Tuesday, 15 September 2009

A grown-up response to climate change

By Ian Douglas Science Last updated: September 14th, 2009

It is very likely that the global mean temperature will rise by at least two degrees by the end of the century, and continue to rise after that. Historical rises have corresponded with increases in concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and the burning of fossil fuels is the source of this increased concentration.

A changing climate addressed
Not so complicated, is it. It is true that there have been natural climate changes in the past, but this isn’t one of them. Nor is it harmless, or simply a way to enjoy some nicer weather in summer, or take the edge off winter chills.
The Royal Society has been looking at methods of negating the effects of increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and have published their findings in a paper that makes recommendations on emissions, but concentrates on the possibilities of bioengineering to trap the CO2 and reduce the effect of solar radiation on average temperatures.
Carbon dioxide removal techniques discussed include afforestation (cheap, but of limited use for carbon removal), bioenergy and carbon sinks on land, burial of carbon-trapping biomass such as wood on land and in the ocean to trap the carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released in decomposition or burning, enhanced weathering of rocks (very effective but expensive) and ocean fertilisation.
Solar radiation management techniques tend to seem a little more far-fetched, involving as they might increasing the reflectivity of large parts of the earth’s surface or the clouds or space-based reflector systems, but they’re seriously discussed. Their costs and feasability (generally prohibitive) and effectiveness (low to poor) are laid out for use in a sensible informed dicsussion.
Effectiveness and affordability are compared in text and graphical formats, and a framework for governance of any schemes, which would have to be huge in their scope, is laid out.
A good, science-based statement of the possibilities of working to limit climate change is a welcome addition to the debate.
The decision to take the climate science for granted in this report might attract some criticism from followers of Ian Plimer, author of the milion-selling but ludicrous Heaven and Earth, bible of the denial camp. Fortunately for the authors of the report Mr Plimer is entirely mistaken in his views, from his belief in an entirely fictional period of cooling after the second world war to the idea that the sun is mostly made of iron rather than hydrogen and helium and that this, through the device of solar flares, has some cyclical effect on temperatures on earth, so they need not distract us any further.

Local councils and police sign up to 10:10

Cambridge, Nottingham and Coventry councils and Cheshire police have signed up to the 10:10 climate change campaign
James Randerson
guardian.co.uk, Monday 14 September 2009 18.11 BST
Six local councils representing over 1.4 million people and a police authority have signed up the 10:10 climate change campaign. The new sign-ups, which include Cambridge, Nottingham and Coventry, boost the number of councils to 16, while Cheshire police is the first of the UK's police forces to join the campaign.
The new arrivals join a cross-section of UK society including nearly 16,000 individuals, over 600 businesses including the Royal Mail, the entire cabinet and Tory front bench, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and Tate Modern, as well as numerous celebrities, schools, universities and hospitals.
The campaign, which was launched two weeks ago, is encouraging people and organisations to cut their carbon emissions by 10% by the end of 2010. It aims to build a coalition from all sectors of society to put political pressure on the government for more robust action on climate change. It is supported by the Guardian.
Simon Chubb, sustainable city manager at Cambridge council said that the 10:10 campaign offered a good opportunity to communicate the council's climate policies on climate change to the people in the city. "[Councillors] saw that as an opportunity to remind people that it is one of our key priorities," he said.
He said the council will target its car parks that have electric lighting 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. "They have some of the largest electricity bills in the council," he said. It plans to invest £120,000 in more efficient lights and cut energy use by around 75%. He calculates that the investment will pay back in just over three and a half years.
A spokesperson for Nottingham City Council said that it would soon be moving its operations from two sites to one, which would cut down on energy use.
Stoke-on-Trent, Camden and Haringey councils are three other recent council sign ups who join a diverse group of over 300 large and small organisations including Cambridge University Conservative Club and West Leeds Rugby Union Football Club, which describes itself as "probably the most social rugby club in Leeds".
Karen Wickstead, Cheshire Constabulary's environment officer said that 10:10 was a "small step towards making a big difference".
"As staff within the organisation are extremely keen in reducing their carbon footprint it took literally minutes from sending an email highlighting the 10:10 event to the first member of staff registering – showing that staff are aware of climate change and are committed in doing their bit for the environment," she added.
Other recent signees include Brighton and Hove Primary Care Trust and Sherwood Forest Hospitals Foundation Trust as well as the Danish Embassy in London's Sloane Square.
• Sign up for 10:10 at 1010uk.org

10:10: get to work on your company's carbon emissions

Make your company count in the 10:10 climate change campaign
James Randerson
guardian.co.uk, Monday 14 September 2009 16.51 BST
We need your help. The 10:10 climate change campaign, which is supported by the Guardian, is encouraging individuals, organisations and companies to commit to cutting their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010.
Nearly 16,000 people and 700 businesses have already signed the carbon-cutting pledge but it would be great to tip the company sign ups over 1,000 by the end of the week. That's where you come in.
The idea behind the campaign is that to have any hope of reversing the trend of rising global CO2 emissions by around 2015 (which the scientists say is necessary to avoid a greater than 2C rise in temperature) the rich world needs to make a more concerted effort to cut its emissions now. Your company's 10% will contribute to that, but more importantly it will help to send a strong message to government that large numbers of people and organisations want more action on climate change.
So if you agree we need to speak with a louder collective voice on climate change, book a meeting with your boss and email your company's directors — and help 10:10 reach 1,000 company sign-ups by the weekend.
To sign up for 10:10 go to www.1010uk.org

Thousands of Co-operative customers urged to join Wave climate rally

Company will bus supporters to Stop Climate Chaos Coalition protest in London on eve of Copenhagen
Press Association
guardian.co.uk, Monday 14 September 2009 10.40 BST
The Co-operative is chartering trains and coaches to take thousands of its customers to a march calling for action on climate change later this year, the company said today.
The Wave rally is being organised by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition to mark the beginning of crucial UN climate change negotiations which aim to secure a new deal to cut global greenhouse gas emissions.
The coalition - representing 100 UK organisations ranging from the Women's Institute to Friends of the Earth and with a combined membership of 11 million people - hopes the event in London on December 5 will be the country's largest protest on climate change.
Organisers want tens of thousands of campaigners to "flow" through the streets of London to show their support for action to tackle climate change.
Paul Monaghan, head of social goals and sustainability at the Co-operative Group, said: "As a business with commercial interests in farming, food and finance, we are deeply concerned that an ambitious and fair deal be agreed in Copenhagen.
"Previously, our members have successfully lobbied governments for a meaningful Climate Change Act and targets for 2050. Now we are calling on the UK government to take this to the international stage."
Last week, the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, and his brother, the climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, warned that negotiations were "in the balance" and there was a danger they could fail.
UK government ministers are pushing the climate agenda on the world stage in a bid to secure a deal that will slash emissions enough to limit global temperature rises to 2C.

Feeling the heat

California's raging wildfires this summer are a sign of the climate changes already drying up America's great outdoors
Jay Stevens
guardian.co.uk, Monday 14 September 2009 14.00 BST
For more than two weeks, the Station fire has raged in and around California's Angeles national forest, just outside of Los Angeles. So far, it's burned more than 160,000 acres and 80 homes. Two firefighters lost their lives to the blaze when their truck, seeking an exit from a fire-besieged hilltop, plunged into a canyon 800 feet below. A third was airlifted from the fire this weekend. The fire's slowly being brought under control and, while the fire still a threat to the historic Mt. Wilson observatory and several campgrounds, it's likely the worst is over.
Still, at a cost to state taxpayers of $50 million – so far – this and California's other wildfires threaten to upend the already precarious state budget. And that's not even accounting for the dangers of mudslides for those living around the deforested burn areas, or the threat to the Los Angeles County watershed the fire's debris poses. Like the Station fire, California's wildfires have stretched state and local infrastructure, and thrown communities into disarray.
These California fires came earlier this year and needed no high winds to stoke them into major conflagrations. Started by an arsonist, the Station fire was brought to life by high heat and low humidity, feeding on tinder-dry underbrush in the area's steep canyons. As such, it's a harbinger of other, worse fires to come – and not just in California. That's because the environmental conditions that caused California's fires to be virulent are likely to be mirrored across the western US in the coming years as climate change nudges temperatures upwards.
At least, that's what the climate model of a group of Harvard University scientists predicts, according to their report recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research. The report claims that the US should expect 50% more area burned every year by wildfires by 2055 due to climate change. That estimate rises sharply for the Pacific northwest and Rocky Mountain regions, which should expect a 75 to 175% increase in burned areas during that period, if temperatures rise as expected.
In the Mountain West, even a slight temperature change can have disastrous consequences. Warmer temperatures in these mountain regions mean a lighter snow pack, earlier runoff and an earlier spring for the grasses and other underbrush that – with a few weeks longer to bake under the open sun – act as the tinder for the west's explosive fires. As the Harvard study notes, the increased fires will result in increased air pollution, which, in turn, further accelerates the onset of mountain snow melt. These conditions lead to longer fire seasons, which in turn lead to more and bigger wildfires.
Moreover, the dry conditions caused by a rise in temperature would occur in forests already overloaded with fuel. Ironically, years of aggressive fire suppression (pdf) by the US Forest Service "has led to increased fuel loads on the nation's forests," causing the country's mountains to be choked with dry, dead timber and thick underbrush. Add that to the dead trees left int the wake of an unprecedented mountain pine beetle infestation across the west in and into Candada – also driven by climate change – and it's obvious the conditions for massive fires are in place.
Naturally, as the number of fires escalate, and the severity that they burn increases, costs associated with fighting those fires also rises. But beyond that simple calculation is another factor in the rising cost: rural development. As with California's Station fire, most of the firefighting effort and costs are expended protecting private property. A recent Headwaters Economics study of fires in Montana showed that, as rural development increases, so does the cost of fighting fires. And because Montana, like many other wilderness mountain areas in the west, is a prime location for summer mountain homes and hobby ranches, where zoning is regulated at the local level by local officials loath to check an expanding tax base and an influx of construction jobs, development rapidly continues. Headwaters Economic estimates that, if this development continues unabated, the cost borne by Montana and federal taxpayers protecting this rural-urban interface from wildfires could triple by 2025.
What's more sobering is that these projections are not just conjecture: climate change has already had an effect on fires in the west. A 2007 IPCC report showed that "the wildfire season in the western US has increased [by] 78 days" and the "burn duration" of large fires has quadrupled, from 7.5 to 37.1 days, in the past three decades "in response to a spring-summer warming of 0.87C." And a GAO report (pdf) showed that the federal costs, per year, of managing wildfires has risen from $1.1bn from 1996 to 2000, to $2.9bn from 2001 to 2005 – which doesn't even account for the severe wildfire seasons of 2006 and 2007.
But beyond the risks posed to human health and property, and the cost of battling fires, there's potentially a greater danger posed to the environment and humankind. From a recent Science article (and excerpted in a Grist report on wildfire) on the increasing temperatures and early springs in the West:
Current estimates indicate that western US forests are responsible for 20% to 40% of total US carbon sequestration. If wildfire trends continue, at least initially, this biomass burning will result in carbon release, suggesting that the forests of the western US may become a source of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide rather than a sink, even under a relatively modest temperature-increase scenario.
So this expected increase in wildfires may actually accelerate global warming. And America's west has become the scene of simply one of many catastrophic tipping-points that will hurl us into a new, scorched climate. Right now, the west is renowned for its open spaces, rugged topography, endless forests and its very real aura of a wilderness frontier. But as temperatures rise, and western forests are wracked by ever-increasing wildfires, the region could instead become known for choking clouds of smoke and ash falling from blood-red skies.

Scientists find CO2 link to Antarctic ice cap origin

By David Fogarty, Reuters
Monday, 14 September 2009
A team of scientists studying rock samples in Africa has shown a strong link between falling carbon dioxide levels and the formation of Antarctic ice sheets 34 million years ago.
The results are the first to make the link, underpinning computer climate models that predict both the creation of ice sheets when CO2 levels fall and the melting of ice caps when CO2 levels rise.
The team, from Cardiff, Bristol and Texas A&M Universities, spent weeks in the African bush in Tanzania with an armed guard to protect them from lions to extract samples of tiny fossils that could reveal CO2 levels in the atmosphere 34 million years ago.
Levels of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, mysteriously fell during this time in an event called the Eocene-Oligocene climate transition.
"This was the biggest climate switch since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago," said co-author Bridget Wade from Texas A&M University.
The study reconstructed CO2 levels around this period, showing a dip around the time ice sheets in Antarctica started to form. CO2 levels were around 750 parts per million, about double current levels.
"There are no samples of air from that age that we can measure, so you need to find something you can measure that would have responded to the atmospheric CO2," Paul Pearson of Cardiff University told Reuters.
Pearson, Wade and Gavin Foster from the University of Bristol gathered sediment samples in the Tanzanian village of Stakishari where there are deposits of a particular type of well-preserved microfossils that can reveal past CO2 levels.
"Our study is the first that uses some sort of proxy reconstruction of CO2 to point to the declining CO2 that most of us expected we ought to be able to find," Pearson said on Monday from Cardiff.
He said that CO2, being an acidic gas, causes changes in acidity in the ocean, which absorbs large amounts of the gas.
"We can pick that up through chemistry of microscopic plankton shells that were living in the surface ocean at the time," he explained.
Evidence from around Antarctica was much harder to find.
"The ice caps covered everything in Antarctica. The erosion of sediments around Antarctica since the formation of the ice caps has obliterated a lot of the pre-existing evidence that might have been there."
"Our results are really in line with the most sophisticated climate models that have been applied to this interval," Pearson added. The results were published online in the journal Nature.
"Those models could be used to predict the melting of the ice. The suggested melting starts around 900 ppm (parts per million)," he said, a level he believes could be reached by the end of this century, unless serious emissions cuts were made.

JPMorgan Chase in EcoSecurities takeover bid

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor
JPMorgan Chase, the American investment bank, has made a £123 million takeover bid for EcoSecurities, an Irish carbon offset group, thwarting an earlier offer from the group’s co-founder.
The deal, at 100p per share, represents a 120 per cent premium to EcoSecurities’ share price in June, before the initial offer period began. It comes amid mounting interest in the sector before pivotal United Nations talks in Copenhagen in December, which are expected to deliver a significant boost for the global carbon market.
Carbon Acquisition Company, which is a subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase Ventures, said that it had received a recommendation from the board of the Dublin-based EcoSecurities, as well as acceptances from holders of almost 20 per cent of EcoSecurities’ shares.
EcoSecurities previously had rejected as “wholly inadequate” a revised 90p-a-share offer from Guanabara Holdings, a company established by Pedro Moura Costa, EcoSecurities’ co-founder.
Mr Costa, who stepped down from the board of EcoSecurities in April, has been hailed as one of Britain’s first eco-millionaires. He was working as a forester in Malaysia when he saw the potential for an international carbon credit market and founded the company, which is now a leader in the field, in 1997.
Yesterday, Guanabara said that it was considering its options. It would need the support of 50 per cent of shareholders for its offer to succeed.
In a move aimed at derailing a potential counterbid from Guanabara, Carbon Acquisition Company said that its acceptances would remain binding in the event of a competing offer being made.
Shares in EcoSecurities, which was listed on the Alternative Investment Market in 2005, rose sharply after the announcement and closed at 101½p yesterday. The company is active in a number of areas. In addition to buying and selling carbon emissions credits, it advises companies on methods to reduce their carbon intensity. It is also a developer of low carbon projects in the developing world that form part of the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism, which allows companies to export cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to lower-cost countries, such as China and India. EcoSecurities has backed such projects in a variety of countries, including Brazil, Honduras, China and Costa Rica.
The UN Clean Development Mechanism allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn certified emission-reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of carbon dioxide. These can then be traded and sold, and used by industrialised countries to meet a part of their emission-reduction targets.
EcoSecurities was a pioneer in the carbon market and has built up one of the largest portfolios of these emission-reduction projects in the world, with about 447 projects in its pipeline, capable of producing 124 million CER credits. That accounts for more than 10 per cent of the total of 4,200 projects.
According to figures from the World Bank, the value of the global carbon market doubled in size last year to an estimated $126 billion (£76 billion), even as Lehman Brothers collapsed and credit markets froze in the final months of the year.
Some analysts have estimated that the market could be worth as much as $3 trillion by 2020, although much depends on whether global policymakers can reach a workable deal in Copenhagen on the restriction of global emissions.
In 2007, Credit Suisse invested about €44 million (£39 million) in EcoSecurities, equivalent to about 9 per cent of the company’s issued share capital.

India’s electric cars spark interest of General Motors

General Motors is poised to join forces with the Indian start-up that leads the world in budget electric cars in a deal that could come to define the fallen American group’s efforts to reinvent itself.
GM, which is scrambling to reform its image as the maker of pricey gas-guzzling SUVs, is in advanced talks with Reva, based in Bangalore, whose £7,000 G-Wiz is the bestselling plug-in car in Britain.
The discussions have centred on the creation of a 50-50 joint venture that would give GM access to the Indian company’s technology.
The arrangement would be the first such tie-up for GM, once the world’s largest company, since it emerged from a whirlwind 40-day bankruptcy in July, during which it became 60 per cent-owned by the US Government.
At the time, President Obama said that the Chapter 11 filing heralded “the beginning of a new GM”.
The Reva talks, which have been conducted by GM’s Indian office and are understood to be awaiting approval from its Detroit headquarters, point to the shape that GM is aiming to take as the slimmed-down company, like many of its rivals, bets on the dawning of a new era of electric motoring. Last month, GM unveiled the Chevrolet Volt petrol-electric hybrid, which is expected to achieve 276mpg.
However, even as he unveiled the new model, Fritz Henderson, the GM chief executive, admitted that the company had yet to crack the biggest problems posed by electric cars: what if you cannot find a plug?
Access to Reva’s power management technology could help GM to address such problems, analysts said. Even though the Indian company’s G-Wiz has a range of only 48 miles, it includes features designed to prevent users being stranded. GM is likely to adapt Reva’s technology in an electric version of its Chevrolet Spark minicar.

Boris Johnson ups carbon footprint by courtesy flight to New York

Hélène Mulholland and Patrick Wintour
The Guardian, Tuesday 15 September 2009
Boris Johnson will today help out British Airways's commercial interests by speaking out against using video conferencing as a way of doing business, at a press conference in New York which he is attending courtesy of four business class tickets provided by the airline.
The mayor of London's backing will again lead to questions on the Conservative commitment to cutting unnecessary CO2 emissions. Government advisers argue that restraining air travel is a prerequisite of reducing overall carbon emissions. Research has suggested that business air travel affects carbon emissions significantly, partly because the profitability of such passengers allows airlines to offer economy class tickets.
The European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association claims that a 20% cut in business travel would save 22m tonnes of CO2 each year – "equivalent to taking one third of the UK's cars off the road".
Carriers with large business class cabins have higher emission levels per passenger than those that carry many more economy passengers in the same aircraft type.
In July BA launched a "Face to Face" campaign to encourage business meetings in person, claiming that "tangible, human connections are a crucial driver of business growth".
The mayor's spokesman said Johnson's role at the BA campaign in the terrace lounge at Terminal 7 of JFK airport today would be to see the winners of the campaign off to pitch their business ideas face to face in London.
Asked how this fitted in with the Conservatives' call for a reduction in unnecessary air travel, his spokesman said that the mayor supported video conferencing as a tool of business, but was keen to bring tourists and business leaders to London: "Air travel account for a very small part of carbon emissions. It's important to contain the growth, and Boris Johnson has been fiercely critical of plans for a third runway at Heathrow.
"But the mayor believes that flying remains important to London's prosperity."
On travelling courtesy of BA, the spokesman said the airline was "very close partners" with Visit London, the agency promoting tourism to the capital. "Taxpayers of London will appreciate the mayor is able to conduct such an ambitious marketing drive for zero cost."
A study of Harvard Business Review subscribers, commissioned by BA, found that 95% believed that face-to-face meetings were the key to success in building long-term relationships, while more than 50% said recent restrictions on business travel had hurt their business.

Peugeot iOn electric car powers up

Peugeot is ramping up its attack on the electric car market by intorducing the iOn next year, in a joint-venture with Mitsubishi.

By David WilliamsPublished: 11:42AM BST 14 Sep 2009

Its iOn will be based closely on the Japanese firm's iMiEV but will have its own badging and minor styling and equipment changes.
The iOn will premiere at this month's Frankfurt Motor Show and go on sale in the UK late in 2010. The iMiEV comes to the UK this winter.

Peugeot was unable to confirm exact specification levels, pricing or the numbers it hopes to sell. However, the French firm said the newcomer would build on the success of the Peugeot 106 Electric that was produced between 1995 and 2003.
The four-door, four-seat iOn will have a range of 80 miles on a single charge and a top speed of 80mph. The lithium-ion batteries can be recharged in six hours using conventional mains power or recharged to 80 per cent capacity within 30 minutes.
Peugeot says the car will be aimed at fleet and retail customers and will be sold, not leased. It also said its new 3008 Hybrid4, featuring 200bhp, four-wheel-drive and emissions of 99g/km would appear in spring 2011.

Fresh windfarm deal is a gust of good news for Quayle Munro

Published Date: 15 September 2009
By Martin Flanagan
QUAYLE Munro, the Edinburgh-based merchant bank, has won the mandate to raise funds for a new £120 million windfarm in Norway as it sees a pick up in the drive to develop and invest in renewable sources of energy.
The company will advise on securing debt capital for the 70-megawatt windfarm, sited near Stavanger.This latest mandate follows the recent announcement of a similar contract in Scotland. The firm said it believed the deals showed a growing inclination by companies to push renewable projects on commercial as well as ethical grounds.The Norwegian windfarm is being built by Eurus, a global windpower developer majority-owned by Tokyo Electric Power. It will be on a greenfield site, with work starting next year and due to be completed in early 2011. Quayle Munro recently revealed it was raising £75m of project finance for a new 50-megawatt windfarm in Argyll being built by Carraig Gheal, a joint venture between Alloa-based GreenPower and state-owned Norwegian utility Statkraft. Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays were the appointed banks on that scheme, Quayle Munro said.Rob Cormie, Scottish managing director of Quayle Munro, said the group would be approaching UK and Nordic banks for capital for the new Norwegian windfarm later this year.He was confident of getting their support. "There's a feeling now that you can make lots of money from the renewables area," he said. "Economically there's value to be had from building windfarms and operating them."Some companies – the likes of Centrica, ScottishPower, etc – have been obliged to reduce their carbon levels. But people are now investing in windfarms and the like for the commercial benefits as well."Cormie said part of the reason for the popularity of investment in renewables was that they had increasingly kept their asset values in the financial markets.He added: "It's difficult to give precise numbers at this stage. But in Scotland there is an ever-increasing focus on renewables and this will become a significant part of Quayle's business." Quayle posted an 81 per cent fall in interim pre-tax profits to £617,000 from £3.2m last March, after it was hit by a £1.4m impairment charge in the value of its banking investments.Ian Jones, Quayle's executive chairman, said at the time that the lion's share of these investments were in RBS, Lloyds TSB and HBOS, the latter two now part of the Lloyds Banking Group. However, the company now believes that the climate is recovering and conducive to entrepreneurial investment, in renewables and across the wider picture.Cormie said: "There is value to be had with depressed investment levels. We are seeing more capital being made available for transactions and investments."

California feud breaks out on clean energy plan

* Calif. governor to veto state renewable energy bill
* Schwarzenegger plans executive order with same goal
* Alternative energy industry divided based on technology (Adds analyst comment, details on solar plans)
By Peter Henderson and Laura Isensee
SAN FRANCISCO/LOS ANGELES, Sept 14 (Reuters) - California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will veto a bill requiring the state to get a third of its electricity from solar, wind and other renewable sources, his staff said on Monday in a fight that shows the difficulties of addressing climate change fast.
However, the governor on Tuesday will issue an executive order with the same goal, but different rules, his staff said.
Schwarzenegger, whose legacy is largely pinned on driving California's response to global warming, believes the bill passed in the last hours of the legislative session on Friday would make it more difficult to build solar plants in the state and to buy power from neighbors.
California's rank as the largest market for renewable power makes any decision important, and as the U.S. Congress struggles to put together a federal plan, the state's leadership and failures could shape a national plan.
"The industry and regulators are going to wind up spending the next few years wrangling about how to implement the bill as opposed to actually putting steel in the ground," said Public Utilities Commission Deputy Director Nancy Ryan on a call sponsored by the governor.
She said more flexibility was needed, while the bill's main sponsor said curbs on buying power from out of state would ensure jobs were kept in California and give needed weight to the 33 percent goal, which state agencies have already set.
While many states debate whether so-called green jobs are real and if the cost of cutting carbon is worth the price, Californians focus mostly on how and how fast to move.
Both sides in California want the state to get 33 percent of its electricity from solar, wind and other alternative energy by 2020.
A study by the state's utilities commission says that is unlikely in almost any circumstances due to the complexity and cost of the project, while a 2010 goal of 20 percent renewables is judged impossible to hit on time.
Schwarzenegger's administration plans a Tuesday executive order for the state's climate change lead, the Air Resources Board, to implement the 33 percent standard, and the agency chief said that could be done by the middle of next year.
But the governor's order could be canceled by the winner of the 2010 ballot race to succeed Schwarzenegger, which bill sponsor State Senator Joe Simitian was concerned would limit its effectiveness and raise legal challenges.
Industry lined up on both sides. Makers of solar thermal power plants would face new permitting requirements, and out-of-state wind generators would face limits on generation outside California, said Jan Smutny-Jones, executive director of the Independent Energy Producers association, which backs the governor's veto.
Photovoltaic solar panel maker First Solar lined up in favor of the bill, as did the California Wind Energy Association.
"If the governor does not sign the bill ... we fear that there will be uncertainty and chaos in this market for years," said the wind group's executive director, Nancy Rader.
Lorraine Paskett, First Solar's vice president of policy and market development, said a veto would "send a negative message to the solar market and renewable energy market not only in California but in the United States and around the world."
Solar power makers may get another boost if the governor signs a bill that increases support for small projects with a so-called feed-in tariff. California-based solar power company SunPower Corp would be a major winner in that case, said FBR Capital Markets analyst Mehdi Hosseini. (Editing by Carol Bishopric) (For more environmental news see our Environment blog at http://blogs.reuters.com/environment)

How important is energy efficiency when buying property?

With green homes way down the list of househunters' priorities, energy performance certificates seem pointless
Do house hunters care about how green their future home is? I've been asking around because, on 30 September, property website NetMovers will launch a service that ranks homes for sale by their energy rating — that's alongside the usual criteria of price, location and number of bedrooms. So for the first time buyers will be able to easily sort homes on the market by how green they are: good news for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and a reward for the seller who spent an itchy day insulating their loft, right? I'm not so sure.
Personally, and from what I hear anecdotally, I'm just not convinced that anyone house-hunts on efficiency. I count myself as a "greenie" and pay over the odds for reducing my carbon footprint in other areas of life (train over the plane, expensive dalliances with LEDs on eBay) but care very little how about energy-efficient my future home is.
Partly it's a practical thing. Location, price, room sizes, layout and broadband speed are aspects of a home that are difficult or impossible to change, but efficiency is something I reason I can always improve. Partly it's a financial decision: energy prices are so low that the difference in running costs between a draughty Victorian house and a near-airtight newbuild just aren't significant enough to become a deal-breaker like a dream leafy postcode is.
Opinion on Twitter and here in the office is split. "I always look to mpg for a car, so why not a house!" says @myzerowaste, "we looked at EPCs [energy performance certificates] when considering houses," tweets @aimaz, while @jamieandrews and @therubbishdiet both say they'd take into account efficiency. But I suspect these are tweeters at the dark green end of the spectrum. "[Efficiency] is a consideration when buying but comes after price and location, kitchen, bathroom and general space" says @kgannon1 and @fleming77 simply says "no I do not care about energy efficiency, location and cost most important."
Interestingly, a YouGov survey of 2,306 adults this summer (Excel file) suggested some people do care. Asked what criteria buyers looked for in a new home, they ranked energy efficiency as the third most important attribute, behind outdoor space and a garage but above value for money. But bear in mind this is what people were looking for in a new home, and the survey was commissioned by the New Homes Marketing Board, which would obviously like efficiency to be a key differentiator against prettier but leakier period homes.
A more recent survey on 1 September, this time by ICM Research for the Energy Saving Trust, said that 35% of people would pay more for a home with solar panels (or any other form of "microgeneration"). But again, there's a caveat. We don't know that those respondents actually care about energy efficiency - they may just be thinking about the savings on their future bills and the government's shiny, imminent Clean Energy Cashback scheme.
Surely, the authority and barometer on this matter is property website Rightmove. With 90% of all UK properties on sale at any time on its site - worth around £270bn - it dwarfs NetMovers' 6,000 property listings with their combined worth of £1.9bn. I asked Rightmove if adding energy efficiency filters was on their new features list or whether customers ever requested such a feature. After sounding slightly baffled that anyone would search for a house on efficiency, its press office said no on both counts.
That suggests to me that the mainstream and even so-called greenies like me — Rightmove's visitors — don't care much about efficiency. All of which, sadly, makes the energy performance certificates in Home Information Packs seem pretty pointless and a waste of money. But what about you? Is energy efficiency a deal-breaker when you're house-hunting?

The ultimate eco toy? A dolls' house with solar panels and wind turbine

A dolls' house, designed to educate children about global warming, is expected to be one of the best selling presents this Christmas, a department store has predicted.

By Harry Wallop, Consumer Affairs EditorPublished: 5:18PM BST 14 Sep 2009

The eco-friendly dolls house is expected to be the next big toy this Christmas Photo: Selfridges
The dolls' house is equipped with all the latest eco-friendly devices, including solar panels, a wind turbine, recycling bins and a rain water butt. The dolls can even lounge on a sofa made from recycled chipboard.
The toy is on sale at Selfridges for £149.99 and has been manufactured by Plan Toys, a Thai company that makes all of its products using sustainable wood, lead-free paint and in factories powered by biomass energy.

Michael Berry, Selfridges’ toy shop buyer said: “This house is a wonderfully educational toy that will really inspire kids and through play help them to become more aware about the environment around them. We expect the Green Dollhouse to be a huge hit with parents this Christmas and we are already starting to take orders in our new toy department.”
The dollhouse’s energy efficient design also includes an electric inverter for generating electricity, a biofacade, which uses the natural cycle of plant growth to provide shading, and a blind that can adjust the amount of sun light and air circulation.
Dolls' houses, now considered a very traditional toy, have sometimes been used to show case the latest house building technology and interior design. The most famous of these was Queen Mary's Dolls' House, completed in 1924 for the wife of George V.
Designed by Sir Ediwn Lutyens, it was fitted out with working electrical lights, lifts, flushable lavatories, displaying the best design the British Empire's leading manufacturers could muster.