Sunday, 7 September 2008

SNP told new plants needed to avert crisis

Published Date: 07 September 2008
By Nathalie Thomas

FIRST Minister Alex Salmond will be warned this week that he must soften his tough stance on green energy and build a new generation of conventional power stations if Scotland is to avoid importing electricity from south of the border.
Nuclear giant British Energy has calculated that even if the SNP administration achieves its goal of generating 50% of electricity from renewable sources – such as wind or tidal power – by 2020, Scotland will need another four gigawatts to meet demand.With the planned closure of five ageing nuclear, gas and coal-fired stations, this is equivalent to building three extra power plants by 2025.If it fails to meet the shortfall, Scotland risks being forced to buy electricity from England and Northern Ireland, exposing Scottish households and businesses to volatile global commodity prices.Robert Armour, general counsel and company secretary of British Energy, will tell ministers at a conference on Scotland's energy future on Tuesday that if they want Scotland to continue to be self-sufficient in electricity and guarantee the lowest prices for consumers, they will have to rethink their energy plans, in particular Salmond's determination to stamp out nuclear electricity generation by 2020.He will warn that renewables alone will not be enough and the administration risks shooting itself in the foot by importing electricity from south of the border, as imports are likely to come from nuclear, gas or coal-fired plants anyway.He will say: "Scotland is doing the right thing by setting challenging targets for CO2 reduction and efficiency. But even if we meet those targets, we still have to face up to replacing our base-load power stations because renewables and efficiency on their own can't provide the full answer."We will need the equivalent of three major power stations in addition to renewables by 2025. If there is a significant move to electric vehicles, that will put even more pressure on demand. The question we face is how to achieve a robust supply that insulates the Scottish economy from volatile commodity prices and delivers a low-carbon future."British Energy will urge Salmond and Scottish Energy Minister Jim Mather to give the go-ahead to three new traditional power stations. Armour will argue that if they operate at full capacity alongside renewables, they would allow Scotland to maintain its current position as an electricity exporter, giving the country an economic boost.British Energy's recommendations were backed last night by the conference organisers, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, which is urging Salmond to re-think his no-nuclear policy in particular.Lesley Sawers, chief executive of the SCDI, pointed out that nuclear energy generation will help the Government reach its goals on cutting carbon dioxide emissions. She said: "Secure, affordable and reliable energy is absolutely vital to economic development and continued business growth. Business and the unions share concerns about the Scottish Government's no-nuclear policy, and the implications this could have for cost, security of supply and Scotland."Lewis MacDonald, Labour's energy spokesman in Scotland, welcomed British Energy's findings. "There is a very clear energy gap. Even with the most ambitious renewables target met, it doesn't do the trick. The reality is Scotland has a very mixed energy portfolio… and you can't replace oil, gas and nuclear all at once. Even the Council of Economic Advisers is saying renewables won't be enough."But the Scottish Government last night dismissed the research as "nonsense". A spokesman said: "These claims – by a company that generates nuclear power – are clearly nonsense. They are based on existing power stations closing and no new commercial investment – which is the exact opposite of what is happening in Scotland."There is strong commercial interest and activity in investing in massive new generation capacity in Scotland. The claims also ignore Scotland's vast clean, green energy potential. Harnessing that potential can meet our future energy demands many times over, while also tackling climate change, and avoid both the radioactive waste and enormous decommissioning costs that are part and parcel of nuclear power."

Electronic smog 'is disrupting nature on a massive scale'

New study blames mobile phone masts and power lines for collapse of bee colonies and decline in sparrows
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment EditorSunday, 7 September 2008

Bees are able to change the polarity of their antennae at will. It is believed that that it is this that enables them to navigate using the Earth's magnetic forces
Mobile phones, Wi-Fi systems, electric power lines and similar sources of "electrosmog" are disrupting nature on a massive scale, causing birds and bees to lose their bearings, fail to reproduce and die, a conference will be told this week.
Dr Ulrich Warnke – who has been researching the effects of man-made electrical fields on wildlife for more than 30 years – will tell the conference, organised by the Radiation Research Trust at the Royal Society in London, that "an unprecedented dense mesh of artificial magnetic, electrical and electromagnetic fields" has been generated, overwhelming the "natural system of information" on which the species rely.
He believes this could be responsible for the disappearance of bees in Europe and the US in what is known as colony collapse disorder, for the decline of the house sparrow, whose numbers have fallen by half in Britain over the past 30 years, and that it could also interfere with bird migration.
Dr Warnke, a lecturer at the University of Saarland, in Germany, adds that the world's natural electrical and magnetic fields have had a "decisive hand in the evolution of species". Over millions of years they learned to use them to work out where they were, the time of day, and the approach of bad weather.
Now, he says, "man-made technology has created transmitters which have fundamentally changed the natural electromagnetic energies and forces on the earth's surface. Animals that depend on natural electrical, magnetic and electromagnetic fields for their orientation and navigation are confused by the much stronger and constantly changing artificial fields."
His research has shown that bees exposed to the kinds of electrical fields generated by power lines killed each other and their young, while ones exposed to signals in the same range as mobile phones lost much of their homing ability. Studies at the University of Koblenz-Landau, reported in The Independent on Sunday last year, have found bees failed to return to their hives when digital cordless phones were placed in them, while an Austrian survey noted that two-thirds of beekeepers with mobile phone masts within 300 metres had suffered unexplained colony collapse.
Dr Warnke also cites Spanish and Belgian studies showing that the number of sparrows near mobile phone masts fell as radiation increased. And he says that migrating birds, flying in formation, had been seen to split up when approaching the masts.
But the Mobile Operators Association, representing the UK's five mobile phone companies, says a US research group has found collapsing bee colonies in areas with no mobile phone service, and Denis Summers-Smith, a leading expert on sparrows, has described the link as "nonsense".

Dynasties back green giant

Danny Fortson

SOME of Britain’s most prominent business families have led a £57m fundraising to set up Europe’s largest venture-capital fund dedicated to clean technology and renewable energy.
Lord (Jacob) Rothschild of the banking dynasty, Sir Anthony Bamford and family, of the JCB empire, the Goldsmiths, and Simon Robertson, Rolls-Royce chairman and former head of Goldman Sachs Europe, have all ploughed money into the new fund from WHEB Ventures.
The firm, set up in 2002 by Ben Goldsmith, Kim Heyworth and Rob Wylie, hopes to raise a total of £150m for the new fund within the next year.
Having attracted the corner-stone money from family offices, it is now in talks with pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and other institutions to make up the difference. Several of the families invested in the first fund.

James McNaught-Davis, managing partner, said the new cash pool, set to be six times larger than the £24m the fund raised when it launched, will be more diversified.
In the six years since WHEB’s founding, the average financing round for clean tech companies has quadrupled, from less than $5m (£2.8m) to $18m, reflecting the increasing interest of investors in green issues.
Goldsmith, whose brother Zac is an aspiring Tory politician who has advised David Cameron on environmental issues, contributed the largest amount of WHEB’s four partners to the new fund.
The firm plans to open an office in Germany, Europe’s largest clean-technology market after Britain, later this year.

Huge new target for wind-farm capacity

Published Date: 07 September 2008
By Rosemary Gallagher

ENERGY firm ScottishPower Renewables (SPR) has set an ambitious new target for wind-farm development by revealing that it wants to increase capacity by 80%.
It was previously committed to producing 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy by 2010 but has raised that to 1,800MW by 2012.As the majority of its wind farms are in Scotland, the firm says this will help the Scottish Government achieve its aim of generating 31% of the country's electricity demand from renewable sources by 2011 and 50% by 2020.The go-ahead from the planning authorities to build new wind farms across the UK, with more in the pipeline, has allowed it to increase its target.Its Spanish parent firm Iberdrola Renewables will invest ?about ?2.2bn in wind farms in the UK through SPR by 2012.Last week, planning permission was granted for SPR's first 500MW offshore development at West of Duddon Sands, off the Barrow-in-Furness coastline, which will produce enough green energy for 372,000 homes. Glasgow-based SPR is the UK's biggest owner-operator of onshore wind farms and work has begun on a 144-turbine farm at Whitelee near Glasgow, which will produce enough energy for the whole city. Keith Anderson, director of SPR, said the project was good for the economy and created 400 jobs. "We have been way ahead in gaining an understanding of renewable technology, how to design wind farms and the best places to put them."

UN says eat less meat to curb global warming

· Climate expert urges radical shift in diet· Industry unfairly targeted - farmers
Juliette Jowit, environment editor
The Observer,
Sunday September 7 2008

People should have one meat-free day a week if they want to make a personal and effective sacrifice that would help tackle climate change, the world's leading authority on global warming has told The Observer
Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which last year earned a joint share of the Nobel Peace Prize, said that people should then go on to reduce their meat consumption even further.
His comments are the most controversial advice yet provided by the panel on how individuals can help tackle global warning.
Pachauri, who was re-elected the panel's chairman for a second six-year term last week, said diet change was important because of the huge greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental problems - including habitat destruction - associated with rearing cattle and other animals. It was relatively easy to change eating habits compared to changing means of transport, he said.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated that meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. These are generated during the production of animal feeds, for example, while ruminants, particularly cows, emit methane, which is 23 times more effective as a global warming agent than carbon dioxide. The agency has also warned that meat consumption is set to double by the middle of the century.
'In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity,' said Pachauri. 'Give up meat for one day [a week] initially, and decrease it from there,' said the Indian economist, who is a vegetarian.
However, he also stressed other changes in lifestyle would help to combat climate change. 'That's what I want to emphasise: we really have to bring about reductions in every sector of the economy.'
Pachauri can expect some vociferous responses from the food industry to his advice, though last night he was given unexpected support by Masterchef presenter and restaurateur John Torode, who is about to publish a new book, John Torode's Beef. 'I have a little bit and enjoy it,' said Torode. 'Too much for any person becomes gluttony. But there's a bigger issue here: where [the meat] comes from. If we all bought British and stopped buying imported food we'd save a huge amount of carbon emissions.'
Tomorrow, Pachauri will speak at an event hosted by animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming, which has calculated that if the average UK household halved meat consumption that would cut emissions more than if car use was cut in half.
The group has called for governments to lead campaigns to reduce meat consumption by 60 per cent by 2020. Campaigners have also pointed out the health benefits of eating less meat. The average person in the UK eats 50g of protein from meat a day, equivalent to a chicken breast and a lamb chop - a relatively low level for rich nations but 25-50 per cent more than World Heath Organisation guidelines.
Professor Robert Watson, the chief scientific adviser for the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, who will also speak at tomorrow's event in London, said government could help educate people about the benefits of eating less meat, but it should not 'regulate'. 'Eating less meat would help, there's no question about that, but there are other things,' Watson said.
However, Chris Lamb, head of marketing for pig industry group BPEX, said the meat industry had been unfairly targeted and was working hard to find out which activities had the biggest environmental impact and reduce those. Some ideas were contradictory, he said - for example, one solution to emissions from livestock was to keep them indoors, but this would damage animal welfare. 'Climate change is a very young science and our view is there are a lot of simplistic solutions being proposed,' he said.
Last year a major report into the environmental impact of meat eating by the Food Climate Research Network at Surrey University claimed livestock generated 8 per cent of UK emissions - but eating some meat was good for the planet because some habitats benefited from grazing. It also said vegetarian diets that included lots of milk, butter and cheese would probably not noticeably reduce emissions because dairy cows are a major source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas released through flatulence.

Businesses 'ignoring green travel'

The Observer,
Sunday September 7 2008

Businesses may have exemplary environmental policies when it comes to travel, but their employees are simply ignoring them, according to a major survey released last week.
The Barclaycard Business Travel Survey asked 3,000 British business people about their travel habits. It found that while large numbers of companies had environmental policies in place covering travel, just 1 per cent of those interviewed adhered to them and had reduced the amount they travelled in the previous year.
'Many companies do have an environmental policy, but employees may not know about it,' said Denise Leleux of Barclaycard. 'There is very little evidence of any significant shift in the behaviour of business travellers, despite the volumes of media coverage given to this area and the corresponding level of comment by the business community.'
Figures from BAA show that at Heathrow, for example, 40 per cent of all passengers are travelling for business. Critics argue that businesses should be the first to cut back on flying because video-conferencing is a viable alternative to travelling to meetings.
The survey also suggests that large firms are failing to take the lead with an environmental approach to travel. It found that only 16 per cent of large companies had environmental policies, compared with 22 per cent of medium sized firms. Perhaps more damning still is the revelation that a large proportion of business leaders think it's not up to them to take action - 40 per cent of the 238 company chairmen surveyed said tackling the environmental impact of travel was the government's job, while only 13 per cent said it was the role of the employer.

Jason and the secret climate change war

Ashadowy scientific elite codenamed Jason warned the US about global warming 30 years ago but was sidelined for political convenience

Today the scientific argument about the broad principles of what we are doing to the Earth’s climate is over. By releasing huge quantities of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere we are warming the world.
Since the early 1990s there has been a furious debate about global warming. So-called climate change “sceptics” have spent years disputing almost every aspect of the scientific consensus on the subject. Their arguments have successfully delayed significant political action to deal with greenhouse gas emissions. Recent research reveals how the roots of this argument stretch back to two hugely influential reports written almost 30 years ago.
These reports involve a secret organisation of American scientists reporting to the US Department of Defense. At the highest levels of the American government, officials pondered whether global warming was a significant new threat to civilisation. They turned for advice to the elite special forces of the scientific world – a shadowy organisation known as Jason. Even today few people have heard of Jason. It was established in 1960 at the height of the cold war when a group of physicists who had helped to develop the atomic bomb proposed a new organisation that would – to quote one of its founders – “inject new ideas into national defence”.
So the Jasons (as they style themselves) were born; a self-selected group of brilliant minds free to think the unthinkable in the knowledge that their work was classified. Membership was by invitation only and they are indeed the cream. Of the roughly 100 Jasons over the years, 11 have won Nobel prizes and 43 have been elected to the US National Academy of Sciences.
For years, being a Jason was just about the best job going in American science. Every summer the Jasons all moved to San Diego in California to devote six weeks to working together. They were paid well and rented houses by the beach. The kids surfed while their dads saved the world. Less James Bond, more Club Med.
Today the Jasons still meet in San Diego in a quaint postwar construction with more than a hint of Thunderbirds about it. In 1977 they got to work on global warming. There was one potential problem. Only a few of them knew anything about climatology. To get a better understanding they relocated for a few days to Boulder, Colorado, the base for NCAR – the National Center for Atmospheric Research – where they heard the latest information on climate change. Then, being physicists, they went back to first principles and decided to build a model of the climate system. Officially it was called Features of Energy-Budget Climate Models: An Example of Weather-Driven Climate Stability, but it was dubbed the Jason Model of the World.
In 1979 they produced their report: coded JSR-78-07 and entitled The Long Term Impact of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide on Climate. Now, with the benefit of hind-sight, it is remarkable how prescient it was.
Right on the first page, the Jasons predicted that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would double from their preindustrial levels by about 2035. Today it’s expected this will happen by about 2050. They suggested that this doubling of carbon dioxide would lead to an average warming across the planet of 2-3C. Again, that’s smack in the middle of today’s predictions. They warned that polar regions would warm by much more than the average, perhaps by as much as 10C or 12C. That prediction is already coming true – last year the Arctic sea ice melted to a new record low. This year may well set another record.
Nor were the Jasons frightened of drawing the obvious conclusions for civilisation: the cause for concern was clear when one noted “the fragility of the world’s crop-producing capacity, particularly in those marginal areas where small alterations in temperature and precipitation can bring about major changes in total productivity”.
Scientific research has since added detail to the predictions but has not changed the basic forecast. The Jason report was never officially released but was read at the highest levels of the US government. At the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Frank Press, science adviser to President Jimmy Carter, asked the National Academy of Sciences for a second opinion. This time from climate scientists.
The academy committee, headed by Jule Charney, a meteorologist from Massachu-setts Institute of Technology (MIT), backed up the Jason conclusions. The Charney report said climate change was on the way and was likely to have big impacts. So by the late 1970s scientists were already confident that they knew what rising carbon dioxide levels would mean for the future. Then politics got in the way. And with it came the birth of climate change scepticism.
In 1980 Ronald Reagan was elected president. He was pro-business and pro-America. He knew the country was already in the environmental dog house because of acid rain. If global warming turned into a big issue, there was only going to be one bad guy. The US was by far the biggest producer of greenhouse gases in the world. If the president wasn’t careful, global warming could become a stick to beat America with.
So Reagan commissioned a third report about global warming from Bill Nierenberg, who had made his name working on the Manhattan Project developing America’s atom bomb. He went on to run the Scripps Institution of Oceanography where he had built up the Climate Research Division. And he was a Jason. Nierenberg’s report was unusual in that individual chapters were written by different authors. Many of these chapters recorded mainstream scientific thinking similar to the Charney and Jason reports. But the key chapter was Nierenberg’s synthesis – which chose largely to ignore the scientific consensus.
His basic message was “calm down, everybody”. He argued that while climate change would undoubtedly pose challenges for society, this was nothing new. He highlighted the adaptability that had made humans so successful through the centuries. He argued that it would be many years before climate change became a significant problem. And he emphasised that with so much time at our disposal, there was a good chance that technological solutions would be found. “[The] knowledge we can gain in coming years should be more beneficial than a lack of action will be damaging; a programme of action without a programme for learning could be costly and ineffective. [So] our recommendations call for ‘research, monitoring, vigilance and an open mind’.”
Overall, the synopsis emphasised the positive effects of climate change over the negative, the uncertainty surrounding predictions of future change rather than the emerging consensus and the low end of harmful impact estimates rather than the high end. Faced with this rather benign scenario, adaptation was the key.
If all this sounds familiar, it should. Similar arguments have been used by global warming sceptics ever since Nierenberg first formulated them in 1983. Global warming was duly kicked into the political long grass – a distant problem for another day. At a political level, Nierenberg had won.
But this was only the beginning of his involvement in what eventually became a movement of global warming sceptics. A year after his report came out he became a co-founder of the George C Marshall Institute, one of the leading think tanks that would go on to challenge almost every aspect of the scientific consensus on climate change. Nierenberg hardened his position. He began to argue not just that global warming wasn’t a problem, but also that it wasn’t happening at all. There was no systematic warming trend, the climate was simply going through its normal, natural fluctuations.
The creed that Nierenberg originated all those years ago still has its dwindling band of followers. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, recently responded to a question about global warming by saying: “I’m not one who would attribute it to being man-made.”
Professor Naomi Oreskes is a historian of science, researching the history of climate change. Dr Jonathan Renouf is producer of Earth: The Climate Wars, 9pm tonight on BBC2

Business secretary John Hutton plans for 1m ‘green collar’ jobs

Dominic O’Connell

THE business secretary, John Hutton, will tomorrow outline an ambitious vision for the future of British manufacturing, saying 1m “green collar” jobs could be created in low-carbon technology.
Hutton’s statement, the first big industrial policy initiative from Labour in six years, will attempt to halt the steady shrinking of Britain’s manufacturing base and the economy’s reliance on the services sector for growth.
“I don’t buy the view that we live in a postindustrial society and that we are now only about services,” he told The Sunday Times. “People forget it, but the UK is still the world’s sixth-largest manufacturer.”
He conceded that Labour and previous administrations had not sufficiently supported industry. “We haven’t done enough,” he said. “We must not fall into the trap of thinking that the manufacturing sector doesn’t matter.”

The launch of the strategy signals the start of a political battle to seize the high ground on manufacturing. The Tories plan their own campaign, to be kicked off with a manufacturing summit in the autumn.
Senior Conservative politicians, including shadow business secretary Alan Duncan, and shadow industry minister Charles Hendry, have this year been “embedded” at Rolls-Royce, the aero-engine maker, to bone up on modern industry.
Hutton’s plan, while long on vision, is short on cash. In total, £150m will go into a range of programmes, with some of the money diverted from the budgets of regional development agencies.
Senior industrialists are also sceptical of the government’s ability to influence manufacturing’s fortunes. “These decisions are not driven by nice words from ministers,” said one chief executive.
Hutton said the government would not pick winners and support them. “There is no going back to the 1960s or 1970s,” he said.
A centrepiece of the announcement will be the creation of a Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry, with Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Caterpillar and Goodrich taking part. The Energy Technologies Institute and the Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon will combine to build electric-vehicle prototypes.
The government will set aside £20m for buying low-carbon and electric vehicles for departmental fleets. Hutton said green technologies offered bright growth prospects. “Part of our strategy is to create a framework to support the low-carbon economy, which could create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next decade,” he said.
Ministers will attempt to tackle the negative image of manufacturing, with schools running a “manufacturing the future” campaign.
Manufacturing experts have welcomed the new policy. Lord Bhattacharyya, director of the Warwick Manufacturing Group, said: “It is great that the government has come out so strongly in support of manufacturing. We are having to make our way in a globalised industry, and Tata’s purchase of Jaguar/Land Rover is a good example of that.”