Monday, 13 July 2009

Less wind, more nuclear for UK energy future -CBI

Reuters, Sunday July 12 2009

* Report urges urgent steps towards new nuclear reactors
* Sees nuclear, not gas, as main source in low-carbon plan
* Coal plants to use carbon capture and storage

By Kwok W. Wan

LONDON, July 13 (Reuters) - Britain needs to build more nuclear reactors and cleaner coal plants while putting less emphasis on wind power if it wants a secure low-carbon future, business lobby group CBI said on Monday.
The CBI said in a report that current British government policy, which favours wind power, is making energy security and climate change targets harder to achieve because it will lead to less investment in other forms of low-carbon electricity generation.
"Large chunks of our energy infrastructure urgently need replacing," deputy-director general of the CBI, John Cridland, said.
"While we have generous subsidies for wind power, we urgently need the national planning statements needed to build new nuclear plants. If we carry on like this we will end up putting too many of our energy eggs in one basket."
The CBI's "Decision Time" study, published on Monday, examined various scenarios for Britain's energy future.
The CBI said that if its recommendations were not followed, Britain's power generation would be reliant on gas-fired power stations and only 64 percent of Britain's energy would be generated by low carbon methods by 2030.
This is below the 78 percent target recommended by the Committee on Climate Change, an independent body advising the government.
The CBI said its "Balanced Pathway" plan would lead to 83 percent of Britain's energy being produced by low carbon sources. Most electricity would come from nuclear, supplying 34 percent, instead of gas, with coal fired plants fitted with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology supplying 14 percent, the CBI said.
To achieve this target, wind-generated power would fall from the current target for 2020 of 32 percent to 25 percent of Britain's total power generation, the group said, adding that clear funding for CCS must be in place by June 2010.
Other factors in the model included reducing Britain's overall energy demand from an existing policy of an 11 percent cut by 2020 to 20 percent through efficiency drives.
Several major energy companies welcomed the report, saying it provided an independent assessment of energy policy.
"It challenges some of the orthodox thinking around renewable targets," National Grid Chief Executive Steve Holliday said, adding that the conventional view was that the goals could only be attained by wind power.
He said he did not see the report as recommending switching wind power for nuclear.
"I see it as gas for nuclear in this (Balanced Pathway) scenario," he said.
Utility companies EDF Energy and E.ON UK also said the report was important in raising difficult energy issues with the Government.
"We strongly endorse the conclusion that a diverse low carbon generation mix, with contributions from nuclear, renewables and fossil fuel with CCS is essential to our future," EDF Energy Chief Executive Vincent de Rivaz said.
A report published by consultancy Poyry earlier this month warned against relying on wind power, saying that unpredictable weather patterns could result in price spikes and threaten investment in back up power generation. (Reporting by Kwok W. Wan, editing by Anthony Barker)

Ethanol Futures: Thin But Effective


CHICAGO -- More than four years in, the Chicago Board of Trade's ethanol contract is still thinly traded, but an economics professor says in recent research that it is nonetheless an effective hedge tool.
The key to the market's relative success, said Roger Dahlgran, professor of Agribusiness Economics and Management at the University of Arizona, is the robust over-the-counter market for ethanol. In a paper published in the Journal of Agricultural and Resource, Prof. Dahlgran found ethanol futures are "significantly superior to gasoline futures for hedging ethanol price risk for two-week and longer hedges."
An exchange-for-risk provision -- which allows OTC products to be traded for futures -- creates a doorway between the two markets, "and they are essentially a single market," Prof. Dahlgran said. "What it does is it gives me some confidence that the futures price reflects the value of the over-the-counter contracts, even though they're not directly traded in the futures market."
The futures market is trading about 200 contracts a day, said Dave Lehman, director of commodity research and product development for CME Group. He says volume this year through May was up by about 130% from the same time a year ago, he acknowledging it is "starting from a small base." Open interest as of the end of May was 4,381, more than double what it was a year ago.
CME is pleased with the growth of the contract, traded exclusively electronically, he said. "It's successful and works not necessarily from a liquidity perspective, but from a risk-management perspective," Mr. Lehman said. "It is doing a good job of providing a risk-management tool for the marketplace."
Jason Ward, an ethanol analyst with Northstar Commodity, said the nascent contract doesn't yet have the volume to become a viable hedge tool. Unlike trades in futures for crude oil, gasoline, corn and soybeans, Mr. Ward said, with ethanol futures he has to "work to get the hedge."
"I can call up an MF Global or an RJO and say, 'I need to do some ethanol swaps' and they can go find me the volume on the other side," he said, referring to futures brokerages. "Where I can't call up the futures exchange and say, I want to sell 'X' amount of ethanol futures. They can't find me the volume on the other side."
Open interest in CME's forward-month calendar swap is about four times that of the futures contract, Mr. Lehman said.
Write to Ian Berry at

Tilting at Wind Farms

The Government’s plans to concentrate on wind power at the expense of other renewable energy sources could prove to be a costly mistake

If hot air could be harnessed and fed into the National Grid, the environmental rhetoric emanating from Westminster could power London. As an alternative energy source, climate change hot air would be cheap and limitless. Wind power, the great renewable energy hope of the Government, is neither cheap nor bountiful.
The Government’s aspiration to increase the amount of energy supplied by renewables from 2 per cent at present to 15 per cent looks increasingly fanciful. To meet its pledge, which will be restated in its Renewable Energy Strategy on Wednesday, the UK would need some 7,000 extra wind turbines. Critics already believe that these are dark Satanic turbines, blighting England’s green and pleasant land. Only a few hundred have been built in the past year, as projects have become mired in planning complaints. The great switch to wind power is a victim of a not-in-my-backyard mentality.
The cost of the move to wind is an even more serious issue. The Confederation of British Industry today says that the cost of meeting Britain’s 2030 carbon-emissions target will take the average British household bill from £1,243 today to £1,615.90. This contradicts yet another fanciful target — the pledge to eradicate fuel poverty entirely by 2016. A pensioner’s not-in-my-wallet defence against even higher fuel bills is compelling.
Britain’s energy needs must be addressed. Years of underinvestment mean that our energy supplies are in crisis, even without the threat of climate change. About 40 per cent of the UK’s power stations were built before 1975 and need to be urgently replaced. Renewed investment in the UK’s energy sector must address carbon emissions. But the setting of increasingly quixotic and contradictory targets is hampering a sensible debate on how to tackle the energy crisis. Besides, where is the evidence that wind works?
In an address to the Royal Society in May, Professor Jack Steinberger, a Nobel prize-winning director of the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva, said that wind power was an uneconomic waste of resources. His is not a lone voice.
Any solution to the energy crisis must be firmly grounded in principles of economic law. The problem with wind is not just its refusal to co-operate reliably with the needs of the National Grid, but that it remains expensive. A new gas-fired station in Pembroke will cost £1 billion. It would cost six times as much to build a wind farm capable of generating similar power.
Left to the market, wind power would remain a niche element in our energy supply. No sane energy company would, while fossil fuels are still plentiful, voluntarily opt for a more expensive, less reliable energy source. The drive to wind will require a huge injection of public cash, and a new interventionist policy in a hitherto liberal energy market. But if a free market in energy would not support a wholesale switch to a ruinously expensive and volatile energy source, why should the taxpayer, or the electricity customer?
As we move to a planned energy economy which we are expected to pay over the odds for, we have the right to expect a serious, unsentimental debate on what we are paying for. Nuclear power must be brought into the centre of the planned economy, in from the cold. A wind farm producing the same amount of energy as a nuclear plant would cost up to three times as much. The Government is charging ahead with plans for wind farms, while its programme for the nuclear sector is far less ambitious. The aim is merely to replace ageing existing plants.
If the Government wants a target which is, for once, both sensible and achievable, it should aim to double our nuclear energy capacity. Nuclear may be unpopular with the green lobby, but it is still cleaner than coal and cheaper than wind.

Civil servants accused of delaying renewable energy incentives

Alan Simpson MP, adviser to Ed Miliband, says introduction of feed-in tariffs is being held up by officials who back nuclear power

Ashley Seager, Sunday 12 July 2009 15.47 BST

Civil servants in Ed Miliband's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) are trying to water down and delay the introduction of so-called feed-in tariffs designed to boost the deployment of renewable energies, according to one of Miliband's advisers.
Writing last month to the energy minister Mike O'Brien, who has since left DECC, Alan Simpson, Labour MP for Nottingham South, accuses civil servants of "delaying" and "frustrating" their introduction. In his letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, Simpson, appointed by Miliband this year to work on feed-in tariffs, wrote: "You asked me to play a role in 'driving this through'. It is difficult to drive if I can't even get in the car."
Feed-in tariffs work by rewarding installers of renewable energy technologies such as biomass boilers or solar panels an above-market price for the electricity or heat they produce. They have been used with great success in countries such as Germany, which introduced a feed-in tariff in 1999; it has 250 times as much solar power installed as Britain and 10 times as much wind power.
Miliband has announced that a feed-in tariff for electricity will be introduced in April next year and for heat technologies a year later. Simpson thinks both should and could be brought in together, and has come up with a plan for doing so. He accuses civil servants of frustrating this by carrying out an "industrial boycott" of meetings with himself and representatives of the renewables industry.
Critics of DECC officials say they are transfixed by the arguments of the nuclear industry. Many of the big energy companies have lobbied the DECC against feed-in tariffs.
Simpson's letter raises the issue of who governs in government since, he says, officials are obstructing the will of elected politicians, including Miliband. "Their ability to delay and frustrate is the government's greatest achilles heel," he says.
Instead, he suggests to O'Brien, "why don't we set up meetings of our own and ban the civil servants from taking part?"
A DECC spokeswoman said Simpson's fears were groundless and pointed out that on Wednesday Miliband will unveil a low-carbon transition plan.
But Philip Wolfe, head of the Renewable Energy Association, said the document would talk only about the electricity tariff for next year and not the heat tariff for 2011: "There is a lack of ambition. Delaying the heat tariff until a year later shows they are not pushing as hard as they need to."

'Social tariff' to insulate poor against cost of green power

• Bills may rise to fund switch to greener energy• Better off could pay more under new Miliband plan

Terry Macalister, Sunday 12 July 2009 20.59 BST

The government will soften the blow to hard-up families worried about rising bills to pay for greener power generation with promises of a compulsory "social tariff" as part of an energy white paper to be published on Wednesday.
British Gas, npower and others have been told they will no longer be able to choose whether they keep price increases lower for worse-off customers and will instead have to act according to planned new legislation, industry sources say.
The government last night declined to comment directly on its plans, but Ed Miliband told the Commons last week that the social tariff system needed reform. "At present, the system tends to be piecemeal – who gets into it and who does not is often an arbitrary process. We shall have more to say about it in the future."
Ministers are to unveil the plan in a series of long-awaited initiatives to put Britain onto a low-carbon trajectory and tackle climate change and energy security.
The social tariff, long-demanded by fuel poverty campaigners, is controversial as power companies say it will have to be funded by more affluent families paying more. The Treasury is worried about this being interpreted as another "stealth tax". The Department of Energy and Climate Change declined to comment.
Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, today denied that the cost of moving to a deeper reliance on wind and nuclear power will cost households an extra £230 per annum. But he admitted bills will rise. "I think there are upward pressures on energy prices whichever route we go down. We can go down the high-carbon routes, stick with where we are, and for us that means the North Sea oil and gas is declining, we'll import more and more, and we'll be very exposed to swings in oil prices and also importing … from some pretty dangerous places, or – and I think this is the right way to go – we can plan for the low-carbon future and that does mean some costs to transition," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr show.
"Now my job is to counter those effects as much as I possibly can, helping people with energy efficiency and having tough regulation," he added.
The government's Renewables Advisory Board has also warned that £100bn of new infrastructure is needed to allow all wind farms and other alternative power systems to feed into the national grid.
Some experts predicted domestic bills would rise by £200-£230 a year while the CBI says in a paper tomorrowthat wholesale energy prices must rise by 30% by 2020.
The CBI report is more controversial because it says government plans to produce 32% of Britain's electricity from renewable sources by 2020 are unrealistic. The CBI wants to scale down these estimates to 25% while beefing up the nuclear contribution. Industry sources say civil servants have considered scaling back wind power targets, a claim denied by government sources: "Why would we do this when we're already committed to 15% of all our power coming from renewables by 2020 under European Union targets which can only be met by continuing with current wind targets?"
Some industry experts still think ministers perceive they can put less emphasis on wind in favour of boosting renewable heat systems and energy efficiency.
The white paper, a renewable energy strategy and a low-carbon industrial strategy will all put greater emphasis on decentralised energy systems such as low-carbon community projects. The government used to be lukewarm on feed-in tariffs, in which homeowners with their own wind turbines or solar panels get guaranteed above-market price payments for power they put into the grid, despite the enormous success of this in Germany.
On Wednesday, Miliband will trumpet "clean energy cashback schemes" as a key way forward. G8 countries last week pledged to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.

Climate Bill Splits Industry Coalition

WASHINGTON -- As Congress writes legislation to fight climate change, a prominent coalition in the debate is divided over the fine print.
The U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a broad group of businesses and environmental organizations, was instrumental in building support for capping U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases. Legislation to accomplish that goal recently passed the House and is now before the Senate.
But as lawmakers add provisions to win over colleagues, some USCAP members are withholding their support. They say the bill is too burdensome and contains provisions that have little to do with fighting climate change.
Caterpillar Inc., the Peoria, Ill., heavy-equipment maker and a founding member of USCAP, said it doesn't support the House legislation, citing several "problematic" provisions.
One calls for emissions standards on off-road machines like bulldozers. Others would impose tariffs on goods from countries that don't match U.S. efforts to combat climate change, and require contractors on some energy-related projects to pay employees at least the locally "prevailing wage."
Despite its criticisms of the House bill, Caterpillar said it supports "an environmentally effective, economically sustainable and fair climate-change program."
General Motors Co. also has problems with a number of the House bill's provisions, although spokesman Greg Martin said the auto maker supports the legislation's "general direction." Among the provisions it doesn't like is one authorizing the Transportation Department to require auto makers to produce vehicles that can run on methanol, or wood alcohol, a fuel not widely available.
Ford Motor Co. spokesman Mike Moran called that provision "troubling." He declined to take a position on the House bill, but said Ford would continue pushing for legislation "good for both the environment and the economy."
At least two other USCAP members -- ConocoPhillips and the U.S. unit of BP PLC -- said they don't support the House bill, on the grounds that it doesn't treat energy producers equally. The measure would initially give electric utilities roughly 30% of the government's emissions permits, while oil refiners would get 2%.
Although USCAP hasn't officially endorsed the legislation, it hailed the House vote as a "historic action" that puts the nation "on a clear path toward a long-awaited climate-change policy." Exelon Corp., Duke Energy Corp. and DuPont Co., among other USCAP members, supported the House's approval of the bill.
Jeff Sterba, chief executive of PNM Resources Inc., a New Mexico utility, said it is natural for companies to object to individual provisions and emphasized that USCAP's mission has been to build support for policy principles, not specific legislation.
Even USCAP members that have criticized the bill recently remain in the coalition, which has recommended that the U.S. limit greenhouse-gas emissions while giving away, at least initially, some permits to emit greenhouse gases.
Some lawmakers said the added provisions reflect priorities beyond simply cutting emissions.
If the methanol provision wasn't in the bill, "I wouldn't have supported it," said New York Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel. The legislation is "not just about reducing emissions" but also curbing dependence on foreign oil, he said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said that "when the federal government helps fund new energy projects, it is only right that we ensure that the workers building them get fair wages."
Rep. Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said the tariff measure helps ensure that U.S. industries "are not placed at a competitive disadvantage" to foreign rivals.
What's significant is that USCAP has demonstrated that industry and environmentalists can agree on a framework for addressing climate change, said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund.
"It's very unusual for big corporations to raise their hands and say, 'We want to be regulated for something that we're not regulated for now,'" Mr. Krupp said. "When the written, it will show USCAP to have played a very constructive role."—Ben Casselman in Dallas contributed to this article.
Write to Stephen Power at

Number of wind turbines to quadruple under Renewable Energy Strategy

Ben Webster, Environment Editor

The number of wind turbines is set to quadruple over the next decade under government plans to force through wind farm planning applications.
Ministers have put wind power at the heart of a Renewable Energy Strategy, which is due to be released on Wednesday. It will outline how Britain is to meet its target of a 34 per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2020.
The Government’s plans are likely to include more than 4,000 additional onshore turbines by 2020, many built at beauty spots and on high ground which would make them visible across miles of open countryside.
Another 3,000 turbines would be installed at sea — some of them visible from the coast, though others could be up to 100 miles offshore. Ministers are considering several measures to push wind farm planning applications through more quickly.

Of the 93 applications submitted for onshore wind farms in the past three years, only 35 were approved by local authorities. Another 14 were eventually passed after an appeal but almost half of the original applications failed.
In England, the South East, South West, East Midlands, London and the North West regions have all set targets for installing a combined total 1,310 megawatts of wind turbine capacity by 2010. So far they have installed only 340 megawatts (MW) and have another 66MW under construction.
The worst performing area is the South West, which has so far achieved only 15 per cent of its 2010 target of 355MW and has no wind farms under construction. There are 2,327 onshore wind turbines in Britain, with an average capacity of 1.5MW — enough to power 840 homes. Offshore there are 210 larger turbines, the latest of which have a capacity of 5MW.
Critics of wind farms point out that they rely on an intermittent source of energy and have to be backed up by fossil fuel or nuclear power when there is no wind. They also object to the visual intrusion of many turbines.
Dustin Benton, policy officer for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “Wind turbines need to be sensitively sited, because they are large industrial structures and inappropriate for certain landscapes.”
The CBI has also thrown its weight behind the anti-turbine lobby by calling on the Government to focus less on wind power and more on building new nuclear power stations and coal plants with carbon emission-capturing technology. It said Britain was sleepwalking towards an unhealthy reliance on gas for electricity generation if the wind targets could not be met.
The Government has already put pressure on councils to approve wind farms, issuing guidance which states that applicants should expect “expeditious and sympathetic” treatment.
The British Wind Energy Association, the trade body for suppliers and operators, wants ministers to adopt a “national presumption” in favour of all renewable energy developments and proposes a “flying squad” of experts to help councils to overcome objections.
Ministers will claim on Wednesday that 250,000 “green” jobs could be created as Britain increases renewable energy from 2 per cent to 15 per cent by 2020. Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said: “We can lead in the green jobs of the future, making wind turbines, making parts for nuclear power stations.”
However, Britain’s only wind turbine factory, in Newport on the Isle of Wight, is due to close this month with the loss of 600 jobs. Any new turbines are likely to be made abroad.
The trade union Unison said: “It is criminal to actually have the only wind turbine factory close. The Government should be intervening now.”

Centrica and npower set to green light huge offshore wind farm projects

Government commits to increasing subsidies in order to meet 2020 renewable energy targets
Tim Webb, Sunday 12 July 2009 15.22 BST

Centrica and RWE npower are close to signing off on two huge offshore wind farms costing an estimated £3bn to build in further signs that the logjam holding up offshore projects is easing. It follows a government announcement in April to increase subsidies available for offshore wind projects, which are crucial for the UK to have any hope of meeting its 2020 renewable targets. Energy companies had shelved projects, blaming the credit crunch, weak pound and high construction costs for making them unviable.
Centrica said that it was planning to make a final decision on whether to go ahead with its £800m Lincs project, off the coast of Lincolnshire, by the end of September. The project will generate 250mw of electricity, enough to power two cities the size of Cambridge when the wind blows.
RWE npower will also decide soon whether to build its £2.2bn project in North Wales, Gwynt y Môr, which will be able to generate 750mw, making it one of the largest projects in the world. The company's renewable arm, npower renewables, is keen to press ahead and is almost certain to build the project now that subsidies have been boosted.
Both wind projects were given planning approval some time ago.
Under the new subsidy regime, which the government will formally consult on this week, offshore wind projects will earn two Renewable Obligation Certificates (Rocs) for the electricity they generate. Projects will only qualify if construction begins by 2011.
Sarwjit Sambhi, director of Centrica power business, told the Guardian: "Following the announcement on Rocs, on the basis of our current construction cost forecasts the Lincs project is pretty close to our required hurdle rate. Provided the government consultation on the changes to the Rocs regime for offshore wind runs smoothly and there are no delays which could impact our construction contracts, we will go ahead with the project."
The government is also in talks with energy companies about awarding third round licences to build giant offshore wind projects costing an estimated £50bn. Investment decisions will not be made for several years. Centrica is pressing for guarantees that the Roc regime will run beyond its current end date of 2027 to make the projects viable. There are also concerns that if a Conservative government is elected, they could scrap the system altogether and replace it with a "feed in tariff" subsidy which would guarantee offshore wind farms an above market price for the electricity they generate. Centrica also wants the government to push through its plans to streamline the planning process set out in the planning bill.
Around £100bn is needed to build enough wind farms to meet the government's 2020 renewable energy targets. The government has signed up to a binding EU target to source 15% of its energy from renewable, non-fossil fuel sources. The vast majority of this will have to come from offshore wind farms. Only 5% of the UK's electricity comes from renewables today.
In May, Dong Energy, E.ON and Middle East-based energy fund Masdar said they would invest £2bn to build the first 630mw phase of the London Array offshore farm, which once complete will be the largest in the world. Shell had thrown the project's future into doubt last year when it pulled out of the consortium to build it.

King Canute at the G-8

World leaders tell the Earth's temperature not to rise.

When King Canute of lore wanted to teach his citizens a lesson, he set his throne by the seashore and commanded the tides to roll out. Canute's spirit was back in business this week at the G-8 summit in Italy, where the assembled leaders declared that the world's temperature shall not rise: "We recognize the scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2 degrees [Celsius]," or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, said the summit declaration.
So let it be written, so let it be done.
As for how they will achieve this climate-defying feat, well, the leaders were somewhat less definitive: "we will work . . . to identify a global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050."
Associated Press
Heads of State (from left) Stephen Harper of Canada, Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy gather for a group photo prior to the G8 Summit in L'Aquila, Italy, July 8, 2009.
Translation: Since the heads of the world's leading economies couldn't agree on an actual policy on climate change, they opted instead to command the clouds, the seas and all of the Earth to cool. Or maybe they were finally admitting that this whole climate business is getting too expensive, so let's just throw out a goal that everyone knows is beyond the reach of kings, much less democratic leaders.
The politics of climate change have always been long on apocalyptic rhetoric but short on policy realism. But a global economic crisis does have a way of shearing away illusions about the price people and their leaders, elected or otherwise, are willing to pay in higher taxes, higher prices and economic competitiveness to perhaps make a fractional dent on the temperature.
Concerns about high costs and lost jobs have already threatened or killed carbon-emissions control schemes in enviro-conscious Australia and New Zealand. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, another sunshine environmentalist, insisted on exemptions for German industry, including cement and steel, from last year's EU climate deal, which pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020. Italy engineered its own escape clause, requiring the EU to renegotiate its climate policy after a U.N. climate change summit in Copenhagen later this year. That probably kills the European deal, since China (the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases), India and other developing countries showed this week that they are unlikely to agree to any draconian emissions cuts.
European politicians have been wondrously adept at signing on to climate pacts, like the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which they have no real intention of honoring even as they enjoy taking the political credit. But really binding agreements are becoming harder to reach this time around, thanks to mounting opposition from businesses and labor unions.
Philippe Varin, chief executive of Corus, Europe's second-largest steel producer, told the London Independent in December that the cost of carbon credits and new technologies needed to reduce emissions would destroy European steel production, forcing manufacturers overseas. Poland's Jaroslaw Grzesik of the Solidarity trade union estimated last month that the EU's climate policy would cost 800,000 European jobs. The London-based Open Europe think tank has estimated the climate package would cost European economies over a trillion dollars in the coming decade.
Meanwhile, the supposed economic benefits of "green technologies" are evaporating. In Germany, government subsidies for installing solar panels -- and, it was presumed, thereby creating domestic manufacturing jobs -- backfired when it turned out that it was cheaper to make solar panels in China. A recent paper from Spanish economist Gabriel Calzada Álvarez noted that since Spain started investing in a "green jobs" policy nine years ago, the country has lost 110,500 jobs in other parts of the economy. That amounts to 2.2 jobs lost for every green job created.
European leaders still do pray to the climate gods, and they would love to see the U.S. burden its own industries with the kind of cap-and-tax bill just approved by the House. But even Senate Democrats are getting wise to the political risks they run for tying the economy down with regulatory schemes that America's competitors in Europe and Asia will either flout or ignore.
In the legend of Canute, the king, after failing to stop the rising tide, told the assembled crowd: "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth and sea obey by eternal laws." If a medieval monarch could draw the right conclusion, how hard can it be for his sophisticated 21st-century successors?

Can an artist's wheatfield in Hackney switch the mood on climate change?

Curators are searching for an iconic image that can smash indifference and succeed where science and statistics fall short

Madeleine Bunting, Sunday 12 July 2009 19.30 BST

Something bizarre is happening in the area of Dalston, in London's Hackney, where I live. As I write, half a dozen men are hunched over planting half-grown wheat on derelict wasteland. Next to them, architects are building a windmill that will generate the energy to power two bread ovens. When it opens on Wednesday, it will host breadmaking, music, theatre and feasts for anyone who wants to step away from the noise of the shops and traffic-clogged nearby streets.
It's an installation linked to the Radical Nature exhibition, at the Barbican, in London, but it's evidence of an art that is penetrating some of the least hospitable places, very far from galleries, to open up conversations in unexpected ways around our relationship with land, food and each other. Can we think differently about the way we use land, produce food and relate to each other?
The origins of Dalston's wheatfield lie thousands of miles away, with Agnes Denes, one of a generation of American land artists who took art out of galleries and away from making objects to be bought and sold. In 1982 she planted wheat on two acres of wasteland on Battery Park, two blocks from Wall Street; her harvest was worth £158, produced on land valued at $4.5bn. The photos of waving golden wheat juxtaposed against the Manhattan skyline became an iconic image of environmental art. With her collaboration, her idea is now being recreated in Hackney.
At a time of growing anxiety about how we feed a crowded earth – food security was discussed at the G8 last week – her image of fertility and sustenance is even more poignant, and no longer outlandish. Such possibilities of food production in the city could be commonplace for our children. Havana, famously, learned to largely feed itself from within its city limits after imported Russian oil dried up in the 1990s.
The point about Denes's work in Dalston – and the exhibition at the Barbican – is that it raises for a new generation the role art can play in shifting attitudes towards our natural environment. With fortunate timing, Tate Britain also has a retrospective of another land art pioneer of Denes's generation, Richard Long. Or look north to Manchester's International Festival and Gustav Metzger's extraordinary uprooted, upended trees set into concrete. On every side, artists are putting their shoulder to the wheel, trying to prompt the revolution in values and attitudes required to deal with environmental crisis.
Can art succeed where science is proving insufficient to generate the will to act effectively on climate change? Scientists sound increasingly desperate as the evidence they are carefully accumulating stacks up but fails to prompt the urgency they insist it requires. Science seems only to create a panicked paralysis: a language of probabilities, statistics and numbers fails to gain traction on the public imagination.
Is this where artists have to step in to prompt understanding, to challenge what is taken for granted, to turn our ideas upside down? To that question, Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project, quotes CS Lewis: "Science can lead to truth, only the imagination can lead you towards meaning."
If this all sounds a little esoteric, think again. Peterborough council is at the beginning of fulfilling a huge ambition to make itself the environmental capital of Europe. It believes it probably has the largest number of environmental businesses on the continent. To re-orientate the city around sustainability, it plans to build art/culture into every step of the process. Devolving decisions to neighbourhood councils, the council's leader, Marco Cereste, sees art as vital to prompting that local engagement that can generate the sense of belonging crucial to environmental sustainability. "It's no good the council saying recycling is a brilliant idea and urging people to change from the top, it's got to come from the bottom up," he says. Art can initiate and broker the conversations, it can shift preconceptions, argues Michaela Crimmin whose Arts and Ecology programme at the Royal Society of Arts has been the quiet powerhouse facilitating projects all over the country.
But art can never be didactic, insists Smit. At the Eden Project the art can encourage people to "look anew, and transform their view. So many of us are skating so fast over the surface of so much," he says.
In Radical Nature, over 40 years of artists engaging with nature is crowded into a gallery. It doesn't fit, either literally – a tree chopped into metre lengths and bolted back together again is bumping into the roof – or metaphorically. It's overwhelmed by the powerful ideas it contains. Here is the story of a culture deeply disturbed by the impact it is having on the natural world, fearful of what it can salvage: the fragments that have ended up in the Barbican – a section of forest on its side, a floating island, vegetable beds – are like the flotsam of a dying civilisation. This is a howl of despair full of guilt, fear and anxiety. Metzger's Flailing Trees in Manchester are in the same vein; he admits he has used "brutality to expose brutality".
This is art the art world has not much cared for. It was deeply political, and not collectible or sellable; it never commanded Damien Hirst style headlines. The pioneers who began their careers in the 1960s and early 1970s – Metzger, Denes, Long and Joseph Beuys – never sought or acquired the status of big selling artists. They may have been prophets, but spawned only cult followings.
Perhaps their time has finally come; we need their thinking and sense of urgent political morality. The Barbican exhibition includes the resurrection of several iconic pieces of these pioneers, to help us connect back to a heady moment of environmental and political activism. Only in the late 1990s did a new generation of artists resume the preoccupation, but that 20-year lapse is a warning that environmental engagement seems to wax and wane. Will the current fascination prove simply a fashion of 2009 or an enduring obsession?
What some curators want is an iconic image that will smash through indifference and become the rallying cry for a generation. What others argue is that art is not a magic bullet; it can work at a much more intimate, local level, which is transformational. In Dalston's wheatfields something of that seems possible; a public space has been claimed that is not about people rushing through, but opens up the possibility to meet others and share knowledge. One of the architects busy making his windmill, Nicolas Henninger, admits he doesn't know how to make bread. He's hoping someone will turn up who does, and he can learn. The implicit message is that if he can learn, so can anyone else. This is not artist as celebrity genius producing a commodity but a much more modest, self-effacing facilitating of the creativity of the crowd.
Squeezed into the gaps between a supermarket and a shopping centre, this wasteland has flourished as a garden of buddleia, wild grasses and trees sprout out of the ruined houses – it's now a stage for a set of ideas about skill, craft, food, energy and conviviality. It's an ideal of reclamation that has more to say about us than about the land. It's brings to mind Raymond Williams's comment that "to be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing".

Universal family planning access

Global investment in family planning and female education could slow down global population growth, reducing future emissions and tackling climate change vulnerability

Duncan Clark, Monday 13 July 2009 00.10 BST
Demographic factors will play a significant role in determining future emissions. The most obvious such factor is the global population, which is expected to rise to around nine billion by 2050.
Although the fastest population growth is happening in countries with relatively low emissions per person, the addition of two or three billion people to the existing population will inevitably make it even more difficult to reduce global emissions to a sustainable level – especially in the context of other demographic trends such as urbanisation and aging.
Rising population is significant not only as a driver of emissions but also as a key factor in determining the vulnerability of developing countries to the impacts of global warming. In almost all of the climate change adaptation plans submitted to the United Nations by least-developed countries, rapid population growth is mentioned as something that either exacerbates vulnerability or impedes adaption. More than half of these least-developed countries will at least double in population by the middle of the century.
Ensuring universal access to family planning services and investing in female education is a pivotal climate change solution, Louise Carver of the Population and Sustainability Network (PSN) told the the Manchester panel. According to Carver, 200 million women wish to delay or prevent their next pregnancy but lack access to contraception. Despite this fact, and the sharp projected growth rate in potential contraception users, global investment in family planning is at an all-time low, having declined by 30% in real terms since the mid-1990s.
In addition to being a relatively inexpensive way to tackle emissions and climate vulnerability, family planning services can help improve maternal and infant health and offer expanded opportunities for women's employment and social participation.