Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Water-saving measures could cut household emissions by 30%, report finds

Energy Saving Trust and Environment Agency report estimates simple water-saving measures could save a typical household £225 per year
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent, Wednesday 22 July 2009 00.05 BST
Britons could save 30% of the carbon emissions associated with heating water at home by following simple advice such as lagging pipes and using low-flow taps, according to energy experts.
They estimate that installing just a few water-saving measures could save a typical household £225 per year on combined water and energy bills.
In a joint report launched today, the Energy Saving Trust (EST) and the Environment Agency examined the carbon impact of domestic water use in the UK. They concluded that heating water would continue to be a major source of carbon emissions from homes in the future unless urgent action was taken to reduce demand and the associated energy losses from inefficient boilers.
Energy use in homes accounts for more than a quarter of the UK's carbon emissions. In a bid to reduce overall emissions by 80% by 2050, the government has announced plans to reduce the footprint of homes by retrofitting existing homes with energy efficiency measures, such as loft and cavity-wall insulation, and wants all new homes built from 2016 to be zero-carbon.
But the energy used to heat water, around 23% of an average home's carbon footprint, will not be tackled by the government's proposals. "If the drive toward zero-carbon homes goes as planned, by the time you get to a really energy-efficient home, the energy required for space heating is going to be quite small, but unless you do something about water use, that's going to dominate and will account for over 70% of carbon emissions," said Magda Styles, water and waste strategy manager at the EST.
But she said very simple methods of water and energy efficiency could take out 5% of the emissions associated with water, equivalent to taking 600,000 cars off the road.
Water-saving technology and sustainibility standards for new homes have helped to reduce wastage but the growing popularity and frequency with which people use power showers means that Britons still use the same amount of water today as they did 10 years ago – around 150 litres per person per day.
"Water is a precious resource and as the government outlined in last week's low carbon transition plan we urgently need to cut carbon emissions to help reduce the impact of future climate change," said Ian Barker, head of water at the Environment Agency.
The EST report suggests taking showers instead of baths, retro-fitting showers and taps with low-flow heads, lagging hot water pipes, washing dishes in a bowl rather than under a running hot tap and installing a water meter. "It's been documented quite well that metering reduces water consumption by up to 15%," she said. "We're not trying to make people endure hardship and do away with hot water. In most cases, it's a simple prevention of waste."
According to the report, changing a 16 litre per minute shower head with a six litre per minute head, and using a 4.5 litre toilet instead of nine litre one, could result in annual savings of 67m3 of water, 371kg CO2 and £225 for an average household.
Getting beyond 30% reductions in CO2 for individual households would be possible, said Styles, by additionally replacing old washing machines and dishwashers with more energy and water-efficient models and more conscious behaviour change that minimised use and heating of water.

India says no to emission reduction

Ramesh suggests a three-pronged approach for India–US collaboration on climate change as a way forward. From, part of the Guardian Environment Network
From, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Tuesday 21 July 2009 10.55 BST

India's minister for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh has ruled out the country's agreeing to specific targets for reducing carbon emissions.
"There is simply no case for the pressure that we [India] — who have among the lowest emissions per capita — face to reduce emissions," Ramesh told visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday (19 July).
"And as if this pressure was not enough, we also face the threat of carbon tariffs on our exports to countries such as yours," Ramesh said. These tariffs are charges levied on companies for the carbon dioxide they produce while manufacturing goods.
Ramesh says that detailed modelling studies carried out in India show that even if gross domestic product grows by 8–9 per cent over the next two decades, India's emissions will be below that of developed countries.
He also said India sees "a critical role for international technology cooperation in enabling countries like India to adapt to climate change". India, in collaboration with the UN, will host an international meeting on climate change technology issues on 22–23 October, in New Delhi, which is expected to culminate in a statement for inclusion in any agreement to be reached in Copenhagen in December.
Although developing countries expect a concrete adaptation fund to be put in place in Copenhagen, developed countries have not yet committed themselves to any specific contributions, Tove Maria Ryding — a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Denmark and chair of a coalition of 92 nongovernmental organisations — told journalists from developing countries last month (June).
Technology transfer is being linked to how willing developing countries — especially Brazil China, India and South Africa — are to commit themselves to reducing emissions, she says.
A press release from India's environment ministry on 19 July says Ramesh suggests a three-pronged approach for India–US collaboration on climate change as a way forward. The first is to set up an India–US forum on climate change technology, with initial funds from the two governments to kickstart it. The two countries could engage in joint research in solar energy, biomass, clean coal, high-voltage power transmission, smart grids and wastewater utilisation, he suggests.
The second is building institutional capacity for climate change research and its impacts, and the third is collaboration between the two countries on environmental planning, regulation and management.
India's future plans in this area include establishing a science-based national environmental protection authority and a national 'green tribunal' to serve as an environment court — a specialist court for environmental issues.
• This article was shared by our content partner, part of the Guardian Environment Network

Activists reveal plan to storm Copenhagen climate summit

Anti-globalisation group Climate Justice action talks of plans to mobilise up to 15,000 protesters to storm Copenhagen summit in December
Gwladys Fouché, Tuesday 21 July 2009 11.26 BST

A network of radical green groups is planning to disrupt the international climate change meeting in Copenhagen in December by invading the conference centre and occupying it for a day, it has emerged.
The anti-globalisation group Climate Justice Action has said it hopes to mobilise up to 15,000 protesters to storm the climate summit, and a large carbon dioxide emitter nearby, while negotiators try to thrash out a replacement for the Kyoto protocol.
"We want to take over the summit space to set the global agenda away from false, market-based solutions, towards an agenda of social justice," said Tadzio Müller, a 32-year-old German activist who is part of the group organising the protest. "Real emission cuts will not be achieved by initiatives like carbon trading...It is (the pursuit of) economic growth that is driving us into climate chaos."
But other green groups have condemned the plan. WWF said the action would be "counter-productive". It is "very concerned" that the proposed protest will put off its own supporters.
"If you want to help fight against climate change, you don't storm the building," said Rasmus Helveg Petersen from WWF Denmark. "I don't see the point of this protest."
"We are afraid it might affect our ability to mobilise people during the conference. If there is a sense that there could be violence, people will stay at home."
According to Müller, thousands of activists will take part in the action, organised by an international network of green and anti-globalisation activists called Climate Justice Action. He says: "If the turnout is bad, it will be 2,000-3,000 people. If it is good, it is going to be between 10,000 and 15,000 people." He added that demonstrators will come from a variety of countries, including the UK.
The action will begin with a march in the streets of Copenhagen, ending at the summit's conference site, the Bella Centre in the south of the city, where protesters will attempt to push pass police officers guarding the venue. "The police will try to stop us, but we will try to break the blockade in strictly non-violent ways," said Peter Polder, a 34-year-old Dutch green activist and member of Climate Justice Action.
Activists are also planning to occupy an installation in the Copenhagen area that is a big emitter of carbon dioxide. Polder explains: "It could be a factory or a coal-fired power plant. We are still looking into it."
Danish authorities appear not to be worried by the protest. "It's not the first time we are having a conference in Copenhagen, so we are well prepared," said Flemming Steen Munch from Copenhagen police. He declined to comment on the security measures taken for the conference.
Müller said the climate meeting was a legitimate target for protest because it would not go far enough to tackling the global warming crisis. "There is not a hope in hell that something significant will take place in Copenhagen," said Müller. "Everyone close to the negotiations knows that nothing is on the table."
"Copenhagen will be dominated by false solutions like biofuels and carbon trading," added Polder. "The most effective way to do so is to return to more localised, sustainable economies...We should work on true solutions and not wait for the politicians."
Petersen at WWF disagreed. "We want to influence the summit by engaging as widely as possible ... This protest will not affect the summit and its outcome."
He also dismissed Climate Justice Action's description of their tactics as "a contradiction in terms". "You can't force your way into the conference centre and remain non-violent at the same time," he said.

Island will only use green power

By Michael Casey, AP
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
The tiny island nation of Tuvalu, already under threat from rising seas caused by global warming, has vowed to do its part for climate change by fueling its economy entirely from renewable sources by 2020.
The South Pacific nation of 12,000 people is part of a movement of countries and cities committed to going climate neutral. Since February 2008, 10 nations including New Zealand, Pakistan, Iceland and Costa Rica have vowed to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases as part of a goal of reaching zero emissions in the next decade.
None of these commitments alone is expected to make a significant difference in the fight to cut heat-trapping gases. But the United Nations and many environmentalists say the moves can inspire bigger emitters like the United States and China to take bolder steps to limit their carbon footprints.
"In a sense, they are paving the way for medium and larger economies which have to move if we are going combat climate change," said Nick Nuttal, spokesman for the United Nations Environment Programme. It sponsors the Climate Neutral Network, a group of 100 governments, nongovernment groups and companies looking to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. "These smaller economies are out to prove you can do it, and do it faster than some people previously thought."
Major polluters at the Group of Eight nations' summit earlier this month failed to agree on commitments to reduce carbon emissions. That indicates how difficult it will be to craft a new climate treaty later this year in Copenhagen, Denmark, one that would be a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Climate scientists have urged rich countries to reduce emissions from 2005 levels by between 25 percent and 40 percent by 2020 to avoid the worst effects of warming, which they say will lead to widespread drought, floods, higher sea levels and worsening storms.
For its part, Tuvalu hopes to replace the fossil fuels that it imports by ship with solar energy and wind power, a project that it expects will cost $20 million.
Tuvalu already releases almost no greenhouse gases. But because of climate change, many South Pacific islands see worsening flooding amid predictions of a large sea level rise this century.
The country is just 10 square miles in size, with most of its land less than a metere above sea level.
So far, Tuvalu has installed a 40 kilowatt solar energy system with the help of Japan's Kansai Electric Power Co. and Tokyo Electric Power Company, both members of the e8, an international nonprofit organization of 10 leading power utilities from G8 countries.
"There may be other, larger solar power installations in the world, but none could be more meaningful to customers than this one," Takao Shiraishi, general manager of the Kansai Electric Power Co., said in a statement Sunday.
"The plight of Tuvalu versus the rising tide vividly represents the worst early consequence of climate change," he added. "For Tuvalu, after 3,000 years of history, the success of UN climate talks in Copenhagen this December may well be a matter of national survival."
The Tuvalu government is working to expand the initial $410,000 project from 40 to 60 kilowatts, and will extend solar power to outer islands, starting later this year with the commission of a $800,000, 46 kilowatt solar power system for a secondary school. The Italian government is supporting the project.
"We thank those who are helping Tuvalu reduce its carbon footprint as it will strengthen our voice in those international negotiations," Public Utilities and Industries Minister Kausea Natano said in a statement. "And we look forward to the day when our nation offers an example to all — powered entirely by natural resources such as the sun and the wind."

Wind turbine factory sit-in workers accuse Ed Miliband of green failure

Steven Morris, Tuesday 21 July 2009 19.05 BST

The government's green credentials were called into question today by workers staging a sit-in at a wind turbine factory that is due to close this month.
Around 30 workers facing redundancy took over the management suite at the Vestas factory on the Isle of Wight. Police reinforcements were brought in but workers claimed they would not leave until the government stepped in to save the factory and more than 500 jobs.
One of those barricaded in with sleeping bags and enough food to last days, gave his name as Michael. He argued that it was "crazy" for environment secretary Ed Miliband to be making "statement after statement" about green energy but standing by as the factory closed down. "It would be a tiny step financially to keep this factory open, but it would be a huge statement about the government's commitment to the green economy," he said.
The Newport factory is due to close at the end of the month. The Danish company that owns it has refused to comment on the protest, but when the cuts were announced it cited a "lack of political initiatives" and an obstructive planning system.
The protest comes soon after Miliband claimed the green revolution will create 1.2 million jobs by 2020. A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "The UK has a strong future in wind energy. In our renewable energy strategy we earmarked up to £120m to support investment in the development of the offshore wind industry."

Swedes swoop on EcoSecurities

Peter Stiff: Smaller companies

Shares in EcoSecurities rose by nearly 5 per cent yesterday after a Swedish company entered the international bidding war for the carbon credits group.
Tricorona, Eco’s Scandinavian rival, revealed that it was considering a bid only a week after the British company rejected an improved 77p-a-share indication from Guanabara, a Dutch company backed by BTG, the Brazilian investment group, and chaired by Pedro Moura Costa, one of Eco’s founders.
EDF Trading, a unit of the French utilities group, recently indicated an interest in Eco, which sources green projects, develops them so that they are eligible for carbon credits and sells them on. However, EDF dropped its interest in Eco and agreed to buy credits from Guanabara, should its bid be successful. Eco’s shares rose 4p to 88p.
Evolve Capital, the investment group that recently took a majority stake in Astaire, the small-cap broker formerly known as Blue Oar, moved to consolidate the sector further. The group, unchanged at 4½p, is buying Whim Gully Capital, which is controlled by Edward Vandyk and Oliver Vaughan, who lead Evolve. The deal is conditional on WGC’s acquisition of St Helen’s Capital, another AIM and Plus-focused broker.
Speedy Hire rose 1¾p to 30p after the tool hire group signed a deal to provide construction equipment to Carillion in the Middle East. An update on trading in the UK, with first-quarter revenue down by 30 per cent, was no worse than feared and many in the City believe that the group is past the worst.
Shares in Aukett Fitzroy Robinson fell 0.80p to 3.70p after the architect that said the suspension of work on the Moscow River project in Russia would significantly hit full-year results.

Report on decline in salmon and trout stocks ‘is a whitewash’

Salmon and sea trout fishermen condemned as a whitewash a Scottish government report yesterday that concluded that the reasons for the decline in wild salmon stocks was undefined and that there was nothing that can be done to restore them.
The fishermen believe that the scientists who produced the report have been compromised by pressure from ministers. Fish farming, which enjoys government support, is blamed by fishing interests for causing much of the decline in wild salmon.
Jon Gibb, the clerk to the Lohaber District Salmon fishery board, told The Times that it was “an appalling situation” that damage to wild fish was being ignored in order to protect the fish farming industry. He said: “This is quite clearly a whitewash by the government. We find it quite extraordinary that a whole natural resource, an iconic species, is being destroyed on the back of a few jobs.
“We are seeing devastation on the west coast in our salmon stock and the report is a retrograde step. We can’t prove there has been political pressure on the scientists but it won’t be the first time that it has happened and I think this is another instance.”
The lengthy report, entitled Restoration Guidance for West Coast Salmon and Sea Trout Fisheries, comes from the Tripartite Working Group, which was set up and chaired by the Scottish Government to address issues between fish farms and wild fisheries.
The report acknowledged the “substantial” decline in stocks of Atlantic salmon and sea trout in Scotland’s west coast rivers but says that fishery restoration will require “complex multidisciplinary endeavour” and there is a need for scientific assessment of factors affecting marine survival.
It states: “Various potential causes of the fishery declines — both historical and contemporary — can be identified but the nature of the actual cause(s) remain unclear and contentious.”
There was evidence that decline in quality of the marine environment was to blame, and some evidence that salmon farming was implicated in this. However, catch records indicated that the broader scale fishery declines started before salmon farming became established, and were a feature in areas where aquaculture did not exist.
The Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB), the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland (RAFTS) and Atlantic Salmon Trust (AST) are disassociating themselves from the document.
Andrew Wallace, managing director of ASFB and RAFTS, said: “This report conspicuously and inexplicably fails to identify the impact of sea lice, originating from salmon farms, as a primary factor in the decline of west coast salmon and sea trout stocks. This is simply not credible and it flies in the face of the wealth of exhaustive research from Scotland, Norway, Ireland and Canada which is unequivocal in pointing the finger of blame at sea lice.”
Tony Andrews, AST director, of the Atlantic Salmon Trust (AST), said: “We support the main body of the report and the conclusion that restoration of salmon and sea trout stocks will not be achieved through freshwater management measures.
“We are however most disappointed that, whilst the report acknowledges that low marine survival is the single outstanding issue affecting the production of many populations of salmon and sea trout, it does not go on to tackle the question of the impact of sea lice infestation which has been widely recognised as the key factor responsible for the decline stocks of migratory fish in the west Highlands and Islands.”

Secret 'safe havens' to save British crayfish from extinction

Breeding programme begins in south-west of England to save white-clawed crayfish from being wiped out by American signal crayfish

Press Association, Tuesday 21 July 2009 11.04 BST
A breeding programme has begun to save Britain's native crayfish from being wiped out by foreign species.
The rare white-clawed crayfish will be transported into secret safe havens in an attempt to halt the takeover by the more aggressive, disease-carrying American signal crayfish.
The American signal crayfish were introduced in the UK 20 years ago and have wiped out almost 95% of the native species.
Conservationists have warned that the white-clawed crayfish faces extinction from UK waters within 30 years unless new populations can be created in safe, uncontaminated waters.
The South West White Clawed Crayfish Conservation Group has begun trapping British crayfish and transferring them to "safe haven" breeding sanctuaries.
These so-called "ark sites" are freshwater pools at locations in the south-west, where the population has been hardest hit.
The £210,000 project will run for two years and is funded by Natural England. It is led by the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation in partnership with the Avon Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency.
Jen Nightingale, the UK conservation officer for the foundation, said: "White-clawed crayfish were abundant and easy to find until the American signal crayfish species was introduced to UK waters in recent years.
"The American species not only out-competes native crayfish for resources, it also carries a disease, the crayfish plague, which is fatal to UK crayfish.
"We now believe that three quarters of native crayfish populations in the Bristol Avon catchment area have been wiped out.
The team is moving the native crayfish to two isolated water bodies that have little chance of being affected by the American species. "We want to keep these locations secret to prevent people visiting the areas and risk spreading crayfish plague – which can be carried on damp equipment and boots as well as in water.
"People who visit rivers, ponds and lakes can help prevent the spread of disease by washing and drying equipment after use." Nightingale would also like members of the public to report crayfish sightings to the Environment Agency.
The first relocation day involved staff and volunteers from Bristol zoo, the Avon Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency, who moved a number of crayfish in chilled containers from south Gloucestershire to two new sites in Somerset and north Somerset. Similar schemes are also planned for sites in Wiltshire, Devon and Bristol. The most successful breeding programme for the species was begun in 2003 in the Yorkshire Dales.
Pete Sibley, from the Environment Agency, said: "It was important not to harm the resident ecology when transferring the crayfish to new sites and exhaustive tests had been undertaken to assess the new habitat and ensure that there was a high water quality, tree cover with leaf litter, and rocks and boulders for refuge.
"This type of rescue mitigates the threat from signal crayfish by actively conserving natives through seeking out safe refuge sites.

Giant Chinese dustball circles the Earth

A giant Chinese dustball weighing hundreds of thousands of tons circled the world at high altitude in under two weeks, scientists have shown.

By Malcolm Moore in Shanghai Published: 11:48AM BST 21 Jul 2009
A group of Chinese and Japanese scientists claimed that the dustball, which weighed 800,000 tons, was kicked up during a storm in 2007 in the Taklamakan desert.
The desert, which is roughly the size of France, lies in China's far-Western Xinjiang province, and is fringed by mountains on three sides, including the Pamir mountains on the border with Afghanistan and the Karakoram range, an extension of the Himalayas.

The dust ball was formed when a wind storm ripped across the desert, kicking up the dust, and trapping it against the mountains of the Tibetan plateau.
The scientists said the dust was forced higher and higher into the air, until it reached an altitude of around 16,250ft. A warm convection flow then lofted it further to between 26,000 ft and 32,500 ft, well above cloud level.
The dust was then trapped in the polar jetstream, a fast-flowing air current that lies just under the stratosphere, and began its "journey around the world" according to the Nature Geoscience journal.
The team of scientists tracked the progress of the cloud using tools aboard the Nasa observation satellite Calypso. After 13 days, the plume of dust passed back over the Taklamakan desert, having completed a full circuit of the globe. The scientists noted that even after such a long journey, the dust remained "tightly confined in latitude".
It only fell back down to earth after crossing half the globe again when the cloud encountered a ridge of low pressure and fell into the Pacific ocean. Some of the dust managed to reach North America and then fall into the Atlantic.
"The Taklamakan desert is a major source of dust transported and deposited around the globe," the scientists noted, adding that dust from the desert has turned up in ice cores in Greenland and in the French Alps. They also suggested that micro-nutrients from the dust could have a beneficial effect on the oceans, helping to feed plankton.

Is Britain going to be at the centre of the 'green car' revolution?

By Sean O'Grady
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Why are we asking this now?
Because Nissan has said that production of electric car batteries will begin at its Sunderland plant, with the creation of 350 jobs. Some £200m will be invested over the next five years. Through the Regional Development Agency, millions more of taxpayers' money will be spent on all manner of green infrastructure projects to boost the North East as a "low-carbon economic area", including electricity charging points, a test track, an R&D facility linked to local universities, and a training centre for electric cars. It looks as if the British motor industry is just refusing to lie down and die.
Doesn't the UK make too many gas guzzlers?
Yes and no. Given that there will always be some demand for the sort of luxury cars and SUVs that Britain excels in, it is probably a good thing that so many of these Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Jaguar and Land Rover products are made here, especially as they are less prey to low-cost competition from Korea, China and India. However, there are also strong environmental and short-term economic pressures that mean the current trend towards greener, more economical cars will also help secure the future of the British industry. This is why the latest developments are such good news...
So what else is happening?
Only last week Toyota said that it would produce a petrol/electric hybrid version of the Auris hatchback at its Derbyshire factory as part of a drive to persuade European motorists to switch from economical and increasingly clean diesels to more low-emission technology. Vauxhall, meanwhile, may yet win the contract to produce General Motors's new electric car, the Chevrolet Volt, a version of which has been previewed as the Vauxhall/Opel Ampera. Much, however, depends on GM Europe's new owners, the Russian-financed Magna consortium or the US-backed private equity group RHJ. However, the signs are promising. The Government has also given a £27m grant to Land Rover to help them produce a new hybrid SUV, codenamed LRX, which ought to help the Jaguar Land Rover group reduce its overall emissions and win over a new breed of ecologically-aware driver. Not to be left behind, Mini is also proudly showing off its Mini E, an electric version of the Oxford-built hatch that is being trialled in the US market. Finally, Lotus has helped develop the new Tesla electric sports car in America, a "proper" performance coupe that dispels some of the myths about electric cars. They have also unveiled an attractive "baby Lotus" electric hatch, though it remains only a "concept".
Is electric the future?
Probably. The definitive King Review on low-carbon cars last year makes a pretty strong case for the electric car as the most environmentally friendly form of personal transportation. But the technological barriers remain and, even in a decade or two, it is unlikely that the internal combustion engine will entirely disappear. In a few years, we will probably see a much more diverse range of different technologies in cars. Ferraris and Porsches will probably still run on old-fashioned petrol, but small city cars might well be predominantly electric. Family saloons could be hybrids, with executive cars potentially running as ultra-clean diesels.
The hydrogen fuel cell, which creates its own electricity "on board", might even make an appearance in larger SUVs and people carriers, though at the moment its fortunes seem to be waning. Honda's FCX Clarity, which uses this very advanced technology, seems set to go into production. Biofuels, pioneered by Saab, could also play a part if their unfortunate effects on the price of food can be resolved: so-called third generation, algae-based biofuels won't compete with food for arable land and ought to be very green indeed. In other words, a thousand automotive flowers may blossom.
What about emissions at the power station?
Even electricity generated by the dirtiest coal would arguably still be cleaner than the cleanest petrol models. That claim is still disputed by some, but what is clear is that electricity generated from renewables and, again arguably, nuclear power, is far more clean than anything the internal combustion engine can yet match, though the margins may not be quite as large as people think.
What's the snag with electric cars?
Range, practicality and power. A car like a G-Wiz, the most popular model at the moment, costs about £8,500, for which you could buy a much better, small electric- or diesel-powered runaround, such as a Citroen C1 or a Nissan Micra, both of which are safer, faster, roomier and nicer to drive. Even the best of the current crop of electric cars have severe limitations in day to day running.
The latest Smart electric vehicle, for example, will do 70mph and has a range of 70 miles, which sounds fine for commuting and most journeys. However, it won't do 70 miles at 70 mph. It only has a range of 70 miles if you drive it very slowly; if you max it out at 70mph, you'll see the battery flattened within 20 miles. The Chevrolet Volt/Vauxhall Ampera is promising, as it looks and drives more like a conventional vehicle – but again it only has a range of 40 miles. There is also the small matter of a shortage of recharging points.
There are very few outside London and, even in such electric hotspots as Westminster, relatively few concessions are made to the electric lobby. There is some free parking, but it is often only for a few hours – so not much chance of consumers using their parking bays to commute to work. Tax breaks for electric cars are there but, for most families, they cannot make up for the lack of practicality and many also don't like their safety record. And if you happen to live in a flat, then charging becomes nearly impossible. That said, if you can find a spot to recharge, it will only cost you about 20p to "fill up" overnight.
Any other action?
Lots. Carlos Ghosn, the charismatic chief executive of Renault-Nissan is "betting the ranch" on the future of the electric car, piling millions into development and sponsoring schemes in Denmark and Israel to create national networks of electric charging points – both countries are compact and relatively flat, a bit like the North East. Almost every other manufacturer has, or nearly has, an electric vehicle armlet, including Mercedes-Benz (the Smart), BMW (Mini E). Mitsubishi (their impressive i-MiEV), Peugeot-Citroën, Ford and GM.
Remember the brick?
Yes, indeed. Optimists point to the size and weight of the first brick-like "portable" phones in the late 1980s, an almost comical sight today. Much the same technology (lithium-ion batteries) and challenges prevail in the electric car as exist in mobiles and laptops, so the argument runs, and the progress that has been made in miniaturising and developing these has been phenomenal. With sufficient money behind it, there is no reason why the electric car could not also overcome some of its current drawbacks in a relatively short time. And there seems no reason either why Britain, especially with the ever-fertile mind of the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, behind it, shouldn't grab a significant slice of the action.
Will the UK become a hub for green cars?
*Many manufacturers in the UK are already investing in the new technologies
*The Government is putting plenty of money into it
*As with mobile phones, advances in technology can, in principle, overcome the problems
*Electric cars cost too much and are nowhere near as practical as petrol-driven vehicles
*Other, more interventionist, countries are bound to spend more public money
*We are always subject to the whims of foreign car groups