Saturday, 4 April 2009

Seaweed set to take on Shell

Published Date: 04 April 2009
By john ross

A MULTI-million pound project aiming to use algae including seaweed to create fuel was launched yesterday.

Jim Mather, the energy minister, said the BioMara scheme, led by the Scottish Association for Marine Science near Oban, is an innovative project at the cutting edge of marine renewable energy technology.The Scots-Irish project was awarded £5 million of European funding last year and is also backed by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Crown Estate, Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government.Research partners include Strathclyde University; Queen's University, Belfast; Ulster University; Dundalk Institute of Technology and the Institute of Technology, Sligo.Mr Mather said: "Scotland has a fantastic competitive advantage in developing offshore renewables – with a quarter of Europe's tidal and offshore wind energy resource, a world class scientific capacity and skills base and the current financial downturn illustrates the importance of capitalising on these assets." Dr Michele Stanley, the project's lead scientist, said: "With global fossil fuel supplies dwindling and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels affecting climate change, there is an urgent need for new, renewable fuel sources with low net carbon emissions."Conventional biofuel crops compete for land and fresh water with farming and nature. What we need is fast-growing, easily utilised plants which thrive in environments not used for agriculture or conservation."Marine algae could be part of the solution. Seaweeds grow rapidly, harness carbon dioxide and have simple structures which make them easily converted to fuel."A spokeswoman for BioMara said: "Effectively, seaweed harvested off a beach in the Outer Isles could be heating a crofter's kettle for their cup of tea the next morning

City scientist helps 'clean coal' research

Published Date: 03 April 2009

THE dream of harnessing power from 'clean coal' could be on the horizon after a team of Edinburgh scientists uncovered underground gas chambers that have held natural CO2 gas for millions of years.
Scientists have been looking at ways to capture the harmful carbon dioxide gas emitted through the burning of coal and store it in underground chambers such as disused gas or oil fields.However, critics have warned that a breach in these chambers would lead to a large CO2 gas leak into the atmosphere, amplifying global warming.To analyse this risk, a team led by Stuart Gilfillan, of the Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage at the University of Edinburgh, has been studying the chemical signatures from gas fields in North America, China and Europe that are rich in natural CO2.They found that this gas could be stored indefinitely."We looked at nine CO2 fields, ranging from 10,000 years to about 42 million years old, and they have all stored CO2 for this length of time without obvious leakage signs," said Dr Gilfillan.He added: "Basically, if you store it in the right location, the CO2 should be contained on that sort of time scale

RBS dirty fuel protesters open up new front of attack

Bank's annual meeting targeted by protesters in pinafores, Marigolds, headscarves and a chimney sweep's tattered rags
Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent, Friday 3 April 2009 17.37 BST

They swept down on the neatly coiffed Royal Bank of Scotland shareholders wearing pinafores, Marigold gloves, headscarves and a chimney sweep's tattered rags, shovelling dusty piles of coal across the pavement underneath tiny carpets.
After months of public fury about the destruction of the bank's reputation and its shareholders' wealth, the 22 young climate change campaigners were today trying to open up a new front of attack on RBS: its long-standing and multi-billion pound investments in "dirty" fossil fuels.
They barked out choreographed chants as shareholders filed past into the bank's annual general meeting in Edinburgh - "clean up RBS: we don't want your climate mess"; "no more fossil fuels: give us green borrowing rules" and "RBS, don't be fools: stop extracting fossil fuels". Similarly dressed cleaners and "dodgy bankers" from the People & Planet group had also descended on Bishopsgate in London.
But this was far more civilised than Wednesday's riotous scenes in the City, where one RBS branch was besieged by scaffold-wielding protesters. In Edinburgh, the most threatening sight for shareholders was the bank of airport-style full-body and bag scanners inside the International Conference Centre entrance, and a rank of white-capped, black-jacketed security staff. Outside, the protesters played with brushes, dustpans and their piles of coal behind a crash barrier patrolled by two good humoured policemen.
"There's too much coal to sweep under the carpet," one protester quipped in a loud stage voice.
The slogan barked out to shareholders by Dan Abrahams, brandishing his loud hailer, seemed more first-year dissertation than barricade rallying cry.
He told shareholders: "We own 70% of RBS and we want this money invested, not in fossil fuels, but in public transport and fuel efficiency. You're putting our future at risk ... put regulations in place to make sure that they invest in things that we need to invest in to make the transition to a low carbon economy."
Abrahams did not seem to draw breath, but his demands were ignored by the shareholders - chiefly elderly and smartly dressed - who were preparing for their own personal battles. The one leaflet they did read was, suitably, printed on pink, from the RBS Shareholders Action Group. It urged their support for a legal challenge accusing RBS of misleading shareholders.
As one senior shareholder told its new chairman, Sir Philip Hampton, the institution was now "a dead bank on life-support", while the former chief executive, Sir Fred Goodwin, was a cheat. "He's a benefit scrounger on a massive scale," the unnamed stockholder told the AGM. "It has to be payback time."

Climate change the biggest loser of G20 summit, warn environmental groups

• G20 stimulus package has 'short-changed the planet'• Fears that greenhouse emissions will continue to rise

Julian Borger and Felicity Carus, Friday 3 April 2009 12.14 BST

G20 members gather for a group portrait. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
The $1.1 trillion stimulus package agreed by G20 leaders yesterday risks locking the world into a high-carbon economy in which greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, environmental groups have warned.
Campaigners agreed that the summit's biggest loser was the fight against climate change, despite a positive response from global financial markets to the announcement of financial aid. At the summit, prime minister Gordon Brown reiterated support for low-carbon economic growth and tackling climate change.
"In mobilising the world's economies to fight back against recession we are resolved to ... promote low-carbon growth and to create the green jobs on which our future prosperity depends," he said. "We are committed to ... working together to seek agreement on a post-2012 climate change regime at the UN conference in Copenhagen in December."
"Once again world leaders have short-changed people and the planet," said Friends of the Earth's executive director Andy Atkins. "The economic system and the global environment are on a devastating collision course – but despite pledging to build an inclusive, green and sustainable recovery little has been done to change direction."
British government officials lost the battle to include a commitment to spend a substantial share of the economic stimulus on low-carbon recovery projects. The economist Lord Nicholas Stern has recommended that 20% of fiscal stimulus spending should be on projects to address climate change.
The communique's comments on the low-carbon economy and climate change negotiations were limited to two paragraphs at the end, and made no specific commitments.
It said: "We agreed to make the best possible use of investment funded by fiscal stimulus programmes towards the goal of building a resilient, sustainable, and green recovery. We will make the transition towards clean, innovative, resource efficient, low-carbon technologies and infrastructure ... We reaffirm our commitment to address the threat of irreversible climate change, based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and to reach agreement at the UN Climate Change conference in Copenhagen in December 2009."
Britain's environment secretary, Ed Miliband, said that "the very fact that this was part of the discussions – and the commitment to Copenhagen is part of that too – is a sign of that much-needed commodity, momentum".
But the UN's top climate official called for action, not words. "It's always useful to reiterate the commitment; better to actually do it," said Yvo de Boer. He added: "This is a good example of the major economies of the world coming together and developing a common understanding."
Greenpeace's executive director, John Sauven, said: "Tacking climate change on to the end of the communique as an after thought does not demonstrate anything like the seriousness we needed to see. Hundreds of billions were found for the IMF and World Bank, but for making the transition to a green economy there is no money on the table, just vague aspirations, talks about talks and agreements to agree."
Diplomatic sources said China led the opposition to green language in the final text.
Mark Malloch Brown, the foreign office minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations, said there were fears, particularly among emerging economies, that environmental requirements might act as an impediment on trade and the speed of recovery.
"The buzzword 'low-carbon recovery' triggers fears of protectionism being introduced through the back door," said Lord Malloch Brown. The concern is that countries would impose import tarriffs on goods from nations with lower environmental standards. Brown said another problem was that negotiating officials often had narrow responsibilities – trade for example – and were reluctant to work outside of them. "They want to hold the line against what they see as mission creep," he said.
Officials stressed that the objective of the G20 summit was to agree to an economic strategy. But campaigners say that if tough measures to fight global warming are not agreed soon, the consequences will be far worse than the global financial crisis.
David Norman, the World Wildlife Fund's campaigns director, said:
"Any argument that climate change should be moved down the political agenda until the current economic crisis is addressed is incredibly shortsighted. Finance and the climate are inextricably linked, and if we don't address climate change now, we will certainly pay later."

Honda block books 'green' ad space in Saturday Guardian

Carmaker Honda invests in TV and press advertising to highlight eco-awareness campaign
Mark Sweney
Guardian Weekly, Friday 3 April 2009 07.06 BST

Honda has taken all the advertising space in the first 11 pages in Saturday's Guardian and an entire ad break on Channel 4 this weekend as part of its campaign to get more members of the public to be "do gooders" regarding the environment.
The car manufacturer is to launch a 2 min 10 sec animated ad, called "Do'er", which will take the entire first ad break during Channel 4's UK terrestrial TV premiere of Al Gore's polemical environment documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which is being broadcast on Saturday, 4 April, from 9.20pm.
Honda's "Do'er" commercial, which will be preceded by a special announcement on Channel 4 ahead of the ad break, is only planned to run once in the UK.
The "Do'er" ad is narrated by the distinctively voiced American author and broadcaster and Honda commercial regular, Garrison Keillor.
Honda will also be the only brand name seen in ad space in the first 11 pages of Saturday's Guardian with a print version of the "Do'er" campaign. A range of different press ad formats will be used, including a number that have never appeared in the Guardian before.
The "Do'er" animation and press campaign, made by ad agency Wieden & Kennedy London, attempts to raise awareness of the efforts Honda is making to try to be more eco-friendly. The campaign also offers tips to get consumers to make a difference, such as not revving engines and not stop-starting in jams, and will promote the launch of Honda's new hybrid car, the Insight, in the UK.
"None of this has been done before with a newspaper, as far as we know. We are incredibly pleased," said Ian Armstrong, the manager of customer communications at Honda UK. "We are at our best telling stories about what we have achieved or what we are looking to do in the future."
Honda will launch its main European TV and press campaign for the Insight, developed by Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam, on 14 April.
"The Inconvenient Truth is one of the most talked about films about the environment and we wanted a good story idea, Do'er, that could bring innovation into the [media] marketplace" said Armstrong.
He pointed to Honda's media tie-up with Channel 4 last year to launch the Accord, where a team of skydivers made a live TV ad spelling out the word Honda, as an example of how the car manufacturer has a track record of looking beyond "mainstream media ideas".
Honda is also launching an online challenge, called Grow It, where the public can log on to be assigned to look after five plants from a selection of 24.
The idea, said Armstrong, is that people monitor the progress of their plants through a web cam and, by answering a series of eco-themed questions, can see their crop get fed or watered and grow.
"Honda has always behaved against category," said Alex Conaway, the group account director at W&K. "This is even more important during the extreme conditions in which the car industry is currently operating in. The 'Do'er' film and the Guardian takeover is about telling stories about the brand and making people again feel an emotional attachment to Honda."
• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000.

Technology Is the Answer to Climate Change

Carbon caps or levies will throttle taxpayers.

Last summer, China and the developing world announced the price for their cooperation on a global-warming treaty: up to 1% of the developed world's gross domestic product. For the U.S., this would mean sending $140 billion a year to China, Iran, North Korea and Cuba, among other countries. This is in addition to the $28 billion we already distribute each year in foreign aid.
For a U.S. family of four, China's demand comes to nearly $1,900 in yearly taxes. And that's just the beginning.
The tenor of international climate negotiations has emboldened the Indian government to claim in a February filing with the United Nations that the West owes it billions of dollars in compensation for climate change. These payments, it said, should be mandatory and not "subject to decisions of developed country governments and legislatures."
A November 2008 study by the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change forecasts the international costs could be as much as $3 trillion by 2050 for developing nations to make the significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are necessary. The MIT report says that the U.S. share would total nearly $1 trillion of these "international financial transfers of unprecedented scale."
President Barack Obama recently unveiled a budget blueprint that called for a $646 billion climate tax through a carbon-trading system. Already, White House officials are saying this tax could be three times larger. That means a family of four could have to shell out nearly $45,000 in climate taxes during the coming decade.
For beleaguered U.S. taxpayers in a troubled economy, these numbers are disastrous.
The U.S. cannot reduce the growth of greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere without the developing nations cutting their emissions as well. A 2007 study by the Battelle Memorial Institute found that if China, India and the other developing countries keep growing at current rates, they will emit nearly three times as much carbon dioxide as will the developed countries by the end of this century. But will China and India join in the effort to reduce CO2 emissions?
During December's U.N. climate-change conference in Poznan, Poland, I asked delegates from both of these nations if they would agree to cut their emissions. Both said, unequivocally, "no."
The Poznan conference wasn't my first experience with the developing world's refusal to sign up for the West's global-warming agenda. I led the congressional delegation to the infamous Kyoto, Japan, negotiations in 1997, and the story then was the same as now. Without China and India, there can be no deal.
It's understandable why the developing nations are reluctant to cut emissions -- it means higher energy costs and reduced growth. China and India are more concerned with growing their economy, expanding access to electricity, and reducing poverty. I don't blame them.
U.S. policy makers should remember the nation's experience with the financial bailout before sending blank checks abroad. Lawmakers will find themselves at a loss to explain to taxpayers how the U.S. paid billions of dollars to China and India only to fund the very coal-fired power plants that are among the worst emitters of greenhouse gases. Giving away money with the hope that it will be spent properly is wishful thinking. China has requested 1% of the developed world's GDP, but will it agree on how to spend it?
This week, negotiators are meeting in Bonn, Germany, for the next round of climate talks. The direction of these talks must change from the current path that is promising high costs and few guarantees.
Yvo de Boer, the United Nations climate chief, said last month that the developed world needs "to set out how it will meet its fair share of financial obligations and shed some light on how it will mobilize those resources." Before we ask how we will "mobilize resources," policy makers should know how these resources will be spent.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told Congress on March 17 that researchers must make "breakthrough" technological advances if greenhouse-gas reduction goals are to be met. He is right. Global energy demands are going to rise. Development and implementation of new technologies are the only way to control emissions when they do.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions isn't about massive federal spending and transfers of wealth to the developing nations. It's about developing cost-effective technologies that reduce emissions. Federal policy should focus on encouraging these technologies, not meeting demands for additional foreign aid.
Mr. Sensenbrenner (R., Wisc.), is the ranking minority member of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.