Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Siemens clears the air for Sarkozy's nuclear fusion

By Paul Betts
Published: January 27 2009 02:00

From the beginning, two of President Nicolas Sarkozy's pet industrial projects have involved bolstering the French defence sector and the country's leadership in nuclear energy. Unlike his predecessors, who championed forging closer industrial links with Germany, Mr Sarkozy seems to have long concluded the best way forward was for France to go it alone - especially in defence and nuclear energy.
The Franco-German EADS aerospace and defence group was supposed to create a European champion to compete against Boeing. But if EADS has shown one thing, it is the difficulty for Paris and Berlin to cooperate in what both consider strategic industries. When EADS tried to acquire the French defence electronics group Thales, the Germans blocked the deal fearing it would shift the group's centre of gravity too much in France's favour. Subsequent infighting and scandal in the French EADS camp enabled the Germans to gain an upper hand in Airbus, the EADS civil aircraft subsidiary.
Germany's increasing influence at Airbus seems to have persuaded Mr Sarkozy that France needed to consolidate its own defence sector rather than pursue the unworkable dream of German cooperation. With the beleaguered Alcatel-Lucent telecoms equipment group finally deciding to shed its core stake in Thales, Mr Sarkozy jumped on the opportunity to orchestrate a little French defence Meccano. Dassault, the maker of France's Rafale military jets, is buying the Alcatel-Lucent stake to become along with the government the core shareholder of Thales, thus creating a new French defence champion.
Now it is the turn of Siemens to pull out of two decades of strenuous but ultimately unsatisfactory efforts to cooperate with the French nuclear industry. The German group has decided to sell its 34 per cent stake in the joint engineering venture it had established with Areva, the French state-owned nuclear group. In so doing, it has cleared the way for Mr Sarkozy's longcherished plan to bring closer together Areva and Alstom, the French heavy engineering conglomerate he helped rescue a few years ago, to create a dominant nuclear energy group.
Siemens' move reflects in part problems of its own at home. With Berlin committed to a policy of winding down the country's nuclear programme, it was always going to be difficult for Siemens to compete in the world nuclear market without a strong domestic base.
Siemens had also tried and failed to take over Alstom when the French group was on the brink of collapse. Mr Sarkozy, then the French economy minister, fought furiously to block such a deal.
Areva's chief executive Anne Lauvergeon has since been fiercely resisting both Alstom's and Mr Sarkozy's designs on her group. She is lobbying the French oil group Total to step in and rescue her from the clutches of Alstom chief executive Patrick Kron. Total has said it wants to expand in the nuclear sector, but so far has shown a preference for dealing with GDF-Suez. Since Alstom's core industrial shareholder is none other than Bouygues, whose chairman is a close chum of President Sarkozy, the writing seems to be on the wall - however feisty Ms Lauvergeon may be.
No laughing matter
With the world in turmoil it is good to see that there is still one European leader who has not lost sight of his priorities.
Fresh from putting the boot into Sky Italia's 4.7m subscribers by doubling the VAT they pay on their television packages, the Italian prime minister last week weighed in to try to "encourage" one of Italy's leading comedians, Rosario Fiorello, not to switch his allegiances from the state-controlled broadcaster RAI to the Murdoch-owned competition.
Silvio Berlusconi summoned Mr Fiorello to lunch at his private residence, along with Gianni Letta, his persuasive chief of staff, and the justice minister. He cut to the chase, telling his guest he hoped he was not thinking of moving "to the enemy". Mr Fiorello, not wanting to offend, apparently changed subject, saying that if the PM wanted, he was available to replace Kaka, the AC Milan (also owned by Mr Berlusconi) striker then being pursued by Manchester City.
On leaving the lunch, the comic was besieged by waiting reporters keen to know the outcome of the comedy summit. Having relayed the PM's concerns, Mr Fiorello was kind enough to oblige with the scoop that he would indeed be moving to Sky Italia in April, while also making clear his decision was nothing personal against the PM or anything to do with the cooking.
Mr Berlusconi, who has been encouraging his own Mediaset network and the state-controlled RAI channels to lighten up their output, which he views as unhelpfully gloomy, presumably failed to see the funny side of Mr Fiorello's decision.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Environmentalists react angrily to shortlisted projects for Severn estuary

Biodiversity at risk as shortlist sidelines greener options in favour of big projects, say campaigners
Alok Jha
guardian.co.uk, Monday 26 January 2009 15.43 GMT

Aerial view of the Severn crossing. Photograph: David Goddard/Getty Images
Environmentalists have reacted angrily to the government's proposed shortlist of projects for what could become the UK's single biggest renewable energy project. Campaigners are dismayed that the smaller, more environmentally friendly ideas for harnessing the power of the tides in the Severn estuary have been sidelined in favour of larger projects that threaten to destroy the local area's biodiversity.
The five projects selected by the government today range from a 10-mile barrage across the entire estuary from Cardiff to Weston-super-mare to a series of tidal lagoons on the English and Welsh coasts. The government is committed to generating 20% of the nation's energy from renewable sources by 2020 and the Severn estuary, with a tidal range of 14 metres (the second largest tidal range in the world), could make a major contribution. But set against that is the impact of large schemes on wildlife, ports and coasts.
Top of the government's proposed shortlist is the largest barrage proposal, Cardiff-Weston. It could generate up to 8GW of electricity, cost around £14bn to build and could supply 5% of the UK's electricity needs. Two smaller barrage projects further upstream – Shoots and Beachley – also made it to the short list of five. Between them they could generate around 1.65GW of electricity.
"We're talking about an extraordinary resource of tidal power which, if properly deployed, could have enormous benefits in terms of meeting our renewable energy targets and our wider climate change objectives," said the climate change and energy secretary, Ed Miliband, said it was possible that more than one project could be selected.
But campaigners criticised the proposals. Martin Harper, head of sustainable development at the RSPB said it was "hugely disappointing" that the Cardiff-Weston barrage option was on the short list. "Harnessing the huge tidal power of the Severn has to be right, but it cannot be right to trash the natural environment in the process. The final scheme must be the one that generates as much clean energy as possible while minimising harm to the estuary and its wildlife."
"The Cardiff-Weston Barrage would destroy huge areas of estuary marsh and mudflats used by 69,000 birds each winter and block the migration routes of countless fish."
Miliband acknowledged that biodiversity was an important issue and said that not tackling climate change through renewable energy schemes would pose its own risk to wildlife, through rising sea levels. "If you had water levels rising by a metre, that would have very bad effects on the Severn estuary," he said.
Two tidal lagoon projects on the coasts at Bridgewater Bay and Fleming also made the shortlist. Tidal lagoons involve retaining water along a section of the estuary as the tide comes in and then releasing it at low tide to generate electricity.
But Friends of the Earth Cymru said proposals for offshore tidal lagoons had been excluded. The group said this technology could deliver large amounts of green electricity quickly, more cheaply and with less environmental impact than the larger Severn barrage ideas favoured by government.
"Their exclusion from the government's shortlist of technologies being assessed is utterly incomprehensible," said FOE Cymru director Gordon James. "We have long suspected that the UK government has already decided on the Cardiff to Weston Severn barrage, and that this consultation process is little more than a cosmetic exercise."
Earlier this month, the Guardian revealed allegations that the government's engineering consultants, Parsons Brinckerhoff, had miscalculated the costs of a tidal lagoon project of the kind championed by FOE. The report sent by the consultants to ministers said the tidal lagoon option would be eight times more expensive than the barrage scheme and would not generate as much power, claims denied by FOE and the designers of the offshore lagoons.
David Elliott, co-director of the energy and environment research unit at the Open University, said a single big barrage was problematic in terms of harnessing energy. "It will only provide two short bursts of power each 24 hour lunar cycle." He said building several smaller tidal turbines around the coast that could operate at different times would be a better soltution.
"The fact that we've got a shortlist of five doesn't mean that we will pick one," said Miliband. "It's possible we have more than one project."
The five projects selected are those that the government's engineering consultants, Parsons Brinckerhoff, deemed to be based on the most proven technology. Not included are tidal reefs and tidal fences: the former would deploy a series of slow-moving, fish-friendly turbines over a purpose-built causeway in the estuary while the latter involves building only a partial barrier between Cardiff and Weston-super-mare. Both these proposals are acknowledged as having minimal impact on the local environment.
Miliband announced that £500,000 would be available to further develop such technologies. "We recognise there are more innovative, less tried and tested and more speculative technologies including tidal reefs and fences, which deserve a fair crack of the whip," said Miliband. "They're not on the shortlist because they don't meet the technical standards that have been rightly set."
The government will now seek further consultation on the Severn plans with final decisions on which projects would be given the green light to be made in 2010.
At the launch of the shortlist, Miliband also hinted that some funding for the bigger projects would have to come from the public purse. "We acknowledge the sheer scale of the capital cost is very challenging. However, for future generations, given the demands of climate change and given the demands around renewable energy, it would be wrong to rule [them] out at this stage simply on the grounds of cost. We are thinking here of a project that could last 120 years."

Comment: Severn Barrage is environmental balancing act

The Times
January 27, 2009
Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter

Whichever, if any, tidal scheme is built on the Severn, it is sure to anger some environmentalists. Being a renewable source of electricity, tidal generators might be assumed to be popular with the green lobby. Yet there are serious reservations over the environmental costs of a barrage or lagoon in the estuary — and they have split the environmentalist movement.
On the one hand there is the appeal of doing something positive about climate change by turning to a renewable, rather than burnable, source of energy. Environmental activists have been urging governments, power companies and the public to embrace renewable energy because it is cleaner than fossil fuels and nuclear power.
On the other hand, thousands of hectares of shoreline will be destroyed as a feeding ground for birds — an internationally important feeding ground, no less.
There are also deep concerns about the impact on the fish and invertebrates in the Severn. Barrages and, to a lesser extent, lagoons form a physical barrier to species such as salmon and eels as they migrate.

The dilemma is balancing the potential damage to habitat against the gains made in combating climate change.
If measures such as the Cardiff-Weston barrage are not taken, how much of the river will be claimed anyway by sea-level rises from melting ice caps and how many creatures will be forced to find somewhere else to live because temperatures have become unbearable?
Some of the projects that missed the shortlist are regarded as having less of an impact on the environment but they are the most unproven schemes and, however attractive their merits, their effectiveness is questionable.
When coming to their decision on tidal schemes for the Severn — and perhaps one day the Mersey, the Wyre and the Thames — ministers will have plenty of factors to weigh up.
There will be the jobs created — the bigger the scheme the bigger the job creation prospects — and there will be the economic damage caused by limiting navigation of the Severn and access to upstream ports.
There will be the attraction of plumping for a huge barrage that will be a monument to their tenure in office, to be set against the affordability of constructing such an edifice.
But most of all they will have to judge whether the wider environment will best be served by sacrifice or preservation.

Green trend behind many products at builders' show

The Associated Press
Published: January 27, 2009

LAS VEGAS: From water-stingy toilets and electricity sparing appliances, to flooring and siding made from sustainable materials, the housing industry last week rolled out a trove of new, green products it hopes will lure homebuyers back into the market.
Despite visibly lower attendance at this year's International Builders' Show, a record 363 vendors were featuring green products, more than double the number last year, said Calli Barker Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the National Association of Home Builders.
"I'd be surprised if there wasn't some sort of a green attribute to every product down there," she said.
The tide toward green building that has taken hold in recent years remained unabated as the industry looks forward to better days, convinced that energy-efficient homes outfitted with sustainable materials will be coveted by future homebuyers.
"People are interested in the things they can do to cut energy bills in the long run," said Gayle Butler, editor-in-chief of Better Homes and Gardens.

And increasing competition between green product suppliers is driving costs down, making it more affordable to build greener homes.
One example of a technology that has become cheaper is radiant floor systems, which function as heaters.
"Four or five years ago, it was pretty cost prohibitive," said Matt Belcher, president of Belcher Homes in St. Louis, Missouri. "They're pretty affordable now, they're made better and are more efficient."
Among this year's slate of products, Belcher was impressed with new "flashing materials," which can resemble tape and are used to keep water from getting trapped inside the home.
"You can't see it, it goes underneath the siding ... but to somebody like me, that's great to see," said Belcher, who builds near-zero energy homes featuring green features such as geothermal and solar power units.
He also highlighted a new electric tankless water heater designed to be used in homes that receive hard water from sources like wells.
"Until now, it's been hard to use tankless water heaters," he said.
Many of the latest innovations were on display in the New American Home, billed as a state-of-the-art laboratory for new construction and built in Las Vegas in conjunction with the convention.
The 8,721-square-foot (810-square-meter) home features solar paneled awnings that draw energy from the sun and from sunlight reflected off the ground, walls made from insulated concrete and some 40 percent of its indoor lights from LEDs and compact fluorescents.
Many products at the convention don't represent advances of leaps and bounds, but rather modest improvements in how they're made or a wider variety of offerings.
CertainTeed Corp. of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, rolled out several new siding, roofing and ceiling components made of synthetic materials.
Its Cedar Impressions Naturals siding, made of fiber cement, includes up to 30 percent fly ash, a glasslike powder emitted by coal-fired electric power plants.
Several exhibitors were displaying energy efficient water heaters, including Stiebel Eltron Inc.
The West Hatfield, Massachusetts-based company is the latest to use hot air to heat water.
Its W300 draws the heat from the surrounding air and uses it to raise the temperature of the water in the 80-gallon (300-liter) tank, using up to 80 percent less energy than a standard heater that uses electricity to heat the water, said Frank Stiebel, the company's president.
As an added perk, the heater churns out cooler air and cuts down on humidity.
"If you're using a lot of hot water all at once, the electric element will kick in to supplement it," Stiebel said.
The unit will be available in the U.S. beginning in March for about $2,500, he said.
Gas or propane-powered fireplaces can be an energy efficient way to heat a room, and fireplace maker Napoleon showcased several stylish designs at the show, including its new Crystallo model. The rectangular fireplace is designed to fit several feet up off the floor, like a wall-embedded fish tank, and generates up to 17,000 British thermal units.
The fireplace, which can be placed in bedrooms, bathrooms and even mobile homes, is priced at $1,500.
Kohler, one of the show's green building sponsors, displayed several new stylish and water-saving designs for toilets.
One, dubbed the Cimarron, uses gravity to push the water from the tank into the bowl. But unlike other toilets with a flip lid inside the tank, the Cimarron features a plastic stopper that limits the water per flush to about 1.3 gallons (4.9 liters) — far less than standard 3.5 gallon (13 liter) toilets.
That translates to 63 percent less water use in a year, the company claims.
The next generation of water-efficient toilets are likely to incorporate the use of wastewater, suggested Shane Judd, Kohler's senior product manager.
Channeling wastewater into toilets also means creating more integrated plumbing connections between bathroom fixtures. But most importantly, manufacturers need a guideline on the use of wastewater, and a standard hasn't been established for the industry yet, Judd noted.

Organic lobby anger as Soil Association backs food by air

The Times
January 27, 2009
Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent

The organic food watchdog has caved in to pressure from supermarkets to allow air-freighted produce to display the organic label.
The Soil Association proposed last year to ban suppliers and retailers from putting its certification label on fruit and vegetables that arrived in Britain by air, arguing that air-freighting produce generated 177 times more greenhouse gas than sending the same produce by sea.
The association has retreated after being lobbied by supermarket chains including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose and Asda, which want to continue selling air-freighted organic food. The decision to approve air freight, which the association posted discreetly on its website, will provoke uproar in the wider organic movement.
Many supporters of the organic lifestyle believe that it should stand for sustainable consumption, not just organic production.

Sainsbury’s argued that customers should be free to make their own choices. It also said that many African farmers depended on air freight to get their produce to Britain in prime condition.
Waitrose said: “We believe that air freight should only be used when road, rail and sea options have been fully considered and discounted. Research shows that . . . air-freighted produce can have a lower carbon footprint than produce grown in Northern Europe because of the additional heating required when growing crops in a cooler climate.”
Tesco said that it supported air freight because it helped to reduce poverty in developing countries.
Abel & Cole, one of the largest suppliers of organic food, rejected the association ruling and said that it would continue to prohibit any produce transported by aircraft.
Keith Abel, founder of the company, said: “To say we must sustain these livelihoods is like saying we should sustain the livelihoods of easyJet pilots and take £15 flights to Barcelona every Friday.
“Being in the organic movement involves some sacrifices and means eating with the seasons.”
Guy Watson, owner of Riverford, which supplies 45,000 households with organic food, said: “The social benefits of organic growing in Africa have been grossly overestimated. The biggest beneficiaries are the expats who control the trading.”
The Soil Association said: “Requiring a plan to reduce air freight would be costly to implement and unlikely to contribute to a reduction.”
It denied that it had been influenced by supermarkets in reaching its decision. However, it admitted receiving certification fees from suppliers of organic products that carried supermarket brand names.
— More than 20,000 African farmers depend on sales to Britain of air-freighted organic food, such as baby sweetcorn from Zambia, asparagus from South Africa and pineapples from Ghana
— British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, which carry food in the holds of passenger aircraft, gave tickets last year to representatives of African farmers to come to London to argue the case for allowing organic food to be air-freighted
— Abel & Cole is one of the largest suppliers of organic food, with 35,000 households receiving weekly deliveries
Source: Times archives

UN chief to head global warming push

By Fiona Harvey in London and Joshua Chaffin in Brussels
Published: January 26 2009 21:08

Ban Ki-moon will spearhead a United Nations push to tackle climate change and call an unprecedented meeting of world leaders to take a new look at the issue.
Building on the momentum of the inauguration of Barack Obama as US president, the UN secretary-general hopes to convene a meeting of 30 to 40 heads of state in February or March to draw up a new framework for tackling the issue.

Last year, Mr Ban tried to convene the world’s heads of state to discuss climate change on the fringes of the UN general assembly, but was snubbed by George W Bush, the then US president.
This year will be crucial for global warming, with a series of tense meetings leading up to a conference in Copenhagen in December which the UN has set as the deadline for forging an agreement to succeed the Kyoto protocol, the main provisions of which expire in 2012.
Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN framework convention on climate change and the UN official charged with bringing this year’s talks to a successful conclusion, said it was time for leaders to take action. “I am amazed on a weekly basis that people I thought were leaders are calling for leadership [on climate change],” he said.
Mr Obama’s stated determination to take action on global warming was “incredibly encouraging”, he said. “He’s following through and delivering on what he promised in the course of the campaign.”
But he said any new agreement at Copenhagen would be very different to the Kyoto protocol, which was signed by the US in 1997 but never ratified. “The Kyoto protocol is so demonised in the US, I don’t see that as a home for moving forward.”
A replacement agreement would have to include stringent targets on emissions cuts by 2020 from developed country governments, he insisted, as well as commitments on emissions curbs, falling short of actual cuts, from poor countries. It must also contain a mechanism for financing emissions cuts in the developing world, and governance structures determining how poor countries can spend the funds, according to Mr de Boer.
The UN issued its call as the European Union prepared to unveil on Tuesday its proposals for an international agreement to fight global warming. A draft of the EU proposal calls for €175bn ($230bn, £165bn) in extra investment by 2020 to help reduce emissions, as well as tens of billions of euros to help poorer countries cope with the consequences of even modest warming.
The proposal acknowledges that developed nations will have to shoulder much of the financial burden for such investments, more than half of which will be made in developing countries.
● Global warming can be held in check at reasonable cost, but doing so would require an urgent effort involving all nations and industrial sectors, according to a new McKinsey report, writes Joshua Chaffin.
The consultancy’s study, Pathways to a Global Carbon Economy, says greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by 70 per cent by 2030 – sufficient to hold increases in warming below 2°C and avoid irreversible environmental damage.
The biggest and most cost-effective savings would come from improving energy efficiency for vehicles, buildings and industrial equipment, it says. These would account for about 14 giga-tonnes of emissions savings or 40 per cent of the total.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Private equity could aid nuclear shutdown

Terry Macalister
The Guardian, Tuesday 27 January 2009

Government agencies have asked private equity firms to help with decommissioning the UK's old nuclear power stations, it emerged yesterday.
The UK Atomic Energy Authority has held exploratory talks with the controversial sector, while the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) used a conference in London yesterday to call for "innovative" ways of raising money. Its chief inspector said private equity might be one solution.
The moves come amid widespread concern that a shortage of public money and the soaring cost of dismantling sites could delay vital safety projects and push up costs.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has said more than £80bn is required to pay for the legacy of the atomic industry, with the vast bulk being spent at Sellafield in Cumbria and Dounreay in Scotland. The NDA told the same Nuclear Dialogue conference that future public spending rounds would be tougher than ever.
Bill Hamilton, the NDA's head of communications, urged colleagues to tell government about the need for the nuclear clean-up to be properly resourced. "It's up to everyone in this room and beyond to make sure we do have the funding to help us move forward," he said.
Mike Weightman, chief inspector at the NII, warned ministers they would be storing up problems if vital clean-up projects were delayed further. "Delaying will make it more difficult and more costly," he said, before suggesting that innovative funding was needed, including the possible use of private equity.
The UKAEA is among agencies that have approached private equity, a sector that is often criticised for being overly profits-orientated and short-term in its focus. A spokesman for the agency declined to comment, but industry sources said private equity companies were demanding long-term revenue streams in return for involvement.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said last night that funding for the NDA was more than £8bn, the largest ever over a three-year period. "We cannot speculate on what specific budgets will be in future spending rounds. Funding for the NDA must continue to strike the correct balance between what is desirable and what is affordable and ensuring that safety remains the paramount concern."

Tidal energy project 'will be funded by taxpayer'

The Times
January 27, 2009

Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter
A £22 billion tidal energy project that would provide almost 5 per cent of Britain’s electricity will receive taxpayers’ cash if it is approved, ministers indicated yesterday.
The estimated cost of the Cardiff-Weston Severn barrage scheme, which compares with the £37 billion of public money spent on the first bank bailout, is so high that it will require public money if it is to be realised, they admitted.
Ed Miliband, Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, announced the scheme as one of five on a shortlist of projects to harness the power of the huge tides in the Severn estuary.

He acknowleged the challenging costs of the ten-mile barrage but said it could make a significant contribution to reducing the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels for energy.
The hydroelectric barrage proposed for the Severn between Cardiff and Weston-super-Mare is predicted to be more expensive than the other four shortlisted schemes put together. It would provide 4.8 per cent of Britain’s electricity and would create thousands of jobs in Wales and the South West.
Ministers are also attracted to the scheme, despite the cost, because it highlights their commitment to tackling climate change.
It remains controversial, however, because it would destroy 20,000 hectares (77 sq miles) of some of the most valuable habitat for wetland birds in Europe and would cause job losses in the dockyard and fishing industries.
The other schemes are smaller in scale but would also make a significant contribution towards renewable energy targets. All are likely to generate employment. The Cardiff-Weston barrage would be expected to provide work for 18,000 people for at least seven years, but would cause the loss of 3,300 jobs in fishing and portindus-tries. The smallest of the five schemes, the Fleming lagoon, would create an estimated 4,500 jobs for five years.
Under the terms of a European Union agreement to tackle climate change, Britain has to increase its dependence on renewable energy from about 3 per cent today to 15 per cent by 2020. The target is expected to mean that about 35 per cent of electricity must be from renewable sources.
The four projects also shortlisted are: Shoots barrage and Beachley barrage, both smaller and farther upstream than the Cardiff-Weston scheme, and two lagoons that would rely on similar hydroelectric technology but run along the shoreline rather than across the river.
Mr Miliband said that the Government was anxious to look into the potential of exploiting the “extraordinary resource” of the Severn’s 45ft (14 metre) tidal range, the world’s second-biggest, because of “the massive threat that climate change poses and the massive challenge that poses”.

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He said: “It would be wrong to rule it out at this stage simply on the grounds of cost. We are thinking of a project that will last for 120 years.”
However, a decision on public funding has yet to be taken and if the Government is willing to spend money on the Severn project it would be in partnership with the private sector. It is unlikely that public money would be made available to the other schemes.
Mike O’Brien, a minister at the Department for Energy and Climate Change, said he was confident that private money would be forthcoming for the smaller schemes but he accepted that the Cardiff-Weston barrage would need taxpayers’ cash.
“That would require a considerable amount of public funding. We have included it as an option here because the possibility of raising that finance is clearly there,” he added.

The shortlist is being put out for consultation. Ministers are expected to decide in 2010 and said that they might select more than one. Among the projects not on the shortlist were innovative schemes for tidal fences – rows of generators dependent on the force of the tide – and tidal reefs, in which turbines are placed on raised beds.
Schemes based on new, unproven technology were given a second chance as the Government, the South West Regional Development Agency and the Welsh Assembly combined to offer a £500,000 development fund. Should any of them prove feasible they will be reconsidered.
The failure to shortlist offshore lagoons, which would cause far less environmental damage than barrages and shore-based lagoons, caused disappointment in the green lobby.
Gordon James, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said: “Their exclusion from the Government’s shortlist is utterly incomprehensible and raises serious concerns about the consultation process. Ministers must abandon their fixation with the Severn barrage and invest in more effective and less damaging alternatives.”
Professor David Elliott, of the Open University, said: “Quite apart from its environmental problems, the single big barrage idea is pretty hopeless in energy terms since it will only provide two short bursts of power each 24-hour lunar cycle, and these will not necessarily match the daily cycles in energy demand. What do you do with 8.6GW of electricity in the middle of the night in summer, when there is no demand for it?”
According to a document from the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, a barrage would stop the Severn Bore, the phenomenon that forces waves to surge up the river’s estuary against the current during the highest tides.

Extra 7,000 offshore wind turbines could power most British homes

The Times
January 27, 2009
Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter

Britain’s coastal waters have space for up to 7,000 more wind turbines than are already planned, according to an environmental audit of the likely impact of offshore wind farms on wildlife.
The assessment was made as part of preparations for the third phase of offshore wind farm development around the country.
The 5,000 to 7,000 turbines recommended by the report would be enough to supply almost every home in Britain with electricity.
They are intended to form part of a 33-gigawatt offshore electricity supply planned by the Government to ensure that Britain meets it renewable energy and carbon-emission reduction targets. However, the future of the project has been cast into doubt recently because of concerns about rising costs.

Plans for 341 turbines in the Thames Estuary, the London Array project, could cost more per megawatt produced than a nuclear plant. Shell pulled out last year and there were further doubts about the project’s likely profitability last week.
Ed Miliband, the Energy Secretary, was nevertheless bullish about the prospects of offshore wind farms as the government-commissioned report into the environmental impact was launched.
“In terms of electricity, offshore wind power could potentially make the single biggest contribution to our 2020 renewable energy target so it’s vital we maximise the UK’s natural resources to help in the fight against climate change,” he said.
“This report provides a real advance in our understanding of the ecology and geology of the UK marine environment so we can continue to ensure that projects like wind farms are built in the most suitable places.”
The Environment Report is now the subject of a 12-week period of public consultation. It addressed a variety of issues, including the likely impact of the turbines on the seabed, birds, seals, and fish stocks.
Rob Hastings, director of the marine estate at the Crown Estate, which is the landlord of the seabed, said: “The publication of the study at this time ensures that as an industry we are well prepared to take on the challenges that will come as part of the round-three offshore wind farm leasing process.”
Seven offshore wind farms have been built in British waters and five more are under construction. A further nine have been approved.
Wind farms are seen as a crucial element in Britain’s effort to meet its target of providing 15 per cent of energy from renewable sources because the technology is tried and tested. The country and its waters are among the windiest in Europe.
Nick Rau, of Friends of the Earth, said: “We’re delighted that the Government has confirmed the massive potential for offshore wind energy — it must now make sure that it becomes a reality.”

Chill wind as companies pull out of projects

By Fiona Harvey, Jim Pickard and Ed Crooks
Published: January 26 2009 23:17

The UK is losing its attraction for renewable energy generators, putting future energy security and the government’s climate change targets in jeopardy, Lord Smith has told the Financial Times in an interview.
The chairman of the Environment Agency said he was concerned about several recent announcements from big energy companies that they were reconsidering plans for offshore wind farms.

“I’m very worried by the fact that a number of companies have said they are no longer actively considering major schemes in the UK,” he said.
German energy group Eon is the latest company to reconsider its plans, the FT disclosed today. Paul Golby, Eon’s chief executive, said the economics of the London Array, touted as the world’s biggest wind farm, were “on a knife edge”.
Lord Smith highlighted BP as an example of a high-profile investor pulling out. The company last year said it would abandon plans to invest in UK offshore wind farms, preferring instead to put its money into onshore wind energy in the US. Shell made a similar announcement when it pulled out of the London Array last summer, leaving Eon and Dong, the other partners, to find a replacement. Centrica also said it would review its offshore wind plans.
Lord Smith said: “There must be a reason for these companies doing this. I would want to have a long serious look at that, at why these decisions have been taken and what we need to do to encourage BP and others back into the UK.”
Lord Smith, a cross-bench peer, said the government was in danger of missing European Union renewables targets unless swift action was taken.
“The government are saying the right things and doing some of the right things,” he said. “I would urge them to do a lot more.”
He said reviewing the renewables subsidy regime should take priority: “You have to look at the subsidy system to see if it is working properly. If it is deterring companies from investing, then you need to make changes.”
US President Barack Obama had moved much faster to foster the growth of green energy, Lord Smith said. “He is putting a lot of emphasis on . . . making the US a very attractive environment for companies to invest in. We need to be at least matching that, making the environment here in the UK encouraging to such investment,” he said.
Lord Smith added that the UK needed “serious investment” in research and development into renewable technologies, to avoid being left behind by Germany and the US. He pointed to tidal energy, saying the UK could be a world leader: “We are a nation surrounded by tides – it’s obvious.” But a tidal power industry would only grow up if the government provided the right incentives, he warned.
●The Department of Energy and Climate Change today published its shortlist of five tidal energy schemes for the Severn estuary. The biggest scheme on the list is for a barrage from Cardiff to Weston, which could generate 5 per cent of the UK’s electricity. Plans for smaller barrages and tidal lagoons were included, and £500,000 will be spent developing “embryonic” technologies such as tidal reefs.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Touting windmills

Published: January 26 2009 21:45

Renewable energy is on the ropes. A capital-intensive industry, it has been bruised by the credit crisis. When fuel prices are falling, wind farms and tidal barrages can become unprofitable. Policymakers, however, cannot rely on oil price spikes to turn their energy green. They must act.
A proposed large offshore wind plant in England is now under threat. Eon UK, part of the German energy group, said this week that its London Array project in the Thames estuary was endangered by falling energy prices. Even in a recession, we should not forget renewable energy. Far from it: this is the right time for states to invest in diversifying their energy.

President Barack Obama intends to spend money on energy infrastructure as part of his economic recovery plan. A wise choice. Admittedly, energy investment is often not an effective economic stimulus: projects seldom get going in time. But it is still worthwhile. The US needs a great deal of investment in its energy systems, and this is a good time to do it. Steel prices are low and underemployed construction workers are plentiful. But Mr Obama – and other political leaders – must go further.
Renewable energy cannot be allowed to rely on straightforward government subsidy or high oil prices to remain viable. The only solution is a broad carbon tax. This should not happen immediately. A carbon tax is intended to prompt households and businesses to change their behaviour by investing in improving efficiency. But finding money for investment would be difficult in the midst of a global credit crisis. A carbon tax would also need accompanying measures to prevent fiscal tightening and avoid unfairly burdening people.
But indebted governments – not just Mr Obama’s – will eventually need to repair their balance sheets, and all countries need to fight climate change. Committing now to introduce a carbon tax some years ahead would provide credible new sources of revenue when they would be needed, and when they could be afforded. A carbon tax would also provide the certainty required for companies to increase investment in renewables even when the economy is in poor shape.
In the short term, states must make sure that energy companies can borrow to invest, and that planning laws do not stand in their way – a particular problem in the UK. Subsidy regimes for renewables currently under way should pay out in relation to how much carbon they save. But in the long term only a carbon tax will make renewable energy able to pay its own way.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Obama presses for tougher controls on US car emissions

• President makes good on pledges for green agenda • Climate change post for Clinton's Kyoto negotiator

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
The Guardian, Tuesday 27 January 2009

Barack Obama made his opening move in the greening of America's economy yesterday, using his presidential authority to press for tougher emissions controls on cars and promising global leadership on climate change.
In signing a pair of executive orders, Obama delivered his strongest repudiation to date of the policies of George Bush, inviting environmentalists to the White House to announce that America would play a global leadership role on climate change. In a further sign of Obama's commitment to the green agenda, the state department yesterday named Todd Stern, a former Clinton administration official who played a key role in the Kyoto negotiations, as its envoy on climate change.

Obama ordered the environmental protection agency (EPA) to reconsider its refusal to allow California and more than a dozen other states to impose stricter controls on emissions from new cars and trucks. He followed up by raising fuel efficiency standards on all cars and light trucks rolling off the assembly line from 2011 onwards. "The days of Washington dragging its heels are over," Obama said in a pointed rebuke of the Bush White House. "My administration will not deny the facts. It will be guided by them."
Private cars are thought to account for about a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions in America.
Democratic leaders in Congress and greens saw yesterday's measures as a first step by Obama in redeeming his campaign promises on the environment.
"Amidst the array of challenges facing his administration, President Obama's actions today send a clear signal to America and the world that his administration will play a leadership role on energy and global warming," said Phyllis Cuttino, director of the Pew Environment Group's global warming campaign.
California and 13 other states are looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and light trucks by 30% by 2016. Four other states are ready to follow suit. To reach that target, new cars would have to reach a standard of 36.8mpg.
The impact on the environment and the car industry would be sizeable. Together, California and the like-minded states account for nearly half of the cars on America's roads.
The presidential order stops short of demanding that the EPA immediately reverse its policy. That would put pressure on America's car companies only weeks after GM and Chrysler were reduced to seeking a bail-out from Congress, to immediately increase production of the cleaner vehicles. Instead, the president asked the EPA to review its refusal to grant California a waiver to regulate car emissions related to global warming.
Obama said he was aware of the pressures on America's carmakers. "Our goal is not to further burden the struggling American auto industry," he said.
But Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, later told reporters that America's carmakers had had time to prepare. "Changing those fuel mileage standards is certainly doable," he said.
Environmentalists said they hoped the EPA would have tough new emissions controls in place by the summer, following the review process.
Obama also ordered the transportation department to compel the car industry to make more fuel-efficient cars and trucks. The order would require all new vehicles in 2011 to achieve at least 35mpg.
The measures amount to a rolling back of the most controversial Bush policies on the environment. In 2007, Bush officials at the EPA blocked efforts by California to set higher emissions standards.
The Bush administration also dragged its heels on raising fuel efficiency standards.
The political importance of an apparent partnership on the environment between Obama and the Republican governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was also noted by environmentalists. Schwarzenegger wrote to Obama last Wednesday, his first full day in the White House, asking him to review the Bush administration's refusal to allow California and other states to set their own emissions standards.
In a statement, Schwarzenegger called Obama's move "a historic win".
Environmentalists also paid careful attention to Obama's emphasis on the environmental aspects of the economic stimulus plan now before Congress."By making this decision today the president has sent an unmistakable signal that this is one of America's highest priorities," said Vickie Patton of the Environmental Defence Fund.

US ‘ready to lead’ on climate change

By Andrew Ward and Daniel Dombey in Washington and John Reed in Detroit
Published: January 26 2009 20:04

Barack Obama on Monday announced measures to reduce US dependence on fossil fuels but warned China and India they would not be excused from global efforts to tackle climate change.
In a speech setting out his energy agenda, the US president vowed to push through tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to consider allowing individual states to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars.

Both steps threaten to create significant new challenges for US carmakers as they struggle for survival, but Mr Obama said “greener” vehicles would improve the industry’s long-term viability and help wean the country off foreign oil.
The initiatives marked a sharp break from the policies of President George W. Bush, who was accused of ignoring climate change, and added to a series of early moves by Mr Obama to overturn his predecessor’s legacy.
He said “the days of Washington dragging its heels” on global warming were over, declaring that “America is ready to lead” on the issue.
But he warned that US action would be effective only as part of a “truly global coalition”, including the world’s two largest developing economies.
“I’ve made it clear that we will act, but so too must the world,” he said. “That’s how we will deny leverage to dictators and dollars to terrorists, and that’s how we will ensure that nations like China and India are doing their part.”
His remarks came as the state department announced the appointment of Todd Stern, a former senior official in the Clinton administration, as its chief envoy on climate change.
Mr Stern, who was chief US negotiator on global warming in the late 1990s, will lead the Obama administration’s efforts to help broker a replacement for the Kyoto treaty when it expires in 2012.
The role of China and India is sure to be one of the most sensitive elements of such a deal, given their rapidly increasing share of global carbon emissions.
Mr Bush often stressed that the US would not make binding commitments to limit emissions unless China and India did too, warning that any exceptions would hurt US competitiveness and export pollution to the developing world. Many developing countries argue that the US and Europe should bear a greater burden because they generate more emissions per capita.
Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, on Monday indicated that the Obama administration was likely to keep up pressure on China and India, arguing that “no solution is feasible without all major emitting nations”.
But she made clear that the US would become more engaged in efforts to negotiate a deal, declaring that “the time for realism and action is now”.
Mr Obama’s moves to tighten regulations on fuel efficiency and vehicle emissions sent an early signal that his administration was prepared to act – even in the face of opposition from important interest groups such as the car industry.
In a step that could pave the way for more than a dozen states to impose tough new regulations, the president ordered the EPA to reconsider a Bush administration decision to block California from setting its own vehicle emissions standards.
Carmakers – including Detroit’s Asian and European competitors – had long lobbied in favour of a single set of US emissions standards, arguing that differing standards by state would make their operations costlier and more complex, and conflict with other federally set rules.
Monday’s announcement added to the worries of the car industry as it suffers its slowest sales since the 1980s. General Motors, which along with Chrysler is receiving $17.4bn of federal emergency aid, on Monday said it was cutting 2,000 jobs at plants in Michigan and Ohio because of slow sales.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Obama's EPA Move Likely to Spur Fight

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama opened the door to state-level regulation of greenhouse gases, kicking off the first round of what promises to be a lengthy fight between major industries and his administration over how to combat global warming.

In ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to consider allowing states such as California to regulate automobile emissions of greenhouse gases, Mr. Obama served notice that his administration doesn't intend to let the worst year of U.S. auto sales in more than a decade deter him from his goals of reducing emissions and U.S. dependence on Mideast oil.
The announcement drew cheers from California's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and many environmental groups. It drew condemnation from congressional Republicans, who said it would allow the Golden State effectively to set fuel-efficiency standards for much of the country. Some Rust Belt Democrats said California's law would fall hardest on domestic auto makers, who sales mix skews toward pickup trucks, sport-utility vehicles and minivans.
How much California's regulations would cost consumers has been a point of contention. In 2007, when the industry sought to persuade a federal judge to block Vermont's adoption of the California rules, its lawyers presented estimates by an industry consultant that the rules would add several thousand dollars to the cost of some models; a witness for the state put the cost at closer to $1,500. California regulators have estimated that the rules would save low-income families about $300 a year in lower gas prices.
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Environmental Capital: Obama's Energy Agenda
Mr. Obama directed the EPA to consider granting California a waiver from the federal Clean Air Act that would let the state enforce a law requiring a 30% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions from new cars by 2016. Auto makers have unsuccessfully challenged the law in court. The waiver request reaches beyond California. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have adopted California's standards;others are considering following.
At a White House event Monday, Mr. Obama said, "Our goal is not to further burden an already-struggling industry. It is to help America's auto makers prepare for the future."
The new president's twin goals of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and U.S. oil imports have been complicated by shifting consumer tastes and volatile gas prices. The national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is now $1.84, less than half what it was in July. The decline in gas prices has, in turn, revived demand for vehicles whose emissions and gas consumption tend to be much greater than cars. Last month, light trucks accounted for nearly half of all automobiles sold in the U.S., compared with 40.5% in May, according to Edmunds.com, a Web site that tracks auto sales.
"This is another example of 'the federal government knows best,'" said Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, the senior Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. He called Mr. Obama's move a "further dagger in the heart of the auto industry," and predicted the effect would be "higher car prices and bigger bailouts."

General Motors Corp. said in a statement that it hopes to engage the Obama administration and Congress in a broader discussion of "meaningful and workable solutions and targets that benefit consumers from coast to coast." Several other large auto makers declined to comment. The subdued reaction partly reflects the political weakness of the domestic car makers, which had to ask Congress and the Bush administration late last year for a sweeping rescue package.
A final decision by the EPA isn't expected for several months. If the agency grants California's request, it would set in motion a process that could ultimately require auto makers to produce cleaner-burning vehicles to sell in states that adopt the tougher standards. Under a 2007 Supreme Court decision, Mr. Obama's administration must also determine whether greenhouse-gas emissions "endanger" public health or welfare, the legal trigger for regulating them under the federal Clean Air Act.
Business groups, led by the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are already gearing up to fight such a move, fearing it would lead to costly new mandates across a range of industries.
Some industry lobbyists also fear that a decision in favor of California's request would lead the EPA to impose its own regulations on greenhouse gases.—Laura Meckler contributed to this article.
Write to Stephen Power at stephen.power@wsj.com