Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Boost for material that turns waste heat into electricity

Thermoelectric device could be attached to car exhaust to recycle wasted heat to power engine
Alok Jha Green technology correspondent
Monday October 13 2008 16.26 BST

A material that promises to turn heat into electricity more efficiently than anything possible today has been developed by scientists. The discovery could be used to turn the waste heat from a variety of sources, such as a car's exhaust pipe or a power station, into useful power.
The technology, known as thermoelectrics, is already used today but is restricted to niche refrigeration and cooling devices. This is because of the cost of the materials and their relatively low efficiency, usually converting only 5% of the heat input into electricity.
In the new research, scientists found that adding antimony and lead to a well-known semiconductor, lead telluride, produced a highly efficient thermoelectric material that worked even at relatively high temperatures.
Mercouri Kanatzidis, a professor of chemistry at Northwestern University in Illinois who led the research, said that his new material could be used to produce a new generation of devices that were up to 14% efficient. He said a longer-term efficiency goal for his work was around 20%.
"We cannot explain [the effect] 100%, but it gives us a new mechanism, and probably new science, to focus on as we try to raise the efficiency of thermoelectrics," Kanatzidis said of his research, which is published in the latest online edition of the international chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie.
Thermoelectric materials convert heat into electricity by exploiting the difference in temperature across the different sides of a device. Electrons move from the hotter side of the material to the colder side, creating a voltage.
The potential applications are wide. A device made from thermoelectric material could, for example, be attached to a car's exaust pipe, said Kanatzidis. The side in contact with the hot exhaust would push electrons to the colder side of the thermoelectric device, which would be exposed to the air. The electricity generated could be sent back to the engine to help drive the car or charge a battery.
Since the majority of the energy in vehicle fuel is wasted as heat after being burned in an internal combustion engine, even clawing some of this back into useful power would be useful. The researchers say it could be possible to raise the reduce fuel consumption by up to 10% using an appropriate thermoelectric device. Other researchers are using steam to harness waste heat from engines.
Elizabeth Milsom, environment and energy policy manager at the Royal Society of Chemistry, pointed out its potential uses in large-scale applications. "You've got combined heat and power stations and that's good if the community lives close by, but you could have a nuclear power station that is far away from communities — if you could turn that waste heat into more electricity, that will be a good thing."
She added that because research into thermoelectrics was a relatively new area, there would still be many applications yet to be discovered. "The question is whether the materials will be available for that to happen on a commercially viable scale."

Wind farms must be nearer coast to meet targets, says report

• Carbon Trust urges series of measures to help sector• Investment also needed to create cheaper technology
Terry Macalister
The Guardian,
Tuesday October 14 2008

The government must allow companies to build offshore wind farms much closer to shore, as part of a series of measures to revitalise a sector that has almost stalled due to insufficient support, competitive pressures and rising costs, an authoritative report warns today.
"Without urgent action there is a risk that little additional offshore wind power will be built by 2020 beyond the eight gigawatts already planned or in operation," says the report from the Carbon Trust, an organisation established by the government to help build a greener future.
It estimates that operators could save up to £16bn if they were allowed to site turbines in shallower waters, and argues that it would be possible to take a further £14bn off the estimated £75bn investment needed if more funding were given to research and development.
The trust argues that the government's incentives mechanism, the Renewables Obligation, needs to be made more attractive, and hopes that establishing a Department of Energy and Climate Change will herald a new beginning for wind power.
Without such measures, Britain will fail to meet the climate change targets it has pledged to the European Union at a time when companies such as Shell are pulling out of offshore schemes in pursuit of cheaper onshore wind opportunities in the US, it says.
Tom Delay, the trust's chief executive, said: "We need something similar to the [1990s'] 'Dash for Gas' if offshore wind is to play the role expected of it. Industry costs have become very, very expensive, and both government and companies need to work hard to tackle this."
He stressed that wind farms nearer to shore need not be in sight of beaches, just closer than areas such as the Dogger Bank, which is 60 nautical miles away. Inshore areas have calmer weather and permit smaller, lighter structures, making them cheaper to build and operate.
The government said last night that the trust report highlighted interesting savings but was cautious about the demands for shallower waters to be opened up. Mike O'Brien, energy and climate change minister, said: "The issues of fairness and cost-effectiveness, along with impacts on the environment and on other users of the sea, will be considered carefully in the lead-up to our renewable-energy strategy to be published next spring."
In its report, the trust argues that the UK will need at least 29GW of offshore wind power by 2020 to hit the EU's renewable goals but only less than a third is in the pipeline, partly because steel and other construction materials have tripled in price since 2005.
"Currently the risk/return balance for offshore wind is not sufficiently attractive, and regulatory barriers would delay delivery well beyond 2020," says the report, put together with input from industry and government.
Delay said the 29GW target by 2020 was a "significant challenge" but realisable. Technology costs needed to fall but £600m of public money plus £1.2bn of private funding could bring breakthroughs that could cut the overall bill by £14bn.
The government introduced policies this summer that will kickstart the wider renewable sector, the trust accepts, but it says the incentive scheme needed to be expanded and extended: "The required adjustments to the Renewable Obligation will in any case bring it closer to a feed-in tariff [an above-market return for feeding green electricity to the grid]. The government should choose the option that minimises disruption for industry."
The trust also believes the government must reform regulations to make planning easier, and update National Grid transmission lines. These measures could create 70,000 jobs in Britain and £8bn of annual revenues here and abroad, it says.
Nick Rau, renewables campaigner at Friends of the Earth, expressed caution at siting turbines too near the shoreline, and said each project needed to be assessed on its merits. "But we accept there are huge costs involved in offshore wind, and they are escalating. We need some kind of government intervention if we are to overcome these hurdles; all the evidence is that a feed-in tariff would help."
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said: "We need to promote a massive redirection of investment away from the speculation that caused the bursting financial and housing bubbles and into green industries and job-creating programmes that will help us tackle climate change. Offshore wind could be a huge business opportunity for Britain."

Automotive: Any colour as long as it is green

By Jonathan Soble
Published: October 13 2008 10:44

If you live in Japan and want to show your love for Mother Earth – or your contempt for the global oil industry – then, beginning next summer, you will be able to do so in an unprecedented way: by walking into the showroom of a leading automaker and buying a clean, cheap-running electric car.
Mitsubishi Motors, the company that has created the vehicle – the i Miev, a small, snub-nosed hatchback that is powered by lithium-ion batteries – says it is confident enough in the range, power and safety of its prototype to bring it to market a year ahead of rival electric cars from General Motors and Renault-Nissan.
The i Miev can zip along at 130km/h and travel 160km on a single charge – far short of a petrol car’s range but much farther than most people drive in a day, especially in cities. It can be recharged overnight from a regular household socket or in just a few minutes using a “quick charge” kit developed by Japanese power companies, which have partnered with Mitsubishi in research and development.
In an age of high fuel prices and fears about global warming, the i Miev is attractive. This summer, Mitsubishi drove a test model 800km from Tokyo to Hokkaido, site of the Group of Eight summit, on just ¥1,700 ($17) worth of electricity. The same journey in a petrol car would have cost nearly 10 times as much.
The i Miev is not for everyone. Few will be available at first, and early adopters will have to pay for the privilege: the 2,000 or so units that Mitsubishi plans to make the first year (and sell only in Japan) will cost four times as much as the ¥1.3m petrol-powered version of the car. Even after government green-vehicle rebates, buyers will still have to shell out about ¥2.5m, Mitsubishi estimates – more than enough to wipe out gains from lower running costs.
Still, while initial sales volume will inevitably be small, early positioning can be vital, as challengers to Toyota’s pioneering Prius petrol-electric hybrid have discovered to their loss. Introduced in Japan more than a decade ago, the Prius remains by far the top-selling hybrid worldwide.
Whether Mitsubishi can replicate that feat with all-electric vehicles remains to be seen. It has less manufacturing and distribution muscle than GM or Renault-Nissan, let alone mighty Toyota, which is strengthening the electric side of its hybrid’s powerplant (it plans to offer the first “plug-in” model on a limited basis next year) and is quietly tinkering with a battery-only city car of its own.
What is certain is that even as carmakers from the US to Europe to China are furiously drawing up plans for next-generation electric cars, Japanese producers remain the players to beat. “They are the ones that people are watching,” says Hirofumi Yokoi, analyst at CRM Worldwide, a motor industry market research firm.
Kurt Sanger, motor analyst at Deutsche Bank, notes that only the top Japanese producers have succeeded in marrying big green-technology advances to volume production. Referring to heavy publicity surrounding GM’s Chevy Volt, a “petrol-assisted” electric car promised for 2010, he says: “You’re not going to see many Chevy Volts in people’s neighbourhoods until 2013 or 2014. What is Toyota going to have by then? Their biggest threat is on the public relations front, not in the parking lot.”
Of course, Japan’s car industry is not monolithic, and differences exist among carmakers over everything from battery technology to the fundamental limits of powering cars with electricity.
Among the sceptics is Honda’s chief executive, Takeo Fukui, who touts hydrogen fuel cells as the best successor to the internal combustion engine and has dismissed batteries as an insufficiently brawny “golf cart” technology. His company is expanding its range of hybrids (it is currently the biggest producer after Toyota) but Mr Fukui says that he has no plans to build a battery-only vehicle.
As a matter of national policy, however, Japan – which has no oil, but a big nuclear industry – is an unambiguous backer of electric cars. It wants half of all new cars sold by 2020 to be powered by non-petrol sources and pledged at this year’s summit of the Group of Eight leading nations to cut overall carbon dioxide emissions by 60-80 per cent by 2050.
Last month, the government began accepting applications from cities and towns wishing to become “model districts” for next-generation vehicle infrastructure, a programme that will involve installing recharging outlets in carparks, supermarkets and restaurant chains. Kanagawa prefecture, the region adjoining Tokyo, has already committed to providing 150 quick-charge stations as part of an effort to put at least 3,000 electric vehicles on its roads within five years.
The government also plans to encourage private enterprise to offer discount rates to electric vehicle drivers on everything from parking to insurance and loans. It is pushing Japan Post, the recently privatised postal service, to convert its fleet of 21,000 delivery vehicles to electric cars.
Big utilities are also behind the project. Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the group that supplies Japan’s capital region, is one of the backers of Mitsubishi’s i Miev and the developer of the “quick charge” technology, which it says can provide enough power in a five-minute stop to drive a small electric car 40km.
“We got involved in electric cars to try to sell electricity at night,” the company says, noting that most drivers would recharge their cars at home during the utility’s off-peak hours. “But it has become a way to contribute to society.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Scientists Try to Domesticate Mother Nature, 'Super Bugs' for Fuel


EMERYVILLE, Calif. -- Nature is stubborn. It doesn't like to be tampered with. Train it to give up an ancient habit, and soon it reverts to its old ways.
For instance, how do you make prairie grass more amenable to being turned into sugar? How do you mutate E. coli microbes so that they gleefully turn that sugar into fuel? How, in short, do you liquefy shredded plants into jet fuel to power a flight to Paris?
Dozens of private firms and government-funded labs are now trying to answer those questions. This year's oil-price shock and fears over global warming have reinvigorated the quest for the ultimate liquid fuel -- one that is clean, cheap, easy to make and doesn't compete with food stocks. Nature took millions of years to turn dead microorganisms into oil and gas. Scientists now want to trick nature into reducing that to a day or so.
Jay Keasling, a noted microbiologist who directs the new government-funded Joint BioEnergy Institute here, describes the challenge succinctly: "We need to find a way to domesticate nature so we can create energy from waste."
Success will require scientific breakthroughs at every step, from designing the perfect feedstocks to hitting on the ideal microbe for turning that roughage into fuel.
The federal government wants biofuel production to replace a quarter of all gasoline consumed in the U.S. by 2025. The nation's corn-based ethanol factories are now churning out around 6.5 billion gallons a year -- just over 2% of the country's gasoline intake.

But ethanol's drawbacks are well known -- not least of which that it takes huge amounts of energy to produce.
Mr. Keasling's lab is shooting for something far superior: a newfangled hydrocarbon made from biomass. The advantages of a pure biofuel are numerous. The government estimates that the U.S. could harvest 1.3 billion tons of biomass feedstocks a year, ranging from special grasses to wood chips. Unlike ethanol, the fuel would also be a direct alternative to gasoline and sold through the same pumps.
Making it happen, though, requires some serious doctoring. Cellulosic plants are notoriously tough to break down. You can do it with commercial enzymes, but at huge expense. Even then, fermenting the leftover sugars the traditional way gets you ethanol -- but not the synthetic gasoline that's preferred.
So how to fiddle with nature to make the production of these fuels easier, and thus affordable? Such was the challenge that the Energy Department put before the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which runs Mr. Keasling's glimmering new institute. The DOE last year gave the Berkeley lab $125 million over five years as part of a larger nationwide quest to crack the biofuel code.
The first chore is to redesign the existing feedstocks -- grasses, trees, agricultural leftovers -- to make them hardy enough to grow quickly but also weak enough to break down without too much effort.
Blake Simmons, the institute's director of deconstruction, laughed as he cursed the "impudent pride" of plants that have evolved over eons to withstand harsh conditions. "What they aren't designed to do is break apart nicely into sugars," he said.
So work is under way across the country to engineer mutant strains of plants that would most readily convert into fuel.

The next big hurdle is to turn those plants into sugar. Mr. Simmons picked up a jar of murky liquid in a lab neatly arrayed with other jars of milled switchgrass in various stages of decomposition. "Voilà, liquid switchgrass," he said. The material was broken down in just hours using ionic water -- a decent discovery in its own right, and preferable to costly enzymes, but hardly the ultimate solution.
Next up stands the real Holy Grail: the quest for the ideal "super bug" that can convert sugars into fuels. Mr. Keasling's team is experimenting with mutant variations of yeast and E. coli. A team led by Craig Venter, known for decoding the human genome, hopes to create a synthetic microbe from scratch. Others are searching for the ultimate microbe inside cow dung and termites, which have tiny bugs in their bellies to break down their woody meals.
Even the ideal microbe, though, will need some tweaking to overcome its natural inclination to favor spawning over work. That's no mean feat.
Mr. Keasling and his team share a lofty goal: to find a process, and just the right bugs, that can convert almost any plant into fuel. "Our dream," says Mr. Simmons, "is the omnivorous refinery."
Write to Neil King Jr. at neil.king@wsj.com
Corrections & Amplifications:
The federal government estimates that the U.S. can produce up to 1.3 billion tons of biomass a year for conversion into biofuels. This article incorrectly said that the U.S. could produce 1.3 millions tons of biomass.

This stock collapse is petty when compared to the nature crunch

The financial crisis at least affords us an opportunity to now rethink our catastrophic ecological trajectory

George Monbiot
The Guardian,
Tuesday October 14 2008

This is nothing. Well, nothing by comparison to what's coming. The financial crisis for which we must now pay so heavily prefigures the real collapse, when humanity bumps against its ecological limits.
As we goggle at the fluttering financial figures, a different set of numbers passes us by. On Friday, Pavan Sukhdev, the Deutsche Bank economist leading a European study on ecosystems, reported that we are losing natural capital worth between $2 trillion and $5 trillion every year as a result of deforestation alone. The losses incurred so far by the financial sector amount to between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion. Sukhdev arrived at his figure by estimating the value of the services - such as locking up carbon and providing fresh water - that forests perform, and calculating the cost of either replacing them or living without them. The credit crunch is petty when compared to the nature crunch.
The two crises have the same cause. In both cases, those who exploit the resource have demanded impossible rates of return and invoked debts that can never be repaid. In both cases we denied the likely consequences. I used to believe that collective denial was peculiar to climate change. Now I know that it's the first response to every impending dislocation.
Gordon Brown, for instance, was as much in denial about financial realities as any toxic debt trader. In June last year, during his Mansion House speech, he boasted that 40% of the world's foreign equities are now traded here. The financial sector's success had come about, he said, partly because the government had taken "a risk-based regulatory approach". In the same hall three years before, he pledged that "in budget after budget I want us to do even more to encourage the risk takers". Can anyone, surveying this mess, now doubt the value of the precautionary principle?
Ecology and economy are both derived from the Greek word oikos - a house or dwelling. Our survival depends on the rational management of this home: the space in which life can be sustained. The rules are the same in both cases. If you extract resources at a rate beyond the level of replenishment, your stock will collapse. That's another noun which reminds us of the connection. The Oxford English Dictionary gives 69 definitions of "stock". When it means a fund or store, the word evokes the trunk - or stock - of a tree, "from which the gains are an outgrowth". Collapse occurs when you prune the tree so heavily that it dies. Ecology is the stock from which all wealth grows.
The two crises feed each other. As a result of Iceland's financial collapse, it is now contemplating joining the European Union, which means surrendering its fishing grounds to the common fisheries policy. Already the prime minister, Geir Haarde, has suggested that his countrymen concentrate on exploiting the ocean. The economic disaster will cause an ecological disaster.
Normally it's the other way around. In his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond shows how ecological crisis is often the prelude to social catatrosphe. The obvious example is Easter Island, where society disintegrated soon after the population reached its highest historical numbers, the last trees were cut down and the construction of stone monuments peaked. The island chiefs had competed to erect ever bigger statues. These required wood and rope (made from bark) for transport, and extra food for the labourers. As the trees and soils on which the islanders depended disappeared, the population crashed and the survivors turned to cannibalism. Diamond wonders what the Easter islander who cut down the last palm tree might have thought. "Like modern loggers, did he shout 'Jobs, not trees!'? Or: 'Technology will solve our problems, never fear, we'll find a substitute for wood.'? Or: 'We don't have proof that there aren't palms somewhere else on Easter ... your proposed ban on logging is premature and driven by fear-mongering'?".
Ecological collapse, Diamond shows, is as likely to be the result of economic success as of economic failure. The Maya of Central America, for instance, were among the most advanced and successful people of their time. But a combination of population growth, extravagant construction projects and poor land management wiped out between 90% and 99% of the population. The Mayan collapse was accelerated by "the competition among kings and nobles that led to a chronic emphasis on war and erecting monuments rather than on solving underlying problems". (Does any of this sound familiar?) Again, the largest monuments were erected just before the ecosystem crashed. Again, this extravagance was partly responsible for the collapse: trees were used for making plaster with which to decorate their temples. The plaster became thicker and thicker as the kings sought to outdo each other's conspicuous consumption.
Here are some of the reasons why people fail to prevent ecological collapse. Their resources appear at first to be inexhaustible; a long-term trend of depletion is concealed by short-term fluctuations; small numbers of powerful people advance their interests by damaging those of everyone else; short-term profits trump long-term survival. The same, in all cases, can be said of the collapse of financial systems. Is this how human beings are destined to behave? If we cannot act until stocks - of either kind - start sliding towards oblivion, we're knackered.
But one of the benefits of modernity is our ability to spot trends and predict results. If fish in a depleted ecosystem grow by 5% a year and the catch expands by 10% a year, the fishery will collapse. If the global economy keeps growing at 3% a year (or 1,700% a century), it too will hit the wall.
Iam not going to suggest, as some scoundrel who shares a name with me did on these pages last year, that we should welcome a recession. But the financial crisis provides us with an opportunity to rethink this trajectory; an opportunity that is not available during periods of economic success. Governments restructuring their economies should read Herman Daly's book Steady-State Economics.
As usual I haven't left enough space to discuss this, so the details will have to wait for another column. Or you can read the summary published by the Sustainable Development Commission (all references are on my website). But what Daly suggests is that nations which are already rich should replace growth - "more of the same stuff" - with development - "the same amount of better stuff". A steady-state economy has a constant stock of capital that is maintained by a rate of throughput no higher than the ecosystem can absorb. The use of resources is capped and the right to exploit them is auctioned. Poverty is addressed through the redistribution of wealth. The banks can lend only as much money as they possess.
Alternatively, we can persist in the magical thinking whose results have just come crashing home. The financial crisis shows what happens when we try to make the facts fit our desires. Now we must learn to live in the real world.

Government urged to help homes go green

Ashley Seager
The Guardian,
Monday October 13 2008

The government must urgently begin improvements to make Britain's 25m homes more energy efficient if it is to reduce the UK's carbon footprint by 80% by 2050, a report says today.
The report, by the Green Building Council (GBC), says some homes are so environmentally harmful that they may have to be demolished. It also wants the government to introduce a system of "green mortgages" to pay for improvements such as new windows and boilers.
All new homes must be zero-carbon from 2016, but campaigners say that older houses must be a priority, as they account for around a quarter of the total carbon emissions.
One of the report's key ideas is a "pay as you save" system, where the homeowner or landlord borrows the costs of improvements such as new windows and insulation from a bank or local authority, and then pays the money back over a number of years, with the costs more than covered by lower energy bills.
"Government intervention is needed to create a market for low-carbon homes and industry is crying out for that certainty," said Paul King, head of the GBC. "This needs a fundamentally new way of financing energy efficiency in the years to come that virtually eliminates up-front costs to the consumer.
"We've been throwing our money out of the window. Spiralling fuel costs and concern about climate change now call for a revolution in attitude and approach."
The report says that the improvements are "absolutely doable," and could unlock tens of thousands of "green-collar" refurbishment jobs in a market worth £5bn.

Companies with poor records on environmental damage try for change

By James Kanter
Published: October 13, 2008

BARCELONA: Few people call it eco-friendly when a company like Royal Dutch Shell, to pump natural gas and make petroleum products, disturbs coral reefs and damages the habitats of rare desert truffles and vulnerable birds. But the energy giant may have found a way to turn local environmental losses into a plus for biodiversity - and its business.
To make up for lost habitats in Qatar, where it is building a vast natural gas operation, Shell plans projects in other parts of the emirate to increase the antelope population and help to preserve endangered turtles and sea-cows.
"Sometimes you say there are no good solutions, but then you can agree on compensating measures elsewhere," said Jeroen van der Veer, the chief executive of Shell. "We are an extractive industry and we do build large installations," but Shell "can only get those new projects if we are in harmony with society, and certainly with local society."
Companies like Shell are facing new threats to their business. Communities that oppose big mining and drilling projects have caused costly delays, while governments have used the environmental records of companies against them - as happened to Shell in Russia in 2006, when it ceded control of the Sakhalin Island oil and natural gas project to Gazprom under threat of huge fines by the country's environmental regulators.
At the same time, after decades of failing to win adequate support for their policies, large sections of the conservation and environmental movement are aligning their strategies with those of financiers and big business to improve the chances of meeting their goals.

That has opened up opportunities for companies to demonstrate a good track record on biodiversity management and to burnish their green credentials by participating in market-style systems they have helped to design and that have the approval of campaign groups.
The best known of these new markets involves generating and trading permits to emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Under binding regulations in the European Union, companies like Shell buy or sell permits based on whether they overshoot or come in beneath their pollution targets.
So far, the EU initiative has had little impact on emissions, and it has been heavily criticized for enabling financiers to profit from carbon-cutting projects in the developing world, while providing industries with windfall profits even as they continue to pollute in Europe.
The kind of experiment that Shell is pursuing in Qatar could be even more controversial. Such projects could, one day, allow companies that damage habitats and ecosystems to earn "credits" by protecting habitats and ecosystems elsewhere. Backers of this approach say it should become standard business practice, with the credits traded on markets like carbon-emission permits.
But while carbon dioxide is the same gas everywhere, ecosystems differ. No two areas of biodiversity are identical, which makes valuing compensation for environmental damage extremely difficult.
Critics also say that such compensation projects could become a way for extractive industries to spend less on improving their site operations, giving them what some campaigners call "a license to trash" in exchange for a poorly monitored, hard-to-measure commitment.
"Offsets are actually a zero-sum game," said Richard Steiner, professor of environmental policy and marine conservation at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Eventually, there will be nothing left with which to offset anything - what then?"
Van der Veer said Shell aimed for maximum damage mitigation at its operating sites, and would use offsets only to make up for residual damage. At the same time, Shell officials say that if their offsetting activities produce a net environmental gain, the company could sell surplus biodiversity "credits" to other companies.
In a similar vein, Tom Albanese, chief executive of Rio Tinto, the mining company, said his company could generate new revenue streams by improving local community livelihoods and helping to dissuade people from further degrading forest and other natural habitats, and by improving plant and animal life on large areas of disused land owned by company.
That land represented "a biodiversity buffer that also could be used to create the next generation of green credits," Albanese said.
Already, companies like Shell and Rio Tinto build schools and clinics and provide water for communities near their operations, and pay compensation for local damage to protected areas.
But some companies are now moving toward a system of comprehensive offsets for all their environmental effects - a revolution in business behavior, said Kerry ten Kate, director of the Business and Biodiversity Offset Program at Forest Trends, a nonprofit group that promotes market-based methods of sustainable forest management.
Forest Trends jointly runs the program - involving more than 40 companies, banks and government agencies - with Conservation International and the Wildlife Conservation Society to help design and implement biodiversity offsets.

Ten Kate acknowledged the scope for abuse of voluntary projects. But she warned that governments would be more likely to regulate and legislate to halt biodiversity loss if companies failed to make a voluntary system work effectively.
Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said she favored imposing global rules that would require companies to compensate for environmental damage - but she also said she had strong reservations about offset projects.
"We're all thinking, do we have even the ethical right to say, 'OK, we kill the lizards here, and we'll get some other ones over there?"' Marton-Lefèvre said. "We don't want symbolic offsets. We really want the real thing."
In the United States, a similar idea emerged from the 1972 Clean Water Act, which established strict guidelines for projects developed in wetland areas. Those rules eventually gave way to a system that allowed limited wetland development as long as developers purchased offset credits in wetland restoration projects elsewhere.
But that led to investors sometimes creating new wetlands rather than restoring natural habitats. These new wetlands often have failed to attract displaced wildlife species or to contribute effectively to water flow management.
"We've had frankly a very mixed experience," said Robert Wolcott, a senior advisor to the Ecological Research Program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Something on the order of 30 percent of all our wetland offsets have failed."
At the same time, however, Wolcott said it was critical that businesses and governments seek improved market-based systems of environmental management. "Private, market-driven vehicles are the only means we have to backstop the depleting public budgets for natural resource protection," he said.
For some environmental experts, Shell's experiment in Qatar is part of that search. There, on a 300-hectare, or 740 acre, site near the northeast tip of the country, 35,000 workers are building the world's largest onshore facility, known as the Pearl project, to convert natural gas into fuel and lubricants. The natural gas, from offshore platforms, will be transported to the plant through two undersea pipelines.
Sachin Kapila, the biodiversity adviser at Shell, said the company was exploring whether other companies investing in the emirate might adopt similar biodiversity compensation practices. He also said Shell was discussing ways to ensure that biodiversity gains would be maintained after the Pearl project ended, some 25 to 30 years from now.
Assisted by ten Kate of Forest Trends, and by experts from the IUCN, the body run by Marton-Lefèvre, Shell this year finished assessments of the environmental consequences of the onshore site in Qatar. Now Kapila is selecting a site, or sites, to protect similar ecosystems.
Among places on his short list are Al-Reem, on Qatar's western coast - already part of a network of reserves recognized by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization - where the soils are similar to those around the plant, and where, according to Unesco, breeders are re-introducing endangered native species like the Arabian Oryx. Other options to offset damage to habitats include upgrading the protection at a nesting site for hawksbill turtles, which are listed as a critically endangered species, and which Shell officials say may be temporarily affected by the construction work. Coral has been transplanted from the affected area, and there are options to offset marine damage, including safeguarding other reefs.
"Do we entirely recreate what we've lost, or do we do something a bit different that could be beneficial in different ways for conservation or for the entire region?" Kapila asked. "There are many ways of thinking about how to win the best return for the conservation buck."

Global fund 'could pay owners to keep rainforests safe'

• Relatively cheap way to cut CO2 says report to PM • Plan could reduce poverty in developing countries

John Vidal and Juliette Jowit
The Guardian,
Tuesday October 14 2008

A revolutionary multibillion-pound fund should be set up to pay the owners of the world's rainforests not to cut them down, a report to the prime minister will say today. The report by special adviser John Eliasch says the scheme would be a comparatively cheap way to reduce climate change emissions and would also inject vital funds into developing countries to help alleviate poverty.
The report says that a global carbon market could pay the tropical rainforests' owners, or people living in, them to save and maintain the trees, which store carbon dioxide - the main contributor to climate change. In addition, saving the rainforests would help to control global rainfall patterns. They are also home to more than half the world's species.
The World Bank has estimated the cost of reducing deforestation by one fifth at $2bn-$20bn (£1.15bn-£11.5bn) a year, leading campaigners to calculate that halting the problem would cost up to $100bn a year.
But the Eliasch review claims countries without forests could also benefit from a global forest emission trading system, which would be relatively cheap compared with saving emissions at home.
"Integrating forests within a global cap and trade system would create opportunities to tackle a large part of current CO2 emissions while at the same time delivering substantial finance to forest conservation and sustainable forest management," says the report. "Forest carbon finance could also make a significant impact on reducing poverty through increased financial flows to developing countries."
The report marks a significant shift in the debate about saving rainforests, which has until now been dominated by charities and rich individuals - including Eliasch and the Cool Earth group he helped to set up - raising funds to buy forests, provoking outrage from some governments and local communities.
The new model has been supported by some environmental campaigners and by the government of Guyana, which last year offered to save its rainforests in return for payments from Britain. But others warn that it would allow developed countries to avoid tackling their own emissions.
"These proposals offer countries the chance to buy their way out of reducing emissions through forest protection," said Greenpeace's head of biodiversity, Andy Tait.
"If relatively cheap forest credits were easily traded with other carbon units, they could 'flood' or otherwise destabilise the markets. This is likely to bring the price of carbon crashing down, reducing incentives to invest in clean and renewable energy technologies in donor countries."
The Eliasch review says new research forecasts that without action to stop deforestation the problem would, by itself, generate enough carbon dioxide emissions to tip the planet over the level considered crucial to avoid more than 2C of warming. "Consequently ... forests will need to form a central part of any global climate change deal," it says.
Deforestation contributes about 17% of global carbon emissions, the third biggest source behind power generation and industry, and bigger than either China or the United States, says the report. It forecasts the pressure on forests will increase as world population grows by more than 2.5 billion people in the next 40 years.
"Rainforests [are] like a giant global utility right now, like a water utility or a power station, that's providing a service we're not paying for," said Andrew Mitchell, director of the Global Canopy Programme. "When you don't pay your electricity bill, you get cut off. We should recognise these countries shouldn't provide us with a service [for] free."
Mitchell added: "We're saying we need to build carbon capture and storage to take the carbon out of the atmosphere and forgetting about the plants taking it out for free. We have to do both."
· This article was amended on Tuesday October 14 2008 to include comments by Andrew Mitchell, director of the Global Canopy Programme.

Climate change targets could end farming as we know it - NFU

Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:01pm BST 13/10/2008

New targets to cut the UK's greenhouse emissions by at least 80 per cent will cripple agriculture in the UK, according to farmers.

The Climate Change Committee, that is advising the Government on carbon-cutting legisation, recommended last week the target be raised from 60 to 80 per cent and include all greenhouse gases.This means that methane and nitrouse oxide, which are mainly produced by farming practices, will have to drop significantly.

The NFU said it would be "nigh on impossible" for farming to make the cuts without a massive reduction in livestock farming - which produces methane and cultivating the land - which produces nitrous oxide.
Dr Jonathan Scurlock, chief adviser on renewable energy and climate change at the National Farmers' Union, explained that ploughing the soil and using fertiliser produces large amounts of nitrous oxide.
He said Britain would have to stop producing its own food in order to meet the targets and rely on imports instead, which will just mean the carbon emissions are produced elsewhere in the world.
"Were we to try to attain that target by a reduction in agricultural production the consequences would be a lot of farms over large areas of Britain would be turned into national parks and we would be importing 80 to 90 per cent of our food rather than 30 to 40 per cent," he said.
Allan Buckwell, director of policy at the Country Land and Business Association, said Britain should be producing more of its own food because of an impending food crisis caused by climate change and the growth in the global population.
But he said this would be impossible to do while cutting green house gases without "amazing new technology".
"We simply do not know how to produce the current volume of food produced using 80 per cent less greenhouse gases," he added.
Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, said the targets will "revolutionise" farming.
"It is hard to imagine how we could cut greenhouse gases by 80 per cent without seen an end to the use of nitrogen fertilisers," he said.
David Kennedy, chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, said it had not yet been decided how much each sector must cut greenhouse gases.
The agricultural sector contributes seven per cent of the UK's greenhouse gases, mostly because of nitrous oxide and methane emissions, and every sector will be expected to play its part.
"It is important to point out that not all sectors will be expected to reduce their emissions by the national average," he said. "We have consulted closely with the NFU and CLA and other bodies in the agricultural sector over the past year in collating our evidence and approach.
"We do recognise the particular difficulties that this sector faces and have taken these factors into account in conducting our analysis. However, as the climate change task force recognises, there are also abatement opportunities available in this sector."
The recommended targets for each sector will be set out when the CCC reports in December.

EU climate change targets will cost Britons £150 a year

Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:01pm BST 13/10/2008

Ambitious EU climate change targets will cost the British tax payer £150 every year just as the credit crunch begins to bite, according to a new report.

The EU is committed to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. On top of this are targets to get 20 per cent of all energy from renewables and 10 per cent of transport fuel from biofuels.

Vapour trails caused by aircraft: 10 per cent of transport fuel is to from biofuels by 2020
However an independent think tank has said meeting the targets will cost the UK £9bn every year and push one million more people into fuel poverty.
Open Europe, that is backed by Marks and Spencer chief executive Stuart Rose as well as other leading business people, predicted the cost to goods and services of cutting emissions and making substantial investments in renewables.
The EU puts the annual cost to the UK at between £4.4 and £6.3bn. But Open Europe estimate it would be closer to £9bn.
The report found the most significant cost, that will ultimately be passed on to consumers, was for electricity because power companies will have to pay for carbon emissions or convert to renewables.

The targets would add £130 to £200 a year to the annual domestic energy bill for a family of four in Britian, pushing one million extra people into fuel poverty.
The extra cost of carbon passed down to retailers, services and transport will cost the average person £150 extra every year or a family of four £600, rising to £730 if technology remains at current levels, according to the report.
Across Europe the cost of the targets will be £130 per person or £520 for a family.
Hugh Robinson, author of the report, said it was not a cost effective way to save the planet. He said: "At a time of rising energy bills and worries over the economy, the EU's climate change package is the last thing that hard-pressed consumers need.
"Now more than ever, it should be obvious that we need to reduce carbon emissions as efficiently and cheaply as possible - but the EU proposals are extremely bad value for money. This means we will pay far more than necessary in fighting climate change; or put another way, we could spend the same amount of money and reduce emissions by a lot more.
"It is legitimate for the EU to set targets for absolute carbon emissions reductions, which should be our ultimate priority. However, it is wrong for the Commission to micro-manage national energy planning by setting binding targets for renewables and biofuels. This will artificially drive investment towards very high-cost methods of cutting carbon.
"The politicians who sign up to this deal will be out of office in ten years time - but pensioners and the poor will be left with the biggest bills."
Mr Robinson said the EU should stick to the overall target to cut emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 but scrap all the other targets that are forcing companies to invest in renewables that are not necessarily effective. Instead he suggested a uniform tax on carbon that would force industry to cut emissions in the most cost effective way.
However Ed Miliband, the new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said the UK would stick to the targets.
He said: "Now is not the time to scale back our ambitions in tackling climate change. Cutting the costs of energy is good for people as it keeps down their fuel bills, and it's good for the planet as it reduces dangerous climate change. The current economic difficulties make these issues more important, not less."
Tom Picken, climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said doing nothing will cost up to 20 per cent of GDP annually by 2050, whereas if emissions are cut costs could be limited to 0.5 to one per cent.
"Urgent action to cut carbon dioxide emissions makes sound economic and environmental sense. Even ambitious EU climate policies are likely to cost less than one per cent of member states' GDP - delaying action will increase the devastation caused by climate change and make this figure seem like small change.
"Investing in a comprehensive energy saving programme and exploiting Europe's vast renewable energy potential will be good news for the economy and good news for the environment.
"It will help tackle fuel poverty, end our dependency on damaging fossil fuels and provide the bedrock for a green revolution that could create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
"Failing to manage the economy properly has created a huge financial headache - failing to tackle climate change could be terminal."
"The cost of inaction on climate change is 20 times higher."