Saturday, 2 May 2009

No green shoots on climate change

The first 'green budget' is very balanced – every measure to stop climate change is balanced with one that makes it worse

Andrew Simms, Friday 1 May 2009 08.00 BST

Faced with worsening projections for global warming and energy security, learning that the wind turbine maker Vestas will be closing its factory on the Isle of Wight is a bit like hearing that pharmaceutical companies are closing down the production of flu vaccines just as the alert for swine flu goes from level five to full pandemic.
The comparison is useful in more ways than one. It reveals how governments can recognise and act to avert systemic risk in some areas like high finance and flu, but have blind spots or grossly inadequate responses in others, such as climate change. It's also a useful reminder that when natural systems cross a critical threshold – for example, the number and distribution of people infected with a virulent flu virus, or the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – humanity quickly finds that it is no longer in the driving seat and able to control the direction of travel.
Last month the budget demonstrated the continuing confusion of a political system still struggling to come to terms with the inescapable parameters set by natural systems. The budget was balanced, but only in the sense that anything positive done to promote a low-carbon economy was cancelled out by other measures that will lock in fossil fuel-intensive infrastructure. Both the car and oil industry were happy recipients of budget bungs.
Grasping at the few optimistic straws still blowing around the economy, the chancellor, Alastair Darling, pointed out that the global economy still stood to double in size over the next 20 years.
What he forgot to mention, or didn't know, is that with each "doubling" of the economy, you use as many resources as with all the previous doublings combined.
Prof Roderick Smith of the Royal Academy of Engineering at Imperial College identified these resource implications of economic doubling. Engineers, it seems, are more adept at understanding material limits. He wrote that the physical view of the economy "is governed by the laws of thermodynamics and continuity" and so, "the question of how much natural resource we have to fuel the economy, and how much energy we have to extract, process and manufacture is central to our existence".
This year, on a conservative analysis, the UK started to live beyond its environmental means – consuming more and producing more waste than the UK itself can handle – by Easter Sunday, 12 April. This was our "ecological debt day".
Given that both the UK and the world as a whole already use more resources and produce more waste than collectively our forests, fields, oceans and atmosphere can safely provide and absorb, where, we must ask, will the resources come from to double the size of the global economy?
Darling's speech was to introduce the first "green budget", a package meant to put the country on a path to sustainability. It included the world's first legally binding carbon budget. Yet its targets to reduce emissions are roughly half of what is necessary, according to the climate research work of Prof Kevin Anderson at the Tyndall Centre at Manchester University.
The budget also included roughly £1.4bn of apparently new money to reduce emissions across a range of measures for energy efficiency and renewables. That sum amounts to about 0.09% of the UK's GDP, and compares sadly to the 20% of GDP that the International Monetary Fund estimates the UK set aside for bailing out its financial sector.
But even here the green hue is darkened by our continuing dependence on oil, coal and gas, and plans to build more runways, roads and new coal fired power stations that capture only a small proportion of their carbon emissions.
Support in the budget to extract an additional 2bn barrels of North Sea oil will produce extra greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to the UK's entire emissions in 2006, including shipping and aviation. Funds for car scrappage schemes, lacking any meaningful environmental criteria, could also see emissions rise rather than fall.
Plans for electric cars may sound attractive, but you still need the clean energy to power them. More than a low-carbon vehicle strategy, if the UK is to improve its own energy security and environment, and tackle climate change, we need a low-car vehicle strategy.
Ultimately, the message sent by the budget was confusion. Setting an emissions reduction target in these circumstances is like setting someone a deadline to give up smoking, and then pushing them into a smoke-filled bar where all the walls are lined with cigarette machines.
Nature may be beautiful, but it also has a mind of its own and can take or leave humanity. That's why we have to respect it and work within its parameters. Both flu pandemics and global warming are lethal. One difference is that if we go through the next 91 months without changing course, the climate roulette of runaway warming will not blow over. It will endure.
91 months and counting...
• Each month Andrew Simms is analysing how much closer the world has moved to catastrophic climate change. Read his previous blog here

Wind farm's radar system stops birds getting the chop

Texas claims world first in using Nasa technology to spare migrating species
Suzanne Goldenberg, Friday 1 May 2009 21.42 BST

It could be considered an air traffic control system for birds who have flown perilously off course. A wind farm in southern Texas, situated on a flight path used by millions of birds each autumn and spring, is pioneering the use of radar technology to avoid deadly collisions between a 2,500lb rotating blade and bird.
US wind farms kill about 7,000 birds a year, according to a recent study. Other studies of individual wind farms suggest a higher toll on bats and birds, which crash into towers, blades, power lines and other installations. Estimates from a single wind farm in Altamont, California showed as many as 1,300 birds of prey killed each year – or about three a day.
Such direct threats to wildlife, and concern for habitats, have increasingly pitted conservationists against the renewable energy industry. A handful of wind power projects in the US have been shelved because of wildlife concerns.
But it is claimed that radar technology now in use at the Penascal wind farm in Texas has found a balance between competing environmental concerns – taking action against global warming and protecting wildlife – by protecting migrating birds at times of peak danger.
The 202 megawatt farm, operated by the Spanish firm Iberdrola Renewables, is the first in the world to use radar systems to enable it to shut down automatically if bad weather hits in peak migration times.
The installation, which opened late last month, uses radar systems originally developed for Nasa and the US air force to detect approaching birds from as far as four miles away, analyse weather conditions, and then determine whether they are in danger of flying into the rotating blades.
If they are, the turbines are programmed to shut down, restarting once the birds are safely on their way, said Gary Andrews, the chairman of DeTect Inc, the Florida company which developed the technology. The system spots the birds and assesses their altitude, numbers and the visibility. "With all these pieces coming together properly … the turbines will shut down," said Andrews.
The Penascal wind farm is located on the Central Flyway, a main route for migratory birds in the Americas.
Millions of birds funnel through the narrow air corridor during the semi-annual migration. A study in the autumn of 2007 found 4,000 birds an hour passing overhead. More than 30 species of warbler alone fly the route, with water fowl, raptors and hawks.
In ordinary circumstances, the birds would be thousands of feet above the wind farm, passing the turbines without incident. But that can change dramatically in a sudden storm. "The birds may be very vulnerable," said Christopher Shackleford, an ornithologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Andrews says his radar systems can avoid such consequences – and the wind farm would be forced to close only between 40 to 60 hours during peak migration times.
But conservationists say that wind farms should still be sited away from migration routes, and that the technology does nothing to solve the problem of installations that disturb bird and animal habitats and nesting grounds.
"The bottom line with wind energy is that it has great potential but it must be done correctly," said Doug Inkley. a senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation

Top planner aims to push renewable energy

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: May 1 2009 22:46

Unblocking the bottleneck in wind farm applications – blamed for stalling the UK’s renewable energy industry – is the biggest challenge facing Sir Michael Pitt after he began work as the government’s chief planning official on Friday.
Sir Michael gained plaudits for conducting the review of the disastrous 2007 floods, but faces an uphill task in removing big obstacles to improving the UK’s infrastructure.
The figures on wind speak for themselves: so far this year, 10 wind farms have been approved and 10 refused, according to the British Wind Energy Association. The industry body says there are 8.3MW worth of wind projects applying for planning permission, which is two-and-a-half times as many as have yet been built. At the same time, competitor countries, such as the US, are investing heavily in a low-carbon economy.
The approval rate in the past few years has been about 40 per cent, compared with an approval rate for other projects that need planning permission of about 75 per cent. It takes an average of two years to get a decision, compared with the 70 per cent of other infrastructure projects that are approved within 16 weeks.
“There is still a problem with planning, and it is still very slow,” said Charles Anglin of the BWEA.
‘The UK has the best wind resources in the world, but not the wind farms to match’Torben Sommer, Piper Jaffray
With the government relying on wind for most of the 35-40 per cent of electricity that must come from renewable sources by 2020, the failure to gain approval for more wind farms is crucial.
Just as importantly, the failure is also jeopardising the government’s ambitions to create hundreds of thousands of “green jobs”, many in renewables. This week, one of the UK’s few renewable equipment makers, Vestas, said it would cut more than half of its 1,100 UK jobs.
Announcing the cuts, Ditlev Engel, chief executive of Vestas, accused the government of failing to ease the path of wind developers.
In his sights were local opponents to wind farms: “Local politicians have a tremendous say, and what national politicians say means nothing when the decisions are made.”
Vestas is considering closing down its Isle of Wight plant – currently the only wind turbine manufacturing plant in the UK of any significant size. Many of the turbine components made there were destined for the US market, because of a lack of opportunity in the UK market, Mr Engel said, and now it made more sense to move manufacturing to the US and China.
Torben Sommer, senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, said: “Companies have to build wind turbines where there is a market, as it’s very expensive to transport them. The UK has the best wind resources in the world, but not the wind farms to match.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

How Prince's food is destroying rainforests

Duchy Original biscuits, soup and pies contain oil responsible for deforestation
By Martin Hickman, Consumer affairs correspondent
Saturday, 2 May 2009


Prince Charles, who is touring the world campaigning to save the rainforests, is selling products containing an ingredient blamed for wrecking them.
Palm oil is present in five of products in his Duchy Originals range of organic groceries sold in British shops.
In the past year, Prince Charles has flown to the Amazon and Indonesia to lecture politicians, businesses and the public about the need to save rainforests, whose rapid destruction kills rare animals and hastens climate change.

Two years ago the heir to the throne set up the Prince's Rainforest Project with the backing of 18 corporations including Goldman Sachs and McDonald's to campaign against deforestation.
Environmental groups including the World Wide Fund for Nature, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, along with the United Nations, have expressed concern at the clearing of jungles in Sumatra and Borneo to make way for palm oil plantations. The world's cheapest cooking oil is also grown in Papua New Guinea and Colombia.
Yesterday The Independent disclosed the confirmed or suspected presence of palm oil in 43 leading brands, including Hovis bread, KitKats and Mars Bars.
Duchy Originals manufacturers pour palm oil into its toffee biscuits, beetroot soup, spinach and nutmeg soup, fresh chicken gravy and steak and ale pie. A spokesman for the company yesterday defended the practice, saying: "Currently less than five of our products – in a range of over 200 – contain palm oil. Duchy Originals only uses palm oil in recipes where there is no alternative, and then only in minimal quantities. We have worked hard over the past year to eliminate palm oil from a number of our products and have asked our producers to look at replacing it wherever possible."
Only two per cent of global palm oil is currently certified sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The rest – including supplies from newly-razed forests – is mixed together in refineries. At one stage Duchy Originals' PR company stated it only required suppliers to be RSPO members, but Duchy Originals later clarified that supplies had to be RSPO-certified.
There is no proof who buys these sustainable supplies because contracts are between manufacturers and suppliers. However the first certified supplies only became available in November 2008, meaning that Duchy Originals palm oil would not have had the international guarantee of sustainability before then. In November 2008, Prince Charles was visiting Indonesia to warn of the perils of deforestation. On its website, the Rainforest Project warns that "soaring demand for beef, soya and palm oil has put acute new pressures on the rainforests".
Palm-oil free foods
*Walkers Crisps; Muller Light; Lurpak; Lindt; Heinz Beans; Weetabix; Cathedral City Cheese; Heinz Soups; Danone Activia; Heinz Ketchup; Petit Filous; Dairylea; Anchor Spreads; Doritos; Bird's Eye Frozen Veg; Hellmann's Mayonnaise; Hula Hoops; Sensations; Yeo Valley Yogurts; Kettle Crisps; Uncle Ben's Rice; McCain's Chips; Snack a Jacks; Kellogg's Cornflakes; Toblerone; Danone Actimel; John West Tinned Fish. Palm oil is also not in leading pet food Pedigree, Whiskas and Felix, nor best-selling soft and alcoholic drinks.

Palm oil and climate change

By James Turner, Greenpeace forests campaigner
Saturday, 2 May 2009

Palm oil is an inescapable part of everyday life. As the new research from the Independent shows, it is now virtually impossible to avoid buying products that contain palm oil in every supermarket, chemist and sweet shop in Britain. Considering the fact that this commodity is now one of the most environmentally damaging on earth, this can seem like a gloomy prospect - but there are a few reasons for hope.

In Indonesia, the picture is extremely worrying. In the last two decades, millions of hectares of rainforest have been destroyed to make way for new plantations. Peat forests and swamps which have stood for centuries are being chopped down, drained and burned, to be replaced with gigantic monoculture crops. This systematic destruction is now responsible for an astonishing four percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and the orang-utan, perhaps the most potent symbol of man’s kinship with nature, could be less than ten years from extinction.
This crisis stems from the failure of the industry to grasp the consequences of explosive, unrestrained growth. It was not until 2003 that attempts were made to slow the destruction by creating the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm oil (RSPO), a body which brought together growers, transporters and consumers of palm oil. It set criteria for companies who wished to claim that their oil was “sustainable”, allowing them to benefit from the good PR that this kind of initiative can bring. Yet six years later only a trickle of certified palm oil has entered the marketplace, and some RSPO members freely admit that it is failing to achieve its objectives. Meanwhile RSPO member companies operating in Indonesia are able to use the organisation to burnish their green credentials whilst simultaneously destroying rainforests with impunity.
British companies have a key role to play here. Some are rightly frustrated by the slow progress of the Roundtable and are looking to do more, by engaging with their suppliers and supporting campaigns for an end to rainforest clearance for palm oil. Others insist that their influence is limited, but Greenpeace believes that all UK retailers and manufacturers have powerful tools at their disposal. If these companies were to cancel their purchasing contracts with the worst offending palm oil producers, it would reverberate through the industry. This kind of financial signal would enable those producers who are committed to sustainability to come to the fore, offering the British consumer the chance to support environmentally responsible palm oil for the very first time.
The sheer number of products that contain palm oil can seem daunting. But with consumer pressure, industry leadership and political incentives these tropical rainforests can be placed off limits - for good.

US coal power plants scuttled, Sierra Club cheers

Reuters, Friday May 1 2009
By Bernie Woodall

LOS ANGELES, May 1 (Reuters) - Cancellation of a coal-fired power plant in Michigan announced on Friday brings to 97 the number of plants scuttled since 2001, said the Sierra Club, an environmental group that opposes coal plants because they are major emitters of gasses blamed for global warming.
Plans remain active for only 59 of the 220 coal coal-fired plants planned and in various stages of permitting since 2001, said Bruce Nilles, head of the Sierra Club's campaign to eliminate coal-fired power plants in the United States.
In 2008, 24 coal projects were canceled, according to Sierra Club's count. This year, nine plants have been dropped.
The rest are "on ice" and will likely never be built, Nilles said.
The Sierra Club wants existing coal-fired power plants to be replaced by cleaner power, but the U.S. Department of Energy's statistical arm expects coal to provide the largest share U.S. electric generation for years.
Coal is expected to fuel 47 percent of generation in 2030, down just 2 percentage points from 49 percent in 2007, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its 2009 Annual Energy Outlook. Overall, electricity from coal-fired plants in 2030 would be 19 percent higher than in 2007.
New coal-fired capacity will be limited by concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and the potential for mandated limits, but EIA noted that existing plants will keep operating.
Other factors besides environmental worries are working against coal plants: higher construction costs and lower prices for natural gas, a cleaner alternative for generation.
The recession also has hurt prospects for a number of abandoned coal projects, including the Michigan plant scuttled on Friday by LS Power. [ID:nN01322833]
Renewable power will not keep pace with growing demand, even if energy efficiency programs succeed, said Jim Owen, spokesman for Edison Electric Institute, an industry lobby.
He noted that the nine plants that have been scuttled in 2009 would have generated about 6,650 megawatts of power -- enough to serve almost 5 million homes.
Owen said the power industry hopes to advance so-called clean coal technologies that include capturing CO2 emissions for underground storage.
"We must deal with higher demand for power and carbon constraints," he said.
Owen said the recession has cut into electricity demand, but he expects that within a few years, power demand will match annual U.S. GDP growth of 2 percent to 3 percent.
Nilles of the Sierra Club said coal power opponents "have a long way to go. We can declare victory when we've ended coal's contribution to global warming."
Coal-fired power plants are the biggest single contributor of CO2 emissions in the United States, making up more than 30 percent of all such emissions. All forms of power plants contribute 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse emissions.
CO2 is by far the leading contributor to global greenhouse gases which cause global warming.
Despite its success in fighting coal plants, the Sierra Club noted that a number of public-power agencies - rural electric cooperatives and municipalities - "continue to push forward with new coal plants despite the increasing financial risk."
Nilles scored the election of Barack Obama as a major victory for his cause, as reflected in changes at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Nilles hailed this week's withdrawal of a permit for the 1,500-megawatt Desert Rock plant in New Mexico and the pronouncement two weeks ago that CO2 endangers public health and welfare as evidence of a new EPA.
"The EPA has been moving very fast which is in sharp contrast to eight years when the EPA was very much on the sidelines," said Nilles.
(Additional reporting by Scott DiSavino and Eileen O'Grady)

Green hysteria shackles our economic growth

Emissions legislation and excessive fear of global warming are the last thing we need when the world economy is in recession

Václav Klaus, Friday 1 May 2009 11.21 BST

I am surprised so many people in Europe, the US and elsewhere have come to support policies underpinned by hysteria over global warming, particularly cap-and-trade legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions and subsidies for "green" energy sources.
I am convinced this is a misguided strategy - not only because of the uncertainty about the dangers that global warming might pose, but also because of the certainty of the damage that policies aimed at mitigation will cause.
Europe is several years ahead of the US in implementing policies intended to mitigate global warming. All of the EU's member countries have adopted policies to lower their emissions and meet their Kyoto targets.
These policies include a cap-and-trade initiative known as the Emissions Trading Scheme, steep fuel taxes, and ambitious programmes to build windmills and other renewable energy projects. These policies were made at a time when the EU economy was doing well and - one hopes - with full knowledge that they would have significant costs.
With the global financial crisis and the sudden economic downturn, two things are becoming clear. First, it will be difficult to afford these expensive new sources of energy. Second, energy rationing policies like cap-and-trade will be a permanent drag on economic activity. Ironically, emissions have not decreased as a result of these policies, but are doing so now as the world economy moves into recession.
This is not a surprise to someone like me, having been actively involved in my country's transition from communism to a free society and market economy. The old, outmoded heavy industries that were the pride of our communist regime were shut down - almost overnight - because they could not survive the opening of the economy. The result was a dramatic decline in CO2 emissions.
As the economies of the Czech Republic and other central and eastern European countries were rebuilt, emissions have naturally started to increase. It should be clear to everyone that there is a strong correlation between economic growth and energy use.
So I am amazed to see people going along with the currently fashionable political argument that policies such as cap-and-trade, government mandates and subsidies for renewable energy can actually benefit an economy. It is claimed that government, working together with business, will create "a new energy economy", that the businesses involved will profit and that everyone will be better off.
This is a fantasy. Cap-and-trade can only work by raising energy prices. Consumers who are forced to pay higher prices for energy will have less money to spend on other things. While the individual companies that provide the higher-priced "green" energy may do well, the net economic effect will be negative.
It is necessary to look at the bigger picture. Profits can be made when energy is rationed or subsidised, but only within an economy operating at lower, or even negative, growth rates. This means that over the longer term, everyone will be competing for a piece of a pie that is smaller than it would have been without energy rationing.
This does not auger well either for growth or working our way out of today's crisis.
• Václav Klaus is president of the Czech Republic, which holds the presidency of the council of ministers of the European Union until June. He is the author of Blue Planet in Green Shackles - What is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?

Halls of shame: biggest CO2 offenders unveiled

• 18,000 public buildings in energy efficiency tests • Even new premises fare badly under emissions law

Robert Booth
The Guardian, Thursday 2 October 2008

The Palace of Westminster and the Bank of England have been exposed as among the country's least energy efficient public buildings by a new law to measure carbon dioxide emissions from the national estate.
Around 18,000 buildings, including town halls, museums, schools and job centres, are being tested to discover their energy efficiency on a sliding scale where A is the best and G is the worst. Parliament and the Bank both scored a G. Together, they consume enough electricity and gas to pump out 21,356 tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of more than 14,000 people flying from London to New York.
New buildings also fared badly, raising questions about the validity of sustainability claims made by architects and developers. London's City Hall scored E despite opening in 2002 and being described by its architect Foster & Partners as a "virtually non-polluting public building". The Treasury's headquarters on Horse Guards Parade scored the same despite a complete office refurbishment six years ago that was supposed to "set new environmental standards in Whitehall".
In Manchester, the Imperial War Museum North, designed by Daniel Libeskind and opened in 2002, scored a G, the same as its 91-year-old sister museum in London.
The government estimates that almost a fifth of all carbon dioxide emissions in the UK are caused by non-residential buildings, and environmental campaigners said the findings mean the government must launch an urgent refurbishment programme to slash carbon emissions.
The Natural History Museum spends £1.4m a year on electricity and gas - a figure that is expected to double from this month as a result of rising world energy prices. One of the most energy hungry buildings in the country was the National Media Museum in Bradford, a 1960s structure, which scored a G. One in four of the 3,200 buildings assessed so far scored F or G, and the average was D. Only 22 buildings - under 1% - scored A.
"These results show our leaky and draughty public buildings should be a priority target for refurbishment," said Paul King, chief executive of the UK Green Buildings Council. "In a turbulent financial climate, lower energy bills will benefit the taxpayer for years to come. If we are to cut our carbon, save money and achieve energy security, our buildings have to be on the front line of this battle."
"We review 350 significant new build projects a year at design stage and we hear a lot of greenwash," said Matt Bell, director of public affairs at the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, the government's architecture watchdog. "The knowledge that from now on this performance will be objectively measured should mark the end of that."
The findings emerged yesterday as it became law for any public building larger than 1,000 square metres to show a display energy certificate (DEC). The system is similar to the colour coded labels which show carbon emissions caused by refrigerators and cars. On that basis, the Bank and parliament are the building equivalent of a petrol-hungry Land Rover Discovery.
No 10 Downing Street managed a D rating, which is better than average for its building type. But the prime minister's heating, lighting and air conditioning still create 675 tonnes of CO2 a year, a bigger carbon footprint than a street of 28 families of four living in semi detached homes, each driving 10,000 miles a year and flying to Spain on an annual holiday.
The findings are likely to embarrass the government, which has pledged to make all new public buildings zero carbon by 2018. The Department for the Environment's head office recorded an E.
Forty-three per cent of 374 jobcentres scored E or lower. Eland House, the 10- year-old head office of the Department for Communities and Local Government, which has overseen the DEC system, scored an F.
Building occupiers can be fined up to £1,500 if they fail to display the certificate and report on how efficiency might be improved. The Welsh Assembly, built to supposedly environmentally friendly designs by the architect Lord Rogers, is one of many occupiers which could face the fine after they missed the deadline and failed to put certificates up.
Buildings that performed well included a Jobcentre Plus office in Goole in the East Riding of Yorkshire, which received a B after lighting movement sensors were installed, a policy of turning off all computer monitors at night was introduced and timers were fitted to heating boilers.
"There are cheap measures which can be carried out to reduce most energy bills in these kinds of buildings by 20% quite quickly," said Jacqueline Balian, director of information for the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers, whose members have carried out around two thirds of the DECs. "Common problems are chillers and boilers running at the same time and leaving boilers on all night. This system of DECs should make the management of energy used by buildings much more high profile."
Iain Wright, the housing minister, who is responsible for the certification programme, said: "Display energy certificates are a valuable tool in the fight against climate change."
· This article was amended on Saturday October 4 2008. There were two errors in an article above about the energy efficiency of public buildings. The Imperial War Museum North is in Trafford Park, Manchester, not Salford. Goole is in the East Riding of Yorkshire, not Humberside. The county of Humberside was abolished in 1996. These errors have been corrected.

Carbon capture could be bigger than oil and gas to Scots economy

Published Date: 02 May 2009
By David Maddox, Scottish Political Correspondent

SCOTLAND is on the cusp of leading the world in a revolution in energy technology that could massively reduce carbon emissions and transform the economy.
As previously revealed in The Scotsman, a document was unveiled yesterday that showed the North Sea could be used to store unwanted carbon dioxide (Co2) emissions from power stations for at least 200 years.Academics suggested unwanted emissions from the UK and north west Europe could be safely stored under the North Sea. There could be potential to take up 2,000 years' of Scotland's unwanted Co2, they said.The research by Edinburgh University, sponsored by the Scottish Government, could be the blueprint for an industry that may outstrip oil and gas in importance to the future economy – and bring an estimated 10,000 jobs, it was claimed yesterday.The report found the potential capacity exists to store up to 46,000 million tonnes of Co2 in rocks beneath the Scottish waters of the North Sea.First Minister Alex Salmond, a long-term supporter of carbon capture storage technology (CCS), hailed the report as "ground-breaking" and a milestone in Scotland's future."The development of CCS in Scotland, including power stations and storage networks, has the potential to support 10,000 jobs," he said.Mr Salmond said that Scotland is well placed to lead the world in the technology because of its geological assets – mainly former oil and gas fields and an abundance of porous rock, known as saline aquifer.He added that Scotland was helped by its expertise from the oil industry, detailed knowledge of the North Sea and collection of experts in the field.He said: "Scotland can be a world leader in this technology of the future."Malcolm Ricketts, principal carbon analyst at energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie, said the report showed Scotland has a huge commercial potential in carbon capture."This has the opportunity to create a new offshore industry, with Scotland benefiting in terms of knowledge and skills," he said."The key is to position the first trials on power plants, which will help to develop a pipeline infrastructure for future CCS developments."However, a warning note was struck by some environmentalists that CCS – also known as "clean coal" – is an unproven technology outside the laboratory at industrial levels and could have a negative environmental impact.Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: "The First Minister proudly claims that 'Scotland is ready for carbon capture' but he forgets to add that carbon capture isn't ready for us."Nowhere does he admit that carbon capture on this scale exists only on the drawing board. It may make an important contribution one day, but it's a disgrace that Scottish ministers have already given their backing to new coal-fired power stations before carbon capture and storage has been demonstrated anywhere in the world."Liam McArthur, the Liberal Democrats' energy spokesman, warned: "It remains that the best kind of emission is no emission at all. Ministers must ensure that whatever potential Scotland has for developing carbon capture does not come at the expense of investment in clean, green, renewable energy."Other groups welcomed Mr Salmond's statement yesterday. Friends of the Earth Scotland and the World Wildlife Fund in Scotland both welcomed the report as a major development in tackling a future environmental disaster.Duncan McLaren, Friends of the Earth Scotland's chief executive, said: "The First Minister has today taken an important step forward in heralding a move away from unabated coal power by supporting technology to capture emissions."But he went on to remind Mr Salmond that carbon capture is "only half the equation" and appealed to the Scottish Government not to allow any new coal-powered stations which do not include CCS technology.And he endorsed ScottishPower's bid to have the first industrial experimental site for carbon capture at Longannet power station in Fife.If successful in a UK government competition, ScottishPower believes it can be up and running by 2014, and that the technology they develop could then be attached to the 50,000 fossil fuel power stations around the world. Frank Mitchell, generation director at ScottishPower, said this development in itself could make Scotland the centre of excellence for the technology around the world.Next stage – power firms fight it out for fundingTHE next step in the development of technology to capture and store carbon dioxide will be the result of a UK government competition for funding.Four power companies are competing for about £1 billion to pay for carbon capture projects they hope to build in the UK. ScottishPower is believed to be a front-runner with its plans to fit carbon capture technology at Longannet Power Station in Fife.Unlike its main rivals, ScottishPower would not need to build a new power station but would fit the technology to the existing plant.ScottishPower thinks that the project can be up and running by 2014 and hopes to start using the capacity within the North Sea to store the waste . It is important that the technology is proven and working by about 2025 or many coal-powered stations could have to close under EU pollution rules.The academics and companies behind carbon-capture research in Scotland want further evaluation of storage in the North Sea and government money for R&D.Although some infrastructure is in place, in the form of pipes which transported oil and gas from the North Sea, more will need to be built at a cost of around £700 million to £1.67 billion.Analysis - Professor Stuart HaszeldineCountry with technology and skills to cope with Co2ELECTRICITY, cheaply and readily available, is at the core of our lives. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, this is now taken for granted.Coal and gas have to be burned to produce more than 75 per cent of that electricity in the UK – easy, quick, but very polluting of the world's atmosphere and oceans. The carbon dioxide (Co2) created has to go.The UK is the first country to make Co2 reduction legally binding on a government, and last week became the first to require new coal power plant to fit carbon capture equipment.Carbon capture and storage (CCS) buys time. It allows industrial countries to carry on burning fossil fuels in a much cleaner way. Scotland can justifiably claim world-class advantages. Firstly, the capture equipment has to be designed and built – Doosan Babcock has its world research base at Renfrew, and plans to provide 10 per cent of new coal plant worldwide.A willing and adaptable power industry is needed to build, and learn to operate, the massive capture equipment. This can clean up existing power plant (as with Longannet and ScottishPower), or can be applied to newly built power plant (potentially at Peterhead with Scottish & Southern, or at Hunterston with RWE).High quality pipelines are required onshore and offshore, delivering to injection terminals – this expertise is also well established through decades of North Sea work.Identifying and assessing a storage site, then injecting the , uses the skills and expertise of hydrocarbon companies; monitoring the stored during and after operations is the business of geophysical contractors.The Scottish government expects the creation of 10,000 new high-tech green jobs when CCS becomes standard practice. Many of these will use existing onshore and offshore skills and extend them.Unique natural assets for Scotland are the storage sites. A power plant can be re-built, or the can be transported, but the huge volumes of rock to act as stores are fixed.Our research shows clearly that Scotland has hundreds, probably thousands, of years of storage capacity for its own needs – enough capacity to offer storage to both England and north-west Europe.Will this be safe? There is every reason is will be; there are dozens of large natural accumulations of worldwide, some in the North Sea, which have stored for tens of millions of years.The geological requirements are well understood. Any storage site will have to go through a rigorous licensing procedure, rather like for oil and gas exploration and production.The UK is very good at this, we have already produced our regulations in law, ready to go. Monitoring of a storage site is explicitly required, both during injection and for many years after site closure.• Stuart Haszeldine is professor of sedimentary geology at the University of Edinburgh.

UK government missing own carbon cut targets

UK government departments will not meet carbon cuts target of 12.5% by 2012 despite a reduction in emissions from road travel and less waste and water consumption, sustainability report finds

Press Association, Friday 1 May 2009 11.36 BST

The government is not on track to meet targets to cut carbon emissions from its own departments, its sustainability watchdog warned today.
A report from the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) said departments had taken significant steps towards cutting emissions from road travel and reducing waste and water consumption.
But the SDC said the government had reported a 6.3% decrease in carbon emissions from its offices since the year 1999-2000, an insufficient reduction for it to hit a target of 12.5% reductions by 2011-12.
And it was not nearly enough to contribute to the legally binding national goal to cut emissions by 80% by 2050, the commission said.
The annual Sustainable Development in Government report also said future targets for environmental performance by departments, to replace those that will shortly expire, must be "set high" to reflect the scale of the challenge ahead.
A failure to cut carbon will force departments to buy carbon credits to cover their emissions, under new rules coming in next year to promote energy and carbon savings, the SDC said.
But a £4bn investment in wind and solar energy generation on the government estate could slash emissions from offices by 68%, save on energy bills and boost the green technology and construction sectors. Last year, a new law requiring public buildings to display their energy use revealed that the head office of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) recorded an E-rating on a scale where A is best and G is worst. The newly created Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was also shamed this year when it was revealed to be one of the least energy-efficient buildings in London.
While the government remains on track to meet targets for levels of recycling and electricity from renewables, both fell last year, the report showed. And the amount of electricity used was on the rise, largely due to increased use of IT and the need for more air conditioning of server rooms.
The SDC welcomed commitments in the budget to support the shift to low-carbon vehicles, but said the government's current travel arrangements allowed staff to claim mileage at rates above fuel costs, providing "perverse" incentives for car use. Instead they should be given incentives to use more sustainable forms of travel or travel less, it urged.
The commission also said controls should be put on officials flying domestically and to European destinations where rail travel was an option. And there needed to be greater understanding of the full environmental impacts of government operations, for example developing "water footprints" and investigating the carbon footprint of supply chains of goods bought by departments.
Rebecca Willis, the vice-chairwoman of the SDC, said: "The government has taken some really significant steps making its own operations more sustainable. But it is still not on track to meet crucial targets, including reducing carbon emissions from offices."
William Jordan, central government's chief sustainability officer, said: "Significant progress has been made by the government in delivering on its commitment to deliver sustainable operations on the government's own estate."
He said he looked forward to working with the SDC to address the issues raised in the report and said the government would be revising targets and commitments on sustainability this year to ensure they reflected "leading practice".