Thursday, 4 June 2009

Labour's real action on climate change

It is Labour – not the defeatist Green party – that has taken ambitious measures to combat the threat to our environment

Joan Ruddock, Wednesday 3 June 2009 16.30 BST

I used to think that the greatest threat to tackling climate change was the group of deniers holding us back from building a consensus around the problem and how to deal with it. Now I fear the greatest threat is defeatism dressed up as idealism.
The Green party pretends to be idealistic and ambitious but encourages defeatism with its complete refusal to accept that there has been progress in tackling climate change. Not least of all the Climate Change Act; a world first, binding the UK government by law to reduce carbon emissions by a third by 2020 and by 80% by 2050. It's a model that Friends of the Earth campaign for other countries to adopt in their Big Ask, a sign perhaps of greater optimism and ambition than the Green party demonstrates.
With an ambitious path that's dictated by the science, the Labour government is acting to ensure those cuts can be achieved. It will need a revolution in the way we live: in our homes, in the energy we use and in the way we move around. This government has made significant shifts in all of these areas. The progress we make shows that we can tackle climate change and also meet another key goal for the Labour party – fairness.
Last year the government's Warm Front scheme insulated a home every six minutes. In 2007-8 £350m was spent not just reducing carbon emissions but supporting those who need help most. We are also embarking on the Great British Refurb; by regulating the energy companies we are insulating 6m homes between 2008 and 2012, with every suitable loft and cavity being insulated by 2015. A quarter of British homes should have had full eco-makeovers and every home will have a smart meter by 2020.
In our power sector, we have a target – to generate 15% of our energy from renewables by 2020; this is challenging but achievable. It will include introducing feed-in tariffs to enable households to claim guaranteed cash back when they generate their own electricity, and incentives for renewable heat such as solar power. The biggest offshore wind farm in the world, the London Array, will now go ahead as a result of our intention to increase support for offshore wind in the . Wind last year provided the electricity for 2m homes.
The Greens dogmatically refuse to accept other forms of energy that can help us decarbonise our energy supply. We have insisted that no new coal power stations can be built without carbon capture and storage – the only country in the world to do this. Christian Aid said the decision was "courageous and progressive" but the Green party leader has said such efforts should be left to the market. Vital technologies such as CCS will not be built at commercial scale if left to the market, and countries such as China and India, who get two thirds of their power from coal, would not be able to move to low-carbon growth.
Climate change demands investment in all the renewables and new technologies like CCS and we also need to use proven ones and that means nuclear, even for those of us who opposed it in the past. Labour's commitment to the trinity of energy sources, clean fossil fuels, nuclear and renewables, means we can be serious not only about decarbonising the energy supply of the UK without the lights going out, but also the UK can have the edge when it comes to developing green manufacturing and jobs. In the teeth of a recession we had a budget which found £1.4bn for new investment in developing a low carbon economy. More than 20% of public investment since last November has been on sustainable and green projects.
As well as the revolution in power, and the Great British Refurb in our homes, we need a revolution too in transport. The UK has led in the EU to set the toughest mandatory car emissions standards in the world, and to accelerate the commercialisation of electric vehicles. And we have imposed the toughest emission standards for aviation in the world. Crossrail, increasing rail capacity and more local control of bus services, the list of Labour action on sustainable transport goes on: real programmes right now making a real difference to carbon emission reductions and improving people's lives.
The risk of defeatism is at its greatest when it comes to getting an international agreement. Only months ago people said it wouldn't be possible to get a global climate deal in Copenhagen this December. President Obama has transformed the debate. China is increasingly coming on board. The UK's efforts at home make a difference on the world stage and we are working hard to get that global climate deal.

Learning to live with climate change will not be enough

A leading environmentalist explains why drastically reducing carbon dioxide emissions now will be easier, cheaper, and more ethical than dealing with runaway climate destabilization later. By David W Orr of Yale Environment 360, part of Guardian Environment Network, Wednesday 3 June 2009 16.20 BST

The awareness that humans could alter the climate of Earth has dawned slowly on our consciousness. In 1896, Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius deflected his anguish over a failed marriage into remarkably tedious and, as it turned out, accurate calculations about the effect of CO2 emissions on climate. It was an oddly therapeutic thing to do, but it had no more effect on public attention than the smallest cloud on a distant horizon.
Another 69 years would pass before scientists warned a U.S. president of the potential for serious climate disruption, and still another 30 years before the first report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Now, facing climate destabilization, our choices for action are said to be adapting to a warmer world or mitigating the severity of climate change by sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, neither adaptation nor mitigation alone will be sufficient, and sometimes they may overlap. But in a world of limited resources, money, and time we will be forced often to choose between the two. In making such choices, the major issues in dispute have to do with estimates of the pace, scale, and duration of climatic disruption. And here the scientific evidence tilts the balance strongly toward mitigation.
The argument for adaptation to the effects of climate change rests on a chain of logic that goes something like this: Climate change is real, but will be slow and moderate enough to permit orderly adaptation to changes that we can foresee and comprehend. Those changes will, in a few decades, plateau around a new, manageable stable state, leaving the gains of the modern world mostly intact — albeit powered by wind, solar, and as-yet-undreamed advanced technologies.
In other words, the developed world can adapt to climatic changes without sacrificing much. The targets for adaptation include developing heat- and drought-tolerant crops for agriculture, changing architectural standards to withstand greater heat and larger storms, and modifying infrastructure to accommodate larger storm events and rising sea levels, as well as prolonged heat and drought. These are eminently sensible and obvious measures that we must take.
But at some point there are limits to what can be done and the places in which such measures can be effective. With predicted changes in Arguments for mitigation are rather like those for tuning the water off in an overflowing tub before mopping. temperature, rainfall, and sea level rise, it is unlikely that we can "promote ecosystem resiliency" or adapt to such changes with "no regrets," as some have suggested. On the contrary, ecological resilience and biological diversity will almost surely decline as climatic changes now underway accelerate, and going forward we will surely have a great many regrets — chiefly of the "why did we not do more to stop it earlier" sort.
Accordingly, more extreme adaptive measures called "geoengineering" are being discussed. These include proposals to fertilize oceans with iron to increase carbon uptake, or injecting sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere to increase the reflective albedo and thereby provide temporary cooling. But since the effects of geoengineering are largely unstudied and its risks largely unknown, it is a "true option of last resort" in the words of one analysis. Accordingly, "the best and safest strategy for reversing climate change is to halt the buildup of greenhouse gases," as a recent article in Foreign Affairs suggests.
Proponents of mitigation, on the other hand, give priority to limiting the emission of heat trapping-gases as quickly as possible to reduce the eventual severity of climatic disruption. The essence of the case for mitigation is that:
Growing scientific evidence indicates that the effects of climate change will be greater and will occur faster than previously thought.
The duration of climate effects will last for thousands of years, not decades.
We are in a very tight race to avoid causing irreversible changes that would seriously damage or destroy civilization.
The effects of climate destabilization can be contained perhaps only by emergency action to stabilize and then reduce CO2 levels.
Practically, climate mitigation means reversing the addition of carbon to the atmosphere by making a rapid transition to energy efficiency and renewable energy. Arguments for mitigation, in other words, are rather like those for turning the water off in an overflowing tub before mopping. Those advocating mitigation believe that we are in a race to reduce the forcing effects of heat-trapping gases before we cross various thresholds — some known, some unknown — tipping us into irretrievable disaster beyond the ameliorative effects of any conceivable adaptation.
There are five reasons why focusing on mitigation is a far-better choice than emphasizing adaptation. First, the record shows that climate change is occurring much faster than previously thought, will affect virtually every aspect of life in every corner of Earth, and will last far longer than we'd once believed. The small cloud that Arrhenius saw on the distant horizon in 1896 is growing into a massive storm, dead ahead.
The effects of climatic destabilization, in other words, will be global, pervasive, permanent, and steadily — or rapidly — worsening. Given the roughly 30-year lag between what comes out of our tail pipes and Adaptation targets will often move faster than we can anticipate as climate disruption becomes manifest. smokestacks, the climate change-driven weather effects we now see are being caused by emissions that occurred in the late 1970s. What is in store 30 years ahead when the forcing effects of our present 387 parts per million of CO2 are manifest? Or further out when, say, the warming and acidifying effects of 450 parts per million of CO2 — or higher — on the oceans have significantly diminished their capacities to absorb carbon? No one knows for certain, but trends in predictive climate science suggest that they will be much worse than once thought.
The implications for climate response strategies are striking. For example, it is now obvious that impacts will change as atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases rise, meaning adaptation targets will often move faster than we can anticipate as climate disruption becomes manifest in surprising ways. To what climatic conditions do we adapt? What happens when previous adaptive measures become obsolete, as they will?
Similarly, at every level of climate, forcing the changes will be difficult to anticipate, which raises questions of where and when to intervene effectively in complex ecological and social systems. Are there places in which no amount of adaptation will work for long? Given what is now known about the pace of sea-level rise, for example, what adaptive strategies can possibly work in New Orleans or South Florida, or much of the U.S. East Coast, or in those regions that will likely become progressively much hotter and dryer — and perhaps one day mostly inhabitable — under drastically worsened conditions?
Second, the implications of the choice between adaptation and mitigation do not fall just on those able, perhaps, to temporarily adapt to climatic destabilization, but rather on those who lack the resources to adapt, and to future generations who will have to live with the effects of whatever atmospheric chemistry we leave behind. The choice between mitigation and adaptation, in other words, is one about ethics and justice in the starkest form. A few wealthy communities in the developed world may be able to avoid the worst for a time, but unless the emission of heat-trapping gases is soon reduced everywhere, worsening conditions will hit hardest those least able to adapt. The same can be said far more emphatically about future generations.
There is, third, a "stitch in time saves nine" economic argument for giving priority to mitigation. Stabilizing climate now will be expensive and fraught with difficulties, but it will be much cheaper and easier to do it sooner rather than later under much more economically difficult and ecologically harrowing conditions. Nicholas Stern, for one, estimates "that if we don't act [soon], the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5 percent of global GDP each year, now and forever."
Fourth, efforts to adapt to climate change will run into institutional barriers, established regulations, building codes, and a human tendency to react to — rather than anticipate — events. There are, in economist Robert Repetto's words, "many reasons to doubt whether adaptive measures will be timely and efficient, even in the U.S. where the capabilities exist."
In the best of all possible worlds, effective adaptation to the changes to which we are already committed would be complicated and difficult. In the real world of procrastination, denial, politics, and paradox, however, In the real world of procrastination, denial, and politics, anything like thorough adaptation is unlikely. anything like thorough adaptation is unlikely. Rather, it will be piecemeal, partial, sometimes counterproductive, wasteful, temporary, and — ultimately — largely ineffective. In contrast, measures pressing energy efficiency and renewable energy, as complicated as they are, will be much more straightforward, measurable, and achievable. And they have the advantage of resolving the causes of the problem, which has to do with anthropogenic changes to the carbon cycle.
Finally, beyond some fairly obvious and prudent measures, federal, state, and foundation support for climate adaptation gives the appearance that we are doing something serious about the looming climatic catastrophe. The political and media reality, however, is that efforts toward climatic adaptation will be used by those who wish to do as little as possible to block doing what is necessary to avert catastrophe.
The conclusion is inescapable: Adaptation must be a second priority to effective and rapid mitigation that limits the scale and scope of climatic destabilization. The priority must be given to efforts toward a rapid transition to energy efficiency and deployment of renewable energy. Until we get our priorities right, the emission of greenhouse gases will continue to rise beyond the point at which humans could ever adapt. In ecologist George Woodwell's words, "The only adaptation is mitigation."
We were first warned of global warming over a century ago and have lingered in increasingly dangerous territory in the belief that we can continue to burn massive amounts of fossil fuels without risking serious The emission of greenhouse gases will continue to rise beyond the point at which humans could ever adapt. climate destabilization. That fantasy is rapidly coming to an end. According to NASA's James Hansen, we must move decisively to return CO2 levels to 300 or 350 parts per million. If we wait too long to prevent climate change, we will — perhaps sooner than later — create conditions beyond the reach of any conceivable adaptive measures. With sea level rise now said to be on the order of one to two meters by 2100, for example, we cannot save many low-lying places and species we would otherwise prefer to save. And sea levels and temperatures will not stabilize until long after the year 2100.
There will be unavoidable and tragic losses in the decades ahead, but far fewer if we act to contain the scope and scale of climate change now. No matter what we do to adapt, we cannot save some coastal cities, we will lose many species, and ecosystems will be dramatically altered by changes in temperature and rainfall. Our best course is to reduce the scale and scope of the problem with a sense of wartime urgency. And we better move quickly and smartly, while the moving's good.
David W Orr is the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College. He is the author of five books, including Design on the Edge: The Making of a High Performance Building. His next book, Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse, will be published this summer.
• From Yale Environment 360, part of Guardian Environment Network

Heat capture technology could save UK 10m tonnes of carbon a year, says study

Heat capture technology on stations such as Kingsnorth would meet 5% of the UK's requirements, say engineers

Alok Jha, green technology correspondent, Wednesday 3 June 2009 10.51 BST

The UK could save 10m tonnes of carbon dioxide every year if the waste heat from some of the country's biggest power stations was diverted to warm homes and offices, according to a study by engineers.
They say attaching heat capture technology to stations such as Kingsnorth and Drax would meet 5% of the UK's heat requirements. And in future, any new big power stations should be built to capture and distribute heat as well as electricity. In addition, new housing developments should be designed and built with small local combined heat and power (CHP) plants.
Heat accounts for around 49% of all primary energy needs in the UK. This is mainly fuelled by gas – in 2006, the heat sector used 735 TWh compared with 653TWh and 393TWh used by transport and electricity sector respectively.
Currently, coal and nuclear power stations are around 35% efficient which means that, for every 1,000MW of electricity the stations produce, around 2,000MW of heat is dumped into the atmosphere via the cooling towers. Theoretically, if half of that energy could be captured for domestic or commercial heating, it could meet 25% of the UK's current heat demand, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Southampton and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).
The study acknowledged that attaching CHP equipment to all of the UK's power plants and then building the piping infrastructure needed to distribute it would not be practical for all the current power stations. One practical problem is that many nuclear and coal stations are built in remote locations, far away from places that could usefully need their heat.
But the report did identify some power stations that are near to population centres: the region around Drax, Ferrybridge and Eggsborough near Leeds and the Kingsnorth and Tillbury power stations near London. The installation of heat recovery schemes in these power stations could meet 5% of the UK's demand for heat and cut CO2 emissions by 10m tonnes.
Keith Tovey of the Institution of Civil Engineers' energy panel said that, although installing CHP would make a power plant produce less electricity, because it would produce useful heat, its fuel efficiency could more than double from 35% to around 80%.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Tovey said: "What we need to do is look closely at introducing district heating networks in areas surrounding viable existing power stations in the UK and ensure we assess potential heat capture possibilities for any new facilities."
District heating networks would replace the need for boilers in homes and offices. Residents would use whatever heat they needed from the mains and it could be metered in the same way that electricity is now. Dr Patrick James of Southampton University said that such scheme would remove the need for householders to pay upwards of £2,000 for gas boilers, along with the associated servicing and repair costs.
Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said: "We're pleased to see the growing recognition that our inefficient, centralised electricity grid is losing over half of its energy in waste heat. At a time when profligate energy use is threatening our survival, this makes less sense than ever."
"However, once the problem has been recognised, we need to be more ambitious than just shaving a few per cent off the waste with bolt-on additions to a badly designed system – we need a decentralised grid where the power stations are sited in the correct places to make efficient use of the fuel they burn, not a continuation of the current model with some small token improvements. CHP should be at the heart of our planning, not an afterthought."
Tovey said that, in the longer term, the UK should consider the potentially huge benefits that decentralised CHP could bring to the UK. "With the current generation of thermal power stations coming to the end of their lifespan, there is a real opportunity to vastly improve the efficiency of our energy sector and drastically lower its carbon footprint."
According to the ICE report, the most efficient method for using heat is a decentralised CHP and district heating network, of the kind routinely found in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe, where small power stations are located close to the centre of population. In addition the engineers encouraged places such as hospitals and universities to use small CHP stations for their energy needs.
Tovey acknowledged that delivering the kind of decentralised CHP across the UK that the ICE report recommended would require significant new infrastructure and a large reorganisation of the sector. "But if we are to guarantee security of supply, whilst meeting tough carbon targets, radical change may be what is needed."

Big business 'failing to disclose climate risks' to investors

Leading companies are offering only minimal information to shareholders on how global warming might affect their bottom line, research shows

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Wednesday 3 June 2009 14.05 BST

The world's major corporations are failing to provide a full account to investors of the risks and potential costs of climate change, a new report said today.
The report, from the Ceres network of green organisations and investors, and the Environment Defence Fund, found companies offered only minimal information to their shareholders last year on how global warming might affect their bottom line.
It arrives at a time when there is growing support among US corporations for a push by Congress to pass the first US law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Fifty-nine of the 100 leading global firms surveyed made no mention of greenhouse gas emissions at all, while 28 did not discuss potential risks from rising sea levels or other aspects of climate change, and 52 provided no information on what steps they were taking to adapt to climate change.
"These findings are strong evidence that investors are not getting the information they need ... even from industries facing clear, immediate risks from climate change," the report said. Only a handful of the companies provided an adequate account of the potential costs, it found – despite growing demands from financial regulators to disclose the risks of climate change.
The study by the Corporate Library analysis firm was based on information provided by the firms to the US regulatory authority, the securities and exchange commission, in the first quarter of 2008.
The lack of disclosure was most striking in the insurance industry, the report found. Despite evidence of the increasing severity of tropical storms – and the huge spike in claims following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – 18 of the 27 firms made no mention of climate change or related risk in their financial disclosure forms.
Twenty-four of the 27 companies failed to mention any actions taken to address global warming – even though the report said there were now opportunities for climate change-related insurance policies.
Oil and gas companies did not even provide the bare minimum of information on climate risk, the study found. All but one of the 23 firms surveyed received only a "poor" or "limited" grade in disclosing climate risks. Seventeen of the companies gave no information on their emissions or their positions on climate change. The report singled out the oil and gas companies Exxon Mobil, Apache and Anadarko for weak disclosure.
Electricity firms did only slightly better. Even so, only three of the 26 firms surveyed gave an adequate assessment of the risks posed by climate change. Two provided information about their attempts to address climate change.

Don't play the guilt card, Lord Drayson tells green campaigners

The Times
June 4, 2009

Mark Henderson, Science Editor

Green campaigners and politicians must stop making people feel guilty if they want to change attitudes to action on climate change, the Science and Innovation Minister said yesterday.
Pessimistic messages about the personal sacrifices required to cut carbon emissions could alienate those whose support was essential to tackling the issue, Lord Drayson told The Times.
The austere rhetoric of environmentalists who lectured people for excessive driving or flying had convinced many that reducing the size of their carbon footprint was too much like hard work, he said. The prospect of a lower quality of life was unattractive.
“Less emphasis on telling people they have to stop doing many of the things they like — an almost puritanical argument that, for climate change to be addressed, growth has to stop and our quality of life has to decline. I don’t accept that. More importantly, it won’t work.”
Lord Drayson, speaking at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival , wants scientists, environmentalists and politicians to explain that many aspects of a greener lifestyle involve just small changes, come with few costs and might even save money.
Improvements to energy efficiency, such as home insulation, could help to lower carbon emissions —and reduce heating and electricity costs, he said. People were also very willing to take practical environmental steps, such as recycling rubbish, when they had the facilities to do so.
“I personally don’t believe it is going to be possible to persuade the vast majority of people to accept a poorer quality of life,” he said. “I do think it’s possible to convince people they will be able to maintain a standard of quality of life more sustainably.
“It’s about using what motivates people, it’s about marketing, tapping into that. It’s about motivating people because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’ll improve their lives. It’s about investing in the framework, the infrastructure that enables people. If you’ve got the bins around that enable people to separate their rubbish, generally they will do it.”
Lord Drayson, who has raced competitively in the British GT Championship and the American Le Mans Series, said that he had been convinced of the need to be positive by the reaction of his competitors when his team switched to a sustainable biofuel in 2006. “The opposition thought we had all gone soft, we weren’t so serious about competing, this was some sort of save-the-planet kick,” he said. “They joked that my pre-race preparations involved overdosing on lentils.
“They didn’t quite get it until the first race, when we qualified on pole and won. The reaction was — wow, a car can be quick and green.”
Lord Drayson, who founded a pharmaceutical company before going into politics, said that the demands of reducing greenhouse emissions offered business opportunities — particularly in a recession. “New entrants have a bit of an advantage in that the market’s changing. People are looking for new solutions. Now is a good time to start. I want to encourage young people to think about starting their own business.
“If you’re a young person with drive, be a green entrepreneur.”

Whisky makers spend £100m on green drive

Published Date: 04 June 2009

SCOTTISH whisky distillers yesterday pledged to invest £100 million in environmental initiatives in a bid to achieve an 80 per cent cut in the use of fossil fuels by 2050.
The Scotch Whisky Association estimated the effect of the new strategy – which took two years to produce – will be equivalent to taking 235,000 cars off the road. "This strategy makes good environmental and good business sense," said David Rae, managing director of the North British Distillery Company. Other targets of the industry's environment plan include reducing the weight of packaging and ending the practice of sending packaging waste to landfill. The industry also aims to source whisky casks only from sustainable oak forests. It will publish its achievements annually to track its progress.Launched in Edinburgh yesterday, the strategy attracted support from environment groups and politicians.Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland said: "Scotch whisky is world renowned and we welcome plans to reduce the environmental footprint of each and every dram. "We particularly welcome the fact that they have set themselves targets to reduce their impact."

Hummer Bid Puts Spotlight on Obscure China Firm


CHENGDU, China -- The Chinese bidder for Hummer says it plans to give the gas-guzzling vehicles new life by promoting the brand around the world, including China, and by investing in clean-engine technologies.However, little in the short history of Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co. suggests how it might pull off the turnaround of General Motors Corp.'s Hummer brand, a collection of rugged sport-utility vehicles based on the concept of the U.S. military Humvee vehicle.
Analysts said the deal could face major hurdles in getting official Beijing sanction because it conflicts with recent changes in China's industrial and environmental policies.
The company, which makes heavy commercial vehicles like dump trucks, is little known even among Chinese auto makers.
"'Who?' That's what I said to myself this morning when I heard the news," said a senior engineering executive at Changfeng Motor Co., a manufacturer of SUVs based in Hunan province. "I had never heard of the company before."

Tengzhong's headquarters, set among rice paddies an hour's drive south of the western Chinese boomtown of Chengdu, offer few clues. The spacious complex, a collection of production shops with dark gray siding and red trim, is protected with concrete walls and monitored by security cameras.
Chief Executive Yang Yi declined to disclose how much his company is proposing to pay for the Hummer brand, which thrived in an era of cheap fuel and conspicuous consumption but has since become a symbol of Detroit's commercial and environmental missteps.
According to estimates by analysts, Tengzhong is likely to pay $200 million to $300 million. Mr. Yang declined to provide any financial information about the company, saying it isn't obliged to do so as a private concern.
Mr. Yang wants to transform Hummer -- a U.S.-focused brand even though its vehicles are available in more than 30 countries -- into a global icon and expand its presence in China, where it sold 69 vehicles last year.
"The reason we are interested in Hummer is because we believe Hummer has great potential and future," he said. "Plus, we are very confident in the prospect of the auto industry in the global market, including the China market, as well as the development of the SUV market in China."
In a telephone interview Wednesday, where he spoke from Detroit, Mr. Yang talked with enthusiasm about a brand he said embodied the Chinese car owner's new spirit of adventure.
China Photos/Getty Images
Tengzhong's plant in an industrial complex near Chengdu, China, where workers make dump trucks and other heavy industrial vehicles.

Mr. Yang noted that despite the financial crisis, sales of SUVs in China are growing rapidly. SUVs are especially popular in mining and farming regions, such as Sichuan.
Initially, Tengzhong doesn't plan to bring radical change to Hummer and plans to retain Hummer's current management team, Mr. Yang said.
Hummer's chief executive, Jim Taylor, said Tuesday that Tengzhong plans to leave the bulk of the operations in the U.S.
In the longer term, to make the brand viable, Mr. Yang and his management team plan to pump money into the development of "new and cleaner" engine technologies, he said. The current Hummer gets about 15 miles per gallon.
Though Tengzhong is a privately owned company it has close government and party ties, according to analysts. It has expanded mainly through mergers and acquisitions, starting with Changdian Electric Co., a 40-year-old machinery company in Sichuan, in 2005, when it was established by a group of investors including the company's chairman, Chen Shi.
Mr. Yang was recruited as CEO in 2008. He was previously Communist Party secretary of a state-owned boiler manufacturer, according to a company representative.
Tengzhong would use a combination of its own funds and bank loans to finance its purchase, Mr. Yang said. The company has a memorandum signed with GM, he said, but hasn't obtained approval for the deal from the central government.
Analysts said there could be hurdles to official approval. For one, the Hummer is at odds with Beijing's policies encouraging small cars and new fuel-sipping or alternative-fuel technology, such as electric propulsion.
Analysts said the deal may also ring alarms among central-government industrial-policy makers who are pushing for an accelerated consolidation of the country's highly fragmented auto industry, where well over 80 auto makers of all sizes are competing to survive.
In Chengdu, residents appeared amazed at the turn of events. "We are all shocked by the news," said Yang Cheng, the manager of the city's only Hummer dealer.
A group of Chinese reporters gathered outside the gates of Tengzhong's headquarters, hoping to gather nuggets of information about a company that few knew much about. Guards checked all trucks arriving and departing, allowing them through by opening metal accordion gates and removing metal barricades.
There is no corporate name or logo visible from outside the headquarters complex. The lone sign on one building visible from the front gate -- in black letters against yellow background -- exhorts uniformed workers, "Let the World copy us!"—Ellen Zhu contributed to this article.
Write to Norihiko Shirouzu at

Call for plants with heat recovery technology

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: June 3 2009 03:37

New coal-fired power stations such as Kingsnorth should be approved only if fitted with a mechanism to recover waste heat for its reuse in buildings nearby, says the Institution of Civil Engineers.
The move would reduce the UK’s heavy reliance on gas for heating, which accounts for half the energy consumed.

Keith Tovey, the author of Wednesday’s ICE report and energy science director at the University of East Anglia, said there was no reason why power stations fitted with new technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions should not also reuse their excess heat.
“They are not exclusive. You could have both,” he said. “If a new power station is being planned, it should perhaps be for the local authorities to carry out an assessment [on reusing the waste heat].”
The government is considering several plans from electricity companies to build carbon capture and storage facilities at power stations, of which Kingsnorth, on the Medway in Kent, is one.
But environmental campaigners have attacked the plans because at Kingsnorth only a quarter of the plant would be fitted with the technology. That means a net rise in emissions, they say, which should not be permitted.
Capturing the waste heat would be a way of making any such new plants more environmentally sound, argued Mr Tovey.
Power stations have an efficiency level of only 35 per cent, partly because much of the heat from burning coal is vented. But the technology to recycle heat, known as combined heat and power, is well understood and is used extensively elsewhere, including in Scandinavia and Russia. The heat can be piped to homes and to large buildings such as schools, hospitals and factories, at little cost.
The Kingsnorth/Tilbury cluster near London was identified by the ICE as one of the best sites in the country for combined heat and power, as its power plants lie close to populous areas.
“If half of the heat lost during electricity production could be captured, it would meet 25 per cent of the UK’s heat demand,” Mr Tovey said.
Feeling the heat
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Brazil approves Amazon hydro-power dam

Reuters, Thursday June 4 2009

BRASILIA, June 3 (Reuters) - Brazil approved on Wednesday an environmental permit for a hydroelectric dam in the Amazon, an official said on Wednesday, advancing a project the government hopes will shore up power supplies but critics call an ecological disaster.
The environmental agency Ibama granted a consortium including the French utilities giant Suez the license to build the Jirau dam on the Madeira River, an Ibama spokesman said.
The Jirau project and the nearby Santo Antonio dam are part of a plan to dam one of the Amazon river's biggest tributaries to ensure Brazil's economy will have sufficient energy supplies over the next decade.
The two dams, which together form the $13 billion, 6,450 megawatt Madeira River Hydroelectric Complex, will also create a waterway that would reduce shipping costs for Brazil's agriculture exports.
Environmentalists say the dam could dramatically change the nearby ecosystem by flooding hundreds of thousands of hectares, and they insist the government has not provided enough safeguards to prevent ecological damage.
A dispute between Suez and Brazilian construction company Odebrecht over the location of Jirau threatened to spark lawsuits that would have delayed the project, but the companies later agreed to settle out of court.
Suez is the lead partner in a consortium developing Jirau that also includes Brazilian state companies Eletrosul, Chesf and construction company Camargo Correa. (Reporting by Natuza Nery; Editing by Gary Hill)

Green energy overtakes fossil fuel investment, says UN

Clean technologies attract $140bn compared with $110bn for gas, coal and electrical power

Terry Macalister, Wednesday 3 June 2009 17.18 BST

Green energy overtook fossil fuels in attracting investment for power generation for the first time last year, according to figures released today by the United Nations.
Wind, solar and other clean technologies attracted $140bn (£85bn) compared with $110bn for gas and coal for electrical power generation, with more than a third of the green cash destined for Britain and the rest of Europe.
The biggest growth for renewable investment came from China, India and other developing countries, which are fast catching up on the West in switching out of fossil fuels to improve energy security and tackle climate change.
"There have been many milestones reached in recent years, but this report suggests renewable energy has now reached a tipping point where it is as important – if not more important – in the global energy mix than fossil fuels," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN's Environment Programme.
It was very encouraging that a variety of new renewable sectors were attracting capital, while different geographical areas such as Kenya and Angola were entering the field, he added.
The UN still believes $750bn needs to be spent worldwide between 2009 and 2011 and the current year has started ominously with a 53% slump in first quarter renewables investment to $13.3bn.
Counting energy efficiency and other measures, more than $155bn of new money was invested in clean energy companies and projects, even though capital raised on public stock markets fell 51% to $11.4bn and green firms saw share prices slump more than 60% over 2008, according to the report, Global Trends in Sustainable Energy, drawn up for the UN by the New Energy Finance (NEF) consultancy in London.
Wind, where the US is now global leader, attracted the highest new worldwide investment, $51.8bn, followed by solar at $33.5bn. The former represented annual growth of only 1%, while the latter was up by nearly 50% year-on-year.
Biofuels were the next most popular investment, winning $16.9bn, but down 9% on 2007, as the sector was hit by overcapacity issues in the US and political opposition, with ethanol being blamed for rising food prices.
Europe is still the main centre for investment in green power with $50bn being pumped into projects across the continent, an increase of 2% on last year, while the figure for America was $30bn, down 8%.
But while overall spending in the West dipped nearly 2%, there was a 27% rise to $36.6bn in developing countries led by China, which pumped in $15.6bn, mostly in wind and biomass plants.
China more than doubled its installed wind turbine capacity to 11GW of capacity, while Indian wind investment was up 17% to $2.6bn, as its overall clean tech spending rose to $4.1bn in 2008, 12% up on 2007 levels.
A number of Green New Deals – government reflationary packages designed to kickstart economies and boost action to counter climate change – have been laid out by ministers around the world.
The slump in global renewable ­investment during the first quarter of 2009 has alarmed the UN and New Energy ­Finance, the London-based consultancy that compiled the figures for the UN.
Michael Liebreich, chief executive of NEF, said the second quarter had revealed "green shoots" of recovery, which indicated this year could end up with investment at the upper end of a $95bn to $115bn range, but still a quarter down on 2008 at the least.
About $3bn of new money had been raised via initial public offerings or secondary issues on the stock markets in the second quarter, compared with none in the first three months of this year.
The New Energy Index of clean tech stocks, which had slumped from a 450 high to 134 by March, had since bounced back to 230, while more project financing had been raised in the last six weeks than in the 13 before that, he said.
But Steiner and Liebreich are still anxious that politicians do more to stimulate growth.
"There is a strong case for further measures, such as requiring state-supported banks to raise lending to the ­sector, providing capital gains tax exemptions on investments in clean technology, creating a framework for Green Bonds and so on, all targeted at getting investment flowing," said Liebreich.
It is important stimulus funds start flowing immediately, not in a year or so, he added: "Many of the policies to achieve growth over the medium-term are already in place, including feed-in tariff regimes, mandatory renewable energy targets and tax incentives. There is too much emphasis amongst some policy-makers on support mechanisms, and not enough on the urgent needs of investors right now."

Renewables took bulk of global energy investment in 2008, says UN

Developing economies led energy spending last year, while 2009 saw a 53% slump in global investment in first quarter

Terry Macalister, Wednesday 3 June 2009 14.01 BST

Wind and solar power rather than traditional energy won the lion's share of global investment in power generating capacity last year despite the credit crunch, a new report from the United Nations has revealed.
Over $140bn (£85bn) was injected into renewable electricity production in 2008 out of a total in all kinds of power of $250bn. China and other Asian countries ramped up spending as investment faltered slightly in Europe and the US due to the economic crisis.
But with the UN calling for $750bn to be spent worldwide between 2009-11 to help meet climate change targets, 2009 has started ominously with a 53% slump in first quarter renewables investment to $13.3bn, according to the latest annual Global Trends in Sustainable Energy Investment report.
"Without doubt the economic crisis has taken its toll on investments in clean energy when set against the record-breaking growth of recent years," said Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN's Environment Programme.
"However there were some bright spots in 2008 especially in developing economies. China became the world's second largest wind market in terms of new capacity and the world's biggest photovoltaic manufacturer and a rise in geothermal energy may be getting underway in countries from Australia to Japan," he added.
In total, over $155bn was spent during 2008 in clean energy companies and projects worldwide even though capital raised on public stock markets fell 51% to $11.4bn and green firms saw share prices slump over 60%.
Wind attracted the highest new worldwide investment, $51.8bn, representing only a 1% annual growth. But solar, at $33.5bn, was up by nearly 50% year on year.
Biofuels was the next most popular for investment, winning $16.9bn but this was down 9% on 2007 as the sector was hit by overcapacity issues in the US, plus political opposition with ethanol being blamed for rising food prices.
Europe is still the main centre for investment in green power with $50bn being pumped into projects here, an increase of 2% on last year, while the figure for North America was $30bn, down 8%.
But while overall spending in the west dipped nearly 2% there was an 27% rise to $36.6bn in developing countries led by China which pumped in $15.6bn, mostly in wind and biomass plants.
China more than doubled its installed wind turbine capacity to 11GW of capacity while Indian wind investment was up 17% to $2.6bn as its overall clean tech spending rose to $4.1bn in 2008, 12% up on 2007 levels.
A number of Green New Deals – government reflationary packages designed to kickstart economies and boost action to counter climate change – have been laid out by ministers around the world. But the slump in global renewables investment in the first quarter of 2009 has alarmed the UN and industry figures.
Michael Liebreich, chief executive of consultants New Energy Finance, says the latest UN figures highlight the need for politicians to do more: "There is a strong case for further measures, such as requiring state-supported banks to raise lending to the sector, providing capital gains tax exemptions on investments in clean technology, creating a framework for green bonds and so on, all targeted at getting investment flowing."
It was important that stimulus funds start flowing immediately, not in a year or so, added Liebreich: "Many of the policies to achieve growth over the medium term are already in place, including feed-in tariff regimes, mandatory renewable energy targets and tax incentives. There is too much emphasis among some policy-makers on support mechanisms, and not enough on the urgent need [for funds by] investors right now."

Put green technologies within people's reach, and they'll grab them

Thursday, 4 June 2009

On display outside is an Aston Martin racing car like the one I'll be driving in the Le Mans 24-hour race next week. It runs on second-generation bio-ethanol fuel – it's made up of spent grains, peelings and other waste, rather than purpose-grown crops.
When my team first decided to go green back in 2006, other teams concluded that we'd gone soft. They joked that my pre-race preparations involved overloading on lentils; that I was driving in open-toed sandals. They changed their tune when the car grabbed pole position on its first outing. Suddenly, everyone wanted to know about the science and engineering involved.
My point here is that we need to accelerate new technologies that deliver performance with sustainability and then put them within reach of people. Not just racing cars, clearly, but energy-efficient products for the home and access to the latest digital media. More than that, we've got to get better at marketing them. That marketing has to make green science cool and exciting, rather than dull and worthy. Less sandals, more Jimmy Choos.
So one of the greatest challenges – as I see it – is for us to exploit climate change science not only as the basis for developing green products, but to sell them as well. Where the thrilling technology isn't just the consumer interface which allows you to operate something with a touch screen or by voice control, but also what's going on inside. Do that, and we'll have a public that supports innovation as much for the scientific and technical advances it represents as for the convenience it offers.
People who appreciate how scientists explore ways to make sure we live within our environmental means. Children who decide they want a piece of the action: to be part of the truly epoch-changing discoveries we can expect in future – breakthroughs equivalent to nuclear fission, the World Wide Web or stem cells technologies – that will, I believe, protect our planet's biodiversity and preserve it for human habitation.
Behavioural change often occurs in a crisis – but, with global warming, we mustn't allow the situation to reach crisis point. The answer is to give ordinary people – whose motivations are properly understood – the opportunities and incentives to change for themselves.
Taken from a speech by Lord Drayson, the Science Minister, at the Cheltenham Science festival yesterday