Friday, 20 February 2009

Ferries blamed for extreme levels of C02

Published Date: 20 February 2009


FERRIES are spewing out 1,600 tonnes of harmful carbon dioxide a year in Scotland – almost 16 per cent of all emissions in the Highlands and Islands, it was claimed yesterday.
Inefficient design and long journeys mean ferries emit more greenhouse gases per unit carried than other forms of transport, according to consultant Roy Pedersen."This is an extremely high figure bearing in mind the tiny proportion of the total of passenger or 'tonne miles' accounted for by ferries and is attributable to the inefficient design of many of Scotland's ferries operating on unnecessarily long routes," he said. "To make matters worse, many Scottish ferries burn high sulphur fuel which, in addition to C02, causes emission of nasty nitrous and sulphurous oxides."Mr Pedersen, who is also a Highland councillor, makes the claim in a briefing paper which has been sent to the Scottish Government as part of the ferries review.He added: "It has recently been estimated that by adopting more efficient proven designs of ferries, such as medium-speed catamarans, with a high capacity to fuel-burn ratio, the total emissions and fuel costs of the Scottish ferry fleet could be at least halved while actually increasing capacity and service quality."He said the state-funded NorthLink Hamnavoe ferry, which plies the 28-mile route between Stromness in Orkney and Scrabster in Caithness, carries an average of 20 cars per crossing and very little commercial traffic.The vessel, he said, consumes 1,830 litres of sulphurous fuel per hour – or 2,700 litres for the one and a half hour passage: "This equates to one gallon of fuel per car per mile. That is some 40 times the consumption of a car travelling the same distance."By comparison, he said the new fuel-efficient, medium-speed catamaran Pentalina, soon to be operated by the private and unsubsidised company, Pentland Ferries, on a 15-mile route between St Margaret's Hope in Orkney and Gills Bay in Caithness, will burn 500 litres of clean fuel per hour for the hour-long passage.He added: "Reduction of transport emissions is a Scottish Government priority. Disproportionate emissions by ferries on Scottish routes can be radically reduced."He suggests using vessels with low emission/high capacity characteristics and selecting the shortest feasible sea routes to minimise unit emissions per crossing. "By adopting these principles, it has been estimated that overall emissions (and fuel bills] by Scottish ferries can be halved, while economic and social conditions in our island communities can be greatly improved."A Caledonian MacBrayne spokesman said: "Issues such as the fuel efficiency of ferries and their environmental impact is being covered by the Scottish Government's ferry review and we look forward to playing our part in that. "We are fully aware of our environmental obligations and have in place an environmental management system which helps us manage the impact of our operations on the environment, while also complying fully with relevant environmental legislation

Customising clouds to stop global warming

An engineering professor and a cloud physics expert have been pumping salt into clouds to change the way they reflect light from the sun in an attempt to stop the planet heating up.

By Jessica SalterLast Updated: 6:04PM GMT 19 Feb 2009

Stephen Salter, professor of engineering design at the University Edinburgh, and Professor John Latham, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, have been using Salt Flares to test if it is possible to seed or even create Marine Stratocumulus Clouds.
These clouds, which are common, low-flying clouds, could help reflect the suns rays and therefore combat global warming.
Prof Salter said: We need to make them reflect about 10 per cent more than they are reflecting now.”
Prof Latham added: “We’ve got the most massive global problem that we’ve ever had, so we’ve got to think big.”
The flares will spray up salt water into the clouds. When the particles rise into a cloud they redistribute the moisture, increasing its reflectivity.
As a result the cloud bounces more sunlight back into space.
Approximately 300 flares will be released at sea level from a boat moored off the South African coast.
Scientists around the world are developing tools to try to prevent global warming from getting worse and have been experimenting with increasingly adventurous ideas.
The science known as "geo-engineering" is considered dangerous by some for interfering with the world's delicate ecosystems, however advocates claim that it could "save the world" from catastrophic global warming.
The biggest concern about Prof Salter and Latham’s experiment is that altering cloud structure and density over such a large area may have unknown and significant local effects on climate, particularly rainfall patterns.
Ways to Save the Planet, every Sunday, 7.00pm, Discovery Channel

Greenwash: High price for greener bus travel

Efforts by Stagecoach to green its bus services mean nothing unless it slashes the prices and runs its buses at full capacity

Fred Pearce, Thursday 19 February 2009 10.57 GMT

Stagecoach operates 7,000 British buses and thousands more in New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Montreal and other North American cities.

Stagecoach is going green – and don't you forget it. Its boss, Brian Souter, may have a reputation for hard-nosed business, but it is now on a quest for "smarter, greener bus travel".
Last year, the man with 7,000 British buses and thousands more in New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Montreal and other North American cities, launched the first carbon-free bus service. It runs from Edinburgh to Fife and offsets its emissions by planting trees in the Scottish Highlands.
Bus travel doesn't have to be offset to be greener than most alternatives, but it depends on how full your buses are. I take regular journeys on Souter's buses across the South Downs in southern England. And in my experience they are about the emptiest buses on the planet, with an over-sized carbon footprint to match.
A while ago, during the summer high season, I tracked a series of journeys I took on Stagecoach's finest. When my wife and I boarded a 40-seater bus from Petworth to Midhurst, we were the only passengers on board most of the way. Later in the week, there were six of us from Chichester to West Marden, and four of us on a double-decker from Chichester to Singleton. This is pretty normal.
Cost may have something to do with it. Four of us took a 20-minute bus ride from Chichester to a country pub the other day for lunch. The return fare was the wrong side of £26. My experience of Souter's Sussex line is that on many journeys, only pensioners travel, because their fares are picked up by the government. If cost is no barrier for your customers, maybe there is no incentive to make the buses more affordable. But it also compromises the service's green credentials.
According to the government, the average omnibus emits between 820-1040g of carbon dioxide for every kilometre travelled. With four passengers, that works out at, at least, 205g each and with two passengers, 411g each. Substantially more than the emissions for a short-haul flight of about 160g per passenger kilometres in a well-filled plane.
Souter has in the past claimed that people in the south of England "are choosing to use the bus as part of their carbon footprint plan." Only, it would seem, if they can afford it.
Now, I would be the last person to call for the axing of country buses. I use them frequently. But I do think it is madness to price them so that they run at 90% empty. That may make commercial sense, Mr Souter. But it ain't green.
Stagecoach does have some inventive green initiatives, all laudable in themselves. It runs some buses on chip fat plus vending machines at an Aberdeen park-and-ride that give fare tokens in return for recycled cans (20p for 50 cans, so it's not worth a long detour). And the company offers free travel to Perth parents girding their babies with washable nappies.
Maybe the Sussex downs is a special case. I checked Stagecoach's environmental policy document to scope the rest of the company's bus business and became even more confused. The online version of the document says in big letters on page three that "a journey by bus produces 10 times less emissions than the same journey by car." Later, in smaller print on page eight, it says that "buses produce 30% less emissions per passenger kilometre than cars."
It seems to me that the claims to produce "10 times less" and "30% less" are different by a factor of seven. The only way I can think of squaring them is if they are talking about different types of emission, which aren't specified.
Elsewhere the policy document gives some other figures for carbon dioxide emissions. But they are "per passenger journey", so I can't compare them with either of the other two. And another part of the website suggests that CO2 emissions for buses "per kilometre" are about 40% of those of a car. Might that be "per passenger kilometre"? Who knows?
Stagecoach is also inventive with its green PR. Local papers round Britain were awash last month with stories about its plans to purchase 400 "new greener buses".
Actually, they will simply meet new EU emissions standards that come into force on 1 September. After that date, it will be a breach of European law to sell buses that don't meet those standards. So the only alternative to buying buses that are up to scratch emissions-wise would be to buy secondhand buses - but hey, a headline is a headline.
• How many more green scams, cons and generous slices of wishful thinking are out there? Please email your examples of greenwash to or add your comments below

EPA expected to act in regulating carbon dioxide

By John M. Broder
Published: February 19, 2009

WASHINGTON: The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to act for the first time to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that scientists blame for the warming of the planet, according to top Obama administration officials.
The decision, which most likely would play out in stages over a period of months, would have a profound impact on transportation, manufacturing costs and how utilities generate power. It could accelerate the progress of energy and climate change legislation in Congress and form a basis for the United States' negotiating position at United Nations climate talks set for December in Copenhagen.
The environmental agency is under order from the Supreme Court to make a determination whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant that endangers public health and welfare, an order that the Bush administration essentially ignored despite near-unanimous belief among agency experts that research points inexorably to such a finding.
Lisa Jackson, the new EPA administrator, said in an interview that she had asked her staff to review the latest scientific evidence and prepare the documentation for a so-called endangerment finding. Jackson said she had not decided to issue such a finding but she pointedly noted that the second anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Massachusetts v. EPA, is April 2, and there is the wide expectation that she will act by then.
"We here know how momentous that decision could be," Jackson said. "We have to lay out a road map."

She took a first step on Tuesday when she said that the agency would reconsider a Bush administration decision not to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from new coal-burning power plants. In announcing the reversal, Jackson suggested that the EPA was considering additional measures to regulate heat-trapping gases. The White House signaled that it fully supported Jackson's approach, deferring to her to discuss the administration's response to the Supreme Court case.
Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman, also pointed to statements on the subject during the presidential campaign by Heather Zichal, a top adviser on environmental and energy issues.
Zichal, who is now deputy to Carol Browner, the White House coordinator for climate and energy policy, said last fall that the Bush White House had prevented the EPA from making the endangerment finding "consistent with its obligations under the recent Supreme Court decision." She also said that while Obama supported congressional action on climate change, he was also committed to using the regulatory authority of the executive branch to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming.
LaBolt said the White House would not interfere with the agency's decision-making process.
If the environmental agency determines that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant to be regulated under the Clean Air Act, it would set off one of the most extensive regulatory rule makings in history. Jackson knows that she would be stepping into a minefield of congressional and industry opposition and said that she was trying to devise a program that allayed these worries.
"We are poised to be specific on what we regulate and on what schedule," Jackson said. "We don't want people to spin that into a doomsday scenario."
Even some who favor an aggressive approach to climate change said they were wary of the agency's asserting exclusive authority over carbon emissions. They say that the Clean Air Act, now more than 40 years old, was not designed to regulate ubiquitous substances like carbon dioxide. Using the law, they say, would capture carbon emissions from new facilities, but not existing ones, blunting its impact. They also believe that a broader approach that addresses all sectors of the economy and that is fully debated in Congress would be better than a regulatory approach that could drag through the courts for years.
The finding and proposed regulations would be issued in sequence, with ample opportunity for public comment and not in a sudden burst of regulatory muscle-flexing, Jackson said. The regulations would work in concert with any legislation and not supplant it, she added.
"What we are likely to see is an interplay of authorities, some new, some existing," she said.
That is not likely to assuage critics, including many Democrats from states dependent on coal-generated electricity and manufacturing jobs, where such regulation could significantly increase costs. Representative John Dingell, the Michigan Democrat who has long championed the interests of the auto industry, said that the regulation of carbon dioxide emissions by the EPA would set off a "glorious mess" that would resonate throughout the economy.
Senator John Barrasso, Republican of Wyoming, warned Jackson during her January confirmation hearing that she should not undercut Congress's authority by using the agency's regulatory power to address global warming. Barrasso called the use of the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon "a disaster waiting to happen."
Many environmental advocates, however, said the EPA's action was long overdue, but added that it was only as a stopgap until Congress passed comprehensive climate change legislation.
"It's politically necessary, scientifically necessary and legally necessary," said David Bookbinder, chief climate counsel at the Sierra Club, a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case.
But, Bookbinder added, congressional action is preferable to the agency's acting on its own. "We are loudly advocating for tailor-made legislation as the best means of addressing carbon emissions," he said. "Trying to address climate change via a series of rule makings from EPA is a distant second best."
As Jackson navigates the complexities of carbon regulation, she will be advised by Lisa Heinzerling, a former law professor at Georgetown who wrote the winning Supreme Court briefs in Massachusetts v. EPA. Heinzerling is now the agency's lead attorney for global warming matters.
Jeffrey Holmstead, the former head of the agency's office of air and radiation, said that a finding of endangerment from emissions of heat-trapping gases did not initiate immediate regulation but started a clock ticking on a process that typically took 18 months to two years.
"Potentially, it's a huge mess, not only for EPA but for state regulatory agencies, because the Clean Air Act is second only to the Internal Revenue Code in terms of complexity," said Holmstead, now director of environmental strategies at the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani.
He said that under the clean air law any source emitting more than 250 tons of a declared pollutant would be subject to regulation, potentially including schools, hospitals, shopping centers, even bakeries, which has prompted some critics to call it the "Dunkin' Donuts rule."
But Bookbinder and other supporters say the regulations can be written to exempt these potential emitters. Jackson said that there was no timetable for issuing regulations governing carbon emissions and that her agency would not engage in "rash decision making."
But she also said that the Supreme Court decision obliged her to act.
"It places EPA square in the center of the discussion on climate and energy," Jackson said. "People are waiting."

Don't Count on 'Countless' Green Jobs

The evidence shows alternative energy is expensive.

In signing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act this week in Denver, President Barack Obama claimed that the law -- which among other things will ramp up funding for renewable energy development -- is "laying the groundwork for new green energy economies that can create countless well-paying jobs."
This statement follows promises he made during his campaign for the presidency. Mr. Obama said, for example, that he'd create as many as five million such jobs by investing over $150 billion over 10 years on wind, solar, biofuels and other renewable energy sources.

He's also proposed a federal "renewable portfolio standard" that would require 25% of our electricity to come from clean sources -- a mandate that would boost demand for windmills, solar farms, and other clean but expensive technologies (nuclear power, however, would be excluded). This transformed energy economy, Mr. Obama said at a campaign debate in Nashville, Tenn., last October, would be an "engine of economic growth" to rival the computer.
If the green-jobs claim sounds too good to be true, that's because it is.
There's an unavoidable problem with renewable-energy technologies: From an economic standpoint, they're big losers. Renewables simply cannot produce the large volumes of useful, reliable energy that our economy needs at attractive prices, which is exactly why government subsidizes them.
The subsidies involved are considerable. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported in early 2008 that the government subsidizes solar energy at $24.34 per megawatt-hour (MWh) and wind power at $23.37 per MWh. Yet even with decades of these massive handouts, as well as numerous state-level mandates for utilities to use green power, wind and solar energy contribute less than 1% of our nation's electricity.
Compare the subsidies to renewables with those extended to natural gas (25 cents per MWh in subsidies), coal (44 cents), hydroelectricity (67 cents), and nuclear power ($1.59). These are the energy sources (along with oil, which undergirds transportation) that do the heavy lifting in our energy economy.
The alternative technologies at the heart of Mr. Obama's plan, relying on mandates and far greater handouts, will inevitably raise energy prices -- and high power prices are job killers. Industries that make physical products, whether cars or chemicals or paper cups, are energy-intensive and gravitate to low-cost-energy locales.
With some of the highest electricity prices in the country, California and New York have hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs. California-based Google houses its massive server farms in states like North Carolina and Oregon, which have lower electricity costs. Policies that drive up energy costs nationwide, as Mr. Obama intends, will inevitably drive more manufacturing jobs overseas.
What about jobs in the traditional industries currently supplying Americans with reliable, affordable energy? The American Petroleum Institute reports that the oil and gas industry employs 1.6 million Americans. Coal mining directly and indirectly supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, according to the National Mining Association and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A radical plan to transform our energy economy will put an untold number of these men and women out of work.
Digging deeper each month to pay for expensive renewable energy, consumers will have less to save or spend in other areas of the economy. Killing jobs in efficient industries to create jobs in inefficient ones is hardly a recipe for economic success. There may be legitimate arguments for taking dramatic steps to fight climate change. Boosting the economy isn't one of them.
Mr. Schulz is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute's Center for Energy Policy and the Environment. This op-ed is adapted from the forthcoming Winter issue of City Journal.

Green Workers


With E. Kinney Zalesne

Presidents and politicians no longer talk about simply creating jobs -- now they are creating "green jobs." Just in the stimulus bill alone, there are said to be four million new green jobs. It's a great term -- it conjures up neatly dressed employees working under compact fluorescent lights, and factory workers in white and green helmets huddled over solar cells and wind turbines. These aren't boring office jobs or repetitive manufacturing plant jobs -- no, they're socially useful and rewarding jobs. And they'll save the planet, too.
Not so long ago, the buzzword was "new economy" jobs. Then as manufacturing jobs shrank and professional jobs mushroomed, this term became politically incorrect: it implied that America was going to abandon the manufacturing sector in favor of software coders, engineers and other geeks. Never mind that this absurdly assumed that these folks are somehow in a marginal niche. But what about the 1.4 million eBay entrepreneurs who owe their livelihood to the Internet? Or that we still don't produce enough software coders to meet our technology needs? But "green jobs" has a nice ring to it semantically, and the term will probably be around for a while.

Forget about huge, sweeping megaforces. The biggest trends today are micro: small, under-the-radar patterns of behavior which take on real power when propelled by modern communications and an increasingly independent-minded population. In the U.S., one percent of the nation, or three million people, can create new markets for a business, spark a social movement, or produce political change. This column is about identifying these important new niches, and acting on that knowledge.
Some green workers are not going to notice much difference. Employees assembling a hybrid car won't really notice anything different from assembling a purely gasoline fueled car, except they their jobs may be safer thanks to additional government subsidies. Others may in fact live the green dream and find themselves in new environmentally-friendly factories or offices -- or at least helping to make them.
Green is going to be the color of this century's WPA. In the 1930s, federally funded workers built highways and painted murals on government buildings. This time, they're going to fix air leaks in low-income homes and seal up government agencies' heating registers. The stimulus bill as passed will put more than $20 billion into energy investments -- including for some newfangled things like "modernizing the electric grid." But nearly $10 billion is going to go to energy-retrofitting and weatherizing federal buildings, HUD-assisted housing projects, and other low- and modest-income homes. Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy's Weatherization Assistance Program gave about $225 million to local governments and nonprofits to help seal people's drafty windows and plug up insulation in their roofs and walls.
The stimulus bill would increase that funding 20-fold. That means a huge crew of brand-new green workers, suddenly making a livelihood off saving fuel costs, energy consumption and the planet. Added to a couple of million existing green workers, that is a full-blown microtrend, and enough to turn upside down the cliché of the out-of-touch environmentalist -- the guy driving a $120,000 Lexus hybrid just for the cachet and added acceleration. Now environmentalists will be in the mainstream of America and at the forefront of the economic recovery. Joe the Insulator will be replacing Joe the Plumber.
The implications are vast. Just as police officers across America once switched to the Democratic Party because Bill Clinton funded 100,000 cops on the street, now small business owners and other green workers may support all kinds of pro-environment policies just because their livelihood depends on it.
Second, to the extent that pro-environment groups have historically gotten their passion from goading the government to Give a Hoot and Don't Pollute, they are about to become "the man" themselves. It's as if in the 1970s, the leaders of the budding vegetarian movement had been put in charge of USDA. It's not easy to go from moral high ground to government bureaucrat overnight. Will green groups lose their innovative edge -- and the sense of urgency that so inspired their funders -- when they're flush with government cash?
Third, green workers are going to want to share their experiences out there forging the frontier of a strong economy and a strong environment. Right now, the EPA and the Energy Department give out "energy stars" to washing machines, home repair strategies, and businesses that are energy-efficient. Why not give green workers an official designation, too? A lapel pin, or cufflinks for white-collar green jobs, that tells the world they are officially green, and proud of it?
Corporations could have accreditation programs for jobs that are officially labeled as green and let job applicants know how many green jobs they have or have open.
We already have 1.6 million new quasi-government workers, who actually or essentially now work for the government because of federal takeovers and bailouts. Green workers coming down the pike will be also either government workers themselves, or dependent upon government programs for their jobs.
What are the implications of this? When you're abating asbestos all day, you're going to have formidable health risks that are suddenly the federal government's very big problem. When a federally funded weatherizer is traipsing through Mrs. Jones's house to plug up her windows, what is he supposed to do if he sees illegal drugs? And what about the executives of federally subsidized green companies -- will there soon be calls to cap their pay and benefits as well? It seems only fair that green executives should not profit excessively from these government-sponsored programs in a time of crisis. So jobs that used to be done for greenbacks may soon be done just for the green of it.
Write to the Online Journal's editors at

BP to pay almost $180 million in pollution case

The Associated Press
Published: February 19, 2009

WASHINGTON: The international energy giant BP has agreed to pay almost $180 million to settle a pollution case with the U.S. government.
BP Products North America Inc., a unit of British oil company BP PLC, agreed to spend $161 million on pollution controls, pay another $12 million in penalties, and spend another $6 million on a project to reduce air pollution near its Texas City, Texas refinery.
The settlement with the Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency follows a deadly explosion and fire in March 2005 that killed 15 people and injured more than 170 others.
In the incident, the company has already pleaded guilty to violating the Clean Air Act and agreed to pay a separate fine of $50 million.
The settlement addresses what the government identified as the company's failure to comply with a 2001 consent decree requiring tight controls on benzene during the refining of petroleum.

Benzene is a hazardous air pollutant known to cause cancer, damage the nerve and immune systems, and affect reproduction and development.
BP spokesman Daren Beaudo said the company has spent more than $100 million over the past 15 years on benzene emission controls for the refinery.
"We are pleased to have achieved this settlement and will work to continue reducing emissions and to ensure regulatory compliance at Texas City," Beaudo said.
The government says the new efforts will reduce emissions of benzine and other volatile organic compounds at the site by 6,000 pounds (2,721 kilograms) a year.
BP has also agreed to eliminate roughly 51,000 pounds (23,133 kilograms) of ozone-depleting hydro-chlorofluorocarbons, often referred to as HCFC's, by modernizing industrial cooling appliances at the refinery.