Sunday, 15 March 2009

Experts says cash for green power would help combat recession

Published Date: 15 March 2009
By Rosemary Gallagher

THE green energy industry can lead the UK out of recession by developing world-leading technology, creating jobs and taking advantage of the "Obama effect", but only if the Government puts money into it, experts will warn this week.
Trade body Scottish Renewables is holding its annual conference in Edinburgh on Wednesday and Thursday focusing on the role of the sector in sparking economic recovery. Experts say Scotland is currently ahead of the competition in areas such as wave and tidal power. But they warn it will lose this advantage, in the same way it gave away its lead in wind power to Scandinavia, if the Scottish and UK Governments do not provide fiscal stimulus.Grant Hodges, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, who is taking part in a debate led by Scottish energy minister Jim Mather at the conference, says Scotland has to focus on the next generation of green technology, including wave, tidal and solar. "Scotland can grab the lead in these technologies and has the potential to create a very big industry with a lot of economic benefit. While we still need to develop wind farms, we have to realise we gave that technology away and there will never be a huge amount of jobs in that area."While there is demand for green energy from consumers becoming more aware of climate change, the need for the Scottish Government to meet its target of 50% of the country's electricity coming from renewable sources by 2020 and energy security issues stemming from the volatile situation in Russia and Ukraine, there is one big barrier. Hodges says domestic governments are not investing enough compared with other countries, such as China. "Renewables could help lead Scotland out of recession but they currently won't because of the lack of Government investment," says Hodges.Speaking ahead of the conference, Mather says: "One of the key strengths of our economy – in extremely tough economic times – is our renewable energy industry, which goes from strength to strength. We have seen around £1bn of investment in renewables in recent months as we work with industry to make Scotland the green energy capital of Europe."He adds that Scotland is forging strong and productive partnerships in a wide range of areas to use its natural energy potential to create jobs and a sustainable, low carbon future. Also speaking at this week's conference is Stuart McCallum, corporate finance director at Baker Tilly, who is urging Scottish companies to cash in on US president Barack Obama's pledge to invest in alternative energy to boost the economy. McCallum says: "Our US offices are noting a growing level of interest in all aspects of renewables driven by the Obama effect – Scotland and the UK must be involved in this where we can."Jason Ormiston, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, wants the Scottish Government to speed up the planning process, while Westminster must provide financial support.

Green pioneers: Andrew Reason

Times Online
March 15, 2009
An energy-saving washing machine is just the thing to lighten the load at home
Andrew Stone

ANDREW REASON bills himself as the James Dyson of washing machines — only with added eco-credentials. He claims to have invented a machine that cleans clothes for less than the cost of conventional washing machines and at the same time slashes the amount of energy and water needed.
His Welsh-based start-up, which employs 11 people, is auctioning the first 200 machines online and plans to build 100,000 more by the end of 2010, thanks in part to a green grant of £45,000 from the Welsh Assembly. “We are still operating from a small factory space and selling through word of mouth,” said Reason, 42.
His machine, the Reason, has a larger drum in a normal-sized machine, which he claims can wash 10 kilos rather than the usual 5 kilos. In addition, it automatically weighs the washing, then dispenses the right amount of water, detergent and fabric softener, cutting down on waste.
Instead of having a concrete base that is polluting to make, the Reason uses water as ballast. This can be drained, making the machines easier to transport, and saves energy: the ballast water warms to ambient room temperature and is used for the wash, thereby taking far less energy to heat.

Reason claims that the machine will often not need to heat the water at all. “Kilo for kilo it uses 30% less electricity for a standard cotton wash compared to a typical A-rated European machine,” he said.
His inspiration came after he was forced to take time off as an architect after a rugby injury. The pain he felt when stooping to load his washing machine got him thinking about better ways to do it. “All I think about is washing machines, about getting it right and giving a good product to the consumer,” he said.
Fit to return to work after an operation on his back in 2002, he had to convince his wife to let him carry on developing his ideas. “I asked her to give me two more months on the washing machine. I managed to get £45,000 from the Welsh Assembly government and £15,000 from a private investor."
Cardiff University’s engineering department agreed to help model the vibrations his designs would create and two large washing-machine-repair firms also agreed to invest. He said large electrical retailers such as Currys and John Lewis had expressed interest.
“I now have people coming to me and saying they used to work for Hoover or Siemens and can they come and work for me? People used to tell me I was crazy to want to make the machines myself — they’re not laughing now.”
The Reason’s green credentials are even more compelling abroad. “Standard US machines use three times the water that European ones do,” he said.
To those who still doubt that a tiny start-up and a few private investors can revolutionise a design that has escaped an entire industry for decades, Reason has an answer.
“Making a product like this requires determination, passion and innovation. It’s also about being prepared to dream, letting your people go and try new things. Innocence and naivety really helped us.
“I approached this from the point of view of the consumer and the Reason is a good, simple solution to their problems. I think we’ve done a lot with relatively little.”

Urgent rethink on the nuclear option

The Sunday Times
March 15, 2009
Ian Fells

ON October 17, 1956, the Queen threw a switch to connect Calder Hall nuclear power station to the grid. It was the world’s first commercial nuclear power station and had been built from scratch in three years. It continued to operate well for the next 47 years, and became the first of a series of 11 Magnox nuclear power stations.
Next year, the last of those will close, leaving Britain at the mercy of fossil fuel, much of it imported, to meet a growing demand for electrical power. The Magnox stations and their successors — a generation of bigger, more modern pressurised-water reactors (PWRs) — were a triumph for sophisticated, British engineering. Sizewell B PWR was built and opened in 1995. It was intended to be the first of a series of 10 PWR stations but it was to be the last one to be built in the UK — even though, at its opening, nuclear power was providing a crucial 20% of UK electricity.
The writing was already on the wall when Labour came to power in 1997. Old Labour had long had a hate relationship with civil nuclear power, stemming from the CND marches to Aldermaston when the quite different roles of nuclear fission in weaponry and the civil nuclear programme “atoms for peace” were inextricably confused.
This was made manifest in the white paper of 2003, which was strongly influenced by the anti- nuclear Margaret Beckett (Defra), Patricia Hewitt (DTI) and Peter Hain (energy minister for a few weeks — one of a chaotic succession of ministers in recent years), and concluded that Britain did not need nuclear power.

For the past decade we have buried our heads in the sand, hoping that North Sea oil and gas — now in terminal decline — and a sound industry, constructed by the Central Electricity Generating Board in its heyday before privatisation, would meet our needs. The awful reality that we will lose a third of our generating capacity over the next decade has only just begun to dawn — and it has to be replaced.
The market will only provide new gas-fired stations or, if they are very heavily subsidised, offshore wind generators. There are serious problems of security of supply with both these options. So, with a complete volte face, the prime minister now wants as much nuclear power as possible.
It may be too late. From the closure of the Dounreay Fast Reactor, the most advanced of its kind in the world in the 1980s, to shilly-shallying over the Sizewell C and Hinkley C stations, recent years have been marked by short-sightedness and vacillation.
Perhaps the most staggering piece of ineptitude on the part of the government was selling off Westinghouse (one of only five companies worldwide that could provide turn-key construction of new nuclear power stations) to Toshiba for $5 billion (£3.6 billion).
The company had been part of British Nuclear Fuels but, under pressure from Hewitt, who as industry secretary was determined to divest government of any nuclear liabilities, BNFL was forced to put Westinghouse on the market.
Now that Britain has belatedly realised that we do need nuclear power after all and that windmills, energy efficiency and a few gas-fired power stations will not save the day, new nuclear power stations must be built. We may well have left it too late and we have lost the ability in the UK to build them. So we must rely on EDF, Westinghouse and others to do it for us.
A queue is forming, though, and we have to join it. Some of our companies will be employed as sub-contractors, but it is rather like the crumbs thrown to industry in Third World countries when power stations are being built there. A sad comedown for a one-time world leader in nuclear engineering.
Ian Fells is emeritus professor of energy conversion at Newcastle University

Power warning as Labour dithers

The Sunday Times
March 15, 2009

Blackout fears as power station plans are put on hold
Alan Copps and Danny Fortson

BRITAIN faces being plunged into a 1970s-style era of blackouts and power cuts unless the government accelerates plans for future energy supplies. The warning, from power firms and energy analysts, comes after plans for a new £1 billion coal-fired power station — the first in three decades — were put on hold by the energy secretary, Ed Miliband.
It is the first time the companies, which rely on government support for new low-emissions projects, have been so openly critical and reflects a growing frustration at the official prevarication over the building of a new generation of power stations as well as the belief that Britain’s ageing infrastructure will be unable to cope with future demands.
The row will fuel the debate about where Britain will get its power from in the next 20 years and has caused a three-way split between power companies on one side, green campaigners on the other and the government in the middle. “The UK faces a potential energy crisis in the form of a massive gap in generating capacity,” said Paul Golby, chief executive of Eon, the company behind the £1 billion planned power station in Kingsnorth, Kent.
“Renewables could not work on the scale required to replace the coal, oil and nuclear plants due to close in the next decade.” If the gap was not closed, Britain faced the possibility of blackouts, Eon said.

Eon first applied to the government to build the new “clean coal” plant at Kingsnorth two-and-a-half years ago. The decision on whether to give the go-ahead has been postponed several times.
Earlier this month it was put back again until the autumn. The delay has provoked criticism from clean-technology groups who say the power station would have been among the world’s lowest-polluting coal burners through the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS), which buries waste carbon instead of releasing it into the atmosphere.
“We have this looming energy gap and if we refrain from building any new coal stations there are serious implications for energy security,” said Jeff Chapman, chief executive of the Carbon Capture & Storage Association.
Britain relies on a power-generation infrastructure conceived largely in the 1960s and plants supplying a tenth of all power will be shut down within the next four years, according to Utilyx, an energy consultancy. Renewable energy such as wind power is not yet mature enough to fill that gap and any new nuclear power stations will not be ready in time, say energy experts. Gas stations would leave the country dangerously reliant on imports.
Despite the fact that coal is the most polluting form of power, accounting for 40% of global emissions, it has become increasingly attractive over recent years because of its relative abundance and cheapness. To meet EU emissions standards, the government must demonstrate that CCS can work before it gives the go-ahead to the new Kingsnorth plant and similar stations.
It is running a competition under which it will award “several hundred million pounds” to fit one UK power station with CCS. Three projects are in the running, including the new Kingsnorth plant.
Next week, though, Golby is expected to demand that the government foot all of the estimated
£1 billion extra it will cost to fit Kingsnorth with CCS. In exchange, he said Eon would use the technology to capture all the emissions from the plant, rather than just a quarter of them, as currently proposed by the government competition.

Environmentalists and some MPs, however, are critical. The technology has been described as a fig leaf to allow a new generation of polluting power stations to be built and a pipe dream diverting badly needed resources and attention away from renewable technologies like wind.
One of the most outspoken opponents is James Hansen, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and a veteran campaigner on global warming. He has written to Gordon Brown, Barack Obama and Angela Merkel calling for a moratorium on all new coal-fired plants.
He wrote last month: “The dirtiest trick that governments play on their citizens is the pretence that they are working on ‘clean coal’.
“Coal-fired power plants are factories of death. When I testified against the proposed Kingsnorth plant, I estimated that in its lifetime it would be responsible for the extermination of about 400 species.”

However, Tom Kerr at the Paris-based International Energy Agency said: “If we are to decarbonise and really push through with this energy revolution, CCS is the only option that has the capability of getting us there.”
While the government wrestles with the green lobby, and launches another round of consultations, the power companies say that time is fast running out.
Dire warning of relying on imported gas
SINCE 1995 all we have built to replace old coal and nuclear power stations have been gas-fired power stations. We risk substituting an overdependence on coal for electricity with overdependence on foreign gas. All of our energy eggs are falling into one basket.
Twenty-five years ago about 1% of our electricity involved burning gas. Now the figure is 43%. As older coal, oil and nuclear plants come off line to meet EU emissions targets, and new clean coal plants such as Kingsnorth in Kent are repeatedly delayed, the situation is deteriorating.
Of all the power stations being built or in the planning stage — a total generating capacity of some 20GW — 90% is gas-fired.
In 11 years we have seen eight different energy ministers, three contradictory energy white papers and a drift in policy resulting in over-reliance on one type of imported energy to generate electricity for the medium term.
Britain started building gas-fired power stations in the early 1990s to reduce coal’s dominance and help meet new Kyoto emissions targets. This was coupled with the belief, as stated by Michael Heseltine to the Commons in 1992, that Britain’s North Sea gas reserves offered, “gas supplies for another 50 years”.
Less than 20 years later we have become a net importer of gas. To secure this gas Britain will have to pay top price. We are at the end of the supply lines from Russia and on the coldest days, as we have discovered, very small volumes can reach us as other customers come first.
There are also serious questions over Russian gas reliability. New schemes such as the Nabucco pipeline connecting Europe and the gas-rich Caspian, through Turkey, will help but they are years away and reliant on regional geopolitical factors such as future Turkish EU membership.
We can buy more gas from Norway, but new pipelines are being built to send more Norwegian gas to our neighbours. We can seek to buy more frozen gas (LNG) but again, as we have discovered, LNG cargoes can easily be diverted on the high seas to the highest bidder.
By dithering on energy and approving more gas-fired stations the government has in effect capitulated on the challenge of a more balanced and secure energy mix.
Over-reliance on coal brought the country to its knees in the last century. Over-reliance on imported gas could do the same.
Tony Lodge
- Step off the Gas — Why over-dependence on gas is bad for the UK, by Tony Lodge, is published by the Centre for Policy Studies

Eon calls for £1bn to clean up coal

The Sunday Times
March 15, 2009
Danny Fortson

THE German energy giant Eon will throw down the gauntlet to the government this week with an offer to build the world’s largest “clean-coal” power station in Britain, but only if it is given about £1 billion in taxpayers’ money to cover building costs.
Paul Golby, chief executive of Eon UK, will make the “you fund it, we’ll fit it” pitch at an industry conference this week. Eon’s decision to publicly raise the pressure reflects growing frustration from power companies at the pace of decision-making for large projects and lack of a clear policy on coal.
“The government thinking on this is moving in the right direction, but it’s not moving fast enough. We are wasting time, and this is too important to wait,” Golby told The Sunday Times.
Eon first applied to build its new coal-fired station at Kingsnorth, Kent, more than two years ago but is still waiting for approval. It is now offering to fit the entire proposed 1.6Gw station with experimental carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which promises to capture chimney exhaust and bury it underground – if the government covers all the additional costs, estimated to be about £1 billion.

Kingsnorth is one of three projects being considered in a government competition under which one will be awarded taxpayer money to fit CCS to a small portion of a power station to demonstrate that the technology works. Doing it on an entire station would be costly and risky: today there is only one CCS-equipped station in the world, and it is one-fiftieth the size of Kingsnorth.
Eon’s brazen offer threatens to disrupt the government’s competition. Golby said: “We’re not trying to drive a coach and horses through their competition, but we are trying to urge them to increase the sense of urgency on this.”

Water scarcity 'now bigger threat than financial crisis'

By 2030, more than half the world's population will live in high-risk areas
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Sunday, 15 March 2009

Humanity is facing "water bankruptcy" as a result of a crisis even greater than the financial meltdown now destabilising the global economy, two authoritative new reports show. They add that it is already beginning to take effect, and there will be no way of bailing the earth out of water scarcity.

The two reports – one by the world's foremost international economic forum and the other by 24 United Nations agencies – presage the opening tomorrow of the most important conference on the looming crisis for three years. The World Water Forum, which will be attended by 20,000 people in Istanbul, will hear stark warnings of how half the world's population will be affected by water shortages in just 20 years' time, with millions dying and increasing conflicts over dwindling resources.
A report by the World Economic Forum, which runs the annual Davos meetings of the international business and financial elite, says that lack of water, will "soon tear into various parts of the global economic system" and "start to emerge as a headline geopolitical issue".
It adds: "The financial crisis gives us a stark warning of what can happen if known economic risks are left to fester. We are living in a water 'bubble' as unsustainable and fragile as that which precipitated the collapse in world financial markets. We are now on the verge of bankruptcy in many places with no way of paying the debt back."
The Earth – a blue-green oasis in the limitless black desert of space – has a finite stock of water. There is precisely the same amount of it on the planet as there was in the age of the dinosaurs, and the world's population of more than 6.7 billion people has to share the same quantity as the 300 million global inhabitants of Roman times.
Water use has been growing far faster than the number of people. During the 20th century the world population increased fourfold, but the amount of freshwater that it used increased nine times over. Already 2.8 billion people live in areas of high water stress, the report calculates, and this will rise to 3.9 billion – more than half the expected population of the world – by 2030. By that time, water scarcity could cut world harvests by 30 per cent – equivalent to all the grain grown in the US and India – even as human numbers and appetites increase.
Some 60 per cent of China's 669 cities are already short of water. The huge Yellow River is now left with only 10 per cent of its natural flow, sometimes failing to reach the sea altogether. And the glaciers of the Himalayas, which act as gigantic water banks supplying two billion people in Asia, are melting ever faster as global warming accelerates. Meanwhile devastating droughts are crippling Australia and Texas.
The World Water Development Report, compiled by 24 UN agencies under the auspices of Unesco, adds that shortages are already beginning to constrain economic growth in areas as diverse and California, China, Australia, India and Indonesia. The report, which will be published tomorrow, also expects water conflicts to break out in the Middle East, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Colombia and other countries.
"Conflicts about water can occur at all scales," it warns. "Hydrological shocks" brought about by climate change are likely to "increase the risk of major national and international security threats".

Spring to emerge earlier than ever

Spring is likely to arrive ever earlier as a result of climate change, a survey by nature watchers suggests, after they spotted birds nesting and plants flowering across the UK already.

By Paul Stokes Last Updated: 9:18AM GMT 14 Mar 2009

Despite one of the coldest winters in recent memory there has already been evidence of wildlife responding up to three weeks in advance of normal.
The new season does not officially begin until next week's vernal equinox, but already there have been unusually early sightings across the UK.
Thousands of people are responsible for reporting their observations to Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar on which the findings are based.
Shaun Nixon, the survey's manager, said: "The timing of natural events is one of the most responsive aspects of the natural world to warming, so it is an important indicator of change.
"Even in a year like this, with an apparent return to the winters of old, things seem to be happening and we have already had confirmation of frogspawn seen as early as December."
Among the ahead of normal reports this year were those of newts, butterflies, birds building nests early, hazel flowers, celandines and snowdrops.
The Trust has expressed concerns about species being fooled into activity by warmer weather and vulnerable to cold snaps while food chains could also come under pressure.
Mr Nixon added: "There will be variations year on year, but if we look back over the past 30 years we can see a marked advancement of Spring - two or three weeks for insects and a week for plants."
This week, 2,500 of the world's leading environmental scientists warned politicians of the drastic global warming which will result if governments fail to reduce greenhouse gases.
Scientists have warned that the arrival of Spring may lift people's spirits, but can also trigger migraines.
A study has shown temperature rises increase the number of people requiring hospital treatment for debilitating headaches.
According to the Met Office figures for December, January and February the temperature this year was half a degree below average after two years of being well above normal.
Even with the heavy snows, however, rainfall was two thirds of the average for February.
Helen Chivers, a Met Officer forecaster, said: "So far this year it has been fairly cool, but temperatures this weekend will be up."
England, Wales and Northern Ireland can expect dry, sunny spells and decreasing winds today and Sunday with temperatures reaching up to 14 degrees C in the south.
Much of Scotland faces gales and significant rain with temperatures dipping as low as seven degrees C.

Plan B: scientists get radical in bid to halt global warming ‘catastrophe’

The Sunday Times
March 15, 2009

Protesters demonstrate against the expansion of Heathrow to not show enlarge option -->
Jonathan Leake

THE director of a Nasa space laboratory will this week lead thousands of climate change campaigners through Coventry in an extraordinary intervention in British politics.
James Hansen plans to use Thursday’s Climate Change Day of Action to put pressure on Gordon Brown to wake up to the threat of climate change - by halting the construction of new power stations and the expansion of airports, with schemes such as the third runway at Heathrow.
The move by a leading American researcher is the highest-profile example to date of the way climate change is politicising scientists.
It follows last week’s climate science summit in Copenhagen where 2,500 leading climate scientists issued a stark warning to politicians that unless they took drastic action to cut carbon emissions, the world would face “irreversible shifts in climate”.

They warned that global temperature increases averaging more than 4C were now possible and that human-generated CO2 could also acidify the world’s oceans, wiping out life-forms ranging from tiny plankton to coral reefs.
Hansen, director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said he believed scientists, the people who knew most about climate change, now had a moral obligation to become politically active. He has chosen Coventry to stage Thursday’s protest because it is home to E.ON, the power company that is planning a giant new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in Kent.
He will lead the demonstrators to a final protest on its doorstep. The protest, being organised by Christian Aid, will involve a New Orleans-style funeral march by “mourners” for future lost generations.
“We can no longer allow politicians and business to twist and ignore science,” said Hansen.
“The scientists can connect the dots and define the implications of different policy choices and we should make clear those implications.”
Hansen also launched a direct attack on the Labour government, criticising its decision to approve a new runway at Heathrow and calling the Kingsnorth proposal a “terrible idea”.
“One power plant with a lifetime of several decades will destroy the efforts of millions of citizens to reduce their emissions,” he said.
Hansen is just one of a number of leading researchers who believe that scientists must get out of their laboratories and campaign on climate change.
They say researchers have spent nearly two decades producing high-quality research demonstrating that the world risks dangerous warming - yet political inaction means CO2 emissions are rising faster than ever. Many also believe the United Nations talks aimed at a global treaty on cutting emissions are likely to fail.
They compare the anger and concern among climate researchers to that felt by physicists as they watched the massive growth in nuclear weapons in the 1950s and 1960s.
Back then, such concerns prompted many leading scientists to become politically active in movements such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
The leaders of that movement even included Professor Peter Higgs, the theoretical physicist now best known for describing the Higgs Boson particle, which is thought to give matter its mass.
His modern counterparts include scientists such as Dr Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow, at the Earth and Biosphere Institute at Leeds University, whose recent research on the impact of climate change on tropical forests has been published in leading journals such as Nature and Science.
Lewis believes his understanding of climate change means he is morally obliged to become a climate activist. He took part in the recent Climate Camp protests at both Kingsnorth and Heathrow.
He has also joined with other protesters to buy land outside Sipson, the village near Heathrow that would be destroyed by construction of the runway.
“If the government permits the building of new infrastruc-ture which locks us into a future of high CO2 emissions, there is a moral obligation to try to stop them,” he said.
Even the Met Office, which traditionally has been one of the government’s most conservative research institutions, has become quietly radical over climate.
It sent a team of its top climate scientists to the Copenhagen meeting - backing them with a team of publicists who lobbied journalists intensively to maximise coverage of their research.
Others have used scientific publications to make overtly political points. Professor Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Centre, the government’s leading global warming research centre, recently used the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, one of the world’s most respected academic journals, to call for a “planned global recession” to cut carbon emissions.
“Emissions are rising so fast that we are heading for a world that will be 4C-5C warmer than now by 2100. That would be catastrophic,” he wrote.
“Unless economic growth can be reconciled with unprecedented rates of decarbonisa-tion, it is difficult to foresee anything other than a planned economic recession being compatible with stabilising the climate.”
Even other climate researchers were shocked by such overtly political comments in a pure research paper but Anderson is unrepentant.
Speaking in Copenhagen last week, a meeting he attended by train and ferry to maintain his personal boycott of flights, he said: “Scientists have lost patience with carefully constructed messages being lost in the political noise. We must stand up for what we know.”
Others believe many more scientists will feel obliged to take a similar stand.
Marcus du Sautoy, professor for the public understanding of science and professor of mathematics at Oxford University, said climate change was “galvanising” the scientific community.
“The evidence and data is all there but politicians don’t seem to understand what the science is telling them, so the scientists feel they have to respond,” he said.
John Harris, professor of bioethics at Manchester University, said scientists had become more willing to get politically active after mounting successful campaigns against proposals to put legal restrictions on embryo and stem cell research.
“Scientists are increasingly aware of their public responsibilities and realise there is not much point in doing science unless your findings will be uti-lised. They now realise that if they make themselves heard on climate change then policy makers will react,” he said.
Kathy Sykes, professor of sciences and society at Bristol University, said scientists were increasingly aware that they had a duty to convey their knowledge more effectively - and that meant becoming political.
“Every now and again, when things become absolutely desperate, as it has with climate change, scientists have to become advocates,” she said.
The threat
Copenhagen climate summit - the scientist’s key findings and recommendations:
Humanity is releasing 50 billion tons of CO2 into the air each year - and this is rising by 2%-3% a year, far faster than scientists had predicted
Such emissions are already changing the climate, including an increase in the Earth’s temperature, rising sea levels and a rapid melting of the world’s glaciers
About 40% of humanity’s CO2 emissions are absorbed by the oceans - but these are now acidifying, threatening marine life Global temperature rises could exceed 2C by mid-century, which would cause widespread water shortages and potentially famine
Every year of delay in cutting greenhouse gas emissions makes it much harder to keep the global temperature rise below 2C
Delays also raise the risk of crossing tipping points - changes in the Earth’s dynamics that accelerate the warming effects
Developing countries are least able to cope with climate change, so millions of the world’s poorest people will suffer the worst deprivation as temperatures rise
Humanity would gain many extra benefits from cutting emissions, including new jobs, improved health and preservation of wildlife
Inaction is “inexcusable”. The world has the technology and tools needed to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and rising temperatures

Sioux tribe set to reap a whirlwind of green profit

James Doran in New York
The Observer, Sunday 15 March 2009

The Cheyenne River Lakota Sioux Indians from South Dakota are poised to sign a $400m (£286m) deal with a big Boston energy firm to build a massive wind farm across their 1m-acre reservation. It is hoped the deal will transform tribal economics nationwide and drag many Native Americans out of poverty.
The tribe has teamed up with Citizens Wind, the commercial arm of a Boston group called Citizens Energy, a not-for-profit organisation set up by congressman Joseph Kennedy, the nephew of President John F Kennedy.
Citizens Wind believes the scheme will take about three years to complete and will provide 120MW of electricity to the grid, enough to supply 50,000-60,000 average households.
More importantly, the project will provide much-needed jobs and income for the Cheyenne Lakota Sioux, and a blueprint for other tribes to follow.
"To our people, the four winds are four brothers, they are our relatives," said Eileen Briggs, the director of the Cheyenne Lakota Sioux renewable energy corporation Tate Topa, which translates as Four Winds Energy.
"We have a cultural relationship with the wind. We say the wind will take care of us and, with this project, it is."
Native American economic success is commonly linked to gaming and casinos, as many tribes have embraced the American love of slot machines to their advantage. But as the economy continues to decline, even the biggest US casino companies are suffering massive declines in revenue and profits.

Hydrogen to fuel green jets

The Sunday Times
March 15, 2009

We have had the hydrogen-powered car, now meet the hydrogen aircraft.
A British company has developed an air-breathing hydrogen engine that could radically cut the environmental footprint of air and space travel.
Reaction Engines, based in Oxfordshire, has just secured a €1m (£926,000) grant from the European Space Agency (ESA) to advance its Sabre propulsion system.
Like a rocket engine, Sabre burns liquid hydrogen. But unlike a rocket, Sabre does not also require a supply of liquid oxygen to operate inside the Earth’s atmosphere; instead it grabs, cools and compresses its own supply from the air itself.

Although developed for the Skylon pilotless-spaceplane project, Sabre could be central to a new generation of hydrogen-fuelled aircraft.
Fossil-fuel-powered air travel is responsible for up to 3% of global carbon-dioxide emissions and is Britain’s fastest-growing source of greenhouse-gas emissions. But liquid-hydrogen fuel can be created from water, using electricity, and the Sabre’s only exhaust gas is steam.
The British-designed Skylon requires only a small supply of liquid oxygen (for operation at heights above 25km) and is light enough to take off from a standing start on an ordinary runway.
The entire vehicle is re-usable, and does not require expensive, exotic materials for its construction.
“We could conduct a test flight in 2018 and be in operation by 2020,” said Mark Hempsell, the future programmes director at Reaction Engines.
But first the engine has to be perfected. The ESA cash brings Sabre’s total seed money to about £6m — peanuts compared with the estimated £4.3 billion spent by America’s Nasa on similar hydrogen-engine projects.
The Americans have little to show for their investment, however. Reaction Engines has working prototypes of two of Sabre’s key components: the pre-cooler that handles the rush of incoming air, and the turbo-compressor that condenses it before feeding it to the engine.
Hempsell said: “Hydrogen is the fuel of the future for aeroplanes. It’s green and it’s efficient — although you can’t force hydrogen engines onto existing planes. The trick is to start designing on a blank slate, as we have done with Skylon.”

Lasers to create mini sun in hunt for clean energy

The Sunday Times
March 15, 2009
Physicists hope to develop the first form of nuclear fusion technology by firing laser beams at a pellet of hydrogen
Chris Gourlay and Jonathan Leake

SCIENTISTS are to use the world’s most powerful laser system to replicate the fiery core of the sun in experiments that may ultimately offer humanity a clean source of energy.
After more than 50 years of experimentation, physicists are hoping to develop the first form of nuclear fusion technology that produces more energy than it consumes.
Within the next fortnight, researchers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in California will fire 192 separate laser beams capable of generating 500 trillion watts - 1,000 times the power of the US national grid - for a fraction of a second.
The energy pulse will be concentrated on a tiny pellet of hydrogen in an attempt to mimic the reactions that take place inside the sun.

The scientists hope to refine the process over the next year until they trigger a nuclear reaction capable of producing large amounts of energy.
“We hope the ignition experiments will show that we can generate more power than we put in and that fusion can be the source of a supply of carbon-free energy,” said Ed Moses, director of the NIF.
“I think the old joke about fusion being just 50 years away, no matter when you ask, is about to become defunct.
“If we succeed, public perception of fusion will change because it is the ultimate energy source - no carbon, limitless, safe and secure.”
NIF was built to test designs for thermonuclear weapons. However, its research will also show how fusion might be used as a peaceful source of energy.
It is among a handful of international projects focused on delivering nuclear fusion.
In France, work has begun on building the £8 billion Iter fusion project, which uses magnetic fields rather than lasers to create the conditions for fusion. However, Iter’s first “burn”, or reaction, is not expected until 2022.
A British-led fusion project, the high power laser programme (HiPER), is expected to build a reactor at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) in Oxfordshire by 2020.
The fusion process mimics reactions that take place inside the sun. Unlike nuclear fission reactions - in which atoms are split apart - the fusion process squeezes atoms together under enormous pressures and temperatures until they fuse, releasing huge quantities of energy.
“It’s long been said by scientists that fusion is just around the corner,” said John Collier, head of the HiPER project. “But if the NIF gets it right, I think we’ve overcome the critical hurdle by showing that we can gain more energy than we put into the reaction.”
The next step would be to create a reactor capable of producing a steady stream of energy.
“The limitation with NIF is you can only fire it around once a month,” said Collier. “HiPER is designed to look at the next step - designing a prototype to show this technology can be commercially viable.”
Even if scientists are able to tame fusion reactions, most experts believe we would still be at least 25 years away from being able to build fusion power stations that could provide a clean alternative to fossil fuels.
Such power stations would use hydrogen atoms extracted from sea water as fuel to generate carbon-free electricity with minimal radioactive waste.
Last week leading scientists issued a plea to politicians to take action on climate change now or face decades of war and social unrest and a planet that becomes unrecognisable.
Mike Dunne, a director at RAL, believes the time has come to invest in nuclear fusion. “If the NIF succeeds, as we expect it to, I fully expect a dramatic public and political response,” he said.
“But to fully take advantage of its success, politicians must start investing in fusion now.
“We probably need around £10 billion internationally. That’s obviously a large sum but, to put it into context, the global energy market is worth around £1.4 trillion annually.”
However, the NIF experiment is not without controversy. The Californian facility’s primary purpose is to allow munitions to be tested without a radioactive fallout, which would contravene the nuclear test ban treaty.
Critics fear the US military is using the NIF complex to develop a new generation of advanced nuclear weapons, although a spokesman for the facility denied this.
Additional reporting: Helen Brooks
Fusion race
Research centres around the world are racing to harness nuclear fusion as a clean power source. They include: National Ignition Facility (California, US) Joint European Torus (Oxford, UK) Iter (Cadarache, France) HiPER (Oxfordshire)