terminal also calls into question a 20-year gas supply deal that CLP had initially agreed on with BG Group, the UK gas company, in June. CLP declined to comment on the impact the latest developments would have for the BG deal.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Renewable Energy Holdings

REH, the AIM-quoted investor and operator of renewable energy technologies, said its three CETO II pumps have been installed in the test site at Perth, Western Australia, and are performing within their design specifications. CETO pumps produce electricity and fresh water by harnessing power from the sea.

To Greece, by car, on grease

Carbon-conscious enthusiasts beg restaurants and cafes for waste vegetable oil to power their European journey, converting an estimated 350 litres of oil into fuel on their 11 day trip
Helena Smith,
Thursday August 28 2008 13:04 BST

The 'Grease to Greece' rally makes its way to central Athens to promote awareness of alternative biofuels. Photograph: Yiorgos Karahalis/Reuters
A group of British eco-enthusiasts have just pulled off the greenest and grubbiest car rally ever, driving from London to Athens in vehicles powered exclusively on waste vegetable oil.
The team motored with unexpected ease across Europe on the proceeds of the grease thrown away by restaurants and cafes along the way. Their hope is that the 2,500-mile feat will help a drive to create a commodity out of cooking oils that otherwise end up in landfills or the sea. Unlike ethanol and other controversial biofuels, recycled cooking fat does not impact on food production.
"I think we can safely say that this is the first long-distance car journey in Europe that has relied on restaurants and burger bars as an informal network of filling stations," said Andy Pag, a 34-year-old Londoner, who organised the rally.
"It's true we spent a lot of time fat-finding, knocking on the doors of restaurants begging for their waste, but it worked. And the beauty, of course, is that when such supplies are collected straight from a restaurant and used as fuel they have a zero-carbon footprint," he told the Guardian, after an awards ceremony highlighting alternatives to fossil fuels at the British embassy in Athens.
Eight teams took part, driving cars that ranged from a brand new Renault to, in Pag's case, a 13–year-old former taxi. They estimate that 350 litres of cooking oil were used to fuel the 11-day expedition.
Some of the vehicles had been converted to run on vegetable oil. Those driving "uncoverted" cars brewed up biodiesel using a portable "fuel pod" processor – a 2,500lb (1,134kg) contraption carried in a transit van that they described as being "as easy as a washing machine to use."
Pag conducted his first carbon neutral trip in 2007, driving from London to Timbuktu in a lorry powered by diesel made from cocoa butter, produced by a chocolate factory in the UK. He said he was amazed at the curiosity the rally engendered, with crowds invariably gathering to witness the re-fuelling process.
"We used what is known as an oily bits centrifuge system, the world's first mobile purification system for cars, to filter the waste en route," said Pag's co-driver, secondary school teacher Esther Obiri-Darko. "It gets rid of all the crud." Manufactured in the UK, the system costs around £500 and includes a pump.
The group's overarching aim is to encourage people to look at alternatives to fossil fuels. "I think we made quite a lot of converts along the way," said Pag. "There's a whole trail out there of restaurant owners who are now looking at their waste products with different eyes. Our hope is that others will start to realise the energy that is in waste, too."

No hybrid race between Toyota, GM, exec says

The Associated Press
Published: August 28, 2008

JOLIET, Illinois: The race between General Motors Corp. and Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp. to produce a rechargeable car is meaningless because the companies' vehicle designs are so different, GM's top product executive said Thursday.
Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said Toyota's plug-in hybrid has a much shorter electric range than the Chevrolet Volt and must use a gasoline engine to go any farther. The Volt, he said, runs only on electricity but carries a small gasoline engine to recharge the batteries when they are depleted.
Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe said Thursday that Toyota will speed up delivery of its plug-in hybrid from 2010 to the end of 2009, while the Volt is due in showrooms in late 2010.
But Lutz said he expects Toyota's plug-in will debut in controlled fleets and not in large numbers. He said GM will have production versions of the Volt working in a large test fleet in late 2009.
Lutz, speaking at an event in Joliet where GM showed reporters its 2009 model lineup, said the Volt's lithium-ion batteries can take it 40 to 50 miles (64 to 80 kilometers) on a single charge. If a driver stays within that range, the car would never use gasoline. To go farther, the motor would come on to recharge the batteries.

Toyota has not released an electric-only range for its plug-in hybrid, which operates similar to its current Prius model by using both gasoline and electricity to propel the vehicle.
Lutz said such hybrids generally have a short electric-only range.
"After eight or 11 miles (13 or 18 kilometers) it reverts to being a completely normal gasoline-electric hybrid, which means you get about a 25-30 percent fuel savings, but the point is they do burn fuel," he said.
Lutz said GM has chosen one of two competing battery suppliers for the Volt, but he wouldn't say which one.
Two battery makers — Compact Power Inc. of Troy, Michigan, which is working with parent LG Chem of Korea, and Frankfurt, Germany-based Continental Automotive Systems, which is working with GM and A123 Systems Inc. of Watertown, Massachusetts — are competing to win the Volt battery contract.
Lutz also stopped short of predicting when GM would return to profitability, but said if it can further reduce structural costs, get higher prices for small cars, and if the U.S. auto market recovers, its top executives say they hope to return to black ink in 2010. GM reported a $15.5 billion second-quarter loss and has been burning cash this year at a rate of more than $1 billion a month.
Justin Ward, manager of the Toyota's advanced powertrain program in the U.S., said in a recent interview with The Associated Press that Toyota's design of blending gasoline and electric propulsion will be less costly than the Volt's design.
He said "series" designs like the Volt have larger, heavier battery packs and bigger electronic components to go with them, making them more costly.
Ward would not reveal the target price for Toyota's new version, but GM has said it will price the Volt between $30,000 and $40,000. The current Prius, which can't be plugged in for recharging but runs on both gas and electric power, has a base price of $21,500.
Industry analysts say despite differences between the vehicles, there is image value for whichever automaker can come out with a rechargeable car first.
But Lutz says the two vehicles can't be compared.
"A plug-in hybrid with a limited range is a very nice thing to have," he said. "It's wonderful that Toyota is working on this. If they have some test fleets out next year that's great. But it's not the same thing as a Chevy Volt, which is not a plug-in hybrid."

E.ON to appeal over Scottish wind farm rejection

Published: August 28, 2008

LONDON: E.ON UK is to appeal against a local government refusal to grant planning permission for a wind farm at Auchencorth Moss in Scotland, the German-owned utility said on Thursday.
Midlothian Council rejected the plan to build a 45-megawatt onshore wind farm neat Penicuik in February, despite the project's potential to contribute towards Britain's already challenging renewable energy targets.
"We were disappointed in the decision made by Midlothian Council as we believe that Auchencorth Moss is the ideal location for the wind farm and a fantastic opportunity to help tackle the global threat of climate change," Darren Cuming, E.ON's onshore wind manager said.
"We are now satisfied that our proposal will comply with Scottish Government and Local Plan policy, with minimal impact on the environment and the local population."
E.ON says its 18-turbine wind farm could produce enough clean energy to supply up to 24,000 homes, saving over 43,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year.

Planning decisions on projects of over 50 megawatts are taken by central government in Scotland or London, but smaller wind farm planning decisions are made by local government.
(Reporting by Daniel Fineren, editing by Anthony Barker)

China's lead in race for new nuclear plants could create UK skills famine

· Rising fuel costs eclipse post-Chernobyl fears· Expert forecasts rush to build atomic stations
Mark Milner
The Guardian,
Friday August 29 2008

Britain's plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations will face a fierce challenge for skills and resources from countries keen to build their own, according to research published today.
China has plans for 24 nuclear plants and outline proposals for another 76, according to the Economic Research Council, using figures from the International Energy Agency and the IAEA.
"China's plans indicate its key role in new nuclear build, and the impact of just a small element of its projects being realised would have major implications for new nuclear build capacity — and the many constraints," according to the ERC.
The research into planned and proposed nuclear plants is part of the ERC's Digest of Energy Statistics 2008, tracking energy trends including consumption, reserves, prices and efficiency at theEuropean Union and world levels. The ERC defines planned plants as those with funding and planning consent , while proposed plants may lack funding, planning consent or both.
One of the digest's editors, Nigel Hawkins, said there had been little nuclear new-build in the world after the Chernobyl disaster 20 years ago, but rising fossil fuel prices and the need for new electricity capacity has meant that most leading countries are now looking at the possibility of new nuclear facilities.
"Over the next 20 to 30 years we are going to see a major ramp-up in nuclear build ," he said.
Hawkins pointed out that the number of companies capable of nuclear newbuild was limited. They include Areva, which has applied jointly with EDF for UK approval of the technology for the EPR reactor, General Electric, Westinghouse — which Toshiba bought from British Nuclear Fuels in early 2006 — and Atomic Energy of Canada.
In Britain, the authorities are looking at building a small number of nuclear power plants and are studying at least three reactor designs. British Energy and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority are expected to put forward a number of sites close to existing nuclear plants or former facilities which have been closed.
Hawkins warned that, given the volumes under consideration by Beijing, the relatively small programme being considered by Britain could mean China would be seen as more of a priority by nuclear plant construction companies
In June, business and enterprise secretary John Hutton said: "As more and more countries seek to insulate themselves against future energy price rises and the irrefutable reality of climate change, they're competing hard to enable their own nuclear programmes.
"The UK government has the ambition and commitment to build and maintain the best market in the world for companies to do business in nuclear power.
"The UK must aim to become the world's number one location for new nuclear investment."
The government owns more than a third of British Energy and has given its blessing to plans for EDF to make a bid for the company, though no offer has yet emerged because of opposition by other shareholders. EDF is seen as a good fit because it has the experience of running existing nuclear power plants and nuclear new -build. But the government is keen to stress that its nuclear policy does not rest entirely on a British Energy/EDF tie-up.
A spokesman from the Department for Business and Enterprise said: "We are not putting all our eggs into one basket. "

Generators accused of putting profit before safety

Graham Keeley
The Guardian,
Friday August 29 2008

Iberdrola and Endesa, two of Spain's leading electricity companies, have been accused of cutting costs at nuclear power stations at the expense of safety.
The Catalan regional government said that failure to invest had caused several incidents at two nuclear stations including a leak which led to thousands of people having to undergo radiation tests.
The accusations came as Spain's socialist government vowed to gradually close down the country's six nuclear plants and get electricity from renewable sources.
Prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has said his government will not build any more nuclear plants, which currently account for 20% of the country's electricity needs. Spain hopes wind and solar power will make it into a leading producer of electricity from renewable sources. But soaring oil prices have put the government under pressure to review its anti-nuclear policy.
In November, a radioactive leak occurred at the Asco 1 plant, but the owners did not tell the CSN, Spain's nuclear watchdog, until April. More than 2,000 people had to undergo radiation tests. Out of 47 reported incidents from Spain's six nuclear power stations, 25 occurred at Catalonia's three power plants. Xabier Sabater, a spokesman for the Catalan government, said on the local radio: "The problem behind the incidents is a lack of investments. Iberdrola and Endesa are spending less on maintenance and security."
He said the deterioration began in 2002 when both companies started to sub-contract work to reduce costs.