Monday, 8 September 2008

How carbon capture and storage (CCS) could make coal the fuel of the future

From The Times
September 9, 2008
Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter

It has been condemned as one of the main causes of global warming but is coal about to enjoy an extraordinary rebirth as the fuel of the future?
The first power plant in the world that will take the toxic emissions from coal and bury them deep in the ground opens today, carrying with it the hopes of scientists and environmentalists around the world.
If the power station in Spremberg, eastern Germany, is able to produce affordable electricity without polluting the atmosphere, it could mark the start of a new era for a fossil fuel whose days appeared numbered.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is designed to separate carbon dioxide from other chemicals during the process of generating electricity and siphon it off to be buried safely in disused oil or gas fields, where it can be stored indefinitely. The construction of the new plant by Vattenfall, the Swedish power company, was welcomed by engineers and environmentalists but raised fears that British attempts to develop the technology, which is expected to cut CO2 emissions by up to 90 per cent, may be falling behind. A competition has been launched by the British Government to encourage the construction of a demonstration coal-fired plant with a capacity of at least 300MW — ten times the size of the German pilot — by 2014. It must be capable of being fitted, or “retro-fitted”, to existing power plants.

However, a decision on the recipient of the government development money is still a year away and critics believe that Britain's chance to dominate the sector is disappearing.
CCS has the potential not only to be a vital tool in controlling global warming but to win influence and numerous lucrative contracts around the world retro-fitting the technology.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform insisted that Britain remained “in the vanguard” of attempts to get the technology started. She said: “The UK has an ambitious approach to demonstrating CCS and we are among only a few countries in the world that have made a firm commitment to support commercial-scale demonstration projects. We remain on course for our project to be operational by 2014.”
The power company E.ON has been researching oxyfuel CCS, the system used in Germany, at its test facility in Nottinghamshire for 18 months but concedes that it has fallen behind Vattenfall. “They are ahead of the UK,” Emily Highmore, of E.ON, said.
She added that much of the research by the two organisations was complementary. “What we are hoping to do as a group is develop a pilot to be up and running by 2010. Everybody is working on this to the same end — desperately seeking the holy grail of making coal truly viable.”
Groups such as Friends of the Earth remain frustrated at lack of progress in Britain and accuse ministers of failing to champion CCS with sufficient zeal. Robin Webster, of the green pressure group, welcomed the German pilot: “We welcome it as a genuine attempt to demonstrate that CCS will work. It's small but this kind of thing is really needed. Our concern is that the UK is dragging its heels.”
Adding CCS technology to power plants is widely agreed to be the only realistic hope of making the necessary inroads into carbon dioxide emissions without resorting to the politically unacceptable option of turning the lights out. Fossil fuels are the biggest source of carbon dioxide emissions yet 80 per cent of the world's energy depends on them. The International Energy Authority calculates that CCS could account for almost a third of the CO2 reductions needed by 2050.
The official opening takes place today but the pilot plant has been operating for more than a week. It captures about ten tonnes of CO2 each hour for storage in an old gasfield.
Every pensioner in Spremberg knows which way the wind blows. The locals twitch their noses and glance at the sky, for this place, deep in brown-coal territory, was known as the Stinky Town of communist East Germany (Roger Boyes writes).
Now Stink-Stadt is about to host the world's most advanced attempt to clean up coal. “It's just a pilot project but we see this as a very positive development,” says Alexander Adam, of Spremberg town hall. “I remember how the smell from the power station and factories would engulf the town, and the dust settled on everything.”
For the East Germans, exploiting brown coal, or lignite, reduced dependence on Soviet energy supplies. The coal was strip-mined, exposing lunar craters across the landscape, and a model socialist township was built in Hoyerswerda for some of the 40,000 workers needed for the power complex.
About 11 per cent of East German electricity was produced here, three quarters of the urban gas supply and most of the brown-coal briquettes. The workers, choking on coal dust, got two free bottles of brandy a month.
“They called the booze ‘collier's death'. Everybody knew that their health wouldn't hold out,” says Waltraud Eberling, who still lives in the barrack-like Hoyerswerda housing estates thrown together in the early 1960s. “When the wind shifted our way, the washing on the line would be brown within minutes.”
The coke furnace — which along with the gas compression unit was the source of the stench - and a communist-era power plant were demolished after German reunification, and in the 1990s a cleaner power station was built by the Swedish group Vattenfall. It, too, belches smoke but only the aroma of percolating coffee wafts around Spremberg's sprucely painted and beshrubbed market square.
From today, after a gala opening with political bigwigs, Stinky Town could be doing its bit to save the global climate. The pilot plant, with its shiny grey oxyfuel boiler towers, is to be launched with all the pomp of an ocean liner slipping out of dry dock.
“This carbon-capture idea is a big step in the right direction,” says Alexander Rosstäuscher, a journalist on the local Lausitzer Rundschau. “I just have some reservations about its storage underground, about what it could do to the soil.” Whether carbon capture carries long-term risks because of leakage bothers some German environmentalists.
The Dudelsack (“bagpipes”) pub is holding an eat-as-much-as- you-can paella evening in honour of the clean coal plant. “It's bound to bring jobs, that what matters,” said Anna, a teenager sipping a cocktail. Living beside a power plant was no big deal for the locals, she added, “but if it makes us famous for saving the world, that would be cool”.

A call to action, for earth and money

By Stephen Kotkin
Published: September 7, 2008

In his role as a cheerleader for globalization, Thomas Friedman has always been aware that there are environmental consequences. But now, with "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.95), he embraces going green not just as a national security imperative but also as an economic El Dorado.
Lacerating the ubiquitous, feel-good, magaziney "205 easy ways to save the earth," Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times, which publishes the International Herald Tribune, exhorts sacrifice to stem rapidly accelerating biodiversity loss. He wants a green revolution as part of nothing less than "nation building" in America.
He also says that renewable energy driven by technology plays to American strengths: great laboratories and entrepreneurs, a start-up culture of risk and reward. If the United States gets serious, it will dominate, creating not just jobs but also whole new industries.
Friedman's first book on globalization, "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" (1999), was translated into 27 languages; his second, "The World Is Flat" (2005), has sold more than two million copies. So "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" raises outsized expectations. Admirers and critics will have a field day with his take-no-prisoners punditry. Either you agree with him or you wear a dunce cap.
Our planet is becoming hot because flat (globalization, in Friedman's lingo) is meeting crowded (ever more people are joining the resource-consuming middle class). As of 1950, all world economic activity was valued at $7 trillion, he says, but now that much in new growth takes place each decade. He quotes scientists and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, as well as some corporate executives, urgently warning of the need to avoid a doubling of carbon in the atmosphere over the next few decades — the course we are on.

Friedman has an unabashedly American-centric solution: the United States can regain its national purpose and save the world via green innovation. This can happen, he says, if Americans recognize — in the words of John Gardner, founder of Common Cause — "a series of great opportunities disguised as insoluble problems." Overflowing landfills? Devise products with materials that are more easily reusable, and rack up profits.
The book opens self-referentially, quoting a reader commenting to the author about one of his columns. The content and method will be familiar to Friedman's legions of readers: source, anecdote, pop metaphor. Repeat point. In italics. The unfamiliar reader should prepare for hyperbole, neologisms and aphorisms. "Affluenza." "Code Green." "The new Energy Climate Era (ECE)." "We've already hit the iceberg." We're "the proverbial frog in the pail on the stove" (boiled to death after failing to jump out because the temperature rose only incrementally). "We are the flood, we are the asteroid. We had better learn how to be the ark."
Relentless, the text can also be trenchant. "Our addiction to oil," he writes, "makes global warming warmer, petrodictators stronger, clean air dirtier, poor people poorer, democratic countries weaker, and radical terrorists richer." The magnitude of the challenge requires government action, he argues, but government should act so as to spur the greater power of the marketplace. He notes that government shapes the market all the time — think home-mortgage tax breaks — and has long underwritten profligate oil consumption.
Instead, he argues, Washington should shift current incentives by making the cost of hydrocarbons higher, with new taxes (and a price floor), and by making the cost of alternative fuels lower, with tax breaks, until clean industries achieve scale and can compete without subsidies. To Americans who abhor talk of higher taxes, Friedman asks, would you rather shell out to the Saudi, Russian and Venezuelan treasuries, as you now do, or to the United States Treasury?
Friedman assures us that if America spends to get clean, others will follow suit — and not claim a license to continue polluting. In a chapter dedicated to China, he writes that a still-unclean United States would give China an excuse to repeat America's dirty-fuels economic growth, and that if China does not go green, its "emissions and appetites will nullify everything everyone else does to save the earth."
Finally, Friedman slams the climate-change skeptics, but also slyly observes that "if climate change is a hoax, it is the most wonderful hoax ever perpetrated on the United States of America." By responding, America would become immensely more efficient, cleaner and leaner.
When the book tries to explain why this is not already happening, it is less compelling. "If the right things to do are so obvious to the people who know the most about the energy business," Friedman asks, "why can't we put them in place?" His too-pat answer: omnipotent old-industry lobbies and dumb political leaders.
"I am convinced," he writes in populist guise, "that the public is ready; they're ahead of the politicians." So special interests and venal politicos make consumers live in supersized homes and drive gas guzzlers? Who's reading all those easy-ways-to-go-green articles that he seems to regard as self-indulgent?
One up-and-running energy alternative supported by the government, corn-based ethanol, has costs that may exceed its benefits. But instead of confronting this apparent cautionary tale head on, Friedman questions biofuels in a mere footnote.
A few anecdotes are long enough to qualify as illuminating case studies, like one about GE Transportation's energy-efficient locomotives, a hit in emerging markets. The book's best example may be First Solar, which was founded in Ohio and invented thin-film solar technology, which is cheaper to use and works in more varied climates than regular silicon solar panels. But First Solar found a more hospitable public-policy environment and built its new factory abroad, in the former East Germany.
"A vision without resources is a hallucination," goes a Pentagon saying quoted by Friedman, who adds that "right now we are having a green hallucination." But he remains an optimist: the money is there to be made.

Brothers see potential of waste

By Chris Tighe
Published: September 7 2008 20:33

Baking a large cake out of household rubbish sounds disgusting, but brothers Michael and William Thompson are convinced that this proposition has environmental and commercial allure.
The era when waste was seen just as rubbish to be got rid of as cheaply as possible is ending. UK and European government policies, reinforced by rising taxation and penalties, are forcing the public and private sectors to reconsider how they can cut their waste, reduce the amount going to landfill and, ideally, exploit its potential.
“Waste hasn’t been seen as a resource – that’s changing,” says Michael Thompson, chief executive of Graphite Resources.
The Newcastle-based company is developing what it says will be the world’s biggest steam autoclave recycling plant when it opens in autumn 2009 on the banks of the Tyne in Gateshead.
Mr Thompson and his brother launched Graphite after leaving their family’s business, Thompsons, a long-established north-east demolition, quarrying and waste-management company, in 2002.
Their £50m project, which has substantial backing from Lehman Brothers Private Equity, takes a big step forward on September 22 when steel erection starts after months of earthmoving on the five-acre Blaydon site.
Greater emphasis on prevention and re-use
Managing waste sustainably, limiting its production and maximising recycling and re-use form a core part of government policy to protect the environment, writes Chris Tighe.
Each year England generates about 100m tonnes of waste from households, commerce and industry. The government wants to decouple waste growth from economic growth, putting more emphasis on waste prevention and re-use.
Its 2007 Waste Strategy targets that in 2010 no more than 75 per cent of biodegradable waste which went to landfill in 1995 should still go there, dropping to 50 per cent in 2013 and 35 per cent in 2020.
By 2010 it also expects a 20 per cent fall in landfilled commercial and industrial waste from 2004 levels.
These targets are derived from the EU Landfill Directive and enforced by a system of quotas, fines of £150 per tonne for local authorities exceeding their quota, credits and taxation.
The government says landfill tax was introduced in 1996 to encourage waste producers to cut waste, recover more value from it and use more environmentally friendly disposal methods.
In 1996, the tax was £7 per tonne of active waste; by 2008, it had reached £32.
The government’s landfill tax escalator means the tax will rise to £40 next April and £48 in 2010. The lower rate, for inert waste, stood at £2 from 1996 until 2008 when it rose to £2.50.
In addition, the cost of using landfill sites has increased. HM Revenue and Customs data show that UK tonnage going to landfill has fallen steadily from a 2001 peak of 85m tonnes to 67m tonnes in 2007. But landfill tax payments have risen every year, from £340m in 1998 to £871m in 2007.
The government says the Landfill Tax Escalator and the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme, the quota mechanism, have created sharp incentives to divert waste from landfill, but England’s performance still lags behind many European countries.
The waste strategy aims to encourage energy recovery technologies, including anaerobic digestion.
The government wants to see a net reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions, by waste management including diversion from landfill, of at least 9.3m tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.
Private investors include the former Conservative environment secretary, Lord Kenneth Baker, who is non-executive chairman, and the management team. About half the £50m comes via debt funding from Allied Irish Bank and Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank.
Graphite Resources’ plant will sterilise and stabilise household waste – called municipal solid waste – and commercial and industrial wastes in large pressurised rotating vessels. Each autoclave, as they are called, can hold up to 30 tonnes of waste per cycle. Steam will be introduced at up to 1600 C for about an hour.
The combination of steam, pressure and agitation separates and breaks down the organic waste into fibre flakes, which Graphite Resources calls CellMatt. Other materials, such as aluminium and plastics, emerge separately, permitting their recycling.
Graphite Resources estimates its plant will divert 80 per cent of the waste it handles from landfill without releasing the carbon emissions.
The release of emissions has led to criticism of other forms of disposal, such as incineration. CellMatt also offers potential as biofuel or construction materials.
“It’s the conversion of organic waste into energy,” says Mr Thompson. “Bio-energy from waste is good carbon.”
Graphite Resources is negotiating with potential customers and is considering a second plant, in Teesside, that might also be able to remanufacture recovered plastics.
Until now, autoclaving has mostly been used in hospitals and dental surgeries but several schemes for household waste are progressing.
While Gateshead is set to be the UK’s first big operational autoclave plant, other projects include Glasgow council’s plan to spend £135m on the technology, a scheme by Waddington Recycling in Bradford and proposals by VT Group for Wakefield and Hereford.
Steve Eminton, editor of online news service, says that there is strong UK interest in autoclaving as a possible solution to the large volumes of household waste.
“Local authorities and the waste industry will be very interested in how the Gateshead plant performs,” he says.
Graphite Resources’ plant is designed to treat 320,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste a year, while a further 60,000 tonnes of light waste – kerbside, commercial and industrial, and 20,000 tonnes of green and skip waste, will be separately handled at the Derwenthaugh Ecopark, where the autoclaving plant will be located.
Autoclaving has not been used on the Gateshead scale before but Mr Thompson insists this is tried and tested technology.
“Steam fuelled the industrial revolution; the raising of steam and the discharging of it into a confined space isn’t new.”
His confidence is shared by another autoclave entrepreneur, Mark Waddington, managing director of Waddington Recycling, a subsidiary of long-established, Bradford-based P. Waddington. His company has used autoclaving to render animal by-products and waste for 50 years.
Waddington last year clinched a five-year deal with Bradford Council to treat its household waste by autoclaving in a £20m plant for which the company is negotiating funding.
The biggest problem, says Mr Waddington, has been negotiating the wording of the payments contract to express the complex payment mechanism. However, he is convinced that autoclaving offers good prospects.
“There’s an opportunity in the market place for people like us,” he says. “It looks like a long-term business plan.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Energy Sector Hums Again

Ike Could Spark Greater Reaction Than Gustav Did
By ANNA RAFF September 8, 2008

Energy companies in and around the U.S. Gulf of Mexico continued to ratchet up operations, although there are early signs crude-oil and natural-gas output could once again be disrupted by a hurricane.
More than 20% of oil output and about 30% of natural-gas production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico had been restored as of Sunday, according to official data. Virtually all output of hydrocarbons in the U.S. Gulf was shut ahead of Hurricane Gustav.
Sipa Press
Aftermath of Gustav: Port Fourchon in Louisiana, as L&G Oil & Gas Services Inc. pumps water from one of its gas-storage tanks.
All but four oil refineries were either producing gasoline and diesel or readying equipment for processing. Most pipelines resumed flows after power was restored.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Ike was forecast to move near or over eastern Cuba later Sunday, and was barreling toward it as a Category 4 storm. Whether Ike becomes a menace to energy infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico -- and a force pressuring prices upward -- depends on how the storm changes over Cuba and how developing weather systems steer it.
While weather models show Ike entering the Gulf early Wednesday, their forecasts of where Ike is likely to make landfall diverge, ranging from the Florida Panhandle to northern Mexico. "It is much too early to anticipate which areas along the Gulf Coast could be impacted by this system," the National Hurricane Center said.
Energy markets' reaction to Gustav was muted, in part because of concerns about reduced demand for oil and gas due to a weaker economy, said Guy Gleichmann, the president of United Strategic Investors Group, a Hollywood, Fla.-based energy brokerage.
But now that crude-oil and natural-gas futures have tumbled, the energy markets could rise sharply in response to a threat from Ike, he said. "We have a stronger chance of a rally than we did with Gustav," he said. "A lot of the economic negativity has already been priced into the market."
Light, sweet crude-oil for October delivery fell 8% last week to a five-month low of $106.23 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil futures had edged up in the days before Hurricane Gustav made landfall on the Louisiana coast Sept. 1, but sold off after it became apparent that the storm didn't significantly damage energy infrastructure.
Natural-gas futures rallied ahead of Gustav, reaching a high of $8.808 a million British thermal units on Aug. 28. But futures then plunged and settled at $7.449 on Friday.
Royal Dutch Shell PLC, operator of the Gulf's biggest platform in terms of production, over the weekend said it wouldn't redeploy all personnel evacuated from offshore facilities "because of the possibility that Hurricane Ike might enter the [Gulf of Mexico] next week and require another evacuation."
While catastrophic damage like that seen in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 was largely avoided after Hurricane Gustav, stresses have begun to appear in the U.S. fuel supply chain, and a direct hit from Ike would strain it further.
The effects of Gustav have rippled into the Midwest and Southeast, as refiners there began cutting rates when pipeline deliveries of Gulf crude were disrupted. The premium on gasoline for immediate delivery in Chicago widened on Friday to 40 cents to 42 cents above Nymex benchmark gasoline futures. The front-month gasoline contract fell 5.9% last week to $2.6861 a gallon, as any longer-term supply worries were offset by concerns about weakening demand in a slowing U.S. economy.
The outlook for oil-product supplies in the short term is improving, although it will take days or weeks for refineries to achieve normal processing rates. Shell's Capline pipeline, which pumps crude from the Gulf Coast to a Midwest hub, is operating a key segment in Louisiana at limited rates after local utility power was restored.
Marathon Oil Corp. requested oil from U.S. strategic stockpiles last week, according to the Energy Department, for plants in Illinois and Kentucky.
Entergy Corp. said Friday that eight of the 12 refineries it serves in Louisiana are operational, and only one remains without power.
ConocoPhillips's 247,000- barrel-a-day refinery in Belle Chasse, La., is still without power.
Exxon Mobil Corp. restarted its plant in Baton Rouge, La., the second-largest oil refinery in the U.S., as well as one in Chalmette, La., which is partly owned by Petróleos de Venezuela SA. A refinery in Norco, La., operated by Motiva Enterprises LLC, a joint venture between Shell and Saudi Arabian Oil Co., was expected to begin producing gasoline on Sunday, while another Motiva facility in Convent, La., could restart this week.
Chevron Corp.'s 330,000-barrel-a-day refinery in Pascagoula, Miss., has begun returning to normal rates after the U.S. Coast Guard reopened a ship channel leading to the plant.
Write to Anna Raff at

Auto Executives to Seek Government Help


Top auto executives, including General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Rick Wagoner, will launch a lobbying push this week for billions in government loans to help beleaguered auto makers and their suppliers.
They aim to get as much as $50 billion in low-cost loans, and will try to play down the idea they are seeking a bailout, arguing that Washington has offered similar help to a range of other troubled industries, people familiar with the auto makers' lobbying plans said.
The auto makers and their Congressional supporters also will argue that they need funding to meet new fuel-economy standards imposed by Congress, and that the debt markets have broken down in the credit crisis, leaving them few other options, these people said.
Most analysts agree the new fuel-economy rules that take effect in the next decade will require billions of dollars in investment by the auto industry -- money the Detroit three don't have right now.
The industry's chance of getting help may have dimmed, however the government announced it will provide a plan to provide as much as $200 billion in new capital as part of a takeover of the country's main providers of funds for home loans, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
While many legislators in Midwestern states support aid for the industry, it's unclear if the loans being sought will win enough support from representatives of other states. Last week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) said he was concerned about the amount of money.
"We don't want our automobile industry to go down, but on the other hand, they've made a lot of bad choices," Sen. Hatch said.
Backers say Detroit has only a few weeks to move. Lawmakers, due in Washington this week, are expected to sit for only another 15 days before hitting the campaign trail and not return until 2009. "We don't have much time, we have to move pretty fast," Rep. Joe Knollenberg, a Republican from Michigan, said Friday. An aide to Rep. Sandy Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said pushing the loans is his top priority. Several other Michigan lawmakers have voiced strong support for the loans.
On Friday, Mr. Wagoner is scheduled to participate in an energy summit in Washington, and is expected to address the issue of loans in prepared remarks and during a question-and-answer session.
People familiar with the situation have said executives from GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC plan to make a joint appearance in Washington later this month. That trip could include a meeting with the Federal Reserve, these people say.
Auto makers are prepared to point out that the federal government has recently offered billions in loan guarantees for nuclear power plants, airlines and steel makers.
A bill signed into law last year authorized loans of as much as $25 billion to help car makers and suppliers retool plants to produce new, highly fuel-efficient vehicles. Auto makers are hoping to double that amount.
Before that sum can be made available, Congress must appropriate $3.75 billion required to get the program off the ground, and the Department of Energy has to set up a process for granting loans, a process that could take months.
In the next few weeks, the car makers' lobbyists will argue the U.S. auto industry is a key part of the nation's economy, and will suggest that more suppliers and perhaps even one of Detroit's Big Three could be forced to seek bankruptcy-court protection if they don't get assistance.
Since the $25 billion in loans were approved by Congress this past December, the U.S. auto industry has slipped into its worst crisis in decades. Auto sales have fallen, and with gas prices near $4 a gallon many Americans have steered away from the trucks and sport-utility vehicles that generate most of Detroit's revenue.
Analysts have warned GM, Ford and Chrysler are all in danger of running short of cash.
Rep. Knollenberg said proponents of loans for Detroit are trying to set up meetings with the Department of Energy and the White House, perhaps as soon as Monday. He said one proposal would allow for $25 billion in loans in 2009, $15 billion in 2010 and $10 billion in 2011.

UK gives £50m to Bangladesh climate change fund

John Vidal, environment editor
The Guardian,
Monday September 8 2008

Britain will give Bangladesh at least £50m to adapt to climate change in the first big attempt by a rich nation to stave off environmental catastrophe in one of the world's poorest countries
Other European countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands, as well as the World Bank, are expected to contribute to the new Bangladesh fund, which will be launched this week in London at a conference of the Bangladesh government and donor countries. Low-lying Bangladesh suffers from many climate-related problems, including floods, drought and river erosion, and is forecast to be devastated by climate change within 40 years. "A 30-45cm sea-level rise will dislocate about 35 million people from coastal districts by 2050," Dr Atiq Rahman, Bangladeshi lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will tell the British government on Wednesday.
"The climate is changing far more rapidly than anticipated," he said last week. "Bangladesh is experiencing climate-related natural disasters and extreme events like prolonged and repeated floods which have deadly consequences on agriculture and food security." In the last three years, Bangladesh has faced several of its strongest cyclones and worst floods. More than 3 million people were made homeless following super-cyclone Sidr last November, when nearly 30% of the country's staple rice harvest was lost. In addition, it has been plagued with droughts and the waterlogging of vast areas of farmland.
Bangladesh has pledged to contribute £25m a year to the new fund which, it is hoped, will attract nearly £100m within three years. Other global funds for poor countries are expected to be set up in the run-up to a new Kyoto climate change agreement at the end of 2009. The Bangladesh government has calculated that it will need £250m to adapt to climate change in the next three years.
"We are one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. We are getting much too much water in the rainy season and too little in the dry season. All this affects how much food we can grow," said Bangladesh's environment minister, Raja Debashish Roy.
The international development secretary, Douglas Alexander, said Britain and other rich countries had a moral duty to help Bangladesh and other poor countries to adapt their infrastructure, farming and economies to climate change. "The world now has a duty to rise to the challenge and ensure that we support the poorest people of the world - least responsible for climate change - to prevent and prepare for its cruellest consequences," he said.
The fund, which will be managed by British and Bangladeshi officials, will be administered by the World Bank. The money is expected to help farmers with new flood and drought-resistant crops, and with raising embankments and flood defences to protect homes.

Open water expanding around Arctic

By Andrew C. Revkin
Published: September 7, 2008

Leading ice specialists in Europe and the United States have agreed for the first time that a ring of navigable waters has opened all around the fringes of the cap of sea ice drifting on the warming Arctic Ocean.
By many accounts, this is the first time in at least half a century, if not longer, that the Northwest Passage over North America and the Northern Sea Route over Europe and Asia have been open simultaneously.
While currents and winds play a role, specialists say, the expanding open water in the far north provides the latest evidence that the Arctic Ocean, long a frozen region hostile to all but nuclear submariners and seal hunters, is transforming during the summers into more of an open ocean.
Global warming from the continuing buildup of human-generated greenhouse gases is almost certainly contributing to the ice retreats, many Arctic specialists agree, though they hold a variety of views on how much of the recent big ice retreats is caused by human activity.
Last month, news reports said that satellites showed navigable waters through both fabled Arctic shipping routes. But those findings were at first disputed by the U.S. National Ice Center, run by the navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The center said the satellites monitoring the ice were fooled by broad stretches of fresh water pooling atop ice floes, which can resemble open sea lanes.

But on Friday, citing new images using sensors that can more carefully distinguish ice from water, the Ice Center concurred, issuing a statement concluding: "This is the first recorded occurrence of the Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route both being open at the same time."
Polar scientists have been predicting for years that warming is driving the region into a new, more watery state. With further warming, they say, broad open-water expanses will prevail in the summer followed by the formation of ice in the winter. But such ice will be too thin to last through the next summer.
In essence, Arctic waters may be behaving more like those around Antarctica, where a broad fringe of sea ice builds each winter and nearly disappears in the summer. Reflecting the complexity of the global climate, the extent of winter sea ice in Antarctica has been expanding of late.

Wind of change on farms as cows help to save the Earth

Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor

Hundreds of cattle in Britain are being fed a new diet to reduce their burping and cut emissions of greenhouse gas.
Chopped straw and hay are the vital ingredients to settle a cow's stomach and reduce emissions of methane by 20 per cent.
This material is used as bedding for cattle and cows usually have little appetite for it. But just as children are coaxed to take their medicine by cloaking it in a syrup, cattle are being fed a blend of foods that makes it irresistible.
The secret is to cut straw or hay into strips 6cm-7cm long and to mix them with silage, wheat, maize, soya or sugar beet. A dairy cow needs only 4.4lb (2kg) a day, a tiny percentage of the 130lb daily ration of forage it would otherwise eat.

It is the wind from the mouth of the cow, not the gases from from the rear, that does the most damage to the environment. If every dairy farm in the UK adopted this method it would remove the equivalent of 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.
The dairy industry is excited by the development and is now hoping that every dairy farmer in the country will take it up.
Dairy UK, an organisation that represents the sector, is striving to create a greener pint of milk as part of the government targets to combat climate change.
Initial results show that the diet reduced the amount of methane produced per litre of milk from 30 litres to 24litres in trials on farms attached to First Milk, a co-operative of 2,600 dairy farmers producing 16 per cent of Britain's milk.
Farmers involved in the trial reported a 15 per cent higher milk yield. The average production is 24 litres a day but this increased by three or four litres. David Beevor, a former professor of animal science who now works for the animal nutritionist Keenan Rumans, said: “The formula is a bit like giving a person a daily breakfast of All-Bran type cereal. The chopped straw or coarse hay adds vital fibre to the diet.
“Cows then have to chew more on this feed which helps to break it down, increasing the production of saliva and aiding fermentation in the stomach. This enables more feed to be converted to milk.” Gerald Watkin, 48, who farms at Borth, near Aberystwyth, Mid-Wales, has 140 dairy cattle and has been giving his herd the new feed mix for a year. He has been amazed by the results of a higher milk yield and helping to reduce greenhouse gases.
He said: “If I put out yellow straw for them the cows would not touch it. They might play with it like a child who won't eat his greens.
“But with this feed mix they can't pick out the straw. The cattle also seem more contented and are chewing the cud longer because they have more fibre. Their health has also improved and lameness is less of a problem and milk yield is up.”
Jim Begg, director of Dairy UK, said: “Everyone knows that cows produce methane and the presumption is that nature must take its course.
“But this terrific initiative shows how we can make the dairy sector even greener, and give consumers the low-carbon products they want.”
Worldwide there are 1.5 billion cattle and their collective belching is thought to account for 5 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
Dairy UK is also working to reduce nitrogen and water use on farms, pioneering renewable energy plants, cutting packaging waste and improving distribution to cut down on fuel and transport.

Nuclear Suppliers Group Backs U.S.-India Atomic-Trade Deal

By DAVID CRAWFORD, JACKIE RANGE and JAY SOLOMONSeptember 7, 2008 1:32 p.m.

The international body overseeing trade in nuclear materials approved a controversial, U.S.-sponsored nuclear trade agreement with India.

The decision by the Nuclear Suppliers Group permits the sale of civilian nuclear technology and fuel to India, despite the Asian nation's long-standing refusal to sign the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
The NSG is a club of 45 nations that export nuclear technology and services. The club is dedicated to ensuring that the fruits of civilian nuclear technology are preserved for nations that have signed and adhere to the nonproliferation treaty.
The decision, which amounts to a one-off waiver, didn't come easy. The NSG was originally founded as a reaction to India's test of a nuclear weapon in 1974. Several nations, including Austria, Ireland and New Zealand, wanted assurances that India wouldn't return to nuclear-weapons testing, according to a diplomat familiar with talks taking place in Vienna.
Washington had lobbied hard for the deal, arguing that it would solidify a strategic partnership with the world's largest democracy, help the subcontinent meet exploding energy demand and open a nuclear market worth billions of dollars.
Indian officials eagerly endorsed the decision. In a statement, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the NSG decision "forward-looking and momentous." He added: "It marks the end of India's decades-long isolation from the nuclear mainstream and of the technology denial regime."

Rice Hails NSG Move
U.S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hailed passage at the NSG. "It's a very big step for the [global] non-proliferation framework," she told reporters en route to Algeria from Tunis, Tunisia. This "expands the reach of the non-proliferation regime."
Still, America's top diplomat acknowledged that she would "have to see" if both India's parliament and the U.S. Congress will ratify the deal during President George W. Bush's last months in office.
A number of Indian political parties have pledged to block the passage of the deal, as it's seen as impinging on New Delhi's independence in pursuing its national security policies. This opposition has only been fed by the release this week of a secret State Department document that said the U.S would cut off nuclear supplies to New Delhi if the Indian government conducted further nuclear weapons tests.
U.S. lawmakers have also indicated that Congress might not have enough time to fully vet and pass the India nuclear agreement before the current legislative session ends this month. This holds out the possibility that the nuclear accord could be passed on to a new U.S. administration and Congress next year.
Separately, Ms. Rice acknowledged that a similar nuclear cooperation pact Washington was pursing with Russia wouldn't pass during President Bush's second term. The Secretary of State said the White House would formally announce its pulling of support for the deal, given Moscow's military occupation of Georgia. "The time isn't right for the Russia deal," Rice said.
Wrangling Over Resolution Text
The NSG talks Friday began constructively with delegations split between those that would accept a revised draft of a resolution text, and those that wanted tough language that would permit conditional nuclear exports to India, according to a diplomat familiar with the discussion. Additional changes Friday morning and afternoon brought more delegations on board, but not all, the diplomat said.
In the late afternoon the delegates reconvened in an unusual evening session for what they hoped would be one last push to agree on a new revised resolution text, according to a diplomat with knowledge of the discussion.
About 8:00 pm the delegations were still far apart and split into smaller working groups, in the hope of later meeting again in full session for a final decision. During the evening, the U.S. intensified its diplomatic effort in a series of phone calls, one diplomat said.
At 2:00 am and still without agreement, the meeting adjourned until 11:00 am when delegates returned to approve a resolution.
India, although it isn't a member of the NSG, monitored the talks closely. A high-ranking delegation was just minutes from the meeting hall, according to a diplomat with knowledge of the discussion.
Indian officials lobbied intensively for approval of the pact. Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said India wouldn't spark a new arms race and pledged to uphold a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing. "India has a long-standing and steadfast commitment to universal, nondiscriminatory and total elimination of nuclear weapons," Mr. Mukherjee said in a statement on the ministry's Web site.
Ultimately it was this assurance that clinched the approval, according to a statement by the Austrian foreign ministry at the conclusion of the meeting.
Intrigue Over Secret U.S. Letter
Adding intrigue to the Vienna talks was a secret Bush administration letter released this week by Rep. Howard Berman (D., Calif.), which said Washington has the right to immediately halt nuclear trade with India if it were to conduct an atomic test blast.
In an Aug. 5 letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Mr. Berman said the U.S. Congress needs time to consider the proposed pact before the U.S. Congress begins its election recess in late September.
The deal, if it passes its remaining hurdles, would see the U.S. supply India with nuclear fuel and technology for civilian purposes. Last month, the board of governors of the United Nations' atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, unanimously approved an inspections agreement with India that was a key precondition to completing the deal.
India's Congress Party, which leads India's coalition government, has made better access to nuclear power through this deal a key focus. Although India's economy is slowing, it is still growing fast, and the nation needs to increase power generation.
Some parts of rural India experience 15 hours or more a day of power cuts, and even major towns and cities endure blackouts of several hours a day. The U.S., for its part, sees the nuclear pact as a way to create stronger ties with the giant South Asian nation and provide a counterweight to China's influence in the region.
Write to David Crawford at, Jackie Range at and Jay Solomon at

Ministers seek British Energy deal before Labour conference

By Sarah Arnott Monday, 8 September 2008

The government is pressing for a resolution to the British Energy takeover talks before the start of the Labour Party conference in two weeks' time.
EDF looks set to win thebattle, despite the rejection of its £12bn offer at the start ofAugust, with possible sweeteners of up to £1.5bn reportedly wooing previously sceptical shareholders.
But the Government – which supports the French bid because of the experience it can bring to plans for a major expansion of the UK nuclear industry – is getting impatient.
"The Government wants it wrapped up before the party conference," a source said. "It is important for government, not just for the cash but because it is about getting the investment needed for the UK's nuclear renaissance."
The initial bid talks collapsed when two of British Energy's largest shareholders, M&G and Invesco Perpetual, dismissed the price as too cheap. But discussions with EDF have continued – largely because the UK government, which owns 35 per cent of British Energy, is a supporter of the deal.
Invesco, at least, appears to be overcoming its scepticism. Last month, Neil Woodford, Invesco's head of investment, was still saying that a tie-up with EDF's rival Centrica made sense. But last week the 15 per cent-shareholder is believed to have held talks with EDF and softened towards the French deal, at least in part because of the implications of the falling oil price.
But it is not a dead cert. Only last week, M&G, which owns 7per cent of British Energy, described talks with Centrica as "constructive" and re-emphasised its preference for a Centrica deal.
Sources close to the British Energy negotiations say progress has been made, but no announcement is imminent.
Nuclear energy is central to government plans to meet environmental targets and boost the capacity of the UK's power supplies. By 2015 the majority of the UK's coal-fired plants will fall foul of carbon-emissions regulations and be closed down. All but one of British Energy's eight nuclear reactors will be decommissioned by 2020.
EDF already has 58 reactors in France and generates more than four-fifths of the country's electricity. The group wants to open four nuclear sites in the UK.

British Energy: Scotland short of power

Nuclear firm predicts Scotland will be energy importer by 2025 if it does not build three new, low-carbon power plants
John Penman

Scotland faces a massive hole in its energy supply, equivalent to the output of three power stations, by 2025 if it relies solely on renewables, nuclear operator British Energy (BE) will claim this week.
Scotland could move from a net exporter of energy to a net importer and may have to rely on nuclear generated power from England to plug the gap.
The Scottish government, which is opposed to any new nuclear power stations, dismissed BE’s claims as “nonsense” and re-affirmed its opposition to new nuclear power stations.
“Scotland does not want or need costly new nuclear power stations and is already well on its way to becoming the clean, green renewable energy capital of Europe,” a government spokesman said.
The issue could come to a head at an energy conference hosted by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry this week attended by industry experts and Jim Mather, the enterprise minister.
British Energy’s company secretary, Robert Armour, will say that Scotland will need at least three new large, affordable low-carbon conventional power stations to cope with a frequent 4GW gap in supply by 2025 — the equivalent of the output of three power stations
All of Scotland’s existing conventional and nuclear power stations are due to have closed by then.
“We are not saying the power needs to come solely from nuclear, but the policy should allow the competitive market to choose which low-carbon, affordable conventional plants are built. All options should be available,” a BE spokeswoman said.
The power, from the national grid, may include output from nuclear stations in England.
Gordon Brown reiterated the UK government’s support for new nuclear power in a speech in Glasgow last week.
A spokesman for the Scottish government said: “Harnessing the green potential can meet our future energy demands many times over, while also tackling climate change, and avoiding both the radioactive waste and enormous decommissioning costs.
“These claims — by a company that generates nuclear power — are clearly nonsense.”
Lesley Sawyers, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, said: “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 jobs in Scotland.
Meanwhile, French utility giant EDF was this weekend close to securing the shareholder support it needs to seal a £12 billion takeover of BE, Britain’s only nuclear power generator.
The French group has improved the terms of a bid that was rejected at the end of July by two large shareholders.
EDF offered 765p for each BE share, valuing the company at about £12 billion.
It is understood EDF is now considering a small increase in the cash price.