Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Environment: green jobs to rise to a million by 2017

PM highlights carbon capture demonstration plants and commitment to build 1,000 wind turbines

Alok Jha
guardian.co.uk, Monday 29 June 2009 18.08 BST

Among the many jobs proposed in Gordon Brown's statement today, 400,000 will have a green tinge by 2017. That will take the total British employment in the sector to more than a million.
The prime minister also highlighted some key proposals that will form the basis of the upcoming white paper on energy: four commercial-scale carbon capture and storage demonstration plants for Britain and a commitment to build 1,000 onshore and offshore wind turbines in 2009-10.
"The bill complements the £1.4bn of public investment provided in the budget, and up to £4bn now on offer from the European investment bank," said Brown.
"In addition – following our reforms to the policy, planning and regulatory regimes – we will see between now and 2020 as we meet our renewable energy targets around £100bn invested by the private sector."
Brown also announced an innovation fund: £150m of public money that will be used to attract private sector investment in biotechnology, life sciences, low carbon technologies and advanced manufacturing.
Simon Walker, the chief executive of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, welcomed the innovation fund. "I am convinced that this scheme can make a real difference provided it is implemented with the urgency that it deserves. Venture capital should be in the vanguard of economic recovery in Britain and it now has the change to move from the relative fringe in economic thinking squarely to centre stage."
Richard Barker, the director general of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industries, said: "The UK's economy and NHS patients need our country to lead in life sciences. Many great discoveries begin in small companies, many of which face an urgent funding crisis. Meeting this need is an important signal of government's intent and a first step towards delivering against an ambitious strategy to put UK life sciences at the forefront of our country's economic and health future."

Rising sea level to submerge Louisiana coastline by 2100, study warns

Scientists say between 10,000 and 13,500 square kilometres of coastal land around New Orleans will go underwater due to rising sea levels and subsidence

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Monday 29 June 2009 12.33 BST

A vast swath of the coastal lands around New Orleans will be underwater by the dawn of the next century because the rate of sediment deposit in the Mississippi delta can not keep up with rising sea levels, according to a study published today.
Between 10,000 and 13,500 square kilometres of coastal lands will drown due to rising sea levels and subsidence by 2100, a far greater loss than previous estimates.
For New Orleans, and other low-lying areas of Louisiana whose vulnerability was exposed by hurricane Katrina, the findings could bring some hard choices about how to defend the coast against the future sea level rises that will be produced by climate change.
They also revive the debate about the long-term sustainability of New Orleans and other low-lying areas.
Scientists say New Orleans and the barrier islands to the south will be severely affected by climate change by the end of this century, with sea level rise and growing intensity of hurricanes. Much of the land mass of the barrier island chain sheltering New Orleans was lost in the 2005 storm.
But the extent of the land that will be lost is far greater than earlier forecasts suggest, said Dr Michael Blum and Prof Harry Roberts, the authors of the study. "When you look at the numbers you come to the conclusion that the resources are just not there to restore all the coast, and that is one of the major points of this paper," said Roberts, a professor emeritus of marine geology at Louisiana State University.
Blum, who was formerly at Louisiana State University, now works at Exxon. "I think every geologist that has worked on this problem realises the future does not look very bright unless we can come up with some innovative ways to get that sediment in the right spot," said Roberts. "For managers and people who are squarely in the restoration business, this is going to force them to make some very hard decisions about which areas to save and which areas you can't save."
Efforts to keep pace with the accelerated rate of sea level rise due to global warming are compromised by the Mississippi's declining ability to bear sediments downstream into the delta.
The authors used sediment data from the Mississippi flood plain to estimate the amount of sediment deposited on the river delta during the past 12,000 years. They then compared this with sediment deposition today.
In paper published in Nature Geoscience they calculate that due to dam and levee building on the Mississippi the sediment carried by the river has been reduced significantly. There are now about 8,000 dams on the Mississippi river system. Roberts said such constructions and the system of levees in Louisiana had cut in half the sediment carried down to the delta, inhibiting the river's ability to compensate for the land lost to rising seas.
Sustaining the existing delta size would require 18 to 24bn tonnes of sediment, which the authors say is significantly more than can be drawn from the river in its current state. "We conclude that significant drowning is inevitable," the authors wrote. "In the absence of sediment input, land surfaces that are now below 1m in elevation will be converted to open water or marsh."

China Asks for Comment on Car Subsidies


BEIJING -- China is seeking comment from the public about its subsidy program aimed at encouraging consumers to replace old and polluting vehicles with new autos, the finance and commerce ministries said.
Consumers who scrap vehicles under the plan can receive a subsidy of between 3,000 yuan and 6,000 yuan, or about $450 to $900, when they purchase a new vehicle. Applicants must deliver their old cars to special scrapping centers.
The size of the subsidy would depend on the model of the scrapped vehicle, the Commerce Ministry said on its Web site Friday. It is seeking comment about the subsidy program until Friday.
The subsidy program comes as China's auto sales have risen steadily even as global auto demand has cooled amid the financial crisis.
Analysts attributed strong car sales in China, which rose 14.3% in the first five months of this year from a year earlier, to government policies, including a purchase tax cut on small vehicles with engines 1.6 liters or smaller in January.
Consumers who scrap autos that don't meet emissions standards and replace them with vehicles that have engines 1.6 liters or smaller aren't eligible for the subsidy, because they already enjoy 50% off the purchase tax, the statement said.
The subsidies will be offered until May 31, it said.
Write to Patricia Jiayi Ho at patricia.ho@dowjones.com

Portugal to Build Refueling Sites for Electric Cars

Associated Press

LISBON -- Portugal announced a plan to install about 1,300 recharging sites for electric vehicles over the next two years, part of an effort to create a mass market for environmentally friendly electric cars expected to go on sale next year.
The center-left Socialist government is aiming to reduce energy imports and emissions.
Having no oil or coal, Portugal has long imported most of its energy. But in recent years it has become a European pioneer in the development of clean energy. The government claims renewable sources can already meet 43% of the country's electricity needs.
The first phase of deployment will include recharging sites in 21 cities and rural districts chosen for their high population density and traffic volume, the Economy and Innovation Ministry said. The sites are to be established at gas stations, shopping malls and wired parking spots, among other places.
The network is being built by a consortium of five companies, the government said.
The government has promised tax breaks to encourage the purchase of zero-emission vehicles. It predicts that Portugal could have 180,000 battery-powered cars on the roads by 2020. By that time, there could be 25,000 recharging sites, it said.
Copyright © 2009 Associated Press

Aston Martin developing eco-friendly city car

Times Online

Aston Martin, the luxury car maker, has announced its intention to join forces with Toyota to build an exclusive, small city car.
The new car will sell for about £20,000 and is a far cry from the style and performance to which Aston drivers have become since the company was founded in 1914.
Toyota said it would build an ultra-small car based on its iQ model for Aston Martin in what would be the Japanese carmaker’s only original equipment manufacturing deal with an outside brand.
The Aston Martin vehicle, to be called Cygnet, will have its own styling to differentiate it from the iQ, which Toyota says is the world’s smallest four-seater car at less than 3 metres long. It will be sold in Europe.

A Toyota spokesman said other details such as the launch date, price and production volumes had not been decided.
“Much work is still required, but I am confident that this project could become reality in the not-too-distant future,” Ulrich Bez, Aston Martin chief executive said.
He added: “Aston Martin has reduced the CO2 emissions of its cars by 15 per cent in the past year but it has no real impact on anything. What the Cygnet will do is allow our customers to drive a very special car with all the hallmarks of Aston Martin’s design philosophy but one that is cheap to run, is environmentally friendly."

Hydro-electric energy could power every Scottish home by 2017

Published Date: 30 June 2009

SCOTLAND could have enough hydro power to supply every household in the country in less than a decade if two new schemes get the go ahead.
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) announced yesterday that it wants to develop the large-scale pumped storage hydro electric schemes in the Great Glen. Plans could be submitted by 2011 after consultations on the possible environmental impact and built by 2017.If approved, they would be the first pumped storage schemes to be developed in Britain since 1974. The announcement was made as the Queen officially opened the first large-scale conventional hydro electric station to be built in 50 years, at Glendoe, near Fort Augustus.SSE already owns and operates a 300MW pumped storage scheme at Foyers, on the south side of Loch Ness, which produces 300 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity to help meet peak demand. It is also to submit to Scottish ministers an application to develop a 60MW pumped storage scheme at its existing Sloy hydro station at Loch Lomond, allowing it to produce an additional 100GWh.The two Great Glen projects – the locations are not yet being revealed – would have an installed capacity of 300-600MW each and be able to produce more than 1,000GWh of electricity in a typical year.SSE chief executive Ian Marchant said: "Hydro has a long heritage but also has a long future. If we build these two schemes, the total hydro output in Scotland would be able to power every house in Scotland at the time of system peak."If we can pull these two off on the scale we think we may be able to, that would probably be enough for the next generation."He went on: "Hydro is a complementary source of power to wind – when the wind is not blowing, the hydro runs, and when the hydro is not running, the wind is there." Mr Marchant said new thinking was needed to meet ambitious targets set by the Scottish Government to cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050."To meet the targets which Scotland has rightly set itself, we will require quite revolutionary thinking in every bit of the energy equation."That means we have to look at new technologies but also old technologies and see if we can exploit them better. "Scotland led the world in the coal era and led the world in offshore oil and gas industry. So we have led the world in putting carbon into the atmosphere and we are going to lo lead the world in taking carbon out."Johanna Yates, hydropower officer at Scottish Renewables, said pump storage hydro schemes were important for managing the supply of electricity at peak times. She said: "All kinds of hydropower are an important part of our energy mix and new developments will open up a new chapter for hydro power in the 21st century."Pumped storage schemes involve two bodies of water, located at different heights. During periods of low demand for power, electricity is used to pump water from the lower loch to the upper reservoir. This water is then released to create power when demand is high. At present, Scotland has a generation capacity of 3,010MW from renewable sources, including 1,383MW from hydro. This includes 100MW from the £150 million Glendoe scheme, where work began in February 2006, 2,000ft above Loch Ness in the Monadhliath mountains. Yesterday, the Queen flew to the site, which is now almost hidden other than the dam and reservoir in the hills.The scheme, capable of supplying a city the size of Glasgow, involves a dam 35m high and 905m long at the head of Glen Tarff, and a power station in a cavern 250m below ground level, inside Borlum Hill. It is fed from a reservoir more than a mile long and capable of holding eight million cubic metres of rainwater, collected from 60 square miles of surrounding hillside. A 5.3-mile tunnel collects water and takes it to the reservoir

Wind farm 'will harm Peak District', High Court hears

The Peak District National Park faces disfigurement if the High Court fails to stop four 335ft (102m) wind turbines being built on its doorstep, it was claimed yesterday (MON).

By Stephen Adams Published: 4:42PM BST 29 Jun 2009
In a battle that could have important legal implications for the siting of wind farms across Britain, the Peak District National Park Authority has joined forces with Derbyshire Dales District Council to ask the High Court to reject planning permission for the four turbines. Each would be almost twice the height of Nelson's Column.
They are to be built at Carsington Pastures, between Matlock and Ashbourne, which is just outside the park and adjoins the Carsington Water beauty spot.

The planning application was originally rejected by the district council two year ago, but developers Carsington Wind Energy Ltd took the matter to the Planning Inspectorate, which overruled the local councillors.
In his decision report, planning inspector Robin Brooks found the 10MW project would result in "no unacceptable harm to the character and appearance of the National Park" as seen from most directions, and any visual impact was outweighed by the national need for renewable energy.
He reported: "The turbines could reasonably be seen by many observers as not out of keeping with, and even appropriate to, an elemental, windswept landscape."
But Anthony Crean QC, appearing for the park and council, argued the inspector had misconstrued planning law.
Mr Brooks had made a fundamental error by concluding it was unnecessary to consider whether the need for renewable energy could be met on another site where less harm would be caused, said Mr Crean.
The High Court application is being opposed by the developer, Carsington Wind Energy Ltd, and John Denham, the Communities Secretary.
Speaking outside court, a spokesman for the national park authority said: "The authority supports renewable energy schemes in principle but believes that all other alternative locations should be considered first when planning a development of this scale so close to the national park boundary. This application would have a direct visual impact on the national park.
"This is an important case because the decision could have implications for future wind farm applications near to other national parks in the UK."