Saturday, 6 September 2008

Daimler, RWE announce Berlin electric car project

The Associated Press
Published: September 5, 2008

BERLIN, Germany: Carmaker Daimler AG and utility RWE AG said Friday they would begin a joint electric car and electricity filling station test project in the German capital, called "E-Mobility Berlin."
It is the second electric car test project initiated by Daimler, after electric Smart cars started a trial as fleet vehicles for the police and other services in London last year.
The companies said during a joint news conference in Berlin, accompanied by politicians including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that Daimler would provide more than 100 electric cars from its Mercedes Benz and Smart brands, as well as service for the cars.
Daimler said it would decide over the next several months on some fleet and some private customers, but couldn't say yet who they had in mind for the program.
RWE said it will handle the development, installation and operation of about 500 electricity charging stations, the electricity and central control of the system.

The program will begin testing at the start of next year and should come on line at the end of 2009. It is being supported by the German federal government due to its significance in terms of sustainable mobility in the future.
Merkel called it "a truly groundbreaking project," for the capital, the auto industry and for utilities.
"'E-mobility Berlin' will be an important part of the strategy of the government for electric mobility," said German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, after the project presentation Friday.
"Our joint initiative is a good example of what can be achieved when policy makers, energy suppliers and the automotive industry all work together toward the same goal," said Dieter Zetsche, the chief executive of Stuttgart-based Daimler.
Zetsche added that he's convinced the future of mobility is green, and that "German industry has all the assets for assuming a leading role in this direction."
Daimler's Smart Electric Drive and Mercedes Benz electric vehicles will be driven with lithium-ion batteries developed specifically for use in the cars.
Daimler said compared to conventional batteries, the technology provides a greater range and a shorter charging time, even with smaller and lighter batteries.
The company said the batteries have a range of about 100 kilometers (60 miles), and that 90 percent of German citizens generally drive less than that distance on their everyday trips.
Daimler said it will be launching the lithium-ion battery technology in serial production of the Mercedes S 400 BlueHYBRID next year.
Both companies said the payment system will take the form of the exchange of data between a special in-car communication system and the intelligent electricity charging points for "effective, customer-friendly and convenient everyday operation."
Essen-based RWE said the charging points will be installed at customers' homes, workplaces and in public parking areas.
"In addition, business-to-business partners such as shopping centers, car park operators and fleet customers can be connected into the infrastructure," said Juergen Grossmann, the CEO of RWE. "The accounting system should be as simple and convenient as when using one's mobile phone," he said.
Shares of Daimler were down 3.6 percent at €39.99 (US$57.20), while RWE shares were down 1 percent at €68.84 (US$98.44) in a broadly lower Frankfurt market.
On the Net:

Daimler and RWE team up on pilot e-car

By John Reed in London
Published: September 5 2008 23:37

Daimler and RWE are teaming up on an electric cars project in Germany’s first such pairing between a carmaker and a power utility.
RWE will set up about 500 charging points in Berlin by the end of next year to serve more than 100 electric cars built by Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz and Smart brands, the two companies said yesterday.

Daimler is already testing electric Smart cars in London, and plans series production of them from late 2009. It also plans to build a small Mercedes A- or B-Class electric model from 2010.
RWE said that the Ruhr region, where the company is based, might be the next urban area for expanding recharging infrastructure for cars. Daimler is considering taking electric cars to other European cities and to the US, where it launched its conventional-engine Smart car earlier this year.
Car companies and electric utilities are forging ties in anticipation of the rollout of electric or plug-in hybrid cars by several manufacturers from about 2010.
Early electric cars failed to sell in large numbers in large part because of the demands they put on drivers to find public places to recharge them.
Payment for the electric charge also presents drivers and power companies with challenges. Carmakers see the problem as being more acute in Europe than in the US, where more drivers have home garages.
J├╝rgen Grossmann, RWE’s chief executive, said the charging points would be installed in drivers’ homes, workplaces, and public parking areas, and that paying for the charge would be “as simple and convenient as when using one’s mobile phone”.
Daimler and RWE are working on an in-car communication device that “recognises” customers when they charge their cars in public places so that they can be billed for the power at home.
RWE and Daimler said they were researching the use of car batteries as “reservoirs” for power that cars might later feed back to the grid.
Toyota and EDF last year announced a partnership on road tests for a plug-in hybrid vehicle in France, and plans to roll out car-recharging infrastructure around Europe. Next week, the two companies will announce the launch of road tests for the plug-in vehicle in the UK.
The vehicle will form part of EDF’s company fleet, and about 50 members of the utility’s staff will test it for about a year, Toyota told the Financial Times yesterday.
The two companies say they have developed an “innovative charging and invoicing system” incorported into the plug-in car which will be compatible with a new generation of public charging stations.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Robbing us of renewables

By a shameless ruse, the government is filching the money we pay in our electricity bills to support green energy generation

Oliver Tickell,
Saturday September 06 2008 00:07 BST

Strange but true: every year, as I revealed three years ago, the Treasury raids the mysterious "NFFO fund" to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds, on the most tenuous of legal grounds: that the enormous surpluses it generates are a "hereditary revenue of the Crown", along with the income arising from treasure trove and the Crown's prerogative rights over royal fish and birds – sturgeons and swans.
This medieval and so far unchallenged legal doctrine has created the very stealthiest of all stealth taxes, invisibly and unknowingly paid by all of us in our electricity bills – purportedly to support renewable electricity generation.
In this time of rocketing energy prices, today's news that the government's "windfall tax" – paid by us, not the energy companies – will reach £200m this year alone, and may exceed £1bn by 2010, may be the nail in this iniquitous tax's coffin. And our first demand must be this: the money is raised from our bills in order to support renewable electricity generation, so let it be spent for that purpose and for that purpose only.
There are two major areas that need substantial additional funding. One is to modernise and extend the grid, which was always designed to carry electricity from big power stations, mainly in the north, and deliver it to consumers according to generally predictable patterns of generation and consumption. But renewables are different. Wind, wave and tidal resources are mainly located on the UK's western seaboard, far away from the grid's main powerlines. And a radical redesign is needed to make the grid able to cope with the inherently unpredictable nature of renewables, especially as their contribution soars from the current paltry few percent of supply.
We also need additional support for the new renewables frontier: the sea. We will soon run out of suitable locations for wind turbines on our small and scenic island, and the bulk of new wind power must surely go offshore where there is plenty of wind but no precious landscapes to spoil. The problem is, of course, that extra costs are involved in developing offshore renewables – whether wind, wave or tidal stream – in construction, maintenance and grid connections.
But more fundamentally the scale of the surplus reveals something important about the renewables obligation, the current system for supporting renewable electricity generation: its remarkably high cost. The NFFO fund surplus arises from the difference in price between the fixed-price contracts that were being handed out to renewables generators in the 1980s and 1990s under the non fossil fuel obligation, and the far higher prices available to renewable generators now under the renewables obligation (RO), which came into force in 2002.
It works like this: the electricity is bought under the old NFFO contracts by the Non Fossil Purchasing Agency, which sells it on to electricity suppliers under the new regime, together with the associated renewable obligation certificates (ROCs). The difference in price is put into the NFFO fund, which is looked after by Ofgem. Then, every autumn, the government grabs the surplus and shoves into the consolidated fund, the Treasury's main pot of cash for general expenditures.
So, this tells us that we are paying far, far more for renewable electricity under the new system than we were under the old. And for what benefit? None. The NFFO system had its problems, mainly that it operated on a competitive basis that pushed the cost down so low that many "winning" schemes were never actually built. But at least it offered one thing investors were looking for: the certainty of a fixed-price contract that developers could take to the bank and get financed.
By contrast, the new RO system is both ineffective and expensive. It operates by way of a complex market-driven approach that creates considerable uncertainty as to the future price. If renewable developers significantly undershoot the renewables target for a given year, then ROC prices are high and they make out like bandits – much as they are doing now. But if they develop too much and go over target, then the ROC price collapses and some unfortunates will be left holding worthless pieces of paper. On top of that, investors have to reckon with all the uncertainties over the electricity price itself. So, the developers and investors demand a substantial risk premium – for which we have to pay in our bills – and targets are significantly undershot.
The RO is, therefore, a poor delivery mechanism for the UK's far more ambitious future targets for renewable energy. In order to meet the EU's target that 20% of all energy supply be renewable by 2020, the UK will probably need to produce 35-40% of its electricity from renewable sources, and the RO is simply not fit for purpose. It will need to be scrapped and replaced with something far more effective, that delivers far better public value. The obvious answer is to give out fixed-price contracts set at fair prices, not on the competitive basis that undermined the NFFO.
Germany's phenomenal recent expansion of renewables, including both wind and solar PV, based on this successful approach, shows us that it could work here, too.

Paraguay president to push Brazil on hydro energy

The Associated Press
Published: September 5, 2008

BRASILIA, Brazil: New Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo will use a visit to Brazil this month to push for negotiations on having Brazil to pay more for the energy from a dam on the two nations' border.
Paraguayan Foreign Minister Alejandro Hamed says Lugo's visit on September 17 is the right time to put the controversial bilateral issue "on the table."
Brazil pays US$400 million for the energy it gets from the Itaipu dam under terms of a 1974 treaty that Paraguay says is outdated. But Brazil says it won't change the treaty's terms.
Hamed also said Friday in a visit to Brazil that relations between the leftist Lugo and the United States are good and that Paraguay wants to tighten ties with Washington.

Environmental rules 'could cause plane crashes

'By David Millward, Transport Editor
Last Updated: 1:01pm BST 05/09/2008

Environmental rules demanding planes burn less fuel could cause pipes to freeze increasing the risk of a devastating crash, it has been warned.
British Airways ice in fuel report triggers urgent review of air safety
British Airways jet crash 'caused by ice in fuel'
Air accident investigators believe that ice, created when the BA 777 flew across Siberia could have been influential in the plane’s loss of power causing it to crash land at Heathrow in January.

With reduced burn and less fuel circulating it would have been easier for ice to form
David Reynolds, flight safety officer at the pilots' union Balpa, has called on regulators to "revisit" the requirements for fuel systems which support low-emissions engines after it was disclosed that a crash landing at Heathrow earlier this year was caused by ice freezing up supply lines to the plane's engines.
"These rules need to be looked at again. Fuel flow is an import factor in the safe running of an aircraft engine," he said."With reduced burn, that means that less fuel is circulating, which makes it easier for water to separate and turn into ice.
"In this case this was combined with very low temperatures and perhaps fuel which may have had a bit more water than usual - even though it complied with international standards."It was an unfortunate combination of circumstances but it does pose questions for all manufacturers, regulators and airlines."
Meanwhile British Airways is to reshuffle its fleet of Boeing 777s to prevent a repetition of the ice build-up which led to January's crash landing.

The move was ordered following the latest investigation into the incident in which a flight from Beijing failed to reach the runway after the engine fuel supply was blocked.
A spokesman for the airline said the measure, which will involve 42 Boeing 777s powered by the Rolls Royce Trent 800 engines, was being taken as a precaution.
It will mean that the aircraft will be rotated around routes rather than continually making the same journey, in particular over Siberia where air and fuel temperatures can drop dramatically.
In addition BA has told pilots to increase engine power sporadically during flights to increase fuel flow and prevent ice accumulating.
The decision was taken after the latest report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch concluded that ice build up during the flight was likely to have led to fuel pipes being blocked as the pilot sought more thrust to control the plane on its final approach into Heathrow.
It left First Officer John Coward having to glide the plane, with 152 people on board, to safety. One passengers sustained a broken leg and 12 others were slightly hurt.
Meanwhile the aviation industry as a whole was waiting for more details of the steps it will be expected to take as a result of the AAIB findings.
A spokesman for Virgin, which flies Airbus A340-600s across Siberia to Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo, said it was waiting for hear from safety regulators whether any changes in procedure are required.
Detailed instructions will be sent out by European and American safety regulators over the next few weeks.
It will affect all manufacturers including Boeing's main competitor, Airbus.
They are likely to include demanding stricter tests on engines to ensure that they can cope with a build up of ice and sudden release into the fuel system.

Necessity's inventions

Can the new science of geo-engineering save the planet? Tim Radford weighs the probabilities

Tim Radford,
Friday September 05 2008 00:01 BST

Cooling towers at Eggborough Power Station. Photograph: John Giles/PA
The infant science of geo-engineering – one that so many would gladly see strangled in its cradle – could grow into the best job creation scheme for universities ever invented. Every one of the contributors to the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions special on how to confront global warming with gee-whizz technology warns that the engineering is difficult, the outcome unpredictable, the side-effects possibly perilous and the expense prodigious. And that before any of it gets attempted, more research will be necessary.
For those who have been asleep in the back of the class: a tiny rehearsal. Geo-engineering is one of the get-out-of-jail-free cards routinely played by the climate change sceptics when it begins to look, even to them, as though global warming might after all be a reality and that profligacy with human resources might – just might – have played some marginal role. Well, they say: why give up our cars, our technology, our cheap air travel and our patio heaters? Human ingenuity will surely find a way out of the situation. What's wrong with uncontrolled growth? Surely more wealth means more technological potential, higher population levels mean an even bigger crop of really clever people to find future solutions. And, they point out, so many doomsayers have been wrong in the past, who says the current bunch will be right now?
So according to this argument, geo-engineering could be the perfect technological response to a problem fuelled in the first place by profligate technological invention. Why not place a tier of sunshades a million miles from Earth, at a strategic point between the planet and the sun to deflect or absorb a proportion of the solar radiation? Why not erect thousands of vast structures to absorb surplus carbon dioxide and bury it, the way trees soak up the stuff and turn it into wood? Why not darken the clouds with sulphur particles, and recreate the murk of acid rain, but at least stop the poles from melting?
Why not cruise across the oceans in robot wind-powered sailing vessels spraying fine particles of brine toward the clouds, to seed condensation and make them whiter and more reflective? Why not dust the oceans with iron filings and trigger carbon-consuming plankton blooms, or achieve the same effect by mixing deep and surface ocean waters, with an array of vast floating funnels? Some or all these things would bring the planetary thermometer tumbling to comfortable levels, and then we could go on as before.
And this is the point at which the scientists published by the Royal Society become embarrassed cheerleaders for the technological fix. It would be so much better, they all agree, if the world changed its ways, reduced its dependence on fossil fuels, and tried to live sustainably.
But since almost nobody shows any real signs of wishing to adopt the sustainable answer – and that includes most of the nations that have signed up to the Kyoto protocol, never mind the ones that have no intention of doing so – then we had better think about some other options now, they argue, because a decade down the line it will be too late. It may seem daft to mitigate the challenge of energy profligacy by expending even more energy, of responding to uncontrolled economic growth by spending even more money on even more ambitious projects, but – they argue – tough. What else should we do? Let us at least look at the technological challenges.
So in each paper, in the preface and in the critiques, the ideas come with explicit or implied intellectual health warnings. The stratagems may not work at all, or they may work too well and threaten to tip the world into an ice age, or they may seem to work for a while but just trigger some other, unforeseen chain reaction in the great climate machine, and so make things worse, or they may alleviate global warming in one of the few areas of the planet where people would welcome it but make things even worse for rival or partner nations across the sea or on the other side of the mountain range. The ideas might be sound, but the proposed technologies might not be up to the challenge, and require rethinking. The energy costs might be too high (although hardly as high as the cost of doing nothing and letting global warming run away) or the scientific understanding behind the logic of temperature manipulation on a planetary scale might turn out to be incomplete.
That's where the academic job creation programme begins. Climate modellers think they understand the climate machine well enough to make a set of predictions about the future. But it is one thing to make detailed predictions about temperatures and sea levels in 2100, after not just you but your grandchildren are dead; quite another to devise a set of actions that could take charge of global thermometer in the next decade, and on your watch. To do that, researchers would have to understand the behaviour of the planet in the finest detail: the role of sea-spray in the condensation of clouds, the intricate pattern of the winds all the way up to the stratosphere and beyond, the chemistry of clouds, the significance of dust storms in the Sahara and central Asia, the enigmatic interplay between ocean temperatures and continental weather systems, the importance of forests and grasslands and the knock-on effects of precise human behaviour. A series of geo-engineering studies would make researchers ask themselves questions, and test hypotheses, and begin to understand the planet in an entirely new way.
It would be money well spent. This is the only home we have: the more we appreciate it, the better. It would be money even better spent if – while university departments were working on space mirrors, chemical sunshades and the greening of the oceans – governments and peoples took the hint and found effective ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, restore the rainforests and protect the oceans. That way, we'd all win: we'd save the planet and at the same time understand more about the planet we had just saved; we'd save money on fuel and we wouldn't even have to build the expensive planet-saving machinery the research was designed to test.
The only flaw is that the British may not have the maths, physics, geochemistry or geophysics or engineering graduates to even begin the job, let alone finish it, but that's a different problem.

Sunday in the camp with George

Don't exclude those of us who want to see revolutionary change from the fight against global warming. We're all in this together

Ewa Jasiewicz,
Friday September 05 2008 09:30 BST

George Monbiot risks dismissing vital currents within the green movement when he reduces some radical climate justice politics as "anarchism".
Movements advocating radical social change aren't simply "anarchist" or rooted in "identity politics": they are everywhere. Political organisation, particularly within a context of social peace, can be as much about judging boundaries and ruling out possibilities as it is about pushing the limits of debate about what is possible.
Political activism when it takes place within established structures – does tend to perpetuate those structures, and the power relationships that inhabit and reproduce them. Sometimes these structures can be positive. But it can also reproduce definitions of the "middle ground", of "balance", "realism" and thereby set limits of acceptable debate. People living different and contradictory realities will inevitably reach different conclusions. Clashes and contradictions shouldn't come as a surprise.
Many people today are living in conflict, and often paying the price of a violent life, in order to maintain our social peace. Many of them, despite living under an unbroken continuum of colonialism, engage in cooperative, participatory economies, and can reach very different conclusions about how to address climate change. They speak freely, openly and in detail about revolution and rejecting state solutions; they talk about fundamental social change as intrinsic in the fight for land, food, and cultural sovereignty, struggles that began centuries before climate change was accepted as a fact in the countries that first contributed to it, like Britain.
These political currents have inspired many grassroots campaigners in the UK to take radical action, to oppose coal-fired power stations and airport expansion by creating the conditions for a community of resistance.
The participatory politics glimpsed at the camp are already taking place all over the world, and are leading some of the most progressive initiatives – on ecological debt, on compensation for keeping fossil fuels in the ground, on creating explicitly anti-capitalist co-operative economies, and horizontal movements of farmers, peasants and the landless reclaiming land.
This current runs through and informs the climate camps. It runs through the very tents, marquees, and kitchens that became spaces for debate and discussion. This current doesn't necessarily have spokespeople, a Guardian column or a seat at the table of Newsnight, but in the south it has nonetheless succeeded in toppling governments and booting out oil and mining companies from indigenous lands.
It is also a diverse current. Here in the UK, many of those engaged in researching and lobbying, the filing of freedom of information requests, the petitioning, the parliamentary meetings and briefings with corporate and government representatives, also hold the view that fundamental, systemic changes are required. The two forms of political engagement and vision can and do co-exist. The same people who say "I think we need revolutionary change" also write advisory papers for politicians, attend cross-party meetings in Parliament and may also be stopping coal trains in their tracks.
It is essential to keep probing the power relationships behind new technologies and green "solutions". We need to openly explore the power of the structures and social relationships that constitute "the state". This means questioning the uses of the state, and whether its structures, rather than having "undemocratic tendencies", are inherently flawed.
This social justice-rooted line of enquiry and political current shouldn't be ignored. It certainly shouldn't be criticised as capable of "melting the movement". On the contrary: it is vital to keeping the movement vibrant and open and in touch with the struggles of those in the majority world.
The green movement is a melting pot, a movement of movements. The "we" includes Monbiot, but also those who reject state-based solutions and capitalism and who are walking the talk in their activism and everyday lives. It includes those at the sharp end of new enclosures, taxes, desperate fossil fuel corporations, biofuel land grabs, desertification, starvation food prices, political despotism, water theft, military occupation, and industrial zone and sweat shop misery. It is a diverse and a global "we", and we are everywhere.

Where can I hire a 'green' car?

One woman's search for an environmentally responsible hire car

Clare James,
Friday September 05 2008 09:37 BST

Exhausted ... why don't mainstream car hire companies offer the most environmentally responsible cars as standard? Photograph: Getty
When a £260 bill for three days' eco car hire arrived, I was surprised. I'd filled up the tank once for £50 and my nifty low-emission VW Bluemotion was, I thought, not much more than £30 a day. Was it a computer error? Nope. I just hadn't read the smallprint: after 30 miles there was a charge of 23p a mile.
Labels like "ethical" "green" or "responsible" can be misleading – and can carry a weighty price-tag too. Green cars are no exception and the jargon can be confusing.
Biofuel, for example, means a plant-based alternative to petrol while biodiesel is diesel blended with plant oil. Hydrogen-cell cars are potentially pollution free but not widespread, while hybrid-technology cars combine a standard engine with an electric motor and are common – the most famous is the Toyota Prius. Fully electric cars are a rarity.
I choose not to own a car and usually get about on public transport. I know all about car pooling and ride sharing and I'm familiar with companies like Streetcar and WhizzGo, which hire cars by the hour. But these are not an option for longer rentals.
So is it possible to rent an "eco car" under a standard rental agreement, that doesn't end up costing a fortune?
Digging about online I discovered Hertz and Avis will deliver a Prius to my central London hotel for £75 a day, which is handy for someone, but not me. And Holiday Autos have eco-friendly cars in locations all over Europe, but I couldn't find one in the UK.
Wading through Google I stumbled across Green Motion, a small company based in the south east. They have two hybrids: a Toyota Prius or Honda Civic for £45 a day.
And then another, Go Green car rental, a small company close to my family in Crewe. Low-emission cars with Go Green cost from £159 and the Prius or Civic Hybrid are £239 a week.
So after many pages of internet eco waffle and unfulfilled promises, I found the answer. Yes I can hire an eco car, so long as it's a hybrid and I'm prepared to pay a little extra.
My question then is why aren't all car hire companies committed to greening their fleet? And what can be done to encourage them to do it?
The best eco car hire
Green Motion In several UK locations and hire the Toyota Prius or Honda Civic for £220 a week including insurance. Other low emission cars are available
Go GreenToyota Prius or Honda Civic hybrids for £239 a week including insurance. Small low emission cars from £159 a week
Hertz Select 'Green Collection' to access a variety of greenish cars from£142 a week
Avis PrestigeToyota Prius for £150 for two days including delivery
Holiday AutosHybrid and low emission cars for rent in Europe. For example the Ford Focus for £102 a week in Alicante. But you can't search specifically for an eco car
Streetcar VW Polo Bluemotions for an annual fee of £50 then you pay £4 an hour
WhizzGo Hybrids and low emission Citroens for an annual fee of £50 then £6.20 per hour for a Toyota Prius in London including the congestion charge
Green Van HireBrighton only. Grass covered vans for charities and green businesses or normal style transit vans that run on waste vegetable oil cost £45 a day plus extra for special fuel. Fuel costs work out at £4 for 25 miles
Eco DriveCornwall only. The company hopes to have electric cars to rent by the end of the year
Lift share Free to join websites and lift share solutions arrange lifts
National Car ShareAn easy-to-use website for car pooling

Australia urged to aim for 10% emissions cut

By Peter Smith in Sydney
Published: September 6 2008 02:57

Australia should target a 10 per cent cut in carbon emissions by 2020, the country’s leading adviser on climate change said on Friday, calling the minimum 25 per cent level agreed at a global climate change conference last December in Bali “not immediately feasible”.
Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions are equal to those of the US on a per capita basis and among the highest in the world, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Australia, which ranks 15th in overall carbon emissions, was a belated signatory to the Kyoto protocol on limiting carbon emissions, acceding last December as Kevin Rudd’s first act as prime minister.

The 10 per cent target was welcomed by business and disappointed environmental groups seeking more radical cuts.
Professor Ross Garnaut, an economist and mentor to Mr Rudd, said on presenting his carbon trading report on Friday: “I know much higher numbers have been talked about but I don’t think they are achievable at this stage.” Kyoto signatories from developed countries in Bali agreed to a cut of 25 to 40 per cent by 2020, but Mr Rudd did not make that commitment.
Prof Garnaut said cutting carbon emissions by 10 per cent by 2020 from 2000 levels would lower Australia’s gross domestic product by 1.1 per cent. His report set an initial price for carbon emissions of A$20 (US$17) per tonne from 2010, when trading would start. Rights to emit a tonne of carbon in the European Union until 2012 currently trade for about €24 (US$35) a tonne.
Don Argus, chairman of BHP Billiton, the Anglo-Australian mining group, this week echoed concerns expressed by many in business over the planned emissions trading scheme. He said uncertainties in the government’s proposals were harming needed investment in new power sources.
“Regulatory uncertainty and market distortions are to blame for new investments not occurring at the speed and magnitude required,’’ Mr Argus said.
Prof Garnaut’s final recommendations are expected to be made by the end of the month.
Green groups in Australia and elsewhere want carbon emissions cut by 40 per cent by 2020. Christine Milne, a senator for the Australian Greens, said the 10 per cent target was “laughable”.
“The rest of the world will regard that as selfish and in bad faith,” she said.
However the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said Prof Garnaut’s targets were more realistic than many of the numbers that had been put forward elsewhere.
New Zealand’s parliament is to vote on an emissions trading plan next week. The debate on climate changes is marked by deep divisions between G8 nations and fast-growing emerging economies including China and India, with the prospect of an international agreement soon highly unlikely.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Explainer: How carbon is captured and stored

The three main techniques for preventing carbon dioxide from coal-fired power stations contributing to global warming
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent,
Friday September 05 2008 17:16 BST

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a range of technologies that hold the promise of trapping up to 90% of the carbon dioxide emissions from power stations and industrial sites. It involves collecting, transporting and then burying the CO2 so that it does not escape into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.
There are three main techniques: the post-combustion process involves scrubbing the power plant's exhaust gas using chemicals. Pre-combustion CCS takes place before the fuel is placed in the furnace by first converting coal into a clean-burning gas and stripping out the CO2 released by the process. The third method, oxyfuel, burns the coal in an atmosphere with a higher concentration of pure oxygen, resulting in an exhaust gas that is almost pure CO2. (See below for further details).
Once the CO2 has been trapped, it is liquefied, transported – sometimes for several hundred miles – and buried, either in suitable geological formations, deep underground saline aquifers or disused oil fields. The last method is often used in a process called "enhanced oil recovery", where CO2 is pumped into an oil field to force out the remaining pockets of oil that would otherwise prove difficult to extract.
The technology is not cheap – up to 40% of a power station's energy could end up being used to run the CCS scrubbing and transport systems and experts estimate the average cost of retro-fitting Britain's aged power stations at about £1bn each. Pipes to transport the CO2 to suitable burial sites could cost £1m per mile. The oldest power stations may end up being uneconomical to refit.
All the components of CCS have been in use by oil companies and chemical engineering plants for decades. But, so far, only a small pilot project at Vatenfall's Schwarze Pumpe power station in northern Germany has connected all the different stages of the CCS chain together. The pilot is an oxyfuel boiler that can generate 30MW of heat and around 12MW of electricity.
Trapping methods
Post-combustionIn the post-combustion method, CO2 is separated from the flue gas of the power station by bubbling the gas through an absorber column packed with liquid solvents (such as ammonia) that preferentially take out the CO2. In the most commonly-used techniques, once the chemicals in the absorber column become saturated, a stream of superheated steam at around 120C is passed through it. This releases the trapped CO2, which can then be transported for storage elsewhere.
More experimental techniques to scrub CO2 from flue gas without the two-step process include using seawater to absorb the gas and then returning the mixture back to the ocean for long-term storage. But, so far, these methods have proved less efficient and reliable.
OxyfuelWhen coal, oil or natural gas is burned in normal air, the amount of CO2 produced is between 3-15% of the waste gases, depending on the conditions. Separating the greenhouse gas out after combustion requires energy so an alternative CCS method is to burn the fossil fuel in an atmosphere of pure oxygen. In this environment, virtually all the waste gas will be composed CO2 and water vapour. The latter can be condensed out while the former can be piped or transported directly to a storage facility.
In the oxyfuel system, the air fed into the boiler has to be separated into liquid oxygen, gaseous nitrogen, argon and other trace gases and this process can use up to 15% of the power produced at the station.
Pre-combustionThis method is normally applied to coal-gasification combined cycle power plants. The coal is gasified to produce a synthetic gas made from carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The former is reacted with water to produce CO2, which is captured, and more hydrogen. The hydrogen can be diverted to a turbine where it can be burned to produce electricity. Alternatively, some of this gas can be bled off to feed hydrogen fuel cells for cars.
One disadvantage of the pre-combustion method is that it cannot be retro-fitted to the older pulversised coal power plants that make up much of the world's installed base of fossil fuel power. It could perhaps be used in natural gas stations, where a synthetic gas is first produced by reacting the methane with steam to produce carbon dioxide and hydrogen. But the economic advantage of this method over post-combustion is yet to be proven.

World's first carbon capture pilot fires up clean-coal advocates

German project will burn coal in an atmosphere of pure oxygen – producing CO2 waste which can be buried – creating enough electricity to power 1,000 homes

Alok Jha, green technology correspondent,
Friday September 05 2008 12:09 BST

The world's first complete demonstration of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology will begin next week at a coal-fired power station in Germany.
Built alongside the 1,600MW Schwarze Pumpe power plant in north Germany, the demonstration experiment will capture up to 100,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, compress it and bury it 3,000m below the surface of the depleted Altmark gas field, about 200km from the site.
The €70m (£57m) project has an output of around 12MW of electricity and 30MW of thermal power, enough for more about 1,000 homes.
The pilot plant will use an oxyfuel boiler, one of three types of CCS technology. This involves burning coal in an atmosphere of pure oxygen – the resulting waste gas is almost pure CO2 and this can be buried, preventing it from entering the atmosphere and contributing to global warming. The other CCS methods are pre-combustion, involving the removal of CO2 before burning by pre-treating the coal, and post-combustion, which scrubs the exhaust gases from a power station.
"It's a very important and tangible step forward," said Stuart Haszeldine, a geologist and CCS expert at the University of Edinburgh. "It is the first full-chain demonstration of oxyfuel as a carbon capture technology. It connects all that for the first time in a working system." He added the Schwarze Pumpe pilot "shows what can be done if the state and company are aligned and have confidence in each other".
CCS is seen as a potential solution to the projected increased use of coal in power stations around the world. At its best, it would trap up to 90% of a plant's carbon emissions and, though each element of the capture, transportation and storage process is already proven and in use, until now no one had demonstrated a full-cycle system, even at the small scale of a pilot. A full-scale system remains years away, largely because developing such a system is likely to be very expensive. As a result, many leading power companies have been reluctant to fund CCS individually, arguing that governments should also shoulder some of the financial risks.
"Coal, which represents 40-50% of electricity [generation], is necessary and will continue to be necessary because of fuel safety and accessibility. It is one of the most shared resources around the world," said Philippe Joubert, chief executive of Alstom, the company that built the specially equipped oxyfuel boiler for the Schwarze Pumpe's Swedish owners, Vatenfall.
He said Alstom's research is aimed at keeping the world's options open on how electricity is generated in the coming decades. "Coal has to be used but it has to be clean."
The Schwarze Pumpe pilot, which will run for three years initially, is just one of several projects that are gearing up to demonstrate the full chain of CCS technology in the next few years. Alstom will commission another project of a similar size to Schwarze Pumpe later in 2008 at a power station in Lacq in southern France, in collaboration with the oil company Total.
The Mountaineer project in West Virginia, US, due to begin in 2009, is likely to be the first of the pilot plants to put all the pieces of post-combustion CCS technology together. It is a testbed for a more ambitious plan to capture and store emissions from a coal-fired power station in Oklahoma which should begin operations early next decade, trapping and burying 1.5m tonnes of CO2 a year in a nearby oilfield. Vatenfall also has plans for a post-combustion pilot plant in Janshwalde in Germany - a 120MW coal-burning demonstration should become operational around 2013.
In the UK, plans for a government-funded CCS demonstration plant are moving relatively slowly. In 2006, the government announced a competition to fund the construction of a 400MW CCS demonstration project that would go on line in 2014. Critics argue, however, that plans are too small-scale and too slow, despite government claims that the country is in a perfect place for CCS due to the easy access to suitable burial sites for CO2 in the North Sea. They also say that the government made a mistake in pre-selecting post-combustion technology as the only type of project it would fund. The government argues this is the only type of CCS that can be retrofitted.
The decision on the UK's first CCS demonstration will be made in 2009, after the results of an ongoing consultation into how to implement the technology. Even some environmental groups have come together to recommend CCS as a way to reduce carbon emissions from the inevitable construction of coal-fired power stations in the UK and abroad. The EU has plans for 12 demonstration plants running by 2015.
Haszledine said there are few excuses left for not starting CCS projects. "There is no opposition to doing this [apart from] the lethargy of the UK government."