Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Kiwi Carbon Haze

To the annals of global warming lunacy, add this gem from New Zealand: According to a parliamentary committee, Kiwis should accept lower standards of living to protect the national image abroad.
The findings of the "Emissions Trading Review Committee" aren't binding, but they tell much about how deep today's green religion runs. New Zealand has a nominally conservative government run by Prime Minister John Key. But even Mr. Key won't consider completely disavowing environmental taxes in the form of cap-and-trade—he just wants to soften them. He ordered a parliamentary committee last year to figure out how.
Their report, issued last week, doesn't question disputed United Nations climate-change assumptions, nor explain the cost to the average Kiwi of taxing every corner of the economy—especially agriculture, the country's biggest export. The authors brush aside the fact that New Zealand only emits 0.2% of global emissions, calling it "small," but "not insignificant." Thus Wellington should "act now" to reduce emissions "to protect our international reputation, particularly in the areas of trade and tourism."
This is green PR gone wild. New Zealand already boasted one of the world's most pristine environments before it passed cap-and-trade last year. The law, if anything, has made the country less green, not more so. As soon as the former Labour government started talked about global-warming initiatives, foresters started chopping down trees to reduce their carbon footprint—and cost of buying emissions permits in the future. Over the past few years, New Zealand has experienced severe deforestation. Economic activity in the sector has plateaued.
Then there is the broader cost to macroeconomic growth, which isn't marginal. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, an independent consultancy, estimated last year that the cap-and-trade scheme could cost as much as 3,000 New Zealand dollars ($2,500) in reduced income annually for the average family. But the truth is that no one really knows what the ultimate impact will be, given that New Zealand, by rendering its industries less competitive, will make it permanently harder for them to compete at home and abroad.
The best advertisement for New Zealand isn't to support ideas that make the country poorer. Instead, Mr. Key's government would do better by focusing on encouraging strong economic growth to support a vibrant, entrepreneurial society. That way, tourists may want to come to New Zealand and stay.

A green bailout to stop deforestation

Economic incentives for countries such as Brazil and Guyana could provide the answer to a complex environmental problem

Tony Juniper
guardian.co.uk, Monday 7 September 2009 16.00 BST
Next week, a new bridge will be opened across the river that marks the border between Brazil and Guyana. It is one of the final links on a road that will join the northern Brazilian city of Boa Vista (the state capital of Roraima) with the coastal city of Georgetown – Guyana's capital. Now a barely passable muddy track, the new route will be paved in an attempt to open up trade and enable access from the interior of northern South America to the Atlantic Ocean.
The region through which the road passes is known as the Guyana Shield. It is covered with some of the least disturbed tropical rainforests on earth. Not only are there many communities of indigenous people here and countless undiscovered species of animal and plant, but stored in the trees and the soils beneath them are billions of tonnes of carbon. Each year, they absorb more carbon dioxide from the air, providing not only a storage function, but one of carbon capture as well.
Pretty much every strategic road that has been driven through a rainforest in the past has been followed by deforestation. Once access to remote areas is opened up then loggers, miners and plantation companies follow. Species are driven to extinction, people's land rights are abused and carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere. Take a look at parts of the Amazon basin on Google Earth (Rondonia, in Brazil, for example) to see the "herringbone" patterns of roads that branch out from the main routes into the forest.
On the Brazilian side of the border there is a deforestation hotspot, and when the road goes through the frontier of destruction could move to Guyana as well. This new threat is made worse, ironically, because of efforts to cut deforestation. After years of talk and half-measures, Brazil is now taking serious action to cut deforestation. There have been crackdowns on illegal logging, attempts to control illegal mining, there has been support for a moratorium on soya expansion into forest areas, and the government has set up a new Amazon Fund to help channel international assistance to save the forests. And it's working.
The trouble is that the commercial interests in search of timber, gold, soya and beef are moving elsewhere, out of Brazil – for example to the north, toward Guyana and its neighbour Surinam. These are poor countries, and the temptation to cash in on their rich natural resources will be considerable. This would be a disaster for the whole world.
Deforestation in the tropics contributes about a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions, while another 15% or so of what we put out is absorbed by them. Cut them down or burn them and it's a double whammy – a source of emissions and the destruction of a carbon sink. When the world is seeking ways to limit climate change to below-a-two-degree-average warming, this is not good. To stand even a reasonable chance of staying below this threshold will require that forest loss is cut back, not increased – as could soon be the case in Guyana.
Deforestation is a hugely complex process, but the solution could, at one level, be quite simple. We need to find ways to urgently make the trees worth more alive than dead, and that means changing the economic incentives for countries like Guyana. The president of the country, Bharrat Jagdeo, knows this and has offered to keep his country's forests intact to help mitigate climate change. But if doesn't provide for the development of his country by cutting the trees down, selling the timber and growing crops where they once stood, he will need an alternative.
That alternative will hopefully come in the form of an agreement reached in Copenhagen, in December. But even if that happens, the technicalities to properly implement a forest deal could take another decade. During that time 60m hectares more of tropical rainforest could be lost. With the pressure still mounting on forests right around the world, we need a solution quicker than that.
A proposal put forward by The Prince's Rainforests Project suggests one way forward. It is the idea that the rich countries should pay the poorer ones to keep their forests standing in recognition of the global services they provide, especially in relation to carbon capture and storage. Variations on this theme are now being looked at by an informal working group of countries to assess how such an idea could work in practice. Good progress has been made and clearly there can be an agreement to make a difference quite quickly, if only the money becomes available fast.
And that is a matter of politics. Last year, countries bailed out the financial system to the tune of several trillion dollars. It was done quickly and with remarkably little process or delay – because the political will was there. Now we have a chance to bail out our planet, and the bill is far lower. Between 2010 and 2015, $20bn dollars should be enough to cut tropical rainforest loss by about a quarter, and from there more ambitious targets could follow. The money would be transferred as a reward to countries in stopping (or not starting) deforestation. The more they save the more money they get, a clear signal, as clear as the one they get from the logging companies and soya farmers.
If the President of Guyana received money on this basis, he would take action to make sure the new road does not repeat history and lead to forest loss. He would have a clear incentive to keep the forest. If the money doesn't soon come he will have few economic alternatives and will be under increasing pressure to liquidate his country's natural assets.
The coming months will demonstrate whether the developed nations have the backbone to tackle this issue. The speeches have taken us so far. Now it's the money that has to talk

Japan's new prime minister promises ambitious greenhouse gas cuts

Yukio Hatoyama seeks to reduce CO2 emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020
Justin McCurry in Tokyo
guardian.co.uk, Monday 7 September 2009 13.57 BST
Japan's new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has promised to make ambitious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, months before world leaders meet for crucial climate change talks.
Hatoyama, who will take office next week, said Japan would seek to reduce CO2 emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2020, but said the target would be contingent on a deal involving all major emitters in Copenhagen in December.
"We can't stop climate change just by setting our own emissions target," he said at a forum in Tokyo. "Our nation will call on major countries around the world to set aggressive goals."
Hatoyama will discuss the initiative, which is far more ambitious than the equivalent 8% cut unveiled by the outgoing government in June, at a UN meeting on climate change in New York this month.
Connie Hedegaard, Denmark's minister for climate and energy, described the plan as a bold step forward. "For a long time, everybody has been waiting for everybody else to move in the negotiations. Japan has taken a bold step forward and set an ambitious target. I hope this will inspire other countries to follow suit."
The commitment places Japan firmly among countries committed to aggressive CO2 emissions cuts, despite mounting opposition from business and industry groups, which claim the measures will put jobs at risk.
"We have concerns about its feasibility in view of the impact on economic activities and employment, as well as the enormousness of the public burden," said Satoshi Aoki, the chairman of the Japan automobile manufacturers' association.
Harufumi Mochizuki, the outgoing vice minister of trade and industry, said Hatoyama had chosen a "very tough road ahead for the Japanese people and economy".
Hatoyama said his plan would create jobs in sectors such as renewables and manufacturing amid an expected rise in demand for solar energy, home renovations and energy-efficient cars and consumer electronics.
"There are cautious people who worry that it will hurt the economy and livelihoods, but I think it will change things for the better," he said.
To help achieve the reduction, Japan will create a domestic emissions trading market and introduce a "feed-in" tariff – financial rewards for industries that expand their use of renewable energy sources.
The Copenhagen talks will be dominated by attempts to persuade China, India and other big emerging economies to sign up to emissions targets.
Kim Carstensen, the head of the WWF's global climate initiative, said: "The decision by an important player such as Japan to do more and get serious about low carbon future can help break the deadlock between developed and developing countries.
"The climate negotiations are at a critical point and we need urgent progress to get a fair, ambitious and binding deal in Copenhagen."
The target brings Japan, the world's fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, alongside the EU, which is committed to a 20% cut by 2020 from 1990 levels and 30% if other nations agree to match the target. But it is still at the lower end of the 25-40% cuts recommended by the UN climate change panel.
Hatoyama will have to reconcile his bold initiative with election pledges to eliminate road tolls and petrol surcharges.
As host of the Kyoto summit in 1997, Japan is keen to reposition itself at the forefront of the battle against climate change. Its emissions rose 2.3% in the year to March 2008, putting its 16% above its 2012 Kyoto target.
Yvo de Boer, the head of the UN climate change secretariat, said: "With such a target, Japan will take on the leadership role that industrialised countries have agreed to take in climate change abatement."

Toshiba Eyes Areva Power Unit

TOKYO -- Reflecting a shift in focus from the cyclical computer chip business to the more stable and growing energy market, Toshiba Corp. plans to further its nuclear power ambitions with a ¥400 billion to ¥500 billion ($4.3 billion to $5.38 billion) bid for a unit of French group Areva, a person familiar with the deal said.
The Japanese electronics company is likely to bid for Areva's electricity transmission and distribution, or T&D, operations during the first round of an auction process to be held this month, the person said.
French state-controlled Areva is putting the 30,000 employee-strong unit up for sale to help finance the rest of its nuclear operations. The cash-strapped company has previously said it aims to select a buyer for its T&D unit by the end of the year. Credit Suisse is advising Areva on the sale.
The T&D unit posted revenue of €5.06 billion ($3.54 billion) and operating profit of €560 million in the fiscal year ended March 2009.
Toshiba, which is focusing on its power-generation equipment business as a growth area, acquired U.S. nuclear plant Westinghouse Electric Co. for around ¥500 billion in 2006.
Acquiring Areva's power operations would make the Japanese conglomerate's nuclear power and infrastructure division its biggest revenue generator and put the unit on track to hit its target of generating ¥3 trillion in sales by 2011.
For the fiscal year ended March, Toshiba reported its largest-ever net loss of ¥343.6 billion, weighed down by its chip operations. Toshiba, the world's second-largest producer of NAND flash memory chips, is in the midst of a major overhaul of its chip operations. As part of this process, the company said Monday it is considering outsourcing part of the production of advanced system chips used in digital home electronics to an overseas foundry.
Toshiba shares rose 3.4% to ¥482 Monday on news of its outsourcing and Areva bid plans.
Heavyweights in the nuclear industry have been quick to zoom in on Areva for buying opportunities.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which lost out to Toshiba in a tussle for Westinghouse Electric, said it will consider taking a stake in Areva -- with which it has operational tie-ups -- if the French government offers it an opportunity to do so.
Some analysts are skeptical of Toshiba's ability to fund the acquisition of Areva's T&D unit.
A Nomura Securities analyst report said Toshiba isn't in a position to fund any acquisition without further capital raising. Toshiba had just raised ¥500 billion in fresh equity in June to help boost its balance sheet, which was dogged by write-downs and losses amid falling consumer demand.
The company had approximately $3 billion in cash at the end of June and filed a shelf registration with Japan's Finance Ministry in July to issue around $2 billion in domestic corporate bonds over the next two years.
French industrial peers Alstom SA and Schneider Electric SA said in July that they are also considering making a joint bid for the unit, with Alstom considering the transmission part and Schneider looking to take the distribution operations.
A spokeswoman for Areva declined to comment but said a meeting of Areva's supervisory board is due to occur Tuesday.
Write to Tor Ching Li at chingli.tor@dowjones.com

Honda to Sell Battery Car in U.S.

Prototype Is Expected for All-Electric Vehicle, but Company Still Favors Hybrids
Honda Motor Co. will likely launch an all-electric car in the U.S. in a few years, according to executives familiar with the matter, as rising interest in fuel efficiency prompts increasing interest in battery-powered vehicles.
According to company executives, the Tokyo-based auto maker plans to make the foray cautiously, and is likely to limit the availability of the new car, perhaps to a region within the U.S. The specific time frame was unclear.
Getty Images
Honda will likely launch an all-electric car in the U.S. in a few years, according to executives familiar with the matter.
The executives said Honda is expected to display at next month's Tokyo auto show a prototype of the battery car it plans to launch in the U.S. The knowledgeable executives said Honda is also considering selling the all-electric battery car in Japan.
The executives said the planned move is a reaction in part to prospects for tightening requirements in the U.S. for more fuel-efficient cars. They also said the move is intended as a response to growing competition in alternative-fuel technologies from Honda rivals such as Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.
Honda continues to believe that gasoline-electric hybrid cars, such as its Civic hybrid and Toyota's Prius car, have the most promising future among many different alternative-energy vehicles, and said the company will continue to expand offerings of hybrid vehicles.
Getty Images (Volt); Bloomberg News (i-MiEV); Associated Press;
It has also maintained that battery and other key technologies for all-electric cars are premature. Its top leaders have said that Honda saw only a limited future in pure-electric vehicles, pointing to their insufficient driving range on a single full charge, scarce infrastructure of charging stations in most cities and questions about the safety of lithium-ion batteries that are likely to power such vehicles.
But a number of rivals plan to expand their electric-car offerings, raising the prospect that Honda could be left behind if they take off.
Honda's move follows the launch in Japan earlier this year by Mitsubishi Motors Corp. of a small battery-powered car called i-MiEV. Nissan, meanwhile, has said it plans to start selling a compact battery car, the Leaf, in the U.S., Europe and Japan late next year, while Toyota has said it will start selling an electric car in the U.S. by 2012.
General Motors Co. plans to start selling next year the Chevy Volt, a plug-in electric hybrid car with a small gasoline engine dedicated to charging batteries on board.
Toyota, the world's biggest auto maker by sales volume, appears to be changing its stance on the importance of regular hybrid vehicles such as the Prius. At an industry conference in Tianjin, China, over the weekend, Akira Sasaki, a Toyota senior managing director, said the company believes that mostly electric vehicles known as plug-in hybrids are "the most promising technology" among an array of alternative-energy vehicle technologies to replace gasoline-fueled cars for the near future.
While gasoline-electric hybrids such as the Prius run on a combination of gasoline and internally generated electricity, plug-in hybrids can be recharged via an electrical socket and drive mostly on electricity, with a gasoline engine on board used to charge the car's battery when it runs out of power. Mr. Sasaki didn't say what type of plug-in car Toyota is designing.
Toyota plans to launch a plug-in hybrid car in the U.S., Europe and Japan on a limited scale by year end.
Write to Norihiko Shirouzu at norihiko.shirouzu@wsj.com

Seeds for Change

Rural electric co-ops have lagged behind other utilities in shifting to alternative energy. That's starting to change.
BRIGHTON, Colo.—Every now and then, Dorothy and Dan Oberhausen take a little detour to check in on their solar panels.
The two panels aren't much to look at. They are just standard-issue photovoltaic cells, facing due south and angled skyward, set in a scruffy, weed-choked field.
The Journal Report

But the Oberhausens couldn't be prouder.
Not only are they participating in the nation's first co-operative solar farm—a pioneering venture set up by the electric-utility co-op serving their area—they are playing a small role in an emerging and potentially significant trend in the nation's energy landscape: A move by rural co-ops into renewable-energy production.
These nonprofit utilities, which are owned by their members and supply power to 42 million Americans in 47 states, have long lagged behind other utilities in their use of solar, wind and geothermal resources. Part of the reason is that in many large states, including Illinois, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Texas, co-ops are exempt from laws requiring that utilities shift steadily to renewable sources of power.
In the past year, however, some prominent rural co-ops have invested in massive solar and wind projects. Others have experimented with small-scale innovations to educate their rural customers, often conservative and very cost-conscious, about renewable energy's potential.
Environmentalists aren't ready to hand out gold stars yet; they say rural co-ops remain far too reliant on old-style, coal-fired power plants. Still, some see clear signs of progress. "These are all good developments," says Bruce Driver, an energy consultant to the environmental group Western Resource Advocates, which is based in Boulder, Colo. Co-ops, he says, "are starting to think differently than they were even two or three years ago."
An Idea is Born
The solar farm here in Brighton, a fast-growing, working-class town northeast of Denver, was born out of frustration.
United Power, the local utility co-op, has tried to encourage conservation by giving out 50,000 free compact fluorescent light bulbs, but the organization says it doesn't have the resources to help customers install renewable-energy systems.
By contrast, utility giant Xcel Energy Inc. offers hefty rebates to bring down the cost of solar power for homeowners; across Colorado, more than 5,000 have signed up. A state grant let United Power offer similar rebates for the first time last year, but only to 11 customers.
"I got a ton of applications, but once the money was used up, it was, 'Thanks for calling, talk to you next year,' " says Jerry Marizza, the co-op's New Energy Program coordinator. "It wasn't a solar program, it was a solar lottery."
Then Mr. Marizza had an idea. Instead of subsidizing solar panels for a handful of wealthy homeowners, why not invite a broad swath of green-minded families to subsidize a solar farm?Here's how it works: For $1,050, an investor gets a 25-year lease on a photovoltaic panel set up on United Power's land. The co-op takes care of installation, insurance and maintenance. ("We'll squeegee it once a month," Mr. Marizza promises.) Investors can visit their panels any time and track their energy output online. Each month, they get credit on their bill for that amount.
The leasing fee works out to about $5 per watt, or roughly as much as an individual homeowner would pay to install a residential solar system after taking advantage of the federal tax credit. Utility rebates, where available, can reduce the cost of home-based solar systems even further, to about $3.50 per watt. While the solar farm can't match that, Mr. Marizza says the farm concept allows investors to buy a single panel at a time, adding more as their budget permits. And investors keep their panels, and credits, even if they move. (If they move out of United Power's service area, they can donate the credits to a local charity and earn a tax deduction.)
A single panel generates a credit of about $3 to $4 a month; depending on rate increases, it might take 17 to 25 years to recoup the investment.
That long time horizon didn't bother Rick Newman, who manages a manufacturing plant and sits on the co-op board.
Mr. Newman called his wife and three children into a family meeting and they all agreed to sacrifice summer travel plans to purchase a solar panel. "Times are tough, but we took it out of our budget to make a statement," Mr. Newman says.
While some other utilities also offer lease arrangements, the deals are generally reserved for homeowners in sunny locales. Typically, these utilities will install solar panels on homes at no charge, pocketing the federal tax credit for themselves, and then allow the homeowner to use the power the panels generate for a fixed monthly fee. Such programs were developed for commercial properties and began migrating to the residential market about a year ago.
Mr. Marizza boasts that his solar farm is far more flexible. It is open to renters, office-park tenants, homeowners with heavily shaded roofs—even customers outside the United Power service area who might want to invest in green energy and donate the power their panels generate to a local charity.
Culture Shift
The solar farm—which United Power expects to break even on within a year—is just one example of a shifting co-op culture.
Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association Inc., which supplies electricity to electric co-operatives throughout a 250,000 square-mile service territory across Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming, has announced plans to develop a 30-megawatt solar plant in New Mexico, among the largest in the nation. Tri-State also is investing in a vast wind farm in eastern Colorado. The Minnkota Power Cooperative Inc., which serves parts of North Dakota and Minnesota, has pledged that fully a third of its power will come from wind by the end of the year. Smaller co-ops are getting in the act, too. The Highline Electric Association, which serves parts of Colorado and Nebraska, has launched a project to recover hot exhaust from a natural-gas compressor. The heat is then converted into as much as four megawatts of electricity The Delta-Montrose Electric Association in western Colorado subsidizes geothermal exchange pumps for residential customers.
Rural co-ops traditionally have shied away from clean-energy projects for both financial and cultural reasons. As nonprofits, they can't take advantage of federal tax credits for generating energy from renewable sources, while federal loans for traditional coal-fired plants have been plentiful. Co-ops also tend to be run by conservative members who aren't eager to take on the burden of innovation in the name of fighting global warming. Their attitude is, "this is a global problem, not something that's solved on a local level," says Ken Anderson, general manager for Tri-State.
But new incentives and requirements are prodding change. The stimulus bill set aside $2.4 billion to help co-ops and publicly owned utilities issue bonds for clean-energy projects—up from $800 million last year. And many states, including Colorado, have stopped exempting co-ops from renewable-energy mandates. In Colorado, the co-ops must generate 10% of their power from renewable sources by 2010. Other states require co-ops to move toward generating 20% or even 30% of their power from renewables. The result is that co-ops nationwide boosted renewable capacity (apart from hydropower) by 65% last year, according to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, a trade group representing the industry.
The Oberhausens welcome the shift.
Trains crammed with coal pass by their backyard in Brighton several times a day, keeping them aware of what is being burned to keep their fridge humming and their lights on.
Though they have the space for solar panels on their property, the Oberhausens, both retired, say they don't want the hassle; they worry about vandalism, insurance costs and maintenance.
They plan to soon draw down their retirement funds to purchase another 30 panels in United Power's solar farm, which would fully offset their home energy use. For now, they drive by regularly to watch, with pride, as their photovoltaic crop soaks up the Colorado sunshine.
--Ms. Simon is a staff reporter with The Wall Street Journal's Dallas bureau. She can be reached at mailto:stephanie.simon@%20wsj.com.

Windmills Are Killing Our Birds

One standard for oil companies, another for green energy sources.
On Aug. 13, ExxonMobil pleaded guilty in federal court to killing 85 birds that had come into contact with crude oil or other pollutants in uncovered tanks or waste-water facilities on its properties. The birds were protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which dates back to 1918. The company agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and fees.
ExxonMobil is hardly alone in running afoul of this law. Over the past two decades, federal officials have brought hundreds of similar cases against energy companies. In July, for example, the Oregon-based electric utility PacifiCorp paid $1.4 million in fines and restitution for killing 232 eagles in Wyoming over the past two years. The birds were electrocuted by poorly-designed power lines.
Yet there is one group of energy producers that are not being prosecuted for killing birds: wind-power companies. And wind-powered turbines are killing a vast number of birds every year.
A July 2008 study of the wind farm at Altamont Pass, Calif., estimated that its turbines kill an average of 80 golden eagles per year. The study, funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, also estimated that about 10,000 birds—nearly all protected by the migratory bird act—are being whacked every year at Altamont.
Altamont's turbines, located about 30 miles east of Oakland, Calif., kill more than 100 times as many birds as Exxon's tanks, and they do so every year. But the Altamont Pass wind farm does not face the same threat of prosecution, even though the bird kills at Altamont have been repeatedly documented by biologists since the mid-1990s.
The number of birds killed by wind turbines is highly variable. And biologists believe Altamont, which uses older turbine technology, may be the worst example. But that said, the carnage there likely represents only a fraction of the number of birds killed by windmills. Michael Fry of the American Bird Conservancy estimates that U.S. wind turbines kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds per year. Yet the Justice Department is not bringing cases against wind companies.
"Somebody has given the wind industry a get-out-of-jail-free card," Mr. Fry told me. "If there were even one prosecution," he added, the wind industry would be forced to take the issue seriously.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, the industry's trade association, each megawatt of installed wind-power results in the killing of between one and six birds per year. At the end of 2008, the U.S. had about 25,000 megawatts of wind turbines.
By 2030, environmental and lobby groups are pushing for the U.S. to be producing 20% of its electricity from wind. Meeting that goal, according to the Department of Energy, will require the U.S. to have about 300,000 megawatts of wind capacity, a 12-fold increase over 2008 levels. If that target is achieved, we can expect some 300,000 birds, at the least, to be killed by wind turbines each year.
On its Web site, the Wind Energy Association says that bird kills by wind turbines are a "very small fraction of those caused by other commonly accepted human activities and structures—house cats kill an estimated one billion birds annually." That may be true, but it is not much of a defense. When cats kill birds, federal law doesn't require marching them to our courthouses to hold them responsible.
During the late 1980s and early '90s, Rob Lee was one of the Fish and Wildlife Service's lead law-enforcement investigators on the problem of bird kills in Western oil fields. Now retired and living in Lubbock, Texas, Mr. Lee tells me that solving the problem in the oil fields "was easy and cheap." The oil companies only had to put netting over their tanks and waste facilities.
Why aren't wind companies prosecuted for killing eagles and other birds? "The fix here is not easy or cheap," Mr. Lee told me. He added that he doesn't expect to see any prosecutions of the politically correct wind industry.
This is a double standard that more people—and not just bird lovers—should be paying attention to. In protecting America's wildlife, federal law-enforcement officials are turning a blind eye to the harm done by "green" energy.
Mr. Bryce is the managing editor of Energy Tribune. His latest book is "Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of 'Energy Independence'" (PublicAffairs, 2008).

Tesco monitors burping dairy cows to measure methane emissions

Methane emissions from flatulence account for the bulk of the carbon footprint of milk, the supermarket group says
Zoe Wood
guardian.co.uk, Monday 7 September 2009 15.35 BST
With humans it's just plain bad manners but with cows it's bad for the planet. Now 200 dairy cows have been fitted with microphones to measure how much methane they belch and fart while chewing the cud. Dairy cows account for 40% of all UK livestock emissions and 75% of the carbon footprint of milk production. The herd of Holsteins, at Tesco's Dairy Centre of Excellence on Merseyside, has been fitted with "burp collars" to see if different feeds can cut emissions. Motion sensors embedded in the rumination collars, as they are officially known, pick up stomach sounds, providing hourly data on the cow's digestion. The information is transferred to the farm's computers when cows pass over an ID unit en route to the milking parlour.Tesco says consumers want to know food's carbon footprint in addition to their nutritional content so it has produced "carbon footprint" labels for more than 130 products, with full fat, semi-skimmed and skimmed milk added last month. The supermarket chain aims to disclose the carbon footprints of 500 products by the end of the year.

Chevron says gives Ecuador evidence in bribery case

Reuters, Monday September 7 2009
* E-mails, video evidence handed over
* Chevron calls for probe of government officials
By Alexandra Valencia
QUITO, Sept 7 (Reuters) - Chevron Corp on Monday presented Ecuador's government with video tapes and e-mails it said provided evidence of a bribery scheme linked to a $27 billion environmental damages lawsuit against the U.S. oil company.
The judge hearing the case, Juan Nunez, last week recused himself from the case just days after Chevron handed Ecuadorean and U.S. authorities a secretly recorded video of the magistrate talking of ruling against Chevron later this year.
Ecuador's attorney general began investigating the bribery and misconduct accusations against Nunez after the U.S. company said it would ask for him to be disqualified from the case. The judge says he committed no wrongdoing.
Chevron said on Monday it provided Ecuadorean authorities with videos and e-mails to support its accusations and a letter requesting a probe into whether a presidential advisor and officials attempted to influence the case's outcome.
"In a letter to Ecuador authorities, the company asked that several important points be examined by the investigation into the scheme, which implicated the judge hearing the case, as well as ruling party and government officials," the company said in a statement.
Chevron has complained before about government interference in the 16-year-old case, in which indigenous communities have accused Texaco, bought by Chevron in 2001, of damaging the environment and their health while operating petroleum facilities in the region.
An expert appointed by the Ecuadorean court said last year that Chevron should pay around $27 billion, including more than $8 billion in unjust enrichment.
Chevron said last week the video, posted at TexacoEcuador YouTube channel, http://www.youtube.com/texacoecuador, shows a man at another meeting identifying himself as a representative of Ecuador's ruling party and discussing a $3 million bribe for contracts, of which Nunez would get a third.
The plaintiffs have accused Texaco of dumping billions of gallons of polluted water in the jungle around where they had lived for more than two decades before the company left Ecuador in the early 1990s.
The Amazon Defense Coalition, a plaintiffs' group, said on Friday that Nunez's decision to recuse himself clears the path for the legal proceedings to continue uninterrupted. But the group said the recusal does not "change the overwhelming evidence against Chevron."
Chevron said two meetings with Nunez and two meetings with purported party representative Patricio Garcia had been recorded by both Diego Borja, a local logistics contractor who has worked for Chevron, and American Wayne Hansen, who has no relationship with the company.
Chevron said the meetings were recorded without its knowledge, through small cameras in a watch owned by Borja and a pen held by Hansen. The company said Borja brought the bribery scheme to its attention in June.
The U.S. company says that the two men had not explained why they recorded the meetings.
Chevron said neither man was paid, though the San Ramon, California-based company said it had assisted Borja with the costs of relocating out of Ecuador and other support because he and Chevron feared for his safety and that of his family.
But the Amazon Defense Coalition said last week that Borja had worked for Chevron on the environmental trial during the final eight field inspections, and that one of his cousins works for Chevron. (Writing by Patrick Markey in Bogota; Editing by Richard Chang)

Climate change experts must remember Africa and agriculture

When Africans arrive in Copenhagen later this year, they will have one important message to deliver to their peers: a climate change deal without agriculture is no deal for Africa, argues Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda
Agriculture is the life-blood of the African economy. Some 75% of the continent's population are farmers, and the crops they grow provide an important means of livelihood for the most vulnerable smallholder farmers. Agriculture also gives those in the rural sector access to a potential source of additional income if they have surplus crops that can be sold at market. Agricultural commodities already represent more than one-third of total exports from Africa.
At the same time, climate change is making it more difficult for Africa's millions of farmers to sustain themselves. Ironically (or more appropriately, tragically) many of the farms and fields already being impacted by climate change are in the poorest regions of the world. In Africa, these changes take the form of less predictable and more extreme weather conditions: rain does not come at the same time during the start of the planting season or it comes in torrential downpours, or not at all.
African leaders from government, business, and civil society are already acknowledging the fundamental relationship between agriculture and economic development. They also recognise the threat climate change poses on the foundations of their economies. Many governments are upping the percentage of their budgets in support of agricultural development. Malawi, for instance, has been supporting successfully the wide distribution of quality seeds and fertilizers to its poorest farmers.
Against this backdrop, policy makers from around the world will meet in Copenhagen this December to discuss which actions we must take to tackle the present and future challenges which climate change poses.
When Africans arrive in Copenhagen later this year, they will have one important message to deliver to their peers: a climate change deal without agriculture is no deal for Africa. At the annual African Union summit back in July, heads of state agreed to an African Common Position on Climate Change, giving the continent a common voice for the first time during these climate change negotiations.
Global policy on agriculture
Over the past thirty years, global policy decisions have neglected the role that agriculture plays in the wider development agenda. During this time, agriculture's share of foreign aid has dropped from 17% to 3% of total spend. Instead of supporting roads to bring crops to market or improving farmers' access to training, finance, and technologies, global policies have favoured shipments of food aid instead. Often, these forms of support require more expense despite having less longevity.
But with the Copenhagen climate change negotiations fast approaching, policy makers have a new opportunity to reverse and redeem the generation of neglect that agricultural development has suffered. Agriculture is directly responsible for 14% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and broader rural land use decisions have an even larger impact. Deforestation, for instance, currently accounts for an additional 18-25% of current emissions.
Why Agriculture is key
Agriculture offers an important pathway for reducing future emissions and for managing efficiently the world's key limited resources, such as water, land, and biodiversity.
If African farmers are supported in introducing modern methods for growing their crops, they can reduce their emissions while growing more to feed themselves and earn extra incomes. Techniques such as conservation agriculture require less tilling of the land and thus keep more carbon trapped in the soil. Helping farmers access the most up-to-date knowledge and tools can prevent the need for further clearing of natural habitats for agriculture and keep forests and grasslands in tact as vital carbon sinks.
In fact, these AFOLU activities – Agriculture, Forestry, and Other sustainable Land Use – are some of the best ways for Africans to contribute to a global climate solution. Yet the current structure of carbon markets makes it difficult for African farmers to play their part.
Under the last climate change agreement in Kyoto in 1997, developed countries with higher emissions levels agreed to reduce the total emissions of their native activities. Where this was not feasible, they could instead choose to fund climate-friendly projects in developing countries. This process, called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), also provided less industrialised countries an incentive to participate in global agreements and to access needed funds to introduce less harmful technologies into their economic development.
To date, the CDM has registered more than 1,156 projects, yet only 27 of these projects are based in Africa. This is mainly because AFOLU projects are not sanctioned within the current terms of the agreement. Instead, countries with an already established industrial base, such as China, have seen the lion's share of the benefit.
Meanwhile, Africa's vast forests remain a vital carbon sink. And African agricultural land has the potential to be transformed into the world's breadbasket. But farmers must be empowered to protect these.
Agriculture must return to the centre of the development agenda and Africa must be given the chance to contribute to, and benefit from, the climate change decisions to be made in Copenhagen.
• Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda is the Chief Executive Officer of the Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and a spokesperson for Farming First. FANRPAN's annual policy dialogue, where 240 delegates from across Africa discuss agriculture's contribution to the economy, was held last week in Maputo, Mozambique.
More information• United Nations Climate Change ConferenceIPS AfricaACCID

10:10: the blogosphere and Twitter reaction

So what are they saying around the web about the campaign to cut emissions 10% in 2010
The 10:10 campaign, which was launched last week, aims to get individuals, companies and organisations to reduce their carbon footprint by 10% in 2010. Over 10,000 individuals, 300 companies and 100 organisations have already signed up. Those taking the pledge range from the entire Tory front bench to Tottenham Hotspur football club. But what does the blogosphere think?
Generally, it's reacted very positively to the campaign. The Ecologist put its support behind the campaign, making the important point that it's not just about the number of signatures:
some of these organisations represent hundreds, even thousands of people. Take Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals with its 10,000 employees and vast buildings. A 10 per cent cut on this scale can have a wide reaching impact.
Chris Goodall's Carbon Commentary blog is optimistic about the potential success of the campaign, recognising that it can be achieved by most people through small changes. To help us all make these changes he's made a handy table outlining positive actions.
Reducing consumption lies at the heart of the 10:10 campaign - it's helpful tip number 6 - so in theory if we only purchase high quality goods in the first place then we won't have to throw as many things away. But after following such advice Flesh is grass is understandably miffed that their pricey Breville kettle hasn't lasted a lifetime.
Ian Katz's introduction to the campaign, where he argued the beauty is that's it's both meaningful and achievable, was kindly republished on Guardian Environment Network partner sites including Worldchanging and OurWorld 2.0. He wrote:
It is about old-fashioned ideas of responsibility, but also about a more enlightened understanding of our collective self-interest. It is about an optimistic view of what ordinary people can achieve, and of human nature itself.
The leading US green blog Treehugger has also got behind the campaign, and is pleased to see influential figures and organisations joining in, noting that:
Crucially, while pushing the importance of responsible action, whether on an individual, community or company level, the campaign also has its sights firmly set on national and international emissions cuts too - using the cuts achieved by the campaign to put pressure on our governments to act swiftly and decisively.
Not all commentary has been positive. Kathryn Corrick on the Labourlist blog reasons that without a suitable way of measuring any carbon emission cuts, the campaign is doomed to failure.
Climate Resistance give the campaign 0/10 although this is perhaps not suprising considering one of the statements on their website:
There is good scientific evidence that human activities are influencing the climate. But evidence is not fact, and neither evidence nor fact speak for themselves.
Looking at 10:10 through a business lens, BusinessGreen notes that businesses will only have to demonstrate a 3% cut in emissions to still be classed as a successful participant. With popular corporate short-cut tactics prohibited, even this cut may be difficult for many to achieve.
Emission reductions achieved through carbon offsets or green tariffs will not be allowed to count towards the 10 per cent target.
Many individuals are choosing to show their support through Twitter, with some giving more personalised tips than others:
• A squeaky clean dancing flea hopes to reduce her carbon footprint by washing less because water heating is particularly energy hungry.
• With so many people striving to consume less, DaveHeadStrong worries about possible repercussions of this campaign on the economy.
• Simplicity and ease are key tenets of 10:10. In fact, making cuts in energy use can be as simple as studying the settings on your dishwasher, a point ably demonstated by AlexDP.
• Director of the documentary The Age of Stupid, Franny Armstrong is the founder of the 10:10 campaign and is equally vocal on Twitter. She is clearly pleased with the reception of the launch on Monday.
It took only two days for 10,000 people to commit to cutting their emissions, and support is growing daily. Have you signed up?

Brown turns down heat and Mandelson gets on his bike to support 10:10

Politicians pledge to make lifestyle changes as part of campaign to cut emissions by 10% by the end of 2010
James Randerson
guardian.co.uk, Monday 7 September 2009 23.42 BST
Gordon Brown will be turning the heating down in Downing Street; Lord Mandelson plans to cycle more; Oliver Letwin is installing solar water heating and Nick Clegg is considering eating less meat.
These are among the lifestyle changes revealed by senior politicians from across the political spectrum as part of their pledge to the 10:10 climate change campaign, which requires cutting emissions by 10% by the end of 2010. The 10:10 campaign, which launched last week at London's Tate Modern, has signed up nearly 13,000 people as well as numerous hundreds of businesses, organisations, universities and schools. The entire cabinet and Tory front bench have pledged to do their bit for the campaign.
The prime minister said he would turn down his central heating by one degree, ensure his appliances were not left on standby and recycle more. "It is these small changes that, if everyone does them, will make a big difference," Brown said, "With fewer than 100 days until [UN climate talks in Copenhagen], this is a great opportunity to show we are all prepared to take action."
Mandelson, who is often criticised by environmentalists for placing business interests above green concerns, said: "To reduce my carbon footprint, I am going to cycle even more, look out for a smart meter [and] stop leaving the TV on standby."
He pointed out that he has not owned a car for years and, referring to the protest by Leila Deen in March, he added, "I've been engaged in the low carbon agenda for years, long before that misguided young lady threw a cup of slime on me."
The opposition has also pledged to cut emissions. Oliver Letwin, who chairs the Conservative party's policy review, said he was in the process of installing solar water heating and he had already fitted low-energy light bulbs.
Grant Shapps, the shadow housing minister, uses a real-time energy meter to monitor how much electricity he is using. Caroline Spelman, the shadow communities secretary, said she had already double glazed her home, replaced conventional light bulbs with energy-savers and increased the thickness of her loft insulation.
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: "The 10:10 campaign is one of those fantastic initiatives encouraging people now to take action before it's too late."
He is considering cutting down his meat consumption, using the train more, using his laptop instead of his desktop computer and switching to a greener taxi company.
The energy and climate change minister, Ed Miliband, said he planned to use a home energy monitor to flag up when he had left equipment switched on. "That could mean a cut of between five and 15%. It won't just save CO2, it'll save cash too," he said.
The 10:10 project, which hopes to replicate the grassroots success of 2005's Make Poverty History campaign, is led by Franny Armstrong, the director of this year's eco-documentary The Age of Stupid. It is supported by the Guardian and has attracted a coalition of public figures and companies including the online supermarket Ocado, city law firm Slaughter and May, energy company E.ON, chef Delia Smith, author Ian McEwan, DJ Sara Cox and actor Colin Firth..

David Miliband sets out to shock on global warming tour

John Vidal, environment editor
guardian.co.uk, Monday 7 September 2009 21.24 BST
The spectre of a 4C warmer world, with alligators basking off the coast of Sweden, a vast desert surrounding the Mediterranean and a largely uninhabitable mainland Europe, is to be presented to European Union countries by the foreign secretary, David Miliband.
As part of a diplomatic push by Britain to persuade rich countries to put climate change at the top of their agendas, Miliband will address EU, French, Swedish and Danish foreign ministries in the next 48 hours.
He then travels to New York where he will meet foreign ministers from other rich countries next week to hammer out details of a major treaty on global warming ahead of UN talks in Thailand, which will conclude at a crucial summit in December in Copenhagen.
A Foreign Office spokesman said using powerful climate change imagery to concentrate official minds was justifiable because the worldwide geopolitical implications of profound climate change were so enormous. "The deal is too important to be allowed to fail and the consequences of not having a deal are too great to consider. We hope the foreign secretary's diplomatic push will concentrate minds and draw attention to the wider implications of climate change," said a spokesman.
Many European countries have been lukewarm about climate change, recognising it as a problem which future generations will have to address, but reluctant to commit themselves to the deep emission cuts - and perceived economic costs - that the world's leading climate scientists say will be necessary.
If no diplomatic agreement to drastically cut emissions and hold temperature increases to 2 or even 3C can be reached at Copenhagen, many climate scientists predict runaway climate change which could see temperatures rise by as much as 4C by 2100.

Biochar is a good tool for climate mitigation

We need to make sure we don't repeat the mistakes of biofuels. But the risks are avoidable
Craig Sams
The Guardian, Tuesday 8 September 2009
Your article reports on those who warn that the development of biochar could repeat the disastrous mistakes surrounding biofuels (Charcoal burial to help planet is no miracle cure say sceptics, August 28). It quotes Friends of the Earth campaigner Mike Childs as saying: "The problems with biochar are largely the same as biofuels." This is simply not the case. Biofuels depend entirely on misguided subsidies – they are effectively a payment to farmers to burn food surpluses. If those subsidies were spent on solar and other renewable sources of energy we would have more food and be less dependent on fossil fuels.
There is a strong case for the responsible development of biochar as a tool for climate mitigation and for the restoration of agricultural land which has been degraded by decades of industrial agriculture. Simple and inexpensive modern equipment can capture 70% of the carbon in biomass as biochar, double traditional charcoal-making processes. Producing biochar from farm and forestry waste prevents it being burned or left to rot, both of which put 100% of the carbon back into the atmosphere as CO2 or methane.
Biochar is made at farm scale and requires minimal management time. Small and medium farmers will be the main beneficiaries.
The article quotes George Monbiot's criticism of biochar: "The idea that biochar is a universal solution that can be safely deployed on a vast scale is as misguided as Mao Zedong's Great Leap Backwards." We share Monbiot's view, but the article could also have quoted Monbiot's other comments: "None of this is to suggest that the idea has no virtues… Nor does this mean that charcoal can't be made on a small scale, from material that would otherwise go to waste"; and on his blog: "By all means, let's use genuine waste – whether from crops, forestry, sewage or food – to make biochar."
At Carbon Gold we have developed and are applying simple systems that we believe are the way forward. Large-scale enterprises founder on the cost of hauling bulky biomass long distances and then hauling the biochar back. As a result we are already working with farmers to convert agricultural wastes into biochar.
The UN Convention to Combat Desertification is leading the way on including biochar in the forthcoming Copenhagen climate-change talks. The Maldives, the country most threatened by rising sea levels, includes biochar in its plan to be zero carbon.
In Belize farmers are increasing their income by turning cacao prunings and shade trimmings into biochar. Large amounts of olive, citrus, vine and other tree crop prunings, along with rice husks and forestry wastes, are burned or left to rot every year. Turning these into biochar will help producers to improve fertility and soil structure and generate additional income from carbon sequestration.
We are at the early stages of one of the most exciting and realistic means of reducing greenhouse gas levels. We need to make sure we don't repeat the mistakes of biofuels. But the risks have been identified and can be avoided.
Craig Sams is a co-founder of the biochar company Carbon Gold, and was a founder of Green & Blacks chocolate

India May Boost Coal Imports from Indonesia; Plan JVs

NEW DELHI -- India agreed to study setting up joint ventures with Indonesian companies to acquire coal assets, and look at other means of importing the commodity from that country to meet rising demand as economic growth boosts power consumption.
The two countries will form a joint working group to explore the possiblity of buying more coal from the southeast Asian nation and to set up ventures with local companies there, Purnomo Yusgiantoro, minister of energy and mineral resources told reporters after a meeting with Sriprakash Jaiswal, India's coal minister.
India's coal demand for the financial year ending March may rise 10% from a year earlier to 604 million metric tons, according to government forecasts. About 70 million tons of the total will be met through imports - nearly doubling in five years. The nation has been scouting for assets in Indonesia, Australia and Mozambique as the government's plan to double generation capacity boosts requirement.
Indonesia has a large "quantity of coal property and we are in need of coal," Mr. Jaiswal said.
Indonesia expects to produce between 230 million and 250 million tons of coal in 2009, Mr. Yusgiantoro said.
"We will increase it by 20 million tons to 30 million tons per year up to the level that it can be massively exported," Mr. Yusgiantoro said. Currently, Indonesia uses 40% of its output locally and exports the rest.
Indonesia has started trial runs of the second train at its Tangguh liquefied natural gas plant and expects to finish repair work at the first by the second week of October, Mr. Yusgiantoro said.
The Tangguh LNG plant, which is located in West Papua province and has two processing trains, was shut shortly after commissioning in July due to a technical glitch.
The Tangguh LNG plant is owned by a consortium led by Anglo-Dutch oil major BP PLC.
Due to the economic crisis, LNG offtake by traditional buyers - Korea, Japan and Taiwan - has been hit and Indonesia will hold talks with India's Oil Minister Murli Deora on long-term supply contracts, Mr. Yusgiantoro said.
Write to Rakesh Sharma at rakesh.sharma@dowjones.com

The latest on alternative-energy deals from Dow Jones Clean Technology Insight

Power Plays
Biofuel's New Crop
There has been a resurgence of investment interest in the U.S. biofuel industry focused on technologies that use algae to make fuel.
The appeal of algae is that it can potentially produce fuel without diverting food crops or large swathes of land. Ethanol derived from corn has been blamed by some for driving up food prices, while large-scale production of cellulosic ethanol would require cultivation of plants such as switchgrass that are grown only in small amounts now.
The Journal Report

When exposed to light and carbon-dioxide, pools of algae produce lipids that can be refined into oil. The algae consumes the carbon-dioxide during the process, scoring a double hit for protecting the environment.
Drawn by that potential, Exxon Mobil Corp. in July announced it was investing $600 million in a partnership with Synthetic Genomics Inc. of La Jolla, Calif., to develop commercially viable biofuels from algae. That followed an announcement by Dow Chemical Co. in June that it was teaming up with Algenol Biofuels Inc. of Bonita Springs, Fla., to develop a $50 million, algae-to-fuel pilot-scale plant. Also in June, Solazyme Inc., of South San Francisco, Calif., said it raised $57 million in a Series C funding round aimed at bringing its algae-based biotechnology to commercialization.
The technologies used by these start-ups are similar but not the same.
Solazyme has developed a process for turning algae into oil for biofuels without sunlight. It was able to attract investors by demonstrating its product can meet fuel specifications for diesel and jet fuel without being blended with other petroleum products, says Harrison Dillon, president, chief technology officer and company cofounder. "We're the only microbial next-generation biofuel company that has road-tested in an engine an unblended fuel," he says.
What Else Is New?
Here's a look at other recent deals reported by Clean Technology Insight:
Solar-cell maker Suniva Inc. of Norcross, Ga., completed a $75 million Series C round of capital that brought in private equity firm Warburg Pincus LLC as the lead investor.
Smart-grid software company eMeter Corp. of San Mateo, Calif., landed $32 million in a Series C round of capital led by Sequoia Capital, which the company said would take it into profitability.
Among the firms investing in Solazyme are Braemar Energy Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Vantage Point Venture Partners, The Roda Group, Harris & Harris Group Inc., and company Chairman Jerry Fiddler.
SunEco Energy, meanwhile, says the technology it uses to extract oil from algae doesn't involve genetic engineering, allowing to keep costs low. "We can be competitive at $20-a-barrel" for crude oil, says Hoyt Isom, chief information officer. The Chino, Calif., firm is shunning venture capital and raising money from high net-worth individuals instead for a plant it says will produce 14.6 million gallons of crude algae oil per year. SunEco also has signed a cooperation agreement with J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. that could result in the transportation company becoming a buyer of SunEco's fuel.
Joule Biotechnologies Inc., which just emerged from stealth mode, says it will produce its first ethanol from a pilot plant next year. The Cambridge, Mass.-based firm, backed by its founders and Flagship Ventures, aims to create transportation fuels and chemicals out of a synthetic organism similar to algae that reacts when exposed to sunlight and CO2. Joule's process can yield 20,000 gallons of ethanol per acre per year at a cost of around $50 a barrel, including existing subsidies, says Chief Executive Bill Sims.
Despite the funding influx, most algae-oil firms have a long way to go before attaining large-scale production of their product.
Emil Jacobs, vice president of research and development for Exxon Mobil Research & Engineering Co., says it could be five to 10 years before his company's partnership with Synthetic Genomics begins production from commercial-size test plants.
Leading the Charge
When Ford Motor Co. rolls out its electric vehicles next year it will need a charging network to support them, so the Detroit auto maker and a group of utilities applied for U.S. Department of Energy funding to build and test the necessary infrastructure.
In early August, Ford was awarded $30 million under a $400 million grant program set up to support the development of an electric-vehicle market through technology demonstration and education projects.
Ford and its partners, 15 utilities covering 55 million customers, proposed deploying as many as 740 vehicles in four different segments—small cars, small sport utility vehicles, small business vans and large vans—with the objective of assessing and building infrastructure for the vehicles and ensuring grid connectivity.
Ford is now working with the Department of Energy and its partners to determine the size and scope of the project based on the grant it was awarded.
--Compiled by Mara Lemos Stein and Sari Krieger of Dow Jones Clean Technology Insight, a newsletter published by Dow Jones & Co. They can be reached at mara.lemos-stein@dowjones.com and sari.krieger@dowjones.com. Ángel González of Dow Jones Newswires contributed to this article.

Chocolate-powered car's first race

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
The world's greenest racing car, which has a steering wheel made from recycled carrots and can run on waste chocolate and wine, is expected to take part in its first competitive race next month at Brands Hatch.
The Formula 3 car, which was designed and developed by scientists at the University of Warwick, has a top speed of 135mph and can accelerate from 0 to 60 in less than 2.5 seconds. It is hoped that it will reach 150mph when it competes at the Kent circuit on 17 October.
Much of the car's body is made of recycled carbon fibres, and its steering wheel is made from a resin composed of waste fibres from the carrot juice industry. Its engine can run on bio-diesel made from chocolate fat and dregs from the wine trade.
"You can't make a racing car that is ultimately sustainable, but this is a step in the right direction. We believe, for its class certainly, it's the greenest racing car," said Kerry Kirwan of the Warwick Manufacturing Group.
About half of the car's bodywork is made of material that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill site, Dr Kirwan added. "We recognise that some people will want to drive fast cars so we have tried to help rather than throw our hands up in despair," he told the Science Festival.
The car can travel for between 30 and 35 miles on one gallon of fuel, and is powered by a converted two-litre BMW engine that has been adapted to drive on biodiesel.

Mayor of Moscow announces plan to put a freeze on snow in the city

Tony Halpin in Moscow
It defeated Napoleon and Hitler, but the legendary Russian winter is facing a formidable new challenge from the Mayor of Moscow, who wants to stop it from snowing.
Yuri Luzhkov has said that snow should be banished from Moscow in winter to save money and improve life in the city. He claimed that farmers outside the capital would enjoy more abundant harvests if his cloud-seeding programme was adopted.
Mr Luzhkov noted that city authorities already used such techniques to break up rain clouds and guarantee good weather on important public holidays, such as the annual May 9 parade celebrating victory in the Second World War. “Why don’t we keep this snow outside the Moscow city limits?” he said. “For the countryside, this means more moisture and bigger harvests. And for us, less snow.”
A snowless Moscow would be hard to imagine for anyone raised on romantic images of fur-clad Russians in winter-white landscapes. Mr Luzhkov, however, has had a habit of getting his way in Moscow as mayor since 1992.
Russian newspapers reported that his idea had provoked panic among residents in outlying regions, worried that they would be flooded out of their homes. Vladimir Litvishkov, a land management official, told reporters: “On those holidays when they clear the clouds over Moscow the surplus precipitation becomes a problem for us.”
A programme to manage the weather would cost only a third of the amount spent on snowploughs and round-the-clock clearance operations. City authorities send 2,500 snowploughs into action to clear snow, and employ an army of 50,000 workers to clear Moscow’s streets and pavements.
As many as a dozen cargo aircraft are sent into the skies over Moscow before major public events, scattering silver iodide, liquid nitrogen and cement powder into rain clouds to encourage precipitation. However, scientists warned that cloud-seeding throughout the winter could have serious environmental consequences.
There are other risks: a 25kg (55lb) bag of cement crashed through the roof of a Moscow home last year as an air force cargo aircraft carried out a cloud-seeding operation. Officials said that the bag had “failed to pulverise completely at high altitude”.
Winter in Moscow typically lasts from October to March, although recent years have seen unusually mild weather which some have blamed on global warming. A sudden snowfall in October 2007 caught the authorities by surprise and resulted in 3,200 car accidents in two days.
Clouds were seeded after the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in 1986 to protect Moscow and other cities from radioactive fallout. Afterwards people around the city of Gomel in Belarus reported heavy black rain, which was kept secret for two decades amid allegations that residents suffered radiation poisoning.
Chinese authorities used cloud seeding to ensure a sunny day for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing last year, but the technology is not perfect. Vladimir Putin told world leaders that Russia had seeded the clouds ahead of the G8 summit in St Petersburg in 2006 to ensure fine weather. It poured with rain.