Monday, 7 September 2009

Judge in Chevron Case Agrees to Step Aside

QUITO -- The Ecuadorean judge purportedly caught on videotape discussing a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against Chevron Corp. over environmental damage in the Amazon has recused himself from the case.
Ecuador's attorney general, Washington Pezantes, said Friday that he had asked Judge Juan Núñez to withdraw from the case, which has garnered international attention and highlighted Ecuador's uncertain investment climate.
The recusal is a significant victory for Chevron, which has argued that the Ecuadorian judicial system is too corrupt to render a fair verdict in the long-running environmental lawsuit. The move could delay a ruling in the case, which had been expected by the end of the year and was widely expected by both sides to be against the San Ramon, Calif., oil company.
Chevron released recordings Monday that it claims show Mr. Núñez, who oversees the Lago Agrio court where the trial is being held, affirming that he would hold the company culpable for environmental damages. The company said the videos prove the judge, who was still considering evidence, is biased and should be disqualified from the case.
Mr. Núñez has contended that the video footage was manipulated. Chevron has said the videos are authentic and haven't been doctored.
"I have communicated with both sides in this case that I recuse myself from continuing with this case," Mr. Núñez said. "However, I will continue with my work as a judge, and as president of the Lago Agrio court, because I have not committed any illegality or irregularity."
Mr. Núñez declined to explain the reason for his recusal. He said he had notified Chevron and the plaintiffs, a group residing in the Amazon region that is suing Chevron for contamination caused decades ago by the oil operations of Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001, of his decision. Chevron has said Ecuador released it from liabilities after a cleanup by the company. The plaintiffs say the release applied only to claims by the government, not those made by private citizens.
Chevron has said in recent months that it expects to lose the case in Ecuador, but will fight enforcement of the ruling in the United States in part on the grounds that Ecuador's judiciary is insufficiently independent.
Steven Donziger, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that Mr. Núñez's recusal shows the Ecuadorian judicial system is fair. He repeated earlier questions about the recording's authenticity.
"We again call on competent authorities in Ecuador and the United States to investigate any role Chevron and its officials might have played to script a bribery scheme for purposes of extracting an advantage in a private litigation," Mr. Donziger said in a statement.
Chevron has said the videos are authentic and haven't been manipulated.
Mr. Pezantes told reporters at a press conference Friday he had asked Judge Núñez to recuse himself from the case to give greater transparency to the investigation of the videos that his office is conducting.
"I presume the innocence of the judge," Mr. Pezantes said, adding that he trusts in the judge's honesty. But to remove any doubts about the investigation, the judge must recuse himself, he said.
Over the years, many different judges have overseen the long-running litigation.
Chevron General Counsel Hewitt Pate said the judge's recusal is insufficient, arguing his prior rulings in the case should also be annulled.
"We also hope that the removal of Judge Nunez is not an attempt to deflect attention from the serious indications of political interference with the case that appear in the video recordings," Mr. Pate said, calling for "an independent and honest investigation of the evidence that Chevron brought forward."
Write to Mercedes Alvaro at

China Urged to Subsidize 'New Energy' Vehicles

TIANJIN, China—The head of BYD Co., one of China's leading makers of electric vehicles, urged the Chinese government to subsidize private purchases of all-electric battery cars and other "new energy" vehicles, saying their widespread adoption in China depends on it.
Speaking at an industry conference Sunday, BYD Chairman Wang Chuanfu said a lack of consumer incentives and subsidies has kept BYD from making a plug-in hybrid car available for private buyers. He warned that a continued lack of government assistance might doom all-electric cars and plug-in hybrids in the marketplace because of their currently high cost.
"We're at a critical make-or-break juncture in our effort" to make electric vehicles mainstream, Mr. Wang told the conference. To help accelerate an adoption of heavily electrified vehicles "the government needs to play a key role and help us reduce their cost, especially for private buyers."
Mr. Wang called for rebates, tax cuts, and policies to pave the way for more taxi companies to use electric cabs, among other measures.
BYD, which makes both batteries and cars and is part-owned by a company controlled by American investor Warren Buffett, is gearing to launch an all-electric battery car called e6 in China this year. The Shenzhen-based company already sells a plug-in hybrid car here called the F3DM, with a small gasoline engine to charge its batteries. BYD began selling the F3DM in December to fleet customers, such as banks, but hasn't made it available for consumers. Mr. Wang has said the delay is because the car, priced at about 150,000 yuan, or roughly $22,000, is too expensive for most private buyers in China.
Mr. Wang and other industry and government officials at the Tianjin conference pointed to what they described as good prospects overall for electrified "green" cars to become more mainstream. But it remains unclear whether makers of environmentally friendly cars like BYD might get the consumer incentives they are looking for.
One senior Chinese industrial policy maker, speaking at the conference Sunday, pointed to reservations among some Chinese officials about providing consumer incentives to spur electric-car sales. "Why do we need to provide subsidies and rebates for wealthy private buyers who would be the first in line to buy electric cars? That's a question some of us in the government are asking," said Chen Jianguo, a senior official at the National Development and Reform Commission, China's main economic planning agency.
Other officials sounded a more enthusiastic note. Wan Gang, China's minister of science and technology, told the conference that electric vehicles provided opportunities for China to "catch up with and exceed developed countries" in the auto industry.
They are a "key driver for a new economy" for the world, but an especially strategic area of interest for China, he said. He pointed to the advantage of large deposits within China of lithium and other rare-earth metals that are needed to produce key electric car components, such as batteries and high-power electric motors, and improve their performance.
New-energy cars are "the way forward" and "a new source of growth" for China, and the country thus stands ready to allot more subsidies to accelerate related research and development activity, he said.
—Ellen Zhu in Shanghai contributed to this article.
Write to Norihiko Shirouzu at

Scientist Lord May attacks BBC’s rejection of Planet Relief day

Mark Henderson, Science Editor
The BBC gave in to a “ludicrous” concern about impartiality when it dropped a day of programmes intended to raise awareness about energy efficiency and climate change, one of Britain’s most senior scientists says.
Lord May of Oxford, a former President of the Royal Society and government chief scientist, said that the BBC had failed in its public service remit by withdrawing from last year’s Energy Saving Day (E-Day).
The BBC had originally planned to support the initiative to encourage energy conservation by staging Planet Relief, a comedy event modelled on Red Nose Day. It dropped out of the project, however, after a report that raised concerns about taking sides on environmental issues and poor ratings for the Live Earth concert of 2007.
E-Day was eventually staged independently last January, without BBC support, but made little public impact. The floodlights of St Paul’s Cathedral in London were turned off to open the event, but it had no effect at all on Britain’s energy consumption.
Lord May blamed the BBC’s withdrawal for the failure of a project that could have done much to encourage individuals to do more to save energy.
“Why the BBC pulled the plug is beyond comprehension,” he said. “They said it would have interfered with impartiality, which I find incomprehensible. The idea was there was to be one day where the BBC did an event like Red Nose Day, asking everybody to turn the lights off and be conscious about electricity consumption. The National Grid would monitor it and you could see the impact on a website, and the BBC was going to be in your face about it all day.
“The whole idea behind the concept was climate change is real, and there’s a lot the individual can do about it.”
Lord May blamed a “ludicrous report on impartiality”, which had suggested that the BBC ought not to be seen to take sides on climate change issues. The science of climate change, he said, was now so well established that the BBC ought not to see it as a political issue on which it had to be neutral. If it was willing to stage famine and poverty relief events, such as Red Nose Day, it ought to be prepared to do the same thing for environmental causes.
He said that the BBC “seems to take the view that everything is like a soccer game, with two sides. This wouldn’t have been in violation of impartiality at all. There are arguments about the timescale of climate change, but there’s no longer any serious debate that we need to be doing stuff to address it.
“This would have been a social service, in much the same way that programmes showing you how to do up your house are a social service.”
The BBC denied that the decision had been based on impartiality. A spokeswoman said: “We explained at the time the reasons why we didn’t go ahead with Planet Relief and that this wasn’t about concern about impartiality but because we had found that audiences responded better to documentaries and factual programming about the issue of climate change.
“We regularly cover this subject in our news and online output as well as in factual programmes, for example showing a definitive history of climate change, Earth — The Climate Wars, on BBC Two last year. We are always looking at other ways to cover the issue. For example we are planning a big special on energy consumption later in the year on BBC One.”
Lord May, who is president of the British Science Association, was speaking at the launch of its British Science Festival at the University of Surrey in Guildford yesterday. In his presidential address tonight, Lord May is to say that the world faces several interlocking problems that will require concerted action over the next decades.
As well as climate change, major challenges will include providing food and water for a growing population, and dealing with a huge loss of biodiversity. “In all this, probably the biggest difficulty is that globally co- operative actions are required,” he will say.
Though Lord May is not religious, he believes that religions can help such co-operation because the idea of a deity can serve as a “punisher” who encourages people not to cheat on their obligations to society. Religions, however, can also be part of the problem because they are often authoritarian and resistant to change.

Company fights climate change ruling by employment tribunal

• Judge ruled views were philosophical belief• Discrimination law 'may bring flood of litigation'
Afua Hirsch, legal affairs correspondent, Sunday 6 September 2009 20.22 BST

A controversial tribunal decision that some company practices can discriminate against employees with strongly held views on climate change will be challenged in the courts.
Senior executive Tim Nicholson claimed he was unfairly dismissed by a property investment company because his views on the environment conflicted with other managers' "contempt for the need to cut carbon emissions".
In the first case of its kind, an employment tribunal decided that Nicholson, 41, had views amounting to a "philosophical belief in climate change", allowing him the same legal protection against discrimination as religious beliefs.
Nicholson, the former head of sustainability at Newcastle-based Grainger plc, says he was dismissed after disagreeing with practices including an instance where an IT worker was flown from London to Ireland to collect his BlackBerry, and another where Nicholson's attempts to obtain data to develop a carbon management strategy were blocked.
Despite having written policies on the environment, Grainger executives attended meetings in "some of the most highly polluting cars on the road", Nicholson claimed.
"[My belief] affects how I live my life including my choice of home, how I travel, what I buy, what I eat and drink, what I do with my waste, and my hopes and fears," he said. "For example, I no longer travel by plane, I have eco-renovated my home, I compost my food waste and encourage others to reduce their carbon emissions."
Judge David Sneath said at the employment tribunal: "[Nicholson] has certain views about climate change and acts upon those views in the way in which he leads his life. In my judgment his belief goes beyond a mere opinion."
The decision, which is being challenged by the company, comes two years after the law on religious discrimination was changed so that beliefs no longer had to be "similar" to religious faith to receive protection in the workplace.
Under the new law "philosophical belief" is protected by the law alongside religious belief if it passes a legal test requiring it to be cogent, serious and "worthy of respect in a democratic society".
The case has attracted criticism from some, however, who argue that the removal of the requirement that beliefs are "similar" to religious faith will create a potential minefield for employers.
Caroline Doran, employment partner at London solicitors Sprecher Grier Halberstam, said: "The removal of the word similar has [also] led to a range of employment litigation to determine whether patriotism or loyalty to a flag or support for the British National party are covered as suitable beliefs.
"This … may create an abundance of litigation in the future as the tribunals will have to weigh an individual's belief against the yardstick of current popular thinking."
Nicholson's lawyer said that the case reflected a necessary clarification of the law that would affect large numbers of employees.
"This is a case that will clarify the law for the ever-increasing numbers of people who take a philosophical stance on the environment and climate change, and who lead their lives according to those principles", said Shah Qureshi, head of employment law at solicitors Bindmans.
"These are often deeply held views based on the premise that without change humanity will suffer … people should be able to express such views without fear of retribution or discrimination."

Leading scientist calls on religious leaders to tackle climate change

President of the British Science Association, Lord May, says faith groups could lead policing of social behaviour
Ian Sample
The Guardian, Monday 7 September 2009
Religious leaders should play a frontline role in mobilising people to take action against global warming, according to a leading scientist.
Lord May, a former chief scientist to the government, said religious groups could use their influence to motivate believers into reducing the environmental impact of their lives.
The international reach of faith-based organisations and their authoritarian structures give religious groups an almost unrivalled ability to encourage a large proportion of the world's population to go green, he said.
Lord May highlighted the value of religion in uniting communities to tackle environmental challenges ahead of his presidential address to the British Science Association festival at the University of Surrey in Guildford today.
He will use the address to raise what Charles Darwin considered one of the great unsolved problems of his time: the evolution of co-operation. While scientists can explain the emergence of co-operative behaviour in small, related groups of animals, understanding co-operation among distant human societies has been more difficult, he said.
May will argue that the puzzle is as pressing today as it was to Darwin 150 years ago, because of the urgent need for global co-operation to tackle the environmental issues of water shortages, greenhouse gas emissions and unsustainable energy consumption.
The world's population has risen roughly sevenfold since Darwin's day, with a similar increase in the amount of energy each individual uses. That suggests the ecological footprint of humanity upon the planet has increased fiftyfold since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859.
"In all of this, probably the biggest difficulty is that globally co-operative actions are required. These difficulties are compounded by the fact that not only must nations co-operate, but – given past history – they must do so in equitable proportions," May will say, according to an advance copy of his address.
Experiments using what scientists call "game theory" show that groups of people can achieve their goals if cheats and those who fail to pull their weight are punished.
Speaking before the address, May said religion had historically played a major role in policing social behaviour through the notion of a supernatural "enforcer", a system that could help unify communities to tackle environmental challenges. "How better it is if the punisher is an all-powerful, all-seeing deity," he said.
According to May, humans are causing enough damage to ecosystems that we may have to resort to dramatic engineering projects to replace the roles they play in sustaining the planet, such as stabilising the climate, purifying water and pollinating crops.
"Maybe we could be clever enough artificially to engineer substitutes for these lost ecosystem services, although I fear this could see us living, at best, in the world of the cult movie, Blade Runner, and more likely Mad Max," his address states.

Seed variety loss seen hampering climate response

Reuters, Monday September 7 2009
LONDON, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Farmers in developing countries are losing traditional varieties because of growing corporate control of the seeds they plant, hampering their ability to cope with climate change, a London-based think tank said on Monday.
The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) said in a report that the diversity of traditional seed varieties is falling fast and this means valuable traits such as drought and pest resistance could be lost forever.
The report was issued ahead of the World Seed Conference which opens on Tuesday at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome.
"Where farming communities have been able to maintain their traditional varieties, they are already using them to cope with the impacts of climate change," said project leader Krystyna Swiderska of IIED.
"But more commonly, these varieties are being replaced by a smaller range of 'modern' seeds that are heavily promoted by corporations and subsidised by governments."
IIED partner organisations in China, India, Kenya and Peru participated in the research behind the report.
The report said an international tready on the protection of new varieties of plants -- known as UPOV -- protects the profits of private corporations but fails to recognise and protect the rights and knowledge of poor farmers.
"Western governments and the seed industry want to upgrade the UPOV Convention to provide stricter exclusive rights to commercial plant breeders," Swiderska said.
"This will further undermine the rights of farmers and promote the loss of seed diversity that poor communities depend on for their resilience to changing climatic conditions. (Reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Anthony Barker)

It's getting hot up here: Why Greenland sees global warming as a way to gain independence...and make money

Could global warming have an upside? Greenlanders seem to think so: the ice that surrounds them is melting to reveal vast mineral resources. Now all they must do is gain independence, cash in... and cope with their guilt
By McKenzie Funk
Sunday, 6 September 2009

Five years ago, after Mininnguaq Kleist became Greenland's national badminton champion but before he took the helm at the Office of Self-Governance, he discovered secession theory: the study of whether one country has, or doesn't have, the moral right to break free from another. "I found arguments that are never used up here," he says. Over the following year he wrote his thesis, "Greenlandic Auto- nomy or Secession: Philosophical Considerations", at his university in Denmark, the colonial power that has ruled Greenland for nearly 300 years. The 35-year-old, whom friends call Minik, wrote it in Danish, and he pushed arguments that challenge the colonisers using their own rules, even as they ran slightly counter to those laid out in the 1990s by the father of modern secession theory, philosopher Allen Buchanan.
"According to him, you have to be wronged to justify it," says Minik. "Denmark has to wrong Greenland in a really bad way before we break away. I don't agree with that part. Sometimes you have to view this as a marriage: adults, consenting people, divorcing of their own free will."
To its Inuit natives, Greenland now officially goes by the name Kalaallit Nunaat – "Land of the People". As a colony, it has been part of Denmark since 1721, when Lutheran missionary Hans Egede showed up and started saving souls. The first Danes taught the Inuit that Hell was very hot rather than very cold. They taught that communal living – shared food, shared hunting trips, shared wives – was sinful. They taught that rocks and birds were not endowed with spirits. Greenlanders had no bread or concept of bread, so Egede translated another pillar of Western belief – the Lord's Prayer – to fit Greenlandic reality. "Give us this day our daily harbour seal," they prayed.
I first meet up with Minik in the Kangerlussuaq airport, a building on the tundra of western Greenland that feels like a ski lodge in the Alps: lounge chairs, huge windows, a cafeteria with trays, rich tourists in Gore-Tex. Minik is heading up the west-central coast to Upernavik, a 1,000-person town with no sewage system, where, several mornings a week, the streets are lined with yellow bags of excrement waiting to be picked up by sanitation teams.
Upernavik is the first stop on the second leg of a road show led by the Office of Self-Governance, a department local authorities set up at the end of 2007 to bring independence – or at least the idea of it – to the people. It is now early September 2008, and by 25 November, he wants to have reached nearly all of Greenland: 57,000 people spread out across 57 villages and 18 towns and an area of 836,000 square miles, 16 times the size of England and 50 times the size of mainland Denmark; 25 November is the date of an island-wide vote, a referendum on divorce from Denmark. If it was to pass, then on 21 June 2009, the summer solstice, Greenland would wake up to a new reality. Not secession, exactly, but a big step in that direction.
Global warming is melting Greenland's ice, extending its shipping season and revealing massive oil and mineral deposits. This is making possible a mining boom and the royalties that go with it, which in turn is convincing Greenland's people that eventually they may not need the £370m in annual subsidies they get from Denmark—more than £6,000 a person. Which itself is convincing Greenlanders that soon they may not need Denmark at all.
Climate change means oil finds and zinc mines and also better fishing: cod, herring, halibut and haddock migrating north as the ocean warms. It means disaster tourists: people coming to see glaciers slide into the sea. (Since 2004, cruise-ship arrivals have jumped 250 per cent.) It means farming: potatoes and broccoli and carrots growing where they didn't grow before, more grass for more sheep. And it means gushing rivers: an endless supply of freshwater that Greenland proposes to sell to a thirsty world.
It also means doom for distant countries such as Tuvalu, in the Pacific Ocean, and Bangladesh, which may go under because of Greenland's melting ice cap. The cap covers 81 per cent of the island, and if it melts entirely—something that is unlikely to happen before the end of this century—global sea levels could jump 20 feet. Since 2003, the cap has shrunk by more than a million tons – so much that the underlying bedrock rises 4cm each year, like a ship slowly unweighted of its cargo. The land is rising faster than the sea.
It is climate's role in the independence movement – the possibility that people could be set free by embracing a crisis, that for all the countries destroyed by global warming, one will be created – that has brought me to Kangerlussuaq. Before we board our next flight, Minik introduces me to a pack of half-a-dozen Greenlandic politicians who are part of his revolutionary road trip. They wear backpacks and street clothes: jeans, fleeces, tennis shoes. One man carries a video camera. I wonder, for a moment, whether I'm staring at people for whom global warming serves a higher good.
The first meeting takes place inside the community sports hall in Upernavik, and its high point is a funny story about a whale. It is told by Jens B Frederiksen, the leader of the Democrats, the only one of Greenland's four major ' political parties arguing for a "no" vote in November. Frederiksen was a policeman here in the 1990s, and the story goes like this: The police chief gets a call from a citizen. The citizen is a fisherman. He has caught a whale. He doesn't know what he should do with this whale. The chief says to the citizen, "Put it in the boat. We'll take care of it tomorrow."
Put it in the boat! Take care of it tomorrow! The crowd, roughly 60 people, roars with laughter.
Frederiksen's party has the support of many ethnic Danes, who make up 10 to 15 per cent of the Greenlandic population, but it is still one of the island's smallest. Earlier this afternoon, the politician and I walked around Upernavik—past an unmarked liquor store, past wooden houses painted in beautiful primary colours—while he explained his party's unpopular stance.
"We want self-governance, too, but we don't have the economy right now to go forward," he said. He ticked off the basic services that Greenland hopes to take over: policing, education, immigration, mining, courts. Thirty-two areas in all. This will require money—if not Denmark's, somebody else's.
"Yes, we want oil," Frederiksen continued. "We will jump and be happy when we find oil. I also really hope to win the lottery but I can't count on it." His argument isn't about nationhood. It's all about the numbers – pure economics – and that may be why hardly anyone is listening. Even nationalists agree, however, that as colonisers go, Denmark isn't bad. In Canada, the Inuit were given numbered, dog-tag-like IDs because they had no surnames, and they were moved to barren islands to reinforce sovereignty claims. But in the Danish colony, the crown declared as early as 1782 that the Greenlanders' welfare should "receive the highest possible consideration, [overriding] when necessary the interests of trade itself". Denmark established paternalistic rules about alcohol and intermarriage, and even its most controversial programme – an effort in the 1960s to move families from traditional villages to centres such as Upernavik, where services could be concentrated – was meant to improve lives.
In the Upernavik sports hall, we are at nearly 73 degrees north. The small town is seasonally frozen out of all ship traffic, sits on tree-less tundra 600 miles from the capital, and yet has this: a hospital staffed by Swedes and Danes, a price-subsidised Pisiffik supermarket, a strong mobile-phone signal, and paved streets. This is what the Danes did. They harvested whales and fish and some coal, but they gave back homes and schools and hospitals. In 1953, they gave full Danish citizenship to every Greenlander. They gave students such as Minik a free education at the university of their choice in Europe or North America. And they did it all with the smug certainty that Greenland could never manage on its own.
Up for a vote on 25 November is "self-governance"– namminersorneq in Greenlandic, selvstyre in Danish. Though not full independence, it is far closer than the limited home-rule system in place since 1979, which gave Greenland authority over a handful of government ministries. As agreed to in principle by Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Greenlandic premier Hans Enoksen, Greenlanders will have a recognised right to self-determination. They will take over responsibility for almost everything but foreign affairs and defence. At first they'll keep the £370m annual grant from Denmark, but as petroleum and other mineral revenues go up and up, the grant will go down and down, until it hits zero. Greenland can secede any time along the way. It could take decades.
While Frederiksen talks, Minik grimaces. He is standing alone in the back of the hall, near a table with coffee and tea and crumble cake. "Remember this," Frederiksen says to his audience: "The Democrats did not say 'no' to self- governance. We just said 'no' to this agreement." When Kuupik Kleist, the popular leader of the leftist, pro- independence Inuit Brotherhood, speaks in favour of self-governance, Minik allows himself a smile.
"We would like to take care of ourselves," the politician says in his booming voice, and everyone claps. "If we want to reach something, we should be ready to sacrifice something." This idea – that Greenland may suffer after it takes over but that a little suffering is worth it – isn't one that every leader will voice out loud. Now only Minik is clapping.
It did not take long for me to hear what those sacrifices might be, on a helicopter trip with GEUS, the Danish geological survey. The GEUS scientists were retrieving a broken instrument on the ice cap two hours' flight north of Upernavik, and along for a free ride were me and a Dane called Nikolaj, a lab technician at the Upernavik hospital. He and the pilot also co-own a kayaking business that rents out boats, drybags, satellite phones, and polar-bear protection in the form of rifles. The doctors are all foreigners, he says. "They come for one month at a time. It's like a vacation for them." I ask what he thinks about the referendum. "People here are spoiled," he says. "They don't give a shit. They have no idea how much things really cost. Housing. Boats. Fishing. Everything. They don't understand that, without support, it could never be."
Premier Hans Enoksen catches up with us on the way to Uummannaq, a 1,300-person island town that is famous here as the home of Siissisoq, a metal band that sings in Greenlandic about the slaughter of African mammals. The next afternoon, I watch the premier take part in a four- on-one verbal battering of Jens B Frederiksen inside a firehouse-red high school. Enoksen is stern and primal, slowly pumping his fist in the air as he speaks.
The leader of Siumut, the party in charge of the home-rule government since it began in 1979, Enoksen is a former town grocer who was elected in 2002 after serving as Minister for Fisheries, Hunting, and Settlements. He is the first premier who wasn't educated in Denmark, who doesn't speak Danish or English. In Nuuk, a rival minister is challenging him for leadership of Siumut, and some of his appointees are facing a corruption scandal. But in the villages, he is loved. Every summer, he pilots his fishing boat alone up the coast, checking in on community after community. He wants self-governance to be his legacy. Enoksen hires a blue powerboat the next day, and we head off to visit villagers. After a while he turns to me. "The American ambassador in Copenhagen has been very supportive of self-governance," he says, Minik translating. "Much more than any before him."
I tell him I am not surprised. In 1946, the American government was so impressed with Greenland's strategic potential that it secretly tried to buy the island from Denmark for $100m. The US military still runs Thule Air Base, a Cold War-era installation in Greenland's far north. Now that we have learnt Greenland has a lot of oil, US companies are buying up exploration blocks near Disko Bay, about 100 miles southwest of us.
For Greenland, doesn't independence from Denmark simply mean dependence on foreign corporations? Enoksen has heard it before. "If oil is discovered, foreigners will come no matter what," he says. "But after we vote 'yes', they will be working for us." He pounds his fist against his chest three times, then raises it to the sky. "This is what will change under me," he says.
To visit one of the sites that will fund Greenland's future, the Black Angel zinc mine, I again motor out of the Uummannaq harbour, into the same broad channel, but this time the boat captain is Danish, and he is working for the British. We leave the channel and cross a choppy stretch of open water, then hug another set of cliffs. We enter a long fjord, where we wave at fishermen and slow down to watch a village woman butcher a seal on a rock. Two hours after leaving Uummannaq, the namesake Angel rises before us: a Rorschach blot of ghostly black zinc, 2,000ft up, on the side of a mostly white cliff. I have wanted to see Black Angel since I heard about it at the first annual Greenland Sustainable Mineral and Petroleum Development Conference, which was held in May 2008 at a Radisson Hotel in Copenhagen. The mine's owners, the British firm Angus & Ross, hadn't tried to hide the fact that they were profiting off global warming, which caught my attention. Otherwise, the conference had been discussing Greenland's tough logistics and "world-class commercial terms". If you could get there, the speakers said, Greenlanders would let you drill anywhere.
There was a presenter from Alcoa, which plans to dam two west Greenland rivers and build one of the world's largest aluminum smelters—340,000 tons a year. There was a GEUS presentation about Greenland's petroleum prospects: on the west coast, eight oil leases were just sold off to companies including Chevron, Exxon, Canada's Husky Energy, and Denmark's DONG Energy. On the east coast awaited the 19th-richest of the world's 500 known petroleum provinces: an untapped Gulf of Mexico in the North Atlantic.
Angus & Ross chief executive Nick Hall showed photographs of Black Angel and explained its history. The zinc deposit, one of the richest on the planet, was discovered in the 1930s, explored in the 1960s, and mined between 1973 and 1990 via tunnels dug near the Angel high above the fjord, reached by cable car. Then it was abandoned. His company took over the lease in 2003, when zinc prices were about to rise, and in 2006 two geologists on a day hike discovered a deposit as pure as the original at the edge of the retreating South Lakes Glacier. Until now it had been hidden by a wall of ice. Along with the extended shipping season, it was, Hall admitted, the "upside of global warming".
When I arrive at Black Angel, the mining camp is nearly empty. It is the end of the summer work season, the beginning of a global recession, and credit is drying up while zinc prices are falling. Australian Tim Daffern, my host, quit a successful consulting job to run operations at the mine – and now he is hanging on by a thread. Black Angel will bounce back in January 2009, and in April Angus & Ross will even expand its holdings to include the Nalunaq gold mine, in Greenland's far south. But at the moment I am witnessing the danger, for Daffern and for Greenland, of betting everything on the commodities market.
The camp is a series of prefab buildings on a man-made plateau, surrounded by the crumbling concrete and rusting machines of the original operation. Next to the harbour sits the cabin of a cable car that will span the mile-wide fjord to reach the mine. The buildings contain bunk rooms and a lounge with couches, a widescreen TV and a Wi-Fi connection. Inside the lounge, Daffern tells me his company's game plan. They will start with the two tons of zinc left in the original mine: the support pillars, mainly, which they will replace with cement columns. "That's enough for five years of mining," he says. Next they will focus on the deposit at South Lakes Glacier, which is certain to keep retreating – they commissioned a study by GEUS and some British scientists to be extra sure. South Lakes will buy them another decade. A third deposit could buy two more years; a fourth, three more – glaciers shrinking all the while. "Anywhere the ice retreats," Daffern says, "we'll explore."
Daffern's predecessors dumped their tailings in the fjord. The waste was 0.2 per cent lead, 1 per cent zinc. Every spring, a rush of melting water spread the waste farther. It was ingested by blue mussels, and fish ate the mussels, and seals ate the fish, and on it went up the food chain. After 17 years of mining, it took another 17 years for the fjord to recover. The home-rule government has toughened regulations and Daffern promises to do things differently. He also promises, just as everyone did at the mining conference, to hire as many locals as possible.
On day seven of the tour, after seven meetings in seven villages and towns, the politicians relax in a government guesthouse outside the Qaarsut airport, waiting to go home. Then the premier walks in and announces that a hunter's boat is ready to take us on a quick visit to the village of Niaqornat, population 68, more than an hour up the Nuussuaq peninsula. Going out again is masochism. Only Minik and I agree to join him.
The open boat is maybe 15ft long. Minik and I keep low out of the biting wind, but the premier, wearing jeans, thin gloves and a baseball cap, stands in the back of the boat, watching the coastline zip by.
The village is stunning, on a spit of low-lying land between an oceanside turret of rock and the white peaks of the peninsula. There are bright wooden houses but no cars. There are racks where villagers are drying junk fish for the sled dogs and strips of halibut and seal for themselves. Open boats and icebergs share the harbour. The sun is shining. It is, for once, the Greenland of my imagination – and perhaps that of the premier's as well.
The meeting is held in the schoolhouse, and a quarter of Niaqornat shows up, if you count the baby. As the premier talks, I check out a poster showing eight local whale species and their specs: weight, top speed, length, amount of time they can hold their breath. A man in a T-shirt that reads "Deep Sea Shark Fishing" asks about money, and Minik flips through some slides I haven't seen before: projections of mineral revenues skyrocketing into the future. One shows the oil blocks that Greenland has already sold to foreign firms. They're on just the other side of the peninsula.
A few months from now, Niaqornat will become one of a handful of villages to vote 100 per cent in favour of self- governance. The referendum will pass by 75.5 per cent across Greenland, but in tiny Niaqornat, there will be no doubters. Just in time for the solstice, at the start of this new era, the premier will lose his job to Kuupik Kleist. This will only accelerate the drive toward independence: Kleist's party wants it all the more, and even his partner in the new governing coalition, Jens B Frederiksen, will be stirred to patriotism.
"We have one goal," he tells reporters. "The ultimate independence of our country."
We're in Ilulissat, Greenland's big tourist town, where we have a final layover. Nearby is the fastest-sliding glacier in the northern hemisphere, Sermeq Kujalleq, which spits 35 trillion litres of ice into Disko Bay every year.
I spend the early evening on the boardwalk of the Hotel Arctic, a cliffside landmark that happens to be hosting the Nordic Council's Common Concern for the Arctic conference, European dignitaries in nice suits fretting abstractly about the warming north. Peering into a bay full of icebergs at sunset, I hear one of them chat up an attractive blonde by rattling off facts about the coming doomsday. His tone is solemn, his voice almost a whisper. "I don't mean to scare you," he murmurs. It's the first time I've heard someone try to use climate change to get someone else into bed. "I really don't mean to scare you," he says again. She doesn't look scared at all. Upstairs, Minik and I order hamburgers and stare at the lights of Ilulissat. "It's so strange," Minik says. "The more the ice cap melts, the more Greenland will rise. These other countries are sinking, and Greenland is rising. It is literally rising." Below us, the dignitaries file into their banquet. "We know Black Angel was really bad for the environment the first time," Minik continues. "It ruined the fjord. Is it OK to ruin three or four fjords in order to build the country? I hate to even think this, but we have a lot of fjords."
He shakes his head. "We're very aware that we'll cause more climate change by drilling for oil," he says. "But should we not when it can buy us our independence?" I look at him. I can see he doesn't really know the answer either.
A longer version of this article appeared in 'Outside' magazine. For more information,

The PC Goes on an Energy Diet

Personal computers suck up enormous amounts of electricity—often when they aren't even being used. Manufacturers are tackling the problem.
Some of the biggest energy hogs in a company sit in front of workers everyday: their PCs.
For a company that has 10,000 personal-computer desktops, for example, just leaving most of them turned on all night can cost more than $165,000 a year in electricity bills, while spewing more than 1,380 tons of carbon dioxide into the air per year, estimates a 2007 report by the Alliance to Save Energy, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C.
That's roughly the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that come from driving a car for two months. In all, the group estimates upwards of $1.7 billion is being wasted in the U.S. with about 15 million tons of carbon emitted by desktops left on overnight.
As a result, corporate IT managers are clamoring for ways to rein in their PC energy expenses. And technology manufacturers are responding. For instance, Array Networks Inc. last November announced that its DesktopDirect program would let people remotely access their desktop even when it is turned off. Dell Inc. says the displays on its laptop computers use 43% less energy after older cathode screens have been swapped out with more efficient LED ones. And Hewlett-Packard Co. says its has saved 41% energy consumption on its lineup of PCs, compared with 2005 models, because of fewer components and other factors. Many other technology manufacturers are going green, as well.
"In the end, this all adds up to smart business," says Satjiv Chahil, senior vice president of personal systems world-wide marketing for H-P, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif.
Returns on Investment
Guidance Solutions Inc., an e-commerce developer, says its desktop energy consumption has stayed roughly the same despite increasing the work force to 50 from 30 employees since 2008 because it switched to more efficient machines. The company's 200 desktops and laptops from H-P use about 40% less power than earlier models. "It's a return on the investment of being green," says Jon Provisor, chief technology officer and co-owner of the Marina del Rey, Calif., firm.
Hewlett-Packard says its TouchSmart all-in-one PC uses 55% less metal and 37% less plastic than standard PCs.

Another H-P customer, Molina HealthCare Inc., began converting its 3,000-PC fleet to energy-efficient models in early 2008 and has realized more than 30% energy savings on the machines it has replaced so far, says Sriram Bharadwaj, director of infrastructure and operations. He says the savings came as a by-product of the company's main intent in replacing the computers: making work stations more comfortable for workers of the Long Beach, Calif., health-care provider by taking out bulky, older models that took up too much space and often produced too much heat.
"It is definitely a good by-product," Mr. Bharadwaj says.
The move to greener PCs has picked up steam over the past five years, following mounting pressure from shareholders and environmental groups to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions that most scientists believe cause global warming. The PC makers have also faced heat for not doing enough to keep obsolete models out of the scrap heap. Many have since launched computer take-back programs, and have also switched to more recyclable materials.
"I think what motivates PC companies to be green is two things: One, the customers are asking for it. And the other big driver is pure competition. As we enter the 21st century low-carbon economy, they are going to have to do it," says Andrea Moffat, senior director of programs at Ceres, a Boston-based network of investors, environmental groups and others interested in pushing corporations to be greener.
Leading the Way
Three of the more active manufacturers in green PCs have been Dell, H-P and Apple Inc.
H-P, which has long operated an environmental program, ramped up its efforts on PCs in 2005 after Mark Hurd took over as chief executive and asked, "What more can we do?," Mr. Chahil says. H-P redesigned its entire PC product line in 12 months, beginning in 2006, to include green features such as more efficient power supplies and the ability to go into power-saving sleep mode faster.
More recently, H-P in 2008 launched an EliteBook line of laptops that lets the user access email, calendars and contacts without having to power up the computer. The laptops use a technology called QuickLook, a separate, miniature operating system that doesn't require booting up the machine's main OS. QuickLook is also a feature on H-P's ProBook line of laptops.
Earlier this year, the company began shipping some consumer laptops featuring batteries that can hold a charge for as long as three years. That saves energy because they don't have to be recharged as much, H-P officials say.
Meanwhile, Dell over the past few years has revamped its OptiPlex desktop and Latitude laptop lines to include energy-saving features. Last year, the Round Rock, Texas, company introduced Latitude models that also can access email and Internet sites without booting up the computer; these models also have batteries that last twice as long as those of the previous model—six hours instead of three. One of the biggest savings, Dell officials say, has come from the shift to LED screens on laptops.
Among the biggest beneficiaries of the energy savings: Dell itself. The company more than a year ago installed night shut-off software in 50,000 desktops and notebooks across a number of its operations world-wide, achieving an estimated $1.8 million in power savings annually. "It's eating your own dog food, if you will, but we practice a lot of this," says David Lear, Dell's director of environmental affairs.
In a packaging-design challenge from Wal-Mart Stores, H-P almost completely eliminated packaging waste by shipping a line of notebook computers in recyclable messenger bags.

At Apple, company officials play up another benefit of green PCs: their reduced carbon output. The Cupertino, Calif., company calculates the amount of carbon each model uses. In the case of the MacBook Air laptop launched in 2008, the company says 43% of its carbon emissions come from the energy it uses. So to cut down on energy, the MacBook is equipped with features such as more efficient power supplies and enhanced sleep mode. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro released earlier this year draws just 15 watts when idle with display on—a quarter of the power needed to run a single household lightbulb—versus about double that for some other new laptops.
Remote Control
Software makers are also stepping up to address the problem of PC energy. Verdiem Corp.'s Surveyor program, for example, lets IT managers remotely adjust energy use of computers—such as being able to shut them off when not in use. The Seattle company says its customers have saved more than $30 million in energy costs since it began offering the service about three years ago.
One customer, Cox Communications Inc., says it has seen a 40% drop in energy consumption in 15,000 desktops since the company began deploying Surveyor last April. The Atlanta cable firm, a unit of Cox Enterprises Inc., uses Surveyor to remotely turn on desktops at night when they need software updates, and then turn them back off when the download is complete, says Peter West, vice president of IT and operational development. Mr. West says the efficiency gains add to those the company has achieved by using energy-saving Dell computers.
"This really does just take it up a notch," Mr. West says.
--Mr. Carlton is a staff reporter in the San Francisco bureau of The Wall Street Journal. He can be reached at

My battle to cut carbon: a baffling, frustrating path to a more honest life

It was harder and cost more than I'd thought – but in the end, reducing our household's footprint gave me a sense of hope

Madeleine Bunting, Sunday 6 September 2009 21.00 BST
The thinker Amitai Etzioni comes up with a useful concept in the current edition of Prospect magazine when he talks of "moral megalogues" – mass dialogues over right and wrong. They "involve millions of members of a society exchanging views with one another at workplaces, during family gatherings, in the media and at public events. They are often contentious and passionate and, while they have no clear beginning or end, over time they lead to changes in culture and people's behaviour".
The great megalogue of our age is over the environment, and it's been given a big boost by the debate over the 10:10 campaign (the pledge to cut your personal emissions by 10% in the next year), which the Guardian is backing. Over the last few days this commitment has been criticised as smug moralism, pointless and a middle-class luxury. The criticisms smack of self-justifying apathy – and having spent some time exercising these arguments in my head, I reckon they are all misplaced.
It started a few months ago when this megalogue finally prodded me into belated action. This is not an edifying tale and brings me no credit, but it is probably not that unusual. In as much as I thought about the issue I presumed our family was vaguely environmental; we had had one holiday with flights in the last five years, we cycled and walked, we recycled, we composted, we didn't turn up the thermostat. Pale green, I guessed, except for one awful indulgence. It's the beast that made me fall in love with a draughty old house in Hackney, it's the beast that probably gets more caresses from me in winter than all my family put together … an Aga. George Monbiot probably won't speak to me ever again.
But in June I braced myself. The Aga has prompted the same response from every energy expert and plumber who came to the house: a sharp intake of breath. It crashes all their carbon calculation software programs – the only guidance I can get is from Wikipedia, which maintains that an average gas cooker uses just 2.6% of the gas of a modest-sized Aga annually. Ouch.
At least deciding to abandon the Aga was blindingly obvious. But from then on, I've been introduced to a world of baffling complexity. This is not 10:10 territory – we'd done our first easy 10% a while back – but probably 40:12 (the figures get mighty confusing). Imagine someone who has never heard of money and how it works – interest rates, pensions, mortgages and insurance – and you get a sense of how useless consumers like me (we never read small print, never remember to shop around for utilities) stumble over kilowatt per hour.
So it irritates that almost all energy-saving initiatives promise it's easy. It's not. Take something basic like loft insulation. I saw the ads promising government grants, and thought here's a quick, easy win that pays its way. But the insulation expert took one look at my attic stuffed with boxes and grimaced; to increase insulation to the requisite 270mm and install loft boarding (so you can still use it for storage) is likely to require attic re-engineering.
The truth is that reducing household carbon (by far my biggest source of carbon) is complicated and confusing. Even trying to establish your carbon footprint produces wildly varying estimates (our house produces either 12 or 22 tonnes of carbon a year, depending on the modelling used). There is now no shortage of information around – we got help from the Energy Saving Trust and the London-based Green Homes – but, like pensions, who knows best?
Nor is it cheap. This is the horrifying bit. Our small budget was pathetically inadequate. Boiler upgrades, double glazing, solid wall insulation: these are expensive investments which may reduce energy bills but won't pay for themselves for decades. But the bottom line is that more affluent households have a far bigger carbon footprint and at least some resources to cut it, so they should get on with it.
Finally, you bump into the frustration. Nine million homes in England and Wales have the potential for microgeneration (nearly half) and could generate 30% to 40% of household electricity. Germany cottoned on to this over a decade ago and introduced a feed-in tariff (paying people for the electricity they generate) in 2000 which has doubled the proportion of renewable energy and encouraged the growth of the biggest solar energy industry in the world. But in the UK, solar panels are a luxury for the middle classes, and even after the introduction of a feed-in tariff next year, will remain so. (There is also the dismal prospect that those without microgeneration will be subsidising those who do through rising electricity bills.) It seems baffling that government encouragement is so slow and inadequate.
This may sound suspiciously like a moan but it's rather a plea for more honesty, more government commitment. Tell it like it is. Carbon cutting is not a one-off, it is a process we will spend the rest of our lives on – as will our children. There is going to be a sharp learning curve as the ignorance which saw us cheerfully spew carbon is shifted. In time, we will be as aware of our carbon output as we are currently of our bank balance or mortgage payments.
The funny thing is that this learning curve generates unexpected consequences. It becomes energising along the lines of "if I can do X then perhaps I could do Y". It generates a renewed sense of agency, even a measure of hopefulness. And you begin to appreciate how we have been trapped in a debilitating apathy intimidated by the scale of the problem. Our lives are built on a web of denial about the impact our behaviours have on our environment. When you start to dismantle this, you are stumbling towards authenticity: a reconnection with the basic resources, such as fossil fuels and water, on which our wellbeing depends. Try it and see.
That's why the language of "personal sacrifice" is so wide of the mark. Carbon cutting is about a more honest life, lived not on the wild, implausible delusions promoted by a consumer culture but about recognising the crucial truth about the constraints of the planet and how we need to live within them. As for smug, no aspect of our predicament affords anyone such satisfaction.
So the myriad of tiny daily routines which need to change – such as turning taps off while you brush your teeth – are not pointless but about reconnection and awareness of what sustains your life. It is about living intelligently; AS Byatt quotes a Swedish entomologist in The Biographer's Tale who argues that "we are an animal that needs to use its intelligence to mitigate the effects of its intelligence".
So to return to Etzioni's concept, I would argue that this megalogue is not about morality so much as looking for a life which is more honest and intelligent rather than one resting on a shaky edifice of dangerous illusions. I started out in hair-shirt mode, got buried in some of the finer details of loft insulation and emerged pondering what a (more) honest life might look like. It's been a very disconcerting experience. What's at stake in 10:10 and carbon cutting is not a harsh new morality to preach about and use to pass judgment on, but a proposition of how to live which is compelling.

Fast-growing emerging markets are making energy efficiency a high priority. Leading the way: China.

The Second Wave
After years as energy-efficiency laggards, China and a number of other fast-growing emerging markets are putting a high priority on restraining oil demand.
Stung by high energy costs prior to the world recession, these countries are implementing a host of measures to try to contain energy consumption and damp the impact of future oil-price spikes. Among other things, they're laying down tough new efficiency standards on everything from cars to buildings to home appliances.
Fatih Birol, chief economist at the Paris-based International Energy Agency, says the developing world may represent a second "wave" to the energy-efficiency boom started the past few years in developed nations like the U.S. "Many emerging markets are starting to realize energy-efficiency measures make sense from the standpoint of energy security, limiting the impact of high oil prices and fighting pollution," Mr. Birol says.
Of course, even if many of the measures are fully implemented, the energy savings could be more than offset by population growth and fast economic activity as developing markets industrialize. Another potential stumbling block: These nations offer their people large energy-price subsidies to cushion the impact of high prices but that encourage wasteful consumption. Still, if these countries can stick with and extend efficiency programs, their efforts could have big implications for the global oil market—since rapid crude-oil consumption in emerging markets has been a key driver of high prices in recent years.
In the past few years, roughly 325 measures and policies in emerging markets, mostly in Asia, have been announced, Mr. Birol says. The IEA expects that these measures—slightly slower economic activity due to the fallout from the recession—to have a marked impact on oil demand, at least over the next few years. In June, the agency lowered its forecast for emerging-market oil demand to 43.3 million barrels a day by 2013, down around 1 million barrels a day from its previous outlook.
When it comes to boosting efficiency, China has been among the most active of its emerging-market peers and is, arguably, the most important: The country is the world's second-biggest oil consumer after the U.S., and its consumption is expected to grow by at least 3% annually over the next four years. China is also the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

"The direction China is taking in trying to slow the growth of its energy consumption is very clear," says Eurasia Group analyst Damien Ma.
Already, the Chinese government has boosted taxes on big sport-utility vehicles to 20% from 8% to encourage purchases of smaller and more fuel-efficient vehicles. Now it's weighing new fuel-economy regulations that would be tougher than U.S. standards. The rules would mandate that new cars, minivans and sport-utility vehicles get 42 miles a gallon by 2015, up from 36 now. In comparison, auto makers in the U.S. will have to increase average fuel efficiency to 35.5 miles a gallon by 2016, up about 30%.
China is also looking to home appliances for energy savings. This year, the government announced plans to subsidize purchases of energy-efficient air conditioners—on the order of $44 to $125 per unit, depending on the buyer's financial needs. The country's National Development and Reform Commission is hoping the purchase of new air conditioners will save 75 terawatt-hours of power demand annually in coming years. The country used about 2,900 terawatt-hours of electricity a year in 2006, according to the most recent data from the Asian Development Bank; the U.S. used around 4,000.
As another measure of China's commitment to energy efficiency, the nation's efforts are drawing attention from investors. APG, which administers the pensions of almost 3 million Dutch public-service workers, thinks there are potentially $50 billion to $100 billion in annual money-making opportunities from investing in energy-efficient programs in China.APG, with around $293 billion under management, laid the groundwork for an investment fund launched in mid-2008 targeting efficiency investments solely in China. It committed around $50 million into the investment vehicle last year, but it declines to say what type of returns the China-focused fund has generated so far, says Michael Friedlander, chief financial officer for APG Investments Asia.
A Wave of Changes
In India, meanwhile, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, established in 2002, has pushed a series of measures the past two years, including increased energy-efficiency standards for new buildings and appliances. The measures are expected to save the equivalent of 1,500 megawatts in power-generation capacity—about enough electricity for almost 1 million Indian homes—by the end of 2009.
The bureau's director general, Ajay Mathur, says over the next three years the efficiency programs are projected to yield energy savings equivalent to about 10,000 megawatts of power-generation capacity as implementation spreads. Already, he says, people are flocking to the new, efficient products.
"People and companies in India are beginning to vote for energy efficiency with their pocketbooks," says Mr. Mathur.
Demand for these types of appliances is also booming in emerging markets in Eastern Europe and Russia, in part due to new efficiency regulations. The overall market in those countries for energy-efficiency products and services is around $30 billion annually, according to Rod Christie, who heads General Electric Co.'s energy operations in the region.
The U.S. company's energy division saw annual revenue growth of about 30% over the past five years in Eastern Europe, led by Russia, and expects strong growth after the recession subsides.
Many emerging-market measures are getting backing from international organizations, such as the Asian Development Bank. The Asian bank expects to increase funding on energy-efficiency projects in several of its member states to around $600 million annually in the next few years, up more than threefold from 2006, according to WooChong Um, director of the Manila-based bank's sustainable-infrastructure division. China, India and Pakistan are expected to receive a substantial amount of the ADB's projected financing for energy-efficiency projects.
But sustaining sizable net energy savings from efficiency measures faces many barriers in developing nations. More than $350 billion in annual energy-price subsidies are showered on consumers in developing nations, particularly China, according to industry estimates. While providing a social benefit for the poor, the subsidies—which show no real sign of being reduced—thwart prudent energy consumption.
A return to high economic growth rates could also wipe out energy savings as new industrial capacity is added and consumers, with more money in their pockets, load up on energy-consuming goods, like cars.
"These issues will serve as a real test about the ultimate effectiveness of all the efficiency measures we've seen announced recently in the developing world," says Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS CERA. Highlighting that point, he adds: "China is in a race between increasing fuel efficiency and increasing number of cars on the road."
--Mr. Swartz reports on OPEC and oil issues for The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires from London. He can be reached at

Homes paid for every kilo of recyclable waste they put in correct bin

Ben Webster, Environment Editor
Rubbish is to be turned into a money-spinner for households in a trial starting today which may see humans join foxes in nightly raids on bins.
Almost 4,000 homes will be paid for every kilogram of recyclable waste that they place in the correct bin.
Rather than fining or lecturing people who do not recycle, the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is taking the alternative approach of rewarding those who do.
The trial will test the theory, supported by research just published by Harvard University, that carrots are better than sticks when it comes to persuading people to behave in an environmentally-friendly way.
Microchips have been installed on wheelie bins distributed to 3,800 homes. The bins will be scanned and weighed automatically as they are emptied into refuse trucks. Householders will earn points which can be converted into vouchers redeemable at 60 local shops, cafés and attractions. Conscious of the risk of people raiding a neighbour’s recycling bin for bottles and newspapers, the council has placed a £130 cap on the amount a household can earn in a year.
Spot checks will be carried out to catch people who try to exploit the system by putting heavy non-recyclable items into their recycling bins. They will be sent a warning letter and, for repeated offences, could lose their entitlement to vouchers.
A similar trial will start in October in Runcorn and Widnes in Merseyside. Several London boroughs are also considering giving rewards for recycling, and the idea is likely to be taken up widely once the Government has tightened the rules on landfill.
The Times has learnt that Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, is planning to introduce a ban on sending food, aluminium, glass and wood to landfill sites. Waste disposal companies will face heavy penalties if they fail to separate those items from general waste and send them for recycling.
Authorities will come under much greater pressure to persuade homeowners to separate recyclable items. Last year 54 per cent of household waste in Britain went to landfill compared with only 1 per cent in Germany, which was one of the first countries to impose a landfill ban.
The landfill ban in England is likely to come into force in 2011 after a public consultation early next year.
The Windsor and Merseyside trials are being co-ordinated by RecycleBank, a US company which runs similar schemes covering a million homes in 19 states.
Matt Tucker, president of RecycleBank, said the weight of recyclable materials placed in the correct bin increased by 30-80 per cent when rewards were introduced. He predicted a handful of people would try to manipulate the system, but said experience showed the vast majority would respond positively. “People want to do the right thing for the environment— they just need a little nudge. Rewards are much more effective than fines, which are complicated and expensive to administer.”
Mr Tucker said that the next stage, already adopted in several US cities, would be to introduce rewards for reductions in the weight of material in the bin for non-recyclable waste.
Councils would weigh each household’s bin for several months and produce an individual target. In the US, rewards resulted in a 10 per cent cut in the weight of non-recyclables. Mr Tucker admitted there could be a problem with flytipping if people were rewarded for having a lighter bin. “There will always be some people who try to game the system, but the rewards will not be high enough to make it really worth it.”
Case study
Jeff Lloyd’s sons Jamie, 7, and Sam, 9, take great delight in telling him off every time he puts something which could be recycled in the general waste bin.
“They learn lots about recycling at school and it seems obvious to them but I sometimes forget,” said Mr Lloyd, 42, a financial adviser from Maidenhead.
“The promise of a free Marks & Spencer voucher would help me remember on those occasions when the kids aren’t around to wag the finger.”
Mr Lloyd’s family is one of the first to earn rewards for recycling. He can use a code to log on to the council’s website to check how many points he has accumulated. The family plans to save all its points to buy a special treat at Christmas. “The rewards are pretty modest but they don’t need to be high,” Mr Lloyd added. “All they need to do is jog our memory about something we feel we ought to be doing anyway.”
The council has put in safeguards to try to reassure people that it will not be checking how much they are recycling.
The allocation of vouchers is automatic and the information on weight can be accessed only by the householder.
But Mr Lloyd said he had no concerns about privacy. “I don’t care if the council knows how much I put in different bins but I would mind very much if they tried to fine me for it,” he said. “Rewards have got to be the way forward.”

Green and Confused: Thinking outside of the envelope

Why letters can be banned from the recyling bin
Kieran Cooke

I regularly receive mail in envelopes bearing exhortations about recycling. Yet my local paper recycling bin has a sign saying “No envelopes”. What’s going on?
The glue and those little plastic windows in envelopes are both considered to be rubbish products or “contraries” by the paper recycling trade. Money is the key factor. The greater the amount of envelopes and other non-pure materials included in a batch of paper sent for recycling, the lower the price.
So the paper recycling companies that put bins in supermarket car parks and other locations, plus the cash-hungry councils that collect paper from your doorstep, discourage recycling envelopes. This is a little ridiculous. Computers were supposed to cut back our use of paper. But the reverse has happened: anyone who is reasonably computer literate can produce a flyer to be stuffed in an envelope and sent out with all the other junk mail. Paper and cardboard make up nearly 30 per cent of the average household waste bin, with each family in the UK using the paper equivalent of about six trees a year.
In recent years more paper has been recycled, not because of heightened concern for the environment but because there would not be enough to go round. Paper manufacturers have had to develop new technologies and recycle more to cope with demand. Bubbles are injected into printed matter: the ink sticks to the bubbles, rises to the surface and is skimmed off. Coloured paper can be turned into white sheets. Directories can emerge as fine writing paper — and envelopes can, at a price, be mixed with cardboard and become packaging.
The UK exports nearly three million tonnes of paper for recycling to China each year.
If you obey the rules and don’t put your envelopes in the bin you can of course reuse them by buying stick-on labels: many charities sell them. The really conscientious can tear off the envelope flap and its glue and remove the plastic windows.
Whatever you do, don’t send the envelopes to landfill. Contrary to popular belief, paper and print take years to decompose. If you think junk mail is a pain now imagine future generations having to cope with 50-year-old piles of it.
E-mail your eco-dilemmas to