Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Vauxhall unveil Ampera car that runs off household mains

Vauxhall has unveiled a plug-in car called the Ampera at the Geneva Motor Show

By David Millward, Transport Editor in Geneva Last Updated: 5:25PM GMT 03 Mar 2009

The vehicle can fully charge from a household plug in only three hours. At current electricity prices it would cost £1.
Costing around £20,000 It is due to go on sale in 2012 and will run on electric power alone for the first 40 miles.
After that the petrol engine will start operating but only to recharge the batteries.
For an urban motorist the fuel bills will be minimal, but even on longer trips it is believed that the car could deliver 100 miles a gallon.
It is the European version of the Chevrolet Volt, which will go on sale in the United States and Vauxhall hopes to assemble the car at Ellesmere Port, which employs 5,000 people.
But much will depend on Government support and General Motors, Vauxhall's stricken American parent company has spent months lobbying Whitehall for financial help.
Earlier this year when Lord Mandelson announced a £2.3 billion rescue package for the car industry, he stressed that some of the money would be earmarked for new green technology.
One option would be to help finance a national network of electric charging points.
Vauxhall has claimed that Government support for the project could make Britain the 'electric car capital of Europe' - even though the battery will probably still be made in Detroit and many of its components in Korea.
Also much will depend on whether General Motors survives. The company has already ditched its Swedish subsidiary, Saab and is also planning to sell off Hummer.

Toyota hybrid sales 'to rise 15% this year'

Car-maker hopes offering hybrid version for each model, and new Prius, will make hybrids recession-proof

David Gow in Geneva, Tuesday 3 March 2009 15.50 GMT

Toyota expects to sell 15% more hybrid vehicles in Europe this year despite the savage downturn in the car market, according to company executives who were speaking ahead of the International Motor Show in Geneva.
The company, which is the largest car-maker in the world, plans to offer a hybrid version of every model it produces by 2020. It sold 58,000 hybrids in 2008.
Toyota predicts that Europe's overall market, including Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, will decline by 30% this year but that the firm will increase its share to 6% from 5.3% last year thanks to its "green" offer and ten new models.
The commitments come as the Japanese company launched its "third generation" Prius hybrid, which emits just 89 grams of carbon per kilometre, or well under the binding 120g set for 2012 under EU rules. That equates to fuel-efficiency of 3.9 litres per 100km.
The aim is to sell 400,000 of the new Prius – equipped with a "beltless" 1.8l 4-cylinder engine, electric water pump, exhaust gas recycling system and photovoltaic sunroof to cool the car in summer heat – by 2010. That is despite competition from the new hybrid Honda Insight, launched last month at the International Auto Show in Detroit.
Tadashi Arashima, the chief executive of Toyota Motor Europe, said: "Our idea is quite simple: whether you choose petrol, diesel or hybrid, each new Toyota vehicle should squeeze the best possible performance out of the least possible fuel."
Masatami Takimoto, head of global R&D and co-architect of Toyota's alternative fuel strategy went further. "By the time we reach 2030 there will be another oil price shock and petrol will become prohibitively expensive but by then we should have developed cars that run on alternative energy – whether from biomass, liquid coal and gas, nuclear power and renewables."
"What's important for car manufacturers is uncertainties about the future of petrol and CO2 reductions. Whether mild or full hybrids or clean diesel, they have to come up with environmentally-friendly vehicles as quickly as possible," he added.
Arashima admitted that Toyota's target to sell 1m hybrids globally by the early part of the next decade may have to be pushed back. He said that "in ten years, hybrids will be the mainstream".
The group is also planning to launch, like Peugeot Citroen, an electric vehicle for urban traffic, which will use plug-in hybrid technology. There should be 150 on European roads next year and a battery-powered car is planned for 2012.
But Dieter Zetsche, the head of Daimler, which builds Mercedes and Smart mini-cars, is sceptical about the market. "We have yet to see final proof that the relatively high number of people who say they would be interested in buying hybrids or electrics are willing to pay for them, as this technology continues to be pretty expensive."
When the economic crisis is over, he believes that consumers will switch back to bigger, more luxurious models such as the new Mercedes E-class saloon which emits 23% less carbon than its predecessor and has already picked up 40,000 pre-launch orders.
"For the mainstream the internal combustion engine will continue to be the powertrain of choice, though we will see electric cars and hybrids in smaller numbers," he said.

Electric cars center stage at Geneva

The Associated Press
Published: March 3, 2009

GENEVA: GM's troubled Adam Opel GmbH subsidiary presented the lithium-ion battery powered hatchback Ampera on Tuesday at the Geneva Motor Show, where electric-powered vehicles emerged as one way to persuade environmentally aware consumers to buy new cars during the global recession.
Other automakers — including Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Ford — also touted their plans for cars equipped with electric motors as the industry both seeks to overcome the current crisis that has decimated sales and meet increasingly tough environmental and carbon emission standards.
Only European giant VW bucked the trend, saying its answer to the electric car would come out "in the coming decade."
European drivers could be silently cruising around in the Ampera by the end of 2011 — the first 37 miles (60 kilometers) on pure electricity augmented by another 500 kilometers of extended range from a gasoline engine, which would generate less than 40 grams of C02 emissions per kilometer.
The Ampera presented in Geneva was a white four-door sedan with a hatchback — and a set of front headlights that created a menacing, masculine impression. An Opel official demonstrated how the car could easily be plugged into any household electrical supply.

"This is the kind of game-changing technology that the auto industry needs to respond to energy and environmental challenges," President of GM Europe Carl Peter Forster said.
Mitsubishi Motors Corp. said it has reached an understanding with Peugeot Citroen PSA to sell its new electric car "i MiEV" to European customers as early as late next year.
Mitsubishi's president Osamu Masuko said the collaboration could help pave the road to "tomorrow's sunny days" for the automotive industry, which is struggling amid the global economic downturn and a decline in global sales.
Peugeot will sell the car under its own brand in Europe, while Mitsubishi will launch the car in Japan this year.
The four-door electric-only hatchback produces no carbon dioxide emissions and has a top speed of 80 miles per hour (130 kilometers per hour). It has a range of 90 miles (145 kilometers) once its 330-volt lithium ion battery is charged for 14 hours.
By contrast, Ford, Toyota and Chrysler showed only concept cars that illustrate the company's thinking about electric cars.
Ford's presented at its stand a five-seater passenger vehicle called the Tourneo developed for European markets by Smith Electric Vehicles, part of the Tanfield Group, which developed the Ford Connect van in the United States.
"The plan is to go into production as soon as we feel the market is ready for production," Tanfield CEO Darren Kell said.
Chrysler showed its Dodge Circuit EV sports car, which was unveiled in Detroit.
Toyota showed its FT-EV fully electric 4-seater concept car, also previewed in Detroit as part of the Japanese automaker's pledge to produce a fully electric commuter vehicle by 2012.
The Indian carmaker Tata introduced its compact Indica Vista EV, an all-electric commuter vehicle that it plans to test in Norway later this year. Tata claims it has a range of at least 100 miles (160 kilometers) and a top speed of 80 mph (128 kph).
VW, by contrast, was moving more slowly before showing any product. Chairman Martin Winterkorn said the German automaker would launch its first electric vehicle "in the next decade."
"Announcements alone have never brought new technology onto the road," Winterkorn told a presentation Monday evening. "It's a long path to safe electric cars that are available for everyone. We are not talking about being the one with the fastest solution. We want the best solution."
Opel faces a particularly difficult situation and such new technologies are critical to the restructuring plan it has laid out seeking government funds. GM Europe has proposed that Opel loosen its ties with its beleaguered U.S. parent and said it would need €3.3 billion in financing or guarantees from European authorities over the next two years. The aim would be to pay the money back in 2014 or 2015.
At the same time, the Ampera, the European relative to the North American Volt, and the Chevrolet Spark, which Opel also presented in Geneva for sale in Europe by early next year, represents the kind of technology that it can get from its U.S. parent company.

Hon Hai Moves Into Environmental Services

TAIPEI -- Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the world's biggest contract manufacturer of electronics by revenue, is expanding into the business of corporate environmental services.
Hon Hai has agreed with International Business Machines Inc. to acquire technology used to calculate greenhouse gas emissions from factories and other corporate facilities, the two companies said in a statement.
Taiwan-based Hon Hai, which started out in the 1970s making television tuning knobs, has expanded into a wide range of electronics products. It now manufactures, on a contract basis, everything from iPods for Apple Inc. to desktop computers for Dell Inc. and videogame consoles for Sony Corp., and is one of the biggest manufacturers in China, where most of its factories are located.
Developing new lines of business has become more urgent in the last year, as its revenue began to stall after years of rapid growth. In January, Hon Hai reported its lowest single-month revenue in 20 months. January sales fell 12.1% from a year earlier as its international clients cut orders.
Under the new contract, Hon Hai will use GreenCert, a combination of software and other technology jointly developed by IBM, Enterprise Information Management Inc., and C-Lock Technology that analyzes carbon emissions. Customers can use that data as a basis for carbon trading, IBM says.
Hon Hai will base its environmental services operation in the southern Taiwan port city Kaohsiung, and will employ several hundred engineers, according to IBM. The service will be first offered in Taiwan, and eventually expanded to other Asian countries.
It isn't clear which types of clients Hon Hai plans to target for the new services. Hon Hai declined to elaborate.
Write to Ting-I Tsai at

EU slaps tariffs on US biodiesel

By Joshua Chaffin in Brussels and Chris Tighe in Newcastle
Published: March 4 2009 02:04

US biodiesel exporters face additional tariffs after the European Union on Tuesday announced temporary anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties .
A European Commission trade committee has imposed tariffs ranging from €29 (£20.60, $36) to €41 per 100 kg for an initial period of six months, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move is the latest in a series of transatlantic trade spats and comes at a time of rising fears over protectionism. It highlights the perilous state of an industry that is suffering overcapacity and thin margins.
European producers blame their woes almost entirely on imports of US biodiesel, which benefit from a $1 per gallon government subsidy.
Those subsidies, they claim, have helped US exports to Europe grow from just 60,000 tonnes in 2006 to more than 1.5m tonnes last year.
At least 15 European producers have declared bankruptcy in the past two years, according to the European Biodiesel Board, an industry trade group, with dozens more cutting production.
The EBB estimates that after investing heavily in recent years to build 16m tonnes in annual production capacity, European output is running at less than 40 per cent.
US biodiesel producers say their smaller European competitors suffer from inefficient operations and poor geographical locations.
The Commission is expected to publish a formal decision on the extra tariffs and duties on March 12, which would come into force the next day. After four months, those provisional duties could be extended for up to five years.
Sean Sutcliffe, chairman of Biofuels Corporation Trading, which built and is operating the UK’s largest biodiesel plant at Seal Sands, Teesside, said: “All we have ever asked for was a level playing field.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Time to emulate Roosevelt's New Deal and create green jobs

A modern-day Conservation Corps would engage people in their local environment and create jobs – quickly

Mark Lazarowicz MP, Tuesday 3 March 2009 12.55 GMT

As the economic downturn gathers pace, the number of people out of work is increasing also. Some commentators suggest that without remedial action UK unemployment could reach 3 million by the end of the year. Government measures to support businesses are welcome and will undoubtedly make a difference, but although some measures will have a swift effect others may not significantly impact employment figures for some time. So there is a need to take more steps which will help keep unemployment down now — not next year or in five years, but within months.
We have plenty of models from history for what can be done. There has been much talk of the 1930s recession, and the parallels with Roosevelt's administration have been drawn by many. Some of Roosevelt's most successful New Deal measures were the programmes of direct labour creation.
Nearer to home, the mass unemployment of the 1980s was reduced at the margins by creation and training schemes, most notably the Community Programme. There were a number of defects in that programme, but at its peak it kept almost 300,000 people a year out of unemployment, and in the process instigated a great deal of useful work in the community.
One of the most imaginative of Roosevelt's New Deal programmes was his Civilian Conservation Corps. During its nine years, it provided more than 3 million jobs, including work on many worthwhile environmental projects. And calls have been made for Barack Obama to set up a similar scheme as part of his economic stimulus programme.
As our jobless figures grow, we can learn from these examples from history. Here in the UK, we could launch our own modern version of the Conservation Corps, a new green community programme, which would take people immediately off the unemployment register. Like the original Community Programme, it should include a training element, although the main focus should be on job creation, as some community programme schemes were distorted by the need to meet somewhat nebulous training objectives.
Such a programme should in the first instance be tailored for NGOs and voluntary organisations, which would be funded to create jobs on specific projects. NGOs and voluntary organisations are often close to their communities and can deliver good projects quickly, and in a way that can bring tangible benefits to local communities.
Working primarily with these organisations would also make it easier to avoid such a project, with its government support, being used to substitute for jobs already provided by the private sector or local government, although there is no reason why such a programme could not be eventually extended to these sectors.
With the successes and mistakes of the Community Programme to draw on, there is no reason why such a scheme could not be up and running by the summer, allowing community projects on the ground to start by autumn. This would deliver jobs and worthwhile community benefits within months, not years.
The UK's own Green Community Programme could include a range of projects, offering employment, at proper wages, perhaps initially for a year, to suit a wide range of skills. Such projects could include local environmental improvements, while others help tackle climate change. For example, carrying out energy conservation and home insulation projects, schemes to encourage employers and their staff to develop sustainable transport plans, or meeting the growing demand for environmental education.
We can have a practical green jobs programme, which has the added benefit of easing unemployment, and quickly.
That doesn't mean, of course, we don't also need medium- and long-term public spending programmes. We do — but our communities and the growing number of unemployed require action now as well.
Mark Lazarowicz is Labour MP for Edinburgh North & Leith

Companies join up for offshore wind

Published: March 3, 2009

LONDON: E.ON UK , Dong Energy and Fred Olsen Renewables have set up a joint venture to participate in the third round of bids for offshore wind farms, E.ON said on Tuesday.
"Round 3 represents a challenge to both developers and the wider industry. Nothing on this scale has been done before," said Niels Bergh-Hansen, Executive VP of DONG Energy.
The Crown Estate, an independent body which owns all the seabed within 12 nautical miles of coast, said last month it was awarding exclusivity agreements to companies and consortia to develop wind warms on 10 sites.
The sites could have capacity of more than six gigawatts of offshore wind, contributing to the bid to generate 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Fred Olsen is owned by Bohnheur ASA and Ganger Rolf ASA in Norway. Dong Energy is headquartered in Denmark.

E.ON said the consortium members had been involved in over 60 percent of the existing operational offshore wind farms around the world and were building five offshore wind farms with a capacity of 800 MW.
(Reporting by Nao Nakanishi)

Putting Household Appliances on a Low-Carbon Diet

By JON MOYNIHAN and PETER ELLIOTT From today's Wall Street Journal Europe.
The emerging consensus on European energy policy is that every step possible should be taken to lower our levels of carbon-based fuel usage, while minimizing costs. Solar, nuclear, wind, geothermal and biomass power, along with changes in the ways consumers conserve energy, are all needed. But serious concerns exist regarding each option. For example, impressive amounts of installed wind power have not led to reductions in carbon-based fuel usage in Europe.
Wind power is not "dispatchable" -- that is, grid operators cannot reliably control its quantity and timing. It must be used instantaneously because there is no cost-effective storage option, and yet demand for electricity fluctuates greatly. Daily peak demand occurs in the early evening as people arrive home from work. Annual peak demand in London and other cities is in summer, as air conditioning becomes increasingly prevalent. However, peak wind production is typically during the middle of the night and in cooler months. Solar provides a complement to wind since its peak production is during the day and the warmer months. But it isn't at peak times, and it can be equally intermittent and unreliable. For these reasons, the dirtiest and least efficient oil and diesel power plants are called upon to meet peak demand.
Resolving these issues will not be easy. Forcing consumers to wait to use appliances until power from renewables was available would not be popular. But new technology can provide the capability to automatically shift much household consumption to times when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining -- without the consumer even noticing.
One simple solution to this problem would be to use advanced, but available, technologies to pay consumers to reduce usage during peak times, or to maintain grid stability and avoid blackouts. Such a "green grid" approach would allow each consumer to play a significant and personal role in tackling the issues of carbon emissions, energy usage and climate change.

This green grid approach will utilize those "smart grid" technologies already available, in particular smart meters. These meters distinguish between appliances or machines that must be reliably available, and those which can be used on a more discretionary basis. Consumers who agree to allow certain devices to be turned down or off when necessary would be able to get cheaper electricity for that device. Programs which allow power-generating companies to manage peak demand, and customers to reduce their water-heating costs, are already starting to be offered proactively and could be adapted for the green grid.
The smart meter is the first big step. France is deploying them in 90,000 homes. The Irish government is spending more than $10 billion on smart-grid technology out of its $16 billion budget for renewable energy and "clean-tech" projects. The Finnish government plans to deploy smart meters in 80% of homes by 2013.
After smart meters are in place, the next step would be the introduction of "smart plugs." These are plugs that can communicate with the smart meter. Using "smart switches," these plugs can, based on information from the smart meter and preset instructions from the owner, turn the connected appliance on or off, or turn it up or down. Owners would implement their own household's "green grid" in a 20-minute session on the Internet in which they choose which appliances are designated for "green" energy.
Green-minded people already curtail their usage of power. The green grid could expand this behavior modification dramatically by providing energy consumers with information about the availability and pricing of renewable power. The use of heating and air-conditioning appliances -- big power consumers -- could mostly be shifted to off-peak times. Programmable thermostats fluctuate daily heating and cooling requirements already, and could be "green grid"-adapted to take into account the source of the energy they use.
Freezers are another prime example. They stay cold for quite some time, and so could receive their top-up energy at off-peak periods. Green-grid technology could preset a dishwasher to run overnight. On days when the needed renewable energy wasn't available, the smart meter would determine whether nonpeak energy was available. If not, the consumer might, exceptionally, have to live with dirty plates for that day (or, at a high penalty price, override the green-grid arrangement).
For some appliances like lights, hairdryers, televisions and desktop computers, deferring usage is usually not an option. Some households may not choose to participate at all. But with heightened public concern about carbon emissions, many will. For appliances such as hot-water heaters, consumers could choose to partly join the green grid by choosing settings that only modify, not eliminate, usage during peak-power periods.
Office buildings could acquire the bulk of their heating or air-conditioning during clean energy periods. Battery-powered laptops and other devices would charge completely only when clean energy was available, recharging only as needed to maintain operational ability during peak hours. Local authorities are likely to be eager users of the green-grid concept, as they have significant discretionary power usage, such as lighting of municipal buildings, which could be cut off at peak surges.
With the green grid each family, company or organization can decide how green it wishes to be. Some hardy souls might initiate completely green-grid households. The great moment might be when "green grid" surges to create its own peak of demand -- and thus a reason to build further green capacity.
How easy would it be? The technologies exist, but widespread implementation and consumer education are needed, requiring cooperation among government, industry and consumers. The up-front cost could be partially diffused through government assistance, possibly as a part of an economic-stimulus program. Policies would be needed to govern the new relationship between utilities and consumers, and to ensure a fair and transparent system. Skilled jobs would be created and economies would benefit. The U.K., Germany, France and Italy are committing to smart metering. A green-grid approach technology could be a pivotal factor in helping them achieving their objectives.
This solution is just one of many ways to attack the energy problem, but it's a big one. If the green grid could eliminate as little as 1% of Europe's annual coal consumption, the carbon reduction would be equivalent to removing more than five million cars from the road. That is something worth thinking about.
Mr. Moynihan is executive chairman of PA Consulting Group. Mr. Elliott is a member of PA's Management Group.

Plans for green MOTs for UK's buildings

• Proposal to cover commercial and public buildings• Successful trial could see plans extended to UK homes

Juliette Jowit, Wednesday 4 March 2009 00.05 GMT

Every building in the UK could be required to undergo a green "MOT" of its energy efficiency, water use and the waste it generates, following plans published today by an influential group of businesses and environmental organisations.
A proposal for every commercial and public building – from the village hall to vast City towers – to have a "building MOT" is part of a report published by the Green Building Council, at an event attended by the cabinet minister for housing and planning, Margaret Beckett.
If successful, the MOTs, modelled on the compulsory annual checks for motor vehicles which are named after the old Ministry of Transport, could in future be extended to homes, said Paul King, the council's chief executive, who recommends a maximum of five years between checks.
A report on the idea, which will be published at the EcoBuild exhibition in London, was drawn up by a taskforce which included representatives of some of the UK's biggest property developers, King – who formerly worked for campaign group WWF – and two government officials who sat as "observers". Previous recommendations by the council have been adopted by ministers, including a target in 2019 for all new commercial buildings to be "zero-carbon", at least for heating and lighting.
"The feeling is they [government] have been listening ... so we're pretty optimistic of a good hearing," said King.
The latest proposals will be added to a growing list of initiatives from government and Europe, aimed at cutting the more than 50% of emissions that come from the UK's 25m homes, and approximately 2m non-domestic buildings, from police stations to shopping centres. Last year, the Guardian revealed that an audit of the 18,000 government and other public buildings found their emissions added up to more than the national total for Kenya, and the Whitehall office of the newly created Department for Energy and Climate Change received the lowest possible efficiency rating of G.
The introduction of Home Information Packs in 2007, which included measures of energy efficiency, were also dogged by criticism that they were cumbersome and costly, held up the housing market, and that the government had not made sure enough assessors were trained up.
The plethora of policies is likely to spark concern about adding another burden on businesses, particularly as the MOTs would be widened out beyond the usual measures of carbon dioxide to look at all energy use, water, waste and recycling, and the resources used in constructing new buildings.
There would also be concern about who would pay for the MOTs - owners or tenants - said the British Chambers of Commerce, which said companies should have incentives to invest in cutting energy and water use and waste. "And we want to see taxes paid come back into initiatives that help businesses," said Gareth Elliott, the Chamber's policy adviser.
Rather than adding to red tape, King said the council hoped the proposed new "building MOTs" would allow ministers to "streamline" and replace some existing initiatives, some of which were contradictory or not working. "It's about creating better clarity and consistency, and therefore reducing costs," he said. The report also calls for tax breaks to encourage businesses to invest in green measures.
A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said they would "certainly consider" the proposals as part of a wider consultation on non-domestic properties. "It is important we continue to improve the green standards of existing and new buildings," he said. The department has already introduced Energy Performance Certificates for all buildings which are sold or rented, showing how energy efficient they are.

Eco groups fear opportunity lost

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: March 3 2009 19:42

Economic stimulus plans being rolled out across the world could commit countries to rapid growth in greenhouse gas emissions, cancelling some of the green initiatives included within them, analysis has found.
The packages of tax cuts, credits and extra spending have been trumpeted for their environmental credentials by the governments proposing them, but a closer look shows that green spending account for only a small part of the bigger initiatives.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that is being fumbled,” said Ben Stewart, spokesman for Greenpeace, the environmental group.
Much of the spending will go to projects that will, in fact, increase emissions, such as new roads or fossil fuel power stations, while too little money will be devoted to low-carbon projects to make a real difference, experts believe.
For instance, Barack Obama, the US president, wants $27bn (€21bn, £19bn) to be spent on new roads, which will raise traffic emissions. Although some funds will be spent on developing low-carbon vehicles such as electric or hydrogen cars, the benefits gained will be outweighed by the emissions generated by the extra petrol-driven cars.
Such increases in spending on high-carbon activities are a serious threat, according to a growing number of economists, politicians and environmental groups.
They are concerned that a failure to “green” the huge fiscal expansion proposals will doom the world to ­decades of high-carbon economic growth and spell ­disaster for the planet.
Andy Atkins, executive director of the environmental charity Friends of the Earth, said governments must do more to avoid locking the global economy into decades of high-carbon growth. “We need urgent and comprehensive green action, not more token gestures and hot air.”
The United Nation’s Environmental Programme estimates that only South Korea is now spending enough of its stimulus on green investment to cut the costs of climate change later.
Japan and India will spend paltry sums on green investments such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies.
Tokyo will devote 2.6 per cent of its spending to green investments, mainly energy efficiency for buildings, out of a total stimulus package of $486bn, according to an analysis by HSBC.
New Delhi has no plans to spend any of its $14bn fiscal package on low-carbon ­activities.
The same analysis suggests China will spend 38 per cent of its $586bn on green themes. However, the size and details of the Chinese stimulus are still unclear and many economists believe the green impact will be much more modest and could be outweighed by ­polluting infrastructure projects.
On current plans, Europe and the US fare a little ­better than Asia in green terms.
Mr Obama has held out the prospect of millions of new “green-collar” jobs, in activities such as refurbishing federal buildings to making them more energy efficient and overhauling the country’s creaking electricity transmission networks. According to HSBC, about a tenth of the US’s proposed tax breaks, extra spending and other incentives can be classed as green.
France and Germany are leading the way in Europe, with a fifth of the $34bn French package and 13 per cent of Germany’s to be targeted at low-carbon industries. In the UK, where ministers have promised hundreds of thousands of new green jobs, about 7 per cent will go to environmental goods and services.
Meanwhile, Italy will channel only 1 per cent of its planned $100bn to green measures and Poland, which is highly reliant on coal-fired electricity, does not plan for any of its stimulus to be green.
Lord Nicholas Stern, the former World Bank chief economist who wrote the landmark study that found the cost of tackling climate change would be far less than the costs of unchecked global warming, has led calls for green measures to be at the heart of global stimulus measures.
He said: “It is vital that these investments do not lock us for many more decades into an unsustainable high-carbon economy.”
Investing in low-carbon technologies would improve the world’s economic prospects for the long term, he said. “If we are going to make this expansion, let’s look at what is going to be the growth story of the future. Low-carbon growth is going to be the only growth story of the future.”
Lord Stern calculates that governments need to spend $400bn on green measures to achieve the emissions cuts required and to help the global economy recover.
Only if spending was concentrated on low-carbon technologies would the world escape the prospect of raising emissions for years to come, and “thus having to spend much more in the future to bring them back down to safe levels”, Lord Stern said.
Still, green companies are generally hopeful about the packages and it is easy to see why. Sums of the sort being contemplated under the stimulus plans dwarf the amounts devoted to green subsidies and other government incentives in recent years.
“If the financial crisis has done anything, it has made sums like $50bn seem small,” said Steve Howard, of the Climate Group, an influential organisation that attempts to bring businesses together to tackle climate change.
So if even a small proportion of the proposed stimulus packages was spent on projects such as more renewable electricity generation, energy efficiency and developing low-carbon technologies, that would represent a huge increase to the companies involved in such plans.
Pavan Sukhdev, a senior banker from Deutsche Bank who has worked on green ideas with the UN, said: “Investments will soon be pouring back into the global economy. The question is whether they go into the old, extractive, short-term economy of yesterday or a new green economy.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

EU split on carbon capture intensifies

By Joshua Chaffin in Brussels
Published: March 3 2009 20:19

The European Commission’s backing for carbon capture and storage technology has sparked fresh controversy in a €5bn ($6.3bn, £4.5bn) economic stimulus package that has already been riven with infighting among member states.
The package, unveiled in January by José Manuel Barroso, the European commission president, was intended to support long-term EU energy policy while also providing near-term stimulus for an ailing economy.

Carbon capture and storage emerged as one of the biggest winners from the package, snaring €1.25bn to partly fund five test projects in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Spain and Poland.
The technology aims to trap carbon emissions from power plants and other industrial polluters and then bury them underground in saline aquifers to prevent the release of greenhouse gases.
Since then, carbon capture technology has become central in a skirmish between member states over funding, which will also support offshore wind and inter-connections for gas pipelines. After some manoeuvring, Italy and France managed to snag an additional €150m of carbon capture and storage projects, according to a revised draft.
Yet some critics are questioning the inclusion of untested technology in the plan, arguing that many of the projects would do little for the economy in the near term because they still require additional financing and regulatory approval that could take years.
“As a stimulus for the short term, I think there are other projects,” Philippe Maystadt, president of the European Investment Bank, recently told the Financial Times, arguing that the money should be devoted to improve energy efficiency of buildings across Europe. “These projects can start right now,” Mr Maystadt said.
Claude Turmes, the Green Party MEP, was more outspoken, arguing that carbon capture technology featured in the plan because of the lobbying efforts of energy companies and as a way to buy political support from member states that might otherwise reject the package.
“The only thing the Barroso people are trying to do is win political support for their plan,” Mr Turmes said.
Ferran Tarradellas, an energy commission spokesperson, defended the carbon capture projects, saying that they would contribute to Europe’s energy security and also create jobs.
“We are talking about big projects that could move very quickly,” Mr Tarradellas said.
The commission has identified energy efficiency as a strategic priority, but Mr Tarradellas said building renovations were still too dispersed to quickly soak up large amounts of money.
Wrangling over the proposal is likely to intensify as policymakers scramble to draft a final version ahead of a two-day meeting of European heads of state starting March 19.
In the meantime, a host of big energy and engineering companies, including Shell, BP, Alstom and GE, among others, are pressing member states to maintain support for carbon capture.
Those companies helped to win billions of euros in funding for a dozen demonstration plants as part of the climate package the EU passed in December. In a recent letter to member states, they pointed to International Energy Agency findings that the cost of containing global warming would be 70 per cent higher without carbon capture and storage.
Supporters also argue that the technology will be essential since rising industrial powers such as China and India and will be burning coal to generate electricity for decades to come.
But some environmental groups note that the technology has not yet been proven to work on an industrial scale and could prove to be an expensive distraction from alternative sources of energy.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

U.S. Climate Official Urges Congress To Curb Greenhouse-Gas Emissions


WASHINGTON -- The top U.S. negotiator of international climate-change agreements urged Congress to pass legislation curbing greenhouse-gas emissions in advance of an international summit this December, saying it would give other countries "a powerful signal" to cut their own emissions.
"It's been a long time now that countries have been looking to the U.S. to lead," Todd Stern, President Barack Obama's special envoy for climate change, said in response to questions from audience members after a speech at a conference on global warming. Mr. Stern acknowledged that passage of climate-change legislation before December would be "an extremely tall order," but added that "nothing would give a more powerful signal to other countries than to see a significant, major, mandatory plan" from the U.S. before the start of international talks that are intended to forge a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which committed many industrialized nations to cutting their emissions.
A road map agreed to by industrialized countries at a 2007 summit in Bali, Indonesia, suggests that industrialized countries to reduce their emissions by between 25% and 40% by 2020. But Mr. Stern said in his speech that it was "not possible" for the U.S. to cut its emissions as quickly as suggested under the Bali road map. Mr. Stern reiterated Mr. Obama's goal of returning U.S. emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020, adding that the U.S. could compensate with swifter reductions in the years beyond 2020. Mr. Obama's recent budget proposal calls for reducing U.S. emissions roughly 80% by 2050 over 2005 levels.
"We need to be very mindful of what the dictates of science are, and of the art of the possible," Mr. Stern said. Referring to the targets called for in the Bali plan, Mr. Stern added "it's not possible to get that kind of number. It's not going to happen."
Mr. Stern said that Mr. Obama's aides will demand that developing countries agree to "substantial reductions" in their emissions. At the same time, he said the administration is "right in the middle of trying to work through a financing package" that would help those companies pay for the costs of adapting to and mitigating the impact of climate change. Mr. Stern didn't specify how much money the administration thought was necessary, but said that the administration will ask Congress to appropriate "substantial funds" for such an effort.
Mr. Stern's comments are the latest sign of the Obama administration's eagerness to pass legislation this year that would for the first time cap U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions. Prospects for passing such legislation are likely to hinge on the Senate, where Democrats from manufacturing states and rural, coal-rich regions wield enormous influence. Some Democrats have expressed reservations about the scale and speed with which Mr. Obama hopes to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
Neither the U.S. nor developing countries such as China are parties to the Kyoto protocol.
Mr. Stern didn't specify how much of a long-term reduction in global greenhouse-gas emissions the Obama administration thinks that countries should agree to at international talks scheduled for December in Copenhagen. But he indicated it would be unrealistic to expect the U.S. to slash its greenhouse-gas emissions as much over the next decade as some European governments have suggested is possible. He also said that the Obama administration intends to seek "substantial funds" to help developing countries such as China adapt to and mitigate the impact of climate change.
European governments have generally favored measuring emissions reductions against the year 1990. Since then, the EU's emissions have fallen slightly, while U.S. emissions have risen about 15%, according to the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank. One reason for the decrease in Europe's emissions is the collapse of the Soviet empire, which brought about an economic slowdown in Eastern European countries that had relied on heavily polluting, Soviet-sponsored industries.
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Miliband 'not in control of 80% of domestic energy-saving target'

Minister has no say over building regulations and environment-friendly goods that form bulk of meeting obligations, warns public accounts committee
David Hencke, Westminster correspondent, Tuesday 3 March 2009 14.52 GMT

Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change secretary, has no direct control over 80% of the savings needed to meet challenging EU demands for cuts in household energy consumption by 2020, a report by MPs says today.
It warns that the bulk of savings will need to come from the enforcement of building regulations and obligations on electrical, heating and building suppliers to provide energy-efficient goods. None of this is under direct ministerial control, yet the supply and regulation of energy-efficient materials and goods will account for the vast majority of savings to meet the 2020 target of a 36% cut in household consumption.
According to the report, hardly any checks are made to see if new homes meet building regulation standards and very little work has been done to see if installed insulation does not leak heat or whether homes are poorly constructed.
The report says consumers are also confused by the wide variety of energy advice they receive from government departments and MPs called on ministers to simplify the system.
Although energy consumption by households has started to fall, it is still 8% higher than it was in 1990 and is well below Dutch and Swedish levels.
Edward Leigh, the chairman of the public accounts committee, said: "The seemingly good news that household energy consumption fell between 2004 and 2007 is confounded by two sobering facts. One is that households in 2007 were still using 8% more energy than in 1990. The second is that household energy use will continue to rise, a function of the need for extra housing, rising expectations about how warm dwellings should be and an ever-rising use of electrical appliances.
"The hardest thing will be to persuade people to stop paying lip service to concerns about climate change, to change their behaviour and to enable them to take real steps, based on reliable advice, to make their homes much more energy-efficient."
Joan Ruddock, a minister in Miliband's department, said: "The report shows that our energy-efficiency programmes are working, with overall household energy use falling and millions of families saving money as a result. But we know there is still plenty of work to do, which is why our current programmes will see £3.8bn invested in energy-efficiency improvements by 2011.
"We're also consulting on methods of helping hard-to-treat homes, encouraging low-carbon heat generation, expanding home energy audits, and overcoming the financial barriers that can prevent householders from making the changes needed to reduce their energy use and carbon emissions."

Blair urges US to act on climate change

Former British prime minister calls on America to not put off action on the environment due to the economic recession
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Tuesday 3 March 2009 22.36 GMT

Tony Blair called on America to live up to its global leadership role on climate change today, and not put off action because of the economic recession.
Blair, who presided over a high-powered gathering of business and political leaders at Congress on the same day that Gordon Brown arrived in Washington, said that the international community would be looking to America to set the pace ahead of climate talks in Copenhagen later this year.
"We know that America has a key leadership role on this as on all other issues and there is tremendous excitement about the commitment that the new President Obama has made here," Blair said.
"I think first of all the most important thing is that America comes to Copenhagen and wants to be part of the global deal and is a part of it."
Blair went on to say that no workable deal could be expected to emerge from Copenhagen without America or China, the world's two biggest polluters. "A global accord is essential and the blunt reality is that the position of China and the position of the US will be crucial to getting one."
In prepared remarks, the former prime minister acknowledged that world leaders would be consumed by their efforts to climb out of the economic recession. "But 2009 should also be the year we summon the will and the wit to conclude a new treaty on climate change," he said. "We can not ignore it. To do so would be to multiply the risks to our future economy as well as environment."
Today's gathering of political and business leaders on climate change was the most high powered of its kind since Barack Obama became president. It was designed to help provide momentum to his green agenda.
Organisers counted 15 Republican and Democratic US senators and three governors as well as business leaders from Cisco, General Electric and Duke Energy. Connie Hedegaard, who will preside over the Copenhagen talks as Denmark's climate and energy minister, and Nicholas Stern, also attended.
Leaders including Blair said they were encouraged by the Obama Administration's early moves on the environment, especially the inclusion of $100 in green investment in his economic recovery plan.
"It surely makes sense as part of long term investment to invest in clean energy for the future so that as the economy grows again in the future we do not find ourselves back in the place of being dependent on high priced carbon," Blair said. "We can create a situation that as our economies grow again they can grow in a sustainable way."
But Democrats in Congress are facing determined resistance to the next step on the road to Copenhagen: the passage of legislation to limit and set a price on carbon - in large part because of fears it could put a further drag on the economy.
Blair said he identified with leaders facing the competing pressures of the economic recession and climate change.
"It is not so long that I have been out of office that I don't still understand what it is like to have to take those practical decisions," he said. "It is always more difficult when in a sense you have short term pressures but the challenge is a long term challenge that you know is acute."
He added: "It does require a special kind of leadership."
American CEOs increasingly are coming around in support of such legislation, said John Chambers of Cisco.
However, climate change is a tougher sell for American workers, Jennifer Granholm, the governor of Michigan said. Her state, home of America's crumbling auto industry, has the highest unemployment in the country.
"The only thing to get this passed in the United States is for real people to understand what this means for them," she said. "They don't care so much about carbon emissions or sequestration of gases, they just want to know: 'does this mean that there is a job for me'?"

We must shake off this inertia to keep sea level rises to a minimum

Björn Lomborg's claim that sea levels are not rising faster than predicted are unfounded and used by those wanting to downplay climate change

Stefan Rahmstorf, Tuesday 3 March 2009 10.24 GMT

Global sea level is rising, and faster than expected. We need to honestly discuss this risk rather than trying to play it down.
Measurements from tide gauge stations around the world show that the global sea level has risen by almost 20cm since 1880. Since 1993, global sea level has been measured accurately from satellites; since 1993 figures have shown leves rising at a rate of 3.2cm per decade.
The two main causes of this rise are extra water entering the ocean from melting land-ice and the expansion of ocean water as it gets warmer. Both are inevitable physical consequences of global warming. Both contributions can be estimated independently from satellite and other data, and their sum is consistent with the observed rise. Depending on the time period considered, 50% to 80% of the rise is due to melting ice.
Despite knowing the causes, we cannot predict future sea level rise very well. Particularly uncertain is how ice sheets will respond to warming, as this involves complex flow processes. For example, warming ocean waters destroy the floating tongues of ice that form when glaciers meet the sea. These ice tongues are pinned to rock outcrops and hold back the glacier behind them. When the ice tongue goes, the glacier speeds up its flow. This has happened to the Jakobshavn Isbrae and other glaciers in Greenland as well as many outlet glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula.
The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that sea level has been rising 50% faster since 1961 than its computer models predict. We published a similar conclusion for 1990 to 2006 in Science in 2007.
Björn Lomborg has recently claimed in The Guardian that sea level rise is "spot on" compared with IPCC projections. That is a debating trick frequently used by those wanting to downplay climate change: Lomborg compares the observed past rise with average projections for the coming century. However, in all projections sea level rise accelerates over time, so it is of some concern that rates of rise only expected to occur in several decades are already being observed now. Measurements since 1880 confirm that the warmer it gets, the faster sea levels rise. This is likely to continue in future, so that Lomborg's assumption of a constant rate of rise until 2100 is unfounded.
Lomborg cites the IPCC projection of sea level rise (18 to 59cm by 2100) without telling his readers the full story: that the IPCC says this range "excludes future rapid dynamical changes in ice flow" of the kind mentioned above. Several studies since the IPCC report have attempted to estimate how much the total rise will be, including the part left out by IPCC. They all have arrived at substantially higher numbers.
A commission of 20 international experts, called on by the Dutch government to help plan its coastal defences, has recently given a high-end estimate of 55cm to 110cm by 2100. Equally important, this commission has highlighted the fact that sea level rise will not stop in the year 2100. By 2200, they estimate a rise of 1.5 to 3.5m unless we stop the warming. This would spell the end of many of our coastal cities.
Even after we have stopped global warming, sea level rise set in motion by our emissions of the coming decades will continue for centuries. Such is the inertia in the response of the deep ocean and the ice sheets to warming. While we can bail out banks, there is no way to turn back sea level — our only chance is to stop the warming soon enough to keep it within manageable limits. In its report The Future Oceans, the German government's Advisory Council on Global Change has proposed to limit long-term sea level rise to a maximum of one meter, as a policy goal along-side the European Union's goal to limit warming to 2C.
Lomborg's mindset becomes clear when he told us last October that "over the past two years, sea levels have not increased at all — actually, they show a slight drop. Should we not be told that this is much better than expected?". As a trained statistician, he must surely have known that he was fooling the public with the "noise" of short-term variability rather than discussing a meaningful trend. And his claim was not even up-to-date when he made it: sea level had long resumed its rise, reaching a record high in the first half of 2008.
From 10 to 12 March hundreds of climate scientists will gather in Copenhagen to discuss their latest data. Let's hope that politicians, journalists and the public will use this opportunity to listen directly to the scientists working in the field, rather than to the distortions promoted by spin-doctors like Lomborg.
• Stefan Rahmstorf is a climate scientist and oceanographer at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He contributed to all three reports mentioned above: IPCC, the Dutch Delta Commission and the German Advisory Council on Global Change. He will present latest data on sea level rise at the Copenhagen Climate Congress.

Climate is rights issue, says Maldives minister

By Frances Williams in Geneva
Published: March 4 2009 00:42

Ahmed Shaheed, foreign minister of the Maldives, is calling on the world to make global warming a human rights issue and prevent his homeland from disappearing beneath the waves by the end of the century.
“If nothing is done, it is the nightmare – no Maldives. But if there are no Maldives there may be no Bangladesh, no Pakistan, no others. So we are optimistic about the possibility of change. Saving the Maldives is about saving the world as well.”

While destruction wrought by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 was the most dramatic signal of the dangers of global warming, the 1,000-island archipelago is already suffering other damaging effects from coastal erosion, growing water salinity, encroachment of tropical diseases such as malaria, and loss of coralian ecosystems that support the country’s fishing industry.
And shortly after winning the country’s first truly democratic elections last October, Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed announced plans to create a sovereign wealth fund financed from tourism, the main industry, that could be used to buy a new homeland in India, Sri Lanka or even Australia for the 300,000 inhabitants of the Indian Ocean paradise.
Kiribati in the Pacific, another cluster of tiny tropical islands in even more imminent danger of submergence, has already asked Australia and New Zealand to accept its citizens as permanent refugees.
But Mr Shaheed said the Maldives government would do its utmost to avoid such a fate, with adaptation measures at home and a vigorous lobbying effort for strong international action to limit global warming.
Part of that lobbying effort was a push to have climate change treated as a human rights issue. “There’s a tendency to think in economic terms and we need to shift the focus to the moral case for tackling global warming,” Mr Shaheed said.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

GOP Attacks Climate Plan as Too Costly


Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies before the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON -- Republicans opened a new front in their attack on the Obama administration's budget, charging that its ambitious climate-change plan would impose hefty costs on consumers and businesses.
Despite the Obama administration's claim that its budget wouldn't raise taxes on families earning less than $250,000 a year, "the budget before us assumes large amounts of money" from the climate-change legislation, Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the top Republican on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said at a hearing Tuesday. "And that means higher prices for Americans for food, for gas, for electricity, and in a state like Michigan for home heating -- pretty much anything that they buy."
Other Republicans focused on the cost to businesses. The plan aims to reduce greenhouse gases by imposing limits on emissions, and it would require businesses to pay fees if they exceed their caps.
Administration officials countered that their climate-change revenue wouldn't affect consumers until about 2012, well after the recession is expected to have lifted. They also pointed out that it would be designed to provide offsetting tax breaks for lower-income people, who tend to pay a higher percentage of their income in energy costs.
Still, administration officials said, addressing climate change -- along with the companion goal of making the U.S. more energy-independent -- requires making less-polluting alternative fuels become more attractive. That means imposing new costs on traditional energy sources.
See the steps by which the federal budget will be finalized in the coming months.
"There is no way to try to get us on a path to energy independence and address the critical problems caused by climate change without changing the incentives," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said at the Ways and Means Committee hearing.
The administration said in its budget blueprint last week that climate-change legislation would raise nearly $646 billion for the government over the next decade. The budget suggested that the plan might raise more than that, however. It added that "all additional net proceeds will be used to further compensate the public."
Some Republicans believe the actual amount raised by climate-change legislation could be two to three times that amount. They cite research by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, among other sources.

A person familiar with the administration's thinking emphasized that the discussions on designing climate-change legislation are just beginning and that the amount of money the plan raises will be determined in discussions with lawmakers of both parties. But, the person added, the $646 billion estimate was probably "conservative."
The administration also is opening the door to another revenue source to help cover the cost of its health-care plan -- a cap on the tax break that the government gives to employees for their employer-provided health care. In its budget documents, the White House said it was open to serious ideas for covering the cost of health-care overhaul, including a cap on the current break, perhaps for higher earners.
The discussions over climate-change revenue and health-care taxes are at the center of the pivotal debate on Capitol Hill: how and whether to raise revenue that will be necessary if the government is going to address big long-term challenges and reduce the budget deficit at the same time.

Obama administration officials were at pains Tuesday to show that their revamp of health care, energy and education are crucial to making the recovery sustainable and reducing costs in entitlement programs such as Medicare. Health-care overhaul "is the single most important thing we can do to get our long-term entitlements under control," White House Budget Director Peter Orszag said at a House Budget Committee hearing.
Write to John D. McKinnon at