Friday, 1 May 2009

How Britons fuel destruction of the rainforest

British consumers are fuelling the rising demand for palm oil, speeding up the destruction of rainforests and killing off orangutans

By Martin Hickman, Consumer Affairs Correspondent
Friday, 1 May 2009

A cooking oil that is driving the destruction of the rainforests, displacing native people and threatening the survival of the orangutan is present in dozens of Britain's leading grocery brands, an investigation by The Independent has found.
Palm oil – blamed for a tree-felling rampage in south-east Asia – is present or suspected in 43 of 100 best-selling brands in UK, far more than the one in 10 products estimated by Friends of the Earth four years ago.
Palm oil is present in Hovis and Kingsmill bread, the country's best-selling margarine Flora, KitKat and Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bars, as well as Dove soap, Comfort fabric conditioner and Persil washing powder.

The research – the first time palm oil, which is usually labelled as "vegetable oil", has been definitively quantified in British products – comes amid a surge in demand for the world's cheapest cooking oil.
The United Nations Environment Programme believes palm oil is the major driver of deforestation in the vast islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Hundreds of thousands of acres of forest are cleared to make way for plantations from which 90 per cent of wildlife disappear, including the orangutan, which is fighting a losing battle against extinction. Orangutan numbers have dwindled by 90 per cent since 1900, with the rate of loss accelerating in recent decades.
Emissions from the chainsawed peat-rich forests of Indonesia (which owns Sumatra and half of Borneo) are also thought to generate 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
At present only 4 per cent of palm oil production is certified sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (Rspo), meaning that the vast majority of global supply is linked to the forest gold rush. All companies contacted by The Independent said they were talking to suppliers about moving to a sustainable supply.
However most of them – including Cadbury, Kellogg's Nestlé, Mars and Heinz – have set no date for the process. Nestlé said: "Nestlé shares concerns about the serious environmental threat to rainforests in south-east Asia and supports an end to deforestation. Palm oil is not a major raw material and... the company's use of palm oil has been declining somewhat."
Mars said: "We do use palm oil in our chocolate, but only work with suppliers who respect the environment and are committed to working with all stakeholders to make progress towards sustainable production."
WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund, called on manufacturers to start matching rhetoric with reality by buying sustainable oil, which costs between 10 and 35 per cent more than ordinary supplies which are mixed at refineries.
Jan Kees Vis, Rspo chairman, said that manufacturers did not want to pay more for a hidden ingredient. "The volume of certified palm oil traded is disappointingly low so far, the reason for this being that many companies are not prepared to pay a premium for certified oil," he told The Independent.
Originating in West Africa, palm oil has become a £14bn-a-year industry. Some 38 million tonnes are produced annually. Manufacturers use the oil to bind and bulk out chocolate, biscuits, bread and margarine and to give a creamy consistency to soaps.
About 85 per cent of the global supply comes from Borneo and Sumatra, where corruption is rife and where incursions into the forests are enforced by gun-toting security guards.
Satellite pictures have shown the rapid loss of the islands' rainforests, which, in addition to the orangutan, contain endangered species such as the clouded leopard, Sumatran tiger, and sun bear. Survival International, the London-based human rights group, says that palm oil producers supplying world markets are evicting indigenous people such as the Penan in Borneo from their land. In an interview taped earlier this year in Borneo, a Penan villager recalled: "There were no official discussions. The company just moved in and put up signs saying the government had given them permission to plant oil palm on our land. The manager promised he would pay us whatever we wanted. But we already know that the companies lie... If oil palm is planted, we will lose our land... there will be no more forest."
Global demand for palm oil is rising at between 6 and 10 per cent a year. Although yields could be raised to meet the demand, suppliers have a financial incentive to chop down forest for hardwoods for furniture, which subsidises the plantations before the first oil is produced.
If current rates of logging continue, the UN Environment Programme estimates that 98 per cent of forests in Indonesia may be destroyed by 2020.
Around 16 per cent of global palm oil arrives in the EU. Companies often refuse to disclose whether their products contain palm oil.
However, after piecing together information from the companies, The Independent has established that palm oil is contained or suspected in 43 of the Top 100 grocery brands. Of the nation's £16bn spending on the top 100 brands, £5.5bn goes on brands which contain, or are suspected to contain, the oil. Thirty-three out of 62 food brands contain palm oil.
Only a few British firms, including Unilever and Sainsbury's, have bought large amounts of Rspo-certified oil.
Green Palm, a Hull-based company which trades Rspo certificates, says it has struggled to find corporate buyers. The Food and Drink Federation said the UK was "a small player in the complex global market for palm oil", importing only 1.2 per cent of the annual crop for manufacture here.
Andy Tait, Greenpeace's forests campaigner, said: "If you buy products from Unilever or Nestlé, ask what measures they are taking to remove unsustainable palm oil from their supply chain. Public pressure makes companies change."
Ancient oil: Modern uses
* Palm oil is made from the fruit and seeds of the oil palm (elaeis guineensis), an edible plant long used as a cooking oil by villagers in West Africa, which now has a wide range of industrial applications.
* Palm oil is so prized because in addition to being the world's cheapest, it is "uniquely fractionable". Chemical processes can separate solid (stearin) and liquid (olein). Manufacturers use the versatile oil in a wide range of foods and household products and, increasingly and controversially, it is used as a biofuel.
Household names: Big brands and palm oil
Kellogg's (US) Uses palm oil in 50 products, mostly cereal bars but also cereals such as Special K and Crunchy Nut, where it binds together clusters. Does not buy sustainable palm oil.
Cadbury (UK) Pours palm oil into chocolate bars, including Cadbury Dairy Milk, where it is listed as vegetable oil. Uses 40,000 tonnes a year, none certified as sustainable.
Mars (US/UK) Uses palm oil in Mars Bars, Galaxy and Maltesers, where it is labelled "vegetable fat". Does not buy sustainable palm oil. Says it wants to.
Procter & Gamble (US) Makes Ariel, Daz and Fairy Liquid, where use of palm oil is suspected but unproven. Says it will have a sustainable supply by 2015.
Unilever (UK) World's biggest user of palm oil, which is found in Flora margarine, Pot Noodle, Comfort and Persil. Buys 1.6m tonnes a year – 4.2 per cent of global production. Acknowledging the damage to its reputation and the environment, Unilever set up the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
Kraft (US) Says it does not use palm oil in Dairylea cheese but does in other products. Buys half a per cent of global supply. Says it will move to sustainable palm oil by 2015.
Heinz (US) Uses palm oil to fry potatoes for Aunt Bessie's Potatoes, which it makes under licence.
United Biscuits (UK) Uses palm oil across its range including McVitie's Digestives and McCoy's crisps. Says it is reducing quantities.
Nestle (Swiss) Palm oil in KitKat, Quality Street, Aero and other brands.
Premier Food (UK) Uses in Hovis, Mr Kipling Cakes, Bisto Gravy and Cadbury cakes (made under licence). Hopes to move to a certified sustainable supply by 2011.
Pepsico (US) Makes Walker's crisps. Has one of the best corporate policies, only using palm oil in Quaker Oat Granola and Nobby's Nuts. Intends to phase out use on those two products.

An oil shock we cannot ignore

Friday, 1 May 2009

There is no shortage of ways to measure the cost of palm oil. First there is the catastrophic impact on the wildlife of Malaysia and Indonesia, whose rainforests are being cleared to grow the crop. The habitat of endangered species, from orangutans to Sumatran tigers, is being torn down at a terrifying rate to make room for the fertile oil palms.

Then there is the destruction on the livelihoods of those tribes which have traditionally lived in these ancient forests. Last, but far from least, the forest clearances, to make room for palm oil plantations, are a significant contributor to the dangerous warming of the planet. The destruction of the planet's rainforests is responsible for a fifth of global carbon dioxide emissions. The unsustainable expansion of the palm oil industry might seem like a problem about which we in faraway Britain have no connection. But now an investigation by this newspaper has demonstrated how closely we are involved. The Independent has established that a host of the food products on sale in our supermarkets are made using the cheap vegetable oil.
The seminal 2006 Stern report into the economics of climate change argued that the first policy response of all governments to the threat of rising carbon emissions should be to stop deforestation. Most of the measures proposed to combat change in the West, from carbon capture to electric cars, will prove meaningless if we fail to deal with this fundamental source of carbon emissions. The only hope is for the richer half of the world to transfer resources to countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Brazil to encourage forms of development that do not involve rainforests clearances.
Such a plan will be on the table at the United Nations climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December; another reason that meeting needs to succeed. But it would also help, in the meantime, if those of us in the developed world avoid the food products that are made with palm oil. The destruction wrought by the palm oil industry is no longer a distant problem. Its bitter fruits can be found in our shopping trolleys. We need to send a clear message to the food industry by removing them without delay.

A potential breakthrough in harnessing the sun's energy

New solar thermal technology overcomes a major challenge facing solar power – how to store the sun's heat for use at night or on a rainy day.

From Yale Environment 360, part of Guardian Environment Network, Thursday 30 April 2009 13.08 BST

In the high desert of southern Spain, not far from Granada, the Mediterranean sun bounces off large arrays of precisely curved mirrors that cover an area as large as 70 soccer fields. These parabolic troughs follow the arc of the sun as it moves across the sky, concentrating the sun's rays onto pipes filled with a synthetic oil that can be heated to 750 degrees Fahrenheit. That super-heated oil is used to boil water to power steam turbines, or to pump excess heat into vats of salts, turning them a molten, lava-like consistency.
The salts are just fertilizers — a mix of sodium and potassium nitrate — but they represent a significant advance in the decades-old technology of solar thermal power production, which has traditionally used mirrors to heat water or oil to generate electricity-producing steam. Now, engineers can use the molten salts to store the heat from solar radiation many hours after the sun goes down and then release it at will to drive turbines. That means solar thermal power can be used to generate electricity nearly round-the-clock.
The plant in southern Spain, known as Andasol 1, began operating last November and now provides 50 megawatts of power, enough electricity to supply 50,000 to 60,000 homes year-round. Andasol 2 will come online later this summer, with Andasol 3 already under construction. When the entire Andasol complex is completed in 2011, it is expected to generate enough electricity to power 150,000 households — about 600,000 people.
In the face of mounting concern about climate change, developing alternatives to coal and natural gas combustion has taken on a new urgency, and the construction of utility-scale solar thermal power plants in deserts and arid areas is looking like an increasingly promising option. In the United States alone, solar thermal power projects are now being built near fast-growing centers of electricity consumption, such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. The first major solar thermal plant to be completed in decades, dubbed Nevada Solar One, started providing 64 megawatts of power to the neon lights of Las Vegas in 2007, although it lacks the latest molten-salt technology. Across the globe, utilities are currently building or planning solar thermal projects in North Africa, Spain, and Australia, among other regions.
Some of the recent claims for solar thermal power have been stunning. Researchers at the German Aerospace Center have estimated that 16,000 square kilometers of solar thermal power plants in North Africa — paired with a new infrastructure of high-voltage, direct-current transmission lines — could provide enough electricity for all of Europe. And scientists have estimated that constructing solar thermal power plants on less than 1 percent of the world's deserts — an area roughly the size of Austria — could meet the entire world's energy needs.
Of course, solar thermal has been here before, experiencing a boom in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Its progress then was stalled by collapsing fossil fuel prices, as well as a lack of government support. Today, some critics of the technology fault it for taking up acreage in fragile deserts.
The case for solar thermal power hinges on economics. The sun bathes the Earth with an average of 6 kilowatt-hours of power per square meter over the course of a day, and a concentrated solar power plant like Andasol is
In the face of mounting concern about climate change, developing alternatives to coal and natural gas combustion has taken on a new urgency, and the construction of utility-scale solar thermal power plants in the cheapest way to harvest a portion of that. Photovoltaics — semiconductor panels that convert sunlight to electricity — deliver power at roughly 40 cents per kilowatt-hour, while conventional solar thermal power plants can do so for around 13 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. This is only marginally more expensive than the average U.S. price for coal-generated electricity in 2008 of 11 cents per kilowatt hour. The cutting-edge technology of using molten salts to store solar-generated heat is considerably more expensive, but experts expect that price to fall steadily as the technology improves and is mass-produced.
Roughly 612,000 megawatt-hours of electricity from the sun were produced in 2007, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), and solar thermal collectors sufficient to cover more than 15 million square feet were shipped and ready for installation that year — more than double the amount in 1998.
In the United States, some 3,100 megawatts of solar thermal power are planned by 2012, and capacity worldwide is expected to reach 6,400 megawatts within 3 years — roughly 14 times the current amount. Still, electricity from the sun contributes just 1 percent of the renewable energy generated in the U.S., and all renewables taken together only provide 7 percent of U.S. energy needs.
Traditionally, solar thermal power plants have been built two ways — using trough-like mirrors to focus the sun's heat on water or oil in nearby pipes, or using mirrors to focus solar radiation on a central spot, such as a liquid-filled "power tower."
Since 1984, vast arrays of curved mirrors have concentrated the sun's rays on regimented lines of pipe filled with a synthetic oil at the Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) power plant in the Mojave Desert of California. The SEGS plant was part of a brief boom in alternative energy projects in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when enthusiasm for the technology ran high in the wake of the first energy crisis. But the Reagan administration phased out research and development funding for solar thermal technology, as well as delaying tax credits that had driven the creation of projects like SEGS. Coupled with cheap fossil fuel prices in the late 1980s and 1990s, solar thermal power could not compete — although it still grew by roughly 4 percent a year from 1986 to 2000, according to the EIA.
Given its long operation record, developers are now copying SEGS and its parabolic trough collectors. In the U.S. alone, nearly 1,800 megawatts of such power plants are scheduled to be completed — mainly in the desert Southwest — by 2011, according to investment research from Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Ausra will employ compact linear Fresnel reflectors — flat mirrors that deliver the same focus — to heat water at a planned 177-megawatt solar thermal plant named Carrizo Plains in central California by next year. Already, the company opened a 5-megawatt demonstration plant last October near Bakersfield, Calif.
Nor is the technology confined to the southwestern U.S.: Florida Power & Light will build a 75-megawatt solar thermal trough plant north of Miami. Hurricanes are not a major concern; Ausra's chief scientist and founder, David Mills, notes that in testing their mirrors have withstood winds of more than 91 miles per hour.
But the most promising technology is one using molten salts, as it overcomes one of the chief traditional drawbacks of solar energy generation — that when the sun sets, the lights go out. The Andasol power plant uses more than 28,000 metric tons of sodium and potassium nitrates to store some of the sun's heat for use at night or on a rainy day. The molten salts are stored in enormous hot and cold vats, able to be employed on command to soak up extra heat or drive the generation of electricity.
"The turbine is running more hours every day because we have storage and we have the possibility to plan our electricity production," said Sven Moormann, a spokesman for Solar Millennium, the German company building Andasol.
Abengoa Solar and Arizona Public Services are now using the molten salts technology in portions of the Solana — or "sunny place" — power plant, located 70 miles southwest of Phoenix on nearly 2,000 acres of land. The plant will ultimately produce enough electricity to power 70,000 Arizona homes.
"One of the great things about molten salt technology is that you can get more energy out of the same facility," says Barbara Lockwood, manager for renewable energy at Arizona Public Services.
But molten salts don't have to be just used for storage, as they are at Andasol and will be at Solana. They can also be used directly as a fluid in solar thermal power plants that operate at a much higher temperature, replacing the synthetic oil or water used in power towers. In this variation of the solar thermal technology, large fields of mirrors concentrate the sun's heat on a central tower that glows with intense light.
Such plants operate at more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit — closer to the temperatures employed at a coal-fired power plant — and therefore can use the salts directly as a heating medium. At night, when temperatures begin to drop, the cooling salts that have already transferred their heat to drive a turbine simply drain to the bottom of the tower, where they are stored in tanks, ready to be heated again the next sunny day.
Cheaper power towers that do not employ the molten salts are also being built: an 11-megawatt power tower that employs steam directly — built by Abengoa — now operates outside Seville, Spain. Southern California Edison has contracted for 1,300 megawatts of such direct steam solar thermal power towers with developer BrightSource.
Some utility-scale solar thermal projects have provoked opposition due to the large land area occupied by the arrays in Bakersfield, Los Angeles, San Diego, and elsewhere in California. But proponents of solar thermal power argue that the benefits of the carbon-free technology far outweigh any local impact.
"We're not going to solve the [climate change] problem without putting large-scale concentrated solar facilities in the American Southwest," SolarReserve's Murphy says. "It doesn't take that big a footprint to make a pretty big impact."
In addition, there is another way to use this technology for capturing the sun's heat — cleaning up existing fossil fuel-fired power plants or other operations that burn a lot of CO2-emitting fossil fuels.
By employing the mirrors of a solar thermal array to pre-heat steam, the amount of natural gas, oil, or coal that must be burned can be reduced. In fact, Ausra's first installation boosted the efficiency of a coal-fired power plant in Australia by providing 9 megawatts of steam to the 2,000-megawatt Liddell Power Station. The company also hopes to work with some California oil producers that currently inject steam — generated by burning natural gas — into the old reservoirs to enable more oil to be pumped to the surface. Ausra argues that it can generate the same steam without any CO2 emissions by employing its solar thermal technology.
The Electric Power Research Institute, a utility-funded consortium, will study the potential of the technology to reduce fossil fuel-burning at power plants in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and North Carolina.
"People need to look at this as a hedge against fossil fuel prices," says Murphy. "You could start deploying a new type of power plant. We used to burn coal and natural gas — now we can use the sun to make steam."
• From Yale Environment 360, part of Guardian Environment Network

Alternative Energy's Fortunes Shift With the Winds

One Man's Effort to Build a Turbine Company Reflects the Ups and Downs of Oil, the Economy and Commitment

Cedar Rapids, Iowa -- James Dehlsen has spent decades trying to build a bigger and better machine to convert a breeze into electricity.
As much as anyone, he helped create the modern wind-power business, riding waves of interest in alternative energy and weathering downturns when that enthusiasm died down. At this point in the cycle, he doesn't exactly have the wind at his back.
"The industry has been impacted pretty heavily," says Mr. Dehlsen, chairman of Clipper Windpower, one of a few U.S. wind-turbine makers. Asked about the demand for turbines, he says: "It's not up."

President Barack Obama and politicians of both parties vow a renewable-energy revolution. The ups and downs of Mr. Dehlsen's company show both the promise and the difficulty of that vision. Creating reliable energy from a fuel as fickle as the wind is difficult. Doing so without predictable and prolonged help from Capitol Hill and Wall Street is all but impossible.
Few industries are as hard to change as energy. Fossil fuel, entrenched and convenient, follows a boom-and-bust cycle that keeps interrupting the development and adoption of alternatives. The interest in renewable energy rises with the price of oil and falls with it, too. Phasing in new energy sources on a scale big enough to matter would take consistent effort over decades -- something that, so far, hasn't happened in the biggest oil-consuming country in the world.
Europe has been more consistent. Longstanding subsidies there have incubated renewable-energy companies that now have gone global -- much like higher gasoline taxes have pushed most Europeans away from gas-guzzling cars. In good economic times, the U.S. chose not to match Europe's renewable-energy subsidies. So Europe, which generally isn't as windy as the U.S., emerged early on as a global wind-power leader.
Today's recession is whipsawing renewable-energy companies regardless of their nationality. According to New Energy Finance, an industry analyst, new investment in "clean energy" -- sources such as wind, solar and biofuels -- sank 53% globally in the first quarter from the same period last year. Layoffs and production cutbacks are spreading throughout the industry, which just months ago was soaring. In response, the U.S. is moving to boost its subsidies, largely to generate what Mr. Obama calls "green jobs."
That's a big opportunity for Clipper -- if it can get past the recession. In the past few months, Clipper has laid off one-quarter of the workers at its factory in this Rust Belt city, and it has slashed its production of wind turbines by more than half. Like many of its competitors, it's spending huge sums fixing mechanical problems that couldn't have come at a worse time. The industry might have ironed out those glitches had it developed without the fits and starts.
Today's wind turbines weigh more than 300 tons and stand some 300 feet tall. Climbing their internal ladders to the top requires wearing a mountaineer-style safety harness and takes 10 or 15 sweaty minutes. Their three fiberglass blades slice through a circle of airspace covering nearly two acres. The blades turn gears, which run generators, which produce electricity.
When Mr. Dehlsen started his first wind company in 1980, turbines were "made in people's garages," he recalls. At the time, oil prices were surging, and tax breaks for new sources of energy were waiting to be exploited. Mr. Dehlsen's company, Zond Systems, began importing turbines from Vestas, a Danish equipment maker then entering the wind business.
By 1985, the good times had ended. Oil prices sank, Washington withdrew the tax credits, and private financing for wind power dried up.
Mr. Dehlsen spent the next two decades trying to develop turbines that would produce more power at lower cost. In 2000, he sold Zond to Enron, then a highflying energy company. The following year, he founded Clipper and began developing an even bigger turbine. In 2005, he tested it in a howling Wyoming snowstorm.
His timing was good. Once again, oil prices were rising, another U.S. tax break was in place, and investors were pouring money into wind.
Clipper leased an abandoned printing-press factory in Cedar Rapids and retooled it to make turbines. The location was sensible if not sexy. The windiest solid swath of the U.S. is a corridor stretching from Texas to the Dakotas. Iowa sits along it.
The arrival of Clipper and other wind-energy companies was a blessing for Iowa, which had been losing manufacturing jobs. Among those hired was Jeff Pottebaum, who was a maintenance worker at a local hospital before Clipper hired him in 2006 for $15 an hour. "I thought I had the world by the tail," the 41-year-old says.
In 2007, Clipper's first full year of production, cracks developed on the blades of some turbines the company had installed, and the teeth on some turbines' gears began to wear prematurely. In response, Clipper reinforced the blades of all its turbines. It also brought the gearboxes of all its turbines back to the factory to check and, if necessary, repair. Then, last year, more problems emerged with blades and with a few gearboxes. Those prompted additional fixes. Clipper says the problems originated with suppliers.
But the industry can't control the economy. Last fall, the debt markets collapsed, the recession set in, and orders for new turbines screeched to a halt. Clipper halved production, to about four turbines per week. In January, it laid off about 80 workers, including Mr. Pottebaum.
"I was with a company where I thought the sky was the limit," says Mr. Pottebaum, who now has a temporary job in landscaping. He would return to Clipper, he says, "in a heartbeat."
Other wind-turbine makers also have had layoffs -- enough to worry Iowa Gov. Chet Culver. "We've got to help them hold on," he says between meetings at the state capitol. Gov. Culver is glad that several wind-turbine companies -- including those based abroad -- have set up factories in his state. "Long-term, I think this is probably the strongest sector of our economy," he says. "I can't predict today what the future is going to be -- how long these companies are going to have to struggle."
Clipper is seeking a loan guarantee under the Obama administration's economic-stimulus plan. At the Cedar Rapids plant, Clipper's chief executive, Douglas Pertz, invokes national interest as a reason the government should help his firm. As the country assists its automotive icons, he argues, it also should help loosen up funding for its renewable-energy companies. It would be problematic for the country "for Clipper to not survive," he says. Yet the renewable-energy industry is one of many sectors competing for stimulus aid.
Vestas has grown into a global wind-power juggernaut largely because of the reliability of European renewable-energy policy, says Roby Roberts, a Vestas senior vice president. "It takes continuity, predictability and consistency, and that's not what the U.S. has ever had," he says. Vestas now is expanding in the U.S., he says, largely because the U.S. is implementing more supportive policy.
Out behind Clipper's plant, shrink-wrapped in plastic, the finished pieces of wind turbines are piling up as they wait to be picked up by buyers facing financial difficulty themselves.
Write to Jeffrey Ball at

'Momentous day' as marine bill sets out measures to protect our seas

Published Date: 01 May 2009
By Jenny Haworth
Environment Correspondent

SCOTLAND'S first marine bill was created yesterday in what was heralded as a "momentous" day by the country's environment chief.
The Scottish Marine Bill lays out measures to overhaul the planning system for the seas around Scotland and to establish conservation zones. However, green groups raised concerns that the legislation would not go far enough to protect the marine environment.While environmental groups called for conservation measures to be at the heart of the bill, fishing organisations warned that they should not be given "disproportionate" attention.The creation of the marine bill, which will now go before parliament, follows a Save Our Seas campaign by The Scotsman. Measures include a new marine planning framework, a simpler licensing system and the ability to form marine protected areas to conserve ocean habitats.Richard Lochhead, the environment secretary, told The Scotsman it was a "momentous day". He added: "Our seas support tens of thousands of jobs, generate billions of pounds for our economy, put food on our tables and are set to play an increasing role in powering our nation." He added: "We are introducing the framework to help deliver a new future for Scotland's seas. Our marine bill aims to maximise economic growth while ensuring future generations can still enjoy this world-class environment."Green groups ranging from the Marine Conservation Society to Scottish Wildlife Trust called for environmental protection to be increased in the bill. Calum Duncan, chairman of the marine taskforce for Scottish Environment LINK, wanted the legislation toughened so that the government had a duty to create conservation areas at sea, rather than just the ability to do so.He said he was "concerned that the health of the marine ecosystem will be traded off against social and economic objectives for our seas rather than underpinning them".Lloyd Austin, head of conservation policy for RSPB Scotland, said the bill "must protect Scotland's jewel in the crown by putting the environment first in any decisions about how we manage our seas". And the Scottish Greens called for the bill to be amended to turn all of Scotland's waters into a mass whale and dolphin sanctuary.However, Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, called for "balance" and warned that the bill posed "threats" as well as opportunities for the fishing industry."It is vital the bill avoids the pitfall of paying disproportionate attention to the high-profile issues of environmental protection and offshore renewable energy: both are welcome and desirable, but proper recognition must always be given to fishing and the vital economic role it plays."Jason Ormiston, chief executive of green energy trade body Scottish Renewables, said the bill needed to provide the framework for the development of renewable energy, which he said could bring £10 billion investment by 2020.Mr Lochhead said: "Striking the right balance between the long-term viability and growth of our marine industries and the enhanced protection of our special marine environment is at the very heart of our bill."He emphasised the economic potential of the seas, which generate £2.2 billion for the economy and have a quarter of Europe's tidal and offshore wind resource. They provide 50,000 jobs and support 6,500 species of plants and animals and a £348 million fishing industry.


THE bill will create a national marine plan, a framework to manage the future use of the seas for energy, fishing, aquaculture and recreation.• A marine planning system will cover everything from marine renewables to sand and gravel extraction and recreational activities. • Marine protection areas will be created to safeguard unique habitats, wildlife, archaeology and wrecks.• Marine planning partnerships aimed at involving local agencies and communities in planning decisions will be established.• Simpler licensing system will be put in place to reduce the administrative burden, particularly in key growth areas such as renewables.• The Scottish Government has already created a new body to manage Scotland's seas, Marine Scotland, responsible for marine planning, policy development, management and compliance monitoring. • The Scottish bill will legislate for waters up to 12 nautical miles off the coast of Scotland. The UK bill is set to give Scotland greater powers over conservation and fisheries out to 200 nautical miles.

Global warming causing massive ice chunks to break off from Antarctic shelf

Massive ice chunks are crumbling away from a shelf in the western Antarctic peninsula, researchers said on Wednesday, warning that 1,300 square miles of ice - an area larger than Luxembourg - was in danger of breaking off in coming weeks.

Last Updated: 5:15PM BST 30 Apr 2009

The Wilkins Ice Shelf had been stable for most of the last century, but began retreating in the 1990s. Researchers believe it was held in place by an ice bridge linking Charcot Island to the Antarctic mainland.
But the 127-square-mile bridge lost two large chunks last year and then shattered completely on April 5.

"As a consequence of the collapse, the rifts, which had already featured along the northern ice front, widened and new cracks formed as the ice adjusted," the European Space Agency said in a statement Wednesday on its Web site, citing new satellite images.
The first icebergs broke away on Friday, and since then some 270 square miles of ice have dropped into the sea, according to the satellite data.
"There is little doubt that these changes are the result of atmospheric warming," said David Vaughan of the British Antarctic Survey.
The falling away of Antarctic ice shelves does not, in itself, raise sea levels, since the ice was already floating in the sea. But such coastal tables of ice usually hold back glaciers, and when they disintegrate that land ice will often flow more quickly into the sea, contributing to sea-level rise.
The Wilkins shelf, which is the size of Jamaica, lost 14 per cent of its mass last year, according to scientists who are looking at whether global warming is the cause of its breakup.
Average temperatures in the Antarctic Peninsula have risen by 2.5 Celsius over the past 50 years - higher than the average global rise, according to studies.

Scotland unveils tough new marine protection plans

• Stringent conservation laws could tightly control fishing, salmon farms, dredging or new oil pipelines• Two-thirds of Britain's inshore waters would be affected

Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent, Thursday 30 April 2009 15.39 BST

Salmon farms, offshore windfarms and oil companies will face much tougher environmental tests in Scotland after ministers unveiled new marine protection laws which affect nearly two-thirds of Britain's inshore waters.
A new marine bill published by the Scottish government this morning will make protecting the environment a primary and legal requirement for all activities around Scotland's coastline.
The proposals include a network of "marine protected areas" where stringent conservation rules could prohibit or tightly control fishing, salmon farms, dredging or new oil pipelines within Scottish inshore waters, which cover 60% of UK waters out to 12 nautical miles.
Conservationists applauded the new measures, which include a new over-arching marine protection plan, and said they were more rigorous than similar proposals in the UK government's marine bill, now going through Westminster.
The English proposals allow ministers to water down restrictions in any marine protection area in favour of industries such as oil and gas, fishing or dredging.
In Scotland, where marine industries and tourism, excluding oil and gas, generate £2.2bn and support 50,000 jobs, ministers could only do so if there are at least two or more protected areas with identical habitats.
The bill also includes a new stricter licensing system for shooting seals, often illegally killed by fishermen and fish farmers who blame them for breaching nets.
The Guardian revealed last year that common seal numbers around the UK were plummeting, with some populations halved in recent years. It will now become illegal to kill seals without a licence, and the penalties for killing them without authority will rise.
However, the Scottish National Party government in Edinburgh has rejected setting up large marine national parks, the flagship proposal of the previous Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition government.
That plan was scrapped by the incoming SNP government, which initially focused its marine policies on the fishing industry, but naturalists hope the new bill could clear the way for national parks to be set up after the next election.
Lloyd Austin, head of conservation with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland, said the new marine planning policy could be a "world beater" if, as expected, these measures come into force this year and the new Marine Scotland agency is given the resources to enforce it.
The national marine plan rightly has ecosystem protection and recovery as one of its core objectives, he said. "Sustainable development has to become a reality, so marine activities can only be granted in the right place," he added.
Richard Lochhead, the Scottish environment secretary, said: "Today marks an exciting milestone. Our seas support tens of thousands of jobs, generate billions of pounds for our economy, put food on our tables and are set to play an increasing role in powering our nation through wind and wave power.
"We are introducing the framework to help deliver a new future for Scotland's seas. Our marine bill aims to maximise economic growth while ensuring future generations can still enjoy this world-class environment."
The differences in Scottish and English marine protection policy raises the prospect of clashes between the governments, senior naturalists warned, because control over the UK's waters is split between Westminster and the devolved parliament at Holyrood.
The Scottish bill will affect all Scottish inshore waters out to 12 nautical miles. With Scotland's array of islands off the west and northern coasts, this covers 60% of the UK's coastline and some of Britain's richest inshore fishing.
The UK government will retain legal control of all waters up to 200 nautical miles, but under a new agreement between the governments, Scottish ministers have the powers to oversee those waters around Scotland but using UK legislation.

Green Technology has not yet been used on a commercial scale

GREEN TECHNOLOGY to capture carbon dioxide from coal and gas power stations has not yet been used on a commercial scale.However, it has been shown to work in the laboratory and using demonstration models.Companies across the UK and in other parts of the world are competing to become the first to develop the technology.Last week, the government announced that permission would not be given for new, traditional fossil-fuel power stations. This has paved the way for the UK to become a world leader in the field of carbon capture.The government predicts the cost of carbon capture will see consumers having to pay a new levy of 2 per cent on their gas bills. This would average about £8 a year for each household.

International shipping has a good record on pollution control

It is misleading to compare the emissions of these huge vessels with those from cars

Robert Ashdown
The Guardian, Friday 1 May 2009

Your article reports allegations that the health risks of shipping pollution have been "underestimated", and suggests that Europe "has resisted imposing tight laws on the shipping industry, even though the technology exists to remove emissions" (One ship equals 50m cars: study shows pollution toll, 10 April). Both charges are wrong.
In 2005 Europe adopted some of the most stringent shipping air pollution legislation in the world - Directive 33/EC (Sulphur Content of Liquid Fuels). Among other provisions, this went beyond existing international regulations by requiring all ships at berth to burn fuel with a sulphur content of no more than 0.1% from 2010, and all passenger ships to burn low-sulphur fuel when voyaging between two community ports.
As far as the technology to remove pollutants is concerned, that for sulphur is - for shipboard applications - still only at the prototype stage. A number of Chamber of Shipping members have been active in trialling equipment but the results have so far been disappointing. For nitrogen oxide emissions the technology is being developed by the engine manufacturers, and an ambitious timeline for its introduction already forms part of the latest International Maritime Organisation (IMO) legislation.
You report that "pressure is mounting on the [IMO] and the EU to tighten laws governing ship emissions following the decision by the US government last week to impose a strict 230-mile buffer zone along its entire coastline". In fact, the US is using the IMO laws to put in place regional standards for a specific regional problem in accordance with an agreed international framework.
The article then says the EU plans "only two low-emission marine zones" and does not seek "to limit deadly particulate emissions". But it is not the number but the scale of the zones that is relevant - these cover the English Channel, the entire North Sea and the entire Baltic Sea - and, as the IMO has explicitly recognised, measures to address sulphur emissions would also limit particulate emissions.
Equally misleading are your report's comparisons with other industries or transport modes. Comparing the output of a ship - which may, for example, carry the equivalent of 6,000 large trucks and operate (as you make clear) 24 hours a day, 280 days a year - with a car driven 15,000km a year tells us very little.
The IMO, governments and the shipping industry have to dramatically reduce shipping's negative health impacts while maintaining the capacity to transport cargoes essential to clothe, heat and feed their populations. The latest IMO legislation was recognised by governments and the shipping and refining industries as a prime example of ambitious but pragmatic rule-making. It is unfortunate that your article reflects neither the complexities of the issue nor the widespread satisfaction with the outcome.
The reality is that international shipping is a highly regulated, responsible industry that delivers 90% of world trade for only 2.7% of global carbon emissions. As such, the shift from road and air to shipping should be actively encouraged as part of the government's measures to combat global warming.
• Robert Ashdown is head of technical at the Chamber of Shipping

Green benefits spelled out

Published Date: 01 May 2009

BUSINESSES across Scotland could annually save more than £239 million through energy-reduction measures such as replacing old boilers or lighting, it has been revealed.
The Carbon Trust has calculated the potential savings for businesses in each part of Scotland if they take action to cut down on energy use.Falkirk, the home of Grangemouth Refinery, has the potential to save £49 million, Glasgow £21.8 million and Edinburgh £17.8 million by taking steps to reduce energy use, and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.Tom Delay, chief executive of the Carbon Trust, said businesses could "improve their energy efficiency and make real savings."

North Sea has potential to store all Europe's waste say researchers

Published Date: 01 May 2009
By Jenny Haworth
Environment Correspondent

THE North Sea could store the carbon dioxide from all Europe's power stations for hundreds of years, the results of major research to be unveiled today will reveal.
The Scotsman has learned that the porous rocks beneath the seabed of the North Sea and disused oil and gas fields could provide storage for millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide.The research, by Edinburgh University, is likely to herald the start of a major new industry for Scotland, using the North Sea to lead the way in efforts to store the greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. It will bring the possibility of compressed emissions being transported from power plants across Europe to underground stores beneath the North Sea using the network of pipes already in place for the oil and gas industry one step closer. It will be the first time it has been shown the porous rocks – known as saline aquifers – beneath the seabed have the potential to store mass quantities of . "We will be able to conclusively say we can store it in saline aquifers for hundreds of years," a source told The Scotsman."This will be a huge opportunity for Scotland. It could create a huge new industry for Scotland."Professor Stuart Haszeldine, a world expert in carbon capture and storage at Edinburgh University, has been leading the eagerly-awaited research into the potential of the North Sea to store the greenhouse gas.The Scotsman revealed last week that the research was due to be published. ScottishPower has already announced it is hoping to start capturing carbon within five years in Scotland, making use of the potential to store it beneath the North Sea.The energy company is taking part in a UK government competition to win funding to kit out Longannet, a coal-fired power station, with the technology to capture carbon.The power firm is hoping to become a world leader in the field, developing technology that could be used on thousands of fossil-fuel power stations around the globe. A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government last night said there would be a "significant announcement related to carbon capture and storage" today .First Minister Alex Salmond will join scientists to spell out the potential consequences of the research at a press conference at Edinburgh Castle this morning .The Scottish Government, which has ruled out new nuclear power stations, is relying on "clean" fossil fuel plants to provide back-up power to support the development of renewables.Known as carbon capture and storage (CCS), the technology would enable up to 90 per cent of to be captured from fossil-fuel power plants. This would mean coal could continue to be burned to provide power without scuppering the government's ability to meet challenging climate change targets.The Scottish Government must cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy at WWF Scotland said in advance of today's announcement: "Scotland has the potential to take a global lead on carbon capture technology. "In addition to being home to a number of existing pollution-generating power stations, Scotland has access to potentially significant carbon storage reservoirs in the North Sea."Along with maximising Scotland's huge renewable energy potential and improving energy efficiency, ending the use of unabated coal or gas power stations will be critical in helping Scotland meet its future climate targets."Last week, the UK government announced only power stations with clean-coal technology would be permitted in the future. The government predicted a "new future for the North Sea industry" due to the abundance of offshore storage sites.

GREEN TECHNOLOGY to capture carbon dioxide from coal and gas power stations has not yet been used on a commercial scale.However, it has been shown to work in the laboratory and using demonstration models.Companies across the UK and in other parts of the world are competing to become the first to develop the technology.Last week, the government announced that permission would not be given for new, traditional fossil-fuel power stations. This has paved the way for the UK to become a world leader in the field of carbon capture.The government predicts the cost of carbon capture will see consumers having to pay a new levy of 2 per cent on their gas bills. This would average about £8 a year for each household.

Long-term carbon emissions the real threat

Times Online
April 30, 2009

Less than a quarter of the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels can be burnt if the world wants to avoid a high risk of dangerous levels of global warming, research suggests.
The risk of severe climate change is determined mainly by the total amount of carbon released into the air since the start of the Industrial Revolution, rather than by short-term emission rates, according to two studies published today in the journal Nature.
The authors argue that this means the world will eventually have to stop emitting carbon entirely to make up for what we have already pumped into the atmosphere.
The researchers concluded that humankind can emit no more than one trillion tonnes of carbon to avoid the likelihood of a global temperature rise of two degrees celsius, the level widely considered the minimum to avoid widespread harm.

We have burnt through more than half of that since industrialisation began 250 years ago and at current rates we will burn the other half within 40 years, say a team from Britain, Germany and Switzerland.
The scientists believe that their findings could simplify efforts to reduce global emissions by providing an easily understood “carbon budget” that could cut through a tangle of competing targets.
“A tonne of carbon is a tonne of carbon whether its released now or in 50 years' time,” said Myles Allen, head of the Climate Dynamics group at the University of Oxford and lead author on one of the papers.
“We find a simple and predictable relationship between the total amount of carbon we inject into the atmosphere and the peak projected warming in response.”
Dr Allen’s team modelled the warming that would result from burning a trillion tonnes of carbon (about 3.7 trillion tonnes of CO2), using new data that show carbon does not decay in the atmosphere as simply as previously thought. They found that the most likely result was a warming of two degrees above pre-industrial levels, a number that was affected very little by the timing or rate of emissions.
They add that given the impact of other greenhouse gases and the uncertainty in the model — under which a trillion tonnes of carbon could produce warming of 3.9C — “we may have to accept an even lower limit to have any realistic chance of avoiding two degrees of anthropogenic warming”.
Another team, led by Malte Meinshausen, of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research, also found that total cumulative carbon emissions were the crucial factor in keeping global warming below two degrees.
They concluded that to keep the risk of warming greater than this to only 25 per cent, the world could from now on afford to release less than a quarter of the carbon stored in the planet's proven, economically recoverable reserves of fossil fuels.
The authors argue that their conclusions reinforce the case for early cuts in emissions. “No one could credibly suggest that we should carry on with business as usual to the 2040s and then somehow stop using fossil fuels, switch to 100 per cent carbon capture or just shut down the world economy overnight,” they write in a commentary paper.
The longer the world lets emissions rise, the harder it will be to reduce them enough to stay within a trillion tonnes. “If you let emissions rise beyond 2020 you’re facing 8 per cent a year reductions even to stay within the trillion target,” Dr Allen said.
Ultimately, rather than trying to stabilise emissions at a lower rate, we will need an “exit strategy” to move to a entirely zero carbon economy, he said. “Reducing emissions in the short term will only work if it’s in the context of a plan to phase out carbon emissions entirely.”

Climate change remains agenda priority for Obama

The Times
April 30, 2009

Tom Baldwin in Washington

Ed Miliband, the British Energy Secretary, has praised the Obama Administration for transforming America’s position on climate change but questioned its ability to overcome powerful opponents.
After three days of talks on global warming in Washington Mr Miliband said: “There is no question about the change of direction and the change in terms of political will. The question is how far can they go — and how quickly?”
The conference was intended to start talks before a meeting in Copenhagen in December at which the international community will discuss a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. China and India are unwilling to impose carbon use restrictions unless the developed world, and the US in particular, does more.
Mr Obama pledged to bring US emissions down to 1990 levels by 2020 — a cut of roughly 15 per cent. He said: “Our future on this planet depends on our willingness to address the challenge posed by carbon pollution.”

This is short of the 20 per cent reduction below 1990 levels that the European Union has identified as its minimum target for the next decade.
Congress is considering a Bill that would go further, reducing domestic emissions by perhaps 6 per cent below their 1990 levels through the introduction of a cap-and-trade system.
This is opposed by Senators from rust-belt and coal-mining states and is unlikely to be approved either in its present form or before the Copenhagen conference. Even John Dingell, the Democratic Congressman who was recently ousted from the energy committee chairmanship, has taken to describing the cap-and-trade legislation as “a great big” tax.
Mr Miliband pointed out that six months ago most people expected climate change to drop off the US agenda because of the economy. Instead, he said, “the Administration has decided to make this a political priority”.