Monday, 3 November 2008

Drought land 'will be abandoned'

Climate change will cause 'economic deserts' even in rich countries, warns UN environment chief
Juliette Jowit, environment editor
The Observer,
Sunday November 2 2008

A farmer surveys dead livestock in drought-stricken Leigh Creek, Australia. Photograph: Ian Waldie/Getty Images
Parts of the world may have to be abandoned because severe water shortages will leave them uninhabitable, the United Nations environment chief has warned.
Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said water shortages caused by over-use of rivers and aquifers were already leading to serious problems, even in rich nations. With climate change expected to reduce rainfall in some places and cause droughts in others, some regions could become 'economic deserts', unviable for people or agriculture, he said.
Steiner argued that only urgent action to combat global warming and poverty could prevent the creation of thousands of 'environmental refugees'. Previous UN agreements to reduce global warming emissions and the Millennium Development Goals on poverty had not been met. His warning echoes those of other environment leaders, who have said that water shortages could be the greatest threat posed by climate change.
'In many ways [water] is the most dramatic expression of mismanagement of natural or nature-based assets,' Steiner said. 'The day a person or a community is bereft of water is the day that your chance of even the most basic life or livelihood is gone and economic activity seeps away.
'Unchecked climate change will mean that some parts of the world will simply not have enough water to sustain settlements both small and large, because agriculture becomes untenable and industries relying on water can no longer compete or function effectively. This will trigger structural changes in economies right through to the displacement of people as environmental refugees.'
Steiner said it was not possible to identify specific places at risk, but said vulnerable areas were those which were already considered to be 'water scarce' because of dry weather and a lack of infrastructure to store and transport water. Last week a study of the water footprints of 200 nations led by conservation group WWF warned that 50 countries were already experiencing 'moderate to severe water stress on a year-round basis'.
This week experts from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification meeting in Turkey will warn that high food prices and endemic droughts are jeopardising the lives of hundreds of millions of people, particularly in Africa.
Some of the most dramatic examples of water shortages this year include conflict-stricken Sudan, the dramatic drying of Lake Faguibine in Mali on which 200,000 mostly nomadic people depend, fatal clashes over drying boreholes in northern Kenya, and economic and social crisis on the sparsely populated border between Bolivia and Argentina, according to Unep. Oxfam has estimated that 25 million people have been affected by the most recent drought in Ethiopia.
Rich nations are not immune. California has declared a state of emergency over water shortages, Australia has committed billions of dollars to cope with drought, and governments in Europe have been forced to ship in water to stop communities running dry.
'A plant, never mind a human being, simply cannot live without water,' said Steiner. 'It's not a matter of how we can live for three years without some water; these are not the kind of things we can do for a while and recover.
'In rich countries, there's always the potential of channelling water from one river basin to another. But even there people are hitting the limits of what we can do with money and infrastructure because there simply isn't enough water any more.'
Suggested solutions include better enforcement of restrictions on over-use of rivers, lakes and aquifers, more efficient use of water and increases in technologies to recycle and desalinate water.
Experts at the International Water Association congress in September called for investment in water infrastructure to at least double from the current level of $80bn (£49bn) a year to avoid widespread flooding, drought and disease.
Unep has calculated that enough rain falls on Africa to theoretically supply the needs of 13 billion people, and has called for a continent-wide rainwater harvesting programme.

Prince of Wales heads to Sumatra to promote rainforests

Valentine Low in Jambi

The Prince of Wales yields to noone in his love of rainforests, but sometimes it is a love that is hard won. Yesterday he made an epic journey through the storm-lashed tropics, along dirt roads made all but impassable by the rain, to visit a camp that he believes could represent the saving of the world’s rainforests.
It is a subject close to his heart; and nothing was going to stop him getting there. The Harapan rainforest is on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, where illegal loggers have cut vast swaths out of the forest over the years. Three times the size of the Isle of Wight - more than 100,000 hectares - it is now being turned around by a consortium determined to show that rainforests can, in the Prince’s words, be “worth more alive than dead”.
Saving the rainforest is one thing: getting there is another. Harapan is three hours’ drive from the nearest town, a difficult journey at the best of times. At the start of the rainy season, when dirt tracks have been turned into mudbaths, it is one only embarked upon by the brave.
As the Prince’s convoy set out from the regional capital of Jambi, the short stretch of tarmac soon gave way to a forest road pitted with ruts and craters where the only way across the numerous rivers that criss-cross the landscape was by rickety wooden bridges that looked as if they would scarcely bear the weight of the large 4x4s carrying the Prince and his party — now lacking the Duchess of Cornwall, who has returned to Britain.

The 4x4s might have been able to cope with the road - the police water cannon truck could not. Quite what protests the police were expecting that they felt it necessary to send a water cannon into the jungle was unclear, but once it had crashed into a ditch it was not going to be much use in a riot. For 20 minutes it also looked as if it was going to prevent the convoy reaching its destination, until a tow truck appeared to drag it out of the way.
If the journey to the forest was less than straightforward, the Prince - not a man who appreciates delay - did not seem unduly concerned; according to one of his party, he found it all “just hilarious”. More pertinently, he no doubt thought it a price worth paying for reaching a place which highlights perfectly the problems faced by the world’s rainforests. Twenty years ago, Harapan - home to 10 per cent of the world’s surviving Sumatran tigers - was twice the size it is today, but loggers and the palm oil industry have caused serious deforestation.
The resulting damage is about more than the loss of trees. At the Harapan Base Camp, a small community of wooden huts on stilts run by the RSPB and Birdlife, the Prince heard an impassioned plea from a local villager who, like so many others in the area, was forced off his land by the palm growers.
“All we want to do is grow our rice,” said Hasan Bada, 51, who has to support a family of 12 on an income of £2 a day. “Our community is very poor. I find it very difficult to feed my family.” The consortium is trying to help by creating jobs - as forest rangers, or in the nursery where trees are raised before being planted out - and researching better methods for growing crops such as fruit trees.
In the future, they hope to raise money by encouraging eco-tourism.
At the end of his tour the Prince, who was wearing chinos, suede boots and a safari jacket, planted a tree, giving the trowelful of compost an appreciate sniff before he put it in the hole, then stamping it down with his boot. He must have planted hundreds of trees in his time, but that must have been one of the most remote.
What with the tree planting and tramping round the forest, the time he had finished at Harapan the normally sartorially fastidious Prince found himself with a pair of trousers that were proof that the rainforest in the wet season can be a very muddy place. But once again the Prince did not seem to mind; he was muddy, but happy.

In search of the smart grid

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: November 3 2008 02:00

Few electricity users even think about the power grid until their lights go out. When that happens, the stresses of the energy transmission system become all too apparent.
Developed countries take the constant availability of electricity for granted but, around the world, the networks of power stations, transmission lines, substations and other equipment that carries power from generator to user are under strain.
"These assets are getting old," says Bob Gilligan, vice president at GE Energy. Some of the equipment has already been in use longer than envisaged when it was installed, and at times of high demand when several power stations are unexpectedly out of service at once, brownouts or blackouts can result.
But the investment needed to restore the ageing grid infrastructure has been lacking. In the US, for instance, an estimated $50bn to $75bn would be needed to update the existing infrastructure and give the US what it has never had - a truly national transmission network that would balance the load across the entire country.
The ageing of existing electricity networks is not the only reason to opt for upgrading. Today's grids are centralised, built to take power from a small number of large power stations and carry it to the millions of homes and businesses where it is used. Electricity grids also balance the supply and demand, so that at any given time the amount being generated matches that being used.
But modern energy requires more than that. Renewable sources of energy require very different grid management techniques than those in use for the past 50 years. Wind turbines and solar power plants produce energy intermittently and unpredictably - not like the nuclear or fossil fuel plants of old.
The rise in popularity of micro-generation, such as solar panels and mini-wind turbines, means homes and offices can now be producers of energy as well as consumers, requiring two-way traffic on a network that was once all one-way.
There are also moves towards building smaller power stations, such as those burning waste or biomass, which are closer to where the energy is used, cutting some of the 5 per cent or more of electricity that is lost down power lines and enabling the waste heat produced to be used to warm local buildings.
Moreover, today's grids incur large costs because of their inefficient use. In order to balance peak demand with the necessary supply, many power stations must be kept on standby, ticking over and ready to supply energy at short notice, which results in massive waste.
For all these reasons, many energy experts now believe the answer lies in upgrading existing energy networks to a new form of grid - the smart grid. Making the electricity grid smart means improving data and communications across it.
Communication hardware and software would be installed to allow operators to monitor in real time where power was coming from and where it was needed. These control systems would allow grid operators to ensure that, while there was enough power when needed, there was no need to keep vast reservoirs of power on standby.
Paul Karr, vice president of market management at Trilliant, a metering and smart grid company, explains: "The grid we have today is dumb. We have very limited visibility [on supply and demand and grid performance]. But by improving the communications intelligence, you can make the grid smarter, which enables you to cut the waste and operate much more efficiently."
The smart grid would be able to cope with taking in power from micro-generation units, and its improved load balancing would mean that intermittent sources of power, such as wind turbines, could be used without needing so much back-up constantly available from fossil-fuel generation.
The peaks and troughs of demand could also be smoothed by making the appliances that use electricity smarter, explains Andrew Howe, chief executive of RLtec, which makes "dynamic demand" technology. He gives fridges, which do not need to have their motor running constantly to maintain an even temperature, as an example. Instead, the motor cuts in and out to cool the fridge when the top of the preferred temperature range is reached. If fridges incorporated "dynamic demand" technology, they could be made to cut in and out at the optimal times for electricity demand.
Other household equipment, such as hot water tanks and electric cars, could similarly be programmed to draw electricity from the grid at quieter times.
Smart electricity meters installed in homes could also help people manage their own electricity use more efficiently. For instance, they could be charged lower prices to use their appliances during off-peak periods, encouraging people to wait or leave devices such as washing machines on timers to start at quiet times of day.
This would also help electricity providers even out usage patterns, lowering peak demand and resulting in greater efficiency.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

The dawn of a disturbing new reality

By Carola Hoyos
Published: November 3 2008 02:00

In the past month, the world has witnessed one of the largest financial and economic upheavals in a generation. The fallout may have been most immediately felt on Wall Street, but the effect on energy, and perhaps even the environment, will also be profound.
Christophe de Margerie, chief executive of Total, the French oil company, who usually argues for governments to get out of the way of those trying to bring enough energy to the market to satisfy demand, this week said recent events meant lawmakers needed to consider extending a helping hand to environmentally friendly energy sources and technologies made uneconomical by falling oil prices.
Executives say environmental initiatives such as carbon capture and storage must not be abandoned and oilfields need to be developed in an as environmentally friendly way as possible. But Chevron has already warned that Australia's cap and trade initiative could make the development of the Gorgon gas field uneconomical.
Royal Dutch Shell has dropped its proposed investment in plans to build the world's biggest offshore wind farm, the London Array, to concentrate on less risky US onshore wind power.
On the government side, the trend could be similar, as environmentalists worry that the billions being spent on bailing out banks may not leave much for the environment. Indeed, amid the fiercely contested US presidential election, the credit crunch has firmly overtaken energy security as issue number one, at least in terms of rhetoric.
But Mr De Margerie's main message centred on security of supply, rather than the environment. He and other executives contend that the drop in oil prices will make it more difficult to develop enough energy to meet the future demand of countries, such as China and India, and could prolong the downturn.
The Opec oil cartel made that same point in its communiqué last week, in the hope of justifying its decision to cut production by as much as 1.8m barrels a day. "Oil prices have witnessed a dramatic collapse - unprecedented in speed and magnitude - with these falling to levels which may put at jeopardy many existing oil projects and lead to the cancellation or delay of others, possibly resulting in a medium-term supply shortage."
Projects in high-cost areas, such as Canada's oil sands and in the deep waters of west Africa, are already being delayed, while the development of giant fields such as Russia's Shtokman gasfield have become more tenuous, as Gazprom, the monopoly, struggles under the credit squeeze.
In fact, the International Energy Agency, the developed countries' watchdog, does not see Russia, the world's second largest oil exporter, being able to increase its production at all in a draft of the Paris-based agency's latest forecast to 2030.
Many of Russia's biggest oil fields are ageing and declining, and tax cuts meant to give companies incentives to develop new fields and help boost the production of old onesare too little, too late, executives and analysts say.
But the problem is far from limited to Russia.
In fact, the IEA believes the single most important factor in deciding how hard the energy industry will have to work to meet demand is the rate at which ageing oil fields are declining.
Preliminary results of a study of the world's largest oilfields, due to be published by the IEA next month, indicate that the scale of the challenge is great.
The world will need to invest $360bn a year in boosting oil production to meet demand, initial data in an early draft of the report obtained by the FT, states. Much of that money will need to be spent in countries where oil reserves are controlled by national oil companies that are either too badly managed or technically incapable of making the necesary investments.
Worldwide, oilfields are declining at an annual natural rate of 9.1 per cent and, even with investment to boost production, are still declining at 6.4 per cent, the IEA's draft report states.
Making the kinds of investments to arrest decline is more difficult when prices are low. Oil companies often choose to shut down a field, rather than pour more money in for little gain. It is a reality that could be felt in the North Sea, where years of high oil prices have prompted a flotilla of niche companies to sail in to save small oilfields.
In fact, many of those small oil companies are now struggling as their share prices have dropped and, in some cases, the credit crunch has eaten into their ability to fund production programmes.
This new reality is one of the other leading forces that have emerged to change the industry, as credit has become tight and oil prices have fallen.
Ian Taylor, head of Vitol, the energy trader, says he believes the industry stands at the edge of a wave of consolidation. "This is the best opportunity for 15-20 years. Many companies are trading at below the value of their assets," he says.
Indeed, on the day he was speaking, BG announced a deal to acquire Queensland Gas for A$5.6bn ($3.8bn). The bid was at an 80 per cent premium to the previous QGC share price, but still valued the Australian company's gas reserves at less than half the implied value paid by ConocoPhillips of the US for similar assets over the summer.
The pickings are richest for the biggest companies by market capitalisation. Their shares have for years traded at relatively low earning multiples despite record revenues, as their inability to grow by finding new fields or taking over large companies has let them down.
These companies are now sitting on unspent cash ($40bn in the case of ExxonMobil, the largest of the group) and very low debt.
As Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP, put it: "We think the current turmoil may create opportunities for us and we will look at those very closely."
Total is said to be eyeing Nexen, a Canadian oil company, whose shares have fallen more than 50 per cent in the past six months, meaning it is no longer too expensive to buy.
Executives from other big oil companies, meanwhile, say they are looking at US players, such as Anadarko.
BG, whose liquefied natural gas portfolio had for years made it attractive to the majors, but which was too big and expensive to be bought, is now again on radar screens, executives say.
Maurice Berns of the Boston Consulting Group, says: "In previous downturns, what have we seen the successful companies do? They consolidate and build competitive strength to come out in a better position when the dust has settled."
But the future will not lie in the hands of those companies. Instead, it will be the investment decisions of national oil companies, many of which are in Opec countries, that will decide whether there is enough oil to see the world out of economic turmoil. And it will be up to governments to ensure the environment is considered in times of economic sickness, as well as in times of economic health.
So far, the signs that either will be able to act in the world's best interest are growing weaker - with the fall in the oil price and the onset of recession - rather than stronger.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Stalemate in the struggle over untapped local sources

By Sheila McNulty
Published: November 3 2008 02:00

When petrol prices rose to $4 a gallon, Americans pulled back on demand and supported opening environmentally protected areas to exploration and production.
Yet the financial crisis has led to a drop in oil prices that has pushed petrol down below $3 a gallon. The crisis for many Americans has passed. And with it has gone the momentum for finding new sources of oil and gas.
"People were traumatised for a while," says Robin West, chairman of PFC Energy, the consultancy. "Unfortunately," he says, "an extended period of lower prices is likely to usher in complacency again."
The problems oil and gas companies have trying to grow reserves in the US will continue. About half of all federal lands are off-limits to the industry. Restrictive regulations mean even more land, while officially open to production, is not producing.
Yet, until this year, there has not been much appetite among Americans to change that, in part because environmentalism was on the rise, but also because other anti-drilling lobbyists had the ear of the people. The consequence has been a stalemate between the oil and gas developers and those opposing their rapid development of resources.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which controls federal land, is stuck in the middle, trying to carrying out its mandate to allocate land for multiple uses.
"Someone is always unhappy," says Mike Stiewig, head of the bureau's office in Price, Utah, overseeing the Nine Mile Canyon, where a battle between industry and historians is raging over plans to develop natural gas resources amid ancient Indian carvings. "If everybody is mad at me, I'm probably about where I have to be."
Congress has yet to recognise energy decisions may have a cost for the consumer. By continuing to side with the special-interest groups against increasing domestic production, it is maintaining such stalemates to keep energy costs high.
Yet Robin West, chairman of PFC Energy, says, "The intrusion of oil exploration and production [in the US] - the footprint - is quite modest. The potential for environmental damage is very, very slight. Politicians must recognise the cost of their decisions and that refusal to act will have a cost.''
If Senator John McCain is elected president, protected areas off the Florida coast are likely to be opened to exploration and production.
Yet the industry will approach any drop in regulations cautiously. They remember that, in the 1980s, Chevron leased acreage off the Florida coast from the federal government and discovered what it estimated to be up to 1,300 bn cubic feet of gas. The Destin Dome project was estimated to be one of the nation's largest gas reserves, and Chevron invested almost 10 years in planning the field's development before the protests of environmentalists led Washington to block the project.
"I'm one of the guys who lived the experience," says David Duplantier, Chevron's senior counsel on the project, adding that it left him "black and blue". Chevron sued the government and spent three years in litigation before recovering $47m to cover out-of-pocket expenses - but not the legal fees or wasted commitment of equipment and people.
"Governments understand we have the ability to produce in a way that is sensitive to the environment in other parts of the world," Mr Duplantier says. "Why this government doesn't accept that is beyond me."
Except for the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska in 1989, when the tanker ran aground, spilling 11m gallons of oil in Prince William Sound, there has not been a big disaster in the US in recent years.
Yet environmentalists note countless examples of land, sea and air spills each year in the development of fossil fuels in the US.
"Throughout the entire lifecycle of the oil process, from exploration to extraction to transport to burning, there are routine releases of oil and other contaminants into land, air and water, not to mention when we are burning that oil, it is like a spill in the sky because it contributes to global warming," says Melanie Duchin, climate campaigner for Greenpeace.
She says increasing oil and gas production in the US will only give the country a false sense of security.
New technologies being used to tap unconventional sources - tar sands, for example, or shale gas - are not only more expensive, but more damaging to the environment. Ms Duchin thinks money being poured into finding and producing more oil and gas in the US should be used to improve fuel efficiencies and develop alternative energies.
This is the position Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, appears to favour.
Yet Mr West insists the US needs every responsible energy source it can get given that an oil production crunch is coming. And while alternative energies were competitive when oil and gas prices were high, it is more difficult for them to compete with the commodities at these levels.
"The challenge,'' he says, "is how you sustain these alternative businesses between the boom and bust cycles, because we're going to need these energy sources in the future."
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Litter and waste provide a tidy solution

By Dan Ilett
Published: November 3 2008 02:00

The United Nations Foundation says that heavier use and manufacturing of biomass fuels in West Africa could help to cut poverty and boost economic development.
The organisation argues that biomass - fuel derived from plant material, wood, agricultural and municipal waste - could aid these countries to "avoid high food and oil prices and open up new economic opportunities".
West Africa is not the only region eyeing up biomass as an attractive source of energy. Whether that source is a pure alternative to fossil fuels or just a cleaner addition is yet to be seen. But many other countries have started using it in projects ranging from coal-powered energy stations down the chain to wood-burning stoves in homes that warm central heating systems.
"Biomass means you can keep fossil fuels underground," says Gaynor Hartnell, deputy director of the Renewable Energy Association. "If you burn wood, there are still trees growing. If you burn waste, we produce this all the time.
"There will be some carbon, but it's not the same as it is using fossil fuels. It makes a lot of sense to use it, as a lot is a by-product of crop waste. You can have dedicated plants that can burn litter or waste wood or combined heat and power schemes that take briquettes."
There are many different sources of biomass. Ms Hartnell argues that methane emitted from landfill and sewage gas are regarded as biomass, as is olive cake (the pulp left over from making olive oil), straw, and the cut-offs from wood.
Many of these materials, especially wood and straw, are made into pellets for a larger surface area to make the biomass burn better.
Drax Power is currently building a co-firing biomass injection system at its 4,000MW power station in Yorkshire to burn coal and biomass pellets together.
"We've been in biomass for about five years to cut CO 2 ," says Melanie Wedgbury, external relations for Drax Power. "If you use it to produce electricity, it's deemed to be carbon neutral."
While some people argue carbon neutrality is something of an oxymoron, the company believes the biomass initiative will by 2010 power around 12.5 per cent (500MW) of the station.
"Typically, 2 to 3 per cent of our output has been biomass," adds Ms Wedgbury. "The engineers say we could go up to 20 per cent for co-fired, but biomass is different to coal. It's got two-thirds of the heat but it's a very efficient way of burning materials."
There are many companies in the biomass field however, as there are many sources, processes and final products of the fuel.
For instance, Drax awarded Doosan Babcock a £10m contract to build the co-firing stations, but local farmers provide the fuel.
In the case of bin-bag-waste biomass, local governments are the providers, but other firms carry out processing, packaging and sales. Land Energy, for example, plans to generate renewable power from virgin wood, by producing and selling wood pellets. The company is building plants in Wales, Scotland and England, at sites close to forests.
O-Gen is set to build 15 plants around the UK to convert biomass into a combustible gas, which is then used to produce heat and power around the country.
"The type of land that biomass is grown on is marginal land - not high quality," adds Ms Wedgbury. "The materials are all very well and good but they have to be sustainable. That's the big issue in biomass as you know the food versus fuel debate with bioethanol."
According to the WWF, "bioenergy [also known as biomass] production can have negative environmental impacts such as acidification, eutrophication or summer smog. The production of energy crops can also have negative impacts depending on what agricultural or forestry methods are used."
But it adds that, worldwide, "biomass could deliver 9 per cent of global primary energy and 24 per cent of electricity requirements by the year 2020". Recent figures from the European Biomass Association suggest that biomass use is slowly increasing in use, but this is still comparatively low compared to fossil fuel use.
Figures also show that burning municipal solid waste is becoming more popular in Europe, although unpopular with campaign groups, who believe it encourages people to forget about recycling.
"Is it popular to have a waste-to-energy plant in your backyard?" asks Matt Taylor, a partner at investment firm Foresight. "You'd say no, but in Scandinavia, no city would be without its waste-to-energy plant.
"One way of looking at this is that about 60 per cent of waste goes into landfill in the UK. The rest is incinerated. In [mainland] Europe landfill is down to 20 per cent. In the UK a lot of people think they will be importing biomass from the US, but they're on a similar curve to us. There is a lot more biomass per head in the US, though.
"It will take us between five and 10 years to get there in the biomass market. There are some clear timetables in terms of using municipal waste and to stop landfill. The targets for this are between 2013 to 2020."
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Greenfield land size of Birmingham under threat

Britain is losing more than 2,250 hectares of greenfield land every year, according to new figures, resulting in the loss of an area the size of Birmingham by 2020.

By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent Last Updated: 7:56PM GMT 02 Nov 2008

Gordon Brown announced ambitious plans to build three million new homes by 2020 when he came to power.
This is unlikely to be achieved in the current econmic climate, but the Government is still planning on building 211,000 houses every year. This could mean greenfield land is built on in some areas because there are not enough brownfield sites.
The Campaign for Rural England says that if current targets are to be met in the next 12 years, more than 2,250 hectares of greenfield land - including areas of land currently designated as green belt - is set to be developed for housing every year. By 2020 this would mean the lose of 27,182 hectares, an area equivalent to over 36,000 football pitches or the city of Birmingham.
Fiona Howie, CPRE's senior regional policy officer, claims local authorities will have no option but to build on greenfield sites. For example in the south east and south west, where there is not much brownfield left, more than 10,000 houses will be built on greenfield every year.
Miss Howie said local authorities have to allocate enough land to meet these targets - despite local protests.
"We do need more homes, but they should be delivered in a way that will not damage the environment and people's quality of life. The Government's aspirations for three million new homes by 2020 need to be reassessed, both in light of the current economic climate and the implications of such high levels of development for the green belt, the wider countryside and the achievement of emission reduction targets."
Miss Howie said local authorities should decide housing targets so that local people have more say over development and greenfield land is protected.
She said: "It is nonsense to plan as if land is an infinite resource. Current plans need to focus on the regeneration of urban areas and the reuse of previously developed land. Green Belt land and open countryside need to be more highly valued and protected.'
"If regional planning is to be reformed it must be done in ways which address the environmental shortcomings of current practice. In future, regional plans should set out an environmentally sustainable and achievable vision for the regions, developed in genuine partnership with those living and working in the area. Regional decisions should not be undermined by Government.'

Venture capital firm embraces green technology

By Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop
Published: October 31, 2008

SINGAPORE: On an average day, Ford Tamer receives six to seven proposals inviting him to invest in all sorts of green technology projects. "We do get approached a lot," said Tamer, a venture capitalist and operating partner at Khosla Ventures. "There is definitely no shortage of renewal-energy plans; if anything, there is an increase in the number of plans we're seeing."
Khosla Ventures, started in 2004 in Silicon Valley by Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, has quickly become one of the top venture capital firms investing in clean technology. It has already put money into more than 70 companies, and Tamer, who joined the firm in September 2007, said he was mostly looking at mechanical and electrical efficiency, solar energy and information technology services.
So far, he has provided seed money to nine companies, including EcoMotors, which is developing a fuel-efficient diesel engine; Kaai and Soraa, companies that focus on laser development; and Topanga, a lighting company.
"But we've done the math; and for these nine companies, we probably received 1,000 plans, looked at 500 of them, selected to meet over 100 and did detailed due diligence on 20," he said on a trip to Singapore in September.
Though most of his firm's investments have been in the United States, Tamer said Khosla Ventures, which is based in Menlo Park, California, was now looking to invest internationally.

"One of my goals being here is to start identifying and making more contacts," Tamer said. "We're going to want to do more in India and China because the end markets there are pretty large, and having a locally based company that can take advantage of those markets would be good. We've invested in one company in India and are looking to do more there."
According to Cleantech Group, a research firm that tracks investments in environmental energy, venture capital firms invested $2.6 billion in the sector in the third quarter of this year, an all-time record and a 37 percent increase from a year earlier. U.S. companies received $1.75 billion in the quarter, while the European tally was $742 million and Chinese companies raised $111 million.
Khosla Ventures was one of the top five investors for the quarter, according to Brian Fan, senior director of research at Cleantech. "Khosla has a systematic approach to investing that is focused on the following strategies: replace oil, replace coal and increase the efficiency of materials, machines, electrical devices and electrical transmission," Fan said. "Khosla's portfolio reflects these strategies, as he has invested in biofuels, solar, geothermal, smart grid, lighting, engine and materials companies."
As the turmoil in financial markets intensified in October, Tamer said in an e-mail exchange that sustained financing for projects would "naturally be tougher and more expensive."
"We've been very proactive in reviewing our portfolio companies' strategies and quickly reducing operating expenses where needed," he said, "This has been my life for the past three weeks."
But with venture capital's enthusiasm for environmentally friendly technologies still intact, Tamer worries about some of the valuations in the sector.
"This year, solar thin film has been very hot, with billion-dollar valuations for low-efficiency PV solutions," he said in September, referring to photovoltaic cells. "We've instead maintained valuation discipline, and invested in high-efficiency PV and solar-thermal which make more sense."
He added, "The concern is that if there is a solar bubble and investors lose money, it could put a break on investment in the sector, which wouldn't help anybody."
Fan, the Cleantech executive, calculated that thin-film solar start-ups raised $620 million in the third quarter, with companies focusing on copper-indium-gallium-selenide, or CIGS, technology for panels attracting the bulk of these funds. They include SoloPower, which raised $200 million, and OptiSolar, at $78 million. Sulfurcell Solartechnik, a German company specializing in copper-indium-sulfide, or CIS, technology for panels, raised $134 million.
Tamer, who was born in Lebanon and educated in the United States, has spent most of his professional career at the receiving end of venture capital funds, having started several technology companies from the ground up.
While obtaining a doctorate degree in engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he set up his first company, a provider of artificial intelligence tools, with two partners and some seed money. The company, MegaKnowledge, was sold to IntelliCorp in 1990 for $6 million.
Tamer stayed on for four years before leaving to help set up Dazel, a company that managed business planning systems. He led the marketing and international operations at the company, which was later bought by Hewlett-Packard for $150 million.
In 1998, he co-founded Agere, a provider of network processors, and served as its chief executive until it was acquired by Lucent Microelectronics in 2000 for $430 million. He stayed with the company for a couple of years before switching to another semiconductor manufacturer, Broadcom, where he headed the networking business group, expanding it into a $1.2 billion business.

Tamer met Khosla when the two were on the board of eASIC, a semiconductor company. After hearing Khosla talk passionately about solar-thermal energy and biofuels, Tamer decided to join Khosla's firm "and sort of go on the other side."
Tamer said that while he enjoyed the opportunity of being able to contribute more effectively to the development of clean technologies, he needed to learn to be patient.
"You're not the quarterback anymore, you're the coach, and you must make the transition, and it's a big one," he said. "I'm told it takes a couple of years to let go of the urge to do it yourself."

At Sainsbury's, where there's muck, there's gas

The £30-a-ton landfill tax rises to £38 next year and £46 in 2010. Tax on 60,000 tons of food waste would rise from £1.8 million to nearly £2.8 million by 2010

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy and Environment Editor

Food waste weighing thousands of tons will be converted into methane gas and used to generate electricity providing heat and light for J Sainsbury supermarkets from next year.
Lawrence Christensen, non-executive chair with responsibility for the environment, said that from 2009 Sainsbury's intends to become the first leading British retailer not to send any waste to landfill sites.
At present, the group sends 60,000 tons of food waste to landfill every year from its 800 stores. Under the new scheme, this will all be taken to anaerobic digester plants and converted into methane gas, which will be used to generate power.
Some will be composted for use as fertiliser and, in a few cases, turned into pet food, Mr Christensen said. Sainsbury's also plans to recycle all of its 20,000 tons of non-food waste, including metal, plastic and paper packaging.

Most of the waste produced by the group's supermarkets is compacted on site and put in skips, which are collected and driven to landfill sites. But Mr Christensen says all this will change when the new waste processing system is introduced across the country.
It will be based on a pilot project under way in Northamptonshire involving 38 Sainsbury's stores, where food waste that has passed its best before date is sent to a plant near Bedford for anaerobic digestion.
Biodegradable material is placed into a giant sealed unit and broken down by micro-organisms to produce a nutrient-rich solid that can be used as fertiliser, as well as methane that can be used to generate electricity.
“This is the process we are now rolling out across the UK,” Mr Christensen said, adding that by 2010, Sainsbury's planned to send all of its organic waste to a network of five regional anaerobic digestor plants.
He said that the group was in talks with various partners about helping to develop new anaerobic digestor plants, each of which costs up to £8million to build. Only a handful of sites in Britain have the capacity to deal with the volume of food waste produced by Sainsbury's.
Once operational, the nationwide scheme will generate up to 30 megawatts of electricity - enough to power a town of 20,000 people. This will supply a significant proportion of the retailer's total power needs.
Food waste from Sainsbury's supermarkets will be first in line for the new programme, with waste from its network of smaller convenience stores due to follow later.
Mr Christensen said that at present Sainsbury's spends £9 million a year on waste disposal, but this was set to rise sharply with the arrival of increasingly steep taxes on waste sent to landfill. The landfill tax, which stands at £30 a ton, is set to rise to £38 next year and to £46 in 2010.
The tax for landfilling 60,000 tons of food waste would increase from £1.8million to nearly £2.8 million by 2010. Sainsbury's declined to comment on how much it plans to spend on the new programme, but Mr Christensen insisted that it would be cost-effective.He said that as well as creating environmental benefits, the scheme would drive efficiency savings.
For example, it would do away with the need for in-store compactors, skips and waste-carrying lorries. Instead, all of the food waste will be sent back to Sainsbury's depots using delivery trucks before being sent to the anaerobic digestor plant.
A Dutch retailer, Albert Heijn, is conducting a similar programme in the Netherlands.
Mr Christensen added that some food that has passed its sell-by date but not its best-before date is given by Sainsbury's to charity.

Qatar invests in UK renewable energy

By Fiona Harvey
Published: November 3 2008 02:00

Qatar is to set up a £250m fund to invest in low-carbon technology, primarily in the UK, writes Fiona Harvey .
It will invest £250m in the Qatar-UK Clean Technology Investment Fund, with the rest to be sought from other investors. The fund will make venture capital investments in cleanenergy businesses.
The deal between the Qatari Investment Authority and the Carbon Trust, a UK government-funded body, marked a measure of success for Gordon Brown's trip to the Middle East yesterday - part of his bid to attract new investment from oil-rich economies, as finance and credit have dried up in other markets.
Several governments in the Gulf region have begun showing interest in renewable energy in the past few years, amid rising concerns over finite oil reserves and climate change.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

The quiet man switched on to cars

By John Reed and Patti Waldmeir
Published: November 3 2008 02:00

Everyone agrees the world needs greener cars and Wang Chuanfu believes he is the man to deliver them - by combining Chinese brains and hard work with Warren Buffett's money.
Just over a month ago - when the Dow Jones index fell nearly 7 per cent, one of Wall Street's worst days - Mr Buffett's Mid-American Energy Holdings bought a 10 per cent stake in BYD, the company that Mr Wang founded.
BYD is a global leader in rechargeable battery technology and a rising star of the Chinese auto industry. Mr Buffett's investment is a clear vote of confidence that Mr Wang - an engineer-turned-entrepreneur - can combine batteries and cars to lead a green revolution in electric vehicles. The move electrified the Hong Kong stock market: shares in BYD, which is 25 per cent owned by Mr Wang, rose by 42 per cent.
On a Saturday morning recently at the company's headquarters in Shenzhen, in the industrial hinterland just across the border from Hong Kong, Mr Wang made clear he sees his company as a symbol of the passing of the baton of industrial leadership from mature western economies to China.
Sitting at the end of a long boardroom table stocked with Diet Coke for visitors, his short-sleeved shirt complete with ballpoint pen in the pocket, the bespectacled 42-year-old Mr Wang looks more like a Chinese Bill Gates than a polished car-industry executive such as Carlos Ghosn. Mr Buffett is clearly betting that he will be the geek who launches the next revolution in automotive technology.
The quietly spoken Mr Wang says his goal is to make BYD the world's largest car company by 2025. "For new-energy cars, we believe we can become the global leader," he says. "From the technology standpoint, 10 years should be enough." He is positioning himself at the centre of the automotive industry's impending shift into plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries, a move due to bring some of the fastest technological changes in a century of automotive history.
Asked to sum up how BYD built its business, he offers a modest response. "We are a typical Chinese company," he says. "We are smart and we work hard. We took advantage of the situation."
But his unassuming words mask a cultural pride: Mr Wang says Chinese companies are smarter and work harder than their western competitors. He says China's main advantages are the size of its market and the quality of its people; 5m graduates leave Chinese universities every year, "more than the population of some European countries", he says. And they will work for much lower salaries than their western or Japanese competitors.
BYD employs 10,000 engineers, half of them working on cars, and Mr Wang says he will have 30,000 automotive engineers within a decade. His US and Japanese competitors cannot afford to hire so many, he says. "The cost is too high."
BYD recruits most managers straight out of university, trains them on the job and lodges new graduates in a high-rise dormitory-style building adjacent to the factory.
Thirteen years ago, when he founded the company, Mr Wang lacked even the capital to import an automated battery production line from Japan. Today his company is the world's largest producer of mobile phone batteries - with 30 per cent of the market - and the second-largest producer of rechargeable batteries to power electronic goods such as laptop computers. And perhaps even more surprisingly, BYD - which produced its first branded car in 2005 - sold more cars than any other Chinese carmaker in September. That monthly milestone, achieved largely through the launch of BYD's new F0 subcompact, is unlikely to be sustained in the near term; but JD Power, the leading auto consultancy, still expects BYD sales to grow by more than 50 per cent this year.
Trained as a researcher in Beijing, Mr Wang founded BYD in 1995, when China's government was opening its economy to the world. "At that time Shenzhen was a hot place," he says. "There was a gold rush here."
Frustrated by the lack of funding available to government researchers, Mr Wang borrowed money from a relative and set up on his own making nickel batteries. He used semi-automated equipment that he pieced together after reading technical publications. BYD put Japan's incumbent battery producers on the defensive. It faced down lawsuits by Sony in Japan and by Sanyo in the US, the latter put to rest in an out-of-court settlement.
With the market for smaller lithium--ion batteries now cornered, Mr Wang is focusing much of BYD's energy on alternative-fuel cars. With world attention focused on greener options than the internal combustion engine, Mr Wang feels his expertise in battery production will give him an unstoppable advantage in the arena of electric cars. BYD will launch a plug-in hybrid car later this year, with sales in the US and European Union to follow in 2011. An all-electric model, the E6, will be launched in China in 2009.
BYD will be competing with plug-in models produced by Renault, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and General Motors, which plans to make its Volt model in China. Mr Wang says he is ready. "I believe Chinese companies can become leaders in the alternative car business because we make good batteries," he says. More experienced carmakers are struggling with such issues as the speed of charging and durability of automotive batteries - which need to last far longer than in laptops - in their prototype plug-in cars.
Mr Wang's competitors may disagree, pointing out that the fit and finish of BYD's models falls far below the standard of vehicles produced by established carmakers. "They've got a long way to go on rattles, squeaks, comfort, fuel economy, acceleration, and smoothness of ride - all the things that take a long time to get right," says the China head of one leading foreign carmaker who has ridden in BYD's cars, but requests anonymity.
A test drive of a prototype E6 by the Financial Times around BYD's parking lot confirms this view. The car is quiet and efficient, but its handling and quality of finish fall short of most foreign carmakers' models. BYD vehicles could face substantial hurdles to widespread acceptance in the US and Europe, especially after recent scandals over Chinese products, such as milk.
And, given cases of exploding lithium-ion batteries in laptops, the potential product liability risk of electric cars faced by carmakers - Chinese or not - is huge.
Mr Wang deflects the point firmly. "We're the only battery maker that has never had a recall," he says, leaving unspoken the names of Sanyo and Sony, which have both had expensive recalls. "We're very confident of the quality of the batteries."
He acknowledges BYD has a long way to go in building its brand to compete with foreign ones with decades of consumer awareness and marketing experience. On the other hand, he says, plug-in cars present a blank canvas of sorts.
"We're talking new cars and ever-yone is starting from the same point," he says.
Additional reporting by Justine Lau
Life of leisure just wouldn't play well for boss of the batteries
Wang Chuanfu is all work and no play - and proud of it.
He says his punishing seven-days-a-week schedule is par for the course in China. "Maybe in the Western world, life is number one and work is number two," he says one bright Saturday morning at the bustling headquarters of BYD, his battery-cum-car company in Shenzhen. "But in China, work is number one and life is number two," he adds. "Especially in my generation. I don't know if the next generation will be the same. I enjoy working very much, if you ask me to go sightseeing for a day I probably wouldn't enjoy it."
In the rare moments when not at the office, Mr Wang lives in a modest penthouse flat in the "workers' village" with his wife and daughter.
Mr Wang spurns the trappings enjoyed by many of his western peers, such as corporate jets and expensive clothes.
He does, however, own three Mercedes-Benz cars and a Lexus, which he says he owns because he likes to take them apart to figure out how they work. He also wears an Adidas watch, which displays the time of different cities so that he knows whether it is day or night in BYD's overseas offices.
Mr Wang's success in becoming one of China's leading entrepreneurs has surpassed his ambitions. "I had dreams," he says, "but nothing this big."
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

The planet is the big loser in Brown's economic assault

Labour looks set to let airports expand in the name of fighting recession. And the new climate secretary is silent

Jackie Ashley
The Guardian,
Monday November 3 2008

Can we add the environment to the roll call of casualties of recession? There is a nail-biting tussle going on at the centre of government about the planned expansion of both Heathrow and Stansted airports, and all the signs are that No 10 remains on the wrong side of the argument. Get ready for this: "In these difficult times it is - hrrumph - all the more important to listen to business and - hrrumph - invest for the future."
The prime case against another runway at Heathrow, and a major expansion at Stansted, remains stark. If you take climate change seriously then you can't go along with a philosophy of constant and continuing expansion of air travel. While it's true that carbon emissions from air travel are only around 6.3% of the UK's total, this is likely to soar. Listen to this: "Forecasts suggest that emissions from flying could make up between 10 and 16% of the UK's contribution to climate change by 2020, if no action is taken to lessen the environmental impacts." Alarmist Guardian nonsense? Er, no, actually, it comes from the government's own website.
Yet when it comes to a choice between general principle and the sharp pointed edge of a business lobbying campaign, things don't work out that way. Heathrow has atrocious road links back into London. Most of the year, most times of the day, they seem to be snarled up and crawling. Its jets roar over densely populated areas every 30 seconds at some periods, with a level of noise pollution that is becoming intolerable, particularly for the lower income housing nearest the airport.
When T5 was being lobbied for, everyone was promised this was not a prelude to a third runway, and when the inquiry into the runway took place, we were assured it was a genuinely open one, and that all options were on the table. Now the government faces a backbench revolt, the mask slips. Briefings over the past few days suggest that Gordon Brown and Geoff Hoon, the transport secretary, will ride roughshod over the critics. They want to push through approval of the new runway so that when the Tories come to power, it's too late to cancel. "We have to show that we are on the side of business," says one minister.
The story with Stansted is similar. Here BAA wants to double the number of flights to almost half a million a year, adding 40 million passengers. The expansion plan would destroy numerous listed buildings and two ancient monuments, and gobble up three square miles of countryside. As with Heathrow, the impatience of ministers is palpable. The planning inspector was told his report was wanted by Christmas, which is considerably earlier than it would normally be, and the public inquiry is being accelerated so the go-ahead can be given before the general election.
The Conservatives are for now on the other side of the argument. They have said they would refuse permission for the Stansted expansion and are hostile to the third Heathrow runway, suggesting a new high-speed rail link to the north and Midlands instead. Separately, the London mayor, Boris Johnson, has revived the idea of a new airport to the east of the city, at the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.
There is no doubt that the expansion plans for both airports are hugely unpopular in the areas affected by their flightpaths. A swath of Labour ministers and MPs can expect to lose their seats if Heathrow's third runway is given the go-ahead. Tory opposition doesn't just fit with their proclaimed green agenda, but makes good sense politically. Which raises the obvious question: what in the world is No 10 up to?
The most cynical explanation, which I have heard buzzing around in the past few days, is simply that ministers who know they have lost the next election are cosying up to the business interests that may help them out in the private sector afterwards. New Labour has close links with BAA, and the big-business lobby for Heathrow may still be in a position to offer cushy jobs, recession or not. Loth as I am to admit there might be a shred of truth in that, it wouldn't be the first time favours done in government have been repaid afterwards.
Gordon Brown is not that kind of character. More likely, but just as dangerous, is that he believes this is clever politics. He thinks that in a recession, the party which seems most pro-business will gain. As deep fear grips the electorate over unemployment and bankruptcy, green arguments about the way we live, about pollution and climate change, will seem merely namby-pamby and irrelevant. If Labour commits itself to job-creating grand projects, and the Tories are forced to promise to try to halt them, then it is David Cameron who will suddenly look silly and old-fashioned.
But how does that fit with rushing through the decisions before the election? Surely, if Brown thinks expanding Heathrow and Stansted will be popular, and opposing it will lose Cameron votes in bleak times, he should want the choice left as clear and open as possible when the election comes. Why the rush? Why the first signs of a dirty tricks campaign aimed at John Grogan, the Labour backbencher leading the revolt? Why not let the inquiries play out in their own good time? After all, with airlines going bust all over the place, and the pound weak, we hardly need much busier skies tomorrow.
I fear what has happened is this. Brown, as a classic Labour man, was never keen on the environmental arguments. Hearing Cameron chirrup on about voting blue and going green merely stoked his contempt. He doesn't much care about a clutch of ministers and MPs whose seats will be lost if Heathrow expands; he's more interested in a national argument about priorities. Heathrow and Stansted have become willing conscripts for his assault on the recession. And if it all goes wrong, the Tories will be left to pick up the pieces.
Is this not the politics of despair? To write off seats as lost before the election happens; to ditch the single most important long-term argument about the way we live? And to plan to attack the Tories for the only distinctively progressive policy they have had is hardly the strategy of a self-confident administration. The cabinet itself, like the parliamentary Labour party, is still divided. But the minister from whom we haven't yet heard a cheep is the new energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband.
He's been spoken of as a future leader. He is often at the PM's side. Yet he is said not yet to be "fully briefed" about the arguments and is therefore not ready to comment. Well, if your grand new cabinet title means a thing, and you're really made of the right stuff - now, Ed, is the time for an ear-splitting

Is water the new oil?

It's the world's most precious commodity, yet many of us take it for granted. But that's all about to change... Special report by Juliette Jowit
Juliette Jowit
The Observer,
Sunday November 2 2008

It's hard to imagine why humans would have chosen the achingly arid stone desert of Wadi Faynan for their first settlement. But water would have been one important reason, says archaeologist Steven Mithen. When Neolithic men and women arrived 11,500 years ago, things were very different: the climate was cooler and wetter; the landscape was covered in vegetation including wild figs, legumes and cereals, and there would have been wild goats and ibex for meat.
Initially WF16, as it's now called, would have been a seasonal camp. But Mithen, professor of early prehistory at the University of Reading, and his fellow archaeologist Bill Finlayson believe that, gradually, people stayed longer. Sifting evidence from so long ago, the archaeologists can't be sure, but remains of food from different seasons and the scale of 'rubbish' piles suggest that about 10,000 years ago the inhabitants stopped moving altogether. If they are right, it would make this one of the oldest sites ever found where humans made a permanent settlement, learned to farm, and changed the course of human civilisation. But the tiny community drawn to water, which attracted successive waves of settlements, would eventually all but destroy the resource which made life possible. It is a pattern that's been repeated for millennia, around the world, and it now threatens us on a global scale.
First people cut trees for shelter and fuel, until rains swept away the soil instead of seeping into shallow aquifers, and the springs dried up. At least as long ago as the Bronze Age, farmers began mankind's obsession with diverting water for crops to feed the growing population. Meanwhile, the moist, cool climate which encouraged the first settlement was naturally becoming drier and hotter.
At least twice, historians believe, Wadi Faynan was abandoned. The first time possibly because of a sharp change in the climate, and later because it became too polluted. Today, Bedouin who survive in the valley have laid pipes down the dry stream bed to suck what is left of the spring in order to irrigate fields of tomatoes they have scratched out of the dry soil. But it's getting harder. According to local water lore, good rains now come in less than every other year.
The farmers in Wadi Faynan are not alone. Like communities around the world, they are paying the price for thousands of years of exploitation of our environment. Already, 1bn people do not have enough clean water to drink, and at least 2bn cannot rely on adequate water to drink, clean and eat - let alone have enough left for nature. Lack of water is blamed for many of the world's most distressing crises: millions of deaths each year from disease and malnutrition, chronic hunger, keeping children away from schools which offer hope of a better life. Mostly it is the poor who suffer, but increasingly rich nations are struggling, too. Australia has endured so many dry years that a leading climatologist has said it's time to stop saying 'gripped by drought' and accept that the lack of rain is permanent.
In parts of the US supplies are so vulnerable that last autumn the Red Cross delivered water parcels to the town of Orme in Tennessee. 'I thought, "That can't be the Red Cross. We're Americans!"' resident Susan Anderson told a reporter. In California, some farmers abandoned their crops this year as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared the first state-wide drought for 17 years. Meanwhile Barcelona was so desperate that it began importing tankers of water from cities along the coast. Even in the notoriously wet UK, water has become such a problem in the crowded southeast that one company plans to build a desalination plant, the sort of desperate measure associated with oil-rich desert states.
The Stockholm International Water Institute talks about 'an acute and devastating humanitarian crisis'; the founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, warns of a 'perfect storm'; Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations Secretary General, has raised the spectre of 'water wars'. And, as the population keeps growing and getting richer, and global warming changes the climate, experts are warning that unless something is done, billions more will suffer lack of water - precipitating hunger, disease, migration and ultimately conflict.
In a bid to avert this catastrophe, politicians, economists and engineers are pressing for dramatic changes to the way water is managed, from tree planting and simple storage wells, to multibillion dollar schemes to replumb the planet with dams and pipes, or manufacture freshwater from sewers and the sea.
The water crisis is an expression of the environmental catastrophe of human over-exploitation. This is the age the Nobel prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen has called 'the Anthropocene', because the natural system has been so fundamentally altered by human activity. And it all began when people settled down and began to chop wood and farm.
'The start of sedentary communities is the start of the need to manage fresh water supplies,' says Steven Mithen. 'This is a starting point for our whole modern dilemma. It's gone from the concerns of individual settlements, to cities, to nations, and it's now a global issue.'
There is, in theory, plenty of water on the earth to sustain its 6.5bn people. More than 97 per cent of all the water on the planet is salt water, and most of the freshwater is locked up in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. But that still leaves 10m cubic kilometres (km3) of usable water, circulating in cycles of evaporation and precipitation between the atmosphere and earth, where it appears in underground aquifers, lakes and rivers, glaciers, snowpacks, wetlands, permafrost and soil. Each km3 is equivalent to 1,000bn litres, or 1bn tonnes, of water - about the remaining annual flow of the River Nile.
On the other side of the equation, the UN says individuals need five litres of water a day simply to survive in a moderate climate, and at least 50 litres a day for drinking and cooking, bathing and sanitation. Industry accounts for about double the average domestic use. But agriculture needs much, much more - in fact, 90 per cent of all water used by humans. The water is not 'lost' from earth, but over-abstraction by irrigators means it is often moved from where it is needed. Tony Allan, of King's College London, estimates that, together, 6.5bn people need 8,000km3 of water each year - a fraction of what is theoretically available. 'There's certainly enough water for every person on the planet, but too often it's in the wrong places at the wrong times in the wrong amounts,' says Marq de Villiers, author of the 2001 book Water Wars
Three hours north of Wadi Faynan is the much greener Wadi Esseir, where Salah Al-Mherat and his family are one of millions of households in Jordan who feel the daily effects of inhabiting one of the driest countries on earth. Once a week, Al-Mherat gets water from the local irrigation co-operative for his fig, lemon, olive and grenadine trees and vegetables. For the rest he relies on rain. But since the Nineties the springs have been drying, sapped by demand from the nearby capital, Amman, and rain has been declining.
On a hot morning in April, Al-Mherat comes in from picking petits-pois, hitches up his smock and settles on to a pile of cushions. Fidgeting with a pot of scented tea he explains that the crops now barely cover their costs; he has to work as a security guard to supplement his income. 'When I started it was very good compared to now,' he says. 'The first impact was that the size of the irrigated area became reduced. People also changed what they irrigated, so the water now goes mainly to the trees - some farmers stopped completely from doing vegetables.' Al-Mherat says he keeps hoping things will improve, because he will pass the land to his sons. 'It's my life,' he says. 'But even if I'm positive, the reality is it's like the wish of the devil to go to paradise.'
Global population, economic development and a growing appetite for meat, dairy and fish protein have raised human water demand sixfold in 50 years. Meanwhile, supplies have been diminished in several ways: an estimated 845,000 dams block most of the world's rivers, depriving downstream communities of water and sediment, and increasing evaporation; up to half of water is lost in leakage; another 1bn people simply have no proper infrastructure; and the water left is often polluted by chemicals and heavy metals from farms and industry, blamed by the UN for poisoning more than 100m people. And still the rains are getting less reliable in many areas.
Underlying these problems is a paradox. Because water, and the movement of water, is essential for life, and central to many religions, it is traditionally regarded as a 'common' good. But no individuals are responsible for it. From Wadi Esseir to the arid American Midwest, farmers either do not pay for water or pay a fraction of what homeowners pay, so they have less incentive to conserve it and might deprive suppliers of funds to improve infrastructure.
The UN defines 'water scarcity' as fewer than 1,000m3 of renewable clean water for each person every year to drink, clean, grow food and run industry. By this measure half the world's population lives in countries suffering water scarcity. Jordan is one of the most water-scarce countries on earth, averaging just 160m3 of renewable water per person per year.
The result is that it is not just farmers who are rationed. The Al-Mherat family, like the rest of greater Amman, only get water to their house one day a week. A city of more than 2m people runs to the rhythm of 'water day', says Dr Khadija Darmame, who is part of a £1.25m project organised by Mithen and sponsored by Britain's Leverhulme Trust to study links between 'water, life and civilisation' in Jordan, from the earliest settlements to modern day.
Poor supplies and stagnant tanks occasionally lead to infections. But for most, the problem is drudgery. 'The first thing is to do the maximum laundry and then clean the house,' says Darmame. Children and men take a shower, 'and the last thing is for the women to take a shower, and then you need a few hours to fill the tanks,' stacked on every roof.
For millions of others, bad supplies are a question of life and death. Lack of clean drinking water and sanitation are largely blamed for the death of 11m children under five each year from disease and malnutrition; for nearly 1bn people who are chronically hungry; for 2bn who suffer what the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization calls 'food insecurity', because they do not have adequate food and nutrition for an 'active and healthy life'; and for keeping more than 60m girls out of school. These people then get caught in a water and poverty trap: two-thirds of the people who lack enough water for even the most basic needs live on less than $2 a day. 'Variability of water availability is strongly and negatively related to per capita income,' says Professor Jeffrey Sachs, author of Common Wealth: Economics For a Crowded Planet, and a special adviser to the UN Secretary General. Poor health, lack of education and hunger make it hard to escape.
Ultimately, lack of water is seen as a threat to peace. From genocide in Darfur to rows between states in India and the US, Ban Ki-Moon is one of several global leaders who have warned of further legal and armed disputes over water. Intuitively it is obvious people will fight over their most precious resource, but so far few conflicts have broken out. The idea of 'water wars' seized the public imagination in 2001 when Marq de Villiers's book of that name was published in the UK, but the author disagreed with the publisher's choice of title. De Villiers agrees that water is often an underlying cause of tension, but has only identified one water 'war', between Egypt and Sudan. 'You cannot do without water, so when shortages pinch, states do co-operate and compromise,' he says.
But if half the world's population lives in water-stressed countries, how do so many, from the breadbaskets of Asia to the sprawling cities in the arid American west, keep watering fields and running taps?
One reason is that water flows uphill to money, as the saying goes. Thus people in oil-rich Kuwait enjoy expensive desalination, while Palestinians suffer daily hardship; tourists in Amman can turn on the tap at any time, while those in the poorest areas of the city have access to water for a few hours each week. As Tony Allan says: 'Water shortages don't pose serious problems to gardeners in Hampshire or California homeowners with pools to fill.'
Another answer to the conundrum was identified by Allan, who in the Sixties became curious about why Middle Eastern countries without abundant water supplies were not suffering from a more obvious water crisis. The answer, he realised, was trade: by buying food, water-poor societies were 'buying' what he dubbed 'virtual water'. They were helped by farmers dumping grain into the world market once subsidies created massive over-supply. 'This potential tragedy was motoring on and hit the calm waters of the Americans and Europeans providing food [for the world market] at half cost, and the water contained in that food [was water] they didn't have to find.'
The other answer is that communities around the world have been forced to tap rivers and lakes and aquifers, sometimes millions of years old, far beyond the limit at which they can replenish themselves. Above ground, lakes are shrinking and rivers are being reduced to pathetic flows, or drying up altogether. Below ground, a largely invisible crisis is unfolding as millions of wells have been sunk into aquifers - 4m in Bangladesh alone. Many aquifers are replenishable, but not all, and many that can be recharged don't get enough rain to match demand. Sometimes the empty cavities simply collapse, putting them beyond use forever. In his recent book, Plan B 3.0, Lester Brown catalogues the results. In the breadbaskets of China, India, the US, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Israel and Mexico, water tables are falling, sometimes by many metres a year. Pumps are being drilled a kilometre or more to find water, thousands more wells have dried up altogether and agricultural yields are shrinking. These countries contain more than half the world's people and produce most of its grain, warns Brown. Meanwhile, almost forgotten amid the human suffering are the terrible consequences for the natural world: freshwater fish populations fell by half between 1970 and 2000, says the UN.
All these dams and irrigation channels and pumps and pipes allow billions of people to run up a gigantic global water overdraft. What worries experts is that there is no sign of humans withdrawing less water.
Two years ago, the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) published a report by 700 experts warning that one in three people were 'enduring one form or another of water scarcity'. 'Scarcity for me is when women work hard to get water, [or] you want to allocate more but can't,' says David Molden, deputy director of the Sri Lanka-based organisation.
Molden warns that the situation is becoming 'a little bit more critical', because of continuing rising demand for food, the recent boom in biofuels and climate change. To that can also be added another, poignant 'demand': the long-overdue realisation that nature also needs water, which in Europe and other countries has led to laws to ensure 'minimum environmental flows' remain in place.
For food alone, the World Bank estimates that demand for water will rise 50 per cent by 2030, and the IWMI fears it could nearly double by 2050. Whether these crops require rain or irrigation depends on where they are grown, and how much rain there is.
Like a great river fed by many tributaries, water is a conduit for the various effects of global warming: more variable rainfall, more floods, more droughts, the melting of glaciers on which 1bn people depend for summer river flows, and rising sea levels, threatening to inundate not just coastal communities but also their freshwater aquifers, river deltas and wetlands.
From the headline figures, climate change should be good news. Crudely, scientists estimate for every 1C rise in the average global temperature, precipitation will increase one per cent, as warmer air absorbs more moisture. The world's total volume would not change, but it would be recycled more quickly, affecting the majority of the world's agriculture which depends on the volume and timing of rainfall.
Balancing all these impacts, Nigel Arnell, director of Reading University's Walker Institute for Climate Change, calculates that the number of people living in water basins exposed to water stress will rise from 1.4bn to 2.9-3.3bn by 2025 and to 3.4-5.6bn by 2055. In fact, the greatest impact in Arnell's modelling is from rising populations, particularly in China and India, and, globally, climate change is actually reducing exposure to shortages. This may be good news for some, but masks huge disruption, as some regions fear too much water, while hundreds of millions of people start to run out.
It is impossible to attribute one farm's difficulties or one year's rainfall to climate change. But if climate is the statistics of weather, then the rain gauge this year on the farm of Sameeh Al-Nuimat, northwest of Amman, is typical of what the experts forecast. Al-Nuimat had noticed a gradual decline in rainfall for years, but this year it dropped off steeply and there was no rain at all in March, a critical time for summer crops. 'My father told me he'd never seen such a year,' he says.
Such dramatic events have injected urgency into discussions about Jordan's precarious water supplies, says Al-Nuimat, who is also an irrigation engineer at the Ministry of Agriculture. 'Before, when water was available, no one worried about it. But now there's interest - every night people speaking, every night debating, at every level, from the farmer to the planner to the politician. As a farmer I'd like to see drought-resistant crops; from a civil engineering point of view we should look for mega projects; and, if you're thinking about global planning, there should be acceptance of people moving from water-scarce regions to where water is available.'
Around the world the same debates are under way. Rich countries can make significant gains from domestic efficiency, but most of the world's population does not have power showers and swimming pools, or waste great quantities of food. Instead the main focus is on reducing water in agriculture, through more efficient irrigation, by engineering seeds to grow in more arid and salty conditions, and even shifting crops. 'If the world were my farm, I'd grow things in different places,' says David Molden. But even benign-sounding conservation is often unpopular. There is widespread resistance to raising prices for water (or energy for pumping) to increase efficiency, suspicion of genetic modification, and a reluctance among farmers to abandon water-hungry but lucrative crops when they are struggling to feed their family. 'It's a socioeconomic dilemma,' says Al-Nuimat. 'You can't stop now: it's the source of their life.'
Faced with public apathy and even resistance, responses have tended to focus on increasing supply. For decades the scale of ambition has been like a game of global engineering one-upmanship: rivers have been diverted across countries, pumps sunk kilometres into fossil aquifers, and bigger plants commissioned to recycle or desalinate water. And there is no sign of a let-up. As shortages become more desperate and costs and energy use fall, Global Water Intelligence forecasts that desalination capacity will more than double by 2015, and the potential to increase wastewater recycling is enormous, being only 2 per cent of volume.
But huge costs, environmental concerns and public distaste for drinking their 'waste' has forced many communities to reconsider simpler, traditional methods, too. Some of the ideas the earliest farmers would have recognised: tree replanting, ripping out thirsty non-native plants, stone walls to hold back erosion, and rain harvesting with simple ponds and tanks. Some have even urged a return to more vegetarian diets, which at their extreme demand only half the water of a typical American meat-eater's. This is, according to Lord Haskins, the former chairman of Britain's Northern Foods group and a government adviser, 'the most virtuous and responsible step of all'.
And when all options are exhausted at home, countries have another option: to import water in food and even industrial goods. Political meddling with subsidies makes trade a controversial 'solution', but by favouring regions with a 'competitive advantage' in water it can work. Globally the IWMI estimates irrigation demand would be 11 per cent higher without trade, and quotes a projection that imports can cut future irrigation by another 19-38 per cent by 2025. Saudi Arabia has gone further than most, announcing in February that it would stop all wheat production in a few years, though other countries might now be deterred by higher food prices.
Ultimately governments are being forced down several paths at once: to raise prices to reflect the true value of water to humans and the environment, invest in technology to improve efficiency and supplies, engage in more trade, and make peace with neighbours that can hold up incoming water or food. These will only be possible, though, if people can be lifted out of poverty, to afford higher prices, capital spending and imports. 'When you diversify your economy you solve your problems,' says Allan.
Looking back at the history of mankind's struggle for enough water, experience suggests the initiative which enabled humans to settle, farm and dominate the planet will provide many solutions. But sometimes we might have to accept defeat. 'On the one hand you can see this amazing technological ingenuity of humans, which throughout prehistory and history continually invented new ways to manage water supply,' says Mithen. 'On the other, the story of the past tells us that sometimes, however brilliant your technological inventions, they are just not good enough, and you get periods of abandonment of landscapes. We have got to be prepared to invest in technology, but also to recognise in some parts of the world there are going to be areas where we're going to have to say "enough's enough".'
A person uses about 50 litres of water a day; industry accounts for double that. But agriculture needs much more - in fact, 90 per cent of all water used by humans.
Liquid assets
How much water does it take to make a can of coke? The answer is hard to swallow
Your fridge contains more water than you'd think. The bottle of mineral water, for instance, used five times its volume in the manufacture of the bottle. That steak came from a cow that had to be fed and watered for three years. This figure is known as a 'water footprint' and over the following pages we measure how your daily rations add up...
Tomatoes are a water-intensive crop, often grown in water-scarce regions. The Spanish tomato industry, the largest provider of tomatoes to the UK, is responsible for polluting 29m m3 of fresh water resources each year ...#8594;

Why concentrating on the sun promises a bright future

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: November 3 2008 02:00

In an industrial park near Israel's Negev desert, rows and rows of large glass mirrors surround a 60 metre-tall tower. At the top is a boiler, and the water inside is heated to more than 550C.
This is a test facility, but in an operational plant the superheated steam would be piped to a standard electricity generating turbine, and the power carried from there to homes and businesses.
This test plant has been built by BrightSource Energy, a US company specialising in concentrated solar thermal power.
When most people think of solar power, they think of photovoltaic panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity or trap the sun's rays to heat hot water tanks.
Concentrated solar thermal power is different. It is a way of converting the sun's energy to electricity but without using the panels. Instead, mirrors concentrate the sun's rays on to a tank of water. From then on, the process of generating power is much the same as in a conventional power plant - the steam drives a turbine that produces electricity.
An alternative to this "central receiver" method is to use "parabolic troughs", mirrors that trap the sun's rays, which heat up a transfer fluid that is then used to heat steam in a standard turbine generator.
"We are proving [with our technology] that clean energy can be generated reliably, more efficiently, and at lower cost than ever before," says John Woolard, chief executive of BrightSource.
The company, which has raised more than $160m in funding, is developing a series of concentrated solar thermal power plants in California, with the construction of the first scheduled to start next year. The company says it plans to "change the way utilities generate electricity", and in March signed agreements with PG&E to supply 900MW. BrightSource's planned plants should provide enough electricity for more than 3.2m homes.
Concentrated solar power is seen as one of the brightest spots in the renewable energy industry. After wind power, the technology is the fastest growing sector of renewables, according to Emerging Energy Research, which expects more than $20bn to be invested in the next five years.
The last year has seen a flurry of announcements. As well as BrightSource, Acciona, Abengoa Solar, FPL Energy and several others have announced new projects. Emerging Energy Research estimates that more than 5,800MW of capacity will be installed by 2012.
"This is old technology," explains Reese Tisdale, analyst at Emerging Energy Research. "It has been around for 20-plus years." Until recently, however,it was seen as little more than a curiosity. But rising energy prices, the need for security of supply and concerns over climate change have caused a resurgence of interest.
Mr Tisdale says the technology also has the advantage of being cheaper than photovoltaic energy. CSP plants can produce electricity at a cost of 20 US cents per kilowatt hour without subsidy, which compares with about 25 cents for the lowest-cost photovoltaic systems. It is still much more expensive than natural gas, at about 8 or 9 cents per kilowatt hour, but the cost is likely to come down in future as the technology gains popularity.
Some of the main centres of activity for CSP are in the south-western US and Spain, where several companies are at work on new plants. For instance, the Spanish engineering group Sener Grupo de Ingeniería recently formed a joint venture with Masdar, a vehicle funded by the Abu Dhabi government. Called Torresol Energy, the joint venture will design, build and operate concentrating solar power plants in the world's sunbelt regions, starting with three plants in Spain with an expected combined value of €800m.
As the technology requires very strong sun, it is only suitable for areas where this is plentiful. But in such areas, it has huge potential, says Mr Tisdale. Some experts have speculated that solar thermal power plants in north Africa could power much of Europe.
One drawback is that the plants do not generate power at night. However, technology called molten salts is being developed to overcome this. The salts are molten at very high temperatures and retain the heat for long periods, so they can be used to store heat during the day when the sun shines, giving it back at night to keep the turbines turning.
Ausra, which is building a plant in California, says the US could cut its emissions by 40 per cent by moving to solar thermal power and using electric cars.
"The US could nearly eliminate our dependence on coal, oil and gas for electricity and transportation, drastically slashing global warming pollution without increasing costs for energy," says David Mills, chief scientific officer and founder of Ausra. "Our daily and annual energy needs closely match the energy production potential from solar thermal power plants with heat energy storage, and our models show solar thermal power will cost less than continuing to import oil."
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Official 'green' jobs promise appears exaggerated

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: November 3 2008 02:00

Gordon Brown's promises of a large number of new "green" jobs for the UK are unlikely to materialise, the Financial Times has found.
The prime minister has repeatedly promised employment creation in renewable energy of more than 160,000 new jobs by 2020, with further jobs in other environmental industries. The UK total could be less than half that, FT research suggests.
Many of the 160,000 jobs are likely to be generated overseas - for instance, in making wind turbines and other equipment in which the UK has only a tiny manufacturing base.
A Department of Energy and Climate Change official said: "The 160,000 jobs refers to global jobs created from meeting the UK's 15 per cent target [for renewable energy generation] and does not include any estimates of the number of jobs in the UK associated with the global expansion in renewables."
Another of the government's estimates - that 10,000 new jobs would be created by its £100m electric cars initiative - is not based on research. An official told the FT the claim emerged from Department for Business expertise in the area.
Several leading industry observers have expressed scepticism over the government's claims.
"I don't see how they can get there on current form," said Andrew Simms, policy director of the New Economics Foundation thinktank .
Michael Liebreich, chief executive of New Energy Finance, a consultancy specialising in renewables, agreed: "We fear that expectations are being set unrealistically high by politicians who are making promises inconsistent with economic fundamentals."
The prospect of new renewable energy jobs is seen as an important justification for adopting the European Union target of generating 20 per cent of energy from renewables by 2020. It would require the UK to generate 35 to 40 per cent of electricity from renewables.
A key plank in the government's "green industrial strategy", to be detailed by ministers next year, is attracting more renewable energy manufacturers to the UK - chiefly wind companies. Marine renewables, such as tidal and wave energy, are included in government plans but are in their infancy. The UK is unlikely to be able to tempt large, established wind turbine manufacturers to set up major operations. "The UK has missed the boat," said Jim Dehlsen, chief executive of Clipper Windpower, a turbine maker.
The government hopes to kickstart a new industry - making wind turbines designed for use at sea. But the market for offshore turbines may be much less than the government predicts.
Offshore wind is two to three times more costly than onshore turbines. Most countries are concentrating on onshore wind. The US and China, rapidly becoming the biggest wind markets, have much land available and little need to expand offshore. Other European countries have fewer viable offshore wind sites than the UK.
Thus the export market for UK-built offshore turbines is likely to be limited. Mr Dehlsen of Clipper, which recently set up a test facility in Blyth and plans to make offshore components there, said the UK was likely to be his biggest customer.
The number of people required to manufacture turbines is in doubt. Douglas-Westwood, which made the forecasts on which the UK's renewable jobs estimate is based, assumed manufacturing each megawatt of wind capacity would generate three jobs directly.
"That sounds too high to me," Mr Dehlsen said. He added that Clipper planned to produce 200 turbines a year at its plant, each capable of producing 7.5 to 10mw, by 2020. He expected the plant to employ 2,000 to 2,500 people, about a third to half the number implied by the government's estimates.
An estimate by Bain and Company provides more evidence that the government's job-creation claims are overblown. Bain found that if a third of the wind turbines needed to make the government's renewable energy targets were made in the UK, it would create 36,000 jobs.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Hybrid Economics: How Far Does Buck Go?


News that truck sales have bounced back a little since gasoline prices dropped back below $4 a gallon will have environmentalists tearing their hair out -- and auto-company planners losing sleep.
Whichever way the current retooling of Detroit plays out, the industry is betting big on better fuel efficiency.
Foreign entrants such as Toyota Motor owe their rise partly to early development of hybrid vehicles mixing battery- and petroleum-driven technology to deliver fuel efficiency of more than 40 miles per gallon.

In response, the likes of General Motors are racing to develop innovations such as plug-in hybrids, which some claim might achieve 100 mpg or more.
Churlish as it might seem to ask, will consumers care enough to pay up for it? Geoffrey Styles, founder of GSW Strategy, an energy consultancy, suggests, that deep down, most drivers care less about miles per gallon, and more about getting somewhere as cheaply as possible (in reasonable comfort). In other words: the dollars per mile.
Framed like this, fuel efficiency becomes subject to the law of diminishing returns.
Assuming a long-term gasoline price of $4 a gallon, 20 mpg translates to 20 cents per mile, while a conventional hybridlike 45 mpg equates to nine cents.
For a driver traveling 15,000 miles a year -- the average in 2006 -- the implied annual saving is almost $1,900.
Now compare the 45 mpg conventional hybrid to what a plug-in hybrid might do.
This is trickier, because these vehicles are expected to travel, say, 40 miles on battery power alone.
Still, assuming multiple short journeys and an electricity cost of 10 cents per kilowatt hour, our driver pays two cents per mile and saves about $1,200 a year compared with the regular hybrid.
Getty Images
Chevrolet Volt
Industry executives have spoken of GM's forthcoming plug-in Chevrolet Volt costing in the mid-$30,000 range. Assume, after tax credits, consumers end up paying $30,000. That is almost $6,000 more than a conventional hybrid such as the Toyota Prius Touring.
Discounting the fuel savings calculated above at, say, 5%, it would take about six years for our driver to make back the extra outlay.
On journeys above 40 miles, however, the economics change, and the payback period grows.
Imagine a plug-in hybrid that can get 40 miles on its battery and achieves 50 mpg when burning gasoline. On that basis, a journey of 100 miles costs 5.6 cents per mile. Theoretically, the payback period stretches to 17 years.
In reality, journeys span a range of distances, so most drivers' economics, based on these assumptions, would probably fall between these two extremes.
To be clear, this does not mean plug-ins are pointless. Some consumers prioritize environmental issues above cost. And a plug-in's relative economics improve as gasoline prices rise, which is almost a certainty over the medium term.
At this stage, it is also unclear what a plug-in's resale value would be. If it holds up better than a conventional hybrid because of rising gasoline prices, then the payback period shortens.
While the price of plug-ins will fall, however, so will that of conventional hybrids: Honda's Insight, for example, is expected to retail for $20,000 or less.
By the time consumers emerge from the current economic slowdown, their will to pay much more for being even greener will likely be diminished.
Even if it isn't, tougher auto-loan terms will likely curb their ability to do so.
Bigger tax breaks would help bridge the gap.
Like much else with Detroit these days, the length and depth of the current recession, and Washington's willingness to help, could be crucial to persuading truck-loving drivers to plug in to the future.
Write to Liam Denning at