Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Ed Miliband to exempt Sellafield firms from Freedom of Information Act

Move comes on top of decision by government to make taxpayer liable for any accidents at the nuclear power plant
David Hencke, Westminster correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Monday November 17 2008 17.53 GMT

Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary, is to exempt from the Freedom of Information Act the new US-led private consortia taking over the running of Britain's biggest nuclear facility at Sellafield next Monday.
The move comes on top of a decision by Malcolm Wicks, the former energy minister, to make the taxpayer liable for any accidents at Sellafield, which is in Cumbria, exempting the firm from the national requirement to pay the first £140m of any bill for leaks or radioactive contamination.
It comes as the Speaker of the Commons has granted an emergency debate on Wednesday to Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West, who is demanding an explanation of why Wicks broke parliamentary procedures in rushing through the exemption from liabilities for the new consortia.
Wicks used emergency procedures to inform Edward Leigh, the chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, of the proposals, and told MPs the documents had been put in the House of Commons library.
Earlier this month it was discovered that the documents announcing the proposed exemption were not put in the library until October 14 - 75 days after the closing date for objections.
In the meantime, the government had signed the deal with the consortium led by American firm URS Washington, French firm Areva and the UK company Amec for the £6.5bn contract on October 6.
Leigh has since wanted the procedures reopened so MPs could have their say but Miliband has refused. In a letter placed in the library he said: "Any proposals to rescind the prior approval of the nuclear indemnity or to subject it to a further process of review would completely undermine the contractual position that has been established between Nuclear Decommisisoning Authority and NMPL (the consortia), putting the very completion of the competition in jeopardy."
The NDA confirmed yesterday that Sellafield Ltd - as the new organisation will be known - would be exempt from the FOI laws because it is a private company.
The spokesman added, however: "Since the NDA still owns the land and buildings people will still be able to make requests through us about Sellafield. They will not be able to request information directly from the consortia."
Bill Hamilton, the head of "stakeholder communications" at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, posted a comment to a blog on the issue last month suggesting that some liabilities might be met after all.
He wrote: "All the bidders for the Sellafield contract offered to meet some of these potential costs (these are still confidential as we have not yet transferred the shares to the winning consortia) … But, the principle has been established that these consortia will take initial responsibility for liabilities … outwith the £140m they are required by law to have insurance for."
Details should be released at a later date.

Searaser device in uphill battle for clean energy

The Times

November 17, 2008
Pumping is made possible by the motion of waves lifting the device as it floats in the sea Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter

A device that harnesses the power of the sea to push water uphill has been developed to provide cheap renewable electricity. The invention is designed to pump water hundreds of feet above sea level from where it can gush downhill to drive hydroelectric generators.
Pumping is made possible by the motion of waves lifting the device, Searaser, as it floats in the sea, and gravity bringing it down again in the wave troughs. A prototype has just completed tests in which it pumped water more than 160ft (50m) uphill through a pipe the diameter of a saucer. The full-size device is expected to pump water through a pipe the diameter of a dustbin lid up at least 650ft (200m) – or easily enough to clear the top of Beachy Head, which is 530ft (160m) high.
A series of reservoirs would be built – and in some areas would be reopened – at the top of coastal cliffs and hills to store water until it was needed to generate electricity.
Alvin Smith, the engineer who developed Searaser, envisages alternative uses such as pumping desalinated water inland for irrigation in dry countries.

However, he said its main use would be to help Britain to end its reliance on fossil fuels and so reduce the man-made emissions of carbon dioxide that are blamed widely for causing, or at least contributing significantly to, climate change.
Under climate change legislation – expected to be finalised in Parliament this week with Royal Assent next week – Britain will commit itself to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 per cent by 2020. A six-month preproduction trial is being planned and, if successful, the device could help Britain to meet its target of getting 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources.
One of the big advantages of the wave device, its creator said, is that the turbines that would be used to generate electricity are a proven technology and have been in use for years in hydroelectric installations in hilly areas where water can be held in reservoirs.
The wave pump consists of two floats, one above the other, fitted to a double-acting piston. Water is pumped as the floats are forced together and apart by the motion of the waves.
Chains and weights fix the device to the sea floor and the pump is able to operate in water as shallow as 30ft (9m) as well as in extreme weather conditions.
Each of the pumps has a capacity of just 0.25mw, but they are expected to be used together in their dozens, or even hundreds, side by side along the coast or further out at sea.
Mr Smith, and his colleague Geoff White, calculate that one full-size device would be able to pump enough water to keep 470 homes supplied with electricity. To supply 20 million homes would take 43,000.
They maintain that with Britain surrounded by the sea it would be a tremendous waste to ignore the potential it has for providing green energy. “We have any amount of sea water out there,” Mr Smith said. “We have got to start using it.”

BP To Shut Australian Solar Panel Factory

By Ross Kelly

SYDNEY (Dow Jones)--BP PLC (BP) said Tuesday it is shutting down its only Australian-based solar power factory, resulting in 200 job losses, to focus production in countries where costs are lower.
Australia's largest manufacturer of solar panels, BP said its local marketing team will keep their jobs to distribute imported product to Australian customers.
The move comes against a backdrop of increased public enthusiasm for renewable energy sources, with the Australian federal government last year setting a 20% renewable energy target for 2020.
The government, however, upset the solar power industry in May when it said a previously announced A$8,000 rebate would no longer be available to households earnings more than A$100,000 a year.
BP Solar regional director Mark Twiddel said the company's decision to cease manufacturing in Australia had nothing to do with government policy and hadn't been prompted by the global financial crisis.
"In order to compete, in order to lower the cost of solar electric products, we need to be located at places closer to our suppliers where we can operate at scale," he told reporters during a conference call.
Twiddel said the Australian operation was competing with plants 20-times its size and had to import most of its raw materials, predominately silicon wafers, before shipping the bulk of product offshore.
The U.K energy giant will stop producing solar photovoltaic power, or PV, cells at the plant in Sydney Olympic Park at the end of March, with the slack to be taken up at its operations in Spain, India, China and the U.S.
The cells produced at the Australian operation can generate about 50 megawatts of power a year, accounting for a sixth of BP's total annual global PV output of 300 megawatts.
Twiddel said BP has set a target to make solar power prices competitive with current wholesale electricity prices across its global operations within five to 10 years.
BP Tuesday also reiterated that it is investing about US$1.5 billion globally each year in alternative energy sources.
Last year, it commenced an expansion of its PV manufacturing capacity at its European headquarters in Madrid, and at its Indian solar joint venture, Tata BP Solar, in Bangalore.
Twiddel said those expansions were progressing to plan.
-By Ross Kelly, Dow Jones Newswires; 61-2-8235-2957; ross.kelly@dowjones.com

The greenhouse gas that nobody knew

NF3, which is used in hi-tech manufacturing, was hailed as a way to fight global warming. But research shows that it has 17,000 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide.
From Yale Environment 360, part of the Guardian Environment Network

When industry began using NF3 in high-tech manufacturing, it was hailed as a way to fight global warming. But new research shows that this gas has 17,000 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide and is rapidly increasing in the atmosphere – and that's turning an environmental success story into a public relations disaster.
Hypothetical question: You're heartsick about global warming, so you've just paid $25,000 to put a solar system on the roof of your home. How do you respond to news that it was manufactured with a chemical that is 17,000 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a cause of global warming?
It may sound like somebody's idea of a bad joke. But last month, a study from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography reported that nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), with a global warming potential of 17,000, is now present in the atmosphere at four times the expected level and rapidly rising. Use of NF3 is currently booming, for products from computer chips and flats-screen LCDs to thin-film solar photovoltaics, an economical and increasingly popular solar power format.
Moreover, the Kyoto Protocol, which limits a half-dozen greenhouse gases, does not cover NF3. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change now lists it among five major new greenhouse gases likely to be included in the next phase of global warming regulation, after 2012. And while that may be reassuring, it also suggests the complicated character of the global warming problem.
In fact, NF3 had become popular largely as a way to reduce global warming. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began actively encouraging use of NF3 in the 1990s, as the best solution to a widespread problem in making the components for everything from cell phones to laptop computers. Manufacturers in the electronics industry all use a vacuum chamber to etch intricate circuitry and to deposit a thin layer of chemical vapor on the surface of a product. Some of the vapor inevitably builds up instead as glassy crud on the interior of the chamber.
To tear apart that layer of crud and clean the vacuum chamber, manufacturers were using powerful fluorinated greenhouse gases. The usual choice, hexafluorethane, or C2F6 sounds better at first than NF3. In global warming terms, it's only about 12,000 times worse than carbon dioxide. But C2F6 is difficult to break down, and roughly 60 percent of what goes into the vacuum chamber ends up in the atmosphere. With NF3, estimates suggested that under optimal conditions, roughly 98 percent of what goes into the vacuum chamber is destroyed there.
So when the semiconductor industry announced a voluntary partnership with the EPA to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 10 percent from 1995 levels between 1999 and 2010, NF3 became the replacement technology of choice. Makers of flat-screen displays soon announced a similar program. In 2002, the EPA gave a Climate Protection Award to the largest NF3 producer, Pennsylvania-based Air Products and Chemicals Inc., for its work in reducing emissions.
Then last summer, a paper calling NF3 "the greenhouse gas missing from Kyoto" attracted widespread press attention. Co-authors Michael J. Prather and Juno Hsu of the University of California at Irvine noted that NF3 is one of the most potent greenhouse gases known and persists in the atmosphere for 550 years.
But back in the 1990s when the Kyoto Protocol was being negotiated, NF3 was a niche product of unknown global warming potential (GWP). [In calculating GWP, carbon dioxide is the basic unit, with a GWP of one. For other gases, scientists measure infrared-absorption, the spectral location of the absorbing wavelengths, and the atmospheric lifetime of the gas to determine its global warming effect relative to carbon dioxide.] So NF3 got left out, meaning no requirement for industry to track emissions, or even to report how much NF3 is actually being produced.
That left room for what felt to Prather like a "flimflam." In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he estimated that 20 or 30 percent of total NF3 production ends up in the atmosphere — not the two percent industry had seemed to suggest. He and Hsu characterized Air Products, the same NF3 producer that the EPA had honored, as producing the annual global warming equivalent of one of the world's largest coal-fired power plants.
A new paper, published in Geophysical Research Letters in October, filled in gaps in this glum picture — and threatened to turn the NF3 emissions success story into a public relations disaster. Ray Weiss and his research team at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography reported that NF3 is now present in the atmosphere at four times the expected amount, with atmospheric concentrations rising 11 percent a year. Working from annual production estimates of 4,000 metric tons, Weiss figured that about 16 percent of current production is ending up in the atmosphere.
Corning Painter, a vice president at Air Products, praised the Weiss paper but argued that "in terms of order of magnitude the numbers are relatively close" to earlier estimates. In a letter to New Scientist magazine this summer, Painter had seemed to give the impression that overall emissions were in the two percent range. "More than 20 years of research and work with our customers finds that less than 2 percent of NF3 is released into the atmosphere," he wrote.
But in an interview with Yale Environment 360, Painter said Air Products has a two percent emissions rate just in producing and packaging the gas, though he said that rate continues to go down. He said global NF3 production is actually 7,300 tons annually. Given Weiss's figures for atmospheric concentrations, he said, that would translate to an overall emissions rate closer to 8 percent, including manufacturing, transportation, and end-use.
Getting the advertised results with NF3 always hinged on an expensive new technology called remote plasma cleaning. It breaks up the gas in a remote container, then injects the active ingredient, fluorine, together with nitrogen, into the vacuum chamber. With the optimal configuration, the process destroys almost all the NF3. Bigger companies made the change to remote plasma cleaning when they switched to newer fabrication tools, often at great expense. "You can hear guys saying, 'I've gone from a Hummer to a Prius. I've met all my voluntary commitments,'" said Painter.
But other companies stuck with older tools, simply replacing C2F6 with NF3. This Band-Aid approach still releases about 20 percent of the NF3 into the atmosphere. Painter argued that the struggling economy will force manufacturers to shut down these less efficient production lines, reducing overall emissions. But in October, Global Industry Analysts estimated that over the next four years NF3 production will increase to almost 20,000 tons, because of growing demand in the electronics industry.
Moreover, even the latest equipment does not guarantee that a company will achieve the optimal emissions rates — for instance, in the solar cell industry. Amorphous silicon thin-film solar photovoltaic cells, manufactured using NF3, are slightly less efficient than crystalline silicon solar cells, the dominant technology. But they are cheaper to produce and expected to supply a rapidly increasing share of the solar market, for both large-scale and domestic applications.
Because thin-film is a new technology, manufacturers generally use the latest equipment. But a knowledgeable source, who asked to remain unidentified, recently visited thin-film solar researchers in Asia. "They were unaware of the NF3 issue. They were using a remote plasma, but they were also using quite a bit of NF3. They weren't sure they had it set up right for 98 percent destruction. It wasn't really on their radar."
The bottom line, said UC Irvine's Prather, is that "industry really cannot be trusted for self-regulation." We will not know the extent of the problem "until we have honest, legally required reporting." The other important lesson from the NF3 case, according to Scripps's Weiss, is that the bottom-up measurements required by some global warming regulations aren't enough. Figuring out how much methane a cow produces, then adding up the cows, may not give you ground truth when it comes to global warming. "You have to measure from the top down, and see what's actually going into the air."
A practical alternative to NF3 already exists. According to Paul Stockman of Munich-based Linde Gas, fluorine has zero global warming potential and no atmospheric lifetime. But it's also highly toxic and reactive. So instead of being shipped in bottles like NF3, it must be generated on site using special equipment. Stockman, whose company manufactures NF3, said fluorine will become essential in thin-film solar manufacturing, because faster cleaning times mean a substantial boost in productivity.
Meanwhile, Air Products says it supports adding NF3 to the list of regulated greenhouse gases in the Kyoto Protocol's second commitment period, beginning in 2012. But Prather believes industry needs to get more honest about NF3 production and emissions before then. Solar cells are like any other product, he said, in that the manufacturing process has a global warming footprint. But solar buyers are likely to be particularly concerned with the size of that footprint — and not so pleased to find out that what they thought was a Prius is really just a Hummer on the inside.
• This article was shared by our content partner Yale Environment 360, a member of the Guardian Environment Network.

Airport expansion must be halted to meet CO2 target, say climate scientists

Only practical solution to meet emissions target is for airline industry to curb demand for flying, says climate scientist
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday November 18 2008 00.01 GMT

There should be a moratorium on the expansion of all UK airports if the government's ambitious targets to cut CO2 emissions by 60% by 2050 are to have any chance of success, according to a leading climate scientist.
Kevin Anderson, a climate scientist at the University of Manchester's Tyndall Centre, said that technologies will not arrive quickly enough to offset the projected increase in air passenger numbers and that the only practical solution for the industry is to curb the demand for flying.
Speaking at a Royal Society meeting of energy and climate experts today, Anderson will also say that government plans to allow the aviation industry to buy carbon credits to cover its increased pollution will not be enough to reduce emissions.
The warning comes as the transport secretary, Geoff Hoon, is expected to give the all-clear to an expansion of Heathrow airport next month, which would see a new runway in place by 2030 and increase the number of flights from 480,000 to 700,000 a year.
The UK government wants the country to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions so that the average global temperature rise is no more than 2C. Last month the climate secretary, Ed Miliband, announced that aviation, a sector with rapidlygrowing carbon emissions, would be included in carbon trading markets such as the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). In principle, this means that increases in greenhouse gas emissions from flying can be used to pay for decreases in other sectors.
Anderson and his colleague Alice Bows, modelled how CO2 emissions from aviation would change, taking into account potential new technologies to make planes more efficient. Their report concluded: "We delude ourselves if our aspirations for a 2°C future resides substantially in the current framing of the EU emissions trading scheme and the low-carbon technologies and practices that they may engender. Whilst technology undoubtedly has an important medium and long-term role to play in reducing the carbon intensity of aviation, it is negligent and irresponsible not to engage with the sector's short-term emissions growth. The urgency with which the industry must make the transition to a low-carbon pathway leaves no option, but to instigate a radical and immediate programme of demand management."
Since the early 1990s, passenger numbers have grown by 7% a year in the UK and the CO2 emissions from planes have tracked this rise, despite the improved efficiencies in modern aircraft. "Whenever you hear the industry talking about there being significant improvements in efficiency, there is no historical link that you can pick out of the data, certainly over the last 15-20 years," said Anderson. "That's not to say planes haven't got better but the way they're being used — more taxiing, more circling, less direct flights – means that CO2 and passenger numbers have remained aligned."
Aviation currently produces around 41m tonnes of CO2 in the UK, accounting for around 7% of the country's emissions —this is still half of that from cars but it is growing at a much quicker rate than road transport. By 2030, Anderson predicts that aviation could account for two-thirds of the UK's total emissions if it continues to grow at its current rate of 7% a year. To keep the country's overall emissions cuts on target, other sectors such as energy and transport would have to make deep cuts. Unfortnately, said Anderson, no other sector has yet demonstrated that it can make overall CO2 reductions, never mind the significant drops required to offset aviation.
Anderson said there was little option left for the government. "There should be a compete moratorium on airport expansion prior to including aviation in the emissions trading scheme."
He admits that aviation is likely to remain a privileged sector because of the technical issues involved in solving its pollution problems.
Many in the airline industry pin their hopes on improved efficiencies in a range of areas such as more direct flight paths and lighter construction materials. But plans to coordinate air-traffic control systems across Europe and shorten flight paths, which proponents say could cut CO2 emissions by 10%, have been beset with political problems.
Anderson added that composite materials, which will make airplanes such as Boeing's forthcoming 777 Dreamliner 20% more efficient than modern planes, could inadvertently end up opening up new markets for passengers. "Travelling to the hub airports are a disincentive for a lot of people to fly. If people can fly from their local airports, they'll fly more long haul. The new Boeing is 20% more efficient than the older generation and will open up a new market."
But new technologies will take decades to penetrate the airline market. Aircraft designs change very little for many decades and planes themselves remain in service for around 30 years.
Anderson also warned against blindly jumping to other apparent solutions such as high-speed trains across the UK. A new train line between London and Manchester may kill off the domestic flight market between the cities but, unless there are specific policies to stop it, he warned that the vacated landing slots may end up in the hands of long-haul operators and increase carbon emissions overall.
Friends of the Earth's aviation campaigner, Richard Dyer said: "The government has put the interests of the aviation industry ahead of the environment for far too long – but ministers cannot continue to ignore the warnings from climate change experts.
"Aviation is one of the UK's fastest growing sources of carbon dioxide. We must curb the growth in air travel if we genuinely want to tackle global warming.
"Ministers must urgently review the UK's aviation strategy, scrap their reckless airport expansion plans and invest in alternatives to short-haul flights, such as faster rail travel."

Peers win concession on offset limits in climate bill

Allegra Stratton, political correspondent

The Guardian, Tuesday November 18 2008

The government last night moved to tighten its commitment to the 80% reduction of carbon emissions by the year 2050, introducing a safeguard that a limit be placed on reductions achieved by buying international offsetting credits.
During what will probably be the last few days of scrutiny before the climate change bill becomes law, the government made concessions in the House of Commons and the Lords, surprising green campaigners by tabling a further amendment to the energy bill - increasing from three megawatts to five the size of renewable projects that can benefit from its new feed-in tariffs.
The government's move to impose a limit on carbon emission reductions achieved abroad came in response to criticism from a cross-party group of peers. Theywere concerned that the UK's commitment to an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020 - recently increased from 60% - would be met by purchasing international offset credits, raising the possibility of no industrial behaviour change.
In a letter to a newspaper yesterday the peers, including Labour lords Whitty and Puttnam, and both opposition spokesmen on energy and climate change Lords Taylor of Holbeach and Lord Teverson, said: "Relying sufficiently on emission reductions which take place overseas could influence long-term investment decisions here in the UK, particularly in the power sector, locking the country into high carbon economy for years to come, when the overwhelming need is to tackle climate change, develop clean technologies and benefit from the growth in green jobs."
The amendment says it will set a limit on carbon units it would be allowed to buy from abroad after "taking into account" the advice of the independent Committee on Climate Change.
The government has also fortified its plans for feed-in tariffs, which will be debated by MPs when the energy bill returns to the Commons today - a measure that will help it meet the targets in the climate change bill.
Friends of the Earth said the tariffs were not being introduced speedily enough. Labour backbencher Alan Simpson, the shadow energy secretary Greg Clark and Liberal Democrat Steve Webb have tabled an amendment calling for the government to introduce the tariffs within a year.

UN data point to lower emissions

By Elisabeth Rosenthal
Published: November 17, 2008

The United Nations released its latest global emissions figures on Monday, providing cause for hope and concern just two weeks before the world's environment ministers meet in Poznan, Poland, to discuss the creation of a new global agreement to curb climate changing greenhouse gas emissions.
The release of the new data comes against the backdrop of a global recession, and UN officials acknowledged that they were uncertain how economic hardship would affect countries' nascent commitment or ability to reduce emissions, which is sometimes costly.
"This is a critical moment for ministers and politicians," said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at a press conference in Bonn. He called the coming climate negotiations "the most complicated process the world has ever seen."
The newly released figures show that among a group of 41 industrialized countries that report emissions annually to the Unfccc, emissions decreased very slightly - one-tenth of 1 percent - in 2006 compared with 2005. But overall emissions had increased by 2.5 percent from 2000 to 2006, leading the agency to decry what it called "continued growth."
De Boer expressed some optimism about this year's figures.

"What I saw was a slowing of the increase in emission from industrialized countries," he said. But his statistician, Sergey Kononov, pointed out that the number was too small to indicate a significant downward trend, noting that it could have been caused by either improved policies or simply a warmer than normal winter.
Perhaps the biggest asterisk that must be attached to the new figures is that they tally only emissions from industrialized countries and do not include the so-called large emerging economies, like China and India, two of the world's largest emitters.
Just one year ago, the Unfccc convened the world's environment ministers in Bali, Indonesia, where the group pledged to hammer out a climate pact by 2009. Rich nations pledged to design a system that would help the poor cope with global warming. The current agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, expires in 2012 and does not cover developing nations like China or the United States, which never ratified it.
But the world has changed since Bali.
The United States, a reluctant participant in the UN meeting last year, now has a president-elect who has pledged to make climate change a centerpiece of his administration. Perhaps more important, fallout from a global economic crisis has turned the economics of climate change upside down.
On the one hand, oil is now cheaper than at any time in the recent past, which makes it tempting for struggling economies to fall back on this relatively dirty fossil fuel, rather than plowing ahead with efforts to develop less-polluting alternatives, like wind and solar power. On the other, stagnant economies mean less industrial production, which historically leads to a drop in emissions. Indeed, the dramatic downturn in industry in the former East Bloc countries in the 1990s after independence, led to a marked decrease in pollution there.
"It is clear that the financial crisis and subsequent economic downturn will have implications for climate negotiations," de Boer said Monday. But he added that "it will take time to see how."
Indeed, he and others have expressed hope that some nations will renew their economies by investing in green jobs and green growth, a proposal put forth by President-elect Barack Obama during the campaign and endorse by nongovernmental organizations like the Clinton Foundation.
De Boer said he hoped that the world would meet its climate goals by "relying on policy actions and not an economic turndown," adding: "I hope never to be in the situation where we say we made our Kyoto target, but everyone is starving."
UN officials said Monday that Obama would not attend the meeting but expressed hope that the U.S. delegation would be "liasing closely" with the incoming administration, which takes office in January.
In 2007, Bush administration officials nearly jettisoned a global agreement, signing on at the 11th hour after a delegate from Papua New Guinea famously told them to "please get out of the way."
Unlike the Bush administration, Obama supports a cap-and-trade system, similar to the one that currently operates in the European Union. Companies and industries are assigned emissions limits and must buy "carbon permits" to exceed them. Such permits can come from investing in emissions-reducing projects like planting trees or cleaning up a dirty coal mine in Asia, in theory "offsetting" environment damage done at home.
Despite the dismal economic situation, the coming climate talks could build on progress over the past year in carbon-trading systems, like the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism, which are now fully operational.
"These are no longer just numbers on paper," de Boer said. "They are used in transactions, and the number of trades is going up."

Hesitation in pursuit of a Green New Deal

By Paul Taylor Reuters
Published: November 17, 2008

LONDON: With Europe and the United States staring recession in the face, a growing chorus is calling for heavy public investment in clean, green energy to revive economic growth while fighting climate change.
Under the slogan of a "Green New Deal," leaders from the UN secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, to Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president, and the foreign minister of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, argue that industrialized countries can achieve two goals through a single effort and create millions of "green collar" jobs.
The idea of using tax breaks and extra public spending to promote energy efficiency, mitigate carbon emissions and develop renewable power sources, inspired by a U.S. public works program put in place during the Great Depression, sounds like common sense.
But it may not happen fast enough or on a sufficient scale to stimulate the economy, stop global warming or bring down for any length of time oil prices that reached $147 a barrel earlier this year.
"This is the big opportunity to get off the oil hook, but governments have to be bold, do it on a large scale and stick to it," said Tom Burke, co-founder of the environmental consultancy E3G and an associate professor at Imperial College, London.

He advocates sustained public investment in wind farms, photovoltaic and solar energy, developing so-called clean coal technology, connecting European electricity grids and combining heating and power from natural gas to make offices and homes more fuel efficient.
Yet governments that have collectively found about $5 trillion to rescue banks and galvanize economies hesitate to focus fiscal stimulus measures on clean energy because of the long lead time for many projects.
Indeed, there are signs that the financial crisis is causing cutbacks in public and private-sector investment in wind farms and solar and wave power, and economic angst may make the European Union scale back ambitious legislation to fight climate change.
The U.S. president-elect, Barack Obama, said in a campaign debate that the credit crunch could slow his plans for a $150 billion clean energy program, designed to reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil and create five million "green collar" jobs.
The research group New Energy Finance says new investment in clean power will decline by 4 percent this year compared with 2007 because of the crisis although the conditions for growth are intact. Total new investment in low-carbon technology is estimated at $142 billion in 2008, down from a record $148 billion in 2007.
Germany, the biggest economy in Europe, earmarked just a fraction of this month's €50 billion, or $62.45 billion, stimulus package for measures to renovate buildings and reduce emissions.
Governments are tempted to give money directly to voters in tax cuts or one-off payments to bring an immediate rise in consumption rather than take the slower route of investing in green infrastructure schemes, economists say.
A recession is also a difficult time to introduce new taxes that promote environmentally sustainable behavior.
Some governments have found ways to combine the two, but so far mostly on a modest scale.
Britain has spent public money on insulating homes of the elderly. Filling wall cavities and insulating roofs cuts pensioners' fuel bills, reduces energy consumption, curbs CO2 emissions and creates jobs.
France has created tax incentives to buy low-emission cars, with corresponding tax increases on gas guzzlers, that are changing driving habits and have prompted automakers to advertise their vehicles' green performance rather than acceleration or power.
To make an impact on gross domestic product next year, European countries would have to do far more, especially on energy efficiency, where environmentalists and EU officials say the biggest and quickest gains are to be made.
Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Program, said Britain could create thousands of jobs within two years by reducing the carbon footprint of buildings.
The European Commission's Strategic Energy Review, published last week, offers plenty of longer-term projects awaiting funds.

Brazil says ethanol production won't harm Amazon

The Associated Press
Published: November 17, 2008

SAO PAULO, Brazil: Expansion of vast sugarcane plantations across Brazil to meet growing worldwide demand for ethanol won't harm the Amazon, a top Brazilian official said Monday.
Speaking at the start of a five-day international conference on biofuels, presidential chief of staff Dilma Rousseff said Brazil will soon unveil an agricultural zoning plan to specify where crops across Latin America's largest nation can be grown for fuel and food.
The Amazon and several other regions known for their wide range of plant and animal species are likely to be declared off limits. But Brazil will encourage expanded ethanol production elsewhere and in poor nations around the world that have temperate climates suitable for sugarcane.
"It's a socio-economic reality," Rousseff said. "It generates jobs and income, mainly in tropical countries."
Rousseff also said expansion of ethanol won't compete with production of food in Brazil, and that there's also room for other crops ranging from soy to corn.

Though sugarcane now carpets 4.2 million hectares (10.4 million acres) of Brazilian land, she said that is less than 1 percent of the nation's territory and that there's plenty of land available outside ecologically sensitive areas for more cane.
Rousseff said Brazil must strike down the "myth that cane fields are invading the Amazon," but critics say sugarcane-ethanol plantations already operate in the Amazon, and that some plan to expand. They also say that conversion of pastureland and soy fields to sugarcane is pushing out soy farmers and cattle ranchers who then set up shop again on freshly deforested jungle.
Rousseff also said Brazil's government is ready to help big ethanol producers suffering from lack of credit because of the worldwide financial crisis.
Ethanol producers were among those eligible when the government recently announced billions of dollars in emergency lines of credit for Brazilian companies caught up in the credit crunch.
"More will be freed up if it's needed, but up until now that doesn't seem to be the case," she told reporters.
Foreign investors pumped billions of dollars into Brazilian ethanol operations over the last several years, but new investment all but dried up as the financial crisis spread across the world in October.
The sector took a hit last week when a major producer revealed that it had asked a court for protection from creditors while it restructures $100 million in debt.
Companhia Albertina said it will continue operating.
It appeared to be the first sign of major trouble for an ethanol producer since the credit crisis hit.
The international financial crisis could end up expanding production of biofuels, Rousseff predicted, if governments mulling big spending programs to jump start economies decide to focus on ethanol and other gasoline alternatives.
"The crisis may allow anti-cyclical policies that favor a a green agenda with biofuel as a priority," she said.
Brazil is the second only to the United States as an ethanol producer, and it is the planet's top exporter. Sugarcane-based ethanol is cheaper to produce than the corn-based ethanol made in the U.S.
Former Brazilian Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues said last week that Brazilian ethanol will remain competitive with gasoline as long as oil is being sold for $40 or more per barrel. He said corn-based ethanol is competitive with oil at $50 or more a barrel.
Oil prices stood just above $58 per barrel Monday, down from a high of $147 in June.