Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Environmental Groups to Contest Shell's Oil Sands Projects

Two environmental groups say they will ask the Canadian government to halt Royal Dutch Shell PLC's planned expansion of production in the oil sands after they claim the energy giant reneged on environmental promises.
The groups says Shell agreed to take steps to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from two expansion projects and received government approval based on those pledges, but failed to meet them.
The groups plan to ask the federal government and Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board to revisit permits grants to expand production by the Shell-led Athabasca Oil Sands Project. Shell's Canadian affiliate owns 60% of the project, while Chevron Corp. and Marathon Oil Corp. each own 20%. The two projects being contested -- called Jackpine and the Muskeg River expansion -- would each add 100,000 barrels of daily oil production to existing facilities.
"They made a commitment in writing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from these two projects by approximately 900,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year," said Roland Lines, a spokesman with The Pembina Institute. "They have been telling us they are not going to follow through on that."
The Calgary-based Pembina Institute, an environmental think tank, is being joined by lawyers from Ecojustice, a Canadian group formerly called Sierra Legal Defence Fund.
Phil Vercoe, a spokesman for Shell Canada Ltd., declined to comment until the company saw details of the allegations. He said the Muskeg River expansion was scheduled to initiate production in 2010 or 2011, but the Jackpine project was delayed pending a reassessment of costs.
Canada's oil sands contain vast reserves of oil, second only to Saudi Arabia. But the oil is viscous and awash in sand and other impurities. Processing the sludge-like crude take enormous amount of effort and releases many more greenhouse gases than conventional crude production.
Write to Russell Gold at

Veolia climbs aboard to run HK tram group

By Justine Lau in Hong Kong
Published: April 7 2009 17:16

Veolia Transport of France agreed to buy half of Hong Kong’s tram system from Wharf, the local conglomerate, and to operate and manage the network, which has been running on the territory’s main island since 1904.
Veolia, part of Euronext-listed Veolia Environnement, said it spent “far less than €100m [$135m]” for the acquisition of Hong Kong Tramways, which is part of a strategic expansion in China. It won a contract to operate six bus networks last December in its first foray into the country.

The trams, known as the “ding ding” in Hong Kong, carry 240,000 passengers a day, and are popular among both locals and tourists because of their rich history and frequent services. The network, which charges a flat fare of HK$2 (26 US cents) per ride for adults, is especially popular among lower income groups – even though the trams stop every 250 metres.
Hong Kong Tramways, which runs the only fleet of double-deck tramcars in the world, is one of the city’s oldest public transportation systems, although it is not as long serving as the Star Ferry services, which started operations from Hong Kong island to Kowloon in 1880.
“The tram is a piece of heritage that we are fully aware of. We have no plans to change the current services,” said Bruno Charrage, managing director of Hong Kong Tramways. The company, which last raised fares 11 years ago, said it did not plan to increase prices.
Frankie Yick, a director of Wharf Transport, said the company planned to apply to build a new tourist line close to Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour on a piece of reclaimed land between the Central and Wanchai districts. It hopes to use six different kinds of trams, recalling the designs that have run on the network over the years.
Mr Yick said that Hong Kong Tramways earned HK$150m (US$19m) from fares and HK$50m from advertising last year, when it made “a small profit”.
Cyrille du Peloux, chief executive of Veolia, said the company was keen to invest in Hong Kong Tramways because of its interest in China and its belief in trams. Veolia has rail, road and ferry operations in 28 countries, including 17 tramway systems in 10 countries. It held talks with Wharf for more than two years.
“There is a trend to come back to tramway these days. Trams are environmental friendly,” said Mr du Peloux.
Hong Kong Tramways will be equally owned by Wharf and Veolia. The French company has an option to buy out its partner’s stake, but it declined to say when its rights would expire.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Hong Kong Streetcars Get a French Twist


HONG KONG -- Hong Kong's iconic streetcars are going under French management as Wharf Holdings Ltd. sells a half stake in the network to utility Veolia Environnement.
Hong Kong's tram system, known locally as the "ding ding" for the clanging bells on the streetcars, will be held in a 50-50 joint venture between Wharf Transport Investments Ltd. and Veolia Transport China Ltd., under the deal announced Tuesday.
Veolia will operate the trams and receive an option to buy Wharf's stake, Wharf Transport director Frankie Yick said at a news conference. He declined to provide financial details.
Hong Kong Tramways, dating to 1904, operates 163 tram cars on Hong Kong Island, transporting around 240,000 passengers daily.
Bruno Charrade, head of operations at Veolia Transport China, said the tram system might be expanded with a loop along a waterfront development between the Central and Wan Chai business districts.
Wharf also owns and operates the Star Ferry, Hong Kong's oldest ferry service linking Hong Kong Island with the Kowloon peninsula. Wharf plans to keep the ferry, Mr. Yick said.
Hong Kong's trams and the Star Ferry are popular attractions for tourists and are Hong Kong's least expensive form of transportation, with fares a fraction of the price of subway tickets. Hong Kong Tramways charges adults two Hong Kong dollars, about 25 U.S. cents, for single journeys. Mr. Yick said the tram is profitable but he didn't provide figures.
Write to Yvonne Lee at

Nuclear recycling plant costs £1.2 billion and still doesn't work

A nuclear recycling plant has incurred costs of more than £1.2 billion and is still not working properly, it has emerged.

By Jon SwaineLast Updated: 8:21AM BST 07 Apr 2009

The mixed-oxide (Mox) plant at Sellafield, which was approved by the Government despite concerns over its cost, was supposed to produce 120 tons of fuel a year and return a profit of £200 million in its lifetime.
However, figures released to Parliament by the Government show that it has produced just 6.3 tons of fuel in seven years and racked up £626 million of operating costs. It also cost £637 million in construction and commission costs.

The disclosure comes as a blow to the Government's plan to increase the use of nuclear technology in order to meet its target of reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent of its 1990 level by 2050.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change told The Independent the plant's performance was "clearly disappointing".
Michael Meacher, the Labour MP who attempted to block approval for the plant as Environment Secretary, told the newspaper: "This waste of taxpayers' money is unforgivable. The construction of the plant was resisted for years. But this was overridden by Tony Blair on the basis of assurances from the nuclear industry that the Mox plant would be cost-effective and a market for its fuel would develop.
"These claims have proved illusory. But even the most pessimistic judgement never predicted that the first decade of its operations would fritter away two-thirds of a billion pounds on generating no more than 4 per cent of its target production. There should be a public inquiry into this scandal and those responsible should be held to account."
Simon Hughes, the climate change spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: "The Mox plant at Sellafield has proved to be a costly white elephant and a black hole for taxpayers' money."

Energy Secretary Backs Clean-Coal Investments


WASHINGTON -- Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the U.S. should invest in technology to reduce the carbon produced by burning coal, but he said it will take at least eight years to be sure such systems work.
"It absolutely is worthwhile to invest in carbon capture and storage because we are not in a vacuum," Mr. Chu told reporters Tuesday following an appearance at an Energy Information Administration conference. "Even if the United States or Europe turns its back on coal, India and China will not," he said. Mr. Chu added that "quite frankly I doubt if the United States will turn its back on coal. We are generating over 50% of our electrical energy from coal."
As for so-called clean-coal technology, Mr. Chu said "it would take probably a minimum of eight years or more to really have confidence that these technologies will work in a cost-effective way." As a result, "energy efficiency, energy conservation are where the greatest gains will be."
Coal-producing states are lobbying the Obama administration to keep coal -- abundant and cheap -- a part of the country's energy mix. Coal backers have looked to clean-coal technology, which aims to store emissions from coal-burning power plants underground. If the U.S. aims to transition away from coal, a question is whether such technology is worth the investment.
Last week, Baard Energy, which is developing a project to create fuel from a coal and biomass mixture, withdrew from the Energy Department's loan-guarantee program after disclosing that the government said it would consider environmental lawsuits when conducting risk evaluation of a project.
Mr. Chu said he didn't want to comment on "any specific proposal." He said that the Energy Department was "thinking of investment in" research projects that gasified biomass to separate out the carbon dioxide.
"When you gasify it, you can capture the carbon and sequestrate the carbon -- that actually becomes a net sink of carbon, meaning that as the plant grows, it takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere," Mr. Chu said. "I would be very enthusiastic about anything that goes in that direction."
Mr. Chu said a proposal by oil and wind magnate T. Boone Pickens to use natural gas as a transportation fuel was "a possibility," then declared himself "agnostic" about it, before finally emphasizing the virtues of making more fuel-efficient cars and turning to biomass-based transportation fuels. Mr. Chu said that using natural gas as a transportation fuel "will put a strain on natural gas for industrial uses, for heating, and other things," concluding that it was "a complicated issue."
Congress is circulating a proposal to impose mandatory reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions by requiring companies to hold allowances for each ton of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. Some companies have been calling for some allowances to be handed out for free.
"It's the president's position that he would like all the permits to be auctioned," Mr. Chu said. "We'll see how that plays out, but that's the president's position."
Write to Siobhan Hughes at

Jute master's crunch-busting new business is in the bag

Published Date: 08 April 2009

JUTE is part of Simon Pritchard's very fibre. As the fourth generation of a Dundee jute dynasty, Pritch-ard is at the heart of a renaissance for the material, as shoppers turn away from plastic bags and opt instead for more durable wares.
The Natural Bag Company – the business that Pritchard set up to sell his wares – already counts Diageo, Proctor & Gamble and Robert Wiseman Dairies among is growing list of more than 800 customers.As well as shops and businesses, local authorities, schools and tourists attractions are snapping up the bags. Turnover rose five-fold last year to £250,000, with businesses as far afield as Cornwall using Pritchard's services.While he admits to scaling back his expansion plans during the recession, Pritchard is already seeing reasons for optimism: he reported a noticeable downturn in business during the winter but activity picked up in March, with sales ahead of the same month last year."I think at the end of last year, when there was all the bad news about the banks, people put their buying on hold for a while to wait and see what happened," Pritchard says. "Having spoken to people in lots of different industries, I think that was true for a lot of businesses. January seemed to be a quiet month for everybody. But we've seen things pick up very quickly."We're focusing on our core business and have put expansion plans on hold for just now. But if things carry on the way they have been for the past six weeks or so then we'll definitely be thinking again of expanding by the end of the year."One of the other challenges faced by Pritchard has been the weak pound."It's made it more difficult for us," he admits. "Bag prices have gone up by about 10 per cent in the past few months due to the exchange rates, which has definitely had an effect."While costs may be going up, Pritchard is still confident in his supply of bags. He says: "The suppliers we deal with are among the most reputable – smaller suppliers come and go but having good quality suppliers has always been important to us."When J Mackenzie Stewart, Pritchard's great-grandfather, set up his eponymous Jute company in 1911, he was importing the raw material from India to feed the relentless appetite of Dundee's jute mills.His sons took over the business in the 1930s and began importing the finished jute clothes and yarns instead."A lot of the yarns were going to the carpet manufacturers," explains Pritchard. "Latterly the market for all these products has declined so I decided it was time to change tack. It's nice to know that the tradition can be kept going."The change of direction seems to be paying dividends for Pritchard, who also lists Scone Palace, Sandringham Estate and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre among his clients.Pritchard thinks one of the secrets to his success is that he can handle smaller orders."We bring in a lot of plain bags and then have them printed here in Scotland and so can turn round orders much faster than other people and also take smaller orders," he explains. "Most factories in India will only handle large orders and so wouldn't be interested in just doing 100 bags, whereas we will do small batches, which is good for small shops or schools."But with recession gripping the economy, what is the outlook for Pritchard's jute bags?"Plastic bags are going to continue to decline," Pritchard says. "Most people seem to be taking bags with them to the shops and jute bags are now probably the most common reusable bag . If people are being charged 5p a time for plastic bags in the supermarket then that's 5p they don't need to spend if money's tight."TOP TIPSFocus on what you do bestDon't try to spread yourself too thin to pick up pieces of business here and there. If you've got limited resources, like many small companies do, concentrate on what you do best.Look after the moneyKeep costs and cash flow under control. It is increasingly difficult because debtors are trying to hold on to their money for as long as possible. Mind the qualityDon't try to save money by cutting quality. It's an easy thing to do but when the recession's over customers will remember if you've been cutting the quality.

Latest green transport fuel could really grow on trees

Published Date: 08 April 2009
By Angus Howarth

WILLOW trees grown in Scotland could provide the transport fuel of the future, according to the latest scientific research.
Dr Angela Karp from Rothamsted Research will give a talk at the Edinburgh International Science Festival today to describe research that shows how sugar can be removed from willow stems and converted into ethanol. She believes it could be used as biofuel in cars in five to ten years' time.Dr Karp will tell an audience at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh the biofuel would be far more environmentally friendly than that created from plants grown in areas where swathes of rainforest have been chopped down – such as palm oil plantations. Willow grows well in cold climates, making it perfect for Scotland. It can be harvested every three years, and could be grown on surplus farmers' fields, bringing new income to the agricultural sector. Willow is also useful for burning to provide heat and electricity, particularly in small-scale plants such as for a school or hotel.Dr Karp said: "These crops would be providing an income, but also helping to bring down carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases."She added: "We can make the fuel now. It's just a question of whether we can do this at a scale that's commercially viable and economic."I think it could happen within five to ten years."She added that it would continue the long history of using willow in the UK. It was widely used in both world wars, for baskets to carry artillery or to parachute supplies to troops.

UK hopes Europe can save offshore wind farm

The Times
April 8, 2009
Robin Pagnamenta, Energy and Environment Editor

Government plans to make Britain a global leader in green energy are set to be rescued by the European taxpayer.
The Times has learnt that the European Investment Bank (EIB) is in talks with developers about a financial rescue package for the £3 billion London Array scheme, which is located in the Thames Estuary. Planned to be the world’s largest offshore wind farm, it is a project that has strong personal backing from the Prime Minister.
Gordon Brown wants part of the renewable energy scheme finished before the 2012 Olympics.
The UK desperately needs London Array to fulfil its ambitious target of generating 35 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Pleas for cash to the EIB, the long-term lending bank of the European Union, are a last-ditch attempt to save the project, which has suffered from a number of high-profile companies pulling out and fears over its funding.
The developers have limited the amount they are prepared to fund and, as a result of the credit crunch, banks are reluctant to lend on such large projects.
Even the entry of the EIB may not safeguard the future of the plan to build up to 341 giant offshore windmills generating sufficient electricity to power 750,000 homes.
A spokeswoman for the EIB declined to comment on specific projects but confirmed: “We are committed to funding offshore wind projects in the UK and are currently in discussions with a number of project promoters.”
The London Array project has been struggling since last May when Shell, the oil company, withdrew its support, citing spiralling costs.
Its two other backers, E.ON, the German power group, and Dong Energy, a Danish company, have pressed ahead. Last October it was announced that Masdar, a $15 billion (£10 billion) renewable energy fund controlled by the Government of Abu Dhabi, was acquiring Shell’s former stake.
The EIB, founded in 1958, has helped to finance many of Europe’s big postwar infrastructure projects. One of its core aims is to support sustainable development and it has recently committed to investing at least €800 million (£720 million) a year in renewable energy.
The bank has already funded a string of solar energy projects in Spain and France, as well as Greater Gabbard, another UK offshore wind project, to be built off the Suffolk coast.
The involvement of the EIB, with a capital base of €232 billion, will be welcomed by the UK Government and by the renewable energy industry, which is still reeling from the impact of the credit crunch and the collapse in the price of oil and carbon emissions.
While the EIB is not permitted to lend more than half the total cost of the project, its provisional offer of funding, which could still be withdrawn, is thought to run into several hundred million euros.
A final decision on London Array, which was first mooted in 2001, is expected this summer.
Paul Golby, the chief executive of E.ON UK, told The Times that the plunging value of the pound had also undermined the economics of the London Array project by forcing up the price of imported turbine equipment by more than 20 per cent.
A string of companies have cut their investments in the sector in recent months, including Shell and BP.
Iberdrola Renovables, the Spanish company that is the world’s largest wind farm developer, announced recently that it was slashing its investment programme in renewable energy from €3.8 billion in 2008 to €2 billion in 2009.Green power35%-40% the amount of electricity generation the UK is committed to supplying from renewable energy by 2020 1% the level of electricity supplied by the UK’s wind turbines in 2007 £100bn Estimated cost of building renewable energy schemes necessary to meet 2020 targets 53% Fall in global investment in clean energy between March 2008 and the same month this year

Car industry budget boost: pros and cons

Looking at this issue from the environmental, political and economic points of view
Nick Watt, David Adam and Heather Stewart
The Guardian, Tuesday 7 April 2009

The green argument
Will scrapping older cars and encouraging people to buy a new replacement help the environment? It can sound a seductive idea, but the picture is mixed.
It is certainly true that newer cars are, on average, cleaner than older models. More efficient engines and other changes have helped to reduce average carbon emissions by 17% since 1997. The claimed environmental benefits of a scrappage scheme demand that drivers replace like-for-like, and do not take the opportunity to buy a bigger and more powerful model.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders says motorists who take advantage of the scheme would probably go for greener cars. Encouraged by a similar cash-for-scrap initiative in Germany, 80% of buyers opted to spend less than £10,000, which is at the smaller, less polluting end of the scale. The society believes a similar picture would emerge in Britain. "The majority of people with cars over nine years old are not likely to buy something for more than £10,000. They won't have the budget," a spokesperson says.
Mile for mile, new cars may be less polluting, but what about the carbon emissions produced in their manufacture? The SMMT quotes reports that show pollution produced in making a car contributes 5% of its overall carbon emissions; critics argue the figure is closer to 25% and some suggest that the greenest moment to get rid of a car is when it reaches 18 years old.
Whichever is true, eco-friendly drivers with a new car face a paradox: the per-mile carbon savings turn into a genuine environmental benefit only after the car has been driven for tens of thousands of carbon-heavy miles.David Adam
The political argument
The "scrappage" scheme offers political attractions for Lord Mandelson because it acts as quick and simple stimulus for a beleaguered industry. There is also the benefit for the government of subsidising new cars for consumers who are being hit by the recession.
Mandelson could also argue that the scheme, in which motorists would only receive help if they buy fuel efficient cars, would help promote a vital new green sector of the economy. Mandelson repeatedly says that Britain will only navigate its way out of the recession if it develops new green sectors.
Other advantages are:
• The number of safer cars on the road would be increased because new cars incorporate the latest developments on safety.
• The German scheme is almost self-financing because it is expected to boost VAT yields by €1.3bn (£1.18bn). This is only €200,000 short of the gross cost to the German government.
But no decisions have been made in Britain. The Treasury fears that the scheme would end up subsidising manufacturers outside Britain. Most new cars bought in Britain are imported. The car industry says there would be a boost for British manufacturers who make car parts in Britain.
Other drawbacks include:
• The scheme has a short shelf life because old cars are scrapped. There would be little stimulus for the secondhand market.
• British car manufacturers tend to make bigger cars. These will be more fuel efficient than older cars but the government may be wary of encouraging an increase in bigger cars.
David Cameron told the Guardian in January that the Tories were looking at the idea but he has yet to be convinced.Nick Watt
The economic argument
Car scrappage schemes have a simple logic: the government uses a subsidy to tempt drivers to trade in their clapped-out cars for a new, preferably greener, model and Britain's silent garage forecourts spring to life, helping to safeguard thousands of jobs.
However, the practical implications are much less simple. One of the problems is that part of the benefit may "leak" abroad. This looks highly likely in the car market: the SMMT's latest figures show that 78% of the cars produced here in February were destined for foreign markets, and 22% for home consumption; the proportions have hovered around that level for a couple of years. So kick-starting demand at home will not necessarily help British car workers; though, of course, it could help the staff who distribute and sell vehicles.
Secondly, there is what economists call "deadweight loss". This is the risk that much of the benefit will go to those who were going to buy a car anyway.
Thirdly, it's not clear that an additional discount would necessarily help boost demand. Many manufacturers already offer hefty price cuts on new models, but it doesn't appear to have tempted buyers on to the forecourts.
Finally, there is the much broader question of whether the government should be trying to skew consumer spending to particular sectors of the economy, when it could simply give the lowest-paid workers tax handouts, and let them spend the extra money on whatever they choose.Heather Stewart

£1.8m to power up use of green cars

Published Date: 08 April 2009

MORE than £1.8 million has been pumped into a trial of electric vehicles in Glasgow.
The Technology Strategy Board – part of the UK government's Department for Business – awarded the grant to a consortium led by Glasgow-based Allied Vehicles. The group includes Dundee-based battery maker Axeon, Glasgow City Council, ScottishPower, Strathclyde University and Scottish Enterprise. Under the project, 30 Peugeot 207s and ten Peugeot Eurobuses will be powered by batteries and used by public organisations in Glasgow.

Sean O'Grady: Only time can dispel the charges against electric cars

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Anyone watching a late 1980s movie nowadays is reduced to giggles when they spot someone using a "mobile" phone the size of a cornflakes packet. Perhaps in 15 years' time we will look back at today's electric vehicles with the same bemused nostalgia. Mobile phones have come an astonishing distance in two decades and the same will happen with the electric car. Mainstream companies such as General Motors, Renault-Nissan and BMW are investing in it. It is the greenest way to get around – especially if the electricity is from renewables.

Right now, however, an electric car is not a promising proposition as sole family transport. They are too small, slow (50mph tops)and expensive. Most have a range of about 40 miles. At £8,000 for the best-selling G-Wiz they make sense thanks to very low running costs, tax breaks and exemption from the London congestion charge. For £90,000 you can have a Tesla electric roadster with a range of 220 miles and acceleration to leave a Lamborghini for dead.
What will the electric car of five, 10, 15 years be like? The Chevrolet Volt, probably. If General Motors survives, this "proper" car will be on sale in 2011. Today's "hybrids", such as the Toyota Prius, allow the internal combustion engine to do most of the work. The Volt and its GM cousin the Vauxhall Ampera rely mostly on electric motors to move them and look presentable.
The Volt has a modest range – 40 miles. Less space but more range can be found in the Mini E, now on trial. It only has two seats but it's fairly normal: 0 to 62 mph in 8.5 seconds and a range of 150miles. It has a top speed of 95mph.
For the foreseeable future the electric car will force you to make compromises but they are becoming less onerous. It has taken a couple of decades to make the mobile phone mobile. Like driving a G-Wiz, you have to be patient.

Brown's electric dream for Britain

Exclusive: PM reveals plans to create first 'green' cities geared towards electric cars in drive to create 400,000 new jobs
By Andrew Grice, Political Editor
Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Gordon Brown has promised an environmentally friendly Budget later this month to kick start a "green recovery" – including the mass introduction of electric cars on Britain's roads.

In an exclusive interview with The Independent, the Prime Minister trailed measures to make Britain "a world leader" in producing and exporting electric cars, hybrid petrol-electric vehicles and lighter cars using less petrol. Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, will announce in his Budget that trials for electric cars in two or three cities will begin next year. Councils will be invited to bid to become Britain's first "green cities". The Government will open talks with power companies to ensure the vehicles can have their batteries recharged at a national network of power points at the roadside.
Mr Darling will also set a target of creating 400,000 jobs in "green industries" over the next five years.
Other green measures to be outlined by the Government shortly include relaxing planning rules to allow the building of more wind farms to ensure Britain hits its target to generate 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. "Smart meters" will eventually be installed in every home so people can see how much energy they use. Ministers also want to develop a "clean coal" industry by approving an experiment with carbon capture and storage.
In his first newspaper interview since last week's G20 summit, Mr Brown kept open the option of a limited further fiscal stimulus in the Budget. But with public borrowing in the current financial year likely to rise from the forecast £118bn to around £150bn, he hinted that the Chancellor might have to announce more tax rises for the medium term to balance the nation's books.
"It is not just what we do to give real help now, but about setting a path for the future as well. We always take into account what we need and what is best future for the fiscal position," he said.
Pledging a raft of measures to ensure Britain emerges from the recession as a "low carbon" economy, the Prime Minister said the country could increase its output of environmental goods and services by 50 per cent to £1.5bn in the next few years.
"This is a major part of our plan for recovery in the Budget," he said. He added that the Government would provide incentives to help the car industry become a market leader across the world for electric and hybrid cars. Yesterday, the plans received a boost when the European Investment Bank approved a £340m loan to Jaguar Land Rover to develop "green" vehicles, with a further £373m to be split between Nissan's plants in Sunderland and Spain.
Mr Brown said he would consider buying a fleet of electric cars for ministers to set an example. To help Britain's struggling car industry, he said the Government was considering a "scrappage" scheme under which motorists would get up to £2,000 for trading in a polluting older car for a cleaner new vehicle.
"A different type of economy will emerge in the recovery – if we are prepared to invest in the future," he said. "Britain has a very strong and successful future ahead of us. We are leading in a number of key sectors."
The jobs of the future would come from a "green revolution" and an expansion in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, health care, education, the creative industries, information technology, bioscience and advanced manufacturing. Despite fears of a much smaller financial sector, he insisted that London would still be "one of the most attractive places to do business from".
Mr Brown said the push would enjoy widespread public support. "This is a job creator, a quality of life improver and an environment-enhancing measure," he said. "We want to harness a desire among people to be part of this. A better Britain means building a greener Britain."
Mr Brown struck an upbeat note about the United Nations-led talks on a new climate change treaty, to be held in Copenhagen in December. Despite fears that President Obama might not be ready to sign up by then, Mr Brown insisted: "He is determined to move the environmental agenda forward."
He added: "We have been brought down by a global banking crisis. We in Britain are capable and well placed – with our natural strength and our enterprising past and present, to be able to meet all these challenges in the future."

GM: Goodbye Hummer? Hello electric scooter

Ailing car multinational General Motors tries to green itself by collaborating with Segway and dumping Hummer
Daniel Nasaw in Washington, Tuesday 7 April 2009 18.24 BST

General Motors and Segway unveiled a prototype two-seat electric scooter today, intended to ease urban congestion and pollution and help GM recast itself as environmentally progressive and technologically innovative.
The vehicle, named Puma (for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility), is the product of an unlikely collaboration between an ailing American industrial behemoth known for manufacturing gas-guzzlers and a privately held company founded on technological wizardry.
The companies have no plans as yet to mass produce the vehicle and offer it for sale, instead characterising today's announcement as a demonstration of technology.
"It's a directional statement that we're making ... an urban transportation we need to reinvent how we move people around in cities and towns," Segway president and chief executive officer, Jim Norrod, said in an interview.
The announcement comes eight days after President Barack Obama challenged General Motors and Chrysler to "restructure, to modernise, and to make themselves more competitive". At the same time, Obama fired GM's chairman and chief executive, Rick Wagoner, who had failed to stem a long-term decline in the company's US sales and whom Obama said lacked vision to take the company forward.
General Motors has already received $15bn (£10bn) in bailout loans from the taxpayer, and Obama demanded last week that the company devise a radical restructuring plan if it hopes to receive more funds. General Motors and Segway began talks on the project 18 months ago, before the taxpayer bailout, but the company was keen today to promote the Puma as a symbol of the company's break from tradition.
"Imagine small, nimble electric vehicles that know where other moving objects are and avoid running into them," said GM's vice-president of research and development, Larry Burns. Meanwhile, the company has signalled that it may jettison its Hummer brand, the massive, much-loathed military-style vehicles.
The new vehicle can hit a top speed of about 35 miles an hour and its lithium-ion battery system gives it a range of 35 miles, the company said. A full recharge for the vehicle takes between eight and 10 hours, but uses only 40 pence worth of power.
"We think 35 miles in a city is pretty reasonable to do in a day," Norrod said. "Then you get back and you charge it overnight, and we think that's sufficient."
The company has not tested the vehicle in poor weather or on terrain rougher than pavements. The company said in a statement that it had "no current plans to offer it for sale" and did not suggest a price range but added that "it's probably less than most current small car prices".
Norrod said mass production would depend on whether cities created the necessary infrastructure – "bike lanes could be a good start," he said. He said London, Paris, Abu Dhabi and Singapore would be likely candidates for the vehicle, as would Indianapolis, Atlanta and Washington in the United States.
The vehicle rides on two side-by-side wheels, but like the $5,000 stand-up Segway on the market since 2002, the Puma stabilises and balances itself. It boasts a zero turning-radius, making it easy to squeeze into tight parking spots.
The vehicle's appearance, which resembles a double-width wheelchair with a windscreen canopy, drew sniggers on its first outing.
"How would you imagine a guy picking you up at your place in that thing?" a CNN anchorman, TJ Holmes, asked a woman colleague, with a chuckle.

Segway and GM launch Puma joint venture

By John Reed in London
Published: April 7 2009 20:33

General Motors and Segway on Tuesday unveiled a tiny two-wheeled, two-seat electric car designed to drive on its own and automatically avoid collisions.
The troubled Detroit carmaker said that unlike the upright Segways now in use, the vehicle would be enclosed from the elements, carry two or more passengers and have a top speed of 35 miles an hour.

Neither GM nor Segway gave any prices or dates when production might start for the vehicle, dubbed Puma – Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility – as they showed a prototype in New York.
The prototype runs on a lithium-ion battery and has a driving range of 35 miles on one charge.
Segway said it had begun informal talks with city planners “from Paris to Singapore” about taking part in tests to see how the vehicle would work in urban environments.
GM, which is investing in advanced technologies such as vehicle-to-vehicle communications in spite of its financial problems, said the car “could change the way we move about in cities”.
Asked about the practicality of Puma, GM said: “Not everybody in the world will be driving these things, but it certainly has applicability for cities, college campuses, and things of that ilk.”
The carmaker will provide the technology that will enable Puma to negotiate traffic and park without hitting other vehicles.
Makers of pint-sized electric vehicles have a history of making grand promises to revolutionise transport but then struggling to clear regulatory and practical hurdles, preventing them from winning mass acceptance.
In Britain, the Sinclair C5, a three-wheel battery-powered vehicle created by Sir Clive Sinclair and launched in 1985, failed because of safety concerns and other practical issues. The company producing it was put into receivership the same year.
Segway has sold about 50,000 of its two-wheel scooters since launching them in 2002. Some countries ban their use on public roads. They are commonly used in places such as theme parks and military bases, and by police.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009