Thursday, 16 April 2009

Coral reef study raises 'catastrophe' fears

Published Date: 16 April 2009
By John von Radowitz

A WARNING that the world could be heading for a "catastrophic" rise in sea level has emerged from a study of ancient coral reefs.
The findings indicate what might happen if the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets continue to melt at the present rate. They suggest a sudden and major rise in sea level could occur by 2100, with grave consequences for low-lying communities.Currently, the world is in an interglacial period – a period of relative warmth between ice ages – called the Holocene.To get an idea of the effects of a warming world, scientists have looked back at the last interglacial period, between 110,000 and 127,000 years ago.Although it is known that sea levels rose during this period, the speed of the change has been less clear.The new research, led by Dr Paul Blanchon, of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Cancun, focused on two fossilised coral reefs at Xcaret on the Yucat√°n peninsula.A low-lying reef was killed off by an abrupt jump in sea level which occurred about 121,000 years ago, the evidence showed. It was replaced by another reef built on higher ground.Corals are famously sensitive to environmental conditions determined by depth, temperature and salinity. If sea levels rise more quickly than their slow growth can deal with, they die.The rise in sea level that killed the coral must have happened at a rate faster than 36mm per year, the findings reported in the journal Nature showed.

We are six years away from an energy crisis

The Times
April 16, 2009
Protesters may object to new power stations, but we need vast investment right now to prevent a precarious, volatile future
Dieter Helm

The good news for Britain's energy supply is that the sheer scale of the recession has cut our electricity demand and carbon emissions. An impending energy security crunch has been postponed.
The bad news is that the recession will almost certainly delay investment in Britain's energy infrastructure and encourage complacency.
Energy security is no longer something that we can take for granted. This week more than 100 people were arrested in Nottingham over a suspected plan to disrupt a nearby power station. Will there will be more disruptions at other coal-fired power stations or against new nuclear developments now that we know more about where they will be sited?
Russia's interruptions of its gas supplies to Europe for three weeks in January was another warning, as well as performance failures at our existing nuclear power stations. These may be isolated instances, but our vulnerability to such events indicates that all may not be entirely well with our energy systems.

For the past two decades we have had ample reserves to absorb the shocks: now the margins are beginning to wear thin. Many of the existing power stations were built in the 1970s or earlier. All the coal-fired stations are more than 30 years old, as are most of the nuclear ones. They are all coming to the end of their lives and their reliability is inevitably beginning to suffer. Although significant numbers of gas power stations have been added, North Sea gas and oil supplies have been depleted at breakneck speed. After decades as an energy exporter, Britain now relies increasingly on imports of gas and coal.
Fast-forward to 2015 and the energy position could be precarious. By then the remaining coal power stations will be facing closure because of the pollution control requirements of the EU directive on large combustion plants. By then all except one of the existing nuclear stations will also be closed or facing closure. Having to replace so much coal and nuclear capacity in such a short period is unprecedented - except perhaps in wartime.
And at the same time because of the EU Renewables Directive the Government has committed itself to a crash programme to increase wind's share of electricity generation from the current 5 per cent to perhaps 35 per cent by 2020. But not only will wind power do little to combat global climate change (the big issue is the projected increases in coal burn in China, India and developing countries), it is also expensive and may even reduce the security of supply. It is uncertain too. Few think that wind supply on this scale will be achieved - though, unsurprisingly, few politicians will admit this in public.
The security problem arises because wind is intermittent. When it does not blow, back-up capacity is needed; and when it does blow, it reduces the profitability of power stations whose alternative energy supplies it displaces.
If current capacity were around 70GWs, by 2020 even if demand stayed the same we might need as much as 90-100GWs of capacity to meet peak demand. So not only do we need to replace at least 30GWs of existing power stations, but we also need to add another big tranche of capacity to support the vagaries of wind power. Wind power is largely additional to the existing system: it does not replace the capacity that is being closed.
The economic effects on non-wind energy investment are more subtle but no less serious. The economics of nuclear power stations dictate that they need to run all the time. Turning them on and off is expensive - it's not like turning a car engine on and off. So once the wind turbines are built, if the wind blows and they displace everything else, they could possibly ration nuclear off the system. Wind and nuclear are not easy bedfellows - as potential investors in nuclear power will be keenly aware.
What will fill the gap and at the same time back up the intermittent wind? The answer appears to be gas, gas and more gas. We will be lucky if even a single new nuclear station comes on stream by 2020. The carbon emissions from new coal stations will need to be sequestrated underground, and that technology is not likely to be commercially available until well after 2020. So before 2020 it would have to be “unabated” coal - which sits uncomfortably with the climate change objectives.
The chances of enough gas stations being built on time are not looking good, so the gas will have to be imported, and at a time when across Europe everyone is dashing for gas too. The Russians are not increasing investment in new gas resources and doubts remain about their ability to meet Europe's demand. Liquefied natural gas will be used to plug this gap, but the sources of supply are quite limited and again lots of other countries (especially the US and Japan) will want it too.
The scale of the investment required to plug the energy gap while pursuing renewables is enormous. The cost of building not only power stations, but also new transmission networks and gas storage facilities, fitting smart meters, developing an offshore wind industry and implementing energy efficiency measures will run to tens of billions, possibly more than £100billion in the next decade. Though the recession has brought a breathing space on the demand side of the equation, it has markedly worsened investment on the supply side. The credit crisis has made it harder and more expensive to finance investment; just when the investment is needed, finance has dried up.
Time is now very short in energy terms. Investment does not fit into neat electoral cycles. With about five years to go if the economy recovers, there are still things that can be done. Our energy policy was designed for the years of energy surpluses and North Sea gas. It is still focused on keeping costs down and sweating assets. What is needed is a radical rethink, with investment the priority. It will take a national effort to prevent a serious crisis in the middle of the next decade.
Without such a redesign, if there is a rapid economic recovery, things could get nasty quite quickly. As energy systems operate closer to the margin, small shocks have large consequences. Today a few demonstrators cannot make any serious impact, and even a prolonged interruption in Russian gas supply can be withstood. But as margins tighten, prices respond disproportionately. Britain has probably already committed itself to higher and more volatile prices.
This matters not only for customers - though they are likely to be paying a lot more. The rest of the economy depends on energy supply. Have a bit too much and we pay a small premium. Have too little and we pay a lot. These costs are the real burden on the economy and they are felt long before any physical interruption in supply. We should worry less about the lights going out and more about the costs to the economy of running our energy system on the edge.
Unless reform is quick, the best hope for Britain's energy supply from a security perspective is that the economy does not recover quickly - a long hard Japanese-style recession would keep demand (and carbon emissions) low. But that's hardly a sound energy policy.
Dieter Helm is Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of New College.

Climate change research: Weather hampers Arctic mission

Abigail Edge
The Guardian, Thursday 16 April 2009

Extreme weather is hampering attempts by a team of three British explorers to examine the effects of climate change on Arctic sea ice around the north pole.
The Catlin Arctic Survey mission, led by Pen Hadow, is travelling about 600 miles on foot to the pole, and set off on 2 March. Despite rigorous testing before the expedition, a pioneering radar system designed to establish ice thickness without drilling and an onboard sledge computer kit have both been disabled by brutally cold temperatures. A fault has prevented the use of a probe which measures the water beneath the floating sea ice, and there have been problems with equipment to monitor the health of the explorers remotely from London.
Simon Harris-Ward, the survey's director of operations, said: "The extreme weather, even by Arctic standards, has affected much of the team's standard kit. They've had breakages to equipment such as stoves and skis because of the harsh conditions."
Typical daily temperatures are still as low as -40C, with wind chill making it feel still colder. But despite equipment failures, the team have continued their work using more traditional survey methods.
Hadow said finding "first-year ice" in this part of the ocean had been unexpected. It pointed to a smaller summer ice covering around the north pole this year. In 2007 alone, the Arctic sea ice lost an area nearly the size of Alaska. The US national snow and ice data centre calculates the sea ice is receding by 11.7% a decade.
The survey is supported by the UN environment programme, the Prince of Wales, and conservation charity WWF.

The emissions reductions gospel is failing – we need something more


NGOs who oppose geo-engineering are running the risk of climatic catastrophe

Peter Read
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 15 April 2009 14.41 BST

Planting trees for a carbon offset project in Kenya. Growing trees is one way of stocking carbon out of the linked ocean-atmosphere system. Photograph: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty
Interviewed last week, John Holdren, President Obama's chief scientific adviser, said that drastic measures should not be "off the table" in discussions on how best to tackle climate change and that geo-engineering could not be ruled out. Making clear these were his personal views, he said: "It's got to be looked at. We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table."
He's right. We don't have that luxury – not only because the Kyoto protocol's first phase, running to 2012, is manifestly failing, but because the emissions reduction approach that it embodies cannot succeed. It is manifestly failing because emissions are going ahead faster than even the worst scenarios considered by the IPCC, which provides scientific assessments to the UN Climate Convention and because many rich countries are on course to fall short of their emissions reductions commitments.
Research since the IPCC's last assessment reveals that the threat of climatic disaster is more serious than previously supposed. Several threats exist but the most imminent is probably a collapse of substantial areas of land-based ice into the oceans, as studies of ancient climates show happened in previous warming phases. This seems likely to be due to the lubrication of Greenland's ice floes by water that accumulates year after year, with warmer summers melting the surface and rivers of melt-water flowing down crevasses to the bedrock, making the underside of the ice increasingly mushy and prone to slip down towards the ocean. Reports from Greenland, of increased frequency of "ice-quakes", suggest that areas of the ice cover have slipped and bumped into other areas that are still stuck. When the last bit gives way there may be an unstoppable rush of ice into the ocean, as with ancient warming phases, raising ocean levels by several metres over a few decades.
"Probably"? "Likely"? "Suggest"? "Maybe"? Yes, all is uncertain and the models are inadequate. But you don't drive full-speed down a twisty lane on a foggy winter's night hoping there's no ice round the next bend. A measure of the threat is the accumulation of warmth from successive summers, which is making the glaciers' undersides increasingly mushy. Even a deeply implausible reduction of emissions to zero in 25 years sees that measure treble over the next half-century with no end in sight.
So something more than emissions reductions is needed. We must take CO2 out of the atmosphere or prevent some of the sun's radiation from reaching the surface. But geo-engineering is usually thought of as shielding the earth from solar radiation by whitening clouds and by putting reflectors in space between earth and sun. The latter seems difficult to reverse and perhaps a very last resort. But whitening clouds can be quickly halted. It involves putting sulphur aerosols into the clouds in amounts that are trivial compared with the effects of either volcanic eruptions or coal burning worldwide. Or injecting saltwater micro-particles into ocean clouds which, whitened, then rain slightly salty water back into the oceans.
Amazing though it may seem, these apparently hopeful options are opposed by NGOs that seem more willing to run the risk of climatic catastrophe than deviate from the emissions reductions gospel. Their concern seems to be that geo-engineering will result in relaxed pressure to reduce emissions, which neglects the reality that more ambitious commitments will obviously go with increased capability to mitigate. They even oppose research, unlike Holdren's "it's got to be looked at".
The British researcher Tim Lenton uses the term geo-engineering to mean any way of cooling the earth that is not emissions reductions (even growing trees, which is included under the Kyoto protocol). His definition puts me – somewhat to my surprise – among the ranks of geo-engineers, as I have long advocated widespread tree-planting programmes, such as those initiated by the Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Muta Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement, which has planted more than 30m trees across Kenya.
Growing trees is one way of stocking carbon out of the linked ocean-atmosphere system. Others advocate fuelling power stations with energy crops and capturing CO2 from flue gases and piping them into deep saline aquifers. A third option is biochar, current darling of the policy community, which promises not only to store carbon in the soil but to provide rural energy supplies and raise soil productivity as the basis for sustainable rural development. Yet even this win-win-win prospect is rejected by 129 NGOs who have declared "Biochar – a new big threat to people land and ecosystems". I would rather listen to the 1,500 poor subsistence farmers in Kumba, south-west Cameroon, who are already experiencing its benefits and who deny rich-country NGO claims that civil society in the developing world rejects biochar.
• Peter Read is an honorary research fellow at the Centre for Energy Research, Massey University, New Zealand

Consumption dwarfs population as main environmental threat

A small portion of the world's people use up most of the earth's resources and produce most of its greenhouse gas emissions, writes Fred Pearce.

From Yale Environment 360

Guardian guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 15 April 2009 16.55 BST

It's the great taboo, I hear many environmentalists say. Population growth is the driving force behind our wrecking of the planet, but we are afraid to discuss it.
It sounds like a no-brainer. More people must inevitably be bad for the environment, taking more resources and causing more pollution, driving the planet ever farther beyond its carrying capacity. But hold on. This is a terribly convenient argument — "over-consumers" in rich countries can blame "over-breeders" in distant lands for the state of the planet. But what are the facts?
The world's population quadrupled to six billion people during the 20th century. It is still rising and may reach 9 billion by 2050. Yet for at least the past century, rising per-capita incomes have outstripped the rising head count several times over. And while incomes don't translate precisely into increased resource use and pollution, the correlation is distressingly strong.
Moreover, most of the extra consumption has been in rich countries that have long since given up adding substantial numbers to their population.
By almost any measure, a small proportion of the world's people take the majority of the world's resources and produce the majority of its pollution. Take carbon dioxide emissions — a measure of our impact on climate but also a surrogate for fossil fuel consumption. Stephen Pacala, director of the Princeton Environment Institute, calculates that the world's richest half-billion people — that's about 7 percent of the global population — are responsible for 50 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. Meanwhile the poorest 50 percent are responsible for just 7 percent of emissions.
Although overconsumption has a profound effect on greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts of our high standard of living extend beyond turning up the temperature of the planet. For a wider perspective of humanity's effects on the planet's life support systems, the best available measure is the "ecological footprint," which estimates the area of land required to provide each of us with food, clothing, and other resources, as well as to soak up our pollution. This analysis has its methodological problems, but its comparisons between nations are firm enough to be useful.
They show that sustaining the lifestyle of the average American takes 9.5 hectares, while Australians and Canadians require 7.8 and 7.1 hectares respectively; Britons, 5.3 hectares; Germans, 4.2; and the Japanese, 4.9. The world average is 2.7 hectares. China is still below that figure at 2.1, while India and most of Africa (where the majority of future world population growth will take place) are at or below 1.0.
The United States always gets singled out. But for good reason: It is the world's largest consumer. Americans take the greatest share of most of the world's major commodities: corn, coffee, copper, lead, zinc, aluminum, rubber, oil seeds, oil, and natural gas. For many others, Americans are the largest per-capita consumers. In "super-size-me" land, Americans gobble up more than 120 kilograms of meat a year per person, compared to just 6 kilos in India, for instance.
I do not deny that fast-rising populations can create serious local environmental crises through overgrazing, destructive farming and fishing, and deforestation. My argument here is that viewed at the global scale, it is overconsumption that has been driving humanity's impacts on the planet's vital life-support systems during at least the past century. But what of the future?
We cannot be sure how the global economic downturn will play out. But let us assume that Jeffrey Sachs, in his book Common Wealth, is right to predict a 600 percent increase in global economic output by 2050. Most projections put world population then at no more than 40 percent above today's level, so its contribution to future growth in economic activity will be small.
Of course, economic activity is not the same as ecological impact. So let's go back to carbon dioxide emissions. Virtually all of the extra 2 billion or so people expected on this planet in the coming 40 years will be in the poor half of the world. They will raise the population of the poor world from approaching 3.5 billion to about 5.5 billion, making them the poor two-thirds.
Sounds nasty, but based on Pacala's calculations — and if we assume for the purposes of the argument that per-capita emissions in every country stay roughly the same as today — those extra two billion people would raise the share of emissions contributed by the poor world from 7 percent to 11 percent.
Look at it another way. Just five countries are likely to produce most of the world's population growth in the coming decades: India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. The carbon emissions of one American today are equivalent to those of around four Chinese, 20 Indians, 30 Pakistanis, 40 Nigerians, or 250 Ethiopians.
Even if we could today achieve zero population growth, that would barely touch the climate problem — where we need to cut emissions by 50 to 80 percent by mid-century. Given existing income inequalities, it is inescapable that overconsumption by the rich few is the key problem, rather than overpopulation of the poor many.
But, you ask, what about future generations? All those big families in Africa begetting yet-bigger families. They may not consume much today, but they soon will.
Well, first let's be clear about the scale of the difference involved. A woman in rural Ethiopia can have ten children and her family will still do less damage, and consume fewer resources, than the family of the average soccer mom in Minnesota or Munich. In the unlikely event that her ten children live to adulthood and have ten children of their own, the entire clan of more than a hundred will still be emitting less carbon dioxide than you or I.
And second, it won't happen. Wherever most kids survive to adulthood, women stop having so many. That is the main reason why the number of children born to an average woman around the world has been in decline for half a century now. After peaking at between 5 and 6 per woman, it is now down to 2.6.
This is getting close to the "replacement fertility level" which, after allowing for a natural excess of boys born and women who don't reach adulthood, is about 2.3. The UN expects global fertility to fall to 1.85 children per woman by mid-century. While a demographic "bulge" of women of child-bearing age keeps the world's population rising for now, continuing declines in fertility will cause the world's population to stabilize by mid-century and then probably to begin falling.
Far from ballooning, each generation will be smaller than the last. So the ecological footprint of future generations could diminish. That means we can have a shot at estimating the long-term impact of children from different countries down the generations.
The best analysis of this phenomenon I have seen is by Paul Murtaugh, a statistician at Oregon State University. He recently calculated the climatic "intergenerational legacy" of today's children. He assumed current per-capita emissions and UN fertility projections. He found that an extra child in the United States today will, down the generations, produce an eventual carbon footprint seven times that of an extra Chinese child, 46 times that of a Pakistan child, 55 times that of an Indian child, and 86 times that of a Nigerian child.
Of course those assumptions may not pan out. I have some confidence in the population projections, but per-capita emissions of carbon dioxide will likely rise in poor countries for some time yet, even in optimistic scenarios. But that is an issue of consumption, not population.
In any event, it strikes me as the height of hubris to downgrade the culpability of the rich world's environmental footprint because generations of poor people not yet born might one day get to be as rich and destructive as us. Overpopulation is not driving environmental destruction at the global level; overconsumption is. Every time we talk about too many babies in Africa or India, we are denying that simple fact.
At root this is an ethical issue. Back in 1974, the famous environmental scientist Garret Hardin proposed something he called "lifeboat ethics". In the modern, resource-constrained world, he said, "each rich nation can be seen as a lifeboat full of comparatively rich people. In the ocean outside each lifeboat swim the poor of the world, who would like to get in." But there were, he said, not enough places to go around. If any were let on board, there would be chaos and all would drown. The people in the lifeboat had a duty to their species to be selfish – to keep the poor out.
Hardin's metaphor had a certain ruthless logic. What he omitted to mention was that each of the people in the lifeboat was occupying ten places, whereas the people in the water only wanted one each. I think that changes the argument somewhat.
• From Yale Environment 360, part of Guardian Environment Network

Tricky Course Lies Ahead for Browner on the Environment

By STEPHEN POWER

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's effort to remake federal energy and environmental policy will undergo some rigorous tests in the coming weeks -- and so will his environmental-policy czar, Carol Browner.
When Mr. Obama picked Ms. Browner to be his top White House aide on climate and energy issues, his opponents and many business groups braced for the worst. Ms. Browner is "a proud liberal who has long advocated an environmentalist agenda that would drive up energy costs on families and put thousands of Americans out of jobs," said Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who sits on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
During her first three months on the job, Ms. Browner has proven to be a less controlling or controversial figure than her critics might have imagined.
With only a handful of aides, she has been occupied with organizing and leading meetings among the many agencies involved in energy policy, reviewing scientific data on climate change and reassuring members of Congress nervous about proposals requiring businesses to pay a price for emitting greenhouse gases.

Carol Browner
"Comprehensive energy and climate legislation is a very, very significant undertaking," Ms. Browner said in an interview Wednesday. "I've spent a lot of time on the Hill listening to people and getting an understanding of their...concerns and what they want to see achieved."
Congress is expected next week to begin debating proposals to institute a system that would compel businesses to buy permits to emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Separately, the Environmental Protection Agency is on track to declare that greenhouse-gas emissions from automobiles "endanger" health and welfare. After that, the agency is expected to try to forge new federal emissions standards that would match California's still-to-be-implemented greenhouse-gas standards for vehicles and be in sync with automobile fuel-economy regulations now being developed by the Transportation Department.
The task before Ms. Browner is figuring out how to get all these agencies on the same page. The costs of new regulations could become a concern for the government if it winds up owning a stake in General Motors Corp. as part of a restructuring effort being led by a Treasury Department task force.
Ms. Browner declined to say how the administration will resolve the auto-emissions issues.
"We're looking at how you achieve a national policy that preserves the legal authority of each of the agencies," she said. "The question is, how do we weave those authorities together, to create something that's more than just the sum of the parts, and in the case of the auto industry, also recognizing they are in a difficult time? That's what this office was created to do, and we're making good progress."
Administration opponents are skeptical. The Transportation Department, they note, is required by law to consider the economic impact tougher fuel-economy regulations will have on auto makers and their operations nationally. No such legal requirement exists for the California Air Resources Board, though a spokesman for the agency said "it is in all of our interests to ensure a viable and profitable automotive industry."
Raymond Ludwiszewski, a former EPA general counsel who now represents auto makers opposed to California's standards, said the agencies "all have different mandates, and getting them to the same endpoint is going to require a lot of flexibility."
On the broader climate-change issue, Ms. Browner has avoided dictating specifics to lawmakers. The 648-page climate-change bill introduced last month by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) and Rep. Edward Markey (D., Mass.) was drafted largely by the lawmakers and their aides, people familiar with the matter say.
When House Democrats recently met with Ms. Browner to discuss Mr. Obama's desire for legislation to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, she gave the group no firm deadline for getting a bill to Mr. Obama's desk, even though the administration has said it wants a bill by December, when governments around the world are scheduled to hold talks on forging an emissions-reduction pact.
"She was basically asking us what we think. It was like, 'Let's get the conversation started,'" said Rep. Ron Klein, a Florida Democrat who attended.—Siobhan Hughes contributed to this article.
Write to Stephen Power at stephen.power@wsj.com

Electric cars: the expert's view of government transport policy

John Loughhead
The Guardian, Thursday 16 April 2009

Today's strategy makes one thing abundantly clear: government ministers have identified transport as an important part of the drive towards a low-carbon economy and have developed some high aspirations in the role the UK is going to play. Their strategic approach should be applauded in what will be an international shift in the way we travel.
The problem is that the 16-page document doesn't really tell you how they're going to do most of it. There is a distinct lack of detail. Missing is a statement of how the efforts in the UK will be connected to and leverage off plans elsewhere. The UK is a very small part of the world car market. It's very good that they're trying to develop the infrastructure and trying to encourage the UK as a demonstrator site. But if Germany, the US, Japan and China don't do this, nobody else will do it either.
Electric cars in the foreseeable future are never going to be anything more than urban vehicles. One of the issues will be what accompanying measures will persuade people to invest in these things? The strategy talks about some grants but there's something more pragmatic to consider. Do we have our own cars for long journeys and borrow them for urban ones? How do you bring about that change in culture and usage?
Then there is an in-built assumption that the electricity powering the cars will be low carbon. If you generate your electricity by making coal-fired power stations run, you'll exacerbate the climate problem. Another question is around what extra load will be put on the electricity network and will the network and generating capacity be able to respond in a low-carbon fashion?
And will a £5,000 incentive be enough? Electric cars probably have a higher premium than that. So perhaps this incentive could be combined with others - a commitment by a certain date, say, to require all cars entering city centres to be electric.
This strategy outlines the decarbonisation challenge and the top-level political view of the kind of approach we're going to take to tackle it. The next questions are, what exactly are we going to do, and how much will it cost and how will we judge if it's successful?
• John Loughhead is executive director of the UK Energy Research Centre

Electric cars get a kick-start

No longer seen as too expensive or too impractical, electric motoring is the world's fastest-growing vehicle market – and set to continue

Alok Jha
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 15 April 2009 22.00 BST

Until now, electric cars have been criticised for being too expensive (the California-based Tesla roadster costs around £90,000) or looking more like go-karts than real cars (think G-Wiz). But in recent months, mainstream manufacturers have jumped on board, buoyed up by increasing enthusiasm from governments to fund demonstrations or provide incentives to consumers to kick-start the electric market.
Last year BMW showed off an electric version of the Mini, which it will lease to customers in the US and Germany. The car is part of the motor company's larger Project i, its attempts to reduce the use of petrol and diesel in its cars. Rival carmaker Daimler is working with energy company RWE to build a charging infrastructure. For its part, the German government wants a million electric cars on its roads by 2020.
In February, Mitsubishi unveiled the MiEV, a four-seater city car with a top speed of 87 mph and a range of up to 100 miles. Its battery can be fully charged from flat in a relatively fast six hours when attached to mains electricity and, when it goes on sale in the UK next year, it will be the first production electric car available to buy from a mainstream manufacturer.
Hot on its heels will be all-electric cars from virtually everyone else. Mercedes, Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Dodge, Ford and Chevrolet all have all-electric cars at advanced stages of development and, at motor shows this year, have fallen over themselves to introduce their electric plans to the world.
There are also new companies trying to get in on the market. The Chinese company BYD, short for Build Your Dreams, was set up in 2003 and began looking at electric vehicles almost immediately. The company knew that, to compete internationally, it would require something unique about its cars. Now the company is poised to tap into the world's fastest-growing vehicle market, as the Chinese swap their bicycles for cars, and plans to use this as a base from which to launch its plug-in hybrid, the A5, and all-electric car, the E6, later this year.
In China, the government will invest over $1.5bn (£1bn) in the next few years to support the development of electric drive trains in cars and is also considering giving incentives to consumers to buy cleaner vehicles.
"Vehicle electrification is inevitable, it will happen," said Dan Sperling, a member of the air resources board of California, and an environmental scientist at the University of California, Davis, during a speech to car experts in London last year. He is also Arnold Schwarzenegger's environmental enforcer, leading the introduction of electric and hybrid vehicles to California, where Better Place has been contracted to set up demonstration networks of its battery-swapping business in several cities including San Francisco.
Sperling went on to compare the challenge to electrify road transport with the Apollo Moon shots of the 1960s. "John F Kennedy said: 'we have the resources, we have the talents but we haven't had the resolve.' There are ways, even with battery technology the way it is, lots of opportunity to use it but certainly with more investment and better policy and focus, we can push it much faster. The good news is that, in transforming our fuels, vehicles and transportation systems, we need much less invention than we needed to get to the Moon. From a technology perspective, it's easier."

On the road with electric car users

Electric car owners share their experiences

Adam Vaughan
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 15 April 2009 22.05 BST

John Harpur, works in industrial electronics and lives in Derby
"I was the first person to have an electric car [an Aixam Mega City] in Derby, which may explain why pedestrians often walk out in front of me - they don't expect electric cars here. I recharge it overnight on a green Economy 7 tariff, but haven't noticed any increase on my electricity bill."
Caroline Marx, owner of a trimming shop in London
"I'm very lucky because I have off-street parking and an electrician put an outdoor plug on my house in Kensington, so I always recharge my G-Wiz AC Drive overnight. I pay £350 for two services each year - the engineers come to my house - but I love being able to park anywhere in Westminster for free."
Michael Robinson, works at the Guardian and lives in Crouch End, London
"I had a relatively gentle crash in my G-Wiz DC drive involving a white van at 20mph, which left the car as a write-off. I'm totally in favour of electric cars and I would have replaced it with a new G-Wiz if the City of London hadn't withdrawn its free parking for electric vehicles - without that incentive, the numbers don't add up."
Jon Ole Siggerud, navy officer in Oslo, Norway
"Since 2002, I've driven over 100,000 kilometres in the old version of the TH!NK City. I charge it overnight in my garage at home, at my work place and on the streets and car parks of Oslo - although there are other electric car owners in town I've never had a problem finding a charging bay. I once almost ran out of power with the old TH!NK, but managed to recharge it a petrol station."
Antony Buck, co-founder of REN Skincare and G-Wiz owner, lives in London
"Unlike a petrol car, you let people go, you let people pull out, it's a much less aggressive thing to be sitting in than a car - so you end up smiling. Other drivers' reactions vary: most are patient with you. But I did have a cab driver once scream at me: 'get yourself a proper f**king car!' And I thought 'what, like a taxi?' "

Cars: Electric dreams, clunky reality

Editorial
The Guardian, Thursday 16 April 2009

The car was the 20th century's symbol of prosperity. When the Germans wanted a catch-all term for America's roaring 20s, they often plumped for Fordismus. America's most recent bubble even had its own dedicated auto, the sports utility vehicle. Even now, the surest sign that a developing country has started making money is the length of its traffic jams. The flip side is that when the good times end, the car industry hits the buffers. That was true in the 70s and it certainly holds now. America's General Motors is reportedly laying the groundwork for bankruptcy within weeks, while Britain's auto industry is lobbying the government for financial support. And Alistair Darling is likely to oblige in next Wednesday's budget, by offering motorists financial incentives to trade in their old cars for new.
Cash for clunkers, it is called, and it is a plausible scheme - but a dreadful idea. The argument goes that the car industry is suffering a slump in sales (down 30% this March from a year ago) and needs support to get through this recession. Unless it gets that support, a highly skilled part of the UK's manufacturing base will go to the wall, and with it will go the much-needed rebalancing of the economy away from finance to real production. The car industry wants the government to give customers £2,000 cash for swapping cars that are at least nine years old for newer models. It argues that the rest of Europe already has such schemes and they are yielding tremendous results. When the German government introduced a trade-in deal, half a million people signed up in a week.
Peter Mandelson, the business secretary, is said to be a fan of the proposal, and one can see why. It sounds workable, and it will probably be very popular - cash handouts often are. For a government counting down to a general election and open to charges that it has thrown money at bankers and denied them to everyone else, it ticks numerous boxes. The problem is, it provides dubious economic benefit, probable environmental harm and, crucially, will only heighten Britons' dependence on cars when we ought to be weaning ourselves off them. The economics are simple: all taxpayers - princes and paupers alike - will be paying for a few lucky souls to treat themselves to a new car. This scheme will pay for part of its own way, but it is likely to cost more than the loan guarantees that Jaguar-Land Rover asked for last autumn. It will be of little direct benefit to the UK auto industry, since around 85% of the new cars bought here are imports and a similar proportion of those made here are sold abroad. Yes, British firms provide engines and components for those new motors, but still the best stimulus for our car industry comes from those foreign government schemes. Finally, the scheme may boost demand now, but when it is withdrawn in 18 months the auto industry will face a doubly tough market.
The environmental point is also a simple one: any green benefits are strictly fringe. Yes, there will be newer, more efficient motors on the road - but what about the environmental costs of their manufacture? To this end, the government's announcements today on cash incentives for electric cars are more positive. But again, those cars will still need to be manufactured - and they obviously require power. Green cars are not so green if their electricity comes from a Kingsnorth, or some other smoke-belching power station.
Caught between a recession and the threat of climate change, a cash-strapped government is grasping for plausible off-the-peg solutions. In doing so it is ducking harder questions. We should be thinking about electric buses and more trains rather than cars, and emphasising public rather than private transport, especially in urban conurbations. Over the past century, the car has gone from rare luxury to commonplace utility. Over this century, it will need to reverse that journey.

Labour's £5,000 sweetener to launch electric car revolution

Ultra-green vehicles at heart of £250m plan to slash UK's carbon emissions

Alok Jha, green technology correspondent
The Guardian, Thursday 16 April 2009

Consumers are to be offered incentives of up to £5,000 to purchase an electric car under government plans to be unveiled today that will also see the creation of electric car cities across the UK and the launch of large-scale experiments with ultra-green vehicles.
The proposals are part of a £250m strategy, seen by the Guardian, spelling out a revolution in Britain's road transport network based on ultra-low carbon vehicles. It will be launched today by Geoff Hoon, the transport secretary, and Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, with the aim of kickstarting the market for cleaner road vehicles and slashing the UK's CO2 emisisons.
Hoon said yesterday that decarbonising road transport had a big role in helping the UK meet its targets of reducing CO2 emissions by 26% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. "Something like 35% of all our carbon emissions are caused by domestic transport," he said. "Of that, 58% of the emissions are caused by motor cars."
The focus of the strategy, in the first instance, would be on urban transport. "Given that 60% of journeys by car are under 25 miles, there's no reason why someone using a car for commuting on a regular basis will not be able to charge up their car at home, take it to work and come home again well within the distance an electric vehicle should be able to travel," Hoon said.
The cash incentive for consumers would be available to offset the higher upfront costs of electric cars, in particular the price of the batteries in modern vehicles. How the money would be distributed is yet to be decided but Hoon said it would be available only to people buying cars that ran entirely, or for the vast majority of their time, on electricity. The scheme, which would be enforced by setting a ceiling for the amount of CO2 a car emits, will become operational in 2011.
"What we've got to get people used to is the idea that electric cars will become quite normal, quite usual," said Hoon. "That it won't be exceptional and, without being unkind to existing electric vehicles, they won't be slightly odd, they will be cars that conform to appropriate safety standards and we can use on an everyday basis."
Part of this attempt to habitualise people to electric cars will be to offer various models to the public to try out. The government's strategy proposes £20m to foster a core of cities and regions interested in developing an infrastructure to charge electric vehicles.
In addition, about 200 electric cars will be available in city centres across the country for the public to try out.
"It may well be that one of the ways forward is for a city to offer itself as a model for demonstration because we're still at that stage where we've got to persuade people that this can be something that is easy, regular, predictable and not something difficult," said Hoon.
Last week Boris Johnson, the London mayor, announced his intention to make the capital a showcase for electric car technology by putting 100,000 electric cars on the roads. Hoon said he was looking at ways of contributing to the mayor's £60m plan. The government aims to begin work on a national infrastructure but expects the private sector to take the lead in building the charging networks needed for mass adoption of electric vehicles.
Car manufacturers are a key part of the strategy: £100m will be available for research to car makers. "What we want to see is the UK firmly in the lead in the manufacturing sense because we want to ensure the incentives ... benefit, broadly, manufacturing in the UK," said Hoon.
The government also wants to find ways to support the ongoing costs of electric cars. "We are looking at ways we can continue to support [electric car owners], perhaps, the cost of the batteries - leasing or renting them - there are various options around," said Hoon. "It's that part that could incentivise consumers to buy an electric vehicle." John Loughhead, executive director of the UK Energy Research Centre, welcomed the government's move. "It has developed for itself some high aspirations in the role the UK is going to play ..." he said. "But the question really is it doesn't tell you exactly how they're going to do it".

India's Suzlon Energy Is Buffeted by New Headwinds

Debt-Laden Turbine Maker Grapples With Weak Sales Growth, More Production Problems as It Tries to Raise Cash

By TOM WRIGHT

India's Suzlon Energy Ltd., one of the world's largest producers of wind turbines, faces new blade-production problems, according to people familiar with the matter.
Associated Press
Suzlon is contending with troubles on a Chinese project. Above, Suzlon turbines lined a Minnesota road in May.
The new concerns come as Suzlon is trying to raise funds, including through selling a stake to private-equity firms. The company may be at risk of breaking debt covenants and has to pay €205 million, or about $275 million, over the next six weeks to complete an acquisition.
The latest issues concern blades for a project in China's Shandong province. Early last year, Suzlon won a contract with Germany's REpower Systems AG to produce blades for 75 turbines for the China project and an option on 75 more. But REpower rejected Suzlon's prototype for the initial blades for not meeting REpower's quality standards and obtained them from other suppliers, according to people familiar with the matter.
Suzlon owns 74% of REpower but must manage the company at arm's length because of German corporate law protecting minority shareholders. REpower said that German law regarding related-party transactions requires that Suzlon pay REpower for any losses stemming from business dealings between the two companies. REpower lost at least €6 million on the first 75 turbines by having to ship stand-in blades to China from Europe, one of the people familiar with the matter said.
"New blades for any new customer take time," said Suzlon Chief Operating Officer Sumant Sinha. "Our products are good and reliable." He said any penalties relating to the REpower blade issue wouldn't be material to Suzlon.
Suzlon said Wednesday that the China issues related to late delivery, not technical capabilities. The company said it is "working vigorously" on blade-prototype testing for the remainder of the China project, after which it hopes to move to full-scale production.
The problems come at a difficult time for the Pune-based company. Suzlon already is spending $100 million to fix blade cracks on its turbines in the U.S., Europe and Brazil. Suzlon's export-order backlog was down 38% at the end of last year from a year earlier.
Suzlon forecasts that net sales will rise 10% to 15% for the fiscal year that ends next March. That's down from about 70% growth, to $2.7 billion, for fiscal 2008. Suzlon said new orders from customers in the U.S., China and Australia indicate confidence in the company.
Suzlon remains saddled with debt from a rapid expansion begun two years ago. Suzlon founder Tulsi Tanti sought to build a global wind-turbine manufacturer that could take advantage of India's low-cost labor. A major plank of that expansion was taking on debt to finance the 2007 deal to acquire REpower for $1.7 billion and to build new factories in the U.S., China and India.
Mr. Tanti, who is Suzlon's chairman and chief executive, wasn't available for comment.
New financing has been hard to come by, and as a result, Suzlon may be in danger of breaching its debt covenants, according to analysts and one of the people familiar with the matter.
Credit Rating Information Services of India estimated that the $2.2 billion of net debt Suzlon reported for the end of last year was 1.5 times its equity at that time. But Suzlon's debt covenants with its lenders say that so-called gearing ratio can be no larger than 1.0.
Suzlon could have breached that requirement at the end of last month, when the company was required to establish that it is meeting various debt ratios. Mr. Sinha said data on whether the company met its covenants at the end of March won't be ready until late next month.
If Suzlon breaches its covenants, it could sell major assets to raise cash to pay back the banks, analysts said. One possibility is off-loading a stake in its Hansen Transmissions International NV unit, a Belgian industrial-gearbox maker, analysts said.
Even if Suzlon breached its covenants, its lenders might not exercise their rights to seek payment. Suzlon's chief lenders, ABN Amro and Deutsche Bank AG, declined to comment.
Other recent efforts to raise capital haven't borne fruit. Suzlon shelved a $360 million rights issue late last year because its stock price had fallen sharply. Its shares Wednesday were off 79% from a 52-week high reached last May, putting the company's market value at $2.1 billion. Suzlon also has been attempting to sell a stake to private-equity firms.
Meanwhile, Suzlon has to pay €30 million this month and €175 million in May to complete the purchase of a further 17% stake in REpower from Martifer SGPS SA of Portugal.
Suzlon said it is "exploring multiple financing options" and trying to increase the efficiency of its supply network, which could reduce its capital requirements.
Suzlon transferred money from its Spanish unit despite owing money to creditors in Spain, according to a Feb. 11 letter to the head of Suzlon's European arm from Felipe Garcia-Mina, a director of Suzlon's Spanish unit.
In the letter, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Garcia-Mina also said Suzlon's actions potentially left him personally liable to creditors under European Union law.
He wrote that he understood Suzlon's cash-flow situation and was prepared to assume some risk if he could control it, "but I do not believe that Suzlon is asking the managers to assume [an] unlimited risk and without any control."
Mr. Garcia-Mina referred calls to Suzlon. Mr. Sinha, Suzlon's operating chief, said the letter referred to "normal correspondence between two of our subsidiaries" that has been resolved.
Write to Tom Wright at tom.wright@wsj.com

UK biofuels target creating more emissions, environmentalists claim

The government's scheme to introduce biofuels to cut CO2 on roads has actually increased carbon emissions through deforestation, study finds

Alok Jha, green technology correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 15 April 2009 11.11 BST

The government's scheme to introduce biofuels as a way to cut carbon emissions from road transport has led to extra emissions equivalent to putting 500,000 more cars on UK roads, according to environmentalists.
A new study shows that producing the amount of biofuels required to meet the government's targets in the past year could have inadvertently doubled the overall emissions of CO2 compared with the standard fossil fuels they have replaced. The extra emissions come from forest destruction tied indirectly to growing energy crops.
Biofuels are, in theory, carbon neutral because they only release the carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere by a plant as it grows. But many recent studies have suggested that the indirect effects of producing biofuels can have a negative overall impact.
In several parts of the world, for example, growing biofuel crops such as soy competes for land with food crops, which are then often displaced on to land that has been cleared of forests. A new analysis, carried out for Friends of the Earth (FoE) by environmental consultants Scott Wilson, has estimated the amount of CO2 emitted as a result of this deforestation.
The researchers calculated that the overall carbon cost of clearing forests for biofuels was equivalent to an extra 1.3m tonnes of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere since April last year. That was when the government's Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO) was introduced, which mandated fuel suppliers to include at least 2.5% biofuel in their petrol or diesel. Today that requirement rises to 3.3%.
"Until ministers can do their sums properly and can prove that biofuels are actually saving emissions, they do need to put them on hold," said Nick Davies, a biofuels campaigner at FoE.
Soy crops from the US, Argentina and Brazil are used in the most common UK biodiesels and all contribute to the deforestation problem. The FoE study assumed that 10% of the food crops displaced by biofuels would be pushed on to land created by clearing forests.
The researchers allocated this additional land to various agricultural uses and calculated the resulting amount of extra emissions using established models. For example, clearing one hectare of the Amazonian rainforest can release up to 1,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, according to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The FoE's concerns were also raised in a government-sponsored review of biofuels published by Ed Gallagher last year. In the study, he recommended that the introduction of biofuels to the UK should be slowed until more effective controls were in place to prevent the inadvertent rise in greenhouse gas emissions caused if, for example, forests are cleared to make way for biofuel production.
Gallagher's report said that if these displacements are left unchecked, current targets for biofuel production could cause a global rise in greenhouse gas emissions and an increase in poverty in the poorest countries by 2020.
His main recommendation, accepted by the government at the time, was to slow down the introduction of the RTFO so that, starting from a base of 2.5% biofuel mixed into petrol and diesel in 2008-09, manufacturers had to increase the proportion by only 0.5% per year. He further added that anything beyond 5% biofuel after 2013-14 should only be agreed by governments if the fuels are demonstrated as sustainable, including avoiding indirect effects such as change in land use.
"Gallagher has slowed down the rate of increase but we don't think that's an adequate response," said Davies. "He raised some serious concerns and, at the moment, they're not being addressed."
A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport acknowledged that the evidence around biofuels was still evolving. "What is not in dispute is the need to develop new, cleaner fuels and break our dependence on oil if we are to tackle climate change," she said.
"Some biofuels have the potential to help us achieve this. So whilst there is no case for pushing forward indiscriminately on those that may do more harm than good, it would be foolish to ignore any potential they do have.
"We have always been clear that biofuels can only make a useful contribution to mitigating climate change if they are sustainably produced. That is why we commissioned an independent review and following its recommendation we agreed to continue to proceed but to do so more cautiously until we are clearer about their wider effects on the environment.
"We believe this strikes a balanced approach based on the best possible science and evidence as it currently stands."
Davies said that, instead of focusing on ramping up biofuels, the government should encourage more proven methods to reduce transport emissions. "They should be investing in first-class public transport systems and smarter cars that actually save on fuel, and more provision for cyclists and pedestrians.
"They are proven to work and don't have the negative side-effects in terms of raising food prices and chopping down the rainforest. We need to put the biofuels obligation on hold until they can show biofuels are actually saving emissions."

Greener fuels will add to cost of motoring, oil companies say

The Times
April 16, 2009
Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent

The cost of motoring will rise under a European Union plan to force oil companies to add more biofuel to petrol and diesel, the industry has claimed.
An analysis by the UK Petroleum Industry Association said that drivers of cars built before 2000 would be worst hit because they may have to buy a more expensive type of fuel to avoid damaging their engines.
All drivers will have to fill up more often because biofuels produce fewer miles per gallon.
The Government is also removing the fuel duty discount for biofuel from next year and this is expected to add about 2p a litre to pump prices.

Oil companies have had to spend more than £100 million in the past year on adapting refineries and storage facilities to cope with biofuels. The costs of complying with the EU directive will increase sharply over the next five years and most of the cost will be passed on to drivers.
Biofuel made from crops such as soya, oilseed rape and palm will, in theory, reduce greenhouse gas emissions because the plants absorb carbon as they grow. However, a Friends of the Earth report this week said that biofuels could increase emissions because forests were being cut down to clear land for crops.
The association said that it was planning a publicity campaign next year to educate drivers about the risks of using biofuels. It said that manufacturers’ warranties could be invalidated if drivers bought petrol or diesel with more than 5 per cent biofuel.
Presently, diesel contains about 5 per cent biofuel and petrol 1 per cent. Fuel retailers do not have to reveal the biofuel content if it is 5 per cent or less. Lack of information means many drivers do not realise that they already have some biofuel in their tanks.
The association said that 2.7 per cent of fuel sold at the pumps last year was biofuel, slightly more than the Government’s target for 2008-09 of 2.5 per cent.
Last summer Britain responded to concerns about sustainability by reducing the rate of increase of biofuel consumption in road transport. But all EU countries must comply with a directive requiring 13 per cent of fuel to be biofuel by 2020. The association said that a new EU standard allowing 10 per cent of petrol to be biofuel would be introduced next year.
Malcolm Watson, its technical director, said that drivers of older cars would have to buy “super unleaded”, a higher octane fuel that costs about 6p more per litre, or £3.60 extra to fill a 60-litre tank.
He said that oil companies were planning to increase the biofuel content of ordinary unleaded to 10 per cent while keeping super unleaded at a maximum of 5 per cent.
Mr Watson said that new cars had fuel systems able to cope with higher levels of biofuel but there could be problems with older cars.
The AA said that ethanol, the biofuel added to petrol, could perish rubber seals, corrode metal components and block filters. It said the first sign of a problem would be the engine spluttering, possibly followed by a complete loss of power. Paul Watters, its head of transport policy, said: “Government and industry have failed to explain how much extra people will have to pay and what the risks are to their cars.
“We would urge drivers even now to look at the vehicle log books and check on fuel specifications.”

Possibility of new nuclear power plants in Lake District sparks eco concerns

Two sites close to Lake District National Park among potential locations for new generation of nuclear power stations

Terry Macalister
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 15 April 2009 12.46 BST

Two sites close to the Lake District National Park have been listed as potential locations for a new generation of nuclear power plants by the government today.
Braystones and Kirkstanton in Cumbria have already attracted strong local opposition to being nominated by German company RWE Power but have been included alongside existing atomic sites such as Sizewell in Suffolk and Wylfa in Anglesey.
The proposals form part of government plans to replace ageing nuclear power stations and highly polluting coal plants in an attempt to beat an energy supply crunch and lower carbon emissions.
Members of the public are being given one-month consultation period to express their opinion on a form of energy generation that is back in fashion with politicians after losing public confidence due to accidents such as those at Chernobyl in the Ukraine and Tree Mile Island in America.
"This is another important step towards a new generation of nuclear power stations," said energy and climate change secretary, Ed Miliband. "I want to listen to what people have to say about these nominations and I encourage people to log on to our website, read the information and let us have their comments. Nuclear power is part of the low-carbon future for Britain."
The full list of potential locations is: Dungeness in Kent; Sizewell in Suffolk; Hartlepool in Cleveland; Heysham in Lancashire; Sellafield in Cumbria; Braystones in Cumbria; Kirksanton in Cumbria; Wylfa Peninsula in Anglesey; Oldbury in Gloucestershire; Hinkley Point in Somerset and Bradwell in Essex.
The sites have been nominated by the energy giants EDF, Eon and RWE, and by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which owns some nuclear sites. None are in Scotland or Northern Ireland.
The Nuclear Industries Association, which represents companies in the sector, said publication of a list of potential sites for nuclear development was an important step for new build in Britain.
"The announcement of sites shows that we're making strong and tangible progress towards building new nuclear power stations, which will help keep the UK's lights on and drive down our carbon emissions," said Keith Parker, chief executive of the NIA.
Local authority leaders also welcomed the move. Isle of Anglesey council leader Phil Fowlie said the announcement was "very good news" for the local economy, pointing out that 1,000 people are employed at the existing Wylfa power station or at related businesses nearby.
"In these economic times it is so, so important for us to secure the future of nuclear power in Anglesey. In the short term, it will create thousands of construction jobs as the new power station is built and in the long term it will secure work for those already employed at Wylfa and nearby," said Fowlie.
But anti-nuclear campaigners made clear they would fight hard to prevent any new power stations being built. "The government is going down the wrong path in proposing that we should have more nuclear power stations," said Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shutdown Sizewell Campaign in Suffolk.
"They are not safe. With the heightened risk of terrorism, it's foolhardy to build more. They are very expensive and they leave a legacy of dangerous waste. We shall be resisting the plans. The way forward is benign energy forms – wind, waves, solar and biomass."
Martin Forwood, campaign co-ordinator for Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE), said any new nuclear installations would be disastrous for Cumbria.
"If the government was to get the go-ahead, I think it would be the kiss of death for any chance for Cumbria to diversify its economy away from its dependence on the nuclear industry, something it has been dominated by for the last 50 years. It will seal its fate. It would become the Lake District Nuclear Park and sit very uncomfortably alongside the Lake District National Park. It doesn't need to become a nuclear park, West Cumbria has so much more to offer."
Friends of the Earth's energy campaigner, Robin Webster, said "breathing new life into the failed nuclear experiment" was not the answer to the UK's energy problems. She added: "Nuclear power leaves a deadly legacy of radioactive waste that remains highly dangerous for tens of thousands of years and costs tens of billions of pounds to manage.
"And building new reactors would divert precious resources from developing safe, clean renewable power: nuclear firms are already lobbying ministers to water down UK renewable energy targets."