Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Gas Engines Get Upgrade in Challenge to Hybrids

Hybrids and electric cars are generating the buzz this week at Detroit's North American International Auto Show. But thanks to new technology, the century-old internal-combustion engine appears poised to make a significant leap in fuel efficiency.
While car makers are showcasing gas-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids and concept cars powered by fuel-cell batteries, they also are rolling out vehicles with advanced gasoline engines that rely on a technology known as direct fuel injection.

Analysts say sales of vehicles with such engines -- which deliver greater fuel economy and power than today's similarly sized gas engines -- will far exceed those of hybrids and electrics for years to come.
U.S. sales of hybrids will rise to 578,000 by 2014 from 353,000 this year, according to CSM Worldwide. But the forecasting firm projects that sales of vehicles using direct-injection gas engines will jump to 5.1 million by 2014 from 585,000 this year.
Globally, hybrid, plug-in and battery-only vehicles will capture about 14% of the automotive market by 2020, according to IHS Global Insight, another forecasting firm.
"Leaping to a new technology is really a big risk," said Eric Fedewa, CSM's vice president of global powertrain forecasting. "It's much more cost effective and much less risk to do something to an existing, proven technology."
All auto makers are under pressure to boost fuel economy to meet stricter governmental standards. But consumers are fickle when it comes to buying superefficient vehicles.
Sales of Toyota Motor Corp.'s Prius, the best-known hybrid, zoomed last year when gas prices hit $4 a gallon in the U.S. But now, with gas costing less than half that, Toyota has seen Prius sales slow dramatically and it recently mothballed a U.S. factory slated to build the model.
One big hurdle hybrids face is higher sticker prices, often thousands of dollars more than the same model with a traditional engine. It takes years for a customer to earn back this cost through gas savings.
Early this decade, car makers looked to the diesel engine for better mileage. But in the U.S., many turned away from that strategy for passenger cars as the cost of making diesel engines "clean" increased by thousands of dollars per vehicle after federal environmental regulations tightened. Also, diesel fuel costs more than gasoline.
The internal-combustion engine "will likely remain the backbone of mobility for the foreseeable future," said Daimler AG Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche. He said his company has been able to improve the efficiency of gas and diesel engines by about 23% and "there is still further to go."
At the car show, BMW AG displayed hybrid concepts of its 7-Series and X6 models that combine V8 engines with a two-mode hybrid to deliver a 20% improvement in fuel economy. But the German maker also expects it could still get up to a 10% improvement in fuel economy with tweaks to its existing lineup of gasoline engines, said Klaus Draeger, a member of BMW's executive board.
Leading the way are direct-injection engines, which take highly pressurized fuel and thrust it squarely into the combustion chamber of each cylinder. By contrast, traditional engines first mix fuel with incoming air before reaching the combustion chamber, which is less efficient. Car maker say the advantages of direct injection are lower emissions, better performance and greater fuel efficiency.
Ford Motor Co. rolled out its EcoBoost direct-injection technology, which promises greater performance while offering as much as a 20% increase in fuel economy over the same-size traditional engine. It will first be available later this year in the Ford Flex seven-passenger crossover wagon. By 2012, Ford expects to produce 750,000 EcoBoost vehicles annually world-wide, said Derrick Kuzak, Ford's global vice president for product development.
The company argues the premium for EcoBoost -- a price Ford has not disclosed -- is a better value than a hybrid or diesel. Mr. Kuzak said that, assuming a gallon of gas is $3 or less, it would take 12 to 18 months to see the cost savings of owning an EcoBoost vehicle. The equivalent for a hybrid, he said, is five to seven years and as long as a decade for diesel at current prices.
At General Motors Corp., 38 models will use direct-injection engines by next year, totaling about 10% of its global production. "On the journey to electrification of vehicles, we think we're going to need to make significant improvements in gasoline engines," said Sam Winegarden, GM's executive director of engineering.
GM and other makers are also trying to develop a gas engine using a technology called homogenous-charge compression-ignition, or HCCI. The technology is believed capable of providing as much as a 30% boost in fuel economy by burning gas faster at lower temperatures and reducing some of the energy lost during the combustion process.
"HCCI would be the next logical extension of improving the gas engine," Mr. Winegarden said, adding that HCCI is likely to hit the market within the next 10 years.
Major auto makers expect to sell a variety of vehicle technologies, but offer most models with gasoline engines. "I don't think one technology will outdate another. They'll layer," said Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA.
Much of the electrification strategy touted by auto makers counts on hefty incentives, including tax breaks to make buying a hybrid or battery-powered car easier on consumers' wallets. Without such incentives, the costs of creating a robust electric- and hybrid-car market will be prohibitively high, according to a new report from Boston Consulting Group.
Even many environmentalists say that improving the gas engine is a good near-term solution. "There is no silver bullet -- we need a silver buckshot," said Luke Tonachel, vehicles analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "We need cars that go further on less gas. We'll need to embrace all of the technology."—Kate Linebaugh and Jeff Bennett contributed to this article.
Write to Matthew Dolan at

E-car startups try to compete with major companies

The Associated Press
Published: January 13, 2009

DETROIT: Several startup automakers are in hot pursuit of electric-powered vehicles, but they face an uphill road as they challenge major car companies like Toyota and General Motors in the race for the green car market.
California-based Tesla Motors Inc. and Fisker Automotive are displaying cars at the North American International Auto Show this week, grabbing attention with sleek electric-drive vehicles that combine environmentally friendly chic with sports car sex appeal.
Tesla, which started in 2004, showcased its $109,000 all-electric two-seat Roadster sports car at the Detroit show and hopes to unveil its Model S electric car in late February, CEO Elon Musk said in an address Tuesday before the Society of Automotive Analysts.
Musk announced that Tesla has been working with Daimler AG since late 2007 in a partnership to produce 1,000 electric Smart microcars. He said Tesla will produce the battery pack and charger for the vehicle, which is expected to be leased to customers.
"If the 1,000-vehicle fleet is a success and the economics make sense and the product is compelling, that will expand to tens of thousands of vehicles per year," Musk said. "Daimler is really looking at this as a very serious product."

Musk said the deal was nonexclusive and Tesla was looking to establish more strategic relationships with other automakers.
Fisker is showing off the production version of its $87,900 Karma plug-in luxury sports sedan, a four-seater with solar panels and the ability to drive gas-free for 50 miles (80 kilometers). Fisker, which expects the cars to roll off the production line in October, also unveiled the Karma S, a convertible expected in 2011.
"We really don't have any competition, at least in the next two years," in the luxury plug-in segment, said Henrik Fisker, the company's founder. "Being able to do 50 miles on electric-only and then drive after as a normal car, as a normal hybrid, there's no other car that can do that."
All swagger aside, the startups have plenty of doubters. Many question whether the niche companies will be able to survive the contraction of the U.S. auto market and the recent difficulty obtaining credit that is key to financing future growth.
"No matter what (the car) does, no matter what's under the hood, you can't sell tens of thousands of an $84,000 car in the U.S. today," said Shai Agassi, founder and chief executive of Better Place, a Palo Alto, California, company developing electric vehicle networks. "The people who were in that buying market are not buying right now."
Tesla said in October that it would push back the production of its Model S all-electric sedan, expected to have a more reasonable $60,000 price tag, until mid-2011 to focus on its Roadster and a profitable powertrain unit. The company said it would reduce its work force but did not elaborate.
"It was already a tough road for them and things got even more difficult," said Brian Fan, director of research for CleanTech Group, a San Francisco-based investment firm.
Fisker raised more than $90 million in venture capital in 2008, the company said. Its investors include top venture capital firms such as California-based Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, of which former Vice President Al Gore is a partner, and Palo Alto Investors.
Tesla has raised at least $165 million since 2006, according to estimates by analysts, and its top investors include Musk, former eBay Inc. President Jeffrey Skoll, and Google Inc.'s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Tesla announced $40 million in financing in November to expand its powertrain venture and continue future development.
Both are seeking significant funding from the Energy Department's $25 billion loan program to develop advanced vehicles. The outgoing Bush administration has not yet announced any awards.
Mike Donoughe, Tesla's executive vice president for vehicle engineering and manufacturing, said 150 Roadsters have been delivered and the company expects to build at a pace of 30 per week by April. Tesla officials said Musk, a PayPal co-founder, has made significant personal investments in the company and wants it to succeed.
"The words he used with me a few weeks ago was, 'I'll sweat blood to make this successful,'" Donoughe said. "I think we all have that same approach from everywhere in the company."
The companies face the typical growing pains of a startup auto company along with the challenges of electric transportation, competing with billions of dollars in investments by General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. GM is hoping to bring the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle to the market by 2010, and Toyota outlined plans in Detroit to bring an all-electric car to market by 2012.
David Cole, president of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., said the complexity of integrating electric drive into a vehicle's powertrain could not be underestimated. And even with extensive engineering teams, the large companies are grappling with uncertainties about how lithium-ion batteries will perform in the vehicles long-term.
"What (the startup companies are) finding is that it's not quite as easy to do as it is to talk," Cole said.
Jim Lentz, Toyota's top U.S. sales executive, said the new companies likely will foster innovation and competition.
"At the price point where they're entering the market, they're at a very different place," said Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA. "It's interesting for us to look at the technologies and how they're developing their electronics."
Other startups seeking the electric path include Chinese automaker BYD Co., Miles Electric Vehicles and Aptera Motors.
Paul Wilbur, Aptera's president and chief executive, said the startup had taken more than 3,700 deposits for its 2e electric vehicle, a two-passenger, three-wheeled car which starts production later this year. The vehicle, with a range of 125 miles per charge, is expected to cost between $25,000 and $40,000, he said.
Brian Wynne, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, said developers of plug-ins and electrics will have an ally in President-elect Barack Obama, who has set a goal of 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2015 and was an early supporter of plug-in tax credits of up to $7,500 while serving in the Senate.
Associated Press writer David Runk contributed to this report.

Tesla Motors to Supply Batteries for Daimler's Electric Mini Car

DETROIT -- Tesla Motors Inc. said it will supply batteries and chargers to Daimler AG for its new electric Smart car, which is slated to come out in the second half of 2010, as the race to get electric vehicles into the market heats up.
Mike Radakovich
Telsa battery pack and frame
Elon Musk, chairman and chief executive of Tesla, said Tesla will supply battery packs for 1,000 vehicles and that could grow to "tens of thousands."
The talks between the two companies began in the summer of 2007. Currently, Tesla is sending prototypes to Daimler.
Smart will launch a limited release in select markets in the second half of 2010 and regular production in 2012.
Mr. Musk aims to develop similar partnerships with other auto makers.
Tesla also will begin selling its high-end Roadster sport car in June and is in the process of ramping up production from 15 vehicles a week to 30.

Mr. Musk said the company is sold out until November. He also estimates that Telsa will be profitable by the middle of the year.
Daimler's Smart division announced plans to launch an electric vehicle at the North American International Auto Show as auto makers from Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford Motor Co. revealed plans to develop electric vehicles.
Daimler currently has a small fleet of electric Smarts on the road in London with batteries by a different supplier.
Tesla, a Silicon Valley electric-vehicle company, is in the process of seeking federal loan assistance to help develop a sedan, which it hopes to get on the road in mid-2011. Tesla will release a drivable prototype of the Model S sedan in February, Mr. Musk said. And the vehicle will come with a price tag of $49,900 after the consumer tax credit.
"We are working as rapidly as possible to bring affordable cars" to the mass market, Mr. Musk said.
Write to Kate Linebaugh at

Poland aiming at own nuclear power by 2020

The Associated Press
Published: January 13, 2009

WARSAW, Poland: Poland's prime minister says the ongoing natural gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine is pushing his government to speed up plans to build nuclear power plants.
Donald Tusk said his Cabinet decided Tuesday to step up construction of its first-ever nuclear power plants, and that he expects them to produce power by 2020.
Tusk added that Poland will further seek to reduce its dependence on Russian gas imports, including through construction of a liquid gas storage system and a gas port.
Poland was one of several nations to see a drop in natural gas deliveries as part of the dispute between Moscow and Kiev. Warsaw was largely able to make up the shortfall through an increased inflow from pipelines running through Belarus.

Slovakia ready to restart Soviet nuclear reactor

The Associated Press
Published: January 13, 2009

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia: Slovakia's prime minister said Tuesday his country was technically ready to restart an aging Soviet nuclear reactor to cope with a natural gas shortage, despite threats by the EU to take action if it does.
Slovakia is among the countries hardest hit by the cutoff of gas caused by a dispute between Ukraine and Russia.
Slovakia, which depends entirely on Russian gas, declared a state of emergency last week after Russia shut down its gas pipeline to Europe amid a dispute with neighboring Ukraine. Slovakia ordered 1,000 companies to reduce their consumption levels to ensure enough gas for households, hospital and schools.
On Tuesday, Primer Minister Robert Fico told reporters that authorities can ensure electricity deliveries for only few more days and will restart the reactor at the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear plant when "a critical moment occurs."
The EU had demanded that Slovakia shut down the reactor in order to join the European Union in 2004. The reactor was shut down Dec. 31. Another nuclear reactor at the Jaslovske Bohunice V1 plant was shut down in 2006.

Fico said Tuesday that Slovak officials have been holding intensive talks with the European Commission "to minimize the damage" and would accept international monitors at the plant.
Later Tuesday, the EU appeared to be softening its stance on the issue.
EU spokesman Ferran Tarradellas Espuny still insisted that restarting the reactor "would be a violation of the accession act of Slovakia to the European Union," but added the EU was aware of the hardships Slovakia faces, especially during winter.
"We have to take into consideration also the extremely difficult situation of Slovak citizens, Slovak industry, the Slovak economy," Tarradellas said.
"We would like to have as much information as possible on the justification from the Slovak government," he said.
Fico said Tuesday the EU will receive all necessary information in a few days.

Recycled waste could end up in landfill sites, warns watchdog

• Government failing to provide enough facilities • Taxpayers could face multimillion-pound fines
David Hencke, Westminster correspondent
The Guardian, Wednesday 14 January 2009

Millions of people who recycle their rubbish could find it becomes a futile exercise due to the government's failure to provide enough facilities to prevent it from being dumped in landfill sites, a report from a Whitehall watchdog warns today.
Homeowners and tenants could also have to foot the bill for fines totalling hundreds of millions of pounds because their council has fallen behind in developing recycling schemes. The EU has set a deadline of 2013 to halve dumping in landfill sites; the government faces fines if it misses the target and will pass this on to councils.
The National Audit Office says there is little chance of completing a programme of building incinerators and large-scale recycling schemes by 2013.
The government had tried to fund the programme by raising cash from banks under the private finance initiative, but many of the schemes can no longer get money because of the credit crunch.
Since many involve building large incinerators, they are also running into opposition from residents, resulting in an average delay of more than 19 months in obtaining planning permission. It can take between five and nine years for a new plant to come on stream.
According to the auditors, only two big waste treatment plants in England have come on stream since the programme was launched in 1999 and another nine projects have been approved. A further 18 are in the pipeline.
The two completed schemes are in Leicester and east London. Other schemes for incinerators planned in 2003 and 2006 have not even started; they include Newhaven in East Sussex, Nottinghamshire and Cornwall.
The report says: "England is likely to meet its 2010 landfill reduction targets but to meet the 2013 target the Department [for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] will need to reduce substantially the time taken to procure projects and bring them into operation ... It will not be met if there continue to be programme delays or the infrastructure built does not work as efficiently as expected."
Edward Leigh, Tory chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, said: "The department sat on its hands for four years after the EU in 1999 set England a testing timetable for reducing the amount of biodegradable rubbish sent to landfill."
Councils also warned that they faced problems in meeting targets. Paul Bettison, chairman of the Local Government Association environment board, said: "Councils are pulling out the stops to deliver projects that will deal with waste. But the reality is the government has hit the council tax payer with a £1.5bn bill over the next three years by going back on its undertaking to refund money raised through landfill tax to local authorities. This is cash that could be used to build the facilities that are needed to divert waste away from landfill."

European Parliament passes pesticides bill

The Associated Press
Published: January 13, 2009

STRASBOURG, France: The European Parliament voted Tuesday to tighten rules on the use of pesticides amid fears it is posing an increasing danger to human health and animals like the industrious honeybee.
EU lawmakers approved two laws on licensing and use that will ban the most dangerous, cancer-causing pesticides across the 27-nation bloc.
"Today's decision is a milestone for consumer protection in Europe," German Green Party lawmaker Hiltrud Breyer said.
The rules will force farmers and chemical producers to replace 22 high toxic products, deemed to be the most dangerous pesticides, over the next decade.
The system is expected to come into force in the coming weeks, after a final, formal nod from EU governments. It will restrict the use of pesticides in and around parks, urban areas, reserves and protected wetlands and limit the use of crop-dusters.

Threatened wild and farm honeybees were also given attention in the new legislation.
Substances deemed to be harmful to nature's largest pollinators will be banned in an attempt to reverse the recent dramatic decrease of bee populations across Europe and other continents.
Many scientists believe the increased use of pesticides is a factor in the worldwide decline of bees.
The Pesticide Action Network-Europe alliance said bees are essential for the pollination of some 80 million tons of food produced in the EU.
The European Commission said pesticides can cause cancer, are toxic to reproductive systems and can disrupt hormones.
Environmental group Greenpeace said lobbying from the chemicals industry had dulled the edge of the legislation. It said the EU should have imposed an immediate ban rather than a 10-year phase out of the most toxic pesticides.
"Banning 22 harmful substances out of over 400 is barely a start," said Manfred Krautter of Greenpeace. "Food in Europe will continue to be contaminated by many dangerous chemicals for years to come."
Some British lawmakers were also critical, saying it would lead to further food price hikes because farmers could ill afford to use alternative and more expensive pesticides.

Thousands rush to buy land in path of Heathrow expansion

Lawyers for Greenpeace - one of four co-owners of the land near Sipson village - say the group's website has been swamped with requests to buy in to the scheme
John Vidal, environment editor, Tuesday 13 January 2009 17.31 GMT

In one of the southern England's greatest modern property rushes, more than 5,000 people signed up today to become joint owners of an acre of farmland on the line of the proposed third runway at Heathrow airport. They join Oscar winner Emma Thompson, comedian Alistair McGowan and Conservative party green adviser Zac Goldsmith who bought the land from under the nose of Heathrow airport owners BAA last week to try to slow airport expansion plans.
Lawyers for Greenpeace, one of the four owners of the land on the edge of the village of Sipson which will be demolished if permission for the runway is given, said that it had been inundated with requests to become legally recognised "beneficial owners".
"We have been receiving nearly 1,000 requests an hour and expect to have 10,000 applications by tomorrow. Our lawyers are examining ways in which these people can act as a legal obstacle to plans for a third runway. Their names will appear on the title deeds of the plot, and the individuals will be formally represented at future planning enquiries and challenges to compulsory purchase orders", said a Greenpeace spokesman.
It emerged that the environment group paid the landowner £20,000 for the plot, considerably less than the land would be worth in a normal market, but that no money would be asked from the public. "We do not need to charge people. We are not physically dividing up the land , so people will not physically own a blade of grass", said the spokesman. Co-ownership confers specific property rights to a person even though legal title of the property may belongs to another person.
The aviation industry condemned what it called a "stunt". Former Labour MP Brian Wilson, chair of lobby group FlyingMatters, said: "If anti-aviation groups are really serious about climate change, they would be engaging in constructive dialogue with the industry about how we can protect the economic and social benefits it brings whilst dealing with its environmental impact. Instead they seem more interested in PR stunts with eco-celebrities."
Airport owner BAA, a unit of Spain's Grupo Ferrovial SA, said in a statement: "Until the government makes a policy decision, questions around legal standing on potential property purchases are purely hypothetical. BAA has put schemes in place to deal with the difficult issues facing local residents and if growth proceeds, we are committed to working with the community in a sensitive manner."

A green revolution blooms in the desert

By Elisabeth Rosenthal
Published: January 13, 2009
ABU DHABI: With one of the highest per capita carbon footprints in the world, the oil-rich United Arab Emirates would seem an unlikely place for a green revolution.
Gasoline sells for 12 cents a liter, or 45 cents a gallon. There is little public transportation and no recycling. Residents drive between air-conditioned apartments and air-conditioned malls that are lit 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Still, leaders in the region know energy and money, having built their wealth on oil. They understand that oil is a finite resource, and vulnerable to competition from new energy forms.
So even as President-elect Barack Obama talks about promoting green jobs as the U.S. route out of recession, Gulf states like the Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are already making a concerted push to become the Silicon Valley of alternative energy.
They are aggressively pouring billions of dollars made in the oil fields into new green technologies. They are establishing billion-dollar clean-tech investment funds. And they are putting millions of dollars behind research projects at universities from Japan to Britain and setting up green research parks at home.
"Abu Dhabi is an oil-exporting country, and we want to become an energy exporting country, and to do that we need to excel at the newer forms of energy," said Khaled Awad, a director of Masdar, a futuristic, zero-carbon city and a research park, affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, that is rising from the desert on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.
These are long-term investments in an alternative energy future that neither falling oil prices nor the global downturn seems likely to reverse. Even as the local real estate market is foundering, leaders of politics, business and research from across the globe will flock to this kingdom for three days starting Jan. 19 for the second World Future Energy Summit, which has already become something of a Davos for renewable energy.
This year's guest list includes Prince Faisal of Saudi Arabia and former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, as well as top energy officials from the European Union, Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Also attending will be executives representing hundreds of companies large and small, from British Petroleum and Credit Suisse to dozens of start-up companies from Europe and the United States.
"Truth is that, locally, that money is tight as everywhere and the property market is certainly taking a correction downwards," said Richard Hease, whose Dubai-based company, Turret Middle East, organized the conference. "But on the renewable energy front, it is business as usual."
The singular focus of all this new investment is to maintain the Gulf's dominant position as a global energy supplier, gaining patents from the new technologies and promoting green manufacturing.
Such investment, environmental experts say, will have global benefits, bringing many emerging technologies to a point where they are practical. But if the United States and the European Union have energy independence from the Gulf states as a goal of new renewable energy initiatives, they may find they are arriving late at the party.
"The leadership in these breakthrough technologies is a title the U.S. can lose easily," said Peter Barker-Homek, chief executive of Taqa, the national energy company of Abu Dhabi. "Here we have low taxes, a young population, accessibility to the world, abundant natural resources and willingness to invest in the seed capital."
The vision of a renewable future in the Gulf is not so much rooted in a fuzzy green sentiment - though that is starting to taking hold - but in analysis of the future. The countries' rulers understand that they need renewable energy not only to maintain the Gulf economies but also the high-end lifestyle of their peoples.
"You see what the Gulf states have achieved in terms of modern infrastructure and beautiful architecture, but this has come at a very high environmental price," Awad, of Masdar, said.
"We have the highest energy consumption in the world per person," he added. "So if you project that out with our current growth, we know we can't continue with this carbon footprint. We have to change. This is why Abu Dhabi must develop new models - for the planet, of course, but also so as not to jeopardize Abu Dhabi."
Indeed, the world is now consuming 80 million barrels of oil a day and that could rise to 150 million if population and consumption trends continue. That would mean adding six Saudi Arabias' worth of oil output just to maintain current usage, at a time when scientists are warning that carbon levels need to be cut significantly in order to avoid disastrous global warming.
"If there's limited oil, you want to use it for making things that you can't make with anything else, like this bottle," Awad said, picking up his water. "You don't want to use it for cooling cities."
To hedge their position, then, an increasingly sophisticated generation of largely Western-educated leaders in the Middle East are seizing on green business opportunities, by seeding research in far away nations.
In the wealthiest of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi's crown prince announced in January that he would invest $15 billion in renewable energy. That is the same amount Obama has proposed investing - in the entire United States - "to catalyze private sector efforts to build a clean energy future."
Masdar, the model city that will generate no carbon emissions, is tied to the crown prince's ambitions. Designed by Norman Foster, the British eco-architect, it will include a satellite campus of the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, as well as a research park with laboratories affiliated with Imperial College London and the Tokyo Institute of Research and Technology.
In Saudi Arabia, the new state-owned King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or Kaust, gave a Stanford University scientist $25 million this year to start a research center on how to make solar power cost competitive with coal. Kaust, which doled out its first grants this year, also gave $8 million to a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who is developing ecologically friendly concrete.
And it has other agreements as well, with Caltech, Cambridge, Cornell, Imperial College, Sapienza, Oxford and Utrecht, to name just a few.
Last month, as Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain visited Qatar, the government signed an agreement to invest £150 million, or $230 million, in a British low-carbon technology fund, dwarfing the fund's investments from home.
For the rest of the world, the huge cash infusion may provide the important lift experts say is needed to get dozens of emerging technologies - like carbon capture, microsolar and low-carbon aluminum - over the development hump to make them cost effective.
"The impact has been enormous," said Michael McGehee, the associate professor at Stanford who received the $25 million Saudi grant. "It has greatly accelerated the development process."
Director of the largest solar cell research group in the world, McGehee had tried and failed to get the hefty financing needed from the U.S. government or industries to commercialize cheaper solar cells. Research money is tight, he noted.
The Saudi cash pays for 16 new researchers, and he expects the new energy cells to dominate the market by 2015. "People are astonished to see how big this grant is and where it came from," he said, noting that his past grants from the U.S. government were one-fiftieth as large.
Such huge grants to foreign universities have also generated controversy. At Berkeley, though some professors have accepted Saudi grants, the Department of Environmental Engineering has said it will not because of concerns about the kingdom's human rights record.
But experts say the vast investments from the Gulf states have already had a global ripple effect in restarting stalled environmental technologies.
Nancy Tuor, vice chairman of CH2M HILL, the Canadian construction firm that is building the Masdar City complex, said that the sheer size of the investment had has a "forcing effect," pushing polluting industries to experiment with cleaner solutions.
For example, initial plans for Masdar excluded both aluminum and conventional concrete, since those materials generate high levels of carbon emissions, which warm the planet. Aluminum manufacturers protested and came back with a product that reduced emissions by 90 percent compared to regular aluminum; it is now included in the project.
Likewise, all concrete in the project is made with alternatives to cement - the high emitting portion of the material. When the vast construction project ordered Caterpillar machinery, it insisted that models be made that run on diesel and to the highest European fuel efficiency standards.
The city will have no cars, and people will move around using driverless electric vehicles that move on a subterranean level. The air conditioning will be solar powered. Investors hope the technologies - and patents - that come out of the Gulf states will spread across the world, giving the country a manufacturing sector focused on renewable energy and materials.
"When people think about sustainability they think about devices," said Gerard Evenden, a partner at Foster and Partners, the British Architectural firm that is designing the site. "But here your taking it to a city scale, which has much more of an impact - connecting the devices to the structure to the transportation to the people."
With no industrial history, the Gulf states say they have the advantage of starting from scratch, unlike the United States, which, under most plans, would be retooling ailing industries, like car manufacturing.
Also, although the Gulf states have previously showed little interest in green energy like wind or solar, they have another advantage, Awad noted as he stood in the shimmering desert amid 41 types of solar panels, which engineers are now testing and using to power offices. "The sun shines 365 days a year," he said.

Rolls-Royce to start tidal power turbine tests

Published: January 13, 2009

LONDON: Engines and power systems maker Rolls-Royce will test a one megawatt turbine to generate electricity from tidal power next year, Ric Parker, director of research and technology, said.
"It's a huge opportunity for the UK, we're ideally positioned to lead on this because we have the resources all around us," said Parker, referring to Britain's location and long coastline which give it a big chunk of European tidal and offshore wind power.
European Union renewable energy targets may require Britain to deploy an extra 7,000 wind turbines on and offshore by 2020, but the country has almost no industry to make these.
Rolls-Royce will embark this summer on sea trials of a half-megawatt (MW) turbine to harness power from the tide, which it has developed alongside a company called Tidal Generation, and it plans to test a 1 MW version in about 18 months.
It will develop the bigger turbine with other partners, including Garrad Hassan, the University of Edinburgh, EDF Energy, E.ON, Plymouth Marine Laboratories and the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC).

"By 2020 there could be 300 MW (tidal power deployed) around the UK, or 100-200 devices," Parker estimated, declining to comment on the size of UK manufacturing opportunity.
That compares with total UK power generating capacity now of about 77,000 MW. Rolls-Royce is spending about 5 percent of its R&D budget on clean energy technologies including tidal power and fuel cells, said Parker.
Rolls-Royce, better known as a maker of engines for planes and ships, announced the tide power on Tuesday as part of its role in a 20 million pound research initiative to develop clean energy technologies using public and private sector cash.
The initiative, led by the public-private partnership Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), would support four projects in wind and tidal power, with Rolls-Royce leading one of those.
The ETI could deploy up to 1.1 billion pounds over ten years, using funding from taxpayers and industrial partners including BP, E.ON and Shell.

ConocoPhillips CEO urges balanced energy policy

The Associated Press
Published: January 13, 2009

WASHINGTON: President-elect Barack Obama's plan to create a "green energy economy" is designed to address the problems of energy security, climate change and job creation, but its cost could be greater than policymakers realize, the chief executive of oil company ConocoPhillips said Tuesday.
"We agree that we must reduce the environmental footprint of energy production and consumption. But we must be realistic about the cost of green energy ... (and) about its true potential and how long it will take for commercial-scale supply contributions," ConocoPhillips Chairman and CEO Jim Mulva said in a speech at the National Press Club.
To ensure prosperity, the U.S. economy needs quickly available energy, reasonably priced, he said. By restricting energy development domestically, America exports dollars to buy oil from abroad, thereby also exporting jobs.
Obama's nominee for energy secretary, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu, promised Tuesday in his Senate confirmation hearing that he will aggressively pursue policies aimed at addressing climate change and achieving greater U.S. energy independence by developing clean energy sources.
But Chu also views nuclear power and coal as critical parts of the nation's energy mix and said he was optimistic ways can be found to make coal a cleaner energy source by capturing its carbon dioxide emissions.

As the Obama administration prepares to take office next week, Big Oil clearly is seeking a seat at the table as a new energy policy is crafted.
ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. oil company, "is ready, eager and willing to work with the new administration," Mulva said.
He said a comprehensive policy is needed that would embrace the principles of broad diversity of energy supply, greater efficiency, technological innovation and sound environmental stewardship.
Oil prices have been sliding as anxiety over the weakening global economy has overshadowed Mideast tensions, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries production cuts and a winter season expected to bring the coldest weather in a decade. In the past week alone, crude oil prices dropped nearly 30 percent, hitting a low of $36.10 a barrel Tuesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange before rebounding a bit.
"A year or even six months ago, with gasoline prices triple what they are today, energy security was on the A-list of vital issues. So was climate change," Mulva said. "Now, they have taken a back seat, replaced by the new challenges."
Record crude oil prices last summer helped ConocoPhillips' third-quarter profit soar 41 percent from a year earlier, as the company overcame lower oil and gas output caused by two hurricanes. But Houston-based ConocoPhillips has said its 2008 oil production will likely fall short of 2007 levels, in part from the two storms.
And major oil companies are expected to post fairly dismal results for the fourth quarter later this month, depressed by the tumble in oil prices.

Miliband and Mandelson battle for top staff to back rival green agendas

• 'Clash of generations' over pro-industry policy bias • Credit crunch pits jobs against climate change
David Hencke, Westminster correspondent
The Guardian, Wednesday 14 January 2009

Lord Mandelson and Ed Miliband, two of the biggest beasts in Gordon Brown's cabinet, are locked in a battle over the staffing of their ministries which has led to "blood on the carpet" in Whitehall.
The battle between Miliband, a member of Brown's kitchen cabinet, and Peter Mandelson, the returning outsider who is now one of the most influential voices in the prime minister's inner circle, could have consequences beyond the pressing dispute about the new Department of Energy and Climate Change. One MP has characterised the differences between the two men as a "clash of the generations".
Miliband, who leads the new ministry, is seeking to poach more of Mandelson's senior civil servants to strengthen his department's handling of economic and infrastructure issues to back up his agenda.
Mandelson, the business and enterprise secretary, is refusing to give ground, insisting his department is "over-committed" in handling the impact of the credit crunch on business and jobs.
The Treasury insisted that the ministry, set up last autumn and seen as giving Miliband his big break, should receive no pump-priming cash because of the need for tough public spending controls.
Brown is said to have overruled the Treasury and Cabinet Office to set up the ministry in the first place.
The two men are cooperating on a green jobs package due this month. But there are tensions between the younger Miliband and the older operator Mandelson over the emphasis of the climate change and energy briefs.
Miliband is determined to move away from the pro-industry bias of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR) towards a greener agenda. One recent example was his inclusion of shipping and aviation emissions in plans to curb Britain's carbon footprint. This key demand of environmental campaigners, unpopular with airlines, would have been unlikely to have been put forward by the business department.
The new ministry took 480 civil servants from the climate change group at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and 420 from the energy division of DBERR. Miliband wants more senior civil servants from the business department to back up his team.
Officials have failed to resolve the row. Meetings as recently as last Wednesday have broken up without any progress. One Whitehall source described a tense atmosphere between the two departments, with "blood on the carpet", as neither will give way.
A senior source said: "The general view in Whitehall was that there weren't the resources to set up this new ministry in the first place. But this was overriden and now the department is in difficulties in getting enough staff."
Now Miliband and Mandelson will try to resolve the row, although the Treasury will make the final decision. It is likely to be more sympathetic to Mandelson, who can argue that his brief has expanded since the credit crunch began.
This is a dispute one man will lose. Which one it is will say a lot about the cabinet's attitude to the environment, the government's new approach in Whitehall, and which is the biggest beast.
Big beasts
Ed MilibandAge: 39Past resignations: noneClose allies: Gordon Brown, Ed Balls and Yvette CooperChief rival: David Miliband
Peter MandelsonAge: 55Past resignations: twoClose allies: Tony Blair, Gordon Brown (renewed friendship) and Tessa JowellChief rival: Ed Balls

Taxpayers will get million-pound bill if government misses waste target – NAO

Many large-scale incineration and recycling schemes can no longer raise money due to credit crunch, warn Whitehall auditors
David Hencke, Westminster correspondent, Wednesday 14 January 2009 00.05 GMT

Council tax payers could be landed with the bill for hundreds of millions of pounds of fines in four years' time because the government will miss mandatory EU targets to halve the dumping of waste in landfill sites, the National Audit Office warns today.
A report by Whitehall's auditors says a big delay in implementing a programme of building incinerators and large-scale recycling schemes has now been compounded by the effects of the credit crunch on raising money from banks and getting planning permission.
The government's solution to meeting the new waste targets has been to try to raise cash from banks under the private finance initiative but many of the large-scale schemes can no longer get money because of the credit crunch.
Since many of the new schemes involve building large incinerators, they are also running into opposition from local residents, resulting in an average delay of over 19 months to get planning permission. As it can take between five and nine years for a new plant to come on stream this means that the government is now in real danger of missing the target.
According to the auditors, only two big waste-treatment plants in England have come on stream since the programme was launched in 1999 and another nine projects have been approved. A further 18 are still in the pipeline.
The two completed schemes are in Leicester and east London. Other schemes for incinerators planned in 2003 and 2006 have not even started, including Newhaven for East Sussex council, Nottinghamshire and Cornwall.
The report says: "England is likely to meet its 2010 landfill-reduction targets but to meet the 2013 target the Department [for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] will need to reduce substantially the time taken to procure projects and bring them into operation ... It will not be met if there continue to be programme delays or the infrastructure built does not work as efficiently as expected."
Edward Leigh, the Tory chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, said: "The department sat on its hands for four years after the EU in 1999 set England a testing timetable for reducing the amount of biodegradable rubbish sent to landfill.
"There is a very real danger of our failing to meet the EU's 2013 waste-reduction target. Such failure might result in the UK being punished with fines to the tune of several hundred millions ... Local authorities that missed their individual targets for diverting waste from landfill would be substantially penalised by the government and local payers of council tax would be clobbered in turn."
Councils also warned that they faced problems in meeting targets. Paul Bettison, the chairman of the Local Government Association's environment board, said: "There remains a pressing need to do more to reduce this country's reliance on dumping rubbish in the ground. Britain throws more waste into landfill than any other country in the EU, and these sites are expensive for the council taxpayer and damaging to the environment.
"Councils are pulling out the stops to deliver projects that will deal with waste. But the reality is the government has hit the council taxpayer with a £1.5bn bill over the next three years by going back on its undertaking to refund money raised through landfill tax to local authorities. This is cash that could be used to build the facilities that are needed to divert waste away from landfill."

Spain's high-speed trains win over fed-up flyers

Giles Tremlett in Madrid
The Guardian, Tuesday 13 January 2009

Spain's sleek new high-speed trains have stolen hundreds of thousands of passengers from airlines over the last year, slashing carbon emissions and marking a radical change in the way Spaniards travel.
Passenger numbers on fuel-guzzling domestic flights fell 20% in the year to November as commuters and tourists swapped cramped airline seats for the space and convenience of the train, according to figures released yesterday.
High-speed rail travel - boosted by the opening of a line that slashed the journey time from Madrid to Barcelona to 2 hours 35 minutes in February - grew 28% over the same period. About 400,000 travellers shunned airports and opted for the 220mph AVE trains.
Last year's drop in air travel, which was also helped by new high-speed lines from Madrid to Valladolid, Segovia and Malaga, marks the beginning of what experts say is a revolution in Spanish travel habits.
In a country where big cities are often more than 500km (300 miles) apart, air travel has ruled supreme for more than 10 years. A year ago aircraft carried 72% of the 4.8 million long-distance passengers who travelled by air or rail. The figure is now down to 60%.
"The numbers will be equal within two years," said Josep Valls, a professor at the ESADE business school in Barcelona.
Two routes, from Barcelona to Malaga and Seville, opened last week. Lines are also being built to link Madrid with Valencia, Alicante, the Basque country and Galicia. The government has promised to lay 10,000km of high-speed track by 2020 to ensure that 90% of Spaniards live within 30 miles of a station. The prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, boasts it will be Europe's most extensive high-speed network.
The high-speed train network is also helping Spain control carbon emissions.Straight tracks and few stops mean AVE trains use 19% less energy than conventional trains. Alberto García, of the Spanish Railways Foundation, has calculated that a passenger on the Madrid-Barcelona line accounts for one-sixth of the carbon emissions of an aeroplane passenger.
High-speed rail tickets are often cheaper. The lowest one-way price on the 410-mile Barcelona-Madrid route this month is €44 (£40). Rail operator Renfe says 99% of trains on the route arrive on time.
That sort of efficiency was sorely missed at Madrid's Barajas airport at the weekend. Tens of thousands of passengers suffered delays of up to 30 hours because of snow, a work-to-rule by Iberia pilots and a lack of air traffic controllers.
Zapatero, who has put infrastructure projects at the heart of an anti-recession surge in public spending, plans to invest €108bn (£96bn) in the high-speed rail network until 2020.

As the crow flies: birds flee Tehran's polluted air

Exodus of the resilient black crow follows flight of other wildlife from Iranian capital
Robert Tait, Tuesday 13 January 2009 14.36 GMT

Tehran's notoriously bad air pollution has long been a health hazard for its 12 million people, but now the toxic mix of fumes has sent a different set of residents fleeing – the city's black crows.
Environmentalists say the hitherto pollution-resistant population of crows have fled in large numbers in recent days after air quality reached crisis levels. Unregulated urban development has also destroyed the birds' habitats.
The crow exodus occurred less than three weeks after high levels of carbon monoxide and other gases in the air drove off other species of bird, including nightingales and pigeons.
Experts fear the departure of the crow – long decried in Iranian culture as a symbol of bad news and gossip – could be the death knell for wildlife in Tehran, where many plants have already lost their smell and colour as a result of the polluted atmosphere.
Mohammad Bagher Sadough, the head of the city's environment agency, said the crow exodus was a sign of a disturbed ecosystem. Eventually the remaining bird species will also leave, turning the city into an urban desert of high-rise buildings and traffic jams.
"Pollution is not the only element in the flight of crows and others birds, but it is among the most important," he told the Mehr news agency. "Habitats have been destroyed and the perpetuation of bird life has become impossible.
"The continued existence of crows, particularly with the departure of other birds, had given us hope that wildlife could survive in the city. With their migration that hope is fading and our concern over the destructiveness of urban environments has deepened."
Dr Jamshid Mansouri, an Iranian biodiversity expert, said the birds would be forced to seek new habitats in rural environments, where they were threatened by predators and possible extinction.
"If the process continues, eventually no birds will be able to live in Tehran," Mansouri added.
The polluted air is traditionally at its worst in winter, when a thick curtain of smog hangs over the city for days on end – frequently forcing residents to wear protective face masks. On occasions the poor air quality has prompted the authorities to close schools and urge people with respiratory ailments to stay indoors.
The city council estimates that 80% of the toxic gases are caused by cars, with large numbers of motorbikes compounding the problem. A new report by Tehran's Controlling Air Quality Company estimates that cars in the city emit 4,400 tonnes of pollutants each day.