Monday, 30 March 2009

Proton to build cars for Detroit Electric

By John Reed in London
Published: March 29 2009 23:20

Malaysia’s Proton is to mass-produce electric cars under licence for Detroit Electric, a privately owned start-up that will supply the technology and sell the vehicles in Europe, China and the US.
Detroit Electric will market the cars under its own brand, launching in Europe and Asia from next February and in the US three to six months later, Albert Lam, its chief executive, said.

The company would initially sell its cars in European countries with strong tax incentives for low-emission vehicles, including Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, France and the UK, Mr Lam said.
In China it would work with an undisclosed local carmaker to distribute the cars.
Detroit Electric will produce vehicles on Proton’s saloon car and hatchback manufacturing platforms, with styling changes made to distinguish them from the Malaysian company’s existing line-up.
The partnership will see Proton use Detroit Electric’s drive systems in its own cars for sale in south-east Asia.
The plug-in cars will be powered by lithium-ion batteries and – unlike some plug-in cars planned by rival manufacturers – will not include a petrol “range extender” to back up their battery power.
The lower-priced of Detroit Electric’s two vehicles will sell in the US at $23,000 to $25,000 and have a driving range of 180km per charge.
The other car will have a driving range of 320km per electric charge and be priced at $29,000 to $33,000.
“We believe in an affordable, practical, everyday electric car,” Mr Lam said. “It’s not a high-end vehicle we are targeting or a short-range city car.”
The new venture aims to sell 40,000 vehicles globally in its first year and 270,000 by 2012.
The cars will hit the market at a time when established carmakers, including Daimler, Renault/Nissan and Mitsubishi are preparing to launch electric vehicles, and electric car start-ups Tesla Motors and Think are battling financial and technological constraints to build viable businesses.
It is unclear how US consumers will warm to a car with “Detroit” in its brand name when General Motors and Chrysler are struggling to avoid bankruptcy.
Detroit Electric – named after a long-defunct US car brand launched in 1907 – was launched last year with $100m from investors headed by Mr Lam, a former chief executive of Lotus Engineering, an arm of the UK carmaker Proton owns.
The company is talking to “two to three major funding sources” about raising another $100m.
Mr Lam touted the benefits of Detroit Electric’s business model, based on building cars in Proton’s existing facilities, which meant it would not need to invest in infrastructure.
However, he acknowledged that the Detroit brand name “had mixed results” when the company invited prospective US dealers to test-drive its cars last year.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Scotland 'ahead of the game' on renewables

Paul Kelbie
The Observer, Sunday 29 March 2009

Plans to make Scotland 50% reliant on renewable energy sources are ahead of schedule, new figures released by the Scottish Parliament today suggest.
Current targets are to meet half the country's electricity demand from renewables by 2020 with an interim target of 31% by 2011.
"The government has determined 26 energy applications since May 2007, including consenting to 20 renewables projects, totalling more than 1.5 gigawatts," said a spokesman for First Minister Alex Salmond.
"As a result, we are well ahead of schedule in meeting our renewables energy targets. The consented projects, as well as those already operating, represent some 35% of Scotland's electricity needs.
"We are ahead of our targets on clean, green energy, which is great news for Scotland's economy. And we are making a contribution to tackling global warming, which is great news for the environment."

Fit every home with water meter by 2020, says Environment Agency

Climate change and population growth could lead to serious shortages without universal metering, warns chief executive

David Adam, environment correspondent, Monday 30 March 2009 00.05 BST

Every home in London and south-east England should be fitted with a water meter within six years, according to experts at the Environment Agency who say the move is needed to conserve dwindling water supplies.
The agency says water companies and the government must accelerate plans to roll out the meters, and wants one fitted to every home in England and Wales by 2020. Water-stressed areas such as the south-east should have them by 2015, it says.
Paul Leinster, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: "People and businesses need to use less water and wasting water needs to cost a lot more." He said climate change and population growth could lead to serious shortages. "There may not be enough water in England and Wales in the future for people and the environment unless we start planning and acting now. We need a joined-up approach to this problem to prevent it becoming a crisis."
The call for universal metering is included in a report published by the agency today which looks at the water situation over the coming decades. It calls for a review of the structure of the water industry, to allow water companies to better share supplies, and actions to reduce water consumption to help lower UK carbon emissions. Households with meters typically use at least 10% less water, the agency says.
It says water resources are already under pressure in many parts of the country, with some 25 million people living in areas with less available water per person than Spain and Morocco. The average Briton uses 148 litres each day.
Global warming is expected to lead to more frequent heavy downpours and greater risk of flooding, but overall the amount of water in rivers across England and Wales is predicted to drop 10 to 15% by 2050. The water level could decline 80% during the summer.
The agency report says a potential 20 million increase in the population will place "even greater pressure on the country's limited water supplies". By 2020, demand for water could rise by 5%, or 800m litres a day – enough to fill 4.6m bathtubs. It also warns that the impacts of climate change on the viability of growing crops and making goods in other countries could result in some of that activity moving to the UK, further increasing pressure on supplies.
To meet the rising demand the agency wants ministers to look again at how the water industry is regulated and structured. It says the current division along company boundaries makes little sense, and that neighbouring companies should be able to better share water resources. The agency calls for other sectors to follow the food industry in setting targets to reduce water use.
The report highlights the close relationship between water consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The transport, heating and treatment of water accounts for more than 6% of Britain's carbon footprint – more than the aviation industry. Water meters in every household would reduce use and save up to 1.6m tonnes of carbon pollution each year, the agency says.
Reduced demand for water would also help the wider environment by protecting wetland habitats and wildlife.
The Environment Agency says water efficient products and regulations for new buildings are needed too. It suggests VAT is removed or reduced on the most efficient appliances such as washing machines, to help steer consumer choice. And it wants better labelling to make clear which devices waste the most water.
The strategy report also calls for more stringent water efficiency standards for fixtures, fittings and appliances, as well as tighter standards for new buildings built in drought-prone regions.

America ‘can’t wave magic wand’ on climate change

The Times
March 30, 2009

Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter, Bonn

Expectations of what can be achieved by the United States in fighting global warming are unrealistic, climate change negotiators from more than 170 countries have been told.
Hopes raised by a new willingness in the White House to take action to control climate change must be balanced by a realisation that there are limits to what the US can do, they were told.
Todd Stern, President Obama’s special envoy on climate change, moved to play down hopes as the US joined UN talks on global warming in Bonn. These are designed to smooth the path to a summit in Copenhagen in December when it is hoped that international agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions can be reached.
“The US is going to be powerfully and fervently engaged in this process,” Mr Stern said shortly before the talks started. “That doesn’t mean that anyone should be thinking that the US can ride in on a white horse and make it work, because it can’t. What we can do is return to the table with energy and commitment, and commitment to science and pragmatism to getting a deal that will be doable. We are all going to have to do this together. We don’t have a magic wand.”

Under President Bush, the US was reluctant to join international efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but attitudes in the White House have altered dramatically since the inauguration of Mr Obama.
The Bonn talks are the first session of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change since Mr Obama took office, and expectations of US involvement have been high.
Such was the relief at the willingness of the US to act on climate change that its delegation was welcomed with applause by negotiators from other countries.
The clapping became even more enthusiastic when Mr Stern said: “We are glad to be back, we want to make up for lost time, and we are seized with the urgency of the task before us. The science is clear and the threat is real.
The facts are outstripping the worst-case scenarios. The costs of inaction or inadequate actions are unacceptable.”
However, hopes that the US would use the opening of the talks to announce measures to cut its own emissions were dashed. Michael Zammit Cutajar, one of the chief UN negotiators, said that in talks before the session it was intimated that Mr Obama’s Administration needed more time. “My understanding is they need some more time to get up to speed,” he said.
The talks in Bonn continue until April 8 and a second session will be held in June, by which time, he said, it should be clearer how much farther the US will go.
Despite the widespread welcome for the US involvement, there remain concerns that it will refuse to make deep enough cuts in emissions.
President Obama has already promised to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050. While most delegates and scientists agree that the long-term target of 80 per cent matches requirements, they believe that the US needs to do better on the 2020 target if there is to be even a 50-50 chance of limiting temperature rises to 2C (3.6F).

President Barack Obama must carry US opinion

The Times
March 30, 2009
Analysis: Lewis Smith

Playing down expectations of what the United States can do is a reality check after the optimism finally given vent by the end of the Bush Administration.
President Obama is still – just – in his honeymoon period but this masks a longstanding problem that has bedevilled hopes that the US will take a lead in combating climate change.
When President Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol it was thought that a breakthrough had been secured; such hopes were destroyed because he never dared present it to Congress.
For all the recent promises in the US to slash greenhouse gas emissions, there remains a strong rump of scepticism on Capitol Hill and in other parts of the country.

This week’s talks in Bonn are a preliminary to the main event in December when world leaders meet in Copenhagen to try to agree each country’s burden.
If the US team promises too much it will fail, once again, to take domestic opinion with it and the deal will founder.
Todd Stern is acutely aware of the dilemma that he faces. An agreement to take effective action on climate change is unlikely, yet, to garner sufficient support in the US for ratification, but too little action is likely to have catastrophic consequences for the environment and the global economy.
President Obama and his supporters are hopeful of winning enough support to drive through a Copenhagen deal, but they need time to do it. With time so short – it is less than nine months until the Copenhagen meeting – an atmosphere of fevered expectation can only cause delays, confusion and reduce the chances of success.

Report doubts extent of green stimulus

By Jim Pickard
Published: March 30 2009 00:31

The paucity of the government’s recent “green stimulus package” is laid bare on Monday by a report that suggests environmental measures make up only 0.6 per cent of Britain’s £20bn recovery plan.
The analysis will step up the pressure on Gordon Brown amid expectations that the prime minister wants to give next month’s Budget a green tinge.

Last week a Downing Street spokesman said the government was determined to make sure that any economic recovery was based on low-carbon principles. “It is very clear that we need to embed these low-carbon principles in actions that we take,” he said.
But Monday’s report, compiled by the New Economics Foundation on behalf of Greenpeace, suggests that only £100m of the stimulus package is genuinely new money for green measures.
This is equivalent to 0.008 per cent of British gross domestic product – or one hundredth of the 0.8 per cent requested by Lord Stern, the author of a landmark 2006 government-commissioned report on the economics of climate change.
It is also a fraction of the bonus pool of £775m paid to staff at Royal Bank of Scotland this financial year.
Furthermore, its impact would also be counteracted by other measures in the package – such as the building of 520 miles of road lanes.
The analysis is embarrassing for the government as it struggles to switch Britain’s energy production away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
Mr Brown said last month that 10 per cent of the British stimulus package was going towards “environmentally important technologies” and potential jobs in green industries; in line with President Barack Obama in the US.
In fact the specific green measures in the pre-Budget report were worth just £535m – about 2.5 per cent of the total – according to the NEF. Of this, the bulk consists of future spending commitments brought forward from the existing comprehensive spending review, such as £300m for new rail carriages.
The only additional spending is £105m for the government’s Warm Front programme, which gives grants to households to improve energy efficiency.
The government argues that its £2.3bn of aid to the car industry will – as well as save jobs – help make car production more “green”.
But the NEF points out that the programme’s criteria require only that car companies have to cut emissions; they do not have to specify a certain amount. “It is not made clear whether this criteria is merely desirable or a necessary condition in the context of the other criteria,” it says.
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said the report was proof that “Gordon Brown’s high-flying green rhetoric” had not translated into action.
Experts are divided as to how much of Mr Brown’s stimulus package is genuinely green. HSBC, for example, has estimated that the environmental measures account for a rather larger proportion: 7 per cent of the total.
Even so, the bank’s researchers have pointed out that this is still lower than the equivalent figure elsewhere: 12 per cent in the US, 80 per cent in South Korea and 13 per cent in Germany.
“The environmental content of the UK’s overall economic stimulus package is poor compared to many other countries,” said the NEF.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

U.S. to Host Forum on Climate Change


WASHINGTON -- The U.S. will host a meeting of major economies in April in an effort to lay the diplomatic foundation for an international agreement on climate change and energy later this year.
By convening a meeting of the world's largest greenhouse-gas emitters, President Barack Obama hopes to help create political momentum for an agreement to be signed at the United Nations climate-change negotiations in Copenhagen in December.
Although few international climate-change experts think a final accord will be signed at the Copenhagen talks, many expect that with U.S. leadership, the meeting will be able to forge a document of foundational principles for a post-Kyoto Protocol agreement. That international agreement, adopted in 1997, establishes legally binding commitments for participating nations to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions.
The meeting, to be held in Washington on April 27-28, will "advance the exploration of concrete initiatives and joint ventures that increase the supply of clean energy while cutting greenhouse-gas emissions," the White House said in a statement Saturday.
The leaders of 17 major economies, including the U.S., China and the U.K., are expected to discuss emission targets, technology funding, sectoral agreements, deforestation, trade tariffs and other issues that deal with cutting greenhouse gases without severely damping economic growth and creating an unsustainable international program. The preparatory sessions in Washington will culminate in a meeting in Italy in July.
Earlier this month, the president's proposed fiscal 2010 budget outlined emission-reduction targets of 14% below 2005 levels by 2020 and of 83% by 2050. While developing nations such as China are seeking more lenient targets—and there is general agreement among the Obama administration and European Union leaders that such nations should bear a lighter load in earlier years—some EU ministers are calling for much higher cuts for developed nations.
The U.S.'s top climate envoy said earlier this month that the U.S. target is politically realistic, and said such realism needs to be a theme in discussions.
U.S. officials said they think it is unlikely Congress will sign a climate bill into law before Copenhagen. But analysts said the White House is hoping to have something substantial to lay on the table that would give the U.S. negotiating leverage. One option would be to officially classify carbon dioxide as a danger to public health and welfare, which would trigger regulation of emissions across the economy. The Environmental Protection Agency took a step in that direction this month.
Write to Ian Talley at