Saturday, 4 October 2008

Ed Miliband named as head of new climate and energy department

John Vidal and Juliette Jowit
guardian.co.uk,
Friday October 03 2008 12:20 BST


Ed Miliband. Photograph: Martin Argles
Ed Miliband, the younger brother of the foreign secretary David Miliband, is to lead a newly created department of energy and climate in a move that signals a major rethink of the government's environment policy and reflects the rise of climate change to the top of the national and international environment agendas.
With the move of John Hutton, the government's leading advocate of new coal-fired power stations and nuclear power, to the position of defence secretary, the government has paved the way for more integrated energy and environment policy.
Industry and environment departments have long been at odds with each other, leading to political embarrassments and charges that different parts of government were pulling in different directions.
Government insiders said the department was restructured because of the rising political importance of energy prices and efficiency, the need for one department to take the lead in negotiations for a new international climate treaty next year, and to take lead responsibility for delivering a new emissions reduction target, expected to be announced next week. The new department will have control over nearly two thirds of UK carbon emissions which come from energy for electricity and heat. The remainder is from transport and agriculture.
The move was today welcomed by green groups. "For the last 10 years this government has dithered on climate change, offering us inspiring rhetoric but little in the way of real action. Bringing energy and climate together at last reflects the urgency of the threat we face from climate change," said John Sauven, head of Greenpeace.
"Hopefully Ed Miliband will champion efforts to boost renewable energy and energy efficiency, as part of a plan to create the green collar jobs that Britain has so far lost to our European neighbours."
Other groups were quick to welcome the new department. "WWF welcomes the government's decision to create a new climate change and energy department - it shows a clear recognition that the UK's chances of hitting its climate targets are inextricably linked to its energy policies," said David Norman, head of campaigns at WWF.
The first test of Miliband's credibility will be whether he will put a stop to plans for the construction of the UK's first new coal-fired power station in over 30 years at Kingsnorth in Kent. This decision has been delayed for months and is proving a deep embarrassment at cabinet level with Ed Miliband's brother, former environment secretary David, arguing that no unabated coal stations should be built.
A senior government source played down hopes that the new climate and energy secretary would immediately scrap controversial projects such as Kingsnorth and new nuclear power stations, saying: "It's not the take over of one by the other, it's really the integration. We still have to keep the lights on [and] we're anxious about the security implications of being very dependent on gas, so these are really hard issues."
However a source close to Ed Miliband said the two brothers were personally very close: "They are both intellectual leftists from a tradition of thinking about what it means to be on the left, they are both young and the younger generation tend to see the environment as part of the left. Ed, who's very committed to social justice, will try to find a way of making that part of the environment brief, and want to integrate this issue into Labour thinking and give us definition."
But Ed Miliband will also have to decide whether to allow department officials to continue lobbying to change the EU's commitment on renewables. Leaked papers show Britain is exerting strong pressure to remove aviation from renewable energy targets.
Commentators were today waiting to see how the moves would affect the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which has traditionally led the government on climate change.
The independent Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) , which advises government on environment and development, and has often been highly critical of energy policies, said the move was welcome.
"Combining energy and climate change policy under one secretary of state is a welcome move, and one the Sustainable Development Commission has been keen to see for some time. This change will make it far easier to make joined-up decisions in an area which is crucial for the UK and the world," said Rebecca Willis, vice-chair, SDC.
"By making the right sustainable energy choices, we can tackle energy security and climate change together, and we look forward to working with Ed Miliband to this happen," she said.
Business reacted positively: "Both climate change and energy security are vital national interests that need the government's fullest attention and urgent action. Combining them may help identify both synergies and trade-offs, but we must avoid either one becoming subordinate to the other", said Neil Bentley, the director of business environment at the CBI.
International development groups, now pressing strongly for climate change emissions, struck a note of caution. Liz Gallagher, climate change policy researcher at the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, struck a note of caution: "Just setting up a department is not enough. People living in poverty in the developing world are being hit first and hardest by climate change. We hope this means the government will put poor people at the centre of UK climate change policy."
Many renewable energy organisations said that the new department should be a major boost for the sector. "Miliband faces a critical need to stabilise the conventional energy sector and to address the UK's need for firm electricity capacity, while avoiding dangerous gas dependency.
"Sentimental support for renewables is counterproductive to this need, as well as being, paradoxically, harmful to climate change policy", said John Constable, of the Renewable Energy Foundation.
Lord Stern, who authored the government's major report on the economics of climate change in 2006, welcomed the new department: "It shows an understanding of the importance of the subject which requires strong focus and organisation. At the same time it will have to be something that cuts across the whole of government because everything is about reducing emissions, and the consequences."
The reshuffle comes as campaigners claimed that the government's climate change committee is poised to recommend next week that the government set a binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050.

Electric cars shine at Paris auto show

The Associated Press
Published: October 4, 2008

PARIS: As the race to offer the first commercially viable electric car charges up, automakers hoping to cash in on environmental concerns displayed a slew of models at the Paris Motor Show.
But executives acknowledged that uncertainties linger over the batteries needed to power them: technology needs to advance to meet cost and weight requirements, and infrastructure to recharge them is lacking.
Some of the models on show are still prototypes — such as Renault SA's Z.E. Concept — while others such as Daimler AG's all-electric Smart ED, have entered the test phase.
Most of them won't be commercially available for several years — and even then automakers say they will struggle to meet demand.
"The investments needed for electric cars are colossal," Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said during the auto show, which opens to the public Saturday and runs for two weeks.

"The question is not whether demand will be sufficient. It is whether supply will be able to follow the demand that is already out there," he said.
Electric vehicles have been around for over a century: In 1899, the wiener-shaped "Jamais Contente" or "Never Happy" broke the 100-kilometer-per-hour (60 mph) barrier when motor cars still were a rare sight.
Hindering the development of the electric car was its capacity for energy storage: batteries lacked the performance and range required for regular use.
Since then, the technology has developed, and analysts say recent developments in lithium-ion cell technology — which Daimler, Renault, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC plan to use — are promising.
Demand is being led by environmental concerns and by legislation — new EU rules are being shaped to limit carbon dioxide emissions.
GM plans to be one of the first to market with the rechargeable electric Chevrolet Volt, displayed in Paris against a backdrop of silver trees, which it says will go on sale in late 2010. GM hasn't decided yet which battery maker to use for the Volt but has already settled on the requirements: an autonomy of 40 miles (60 kilometers) and three hours to recharge.
"General Motors is betting an awful lot on the Volt, and I think its more than just an image issue, so we are all very interested in that," said Finbarr O'Neill, head of international operations for J.D. Power & Associates.
"But there are multiple answers here. It's not just electric cars. It's bringing down the cost of hybrid, further diesel growth, downsizing gasoline engines, weight reduction, stop-start technology. All of those things are going to be pushed to the limits in order to get lower emissions and greater mileage."
Chrysler last week unveiled three electric-powered models — a sports car, a four-door Jeep and a minivan — and promised to put one of them on sale in the U.S. sometime in 2010.
BMW Group is working on an electric Mini, but CEO Norbert Reithofer said he's not convinced of a breakthrough.
"There's a lot of hype about the electric cars — the numbers of electric cars available in 2020 will not be above 5 or 10 percent of the total," he said.
Daimler is working with regional electricity suppliers to build up the needed infrastructure to allow 100 electric-only versions of its Smart micro car to go in service in Berlin and Paris in the next year. From 2012, CEO Dieter Zetsche said he hopes to be producing over 10,000 per year.
Renault, which in 2005 abandoned a hybrid version of its Kangoo after customers snubbed the price tag, is being more cautious this time around, said Alice de Brauer, head of environmental strategic planning at Renault.
She said Renault failed to see a viable market for gasoline-electric hybrids and is focusing its energies on developing a fully electric car by 2012. But she said technology and infrastructure need to catch up with current requirements.
"We have a technical challenge ahead of us," she told The Associated Press. "I think we are capable."
French power provider Electricite de France SA offered a glimpse of the future with its "smart" charging terminal, currently being tested on Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius cars in Britain. The technology is designed to recognize the car, allowing drivers to be invoiced directly no matter where they charge their vehicles.
In the meantime, carmakers sought to underscore the green achievements currently possible, with even Ferrari announcing it has cut emissions in its newest fast car, the California. Around the showroom, large numbers pasted down the sides of many models advertised the amount of carbon dioxide they emit.
Honda Motor Co. on Thursday unveiled a new five-door gasoline-electric hatchback to challenge rival Toyota's success with the hybrid Prius. Honda said its Insight would be cheaper "than any other hybrid car on the market," to make the low-emission technology affordable for more consumers. The Japanese automaker aims to sell 200,000 of the cars each year, launching next spring in Japan, Europe and North America.

N.J. Awards Grant for First Offshore Wind Project

By MARA LEMOS STEIN and MARK PETERS

New Jersey regulators Friday selected Garden State Offshore Energy to develop the state's first offshore wind farm, in a move to spark development of a clean power source that has met resistance in other states.
Garden State Offshore Energy, a joint venture between a unit of Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. and wind-power developer Deepwater Wind, was selected by the state Board of Public Utilities from five firms vying for state support and a grant of up to $19 million. The state program provides aid for up to 350 megawatts, or enough continuous power for about 125,000 homes.
Garden State Offshore's proposal to keep the turbines far from the shore, combined with the technology and financial strength of the firm helped it prevail, said Chris Brown, Deepwater's chief executive officer.
"The beauty of our proposal is that it preserves the beauty of the New Jersey shore," Nelson Garcez, vice president, PSEG Renewable Generation, said.
The project is slated to include 96 turbines that would be between 16 miles and 20 miles off the coast. The joint venture will take only $4 million of the $19 million grant offered by New Jersey, Mr. Brown said.
The losing bidders included Bluewater Wind, a subsidiary of Australia's Babcock & Brown Ltd., Fishermen's Energy of New Jersey LLC -- a collective of fishermen from the state's southern coast -- Environmental Technologies LLC and Occidental Development & Equities LLC.
State officials in New Jersey see strong potential in offshore wind generation, which could become one of the largest sources to meet its renewable-energy goals. A 2004 study cited by developers estimates 24,000 megawatts of potential wind power exist off New Jersey's coast.
Offshore wind development has faced opposition, with a lengthy battle over a wind farm off Cape Cod, Mass., among the best-known examples. But as demand for renewable energy grows, New Jersey and other states are trying to promote projects because of their potential scale.
Firms vying for the New Jersey grant are involved in similar efforts in nearby states.
Bluewater, based in Hoboken, N.J., won the race to develop offshore wind farm in Delaware, the first project to win state support in the U.S. The $1 billion-plus project will be built 11.5 miles off the coast of Rehoboth Beach in Delaware and its capacity could reach up to 600 megawatts.
Deepwater Wind, also of Hoboken, is fresh from winning the right to develop a 385 megawatt wind project off Rhode Island's coast that will supply 15% of the state's power.
Deepwater was formed in May after the acquisition of offshore wind assets from Winergy Power LLC and First Wind Holdings Inc. Its main shareholders are multibillion-dollar New York-based alternative-asset management firm D.E. Shaw & Co., Dwight Anderson's Ospraie Management, a New York-based hedge fund that focuses on commodities and energy, and First Wind. First Wind is backed by private-equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners and the private-equity arm of D.E. Shaw.
Having a utility such as PSEG as a partner has "been very helpful" in the process, said Bryan Martin, a managing director at D.E. Shaw, in an interview earlier this week.
The other proposals would have placed projects closer to shore. Fishermen's Energy of New Jersey LLC of Cape May, N.J., proposed building an offshore wind farm in two phases, with the first phase being much smaller and serving as a test case.
The other bidders, Environmental Technologies and Occidental Development, submitted very short proposals, with few details, according to people who have reviewed the proposals.
New Jersey is making a strong push toward clean energy and its Renewable Portfolio Standard is one of the most aggressive in the U.S. It requires electricity providers to generate up to 22.5% of power from renewable sources by 2021. It offers a full exemption from the state's 7% sales tax for all solar- and wind-energy equipment. Power generated by the offshore wind farm won't necessarily be cheaper to the consumer.
Deepwater's Mr. Brown said it was too early to discuss electricity rates as the project won't be operational for at least four years, but he said he expects the price "to be competitive."
Winning the bid positions Deepwater as the major developer of offshore wind projects in the U.S. Northeast. Next in its sights is New York, as the state evaluates the benefits of exploiting its wind resources. "That's part of our regional strategy," Mr. Brown said.
Write to Mara Lemos Stein at mara.lemos-stein@dowjones.com and Mark Peters at mark.peters@dowjones.com

Green and unpleasant

The ecotowns plan, with its proposed nosy-parker scrutiny of residents, is patronising and illiberal

Jonathan Glancey
The Guardian,
Thursday October 2 2008

Pity the residents of what New Labour politicians think of as the strong and joyful ecotowns, one of which might yet blight a stretch of landscape near you by 2020. Not only will they have to live in developer-built dormitory suburbs given a fashionable name, they will also be the subject of unprecedented scrutiny by quango folk who, in a holier-than-thou spirit, will check on just how "eco" ecotown folk will be.
Thermographic cameras will be used to check which homes lose heat, says Cabe, the government's ever-expanding Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. Will Cabe wardens be sent to patrol ecotown cul-de-sacs squealing "Shut that door" and "Put that bloody tungsten light out"?
This busybody quango also plans to monitor the ecological footprint of the diet of 100 randomly selected residents, as well as calculating C02 emissions from transport within any given ecotown.
Ecotownies partial to lamb cutlets and to cream on their strawberries might yet be watched as closely as al-Qaida suspects. Retailers in these housing gulags, says Cabe, should provide plenty of products with a low meat and dairy content in line with studies showing that a significant reduction in animal product meals could cut the ecological footprint of food by 60%. "Consumer goods", adds Cabe, "account for 14% of an individual's ecological footprint and the target should be to halve the impact from this". We will have to wait and see whether ecotownies will be deterred from eating HobNobs, hummus, imported haricot beans, or all three.
If the silly season was still in full swing, such tomfoolery would be funny. Disturbingly, this nosy-parker nonsense really does appear to inform thinking underpinning Labour's sorry ecotown project. Perhaps ecotown children can be encouraged to report wayward parents to ascetic Cabe commissioners as these guardians of environmental law cycle past. "I caught my dad eating steak and oven-ready chips." Doubtless, one of New Labour's "titan" jails will provide "porridge" to such miscreants. Cabe insists that it's not trying to play a Big Brother role and simply wants to collect useful information about "eco towns", but it comes across as a bully boy body.
Not only is this kind of policing fundamentally against the spirit of British town life, it is also wrong-headed and even hypocritical.
It is wrong-headed for at least two simple reasons. First, it would be unjust to single out one set of townspeople for such petty prying. If ours is to be a land of snoops, then let us all suffer such indignities and, in doing so, learn to fight back with common sense and common decency. Second, every small town used to be an "ecotown". We do not need special ecotowns and their inquisitions. Instead, we need to spur ourselves into living greener lives in existing towns. Crank down the heating and wear a jumper when it gets cold. Build new homes in existing towns and villages. Open farmers' markets rather than plot yet more supermarkets.
Cabe, meanwhile, sees no gap in the logic of, on the one hand, promoting ecotowns and, on the other, of gleefully encouraging new supermarkets in old towns. In my own small Suffolk town, Hadleigh, Cabe has "congratulated" Tesco and the district council for a proposal to build a banal supermarket, with greater floor space than the whole of the existing, chain-free high street, on a much-loved watermeadow long given over to allotments. If this plan were to be given the go-ahead, the town's carbon emission, and traffic, will rise to unhappy and unjustified levels, while local food suppliers and sellers will be eased out of business.
Even as this government and its pointy-headed minions lecture us on "sustainability" and plan their patronising and illiberal ecotowns, they undermine existing settlements that, unknown to meat and dairy snoops, and, innocent of thermographic cameras, are far "greener" - unspoilt and free of government and quango interference - than "blue sky" towns planned by wonkish thinking and bullying edict.
• Jonathan Glancey is the Guardian's architecture critic jonathan.glancey@guardian.co.uk

Crisis puts renewable energy incentives into play

By Robert Pear
Published: October 2, 2008

WASHINGTON: A long-stalled tax bill offering incentives for the use of renewable energy and providing tax breaks to millions of families and businesses gained momentum on Wednesday, when it was strapped onto emergency legislation to shore up the nation's financial system.
By a vote of 74 to 25, the Senate passed the legislation, including the tax breaks, on Wednesday night. The tax provisions may make the bill more attractive to some Republicans in the House, which rejected a bailout bill in a stunning vote on Monday.
The Senate version of the bailout package was amended, at the last minute, to include a wide range of tax breaks, as well as financial aid for certain rural schools and a measure requiring health insurance companies to provide more generous coverage to many people with mental illnesses.
With the new provisions, the legislation has become more palatable to many lawmakers.
Lawmakers of both parties said the changes would help win support for the package in the House, which rejected the bailout plan in a stunning vote on Monday.

The latest version of the tax legislation, virtually identical to that passed overwhelmingly by the Senate on Sept. 23, would extend the business tax credit for research and development, expand the child tax credit and protect millions of middle-income families from the alternative minimum tax, originally aimed at high-income families.
It would also provide tax relief to victims of recent natural disasters, including floods, tornadoes and severe storms.
The tax credits for investing in solar energy and producing wind energy are scheduled to expire at the end of this year.
Gregory Wetstone, director of government affairs at the American Wind Energy Association, hailed the efforts in Congress.
"The renewable energy tax credits are critically important to the future of wind and solar energy in America," Wetstone said. "In 2000, 2002 and 2004, the industry suffered a drop of 70 percent to 90 percent in the level of annual new wind power as a result of Congress's failure to extend the tax credit, which is currently the only major federal program to support renewable energy."
Many House Democrats, led by the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, had insisted that the cost of tax breaks be fully offset by revenue increases or spending cuts. But it appeared that they were going to lose their yearlong fight with the Senate over this question.
Taken as a whole, the Senate tax package would cost $150.5 billion over 10 years. Of that amount, about $43.5 billion would be offset.
The Senate bill includes several revenue-raising provisions. It would, for example, keep hedge fund managers from using offshore corporations to defer taxes on compensation for their investment services. It would also freeze a tax deduction that oil and gas companies get for certain domestic production activities. The deduction, now 6 percent, is scheduled to rise to 9 percent in 2010.
"With oil and gas prices on the rise, the oil and gas industry does not need tax incentives that it may have needed in the past," said Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and the chairman of the Finance Committee.
Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, said the Senate was setting a bad precedent by trying to impose its tax legislation on the House, rather than negotiating a compromise.
"The Senate leadership took an unprecedented gamble when they attached a package of tax extenders to the emergency financial rescue legislation," Rangel said. He complained that Senate Democrats "repeatedly capitulate to demands" by Republican senators, many of whom contend that Congress should not have to pay for the extension of expiring tax breaks.
To increase tax compliance, the bill would require brokerage firms to track and report the cost basis of stocks, bonds and other securities sold during the year. The cost basis is used in computing the capital gains on which investors must pay taxes. When people overstate the original value or purchase price of stock, they may pay less tax than they should.
Congress estimates that the proposed reporting requirement would raise $6.7 billion in additional revenue over 10 years.
The House jealously guards its power to originate tax bills. The Constitution says, "All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills."
The Senate version of the bailout package is technically an amendment to a House bill that would require group health insurance plans to provide equivalence, or parity, in the coverage of mental and physical illnesses.
Insurers often charge higher co-payments and set stricter limits for mental health care than for the treatment of physical illnesses. The bill would outlaw such discrimination, and the government could impose an excise tax on health plans that violated the new requirement.
On the tax legislation, as on other issues in the last two years, the Senate appears likely to get its way because major bills typically need 60 votes to clear procedural hurdles in the Senate. In practice, this means that the majority Democrats cannot pass contentious bills without help from some Republicans.
Another sweetener added to the bailout bill would extend the "secure rural schools" program, which compensates counties for the loss of revenues they had been receiving from the sale of timber on federal lands. Counties in Oregon and several other states have laid off police officers and cut back public services since authority for the program, which provides money for schools and roads, expired this year.

Jaguar calls for US-style green subsidy for cars

October 3, 2008
Christine Buckley, Industrial Editor

The head of Land Rover and Jaguar called on Thursday for government cash for industry as UK carmakers said that they were facing the worst market for many years.
At the Paris motor show, David Smith, managing director of Land Rover and Jaguar, said that the UK was on the verge of a severe recession and there was the same need for state aid as there was in the US. There the Government has pledged $25 billion (£14.2 billion) for investment in green technology by the car industry.
Mr Smith called for government action to boost consumer confidence, including tax cuts, and for special help for the automotive industry, which suffered its worst August sales in the UK for 40 years and is the country's industrial largest employer.
He said: “If the US needs to take a bold move we do, too, and the quicker the better. If we let this go on, the impact on manufacturing will be severe and that will have an impact on jobs.” Mr Smith is pressing the Government for cash to pump into environmental work in the car industry and across other parts of manufacturing.

Land Rover and Jaguar, which were this year bought from Ford by Tata, the Indian conglomerate, have suffered some of the worst sales falls in recent months and all their factories have cut production. Their entire casual workforce, which numbered 500 at its peak, will go by the end of this month.
The head of the two iconic British marques also called on the Bank of England to cut interest rates. He said: “The Bank of England needs to cut rates. The issue is clear and urgent. We are in danger of going into quite a severe recession.” He said that if parts of the manufacturing base were forced into collapse they would be lost for good.
Some industry commentators have warned that Land Rover and Jaguar are more vulnerable than other carmakers because they are overly exposed to the premium and large vehicle segment of the market. This sector has taken a bigger knock as people and businesses shy away from higher prices and the greater fuel requirements.
But Mr Smith said that the group enjoyed the protection of Tata, its large parent. He said: “We have been very clear that we are focused on investing for the future but taking short-term action as we need to.”

OPT buoys signal arrival of wave power

By David Blackwell
Published: October 2 2008 22:21

Ocean Power Technologies, one of the first renewable energy companies to join Aim, is to install its first 150kW power buoy off the coast of Oregon in the US.
The news comes only 10 days after it deployed its first 40kW power buoy off the northern coast of Spain under its contract with Iberdrola.
Power buoys are designed to harness wave motion to generate electricity. The company has a long-standing deal with the US Navy, which intends to draw power from an OPT system for its base in Hawaii. An increase in the amount of work being carried out in Hawaii helped the company to report this month that first-quarter revenues had more than trebled to $1.8m (£1m).
The US Department of Energy has awarded a $2m (£1.1m) grant to help fund the fabrication, assembly and factory testing of the buoy in Oregon. It is the first such award by the DoE and the company believes it signals increasing US recognition of wave energy.
The buoy is expected to be ready for installation 2½ miles off the coast near Reedsport in the second half of next year.
In 2010 another nine buoys are expected to be added, to form a 1.5MW site. The company expects the power installation to provide “important operating and environmental data for the future development of wave energy” on the west coast of the US.
In Spain, the company is building the world’s first commercial wave power station.
The shares rose 10p to 382½p.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Voller needs funds to keep going

By David Blackwell
Published: October 2 2008 23:21

Voller Energy is a classic example of a company that should be looking at Aim as venture capital with a quote.
It has developed a 1kW auxiliary power unit that uses a fuel cell stack, and claims to be the only company in Europe selling such equipment. But it must find additional funding to secure its future.
That is, to put it mildly, not going to be easy in current market conditions. The facts are that it raised a net £9m on arriving on Aim in 2005 at 74p a share. At the close yesterday the shares were 1.6p, valuing the equity at less than £500,000.
Given the nature of the business, it is not surprising that Voller has been slower to get to market than expected. On the other hand, it is in the right market at what should be the right time, supplying energy in an environmentally friendly and efficient way.
It has sold five units for use in workmen’s cabins on construction sites, and one to the Highways Agency for a remote traffic-control camera. Another is on trial with the Dutch ministry of works, while yet another provided back-up power for a yacht in a transatlantic race.
Yet each unit is being sold at a loss, and the company admits there is “a material uncertainty” regarding its ability to continue in operation for the foreseeable future without further funding.
Voller, however, is not suffering alone as the credit crunch bites. Aim companies now have to comply with international financial reporting standards, and are obliged to let investors know if there are doubts about their status as “a going concern.”
A search of reported accounts for the telling phrase “significant doubt” (related to ability to continue as a going concern) threw up no fewer than a dozen matches on Tuesday alone, mainly in the resources sector. In all cases the shares were heading inexorably south-east. But some were not quite so upfront about their plight as Voller. In these times, investors should read the notes to accounts carefully.
Through a magic window
Energy XXI was one of the pioneering Spacs (special purpose acquisition corporations) that joined Aim in 2005, raising $300m.
After three acquisitions in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil producer has an enterprise value of more than $1bn (£562m), and up to 1m shares a day are traded. Its growth highlights differences between markets on either side of the Atlantic, which the company has exploited skilfully.
Spacs – cash shells by another name – have been around for a long time in the US, usually raising small sums from retail investors. Three years ago they developed into vehicles for raising large sums of money from US institutions. Collins Stewart brought the idea to the UK and to Aim.
John Schiller, Energy XXI’s chief executive, is one of the all too rare Americans who strongly endorse Aim. The company decided to join the junior market because it would be able to make acquisitions much faster under Aim rules than in the US.
The questions asked by lawyers and advisers in London were, he says, more gruelling than they would have been in the US. After “a six-hour grilling session, we ended up with a very good document”. Shareholders, he maintains, got much more data than they would have in the US.
However, liquidity was not helped by the US rule that prevents the electronic trading of UK-listed shares in a US-based company. Any shares had to be traded through an old-fashioned paper trail.
But part of the plan was always to seek a secondary listing on Nasdaq, which happened in August last year. Even then liquidity did not improve until one of the original investing institutions decided to sell its stake in March.
Then the volume of shares traded on Nasdaq rose rapidly, from 30,000 to more than 1m a day. The share price initially rose to more than $7, but has since tumbled, trading as low as $2.75.
Part of the reason for the share price decline was news of the impact of hurricanes on production. City analysts have set a target price of $9, with perhaps greater upside if any one of three exploration wells is successful.
Aim has proved itself to be a great incubator. The management timed its arrival well, and was able to run with the rising oil price, building the company through acquisitions. Its first was completed within weeks of arriving on the market, in sharp contrast to the experience of some Spacs in the US, which have proposed deals that have simply not been consummated.
But the problem of liquidity on Aim looks almost intractable, in spite of some relaxation of US rules on electronic trading. It looks as though Energy XXI found a magic window when it came to Aim, but don’t count on another Spac being able to repeat the process.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Drax pays £10m to mix biomass with coal

Mark Milner, industrial editor
The Guardian,
Thursday October 2 2008

Drax, Britain's biggest coal-fired power station, said yesterday it had bought equipment that will cut its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 2.5m tonnes a year.
It has signed a £10m contract with Doosan Babcock Energy for direct-injection biomass co-firing systems for all six of the coal-fired units at its 4,000-megawatt plant in North Yorkshire.
The new facility, which will allow Drax to mix renewable biomass materials - such as straw, wood and food and agricultural residues - with coal will be the largest of its kind in the world.
Drax's chief executive, Dorothy Thompson, said the deal was a critical step in the development of its co-firing project. The combination of the new facility and Drax's existing co-firing capability would give the company a total renewable capacity of 500 megawatts, "making us the largest single-site renewable generator in the UK".
"We are only too well aware of the need to tackle climate change and the competence we have developed in biomass procurement and project execution means that we are able to play our part in the move towards a low-carbon economy, while at the same time delivering reliable and secure supplies of electricity."
Drax said it was making good progress on upgrading its turbines to increase their efficiency. The project, when completed, is expected to cut another million tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Drax said the combination of greater turbine efficiency and increased bio-mass capability would cut its annual emissions by more than 15% by 2011.
Drax supplies about 7% of Britain's electricity, making it a crucial part of the country's supply infrastructure.
The energy industry regulator, Ofgem, is expected to publish National Grid's winter forecast for gas and electricity supplies today. It is expected to be sanguine about the industry's ability to meet the country's needs over the coming winter but is expected to warn against complacency and to highlight Britain's increasing exposure to global energy markets.
Wholesale power prices have risen sharply this week on concern over generating margins. "It is important to note that the current price issues are based on specific short-term factors," said Ian Parrett, marketing manager of power broker Inenco. "While concerns remain for supply margins in future years, it is expected that the situation will ease in the new year. This is supported by prices for 2009 contracts, which have eased in the last few days as the market waits for direction from the US bail-out negotiations."
Market sources suggested the wholesale price for November had been driven higher by demand from one of the country's electricity generators. Wholesale gas prices continue to fall on growing confidence over future supply.

Drax pays £10m to mix biomass with coal

Mark Milner, industrial editor
The Guardian,
Thursday October 2 2008

Drax, Britain's biggest coal-fired power station, said yesterday it had bought equipment that will cut its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 2.5m tonnes a year.
It has signed a £10m contract with Doosan Babcock Energy for direct-injection biomass co-firing systems for all six of the coal-fired units at its 4,000-megawatt plant in North Yorkshire.
The new facility, which will allow Drax to mix renewable biomass materials - such as straw, wood and food and agricultural residues - with coal will be the largest of its kind in the world.
Drax's chief executive, Dorothy Thompson, said the deal was a critical step in the development of its co-firing project. The combination of the new facility and Drax's existing co-firing capability would give the company a total renewable capacity of 500 megawatts, "making us the largest single-site renewable generator in the UK".
"We are only too well aware of the need to tackle climate change and the competence we have developed in biomass procurement and project execution means that we are able to play our part in the move towards a low-carbon economy, while at the same time delivering reliable and secure supplies of electricity."
Drax said it was making good progress on upgrading its turbines to increase their efficiency. The project, when completed, is expected to cut another million tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Drax said the combination of greater turbine efficiency and increased bio-mass capability would cut its annual emissions by more than 15% by 2011.
Drax supplies about 7% of Britain's electricity, making it a crucial part of the country's supply infrastructure.
The energy industry regulator, Ofgem, is expected to publish National Grid's winter forecast for gas and electricity supplies today. It is expected to be sanguine about the industry's ability to meet the country's needs over the coming winter but is expected to warn against complacency and to highlight Britain's increasing exposure to global energy markets.
Wholesale power prices have risen sharply this week on concern over generating margins. "It is important to note that the current price issues are based on specific short-term factors," said Ian Parrett, marketing manager of power broker Inenco. "While concerns remain for supply margins in future years, it is expected that the situation will ease in the new year. This is supported by prices for 2009 contracts, which have eased in the last few days as the market waits for direction from the US bail-out negotiations."
Market sources suggested the wholesale price for November had been driven higher by demand from one of the country's electricity generators. Wholesale gas prices continue to fall on growing confidence over future supply.

EU could save £20bn per year on health by cutting emissions

By Paul Eccleston
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 02/10/2008

The EU could save an extra £20bn per year on health spending by setting tougher targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report.
The savings could be made if the target of reducing CO2 emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 was raised to 30 per cent, in line with the recommendations of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The report, commissioned by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), Climate Action Network Europe (CAN-E) and the conservation organisation WWF, claimed it would produce savings, resulting from better health, of between £4.9bn-£20bn.

The figures are based on economic evaluations of loss of life and health, working days lost and hospital costs.
The report claims a 30 per cent cut in emissions would cut hospital admissions by up to 30 per cent, cut cases of chronic bronchitis by 5,300 and result in 2m fewer working days being lost per year.
The EU's impact assessment suggests that every year 369,000 people die prematurely due to air pollution, and that premature deaths, health care and medication associated with air pollution amount to 3-9 per cent of EU Gross Domestic Product.
Current predictions by the EU suggest savings of £40bn but the report claims that raising the target to 30 per cent could increase the savings to as much as £60bn per year.
GĂ©non Jensen, executive director of Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) says: "Data clearly show that action to control global warming by reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions brings major benefits to health.
"This potential alone makes a case for immediately moving the European target to at least 30 per cent domestic cuts of greenhouse gases by 2020. The European Union should be showing leadership on this crucial determinant of our future."
Delia Villagrasa, senior advisor to WWF, said: "Until now the discussion on climate change has been all about costs to industry and the economy, while costs of climate pollution to the society have largely been neglected.
"It is essential to see that measures to promote cleaner sources of energy and reduce fossil fuel consumption will not only contribute to control climate change but will also cut air pollution and improve quality of life for European citizens."

Halls of shame: biggest CO2 offenders unveiled

• 18,000 public buildings in energy efficiency tests • Even new premises fare badly under emissions law
Robert Booth
The Guardian,
Thursday October 2 2008

The Imperial War Museum North in Salford, which opened in 2002, was given a G, the lowest score - the same as its 91-year-old sister museum in London. Photograph: Don McPhee
The Palace of Westminster and the Bank of England have been exposed as among the country's least energy efficient public buildings by a new law to measure carbon dioxide emissions from the national estate.
Around 18,000 buildings, including town halls, museums, schools and job centres, are being tested to discover their energy efficiency on a sliding scale where A is the best and G is the worst. Parliament and the Bank both scored a G. Together, they consume enough electricity and gas to pump out 21,356 tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of more than 14,000 people flying from London to New York.
New buildings also fared badly, raising questions about the validity of sustainability claims made by architects and developers. London's City Hall scored E despite opening in 2002 and being described by its architect Foster & Partners as a "virtually non-polluting public building". The Treasury's headquarters on Horse Guards Parade scored the same despite a complete office refurbishment six years ago that was supposed to "set new environmental standards in Whitehall".
In Salford, the Imperial War Museum North, designed by Daniel Libeskind and opened in 2002, scored a G, the same as its 91-year-old sister museum in London.
The government estimates that almost a fifth of all carbon dioxide emissions in the UK are caused by non-residential buildings, and environmental campaigners said the findings mean the government must launch an urgent refurbishment programme to slash carbon emissions.
The Natural History Museum spends £1.4m a year on electricity and gas - a figure that is expected to double from this month as a result of rising world energy prices. One of the most energy hungry buildings in the country was the National Media Museum in Bradford, a 1960s structure, which scored a G. One in four of the 3,200 buildings assessed so far scored F or G, and the average was D. Only 22 buildings - under 1% - scored A.
"These results show our leaky and draughty public buildings should be a priority target for refurbishment," said Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Buildings Council. "In a turbulent financial climate, lower energy bills will benefit the taxpayer for years to come. If we are to cut our carbon, save money and achieve energy security, our buildings have to be on the front line of this battle."
"We review 350 significant new build projects a year at design stage and we hear a lot of greenwash," said Matt Bell, director of public affairs at the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, the government's architecture watchdog. "The knowledge that from now on this performance will be objectively measured should mark the end of that."
The findings emerged yesterday as it became law for any public building larger than 1,000 square metres to show a display energy certificate (DEC). The system is similar to the colour coded labels which show carbon emissions caused by refrigerators and cars. On that basis, the Bank and parliament are the building equivalent of a petrol-hungry Land Rover Discovery.
No 10 Downing Street managed a D rating, which is better than average for its building type. But the prime minister's heating, lighting and air conditioning still create 675 tonnes of CO2 a year, a bigger carbon footprint than a street of 28 families of four living in semi detached homes, each driving 10,000 miles a year and flying to Spain on an annual holiday.
The findings are likely to embarrass the government, which has pledged to make all new public buildings zero carbon by 2018. The Department for the Environment's head office recorded an E.
Forty-three per cent of 374 jobcentres scored E or lower. Eland House, the 10- year-old head office of the Department for Communities and Local Government, which has overseen the DEC system, scored an F.
Building occupiers can be fined up to £1,500 if they fail to display the certificate and report on how efficiency might be improved. The Welsh Assembly, built to supposedly environmentally friendly designs by the architect Lord Rogers, is one of many occupiers which could face the fine after they missed the deadline and failed to put certificates up.
Buildings that performed well included a Jobcentre Plus office in Goole on Humberside, which received a B after lighting movement sensors were installed, a policy of turning off all computer monitors at night was introduced and timers were fitted to heating boilers.
"There are cheap measures which can be carried out to reduce most energy bills in these kinds of buildings by 20% quite quickly," said Jacqueline Balian, director of information for the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers, whose members have carried out around two thirds of the DECs. "Common problems are chillers and boilers running at the same time and leaving boilers on all night. This system of DECs should make the management of energy used by buildings much more high profile."
Iain Wright, the housing minister, who is responsible for the certification programme, said: "Display energy certificates are a valuable tool in the fight against climate change."

Google Unveils Plan to Reduce Dependence on Fossil Fuels

By JESSICA E. VASCELLARO

Google Inc. Wednesday unveiled a $4.4 trillion plan for reducing U.S. dependence on fossil fuels, as the Internet giant tries to emerge as a leading advocate for greater adoption of alternative energy.
The proposal is based on the U.S. halting the generation of electricity from coal and oil by 2030 and relying on power from wind, nuclear and geothermal sources instead. It also entails cutting oil use for cars by 40%.
While requiring $4.4 trillion in expenditures, Google estimates that the plan would return a net savings of $1.0 trillion over its 22-year duration and create many new jobs. Work on the report was led by Jeffery Greenblatt, climate and energy technology manager for Google.org, the company's nonprofit arm.
"With a new Administration and Congress -- and multiple energy-related imperatives -- this is an opportune, perhaps unprecedented, moment to move from plan to action," states the report, which the company made available via a link off the company's corporate blog.
In the body of the report, Google acknowledged that its proposal was less ambitious than one put forth by former Vice President Al Gore, who is challenging the U.S. to wean itself off all carbon-produced electricity within 10 years. But Google said by issuing the report it aimed to "stimulate debate."
Google has been raising its visibility in the renewable-energy arena. The company last month announced plans to lobby for an improved national power grid that makes better use of alternative energy. The company has invested more than $45 million in small companies developing new wind, solar and geothermal technologies this year.
Google hopes renewable energy can help it lower the costs of running its data centers. In a blog post on its Web site Wednesday, Google said it has identified $5 million in building efficiency investments to reduce its energy use that could be paid back over two and a half years. The company added that believes its data centers are already "the most efficient in the world," saying that they use "nearly five times less energy than conventional facilities to feed and cool the computers inside."
Eric Schmidt, Google's chief executive, is expected to discuss the plan during a speech Wednesday night in San Francisco.
Write to Jessica E. Vascellaro at jessica.vascellaro@wsj.com

Biodiesel breakthrough comes at £13m cost to BP-backed firm

• D1 reports first shipment with first-half loss• 300,000 hectares will soon be under cultivation
Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Wednesday October 1 2008

A revolutionary plan to produce green fuel from the jatropha plant has passed a major test by delivering its first shipments.
D1 Oils, the British company behind the scheme, says it is well on the way to reaching its target of producing 1,000 tonnes of crude jatropha oil by December. "We are pleased to have demonstrated through the delivery of our first crude vegetable oil the potential of jatropha as a biofuel crop," said Lord Oxburgh, the former chairman of Shell who is now chairman of D1.
Jatropha had proved itself to be an alternative fuel source that did not compete with food crops for available land or threaten biodiversity because it could be grown on marginal arable land and can be irrigated by waste water, added Elliott Mannis, chief executive of the firm.
"D1's position as a leading developer in jatropha plant science differentiates us significantly in a market that increasingly requires biofuels that are not only competitive but also sustainable," said Mannis, whose firm has brought in BP as a joint venture partner.
The plants are grown on plantations in Zambia and India. The seeds are crushed locally and sold for tractor fuel and other uses at $1,400-$1,500 (£790-£840) a tonne. Longer term, D1 and BP expect to supply growing demand in Britain and other industrialised countries.
D1 says it has planted 260,000 hectares (640,000 acres) and hopes to have 300,000 hectares in place by the end of the year. Work is going on to investigate the potential of removing toxins from waste jatropha seed cake, allowing it to be used as animal feed. The start-up business, which is listed on Aim, raised £14.9m of funds in May and said it would remain "cash positive" through to the end of 2009.
Shares in D1 fell 4.5% as it reported a first-half net loss of £13.1m. The City believes the end-of-year deficit could be as high as £20m. Analysts at Dresdner Kleinwort said D1 was making "solid progress" towards producing sustainable biodiesel feedstock. "With some 70% of the market cap supported by net cash on the balance sheet, we continue to see significant upside," said Alastair Bishop.
D1 has improved its financial position by pulling out of a biofuels refining business it was establishing in the north of England which had been badly undermined by subsidised imports from the US. Nearly 90 jobs have been cut in Middlesbrough and on Merseyside, and D1 is trying to dispose of the refining plant it built.
The European Union is undertaking a study into the impact of US biodiesel. The European Biodiesel Board has called for duties to be imposed on the imports, some of which are the result of "splash and dash" operations moving biofuels through the US just to pick up subsidies.
Green giving
Governments may not be putting enough money into developing renewable power and saving the planet, but help may be at hand courtesy of eco-chic. Coutts bank is launching a green giving scheme at a dinner on Thursday that it believes will channel large sums into environmental causes. "We've seen increased interest in the environment from our clients," said Mark Evan, head of philanthropy at Coutts. "They want to know everything about it from climate change and energy to pollution and waste to biodiversity and sustainable development."

Honda's Hybrid Will Take On Prius


OCTOBER 1, 2008
By JOHN MURPHY and KATE LINEBAUGH

Global auto makers are rushing to challenge the dominance of Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius hybrid with a slew of ecofriendly vehicles. But Honda Motor Co. is likely to pose the most formidable threat to Toyota when it unveils its new Insight hybrid car Thursday at the Paris Auto Show.
Honda

Honda is betting that the five-passenger hatchback, set to go on sale next spring, will steal away Prius buyers by delivering greenness for fewer greenbacks. Honda has yet to disclose many details about the car or its cost, and it calls the car to be shown in Paris a concept, but it says Insight "will be priced significantly lower than hybrids available today." Analysts expect the model will cost less than $20,000, undercutting the current $22,000 starting price of the Prius.
"It will be the first affordable hybrid for everyone," says Tatsuo Yoshida, an analyst for UBS Securities Research in Tokyo.
New hybrid models are also on the way from Nissan Motor Co., Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., among others. But Honda and Toyota have an advantage thanks to their substantial lead in developing hybrid technology, analysts say. Toyota, including its luxury brand Lexus, had a 79% share of the U.S. hybrid car and light-truck market in the January-August period this year, according to Autodata Corp. Honda was a distant second with 11% of the market, followed by Ford with 6%.
Other auto companies are also coming up with different fuel-efficient technologies, such as GM's Volt, a plug-in hybrid, and Nissan's planned pure electric vehicle. Chrysler recently announced plans to release an electric vehicle by the end of 2010. But these newer technologies are still untested, expensive and will be available only in small volumes at first, compared with the basic gas-electric hybrids like the Prius and the new Insight.

Toyota says it aims to sell about 160,000 Priuses in the U.S. this year, while Honda expects to sell about 100,000 Insights domestically in that model's first year.
Like the Prius, the Insight only will be available as a hybrid. That appeals to consumers who want to emphasize their ecofriendly credentials. By contrast, the hybrid versions of the Honda Civic, Ford Escape and Toyota Highlander look just like their gasoline-powered counterparts except for small badges saying "hybrid" on the side panels or rear.
Toyota and Honda designed different hybrid systems, each with different strengths. Toyota's "full" hybrid setup weds a battery-powered vehicle with a gasoline engine. At slower speeds, the Prius can run on battery power alone. At higher speeds it switches mainly to gas power. In stop-and-go traffic in the city, the battery power gives it better mileage than on the highway.
Honda's Insight will use a "mild" hybrid system. Its main power source will be a highly efficient, lightweight gasoline engine, but it will be assisted by battery power. Honda hasn't released the projected mileage of the Insight, but it is expected to be higher than the Honda Civic hybrid, which gets 45 miles per gallon on the highway and 40 mpg in the city, according to Environmental Protection Agency ratings. The Prius also gets 45 mpg on the highway, but has a substantial edge in city driving with an EPA rating of 48 mpg.
Bruce Smith, a retired retailer in Orange County, Calif., who is a longtime owner of BMWs, drives 135 miles four times a week to look after his grandson, and wanted a fuel-efficient car. After doing research on the Prius and Honda's Civic hybrid, which uses technology similar to what will be deployed in the Insight, he opted for the Toyota because it drives on battery power more than Honda's offering.
"In stop-and-go traffic on our LA freeways, you can be going for five, 10 minutes or more just cruising along and the [gasoline] engine never starts" in the Prius, says the 55-year-old Mr. Smith. He says he gets 52 mpg on the highway and 54 mpg if traffic is heavy.
Toyota hasn't been able to sate the market's demand for the Prius and that should help Honda sell its Insight, says Aaron Bragman, an auto analyst at market researcher Global Insight Inc. "I think they'll sell every one they make," Mr. Bragman says.
For its part, Toyota says it welcomes the competition. "Any contribution heightening public awareness of alternative powertrains is welcome," says Paul Nolasco, a spokesman for Toyota in Tokyo.
Honda was the first auto maker to introduce a hybrid to the U.S. with a two-seater, also called the Insight, in 1999. But it didn't catch on like the four-seat Prius, and Honda eventually stopped producing the model.
Honda plans to introduce hybrid versions of other models, including a sporty compact car, with a goal of selling 500,000 hybrids a year world-wide by early next decade. Toyota, meanwhile, aims to reach annual sales of one million hybrids globally by the same time.
Write to John Murphy at john.murphy@wsj.com and Kate Linebaugh at kate.linebaugh@wsj.com

Branson space ships to measure greenhouse gas levels

Ian Sample, science correspondent
guardian.co.uk,
Tuesday September 30 2008 17:10 BST

Richard Branson's space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, is to use its space planes to gather scientific data on climate change from the highest reaches of the atmosphere under a new collaboration with an American government laboratory.
Instruments and sensors will be added to the company's high altitude plane, White Knight Two, and the smaller rocket-propelled SpaceShipTwo, as part of a climate change research project planned by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Colorado.
The researchers will use Virgin Galactic test flights, and subsequent commercial launches, to collect air samples from high up in the atmosphere, which will be analysed for greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and other constituents.
Virgin Galactic chief, Will Whitehorn, said the first experimental flights of White Knight Two are planned for five weeks' time, though the new instrumentation will not be fitted until next February.
Researchers will use White Knight Two to take measurements of the atmosphere at up to 50,000 feet. Further instruments added to SpaceShipTwo will be able to collect samples from up to around 100km.
Until now, scientists have struggled to get regular measurements of the atmosphere at such high altitudes. Tests using balloons provide some data, but these can follow erratic flight paths.
Sir Richard announced the initiative during a video message to thousands of space industry delegates at the 59th International Astronautical Congress in Glasgow today.
"To my mind there is no greater or more immediate challenge than that posed by climate change. It's therefore more than fitting that the very first science to be conducted on board our new vehicles may be specifically directed at increasing our understanding and knowledge of the atmosphere and from there, to better inform our decisions as to the most effective ways of dealing with climate change," he said.
The US Federal Aviation Authority prohibits Virgin Galactic from making money from its planes while they are still undergoing experimental flight tests, so the first scientific measurements will be conducted for free, with the American lab paying for the instruments to be fitted.
According to Virgin Galactic, more than 100 passengers have paid the $200,000 fee for a suborbital flight with the company, the first of which are scheduled for 2010. Before then, the company will conduct around 200 test flights.
Brent Smith, a director with NOAA, told the congress: "We need data and observations to understand how our climate changes and this affords us a new and unique opportunity to gather samples and measurements at much higher altitudes than we could usually achieve."

Met Office warns of need for drastic cuts in greenhouse gases from 2010

• 3% a year may keep temperature rise to 2C • Study says inaction could have dire consequences
Juliette Jowit
The Guardian,
Wednesday October 1 2008

A burnt-out firefighters’ truck after forest fi res devastated southern Greece during a heatwave last August. Photograph: Louisa Goulimaki/AFP/Getty Images
The world will have to take drastic action within two years to reduce greenhouse gas pollution if it is to avoid the worst effects of climate change, a new study warns.
Weeks before world leaders meet to discuss the next big international treaty on cutting emissions, the scale of risk posed by failing to act rapidly is spelt out today by the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre.
The study shows that cutting global emissions by 3% a year from 2010 offers the only possible hope of avoiding a global temperature rise of more than 2C - widely recognised as the threshold beyond which the worst impacts of sea level rise and drought become a significant risk.
In the early years, at least, responsibility for such deep cuts in emissions would have to be borne by the UK and other rich countries, which are responsible for most of the historic build-up in emissions.
It raises the prospect of far-reaching changes, including a rapid spread in community renewable energy and wave and tide power, improvements in public transport, big shifts to cycling and walking and changes in diet. It would also lead to huge pressure for the UK to abandon plans for a third runway at Heathrow and new coal-fired power stations.
The warning from the Hadley Centre is likely to cause widespread concern, especially as the Met Office has a reputation for taking a cautious approach. It advises the UK government, the United Nations and other governments and businesses.
Writing in today's Guardian, Vicky Pope, the Met Office's leading adviser on climate change to the government, warns that failure by governments to agree to "large and early" cuts or to meet those targets in future "could have worrying and significant consequences for the world's climate".
Such a deal will be regarded as all but impossible by many experts as the 2010 deadline is soon after a big international meeting in Copenhagen in December next year, when the UN hopes a treaty will be signed.
Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: "Tactically we have to point out the opportunities and make it clear to them we have to act."
Others called for the Met Office's warning to spur the UK and other countries to more urgent action at the big UN meetings in Poznan, Poland, in December and in Copenhagen at the end of next year, when a replacement for the Kyoto protocol is due to be agreed.
So far, leaders of the G8 group of leading industrial nations have signalled support for a 50% cut in emissions, but have not pledged higher targets for their own countries.
"The new science should raise our ambition levels rather than [make us] back off," said Paul Cook, advocacy director of the development charity Tearfund. "It's a big shift but it's do-able."
The Hadley Centre analysed three possible agreements to cut global emissions, ranging from "early and rapid" to "late and slow" cuts, and compared them with what would happen if no action were taken. It found that if cuts begin in 2010 and quickly reach 3% a year then the most likely mid-range forecast temperature rise would be 2C above pre-industrial levels by 2100. This is based on cutting emissions by 50% globally by the middle of the century, as advocated by the UN and accepted by many national governments.
By comparison, an "early but slow" decline, beginning in 2010 but at a more modest level of 1% a year, would lead to likely temperature rises of 2.9C by the end of the century, and a "late and slow" decline beginning in 2030 would generate likely temperature increases of 4C by 2100.
At 2C, scientists have warned that at least one fifth of species are at risk of extinction and 1 to 2 billion people could suffer increased water stress; above 2C plants and soil significantly reduce the amount of carbon they absorb; and above 4C experts warn there is a danger of passing a "tipping point" at which methane release from permafrost and the collapse of big ice sheets accelerate the problems.
The Met Office's researchers also looked at what would happen if reductions began later but were then steeper: "It looked very like the 'early but slow' [scenario]," Pope told the Guardian. The reason delays cause greater impacts is that in the intervening years carbon would build up in the atmosphere, where it remains for a century.
Even more worrying than the "most likely" central projections are the "worst case outcomes", says Pope. Even for the optimistic "early and rapid" cuts there was a chance the temperature could rise by 2.8C - and any delay in making cuts ran the risk of the global thermometer coming close to or exceeding the crucial 4C figure.
Professor Bob Watson, chief scientific adviser for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said the results showed the urgency of an international agreement at the UN's conference in Copenhagen. "If we act now, maybe we have got a fighting chance," he said.

France urges EU to slow climate change car rules

The Associated Press
Published: September 30, 2008

BRUSSELS, Belgium: France is asking European Union governments to give car makers far more time to adapt to new limits on greenhouse gas emissions, according to a document seen by the AP on Tuesday.
France is suggesting car makers should not have to adhere to rules limiting average carbon dioxide emissions from all new cars until 2015 — three years later than EU regulators had first proposed.
That would ease the pressure on German auto manufacturers such as Volkswagen AG and BMW AG, which tend to make heavier cars that pollute more. A strict target would force them to change the kinds of cars they make — and they say that could make them lose market share and cut jobs.
Worried that carbon dioxide emissions from road transport are rising, the EU wants to set goals for each car maker to sell more low-carbon models — or face fines if they don't. This forms part of its strategy to slash Europe's CO2 emissions by a fifth by 2020 to limit climate change.
France currently leads talks between EU nations, and the French draft rules will form the basis of negotiations between EU environment ministers next month.

The draft rules are suggesting that only 60 percent of car sales would need to meet a target for average emissions of 130 grams of CO2 per kilometer in 2012, increasing gradually until 2015.
The current EU average is 158 grams of CO2 per kilometer so there is still a long way to go.
France would also set a longer-term goal for 2020 with a tighter target of between 95 to 110 grams, saying this was needed to give car makers "the appropriate planning security to bring forward the necessary investments in new technology."
France wants to give car makers extra credit if they use innovative ways to produce cleaner cars and or sell selling electric and other very low emission vehicles. It also wants more leeway for companies that sell few cars
And it creates a complex formula of financial penalties for companies that miss the target that start off low but rise sharply by 2015.
Environmental campaigners Greenpeace were unimpressed, saying the proposal meant "business as usual for car manufacturers, with European citizens continuing to bear the burden of high fuel consumption and foreign oil addiction for years to come."
EU governments and lawmakers at the European Parliament are currently debating the rules separately but both must compromise before a target can become law.
The Parliament also appears divided on how soon car maker should curb emissions but it will have to vote for its final decision next month.

Is the Chevy Volt just hype?

Next-generation plug-in hybrid vehicles can live up to their eco-friendly promises only with government support

Joseph Romm
guardian.co.uk,
Monday September 29 2008 15:00 BST

Almost every major auto manufacturer has now announced plans to offer a plug-in hybrid vehicle that can run on electricity for 20-40 miles before switching to gasoline. Since half of American cars travel under 25 miles a day, plug-ins allow people to do most of their driving on electricity, but still have a car for long-distance trips that can be easily and quickly refuelled with gasoline.
The most highly anticipated of all the plug-ins is the Chevy Volt, whose new design was recently rolled out by GM. It will be offered to the public by the end of 2010, and, soon after that, GM expects to be selling 60,000 a year.
One key advantage of electricity as an alternative fuel is that it is much, much cheaper per mile than gasoline at current prices. GM says it will cost $0.02 per mile to drive the Volt less than 40 miles per day, versus $0.12 per mile for gasoline at a price of $3.60. If gas prices continue to rise over the next decade, as many think, the fuel savings from plug-ins will only grow.
Another advantage is that electricity can come from pollution-free sources that do not contribute to global warming. There simply is no other alternative fuel that offers a more affordable and practical path to sharply reducing the transportation sector's greenhouse gas emissions.
That said, the lithium-ion batteries required for plug-ins have never been used for this application before. As one battery expert told me: "There are only pilot production of various Li-Ion batteries" around the world. An alternative fuel vehicle expert told me that GM has "already sunk at least $1bn into the Volt and cannot reasonably expect a profit from a $45,000 new car in an economy which is imploding. The actual cost of the vehicle may be higher."
So to succeed, plug-ins like the Volt will require several years of sustained government support. But that should not be a surprise. No country in the world has achieved significant market penetration of an alternative-fuel vehicle without major government incentives and mandates.
Yet while Barack Obama strongly believes in such incentives and mandates, John McCain has a quarter-century record in Congress strongly opposing them. Indeed, he has voted with oil-patch senator James Inhofe and against clean energy and alternative fuels a remarkable 42 out of 44 times since the mid-1990s, not even counting the last eight consecutive votes on renewable energy incentives that he didn't bother to show up for.
His campaign's big new idea for pushing plug-ins? He proposed a $300m government prize to whoever develops a car battery that far surpasses current batteries. But every energy and car company on the planet already knows they'll get rich by improving batteries. Indeed, the world is probably spending $1bn a year in this quest. This $300m prize is a pointless gimmick.
Obama has committed to putting one million plug-ins on the road by 2015. He has proposed a $7,000 tax credit for the purchase of such vehicles. Finally, to help jump-start a plug-in market, Obama has committed that "half of all cars purchased by the federal government will be plug-in hybrids or all-electric by 2012."
If this country doesn't strongly embrace plug-ins, Europe may well become the leader. After all, gas prices are considerably higher in Europe, which means plug-ins will provide consumers there far larger fuel cost savings. Also, Europeans drive about half as much as Americans, so they may be able to avoid gas consumption almost entirely with a well-designed plug-in, perhaps one with a smaller all-electric range.
Indeed, GM has made a mistake by giving the Volt a 40-mile all-electric range. The batteries are by far the most expensive thing in plug-ins. Also, the batteries add weight and take up considerable trunk space. So a smart designer will put in the fewest batteries needed to capture the most consumer benefit.
The vast majority of people commute much less than 40 miles a day. This is true in US and even more so in other countries. In addition, as plug-ins become popular, we will very quickly see electric outlets in parking garages, malls and the like, so people will be able to charge at home and then again at work or when shopping.
So I think a plug-in that goes closer to 20 miles all-electric before reverting to a gasoline hybrid makes much more sense, especially for initial market introduction where the cost of the vehicle still reflects the use of expensive batteries that have not come down in cost. Ultimately, economies of scale and improvements in manufacturing and technology will make the batteries and the whole electric drivetrain more affordable.
The twin problems of global warming and limited oil resources make plug-ins inevitable. The only question is which companies and which countries become the leaders. That will be determined in part by the marketplace and in part by the US election.

UK's renewable energy efforts 'ineffective'

• Britain ranked 31st of 35 in terms of cheap power • Greenpeace calls for end to nuclear 'obsession'
Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Tuesday September 30 2008

The government's renewable power strategy is "ineffective and very expensive", according to a damning review by the International Energy Agency.
A study of 35 countries, including all the major industrial nations such as the US, Germany and China, puts the UK near the bottom of the class on green energy.
While ministers like to boast that the Britain leads the field, Paolo Frankl, author of the IEA report and head of renewables, believes its overall record is poor.
"We estimate that, in 2005 terms, it [British green power] costs around 13.5 US cents per kilowatt hour over 20 years and registers 3% on our effectiveness indicator. This compares with costs below 10 cents and effectiveness of almost 12% in Germany," said Frankl, author of Deploying Renewables: Principles for Effective Policies.
Frankl said the UK had not improved in relative terms since then. "Things may have changed but I would not say drastically, especially compared with countries which have changed and become very efficient such as Spain and Portugal."
In overall terms, the renewable power sector in the UK was "ineffective and very expensive". That could be attributed to administrative problems such as getting connections to the National Grid and winning over communities to support windfarms and other schemes.
Britain ranked 31st in the cost league of 35 countries, prompting criticism from environmental group Greenpeace.
"Our renewables industry has been left to wither on the vine while our European neighbours have raced ahead, creating new jobs as well as fighting climate change and securing their energy supplies," said Jim Footner, senior climate campaigner at Greenpeace. "The Department for Business must urgently ditch its obsession with coal and nuclear, and focus properly on the true technologies of the 21st century."
The Department for Business said it had not seen the report but could take comfort at not being the only one singled out for criticism. Too few countries had implemented effective support policies for green energy to be in a position to meet G8 goals of providing 50% of global energy supplies and helping halve carbon output by 2050, said Nobuo Tanaka, executive director of the IEA.
"Governments need to take urgent action ... Setting a carbon price is not enough. To foster a smooth and efficient transition of renewables towards mass market integration, renewable energy policies should be designed around a set of fundamental policies, inserted into predictable, transparent and stable policy frameworks and implemented in an integrated approach."
Frankl's report argues that there are "significant barriers" to swift expansion and which increase the costs of accelerating renewables into the mainstream.

Mobile phones to track carbon footprint


Alok Jha, green technology correspondent
guardian.co.uk,
Monday September 29 2008 10:23 BST

Carbon Diem's mobile phone carbon calculator
Keeping track of your carbon footprint could become as simple as slipping a mobile phone in your pocket: a London-based start-up company has developed software for mobile phones that uses global positioning satellites to work out automatically whether you are walking, driving or flying and then calculate your impact on the environment.
Carbon Diem's inventors claim that, by using GPS to measure the speed and pattern of movement, their algorithm can identify the mode of transport being used. It can therefore calculate the amount of carbon dioxide that a journey has emitted into the atmosphere – without any need for input from the traveller.
The system's inventor, Andreas Zachariah, a graduate student of the Royal College of Art in London and chief executive of the Carbon Hero company, said that Carbon Diem is the world's first automated carbon calculator.
Because it keeps a constantly updated diary of a person's carbon emissions, Zachariah said that a user can easily track their environmental impact and, if they choose, modify their behaviour to lower-carbon alternatives.
"We're facilitating people to make little changes and allow those changes to be noted and registered and possibly shared," he said. "If lots of people realise we're in this marathon [in tackling climate change] and we're not running alone, then we actually think people will be motivated to stick to changes."
He has tested the software in Nokia and Blackberry phones, using computer algorithms to predict the kind of transport a person is taking. He claims that in tests over the past year, the software was almost 100% accurate in working out when people were on airplanes or trains; it was between 65-75% accurate at guessing when people travelled on buses.
Zachariah said he had the idea for Carbon Diem when he tried to work out his own carbon footprint using the many online calculators available. These usually involve manually entering the details of type of transport and the length of a journey.
"The whole process is so painful," Zachariah said. "That's when I realised it had to be effortless."
Zachariah believes companies could also benefit from the software, as firms committing to reducing their environmental impact may need to collect travel data on their employees. He accepts there could be concerns over privacy but says the software can be used to record only the carbon impact, not the actual routes.
Friends of the Earth's climate campaigner, Robin Webster, said: "Individuals have an important role to play in tackling climate change - and technologies like the Carbon Diem could help people cut their carbon footprint."
The European Space Agency (Esa) gave the Carbon Diem software a regional award last year in its European satellite navigation competition. It will launch commercially in spring next year.