Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Environment: green jobs to rise to a million by 2017

PM highlights carbon capture demonstration plants and commitment to build 1,000 wind turbines

Alok Jha
guardian.co.uk, Monday 29 June 2009 18.08 BST

Among the many jobs proposed in Gordon Brown's statement today, 400,000 will have a green tinge by 2017. That will take the total British employment in the sector to more than a million.
The prime minister also highlighted some key proposals that will form the basis of the upcoming white paper on energy: four commercial-scale carbon capture and storage demonstration plants for Britain and a commitment to build 1,000 onshore and offshore wind turbines in 2009-10.
"The bill complements the £1.4bn of public investment provided in the budget, and up to £4bn now on offer from the European investment bank," said Brown.
"In addition – following our reforms to the policy, planning and regulatory regimes – we will see between now and 2020 as we meet our renewable energy targets around £100bn invested by the private sector."
Brown also announced an innovation fund: £150m of public money that will be used to attract private sector investment in biotechnology, life sciences, low carbon technologies and advanced manufacturing.
Simon Walker, the chief executive of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, welcomed the innovation fund. "I am convinced that this scheme can make a real difference provided it is implemented with the urgency that it deserves. Venture capital should be in the vanguard of economic recovery in Britain and it now has the change to move from the relative fringe in economic thinking squarely to centre stage."
Richard Barker, the director general of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries, said: "The UK's economy and NHS patients need our country to lead in life sciences. Many great discoveries begin in small companies, many of which face an urgent funding crisis. Meeting this need is an important signal of government's intent and a first step towards delivering against an ambitious strategy to put UK life sciences at the forefront of our country's economic and health future."

Rising sea level to submerge Louisiana coastline by 2100, study warns

Scientists say between 10,000 and 13,500 square kilometres of coastal land around New Orleans will go underwater due to rising sea levels and subsidence

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Monday 29 June 2009 12.33 BST

A vast swath of the coastal lands around New Orleans will be underwater by the dawn of the next century because the rate of sediment deposit in the Mississippi delta can not keep up with rising sea levels, according to a study published today.
Between 10,000 and 13,500 square kilometres of coastal lands will drown due to rising sea levels and subsidence by 2100, a far greater loss than previous estimates.
For New Orleans, and other low-lying areas of Louisiana whose vulnerability was exposed by hurricane Katrina, the findings could bring some hard choices about how to defend the coast against the future sea level rises that will be produced by climate change.
They also revive the debate about the long-term sustainability of New Orleans and other low-lying areas.
Scientists say New Orleans and the barrier islands to the south will be severely affected by climate change by the end of this century, with sea level rise and growing intensity of hurricanes. Much of the land mass of the barrier island chain sheltering New Orleans was lost in the 2005 storm.
But the extent of the land that will be lost is far greater than earlier forecasts suggest, said Dr Michael Blum and Prof Harry Roberts, the authors of the study. "When you look at the numbers you come to the conclusion that the resources are just not there to restore all the coast, and that is one of the major points of this paper," said Roberts, a professor emeritus of marine geology at Louisiana State University.
Blum, who was formerly at Louisiana State University, now works at Exxon. "I think every geologist that has worked on this problem realises the future does not look very bright unless we can come up with some innovative ways to get that sediment in the right spot," said Roberts. "For managers and people who are squarely in the restoration business, this is going to force them to make some very hard decisions about which areas to save and which areas you can't save."
Efforts to keep pace with the accelerated rate of sea level rise due to global warming are compromised by the Mississippi's declining ability to bear sediments downstream into the delta.
The authors used sediment data from the Mississippi flood plain to estimate the amount of sediment deposited on the river delta during the past 12,000 years. They then compared this with sediment deposition today.
In paper published in Nature Geoscience they calculate that due to dam and levee building on the Mississippi the sediment carried by the river has been reduced significantly. There are now about 8,000 dams on the Mississippi river system. Roberts said such constructions and the system of levees in Louisiana had cut in half the sediment carried down to the delta, inhibiting the river's ability to compensate for the land lost to rising seas.
Sustaining the existing delta size would require 18 to 24bn tonnes of sediment, which the authors say is significantly more than can be drawn from the river in its current state. "We conclude that significant drowning is inevitable," the authors wrote. "In the absence of sediment input, land surfaces that are now below 1m in elevation will be converted to open water or marsh."

China Asks for Comment on Car Subsidies


BEIJING -- China is seeking comment from the public about its subsidy program aimed at encouraging consumers to replace old and polluting vehicles with new autos, the finance and commerce ministries said.
Consumers who scrap vehicles under the plan can receive a subsidy of between 3,000 yuan and 6,000 yuan, or about $450 to $900, when they purchase a new vehicle. Applicants must deliver their old cars to special scrapping centers.
The size of the subsidy would depend on the model of the scrapped vehicle, the Commerce Ministry said on its Web site Friday. It is seeking comment about the subsidy program until Friday.
The subsidy program comes as China's auto sales have risen steadily even as global auto demand has cooled amid the financial crisis.
Analysts attributed strong car sales in China, which rose 14.3% in the first five months of this year from a year earlier, to government policies, including a purchase tax cut on small vehicles with engines 1.6 liters or smaller in January.
Consumers who scrap autos that don't meet emissions standards and replace them with vehicles that have engines 1.6 liters or smaller aren't eligible for the subsidy, because they already enjoy 50% off the purchase tax, the statement said.
The subsidies will be offered until May 31, it said.
Write to Patricia Jiayi Ho at patricia.ho@dowjones.com

Portugal to Build Refueling Sites for Electric Cars

Associated Press

LISBON -- Portugal announced a plan to install about 1,300 recharging sites for electric vehicles over the next two years, part of an effort to create a mass market for environmentally friendly electric cars expected to go on sale next year.
The center-left Socialist government is aiming to reduce energy imports and emissions.
Having no oil or coal, Portugal has long imported most of its energy. But in recent years it has become a European pioneer in the development of clean energy. The government claims renewable sources can already meet 43% of the country's electricity needs.
The first phase of deployment will include recharging sites in 21 cities and rural districts chosen for their high population density and traffic volume, the Economy and Innovation Ministry said. The sites are to be established at gas stations, shopping malls and wired parking spots, among other places.
The network is being built by a consortium of five companies, the government said.
The government has promised tax breaks to encourage the purchase of zero-emission vehicles. It predicts that Portugal could have 180,000 battery-powered cars on the roads by 2020. By that time, there could be 25,000 recharging sites, it said.
Copyright © 2009 Associated Press

Aston Martin developing eco-friendly city car

Times Online

Aston Martin, the luxury car maker, has announced its intention to join forces with Toyota to build an exclusive, small city car.
The new car will sell for about £20,000 and is a far cry from the style and performance to which Aston drivers have become since the company was founded in 1914.
Toyota said it would build an ultra-small car based on its iQ model for Aston Martin in what would be the Japanese carmaker’s only original equipment manufacturing deal with an outside brand.
The Aston Martin vehicle, to be called Cygnet, will have its own styling to differentiate it from the iQ, which Toyota says is the world’s smallest four-seater car at less than 3 metres long. It will be sold in Europe.

A Toyota spokesman said other details such as the launch date, price and production volumes had not been decided.
“Much work is still required, but I am confident that this project could become reality in the not-too-distant future,” Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin chief executive said.
He added: “Aston Martin has reduced the CO2 emissions of its cars by 15 per cent in the past year but it has no real impact on anything. What the Cygnet will do is allow our customers to drive a very special car with all the hallmarks of Aston Martin’s design philosophy but one that is cheap to run, is environmentally friendly."

Hydro-electric energy could power every Scottish home by 2017

Published Date: 30 June 2009

SCOTLAND could have enough hydro power to supply every household in the country in less than a decade if two new schemes get the go ahead.
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) announced yesterday that it wants to develop the large-scale pumped storage hydro electric schemes in the Great Glen. Plans could be submitted by 2011 after consultations on the possible environmental impact and built by 2017.If approved, they would be the first pumped storage schemes to be developed in Britain since 1974. The announcement was made as the Queen officially opened the first large-scale conventional hydro electric station to be built in 50 years, at Glendoe, near Fort Augustus.SSE already owns and operates a 300MW pumped storage scheme at Foyers, on the south side of Loch Ness, which produces 300 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity to help meet peak demand. It is also to submit to Scottish ministers an application to develop a 60MW pumped storage scheme at its existing Sloy hydro station at Loch Lomond, allowing it to produce an additional 100GWh.The two Great Glen projects – the locations are not yet being revealed – would have an installed capacity of 300-600MW each and be able to produce more than 1,000GWh of electricity in a typical year.SSE chief executive Ian Marchant said: "Hydro has a long heritage but also has a long future. If we build these two schemes, the total hydro output in Scotland would be able to power every house in Scotland at the time of system peak."If we can pull these two off on the scale we think we may be able to, that would probably be enough for the next generation."He went on: "Hydro is a complementary source of power to wind – when the wind is not blowing, the hydro runs, and when the hydro is not running, the wind is there." Mr Marchant said new thinking was needed to meet ambitious targets set by the Scottish Government to cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050."To meet the targets which Scotland has rightly set itself, we will require quite revolutionary thinking in every bit of the energy equation."That means we have to look at new technologies but also old technologies and see if we can exploit them better. "Scotland led the world in the coal era and led the world in offshore oil and gas industry. So we have led the world in putting carbon into the atmosphere and we are going to lo lead the world in taking carbon out."Johanna Yates, hydropower officer at Scottish Renewables, said pump storage hydro schemes were important for managing the supply of electricity at peak times. She said: "All kinds of hydropower are an important part of our energy mix and new developments will open up a new chapter for hydro power in the 21st century."Pumped storage schemes involve two bodies of water, located at different heights. During periods of low demand for power, electricity is used to pump water from the lower loch to the upper reservoir. This water is then released to create power when demand is high. At present, Scotland has a generation capacity of 3,010MW from renewable sources, including 1,383MW from hydro. This includes 100MW from the £150 million Glendoe scheme, where work began in February 2006, 2,000ft above Loch Ness in the Monadhliath mountains. Yesterday, the Queen flew to the site, which is now almost hidden other than the dam and reservoir in the hills.The scheme, capable of supplying a city the size of Glasgow, involves a dam 35m high and 905m long at the head of Glen Tarff, and a power station in a cavern 250m below ground level, inside Borlum Hill. It is fed from a reservoir more than a mile long and capable of holding eight million cubic metres of rainwater, collected from 60 square miles of surrounding hillside. A 5.3-mile tunnel collects water and takes it to the reservoir

Wind farm 'will harm Peak District', High Court hears

The Peak District National Park faces disfigurement if the High Court fails to stop four 335ft (102m) wind turbines being built on its doorstep, it was claimed yesterday (MON).

By Stephen Adams Published: 4:42PM BST 29 Jun 2009
In a battle that could have important legal implications for the siting of wind farms across Britain, the Peak District National Park Authority has joined forces with Derbyshire Dales District Council to ask the High Court to reject planning permission for the four turbines. Each would be almost twice the height of Nelson's Column.
They are to be built at Carsington Pastures, between Matlock and Ashbourne, which is just outside the park and adjoins the Carsington Water beauty spot.

The planning application was originally rejected by the district council two year ago, but developers Carsington Wind Energy Ltd took the matter to the Planning Inspectorate, which overruled the local councillors.
In his decision report, planning inspector Robin Brooks found the 10MW project would result in "no unacceptable harm to the character and appearance of the National Park" as seen from most directions, and any visual impact was outweighed by the national need for renewable energy.
He reported: "The turbines could reasonably be seen by many observers as not out of keeping with, and even appropriate to, an elemental, windswept landscape."
But Anthony Crean QC, appearing for the park and council, argued the inspector had misconstrued planning law.
Mr Brooks had made a fundamental error by concluding it was unnecessary to consider whether the need for renewable energy could be met on another site where less harm would be caused, said Mr Crean.
The High Court application is being opposed by the developer, Carsington Wind Energy Ltd, and John Denham, the Communities Secretary.
Speaking outside court, a spokesman for the national park authority said: "The authority supports renewable energy schemes in principle but believes that all other alternative locations should be considered first when planning a development of this scale so close to the national park boundary. This application would have a direct visual impact on the national park.
"This is an important case because the decision could have implications for future wind farm applications near to other national parks in the UK."

Monday, 29 June 2009

Valero Harnesses Wind Energy to Fuel Its Oil-Refining Process


SUNRAY, Texas -- In this windswept corner of the high plains, a big oil refiner is embracing new green technology in order to make more money producing old-fashioned fossil fuels.

Valero's $115 million Texas wind farm, above, will pay for itself in about 10 years at current electricity prices.

Valero Energy Corp., which has the capacity to process more crude than any other U.S. refiner, recently installed 33 windmills to supply a refinery here with green electricity to produce gasoline and diesel.
The marriage is one of convenience, Valero executives say. "We didn't build the wind farm so we could get into the wind-energy business," notes Tom Shetina, the refinery's manager, who expresses awe at the windmills' size. "We built the wind farm so we could support the refinery and run it more economically."
The company hopes to lock in fluctuating electricity prices by developing its own source of power, rather than relying on the grid, and to cut the $1.4-million-a-month electricity bill at the seven-decade-old refinery. The $115 million wind farm, which will be ready to operate at full capacity in August, will pay for itself in about 10 years at current electricity prices, company officials said.
Valero, which is based in San Antonio, does have some environmental motives. It hopes to produce its petroleum-based fuels more cleanly, something it could be forced to do if Congress enacts legislation to curb greenhouse gases.
While the wind farm will make the refinery greener, it won't reduce the greenhouse gas emissions spewed by cars and trucks as they burn the fuels that Valero makes.
Transportation generates 33% of U.S. carbon emissions, with gasoline accounting for the bulk of them, government data show. Transforming crude oil into fuels accounts for less than 5% of U.S. emissions, according to industry trade groups.
Valero is experimenting with alternative fuels -- it bought several ethanol plants earlier this year -- but it and other refiners are betting that Americans will continue to fill their tanks mostly with gasoline and diesel for years to come.
And faced with increasing competition from refineries located in lower-cost areas overseas, it wants to make those fuels more cheaply.
According to Ken Starcher, director of the Alternative Energy Institute at West Texas A&M University, the cost of electricity from a typical wind farm in the area averages 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour during the project's lifetime, including the initial investment and maintenance. That's about 1.5 cents less than the current utility-company rate, he says.
After the Sunray wind farm is completed in August -- and when the wind is blowing -- Valero expects to generate 50 megawatts of electricity an hour, the full load required to run the refinery next door. That should cover the refinery's needs 40% to 45% of the time, it says, an estimate that experts say is reasonable for the area if the wind farm is well managed.
Valero says it will also receive tax credits from the project and could potentially sell the renewable-energy certificates from its wind power, which will displace electricity that is mostly generated by burning Wyoming coal.
The refinery, which was built here in the 1930s to take advantage of nearby oil wells, happens to be in one of the most desirable wind-power-producing regions in the U.S. Located some 40 miles north of Amarillo, the refinery has few neighbors aside from cattle and prairie dogs, which don't seem to mind the towering white windmills.
For the refinery's workers, the new wind farm, with its sleek towers and swooshing sound, is a lesson in contrasts between the old and new energy. It will take only about three local people to operate, compared with the 450 to 1,500 workers required to keep the refinery's noisy labyrinth of tanks and pipelines running in good shape.
Write to Ana Campoy at ana.campoy@dowjones.com

Biodiesel Startups Run Out of Gas


HOUSTON -- When Imperium Renewables Inc. opened what was then the largest U.S. biodiesel plant on the coast of Washington state two years ago, its executives thought it would be the cornerstone of a far-flung empire.
The Grays Harbor, Wash., facility is still there, but hasn't produced a drop of the stuff since February. The closely held Seattle company now makes its money by storing biodiesel produced by other facilities.
John Plaza, Imperium's chief executive, said a combination of volatile commodity prices, a financial crisis, antibiofuel rhetoric, and U.S. and state governments' tardiness in enforcing renewable-fuel mandates have arrested the biodiesel industry's momentum.
Biodiesel, a fuel derived from vegetable or animal fat, can be used in engines designed to run petroleum diesel. Biodiesel production in the U.S. has been surpassed by corn-based ethanol, which is blended into most U.S. gasoline to satisfy federal mandates.
GreenHunter Energy Inc.'s Houston plant, which surpassed Imperium's as the largest in the U.S. after its 2008 opening, also has been idle since February. On Tuesday, GreenHunter said it is mulling a sale of the plant to pay down debt.
About one-third of the nation's biodiesel plants are idle, said officials with the National Biodiesel Board, an industry group.
With many plants being idle and running below capacity, at the current rate of production without an effective mandate, U.S. biodiesel producers are forecast to cut output by almost half this year, to 350 million gallons.
Write to Angel Gonzalez at angel.gonzalez@dowjones.com

The Black Liquor War

The U.S. and Canada duke it out over an alternative-fuel boondoggle.

Congress's unrelenting efforts to rid the world of fossil fuel have now produced a North American trade war over an obscure substance called "black liquor." Let us explain.
This story begins with Congress's 2005 highway bill. It included a subsidy to encourage businesses to power their motor vehicles with "alternative fuels" such as ethanol, rather than fossil fuels such as diesel. Congress said businesses could receive a 50-cent tax credit for every gallon of gasoline if they used a blend of a traditional fossil fuel and an alternative fuel.
Then in 2007, Congress extended this largesse beyond highway vehicles to a wider range of alternative fuel users. Enter "black liquor," a carbon-rich substance the paper industry has used for decades to power its mills. It also qualifies as an alternative fuel. All the paper industry had to do was blend some fossil fuel in with their alternative fuel and -- voila! -- billions of dollars in federal subsidies were within reach. So they did.
Adding diesel to the paper production process might not be in the anti-fossil fuel spirit of Congress's tax credit, but it was legal, and lucrative. The American paper industry is on pace to pocket some $6 billion in tax credits this year, enough to cut production costs by 60% and reduce the price of some U.S. paper goods by 25%.
Not surprisingly, Canadian paper companies are miffed at this subsidized windfall to their competition. Now they've gotten their Parliament to do something about it. Following the two-wrongs-make-a-right logic of trade wars, Canadian lawmakers recently passed a subsidy worth $882 million for their domestic paper industry.
Canadian paper producers defend the counter-subsidy in the classic language of trade warriors. "This will save tens of thousands of jobs," says Avrim Lazar of the Forest Products Association of Canada. "When the U.S. government is stepping in," Mr. Lazar adds, "creating a massive advantage for American jobs, it's the [Canadian] government's job to step up to the plate."
Senators Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley are trying to end the American black-liquor subsidy ahead of its scheduled expiration on December 31. Don't expect this to satisfy Canadian paper producers. Cue Mr. Lazar: "Even when they stop the tax credit, we'll be way behind the starting line when the new race starts." Translation: We like subsidies, too.
So a sloppily written green provision in a federal highway bill has triggered an enduring cross-border subsidy war. No word yet on whether ethanol is being written into the health-care bill.

BP solar panel blaze raises concerns

The Times
June 29, 2009
Robin Pagnamenta, Energy and Environment Editor

Fresh concerns have emerged over the future of BP’s alternative energy business after a fire broke out at one of the company’s largest solar power installations in Germany.
The incident on June 21 destroyed nearly 200 sq m of one of the world’s largest roof-mounted solar panel arrays on a warehouse complex in Bürstadt, near Mannheim. As outside investigators and BP’s own staff were looking into the cause of the fire, a spokesman for BP Solar confirmed that much of the equipment involved had been supplied by the company four or five years ago.
In the past, concerns have been raised about some junction boxes manufactured by BP Solar, which were said to be prone to overheating. The company recalled and replaced some of these in 2006 and 2007 as a precautionary measure.
Kai Alfermann, head of asset management at Fiege, the German logistics company that owns the site, said that the fire appeared to have started on the array itself and had spread to the timber frame on which it was mounted. He said it was not the first time that the installation had suffered problems and that, depending on the outcome of the investigation, Fiege might take legal action against BP Solar or the German company that installed the equipment.

“The cause of the fire is unknown at this stage and it would be unwise of us to speculate,” BP Solar said.
One well-placed solar industry source claimed that there were concerns about BP’s equipment in the industry, which generated global revenues of $37 billion last year. “Major manufacturers are up in arms because they don’t want to be tainted by this episode,” he said.
News of the fire surfaced days after Carl-Henric Svanberg, BP’s newly appointed chairman, said that clean energy would continue to play a key role in the oil group’s agenda.
Although BP invests more in renewable energy than many of its rivals, there has been uncertainty over its plans for alternative energy. Last month, Tony Hayward, the chief executive, questioned the economics of solar energy, claiming that the technology was unlikely to ever be as competitive as fossil fuels.
“I think solar is probably the most challenged of all of BP’s alternative energy interests,” he told a conference in California.
“It is not going to make the transition to be competitive with more conventional power — the gap is too big. If solar is going to make a breakthrough, there will be a technology disintermediation step.”
Vivienne Cox, head of alternative energy at BP, left the group this month and the company is shutting the head office of its alternative energy business in London. However, BP insists that it remains firmly commited to lower-carbon energy.
BP Alternative Energy operates a range of businesses, including American wind farms, solar power, biofuels, hydrogen energy and carbon-capture and storage projects.

Nuclear industry accused of hijacking clean energy forum

Critics say France is using debate about where to base new Irena global renewables body to co-opt organisation
Terry Macalister
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 28 June 2009 14.52 BST

The nuclear power industry has been accused of trying to muscle in on plans to establish a global body to represent the renewable energy industry at a key meeting in Egypt tomorrow.
France – a major user and exporter of nuclear technologies – is accused by critics of trying to win the top job inside the renewable organisation so it can move the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) towards being a promoter of "low-carbon" technologies – including atomic power.
The talks in Sharm el-Sheikh are already threatening to become a major standoff between Germany and the United Arab Emirates over which country should win the right to have the headquarters of Irena based in its country.
France, which recently signed a nuclear co-operation agreement with the UAE, is supporting Abu Dhabi. It also wants one of its own civil servants, Hélène Peloss, to be given the top role.
Britain, which only signed up for membership on Friday, has given no indication whether it plans to cast its vote in favour of Bonn or Abu Dhabi, while the US is expected to join Irena in Egypt and then lend its support to Germany.
Karsten Sach, an official in the German environment ministry with responsibility for Irena, said he was "very optimistic" that his country would be chosen but he refused to be drawn on the competition with Abu Dhabi or the role of France.
"I think we have an excellent offer in terms of experience, policy frameworks and vibrant research but we are not campaigning against any other offer," he argued.
Bonn is considered by many to be the more obvious location because the renewables agency was the brainchild of the Germans, who have led the way in the clean technology sector through its determined championing of solar power. The promoters of Bonn are also suggesting that the Danish renewables policy expert Hans Jørgen Koch should be chosen as director general.
But Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, is pushing its claims to host Irena by emphasising its new commitment to clean technology through the construction of the hugely ambitious, low-carbon Masdar City project. It is also arguing that a developing country rather than the west is better placed to pursue the vital north-south dialogue needed to beat global warming.
At previous planning meetings for Irena, the French have talked about "low-carbon" technologies, encouraging speculation about its ultimate motives.
Eric Martinot, a senior research director with the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies in Tokyo, and a former environment specialist at the World Bank, told the Huffington Post, an online newspaper, that the French manoeuvres should be resisted.
"An Irena located in Abu Dhabi under such circumstances would be 'nuclear tainted' because the negotiating process used to select a host country would be based on support for nuclear power," said Martinot.
"Are the original goals of Irena being co-opted so that renewables become a mere appendage to a nuclear agenda? 'Sprinkling some renewables on top of our nuclear power'?" he asked.
More than 100 countries have signed up to the new organisation, although the US and China have yet to do so. Sach said he was hopeful that the US might join in Egypt and that China would eventually come on board.
The renewable agency will have a mandate to disseminate knowledge, develop regulatory framework and to actively promote the widespread adoption of renewable energy technologies around the world.
It comes ahead of vital new talks in Copenhagen at the end of this year about how to tackle global warming and amid excitement that the US and China are finally starting to play more constructive roles compared with the past.

Red tape in UK defeats eco fund

The British team behind the launch of a €200m (£170m) investment fund for renewable energy has turned to Eastern Europe because of regulatory barriers to green energy projects in the UK.

By Rowena Mason Published: 7:56PM BST 28 Jun 2009
The new fund, which will be announced this week, is planning to finance biomass, wind and solar energy in Finland, Romania and Estonia, with estimated returns of 20pc-50pc per year.
Hadley Barrett, chief executive of the Oxford Renewable Energy Fund (OREF), said his team had contemplated trying to develop green projects in the UK but the obstacles have proved too great.

A lack of political will, poor energy infrastructure and lengthy planning procedures means the fund would not generate satisfactory returns.
"There is an awful lot of confusion for renewable energy investors in the UK, where the Government first gives its support then takes it away and cannot make up its mind on policy," he said. "If you are doing it right, you can make very good money out of renewable energy, but certainly not in the UK."
The fund, whose backers are a combination of high net worth individuals and institutional investors, will list in the Channel Islands. OREF's previous funds have all returned between 45pc and 100pc per year.
"We are no eco-warriors," Mr Barrett added. "This is about making money from renewable energy e_SEnD in a sustainable way – but that is not possible in the UK at the moment."
The fund launch in Eastern Europe comes after BP last week decided to close its Alternative Energy office in London. BP is expected to cut its investment in alternative energy this year to as low as $500m, compared with $1.4bn last year. It follows the departure of Vivienne Cox, BP's head of alternative energy, earlier this month.
Sources in the oil and gas industry said many multinational energy companies were now turning to the US, where they believe President Obama is planning to pump money into new alternative energy projects.
In the UK, consumers are expected to bear an extra £112bn on renewable energy generation, £52bn on power plants, £40bn on upgrading the network, £13bn on smart meters and £16bn on reducing carbon emissions.

Batteries included: Are eco-friendly cars any good?

Politicians want British drivers to switch over to eco-friendly cars. They're silent and stylish – but are they any good? John Walsh puts pedal to the metal
Monday, 29 June 2009


The first shot of the electrical car revolution was fired on 10 January 1985.
Rather than change the world, it hit a wall of media criticism, ricocheted against several bricks of public abuse and pinged back to strike its originator between the eyes. It was the winter morning when Sir Clive Sinclair, the eccentric, beady-eyed, ginge-bearded inventor of pocket calculators and microcomputers, introduced the Sinclair C5, the world's first electric car.
It was an odd-looking thing, like a pointlessly streamlined invalid carriage, 6ft long, 2ft 6in high, 2ft 6in wide and weighing just 99lb. Instead of petrol, it ran on a 33lb lead acid battery which drove a 250-watt electric motor – identical, journalists noted, to the one that powers your mum's washing machine. Its top speed was a snaily 15mph, and it could travel a whole 20 miles between recharges. Imagine.
How they scoffed, the C5's first spectators, as they watched the shoe-shaped machine slither in the snow. Nobody believed the 20-mile claim. Sceptics noted it used more electricity in cold weather and struggled so much uphill, the driver was obliged to use pedals. Its height made it dangerous for the occupant, who, A: couldn't been seen by lorry- or jeep-drivers, and B: would be choked by car fumes just at the level of his or her nose.
It was a disaster. Nobody wanted the C5, the invention that conferred instant wally status on anyone foolish enough to climb into it. Sir Clive became a figure of ridicule. The price was slashed from £399 to £199 to offload the surplus stock. By October, Sinclair vehicles were in the hands of the receivers, and production of the C5 ceased. Electric cars? Pah, everyone said. They're battery-powered toys, one step up from milk floats. They are slow, anaemic, whining, pathetic and need charging up with flex and socket every few miles. How am I supposed to drive one to the Cairngorms? Don't talk to me about electric cars.
Scoot forward to 2009 and you could be forgiven for thinking our relationship with the things had scarcely improved. The only electric car driven by anyone I know is the GoinGreen G-Wiz and, much as I like the owner, you'd never catch me in one. I recall the nitric scorn heaped on it by Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear. He abused its cramped conditions, its lethal cornering, its arse-juddering suspension, its sluggish performance: you can't, he pointed out, access the radio or the fan, or have electric windows, or go fast or even stop, "because it'll wear the battery down". He mocked the fact that the EU didn't classify the G-Wiz as a car at all, but a "quadricycle". He raced one against a standard Renault (it lost) and a kitchen table carried by six men (it lost when it ran out of juice). Plus, EU data also revealed that, whatever its manufacturers claimed about a 45mph top speed, the average speed at which it's usually driven is 10mph. Twenty-odd years after the C5, the electric car is still becalmed near the intersection of Toytown and Rubbishville.
Not for much longer. Last week, the Government rolled out a scheme to persuade the population to love, or consider loving, electric cars – sorry, "environmentally-friendly vehicles", because they're not all electric; at least one runs on wind turbine energy. The scheme, fronted by Paul Drayson, the science minister, is costing £25m and will make 340 cars from various manufacturers available, at the end of the year, to members of the public to test, on short-term leases, in eight areas, including London, Glasgow, Birmingham and Oxford.
Universities and regional areas will be encouraged to help by experimenting with finding ways to supply the nervous electric motorist with charging points. The aim is to cut road transport emissions in the UK by half, from 22 per cent to 11 per cent.
The Government's scheme will start with four models: they'll be given the Star Wars-ish title of the Ultra Low-Carbon Vehicle Fleet. They are the Smart Electric Drive, owned by Mercedes; the MiniE from BMW; the Expert Eurobus (formerly the Teepee) from Peugeot, and the Lightning from the combined forces of Westfield and Delta Motorsport. But hardly had the scheme been announced than other makers pitched in. Ford Motors announced its own "global commitment" to developing "Battery Electric Vehicles" or BEVs. They're not saying which makes or models will take part in the scheme, but we shall find out by the end of the year.
Will we like them? I thought I'd go for an early sighting. I am no petrol-head, but I love cars. I practically live in my Alfa Romeo 159. Could I find an electric one that didn't make me feel (and look) a fool or a geek when driving it? Could I turn myself into an amp-head, a watt-brain, an ohm-body?
The cool-looking Lightning, sad to report, isn't currently available, since it's still being built. Ditto the Mini E, which BMW hope will be available to the public by November. So I high-tailed it to west London to try out the Smart ED.
People are in two minds about Smart cars. They look slightly ludicrous, but are becoming less so. They nip in and out of traffic like annoying hornets, but have a certain miniature charm.
At first sighting of the ED, your heart sinks. Climbing into one is like getting into one of those electrically-operated toy vans you see outside supermarkets. It's all front seat, driver's door, then nothing. I was reminded of the moment in the wartime movie Kings Row, when the unfortunate Ronald Reagan, having fallen foul of a vindictive surgeon, wakes up in hospital to find both his legs amputated, and cries: "Where's the rest of me?" Inside, though, it's not half bad. There's plenty of headroom. Even if, like me, you're six-feet-one, there's plenty of legroom. The dashboard is charming. On the left of the speedometer, two little dials poke up like antennae on a robot: one's a clock, the other tells you how much percentage of electricity remains.
I switched it on, nervously. I put it in gear. (There are three gears: neutral, drive and reverse. Electric cars don't need clutches, transmission, spark plugs, engine oil, filters, exhaust, any of that stuff.) I gingerly placed my foot on the accelerator. A strange, mosquito whine filled the air: "Eeeeeeeee." Slowly, painfully, the Smart ED inched forward, as though expressing a whingey reluctance to go anywhere (or anywhere with me). Once I left the car park, the noise resolved into a cute, kittenish mewing, then disappeared. It was damned odd to be driving something so discreetly, mutedly, virginally, monkishly, mortifiedly silent.
As I became used to its teeny size, things became easier. It was still sluggish getting away from traffic lights, but I could feel it trying. It handled very lightly – sometimes I felt I was sitting on a metal tray with windows – but was a little ponderous when taking corners, hardly surprising when you think of the heavy battery pack under the floor. Though my reflection in shop windows looked a little ridiculous (especially with the words "emission zero!" emblazoned just under my nose), it was easy to feel rather cool and zippy.
The makers claim a top speed of 60 mph and I can confirm that, in a burst of enthusiasm, I got it up to 56mph on the M4 before being forced to subside. The main drawback of the Smart ED, though, is that you spend a lot of time watching the dial that tells you how much juice is left. At the start of my drive, the dial said 83 per cent remained. After an hour, the figure had reduced to 60. At times, I thought I could see the needle moving before my eyes while I hummed along. They say you can drive 70 miles before needing to recharge the battery. I'm afraid I'd have one eye on the dial all the way.
It's a simple drive, in a car that feels properly constructed, rather than fashioned from plastic. It doesn't emit carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, unburned hydrocarbons – it doesn't emit anything except a high-pitched whine. And charging it means sticking a blue plug into a six-pin socket and sticking the three-pin plug at the end of a long yellow flex into a household socket, for up to eight hours. Call me a dreamer, but the Smart ED seems to represent the normalisation of the electric car. If only someone could apply the transformation to a family-sized saloon ...
Should you have an unusually large family – very large – you might talk to Peugeot, who are taking part in the Government's trial. For a year from this autumn, they'll supply 40 of their "zero emission vehicles" (ZEVs) for drivers in Glasgow, in partnership with the local battery company, Axeon. During the trial period, Scottish Power will set up 40 electric-charging points around Glasgow. All the data about car journeys will be recorded by satellite and analysed by boffins at Strathclyde University. The only drawback to the plan is that ZEVs aren't your usual family runaround. They are big commercial vans and "multiple passenger vehicles" (or as we say in English, "buses").
I headed for the Peugeot showroom in Chiswick and took out a Peugeot Expert Eurobus. It's a big, roomy, metal box with windows; it will never appeal to the boy racer but, in its electrical incarnation, it's fun to drive. You feel like you're sitting six feet above other motorists, humming along in near-silence. The suspension is so bouncy that driving over speed bumps is like hitting a trampoline – and then there's the gear lever.
Just the sight of it made me laugh out loud. Plonked in the middle of the wide dashboard, sitting on a metallic pad the size of a beer mat, the lever is the size of a toothpick, tapering outwards at the top. It resembles one of those miniscule screwdrivers you get in a Christmas cracker. You flick it forward an inch, and the 3,000kg bus moves forward. Flick it back an inch, and the metal Behemoth obediently reverses. I flicked it back and forth a dozen times, entranced by the power and heft that could be accessed by prodding something the size of a Twiglet.
The Eurobus has a top speed of 70, and a range of 100 miles between rechargings; the makers suggest you treat it like a pet, settling it down after a hard day's driving, for "a good night's charge", so you can assume eight hours is standard.
I was beginning to warm to electric cars – their silent efficiency, their clean energy, their lack of bits that can go wrong. Hard-core petrol-heads will never love them – without all the complex engine parts, no exhaust system, fuel system, gearbox or clutch, they rather resemble a human body with no internal organs, only a robot brain and an On/Off switch – but you can see them catching on, as soon as the problem of recharging availability is solved. Should sockets be available on the forecourt of every petrol service station? Or would the petrol companies consider that helping the enemy?
What I missed about the cars I'd tried was a sense of style. Then I learned that the Tesla company was opening a London outpost. Tesla is a name that raises goose-bumps on some motorists' skin. Rumours have flown for months about the Californian company owned by Elon Munsk, whose electric Roadster is a sports car that can reportedly out-race a Porsche and a Ferrari from a standing start.
The showroom was in Knightsbridge. The four cars on display were jaw-droppingly beautiful - sleek and glistening in red or silver. The makers have adapted the chassis from a Lotus Elise, made it 6in longer and 2in wider, its carbon-fibre skin as smooth as butter. The gear stick is a perfect silver ball like a Ferrari's. The seats are low-lying and buttock-clenching. The leather upholstery is black and red, finished with exposed stitching like a Savile Row suit.
Don Cochrane, who runs the UK office, is a handsome, Wapping-born Londoner with coal-black hair and a boundless optimism about electric cars. He dismissed the idea that Tesla was in competition with the environmentally-friendly cars coming out from BMW, Peugeot, Mercedes and Ford. "We're not making cars in their price bracket. But I'm happy to see more electric cars in the market place. The more people see them, the more they'll say, 'Maybe it's realistic for me to have an electric car for the 20 miles a day that I drive, instead of a combustion-engined vehicle.' " A car lover rather than an environmental zealot, he is nonetheless keen to change people's perspectives: "It makes sense that if things are going to change, you should be part of that change and not have it forced upon you." He used to work for Formula One under Bernie Ecclestone. Could he imagine an electric model ever having the performance level of Formula One cars?
"Certainly. Give it five years. There's so much investment now in battery technology. One positive side-effect of this recession is that governments are bailing out companies but, as part of the bailout, are forcing them to work on more environmental cars. Ford just announced they're going to build two; that's because they're just got $1.5bn of DOE money from the States."
Mr Cochrane can talk at torrential length about battery technology and the 6,831 lithium-ion cells that make up the battery in every Tesla Roadster. He can explain with admirable fluency the "torque curve" of ordinary cars, as they increase their power ratio through the gears, and how electric cars provide 100 per cent torque all the time (but controllably). He explained how the Roadster's top speed is 125 mph and that it can go 200 miles without recharging. I listened politely, but itched to try it. We rolled the doors aside, Cochrane started the engine (silently) and rolled the silver Roadster out into the narrow roadway. He glided into a side-road, then – in a burst of pure showing-off – whizzed in reverse round the corner, fast as a whipcrack. I climbed in (the seats make you virtually horizontal), plied the key, engaged "Drive" and glided away, with no whining, no wheel-grind, no noise at all except the envious cooing of passers-by.
It was a completely new driving experience: touch the accelerator and you rocket forward, the G-force pushing you back in your leather seat as if you're on a fairground ride, although you never feel out of control. The handling is (as with the Smart ED) a touch heavy when cornering, but deliciously smooth on the straight. Though the car lies very close to the road, it bounces over bumps and sleeping policemen as if pillowed in goosedown. And you can't help but feel a boyish glee about the vast coiled spring of power and speed that's detectable under your hands. On Hammersmith flyover, doing 50 with no traffic ahead, I experimentally floored the accelerator to see what would happen. The car leapt forward, in a split-second, to 70mph. Talk about torque. It was scary (and possibly illegal) but tremendously exhilarating.
By the time I returned it, with the greatest reluctance, to Mr Cochrane's tender care, I was determined to buy one. There are 500 lucky Californians driving Roadsters and amazing their friends with their environmental responsibility and their love of speed. It's time I joined them. It'll only take 20 years or so of patient savings to find the £94,000 I'll need.
With their curious little fleet of tiny Smart cars and Minis, and huge utility vehicles from Peugeot, the Government may have an uphill struggle making British people love electrical cars. The shadow of the Sinclair C5 hasn't completely dispersed. I suspect if the sceptics were given five minutes in a Tesla, they'd change their minds. It's becoming obvious that the electrics are where the future of cars must lie. Whoever comes up with the first mid-range, sensible-sized, four-door family model for under £20,000, with a charging-range of at least 100 miles, will be a very lucky winner indeed, in this fascinating off-shoot of the race to environmental purity.
On the circuit: The electric alternatives
Smart Electric Drive 4-2
Top speed: 60mph
Charge time: 4 hours
Distance between charges: 70 miles
Price: Not yet released
Peugeot Expert Eurobus
Top speed: 70mph
Charge time: 7 hours
Distance between charges: 100 miles
Price: £55,000
Tesla Roadster
Top speed: 130mph
Charge time: 3.5 hours
Distance between charges: 220 miles
Price: £94,000
Top speed: 130mph
Charge time: 10 minutes with a special converter (two hours without it)
Distance between charges: 188 miles
Price: £120,000
With good looks and racing car technology, the Lightning is at the forefront of electric car revolution. It can do 0 to 60mph faster than many petrol sports cars but without the maintenance hassle. However, a guilt-free sports car experience doesn't come cheap.
NICE / Fiat Micro-Vett e500 electric
Top speed: 60mph
Charge time: 6-8 hours
Distance between charges: 75miles
Price: £25,000
This Italian-made motor won Europe's Car of the Year and has an advanced electric drive system. Like the Aixam Mega City it also comes with lithium-ion batteries which means higher speeds and a longer range than some other electric cars on the market.
Aixam Mega City
Top speed: 40mph
Charge time: 5-8 hours
Distance between charges: 60 miles.
Price: £14,175
For a two-seater, surprisingly roomy and has a large boot. Like all electric cars it's exempt from road taxand is one of the most popular electric vehicles in Britain with 180 already on the road.
G-Wiz L-ion
Top speed: 51mph
Charge time: 6 hours
Distance between charges: 75 miles
Price: £15,795
A nippier upgrade to the two-seater G-Wiz seen on the streets of London over the last few years. A bit boxy, but it's the world's first mainstream lithium-ion powered electric vehicle.
Mitsubishi i-MiEV
Top speed: 87mph
Charge time: 20 minutes
Distance between charges: 100 miles
Price: £29,300
One of the fastest electric cars but what really sets this Japanese-designed car apart is its remarkable charge time of only 20 minutes, making it super-convenient. The batteries are hidden beneath the floor, leaving room for a surprising amount of space for four people.
Mini E BMW
Top speed: 95mph
Charge time: 2.5 hours with a special converter, 8 hours without)
Distance between charges: 156 miles
Price: Still being trialed
The Mini's electric makeover is truly stylish. Trials will be held across the UK in autumn but apply well in advance through Mini for a test drive. It boasts safe handling for dynamic stability control and the power-assisted steering reacts to driving conditions.
Additional reporting by Kate Proctor
... and the biker's option
Xero's eScooter Classic
Top speed: 30mph
Charge time: 6-8 hours
Distance between charges: 25 miles
Price: £1,499
Dan Barber, who rides a conventional petrol-powered scooter, tested Xero's eScooter Classic. He says: "The main thing you notice is how quiet this is. You don't get any sense it's started until it moves. That makes it very difficult to tell how fast you're going – but the brakes are nicely responsive and the acceleration okay.
"I own a Vespa GT and this doesn't have the same growl to it, or oomph when you're picking up speed. In fact, it felt a bit like driving a milk float. One of the major plus points is that, despite being a similar size to a petrol bike, it's much easier to manoeuvre (backing it up, for instance) because it's lighter. On the downside, because it's so light I would be really worried about being carried off by a side wind. Looks-wise, it's striking, a bit faux-retro, and a bit flashy. The biggest downside is that it is legally restricted to go no faster than 30mph. This could prove tricky if you needed to accelerate out of difficulty.
I prefer my classic Vespa for all its sins, but the price is excellent for a new scooter, there's little maintenance involved – and it's good for the environment."

Obama Wary of Tariff Provision

Trade Proposal in Climate Bill a Potential Problem as Action Moves to Senate


President Barack Obama said the House bill curbing greenhouse-gas emissions that passed by a close vote Friday represents "an extraordinary first step," but said he had doubts about a provision to impose tariffs on goods from countries that don't match U.S. efforts to combat global warming.

After passing by a 219-212 vote, the bill, a priority for President Obama, faces even higher hurdles in the Senate, both from Republicans and from the president's own party, despite a 59-40 majority for Democrats. "It was a struggle to get [climate legislation] through the House, and there's no reason to think it will be any different in the Senate," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), chairwoman of one panel that has jurisdiction over climate legislation, along with Sen. Jeff Bingaman's (D., N.M.) energy committee. Ms. Boxer said she intends for her environment committee to vote on a version before Congress's August recess.
Several Republicans, criticizing the bill's costs, suggested the House bill has little chance of passage in the Senate. "You're going to find signs on manufacturing doors, if this bill passes, that say, 'Moved, gone to China,'" said Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa) on ABC's "This Week."
Among the most controversial parts of the House bill is the provision inserted by Democratic leaders that would impose tariffs on goods imported from countries that don't match U.S. carbon-dioxide restrictions -- a slap at China and India that some business interests fear could provoke a trade war. The tariff would take effect in 2020 and fall on a range of products from countries that don't adopt similar programs to control emissions.
"There are critics from the left as well as the right; some who say who doesn't go far enough, some who say it goes too far. I am convinced that after a long period of inaction, for us to have taken such a significant step means that we're going to be in a position to advance technologically, obtain huge gains in efficiency." -- President Obama

Supporters say a tariff is needed to shield U.S. industries such as steel and cement makers from unfair competition abroad. The proposal also is designed to give Congress leverage to force imposition of a tariff even if the president resists.
President Obama, speaking to reporters Sunday, didn't say whether he would veto the bill if the measure remains a part of it, or whether he will work to remove it in negotiations with Congress. "At a time when the economy world-wide is still deep in recession, and we've seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals out there," he said. He added that he was "mindful" of the need to level the playing field internationally for U.S. business.
The bill would create a system that lets companies buy and sell pollution permits, while complying with progressively tighter caps on emissions. U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions would be cut by 17% from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83% by midcentury.
It also would mandate that coal-burning electric utilities use greater amounts of renewable fuels like solar and wind power and would provide incentives to develop clean-energy technologies. The legislation gives businesses -- including power generators -- more than 60% of the pollution permits for free in the early years of the program.
Business factions remain split. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers lobbied against passage, while groups that represent airlines, oil producers and mining companies expressed disappointment, saying the bill would lead to onerous new costs. "It will affect every aspect of the American economy, harming our ability to compete in the world and provide secure and affordable energy to American consumers and businesses," the National Mining Association said in a statement.
But the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities, backed it, as did companies with big investments in alternatives to fossil fuels. "The House has taken an important first step on a road that will help the industry scale to a point at which we no longer need government incentives," said Bryan Ashley, vice president of Suniva Inc., a Georgia solar-cell manufacturer.
The bill contained a range of compromises. The original goal for 2020, for instance, was a cut of 25% of emissions from 2005 levels, not 17%. But leaders made a deal with Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D., Minn.), who spoke for many rural lawmakers, letting the Agriculture Department run a key program for farmers, rather than the Environmental Protection Agency. Some Farm Belt lawmakers fear the EPA would be less friendly to agribusiness.
Even after those changes, nearly one in five Democrats defected from the House bill. That the climate bill is coming at the same time as the president's health-care plan makes it an even tougher sell to some from conservative districts.
Similar compromises to woo centrist Democrats loom for the health-care bill, which faces votes in both chambers later this summer. Some Senate Democrats are whittling down provisions considered sacrosanct by liberal advocates, reducing proposed subsidies for the uninsured and opposing the creation of a government-run plan to compete with private insurers.
The intraparty tensions are frustrating some Democratic leaders and activists, who believe they have an opportunity to enact a broad liberal agenda. MoveOn.org announced Friday that it is running ads criticizing Sen. Kay Hagan, a newly elected Democrat from North Carolina, for opposition to a publicly run plan as part of a health overhaul.
Mr. Obama and his top aides at the White House played down intraparty tensions, as well as the 44 Democrats who voted against the climate bill. "I think those 44 Democrats are sensitive to the immediate political climate of uncertainty around this issue," the president said.
A senior aide even suggested the climate vote "has helped health care enormously," demonstrating that Congress is capable of confronting big issues.—Stephen Power contributed to this article.
Write to Greg Hitt at greg.hitt@wsj.com and Naftali Bendavid at naftali.bendavid@wsj.com

Cap-and-trade mess

Published: June 28 2009 18:12

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill to limit greenhouse gases. The White House lobbied hard for it: “A bold and necessary step,” said Barack Obama. Many hailed its passage as a triumph. In fact there is little to celebrate.
Recall that cap-and-trade was expected only recently to pass in the House without difficulty. It scraped through by 219 votes to 212, with 44 Democrats voting against. Opposition to cap-and-trade in the Senate is stronger, so the chances of this bill or anything like it becoming law look slim.

To make matters worse, the bill makes political compromises that undermine its effectiveness. Even so it passed by just seven votes. What this says about the prospects of a more forceful measure – one that dares to confront consumers with significantly higher energy costs – is discouraging.
To curb climate change, the world needs to cut carbon emissions. It needs US leadership on the issue too. But this bill is not the way. A bewildering combination of cap-and-trade, mandates, new regulation, and every kind of open and disguised subsidy, it is too complicated, too prone to subversion and in many ways downright self-defeating.
To soften its impact, the House first adopted undemanding targets for emissions. Debate made them milder still. Instead of auctioning emissions permits, the bill would give nearly all of them away, so the measure does little to raise needed revenue. Permits will be handed to electricity producers on condition that the windfall be passed to consumers, many of whom would see their electricity bills fall as a result.
Learning nothing from Europe’s experience, the bill relies heavily on offsets, which let companies pay someone else to plant trees or cut emissions, so they do not have to. The still-unsolved problem is policing the system to ensure the offsets are real. The bill gives oversight of domestic offsets in farming to the Department of Agriculture – good news for farmers seeking a new trough of subsidy. To defend US competitiveness, it proposes subsidies for exporters and penalties on importers. In principle, cap-and-trade does require border adjustments, but the bill is careless and creates a gateway for protectionism.
In short, it is a mess. The key to a better plan is understanding that you cannot cut carbon without making carbon-based fuels more expensive – an obvious point, you would think. But it is one that US policymakers still cannot face.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Eon chief promotes EU-wide energy policy

German energy provider's CEO says more lateral thinking would benefit all
By Sarah Arnott
Monday, 29 June 2009

The German energy company Eon is calling for a common European energy policy to ensure secure, climate-friendly and economically viable power supplies.
The energy sector is in challenging times. It is simultaneously required to meet carbon reduction targets while funding expensive, often untried, infrastructure such as offshore wind farms, and meeting ever-growing demands for power without an over-reliance on foreign gas.
The mish-mash of subsidies, regulations and targets across Europe is a major barrier to progress, says Wulf Bernotat, Eon's chief executive.
"We need not have 27 separate systems," he said. "We are a union and we need an EU system that functions at an EU level." Part of the problem is to make renewables economically viable. In Europe alone, the target for 900 gigawatts (GW) of wind power by 2020 will require 300,000 new turbines and more than €1trillion (£852bn) of investment. Structural changes are also needed, in transmission grids and storage capacity, and also in political and financial structures such as the emissions trading system. The development of carbon capture and storage technology faces similar issues, requiring a region-wide policy; as do decisions on which mix of sources – renewable, gas, coal or nuclear – will best ensure a secure and affordable supply. Politically, the prognosis for a common energy policy is not good. The attempt to give the European Commission the necessary power structure was felled with the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.
"A number of senior politicians realise it would be an advantage, especially for security of supply," Dr Bernotat said. "But a number of countries, including the UK, are not keen to give up authority."
But all is not lost. Interconnecting infrastructure is creating a common market where power is traded across national boundaries, bringing wholesale prices broadly into line in Germany, France, Benelux and Switzerland. These market forces may be strong enough to force politicians' hands. "A common energy policy might happen anyway, formed by market forces that will effectively engineer the political reality," Dr Bernotat said.
In the meantime, international progress on climate change is likely to be slow. Even with the new US administration, expectations of progress at the United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen in December remain muted.
"The best realistic expectation for Copenhagen is that the US starts to define targets for [its] carbon emission reductions. But I expect it to be modest," Dr Bernotat added.

The Climate Change Climate Change

The number of skeptics is swelling everywhere.

Steve Fielding recently asked the Obama administration to reassure him on the science of man-made global warming. When the administration proved unhelpful, Mr. Fielding decided to vote against climate-change legislation.
If you haven't heard of this politician, it's because he's a member of the Australian Senate. As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to pass a climate-change bill, the Australian Parliament is preparing to kill its own country's carbon-emissions scheme. Why? A growing number of Australian politicians, scientists and citizens once again doubt the science of human-caused global warming.

Among the many reasons President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority are so intent on quickly jamming a cap-and-trade system through Congress is because the global warming tide is again shifting. It turns out Al Gore and the United Nations (with an assist from the media), did a little too vociferous a job smearing anyone who disagreed with them as "deniers." The backlash has brought the scientific debate roaring back to life in Australia, Europe, Japan and even, if less reported, the U.S.
In April, the Polish Academy of Sciences published a document challenging man-made global warming. In the Czech Republic, where President Vaclav Klaus remains a leading skeptic, today only 11% of the population believes humans play a role. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to tap Claude Allegre to lead the country's new ministry of industry and innovation. Twenty years ago Mr. Allegre was among the first to trill about man-made global warming, but the geochemist has since recanted. New Zealand last year elected a new government, which immediately suspended the country's weeks-old cap-and-trade program.
The number of skeptics, far from shrinking, is swelling. Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe now counts more than 700 scientists who disagree with the U.N. -- 13 times the number who authored the U.N.'s 2007 climate summary for policymakers. Joanne Simpson, the world's first woman to receive a Ph.D. in meteorology, expressed relief upon her retirement last year that she was finally free to speak "frankly" of her nonbelief. Dr. Kiminori Itoh, a Japanese environmental physical chemist who contributed to a U.N. climate report, dubs man-made warming "the worst scientific scandal in history." Norway's Ivar Giaever, Nobel Prize winner for physics, decries it as the "new religion." A group of 54 noted physicists, led by Princeton's Will Happer, is demanding the American Physical Society revise its position that the science is settled. (Both Nature and Science magazines have refused to run the physicists' open letter.)
The collapse of the "consensus" has been driven by reality. The inconvenient truth is that the earth's temperatures have flat-lined since 2001, despite growing concentrations of C02. Peer-reviewed research has debunked doomsday scenarios about the polar ice caps, hurricanes, malaria, extinctions, rising oceans. A global financial crisis has politicians taking a harder look at the science that would require them to hamstring their economies to rein in carbon.
Credit for Australia's own era of renewed enlightenment goes to Dr. Ian Plimer, a well-known Australian geologist. Earlier this year he published "Heaven and Earth," a damning critique of the "evidence" underpinning man-made global warming. The book is already in its fifth printing. So compelling is it that Paul Sheehan, a noted Australian columnist -- and ardent global warming believer -- in April humbly pronounced it "an evidence-based attack on conformity and orthodoxy, including my own, and a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence." Australian polls have shown a sharp uptick in public skepticism; the press is back to questioning scientific dogma; blogs are having a field day.
The rise in skepticism also came as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, elected like Mr. Obama on promises to combat global warming, was attempting his own emissions-reduction scheme. His administration was forced to delay the implementation of the program until at least 2011, just to get the legislation through Australia's House. The Senate was not so easily swayed.
Mr. Fielding, a crucial vote on the bill, was so alarmed by the renewed science debate that he made a fact-finding trip to the U.S., attending the Heartland Institute's annual conference for climate skeptics. He also visited with Joseph Aldy, Mr. Obama's special assistant on energy and the environment, where he challenged the Obama team to address his doubts. They apparently didn't.
This week Mr. Fielding issued a statement: He would not be voting for the bill. He would not risk job losses on "unconvincing green science." The bill is set to founder as the Australian parliament breaks for the winter.
Republicans in the U.S. have, in recent years, turned ever more to the cost arguments against climate legislation. That's made sense in light of the economic crisis. If Speaker Nancy Pelosi fails to push through her bill, it will be because rural and Blue Dog Democrats fret about the economic ramifications. Yet if the rest of the world is any indication, now might be the time for U.S. politicians to re-engage on the science. One thing for sure: They won't be alone.
Write to kim@wsj.com

China recruits algae to combat climate change

Chinese firm behind ambitious plan to breed microalgae in greenhouse with the potential to absorb carbon emissions

Jonathan Watts in Langfang
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 28 June 2009 16.32 BST

The garish gunk coursing through a greenhouse filled with transparent pipes appears to belong on the set of a particularly slimy episode of Star Trek.
Multiplying rapidly as it flows through tubes, stacked 14 high in four long rows, the organism thickens and darkens like the bioweapon of a deranged scientist.
But this is not a science fiction horror story, it is one of humankind's most ambitious attempts to recruit algae in the fight against climate change.
Developed by a groundbreaking Chinese firm, ENN, the greenhouse is a bioreactor that breeds microalgae, one of the fastest growing organisms on the planet, with carbon captured from gasified coal.
China is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, largely because it relies on coal for 70 per cent of its power. Almost none of the carbon dioxide is captured, partly because there is no profitable way of using it.
Algae may be the answer. The organism can absorb carbon far more quickly than trees, a quality that has long attracted international scientists seeking a natural method of capturing the most abundant greenhouse gas.
At ENN's research campus in Langfang, an hour's drive from Beijing, scientists are testing microalgae to clean up the back-end of a uniquely integrated process to extract and use coal more efficiently and cleanly than is possible today.
Coal is first gasified in a simulated underground environment. The carbon dioxide is extracted with the help of solar and wind power, then "fed" to algae, which can be then used to make biofuel, fertiliser or animal feed.
Foreign experts are enthusiastic. "Algae biofuels and sequestration are being tried in a bunch of places, but never with such an innovative energy mix," said Deborah Seligsohn, of the World Resources Institute, who visited ENN recently with a group of international energy executives. "It is really interesting and ambitious."
Researchers at the algae greenhouse plan to scale up the trial to a 100 hectare (247 acre) site over the next three years. If it proves commercially feasible, coal plants around the world could one day be flanked by carbon-cleaning algae greenhouses or ponds.
"Algae's promise is that its population can double every few hours. It makes far more efficient use of sunlight than plants," said Zhu Zhenqi, a senior advisor on the project. "The biology has been proven in the lab. The challenge now is an engineering one: We need to increase production and reduce cost. If we can solve this challenge, we can deal with carbon."
The algae must be harvested every day. Extracting the oily components and removing the water is expensive and energy intensive.
ENN is experimenting with different algae to find a hybrid that has an ideal balance of oil content and growth speed. It is testing cultivation techniques using varying temperatures and acidity levels.
Algae tests are also being carried out at the University of Ohio. In Japan, algae is farmed at sea where it absorbs carbon from the air. Elsewhere carbon is sprayed or bubbled into algae ponds. But ENN is focusing on a direct approach.
"Here we can control it, like in a reactor," said Gu Junjie, a senior advisor. "Theoretically we can absorb 100% of carbon dioxide emissions through a mix of microalgae and chemical fixing with hydrogen."
This might work on a large scale in the northern deserts of Inner Mongolia, where land is cheap, plentiful and in need of fertiliser. But elsewhere, application may be limited because of the large areas of land or water needed for cultivation.
"Algae is not likely to be the main solution for the carbon problem because of the amount of CO2 that needs to be consumed," said Ming Sung, Chief Representative for Asia Pacific of Clean Air Task Force. But, he said: "Algae is part of the solution and is closer to what nature intends. Being one of the simplest forms of life, all it takes is light and CO2 in salt water,"
The advanced algae, solar and coal gasification technology is the latest stage in the rise of ENN, which has been spectacular even by modern Chinese standards. Founded in 1989 as a small taxi company, it has branched successfully into the natural gas industry and now into the field of renewable energy. The private company now employs about 20,000 people, and owns a golf course and hotel near its headquarters in Hebei province, where a new research campus is under construction.
In the short term, ENN's advanced underground coal gasification technology is likely to prove more significant than its algae work. This technique enables extraction of fuel from small, difficult-to-access coal seams, and could double the world's current coal reserves. It also avoids the release of the pollutants sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.
The company is also one of only a small handful in the world capable of mass producing thin-film solar panels, which can be manufactured with less water and energy than conventional photovoltaic materials. Late last year, the World Bank's International Financing Corporation announced a US$136m loan for ENN's solar business.
ENN executives have talked to the US department of energy about joint research , a sign that the transfer of low-carbon technologies is no longer a one-way street from west to east.
The development of the algae technology trails the others, but Zhu says the results from the 10,000 litre algae greenhouse have been sufficiently encouraging to move ahead.
For the 100 hectare test facility, ENN is looking at sites near the company's 600,000 tonne-a-year coal mine in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, where the cold winters will require a heated greenhouse, and a location on Hainan Island, where the hot weather would allow the algae to be grown more cheaply in open ponds, but further away from China's main coal deposits.
With China building the equivalent of more than one new 500MW coal-fired plant every week and likely to be dependent on coal for at least two decades, the further studies planned by ENN could be crucial.
Recognising the continued role of the fossil fuel in China, the European Commission proposed a plan this week to co-finance a demonstration coal plant that aims to have near zero emissions through the use of carbon capture and storage technology.
If members states and the European parliament agree on the €50m plan, the facility would be operational by 2020.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

We’re out of step with the world on green issues

The Sunday Times
June 28, 2009
Eamon Delaney: As the rest of the globe invests in renewables, Ireland risks being left behind when it comes to the environment
Eamon Delaney

Last week the British government unveiled the world’s largest co-ordinated trial of environmentally-friendly vehicles, designed to accelerate the introduction of electric cars. This is a development that should interest us here, as a country with huge car dependency and the consequent effects on planning, traffic congestion, global emissions and child obesity. Some chance of that.
As the rest of the world goes forward on green issues, Ireland seems to be in reverse gear. In the recent local and European elections, the Green party was punished, and purely because of the economic policies of their larger partner in government, Fianna Fail. But green ideas are now central to the political systems of most European countries — especially in France. The Greens became the majority party in Paris in the European elections. In Ireland they are being pushed further to the margins.
Not only is this terribly short-sighted, it is also an indictment of just how parochial our political system is. John Gormley, the Green party leader, had hoped that voters in the local elections would focus on issues such as planning, but instead the electorate dwelt on the knockabout of national politics, and on personalities in the European contests.
And yet Ireland should care more than most countries about green issues. We are a small island, with a generally unspoilt landscape, dependent on a long-standing tourist industry. Agriculture has been a mainstay of the economy, and we should be benefiting from the international move towards locally produced food at the expense of mass-produced fare tainted with chemicals. Meanwhile, our cities and towns are clogged with private cars. Worst of all we have a crippling dependence on fossil fuels when we should be developing alternative energy sources, as other countries are doing.
Green is now good business. Ecology is no longer seen as “anti-growth” and, in fact, investment is pouring into low-carbon technology. The Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change — made up of the heads of companies such as Unilever, Tesco and Philips — persuaded Tony Blair and EU President José Manuel Barroso to make the issue a priority. General Electric, Dow and Alcoa were equally active as members of the US Climate Action Partnership. A far cry from the days when the Greens were scorned by the corporate world, just as they’re still ridiculed here by some knuckleheaded politicians and tabloid pundits.
Last year, for the first time, wind, solar and other renewables are thought to have accounted for more investment worldwide than coal- and gas-generated electricity projects. It has been estimated that 2.3m people worldwide are working either directly in the renewables sector or in supplier industries. There could be 2.1m people employed worldwide in the wind sector alone by 2030, and 6.3m people in solar-energy programmes.
All this may point the way out of the global economic crisis. China, which has been accused of being a great polluter, has now wholly embraced the development of other sources of energy, as has America under Obama.
But in Ireland, we are still behind. When a highly innovative wind project, the Spirit of Ireland, was launched recently, it was virtually ignored by our politicians and media, despite its potential to transform the Irish economy, lessen our dependency on fossil fuels, and reduce energy costs for consumers. It could even turn us into a net exporter of energy to the rest of Europe. It would certainly help reduce our level of carbon emissions, which remains incredibly high.
If we don’t take action, due to continued laziness and ignorance, we will be forced to do so by the international community and the EU. This is usually the way with Ireland; outside bodies have to force us to do things that are good for us. Meanwhile, our Greens suffer at the polls, and not because of their policies.

The index that measures companies’ shades of green

The Sunday Times
June 28, 2009
Tricia Holly Davis

COMPANIES in energy, chemicals, manufacturing and engineering have emerged as Britain’s unlikely low-carbon leaders, according to a set of new environmental investment indexes launched by FTSE Group this month.
The market-information specialist has created 18 new green indexes. The main international index, the FTSE Environmental Opportunities index comprises 472 companies from around the world, 30 of which are listed in Britain. Among them are Oxford Instruments, the technology group, Ricardo, the automotive engineer, and Spice, which provides services to power and water firms.
Companies are ranked by a new classification system aimed at helping investors identify companies that have significant exposure to environment-related markets. They are judged on the percentage of revenues generated from the sale of environmental goods and services, and then by stock-market value.
To make the list, companies must generate at least 20% of revenues from areas such as renewable energy, waste, pollution, water, and energy efficiency. There are 18 indexes covering different sectors and geographical regions.

Critics of the indexes say the FTSE has mixed high-emissions construction, engineering and manufacturing firms with renewable-energy companies in the solar and wind sectors.
But Ian Simm, head of the specialist environmental investment bank Impax, defended the choice. “This has nothing to do with ethics. The FTSE index is about getting more investors in the areas of waste, water, pollution and renewable energy.” In the separate UK index, the firms included are Charter International, Halma, IMI, Johnson Matthey, Oxford Instruments, Invensys, Spirax Sarco, United Utilities, Severn Trent, Eaga, PV Crystalox Solar, Scottish & Southern, WSP Group, Hyder Consulting, and Pennon Group.
Novera Energy and China Shoto, a battery maker, rank in the top five of UK environmental companies listed on the junior Alternative Investment Market (AIM).
Conspicuously absent from the international index are companies such as General Electric, which failed to meet the 20% revenue threshold, despite being perceived as a low-carbon leader.
Last year the firm reported that sales of products from its “Ecomagination” portfolio reached $17 billion (£10.4 billion), up 21% over the previous year.
FTSE Group said the objective of the index was to clarify what is meant by the “environmental” sector.
This should boost investment, creating new derivative products and investment funds. FTSE estimates there is about €2.5 billion (£2.1 billion) invested in funds that track environmental indexes. This compares with roughly €10 billion that it estimates is tracking the FTSE4Good ethical series, created in 2001.
Since 2004 companies listed in the UK index outperformed the FTSE All-Share by 78% (see chart on right), while the index covering AIM, London’s junior stock market, beat the FTSE AIM All-Share by 6%.
“The impact of climate change is set to alter the shape of the global economy over the coming years,” said Will Oulton at FTSE Group. “We expect to see rapid growth in those companies and sectors.”

‘Coal-eating’ bugs may solve energy crisis

The Sunday Times

June 28, 2009

Jonathan Leake

Craig Venter, the controversial American scientist who helped decode the human genome, has announced the discovery of ancient bacteria that can turn coal into methane, suggesting they may help to solve the world’s energy crisis.
The bugs, discovered a mile underground by one of Venter’s microbial prospecting teams, are said to have unique enzymes that can break down coal. Venter said he was already working with BP on how to exploit the find.
Venter even suggested the discovery could open up the world’s coalfields to an entirely new form of mining, where coal is infected with the bacteria, allowing methane to be harvested “without even digging up the coal”.
Venter, speaking at the recent La Jolla research and innovation summit, in La Jolla, California, told an audience of researchers and technology investors how he had harvested 20m new genes by analysing the DNA of micro-organisms collected underwater or deep underground.
He said: “We have found a huge number of microbes a mile or so deep in the earth. In fact, there is more diversity under the surface of the earth than in the ocean. It is absolutely stunning.
“Some of these underground water sources have been isolated for 50m to 135m years and we have found totally unique organisms.”
Venter flashed up a black-and-white image of a piece of coal that appeared to be carpeted with a mossy substance.
He said: “We have a large number that eat coal and break it down into organic acids, hydrogen, CO2 and so on. Then we have other organisms with enzymes that can take those organic acids, hydrogen and CO2 and make methane.”
Venter added: “We have a deal with BP to look at the biological conversion of coal into natural gas, where microbes colonise coal particles and produce methane.”
He also showed a second image with coal submerged in a liquid from which bubbles, said to be methane, were rising.
He added: “We and BP think we can scale this up substantially to provide a huge increase in the amount of natural gas available without even digging up the coal.”
Such ideas need to be treated with caution. The biotech industry is renowned for making claims that later turn out to have been excessive. This is often driven by the need to attract investors.
Venter does have a good track record, as shown by his lead role in the race to decode the human genome, but his discovery would need far more research and investment before it could be deployed on an industrial scale.
If it worked, however, the potential would be huge. Coal is the world’s most important fossil fuel with about 6.5 billion tons used each year. This is expected to rise by more than 60% by 2030.
This has serious environmental implications because coal is highly polluting, generating more CO2 per ton than any other major fossil fuel.
There is, however, no ready alternative to coal, especially in power generation, which means greenhouse gas emissions are likely to keep rising for decades if more is burned.
Methane, by contrast, is significantly less polluting. Venter also described separate research that, he said, could one day lead to CO2 being seen as a resource in the manufacture of biofuels.
He described how researchers at Synthetic Genomics, the firm he founded, had genetically engineered an algal species to produce large amounts of lipids — liquid fats that can be used to make biofuels.
All the cells needed was sunlight, a growing medium and CO2. They would then pump out lipids that would float to the top of the container, where they could be skimmed off.
He said: “We see CO2 as raw material. We have been engineering cells to use CO2 driven by sunlight to make biopolymers, methane and sugars.
“One of the most exciting breakthroughs is that we have engineered algal cells to pump out lipids in a pure form into the growing medium. You can literally skim the cream off the top and isolate it like a biocrude and we are not too far away from scaling this up on a very substantial scale.
Venter said: “Why do this? If we look around the world, we are going from 6.5 to 9 billion people in the next 40 years. We have never had the challenge of trying to feed and provide medicine, clean water, shelter and energy for that change in population. We are not doing such a great job right now.”
Click here to watch Venter describe his research

Green venture capital fund plans to make long-term plays

By Mark Leftly
Sunday, 28 June 2009

Barry Williams, the co-founder of the Secondary Market Infrastructure Fund (SMIF), is forming a new renewable energy business to invest in a range of projects from solar power in Italy to biomass generation in the UK.
Aleltho Energy, of which Mr Williams is chief executive, has access to £75m from cornerstone funders and is looking for another £100m from asset investors by the end of the year. Mr Williams is joined by chairman Perry Noble, the former co-head head of the global finance practice at law firm Freshfields.
Aleltho will invest up to £30m in any one renewable energy asset. Unlike more short-term venture capital-type backing, Aleltho will typically invest for 10 or more years.
Mr Williams is identifying solar projects in Spain and Italy, as well as waste and biomass energy schemes predominantly in the UK.
"The first investment will be made, judging conservatively, in October this year," Mr Williams said. ""We have signed one arrangement and are considering £150m of opportunities."
SMIF was bought by Trillium, then part of the Ftse-100 property giant Land Securities, in 2007. Trillium was sold to Telereal, the property outsourcing group, for £750m in January.

US House passes landmark climate change bill

By Edward Luce in Washington
Published: June 27 2009 00:51

The United States took its first step towards reducing carbon emissions on Friday night when the House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill that would set the country’s first ever limits on its greenhouse gas production.
President Barack Obama hailed the vote, which scraped through by a 219-212 tally, as a “bold and necessary step” that marked a “spirit of change” towards climate change in the US – echoing the words of Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, who had described a “sea change” when she met the US president earlier in the day.

However Mr Obama reminded those celebrating the “historic” vote that the bill’s passage was still far from assured. “Now it is up to the Senate to take the next step,” he said.
In a statement, Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said the upper chamber, which is considered a tougher hurdle for cap-and-trade than the House, would start work on the bill in September.
The House version would reduce US carbon emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 per cent below 2005 levels by 2050 by establishing a system for trading carbon permits within an ever-tighter ceiling. It would also mandate electricity producers to source a fifth of all production from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and wave, by 2020.
Many environmental groups hailed the bill’s passage as a big step forward in advance of the Copenhagen summit on climate change in December. “[It] will finally allow the United States to help lead the efforts toward a global agreement in which the major economies of the world, both developed and developing, play their part to address the climate challenge,” said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change.
But some green groups, including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, said the 1,300 page bill was hedged around with too many compromises and let-out clauses to have the desired effect. The legislation led by Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, the Democratic lawmakers who spearheaded the effort, was the product of several months worth of backroom deals with centrist Democrats from rural and manufacturing states.
In spite of the many compromises, which included giving away 85 per cent of carbon permits to various industry groups, against the 100 per cent auction that Mr Obama wanted, 44 Democrats still voted against the bill. Only eight Republicans, out of a caucus of 183, voted in favour.
The Republican leadership, which spent much of Friday in a last-ditch effort to derail the bill, says it will introduce a “national energy tax” that will cost millions of jobs. Independent estimates of the bill’s effects say it will impose a small cost of between 22 cents and 48 cents a day on the average American – less than the cost of a first class postage stamp.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

President Barack Obama clears major global warming hurdle

President Barack Obama has cleared a major hurdle in getting the US to tackle global warming after Congress passed a sweeping bill to transform America's use and production of energy.

By Leonard Doyle in Washington Published: 5:30PM BST 27 Jun 2009

The Jeffery Energy Center coal power plant near Emmitt, Kansas. Sweeping legislation to curb the pollution linked to global warming and create a new energy-efficient economy is headed to an uncertain future in the Senate after squeaking through the House. Photo: AP
It is the first major action by the US to address climate change.
The legislation, approved by the House of Representatives, would force American industries to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases, but the plans have drawn the ire of critics.

Republicans argue that they would destroy jobs.
The Senate must now approve the legislation, and the president used his weekly radio and internet address yesterday to urge it to do so.
The President described the bill as "a bold and necessary step." He said he wanted to sign the legislation quickly, "so that we can say, at long last, that this was the moment when we decided to confront America's energy challenge and reclaim America's future."
It took personal pleas from Hillary Clinton, former vice president Al Gore, and Mr Obama to persuade Democrats and some Republicans to get the legislation through the House of Representatives.
Congress finally voted 219 to 212 late on Friday, just one vote more than the simple majority of 218 needed.
Forty Democrats voted against the bill and only eight Republicans supported it, a reflection of the fragility of efforts to reduce America's voracious appetite to consume energy. Democrats and Republicans, especially those from coal producing and industrial states, are politically vulnerable at a time of economic difficulty and widespread unemployment.
The climate change bill is a cap-and-trade system to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases, in effect a tax on energy use. The licences would grow more restrictive over time, pushing up the price of carbon emissions while persuading industry to adopt cleaner ways of making and consuming energy.
Months of wrangling now lie ahead in the Senate, where it takes 60 votes to end a debate. Although Democrats hold 59 seats, the expected impact of the legislation on job losses makes them especially vulnerable to defections.
Mr Obama wants the legislation in place before December so that he can claim leadership at the big planned international climate change conference in Copenhagen.
Rep John Culberson of Texas, a Republican, said the bill "is the equivalent to a light switch tax - if this bill becomes law, Americans will pay higher taxes every time we turn on our lights."