Thursday, 1 October 2009

Senators Unveil Draft Climate Bill

WASHINGTON -- Two Senate Democrats Wednesday unveiled climate legislation that aims to drastically cut greenhouse-gas emissions beginning in 2012, starting an effort that threatens to divide the party amid opposition from coal, manufacturing and oil interests.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry outlined the measure, which would cut emissions from 2005 levels 20% by 2020 and more than 80% by 2050.
"This bill addresses the major challenges of our generation," Ms. Boxer, of California, told the crowd of environmentalists on the East Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. She said the measure aims to address concerns in some regions that local economies would be harmed, and she said that "clean energy" would help create jobs.
President Barack Obama welcomed the legislative package, saying "we are one step closer to putting America in control of our energy future and making America more energy independent."
Democrats are hoping to act to combat global warming, which scientists have linked to more intense weather events such as drought in some places and rising sea levels in others. A small minority, including Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.), says there is no scientific evidence of such a threat.
Other Republicans took issue with the Boxer-Kerry bill, calling it a new national energy tax. "The last thing American families need right now is to be hit with a new energy tax every time they flip on a light switch, or fill up their car -- but that's exactly what this bill would do," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement.
In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the legislation a "strong foundation" to work on, while Republican Leader John Boehner said the measure was a "dangerous proposal."
Utilities, which account for a big chunk of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions, sent representatives out in a show of support. Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. Chairman Ralph Izzo showed up and through a statement said that the bill is "an important step in the right direction."
Associated Press
Sen. Barbara Boxer, seen in July, seeks to return the focus to climate change.
Among the energy sources that the Senate hopes to give an advantage to is natural gas. In an effort to reach Republicans, the goal is also to encourage nuclear power. And, in hopes of safeguarding against surges in costs for emitting carbon dioxide, the bill includes mechanisms to limit emission-allowance prices through a so-called soft collar.
One sign that efforts to reach other lawmakers may be paying off: softening opposition from some quarters. Asked about reports the Senate climate-change bill would reserve 20% to 25% of revenue raised to pay down the federal budget deficit, Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) said, "I like that a lot, I like that a lot."
Mr. Conrad wouldn't say whether that measure would be enough for him to set aside his skepticism over the legislation and support it, but he reiterated, "I would say that I like that piece."
The timing of climate-change legislation has been thrown into a state of flux by the continuing debate over an attempted overhaul of health-care policy. That effort is likely to take several weeks at the minimum, which could mean lawmakers don't turn their attention to tackling climate change in earnest until 2010.
Write to Siobhan Hughes at and Corey Boles at

Climate on Agenda for Obama's China Trip

BEIJING –Climate change will be among the top issues when President Obama visits China in November, a U.S. official said Wednesday.
China and the U.S., the world's biggest and second biggest emitters of greenhouse gases respectively, have made energy cooperation a keystone of their relationship even though their differences could still derail an international climate change treaty in talks to be held this December in Copenhagen.

Still, the Obama administration is hoping the president's trip here, just ahead of the Copenhagen talks, will result in some concrete steps on energy and technology cooperation.
"I expect clean energy and climate change issues will be high on the agenda during Obama's trip," David Sandalow, U.S. assistant energy secretary, told reporters. "I'm confident that when the two largest energy consumers and producers get together, it will be an important topic of discussion."
Countries meeting in Copenhagen will try to forge a pact on carbon emission reduction targets. China has rejected calls for it to commit to emission caps, arguing that industrialized countries have a historical responsibility to clean up first.
Mr. Sandalow was in China to attend meetings with Chinese energy officials as well as a U.S.-China forum on electric vehicles. Beijing has made developing electric vehicles a priority as a cleaner alternative to the gas-powered cars its growing middle class is buying in record numbers, and several domestic companies have plunged in with big plans to launch new so-called plug-in cars. At the same time, the U.S. has been pushing electric cars for environmental reasons and to revive Detroit's embattled car industry.
China has "the potential to be ahead if the United States does not invest heavily in this technology and in this industry. The Chinese are well positioned to be global leaders in the electric vehicle industry,'' Mr. Sandalow said. "I believe that we've got a lot to learn from each other, and that the world would benefit from us challenging each other in this industry,'' he said.
Write to Shai Oster at

Copenhagen's climate big-hitters must not forget smaller nations

The Copenhagen climate summit must reach an agreement that can be taken on by all levels of government, from global superpowers to local authorities
Jane Davidson, Wednesday 30 September 2009 07.20 BST
The politics of global negotiation are now in full swing, as the world's major players set out their stalls ahead of the crucial climate summit in Copenhagen this December.
Amid the jostling of global leaders, we should not forget that the cooperation of smaller regions and nations, such as Wales, will be central to averting climate change. National leaders may thrash out the treaty, but it will be regional governments who must deliver on the ground. It is estimated that 80% of climate change policy will be delivered at the sub-national level – for example, in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the English provinces.
That is why I am in California today, attending the global climate summit hosted by the state's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The regional leaders present at the talks – representing regions from Amazonas in Brazil to East Kalimantan in Indonesia – are acting on behalf of hundred of millions of people. Their constituencies face the same challenge we all do: how to lower carbon emissions while also providing viable transport, education, health and economic development. California itself has a population of more than 36 million people, and faces some tough questions over energy and water supply. The state's actions on greenhouse gases will make a major contribution to the efforts of the US.
I want to use this event to generate political momentum ahead of Copenhagen. We must show national leaders the vital role smaller regions will have to play in averting runaway climate change.
No one can accuse Wales of shirking its responsibility orcoming to the debating table empty-handed. The Welsh assembly has already made a commitment to cut annual emissions by 3% a year from 2011, enabling an 80% reduction before 2050. We are now also looking at emission-reduction scenarios of 6-9% a year. Our strategy is nearly finalised, with a baseline against which to measure future emissions reductions. We are backing our commitment with £300m of funding.
For Wales, this debate has almost come full circle. In the 19th century, we led the world in energy development when Welsh coal powered the industrial revolution that made the modern world. We now want to lead the way with a 21st-century green revolution to help create a low-carbon world.
Negotiators at the Copenhagen talks will ignore small nations and regions at their peril. Any new climate change agreement must be truly worldwide, from the bottom up as well as the top down: we need a deal that can be taken on and taken forward by all levels of government, from global superpowers to local authorities.
• Jane Davidson is the Welsh environment minister

Democrats unveil ambitious draft climate change bill to the US Senate

Senators expected to launch bill that aims to cut emissions 20% by 2020 - stricter cuts than already passed by Congress
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Wednesday 30 September 2009 10.59 BST
Democratic leaders are expected to take on the monumental challenge of getting the Senate to act on global warming today by formally unveiling a draft climate change bill proposing a 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions.
The draft bill, which is to be announced by Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry at a press conference this morning, sets out a more ambitious target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions than the 17% cut from 2005 levels by 2020 passed by the House of Representatives in June.
The draft would push for a 20% reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 and an 83% reduction by 2050.
The targets appear chosen for their resonance with European and Asian leaders who have been looking to America to demonstrate commitment to action on global warming ahead of the meeting at Copenhagen in December cast by the United Nations as a last chance for getting the world to act on climate change before it is too late to avoid catastrophic warming.
But it is far from clear that the Senate will be able to pivot from its battles over healthcare to climate change and make significant progress before the Copenhagen meeting.
The 800-page draft bill, which is still being worked on, is almost certain to undergo significant changes in the coming weeks with Democrats struggling to build support even from within their own ranks.
"Complex processes are part and parcel of passing major legislation," Tony Kreindler of the Environmental Defence Fund said in an email to reporters on Tuesday. "The most important thing is that the draft be taken for what it is: a starting point that Senators can work with, tailor and pass."
Boxer and Kerry plan a high-profile launch, with fellow Senators, environmental activists, and executives of some of the household name firms that have been pushing for climate change legislation at the press conference.
Republicans, who are expected to largely oppose the bill, are planning their own counter-press conference. On Tuesday, Republican members of Boxer's environment and public works committee wrote a letter warning they would not be rushed into a vote on the bill.
Today's formal start of the legislative process on climate change in the Senate has assumed huge importance in the run-up to meetings in Copenhagen.
World leaders see movement on a US climate change bill as essential to getting an international deal. A series of delays on introducing the bill to the Senate — plus mixed signals from Barack Obama and other members of his administration on the need for urgent action — has deepened fears that the talks at Copenhagen could end in deadlock.
Those fears increased this month when the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, said the Senate was so taken up with healthcare that it might wait until 2010 before it even got to climate change.
President Obama in his meetings with G20 leaders in Pittsburgh last week downplayed the importance of sealing a comprehensive deal at the Copenhagen talks, and his energy secretary, Stephen Chu, has also warned against seeing the meeting as a "make or break" moment. Environmentalists have also accused Obama of missing an opportunity in his speech to the United Nations climate change summit last week to urge the Senate to pass legislation.
But the administration is coming under pressure from outside the US to make significant steps on emissions reductions. "If we don't come to an agreement in Copenhagen this year American business will suffer the most," said Connie Hedegaard, the Danish minister for climate and energy who as one of the hosts will be heavily involved in the negotiations.
The course of climate change legislation in the Senate is expected to be even more difficult than in the house, where 44 Democrats defied party leaders and the White House to vote against the bill. In August, 10 Democratic Senators demanded that any climate change bill would protect workers in oil and coal states.
Senate Democrats had been expected to further water down their bill to try to secure support from conservative Democrats in the rust belt and coal producing states, but drafts circulating on Capitol Hill this week defied some of those predictions.
Kieran Suckling, the director of the Centre for Biological Diversity, called the bill a "baby step forward".
Aside from the more robust cuts in emissions, the draft would restore the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to regulate carbon from coal power plants, which had been eliminated under the house bill.
However, the draft includes other measures which could trouble environmentalists. It raises the possibility of trade sanctions against countries that do not cut their emissions. Negotiators have warned such a move could complicated efforts to reach a deal at Copenhagen, especailly with rapidly industrialising countries such as India and China.
The Senate draft also appears to give an opening to an expansion of nuclear power — a bow to Senate Republicans who have been clamouring for 100 more nuclear plants.
Such gestures are part of a strategy aimed at broadening support for the bill. For months Kerry has been inviting fellow Senators to Tuesday morning breakfast meetings with environmentalists and business leaders supporting climate change legislation.
Democratic leaders have also borrowed the strategy deployed by Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, the authors of the house bill, by refusing to specify their plans for the distribution of emission allowances — essentially licences to pollute that energy and manufacturing firms would be compelled to purchase under climate change bill. The omission is intended to avoid a confrontation over the distribution of valuable permits.
Environmental organisations and business leaders have also been pushing hard to cultivate support for a bill, releasing a battery of reports showing the economic and job benefits of the shift to a cleaner energy economy.
The University of California at Berkeley, said in a report published today that the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed in the house in June would create up to 1.9m jobs by 2020.

By 2050, 25m more children will go hungry as climate change leads to food crisis

• Report says food shortages will hit developing world• Global warming set to bring back malnutrition
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
The Guardian, Wednesday 30 September 2009
Twenty-five million more children will go hungry by the middle of this century as climate change leads to food shortages and soaring prices for staples such as rice, wheat, maize and soya beans, a report says today.
If global warming goes unchecked, all regions of the world will be affected, but the most vulnerable – south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa – will be hit hardest by failing crop yields, according to the report, prepared by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) for the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
The children of 2050 will have fewer calories to eat than those in 2000, the report says, and the effect would be to wipe out decades of progress in reducing child malnutrition.

The grim scenario is the first to gauge the effects of climate change on the world's food supply by combining climate and agricultural models.
Spikes in grain prices last year led to rioting and unrest across the developing world, from Haiti to Thailand. Leaders at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh last week committed $2bn (£1.25bn) to food security, and the United Nations is set to hold a summit on food security in November, its second since last year's riots.
But the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, is pressing the World Bank and other institutions to do more. He said the industrialised world needs to step up investment in seed research and to offer more affordable crop insurance to the small farmers in developing countries. Though prices have stabilised, the world's food system is still in crisis, he said at the weekend.
"Ever more people are denied food because prices are stubbornly high, because purchasing power has fallen due to the economic crisis, or because rains have failed and reserve stocks of grain have been eaten," he said.
Even without global warming, rising populations meant the world was headed for food shortages and food price rises.
"The food price crisis of last year really was a wake-up call to a lot of people that we are going to have 50% more people on the surface of the Earth by 2050," said Gerald Nelson, the lead author of the report. "Meeting those demands for food coming out of population growth is going to be a huge challenge – even without climate change."
After several years in which development aid has been diverted away from rural areas, the report called for $7bn a year for crop research, and investment in irrigation and rural infrastructure to help farmers adjust to a warming climate. "Continuing the business-as-usual approach will almost certainly guarantee disastrous consequences," said Nelson.
The G20 industrialised nations last week began discussing how to invest some $20bn pledged for food security earlier this year.
Some regions of the world outlined in the report are already showing signs of vulnerability because of changing rainfall patterns and drought linked to climate change. Oxfam yesterday launched a $152m appeal on behalf of 23 million people hit by a severe drought and spiralling food prices in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda. The charity called it the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa for a decade, and said many people in the region were suffering from malnutrition.
But southern Asia, which made great advances in agricultural production during the 20th century, was also singled out in the IFPRI report for being particularly at risk of food shortages. Some countries, such as Canada and Russia, will experience longer growing seasons because of climate change, but other factors – such as poor soil – mean that will not necessarily be translated into higher food production.
The report was prepared for negotiators currently trying to reach a global deal to fight climate change at the latest round of UN talks in Bangkok. It used climate models prepared by the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Colorado and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia to arrive at estimates of how changes in growing seasons and rainfall patterns would affect farming in the developing world and elsewhere.
Without an ambitious injection of funds and new technology, wheat yields could fall by more than 30% in developing countries, setting off a catastrophic rise in prices. Wheat prices, with unmitigated climate change, could rise by 170%-194% by the middle of this century, the report said. Rice prices are projected to rise by 121% – and almost all of the increase will have to be passed on to the consumer, Nelson said.
The report did not take into account all the expected impacts of climate change – such as the loss of farmland due to rising sea levels, a rise in the number of insects and in plant disease, or changes in glacial melt. All these factors could increase the damage of climate change to agriculture.
Others who have examined the effects of climate change on agriculture have warned of the potential for conflict. In a new book, Plan B 4.0: Mobilising to Save Civilisation, published today, Lester Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute, warns that sharp declines in world harvests due to climate change could threaten the world order.
"I am convinced that food is indeed the weak link," he said.
Brown saw Asia as the epicentre of the crisis, with the latest science warning of a sea level rise of up to six feet by 2100. With even a 3ft rise, Bangladesh could lose half of its rice land to rising seas; Vietnam, the world's second largest producer of rice, could also see much of the Mekong Delta under water.
Wheat and rice production would also fall because of acute water shortages, caused by past over-pumping and the melting of the Himalayan glaciers, which currently store water that supplies the region's main rivers: the Indus, Ganges, and Yangtse.
Brown said: "The potential loss of these mountain glaciers in the Himalayas is the most massive projected threat to food security ever seen" .
Global shortfall
People in both the developing and developed worlds will have less to eat by 2050 if climate change is not seriously addressed, though the shortfall will be relatively slight in richer countries. Prices rises and shortages of food will drive down the average calories available:
• The calories available for each person in industrialised nations will fall from 3,450 in 2000 to about 3,200.
• In developing countries overall, the average will fall from 2,696 to 2,410 calories.
• In sub-Saharan Africa, people will on average have only 1,924 calories a day, compared with 2,316 in 2000.

Gordon Brown's $100bn climate aid proposal is 'only first offering'

Minister admits that other rich countries have yet to put money on the table to finance climate compensation and adaptation
John Vidal and David Adam, Wednesday 30 September 2009 17.56 BST
The $100bn from rich countries proposed by Gordon Brown to compensate developing countries and help them adapt to climate change is a first offering in the world climate negotiations, international development secretary Douglas Alexander told a meeting at the Labour party conference in Brighton today. The final offer could be greater, he said.
But he admitted that other rich countries had so far not backed Britain and many needed convincing that a settlement on the funding was necessary to secure a global deal at UN talks in Copenhagen in December. "We are working to get other world leaders to get close to that figure," he said. Brown proposed $100bn a year by 2020.
But as the UN talks proceed in Bankok, Alexander said he was optimistic that developing countries would embrace the figure. Meles Zenawi, the president of Ethiopia, who is leading the African block in the global warming talks, is "very positive", he said.
Alexander was backed by energy and climate secretary Ed Miliband, who said the EU should move its position on the greenhouse gas emission cuts it has proposed and the money it had offered, both of which have been described as "woefully inadequate", by developing countries and charities.
"It is imperative for the world to to come to a deal in December, and not to delay the outcome till next year. There is no plan B, no time for another international meeiing. There is a powerful necessity to seize the moment. If we don't, then I fear the consequences," he said.
He urged negotiators meeting at Bankok this week to not treat the climate talks as a traditional trade meeting. "The future depends on us getting a deal," he said.
But Maria Souviron, Bolivia's ambassador to Britain, said that rich countries not only needed to come up with money but also show real commitment to adopting low carbon economies. "Those producing the harm must be held to account. Developed countries must pay for past, present and future impacts," she said.
"We need real commitment. The money is there. Western countries should start by reducing their spending on arms to pay for climate change," she added.
Melanie Ward, political adviser to Christian Aid, said: "The UK government must exert maximum pressure on the EU and the US if there is to be any hope of reaching afair and effective deal. The EU has offered only €2bn-€15bn, this number must reach at least €35bnannually to deal with devastating impacts of climate change already being seen."
Andy Atkins, director of Friends of the Earth, added: "The UK government has shown leadershiop in putting $100bn on the table, but developing countries need double that amount at least. The rich world has an historic responsibility to make good the damage they have caused."
Separately, a climate scientist warned that the best the world may be able to do is limit global warming to a 4C rise. Kevin Anderson, head of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, said current levels of emissions meant that it was effectively impossible limit warming to the 2C agreed as necessary by the major nations. "If we do everything we can do then we might have a chance of 4C," he told a conference at Oxford University.
Anderson said new research by his group showed that developed nations would have to peak their carbon emissions in 2012 and then reduce them by 3% a year to give a 50% chance of limiting temperature rise to 4C. Developing countries such as China would need to peak by 2030.
To stand a chance of hitting 2C, he said, rich countries would need to peak in 2011 and then reduce by 8% a year. China and others in the developing world would need to peak in 2025 and switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050. "You have to ask whether that is viable," Anderson said.

Piracy, cyber-crime and climate change – bringing NATO and insurance together

At first glance, NATO and Lloyd's of London might seem like strange bedfellows.

By Lord Levene and Anders Fogh RasmussenPublished: 10:31PM BST 30 Sep 2009
Maybe at second glance as well. But both are in the business of anticipating and managing risk: Lloyd's for the businesses and individuals that it insures across the globe and NATO for its 28 member states.
We share a common goal – to adopt a fresh approach to managing risk and three risks in particular: cyber-security, piracy and climate change. These are not entirely new problems. What is new is the scale and the cost.
Dependence on technology has always meant assuming risk – look what happens to a city during a blackout. The reach and penetration of information technology into every aspect of our lives means that when the system goes down, the costs are enormous: for companies that can't operate; for governments that can't provide basic services, including security; for ordinary people who can't take money out of the bank. And if anyone thinks this is scare-mongering, they should look at what happened in Estonia in 2007, when it came under a sustained cyber-attack.
Piracy is something most people associate with history books and Hollywood movies. But it is a real and growing problem. Today, we depend on international shipping much more than we ever did; 80pc of the world's goods move over the seas. One fifth of that passes through the Gulf of Aden, and is at risk every day from pirates.
Today, four ships are being held hostage and 79 people are being held for ransom. The number of attacks has increased by just under a third in the first half of this year alone. All of this has cost businesses and insurers hundreds of millions of dollars so far, and forced countries from around the world to deploy their navies to the area.
Climate change is, of course, the biggest risk of all. Humans have always fought over resources and land. But now we are seeing those pressures on a bigger scale, and at a faster pace, than ever before, as ice caps melt, sea levels rise and populations move. Scarcity of natural resources is set to be a growing security problem.
We believe that the time has come for us to move past analysis and protracted debate. The problems are clear. What we need are solutions. These risks can be managed – but to do so effectively we will need to change the way we have operated until now.
First and foremost, we believe that the time has come for a much more open and more systematic collaboration between government and business when it comes to managing risk. Piracy, cyber-security and climate change have business and political origins – tackling them effectively will mean a partnership between business and government. We have already made a start: industry leaders, including those from Lloyd's, have been involved in the current process to develop NATO's new guiding charter, the Strategic Concept; indeed, the vice-chair of the group is the former chief executive of Shell, Jeroen van der Veer.
Second, we need to invest much more in research and in planning. Experts in industry and in government tend to be better at analysing past patterns than predicting future trends. This needs to change. We must be prepared to think the unthinkable. Lloyd's developed its 360 Risk Insight programme and its Realistic Disaster Scenarios, and NATO its Multiple Futures project, precisely to lift our eyes from the present and scan the horizon for what might be looming.
Third, we need to invest in mitigating risks. From an industry point of view, risk management needs to find its rightful place in the boardroom and businesses need to manage much more effectively the risks that face them. Insurance cannot be seen as a substitute for effective risk management. It can, of course, be part of a businesses approach but if people want to build a home or factory on a fault line, or a flood plain, insurance is likely to cost them more. If they adapt their property to mitigate the danger, then this is likely to be reflected in the cost of insurance cover.
For their part, governments need to do some contingency planning as well; including focusing intelligence assessments on climate change, tasking military planners to incorporate it into their planning as well, and reinforcing all the facilities at risk from storms and floods. They also need to step up their cyber-defences, as NATO has done in creating a deployable cyber-defence capability that can help its members if they come under attack.
Our long-term strategy must be to tackle the causes of these risks – whether it is reducing CO2 emissions, or addressing instability in Somalia – but, for climate change, at least, we have to accept that some of the effects are now irreversible.
We cannot, for the foreseeable future, stop the earth from getting warmer, or eliminate the root causes of piracy, or stop cyber-criminals from launching their botnets and malware. But we can minimise their effects – for industry, and for ordinary people. And the recipe is clear: better planning, wiser investment and stronger collaboration between business and government.
Lord Levene of Portsoken is chairman of Lloyd's of London and Anders Fogh Rasmussen is Secretary General of NATO.

Makers of Ethanol Ponder Alternative

Some ethanol makers, battered by unpredictable profit margins and criticism that production of the corn-based fuel drives up food prices, are being presented with a way out: making biobutanol.
Biofuels entrepreneurs are hoping to snap up idled and financially distressed ethanol plants and convert them to make biobutanol, another plant-based fuel that can be blended into gasoline or used to make plastic products such as water bottles.
Denver-based Gevo Inc., a privately held biofuels start-up, is expected to say Wednesday that it is lining up financing to acquire and retrofit as many as five ethanol plants to produce biobutanol. The company hopes to purchase or partner with plants with capacity to make at least 200 million gallons a year. At going rates for ethanol plants, the total cost of the plants could exceed $125 million, according to industry experts.
Gevo, backed by renewable-energy investors such as Khosla Ventures and the French global energy giant Total SA, says it has successfully retrofitted its first plant, a demonstration project in Missouri, to show it can quickly and cost-effectively convert existing ethanol plants.
Many ethanol makers landed in bankruptcy-court proceedings last year when corn prices rose and gasoline prices dropped.
"We provide a practical way to get into products that have a whole lot more options than ethanol," said Gevo Chief Executive Patrick Gruber.
Gevo isn't alone. Butamax, a joint venture of BP PLC and DuPont Co., is building its first biobutanol facility in Hull, England, and expects to expand production by retrofitting existing ethanol facilities in the U.S., says a BP spokesman.
Made from corn, wheat and a variety of inedible crops, biobutanol is a versatile fuel. It can be blended into gasoline at higher concentrations than the more common corn-based ethanol. It can be mixed into existing petrochemical infrastructure, unlike ethanol, which can't be moved by pipeline. Also unlike ethanol, biobutanol can be converted into a feedstock for the chemical and plastics industries and used to make flat-screen television sets or water bottles.
Adding to its allure, biobutanol is expected to qualify as an option for satisfying large federal-government biofuels mandates, creating an immediate market for the fuel.
"Think of it as a smart biorefinery," says Hans Blaschek, director of the Center for Advanced Bioenergy Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "You are able to utilize more feedstocks and make different products. It's like having a portfolio of stocks versus having a single stock."
Still, there are hurdles. Per bushel of corn, biobutanol yields are lower than ethanol, driving up costs, although Mr. Gruber says biobutanol is likely to be competitive with oil as a plastics-industry ingredient as long as the price of oil is above $45 a barrel. Crude oil closed at $66.71 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Tuesday.
But biobutanol production on an industrial scale is only now being tried, so many assumptions remain untested. "Biobutanol holds significant promise as a next-generation fuel, but at this point there isn't commercial-scale production and it remains to be seen which feedstock and which process will be economically viable," says Todd Alexander, a partner with law firm Chadbourne & Parke LLP, who has handled biofuels financing deals.
Cobalt Biofuels, a biofuels start-up based in the San Francisco Bay area, doesn't plan to buy existing ethanol facilities, which by location will likely rely on crops from nearby farms. This link to agricultural prices is what got ethanol in trouble, says Cobalt Chief Financial Officer Steven Shevick. The company is focused on turning trees and other woody biomass into biobutanol.
Write to Russell Gold at

Interior Department to Approve Seven Renewable-Energy Projects

WASHINGTON -- The Department of the Interior expects to approve seven major, renewable-energy transmission projects on western federal lands by the end of next year, part of the administration's effort to step up use of wind and solar power.
Finding sites for new grid infrastructure has been a major obstacle to the Obama administration's plans to expand renewable-energy production. Many people and local governments oppose placing transmission projects, which help channel electricity generated by renewable-energy sources to consumers, in their backyards, citing environmental, safety and other concerns.
The Interior Department is accelerating the construction of transmission projects on federal lands in an effort to streamline the permitting process, through there are still state, local and other federal regulatory hurdles that companies have to overcome.
"For too long, our nation's electric-transmission policy has been disjointed, fragmented and frankly a low priority across federal agencies," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at a transmission conference on Wednesday.
The projects range from 150 kilovolt to 500 kilovolt lines in Idaho, California and Nevada, including the Barren Ridge, Devers Palo Verde, Hooper Springs, Hemingway Butte, Palisafes-Goshen, and Southwest Intertie projects.
Mr. Salazar said he anticipated the projects – among 30 applications the Bureau of Land Management is processing -- to get permits before the end of next year.
He said a cabinet-level working group on transmission would "very soon" make recommendations for a national, coordinated transmission policy. The group is represented by the Interior, Energy, and Agriculture departments and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Write to Ian Talley at

India promises 12,000% boost in nuclear capacity by 2050

Jeremy Page in Delhi

India announced the world’s boldest nuclear power development plan yesterday, saying that it could boost its atomic capacity by 12,000 per cent by 2050 to end crippling power shortages while limiting carbon emissions.
Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, predicted that India could produce 470 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2050, compared with the 3.8GW currently produced by its 17 reactors.
India’s target is almost five times the current nuclear power capacity of the United States — the world’s biggest producer with 100GW, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
It far outstrips predicted US nuclear capacity in 2050 as well as China’s plans — previously the world’s most ambitious — to increase the power generated by its reactors from the current 9GW to about 300GW by that year.
“Our nuclear industry is poised for a major expansion and there will be huge opportunities for the global nuclear industry,” Dr Singh told an atomic energy conference in Delhi. “This will sharply reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and will be a major contribution to global efforts to combat climate change.”
India also announced yesterday that US companies would be allowed to set up “nuclear parks” at two sites in the states of Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh under a landmark bilateral nuclear deal.
The deal — struck in 2005 but approved by the US Congress only last year — lifts a ban on India buying US nuclear technology and fuel that was imposed after Delhi tested its first nuclear weapon in 1974.
Alan McDonald, an expert on nuclear power at the IAEA, told The Times that before the US deal India had set a target of generating about 270GW of nuclear power by 2050.
He said the new target was roughly in line with the IAEA’s upper estimates up until 2030, but questioned how India would maintain momentum up until 2050.
“That kind of growth for a decade is not unprecedented but maintaining it over four decades is probably a challenge,” he said.
Mr McDonald said that the success of the plan would depend on factors including the cost of nuclear reactors, the price of fossil fuels and international efforts to impose binding caps on carbon emissions.
Many other experts also doubt that India will meet its target given the bureaucratic corruption and inefficiency that has stalled so many other infrastructure projects. Nevertheless, they welcome the Government’s new willingness to outline plans to meet India’s energy needs at the same time as tackling climate change.
India’s total power generation capacity is currently only 150GW — less than a fifth of China’s — and demand outstripped supply by 9.5 per cent between 2008-09, according to the Power Ministry. An estimated 600 million Indians are still not connected to the national grid.
India has long resisted Western pressure to agree to binding cuts on carbon emissions, arguing that it must first generate enough power to serve its 1.1 billion people.
It has recently announced a series of proposals that have wrong-footed Western critics in the run-up to a UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December.
India unveiled the world’s biggest solar power development plan last month, pledging to increase capacity from 0 to 20GW by 2020.
The Government said this month that it was drafting legislation to set non-binding targets for mitigating carbon emissions. It agreed last week to provide annual updates on its progress to the UN.

Infrastructure change ‘will fast-track planning’

Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor
More than 50 of Britain’s biggest energy projects, including wind farms, power stations, gas storage sites and high-voltage transmission lines, could be fast-tracked through the planning system under powers handed to the Government today.
In the biggest shake-up to Britain’s planning regime in 60 years, the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), formally came into existence this month. Its goal will be to slash the time needed to secure planning consent for projects considered to be of national importance from as long as seven years to less than a year.
Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said that Britain’s planning system was not fit for purpose.
“The Fullabrook Down wind farm in Devon took three years to secure planning permission,” he said. “Sizewell B nuclear power station took six years. We are determined to improve the system. Instead of piecemeal decision-making, each application will be decided by the IPC based on a clear statement from Government of our national needs. But the interests of the public will still come first.”
Sir Michael Pitt, a former chairman of NHS South West, will chair the commission and be paid up to £184,000 in the four-day-a-week role. He said that he expected to examine “just over 50” projects by 2011.
Among the first the IPC is likely to examine is a 132,000-volt transmission line in Suffolk from Bramford to Twinstead.
Seven proposed wind farms in Wales, including RWE’s 85-megawatt project at Clocaenog Forest and others at Nant-y-Moch, Coed Morgannwg, Carno and Brechfa Forest, are also likely to fall under the brief of the IPC.
But critics fear the new rules, which were contained in the 2008 Planning Act, will sideline local people and councils and leave the IPC subject to political interference.
Neil Sinden, director of policy at the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, said he had deep concerns about the IPC.
“We will be looking closely at how it works, to see whether it can meet our tests,” he said.
The Government believes the changes are vital to maintaining Britain’s energy supplies and meeting its aim of cutting the country’s carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.
Britain needs to replace about a third of its electricity generating capacity over the next two decades. That will include the construction of vast wind farms and nuclear plants as well as transmission lines.
Under the new rules, eight former planning systems are being replaced by a single process — a move that the Government claims will save the country up to £300 million a year.
The IPC will employ up to 100 people from its base in Bristol and will be overseen by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

EPA Proposes Tough Greenhouse-Gas Rules for Big Industries

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency proposed requiring new power plants, factories and oil refiners to obtain permits to emit so-called greenhouse gases, ratcheting up pressure on Congress to pass comprehensive climate legislation.
The EPA's proposal would effectively require new, large industrial facilities and existing ones undergoing modification to use the most up-to-date technology to curb carbon-dioxide emissions. The announcement came as environmentally minded Senate Democrats vowed to bring a newly unveiled climate bill to a vote before a major international summit on climate change in December.
Other Democratic lawmakers from states dependent on coal and manufacturing jobs said they couldn't support the draft proposal, which calls for cutting U.S. emissions somewhat faster than a similar proposal narrowly approved by the House in June.
"The EPA's ready to work with Congress," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in announcing the proposal. "But we're not going to continue with business as usual while we wait for Congress to act."
Because the federal Clean Air Act limits the EPA's ability to weigh the costs of new regulations, many businesses worry that new EPA rules might be unduly burdensome. To address such concerns, the EPA's proposal would effectively exempt small businesses such as restaurants and farms, applying the rules only to facilities that emit 25,000 tons of greenhouse gases or more a year. A threshold of 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide is comparable to the emissions from the annual energy use of about 2,200 homes, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
"The question is -- is this legal?" said Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association. He said his group is skeptical the EPA would be allowed under current law to distinguish between small and large emitters when setting new controls on greenhouse gases.
Under the EPA proposal, which officials said could take effect as early as next year, new power plants and other large emitters could be denied regulatory permits if they didn't use the most up-to-date technology to curb carbon-dioxide emissions. Similar technology would have to be incorporated into any major upgrades. The EPA is expected to spell out what kinds of controls would qualify in later guidance.
Meanwhile, several key senators said a draft bill designed to fight climate change, announced by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) and John Kerry (D., Mass.), lacked sufficient support to pass the chamber. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D., W.Va.), said the bill's proposal to cut U.S. emissions 20% beneath 2005 levels by 2020 would be "unrealistic and harmful" for his coal-abundant state. Other lawmakers said the chamber's focus on health-care legislation was straining their ability to examine the measure.
The climate-change issue also is dividing industry. Nike Inc. said Wednesday it was resigning a seat on the board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, citing disagreement with the group's stance against proposed climate-change legislation. But the company said it planned to remain a member of the chamber. A chamber spokesman said its position "reflects the diversity of its membership and the broad business community."—Stephen Power contributed to this article.
Write to Siobhan Hughes at and Ian Talley at

Insiders predict China could beat US to cap-and-trade launch

Senior executives in the carbon market predict China will announce plans for a national emissions trading scheme at Copenhagen. From, part of the Guardian Environment Network
China could announce the launch of an emissions cap-and-trade scheme as early as the Copenhagen climate talks in December, according to a senior figure in the carbon market currently working closely with the Chinese government.
Speaking at The Carbon Show in London today, Philippe Chauvancy, director at climate exchange BlueNext, said that the announcement last week that it is to develop China's first standard for voluntary emission reduction projects alongside the government-backed China Beijing Environmental Exchange, could lay the foundations for a voluntary cap-and-trade scheme.
He added that Chinese officials were mostly committed to the idea of a national cap-and-trade scheme and could move quickly over the next few months.
"I believe during Copenhagen you'll see the Chinese and the Americans making a statement on cap and trade," he said.
Chauvancy added that he expected the US to have a national cap-and-trade system up and running in the next two years, but that China could yet beat it to the punch. "I really think China might even get there first," he said. "They have the money, the resources and the will to do it."
He argued that the widely held perception that China was not taking action on climate change was entirely outdated, insisting that the government was fully committed to tackling the issue.
Other delegates at the show agreed China was better positioned to roll out a carbon trading scheme quickly.
Patrick Birley, chief executive of the European Climate Exchange, pointed out that anti-regulation lobbyists in Washington could significantly hamper current efforts to push through cap-and-trade legislation. "China has the ability to impose caps pretty quickly," he observed. "Washington politics are almost designed to slow the process and there will be plenty of lobbying against."
But Mark Kenber, policy director at The Climate Group, said that a powerful counter-lobby was building in the US with growing numbers of businesses in favour of tough action to tackle climate change. "I'd be very surprised if China had a mandatory system in place before the US," he said. "If you look at the industries in America, they're really started waking up to the opportunities offered by new markets."

Senate Democrats unveil climate bill calling for a 20% cut in emissions

Leading senators say ambitious climate change bill will give America a chance to reclaim its energy independence
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, Wednesday 30 September 2009 19.27 BST
Democratic leaders took on the epic challenge of getting the US Senate to act on global warming today with the formal unveiling of a bill proposing an ambitious 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions.
Senate Democrats turned out in strength for today's launch, which was seen at home and abroad as a crucial moment for advancing Barack Obama's agenda.
But the difficulties ahead were underscored by the senators' deep reluctance to use the words 'climate change' — even in the title of the bill, which is called the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.
Instead, senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer couched their bill as a chance for America to reclaim its energy independence by reducing oil imports.
"This is a security bill that puts Americans back in charge of our energy future," said Kerry. "It is our country's defence against the harms of pollution and the security risks of global climate change."
Today's bill sets out a more ambitious target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions than the 17% cut from 2005 levels by 2020 passed by the House of Representatives in June.
The draft would push for a 20% reduction from 2005 levels by 2020 and an 83% reduction by 2050.
The targets appear chosen for their resonance with European and Asian leaders.
International negotiators have been looking to America to demonstrate commitment to action on climate change ahead of a meeting at Copenhagen in December cast by the United Nations as a last chance to avoid catastrophic warming.
Otherwise, the bill appeared constructed according to advice of pollsters, which have regularly advised Democrats to cloak climate change action in the language of green job creation and national security.
In a summary released today, Kerry and Boxer said their bill was aimed at "putting America back in control of our energy future, reasserting American economic leadership and competitiveness, protecting our families from pollution, and ensuring our national security".
They began by laying out $10bn (£6.3bn) over 10 years for research into carbon capture technology and for pledging a greater role for nuclear power in America's energy mix.
The summary promised "robust border measures" against states which do not act to cut carbon emissions, presumably China and India.
It also sought to downplay the significance of its emissions cuts, arguing that fewer than 2% of American businesses would be affected.
"The system applies only to the largest polluters in the country - initially around 7,500 facilities that account for nearly three-quarters of US carbon pollution. Over 98% of American businesses, including farmers, are not covered by this programme," the summary said.
Despite such manoeuvring, it is far from clear that the Senate will be able to pivot from its battles over healthcare to climate change and make significant progress before the Copenhagen meeting.
The 800-page draft bill, which is still being worked on, is almost certain to undergo significant changes in the coming weeks with Democrats struggling to build support even from within their own ranks.
"Complex processes are part and parcel of passing major legislation," Tony Kreindler of the Environmental Defence Fund said. "The most important thing is that the draft be taken for what it is: a starting point that Senators can work with, tailor and pass."
Republicans, who are expected to largely oppose the bill, organised their own counter-press conference today.

Greenpeace blocks 2nd Canada oil sands operation

Reuters, Thursday October 1 2009
* Greenpeace blocked conveyors in Suncor mine
* Move aimed at highlighting impact on climate change
* Company expects only minor production impact
* Some protesters arrested away from Suncor site (Adds Greenpeace ends blockade after 10 hours, paragraph 2)
By Scott Haggett and Jeffrey Jones
CALGARY, Alberta, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Environmental activists said on Wednesday they canoed into Suncor Energy Inc's Alberta oil sands operation, blocking equipment in a second protest action in as many weeks aimed at disrupting crude production.
Greenpeace said 23 of its activists entered Canada's second-largest oil sands operation, stopping conveyor belts that carry bitumen from the mine to an upgrading plant that processes the tar-like crude into light oil. They ended the blockade after about 10 hours, the group said later in a press release.
The move, part of a long-running campaign against production from what Greenpeace refers to as "tar sands," is the second this month.
Two weeks ago, protesters chained themselves to equipment at Royal Dutch Shell's oil sands mine as they sought to highlight what they view as excessive greenhouse gas emissions from the region's oil production operations.
"We came here to send a message and we want to make sure that message is heard," said Jessica Wilson, a Greenpeace spokeswoman, who was among the protesters at the Suncor site.
"This is all a push towards (climate talks in) Copenhagen to encourage world leaders to come to a strong climate deal that includes shutting down the tar sands."
Wilson and nine other protesters, including Greenpeace Executive Director Bruce Cox, were arrested by Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Wednesday away from the Suncor site, she said in an e-mail message.
The activists who were in the mine were still on the conveyor late in the day, however.
Suncor officials said production at the 300,000 barrel a day operation, located north of the oil sands hub of Fort McMurray, Alberta, was continuing and the company expected the action to have only a minor impact on its operations.
"We have taken a number of steps to protect the safety of not only the activists but our workers at the site," said Sneh Seetal, a spokeswoman for Suncor, Canada's largest energy company. "That includes increasing security, notifying employees and contractors at the site and continuing to extend our offer to discuss oil sands development with Greenpeace and all credible stakeholders."
Greenpeace's Wilson said the group's canoes and kayaks were followed down the Athabasca River by a company motorboat that became stuck on a sandbank, but security had not otherwise interfered with the protesters' landing.
Two weeks ago, Greenpeace activists chained themselves to a a mining shovel and dump truck at Shell's nearby mine, a protest timed to coincide with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.
Shell temporarily halted production at the mine.
Greenpeace ended that demonstration after about a day, and its activists faced no charges. (Editing by Rob Wilson)

Google working on "smart" plug-in hybrid charging

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Google is in the early stages of looking at ways to write software that would fully integrate plug-in hybrid vehicles to the power grid, minimize strain on the grid and help utilities manage vehicle charging load.
"We are doing some preliminary work," said Dan Reicher, Google's director of Climate Change and Energy Initiatives. "We have begun some work on smart charging of electric vehicles and how you would integrate large number of electric vehicles into the grid successfully."
"We have done a little bit of work on the software side looking at how you would write a computer code to manage this sort of charging infrastructure," he said in an interview on the sidelines of an industry conference.
Google, known for its Internet search engine, in 2007 announced a program to test Toyota Prius and Ford Escape gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles that were converted to rechargeable plug-in hybrids that run mostly on electricity.
One of the experimental technologies that was being tested by the Web search giant allowed parked plug-ins to transfer stored energy back to the electric grid, opening a potential back-up source of power for the system in peak hours.
Google has pushed ahead in addressing climate change issues as a philanthropic effort through its arm.
Reicher said Google has been testing its fleet of plug-in hybrids "pretty intensely" for the last couple of years.
"One of the great things about plug-ins is this great opportunity for the first time to finally have a storage technology," he said
Reicher said the company is trying to figure out how to manage the impact of having millions of future electric vehicle owners plugging in their vehicles at the same time.
"We got to be careful how we manage these things," he said. "On a hot day in July when 5 million Californians come home, you don't want them all plugging in at the same moment."
Reicher laid out a scenario where power utilities, during a time of high demand, could turn on or off the charging of electric vehicles. The owner of these vehicles, who have agreed to such an arrangement, would get a credit from the utility in turn.
"The grid operators may well be indifferent to either putting 500 megawatts of new generation on or taking 500 megawatts off," he said. "The beauty of plug-in vehicles is that with the right software behind them, you could manage their charging."
Apart from plug-in hybrids, Google also is working on other green technologies such as developing its own new mirror technology that could reduce the cost of building solar thermal plants by a quarter or more, and looking at gas turbines that would run on solar power rather than natural gas.
The often-quirky company also said in late 2007 that it would invest in companies and do research of its own to produce affordable renewable energy -- at a price less than burning coal -- within a few years, casting the move as a philanthropic effort to address climate change.

International Power buys wind farm

Date: Wednesday 30 Sep 2009
LONDON (ShareCast) - International Power is to buy AIM PowerGen Corporation, one of Canada's largest independent wind farm developers, from Renewable Energy Generation Limited for an enterprise value of C$189m( £109m), with a total cash consideration of C$119m million (£69m). The AIM portfolio is concentrated in Ontario, with 40MW of wind farms in operation and 40MW under construction (the Harrow project) which is on plan for completion in the first half of 2010. Philip Cox, CEO of International Power, said, "This acquisition adds a high-quality wind portfolio of operational and development assets, with an experienced development team, to our North American business. It represents an excellent opportunity for International Power to establish a platform for future growth in the attractive Canadian renewables sector."

Sting (and other celebrities of a certain age) send out a rainforest SOS

Why is it that campaigns such as The Prince's Rainforest Project can't seem to attract anyone younger with global appeal?
Save the rainforests. Most sane people would agree it makes sense. But how do we go about deterring those who still make a living firing up chainsaws and carving their way through some of the most diverse, yet endangered habitats on the planet?
The Prince's Rainforest Project, the charity set up by Prince Charles two years ago to halt the destruction of the world's rainforests, thinks the best way is to put extreme pressure on the politicians meeting in Copenhagen for the COP15 climate negotiations in December so they work out a way to make rainforests more valuable alive than dead. This week, the project is launching a campaign called Rainforest SOS to encourage as many people as possible around the world to text their name and a short message in support of a deal.
And what do you get when you combine rainforests with "sending out an SOS"? Yes, Sting. The rainforest campaigner and world-famous musician is fronting the campaign with a short video message urging us to send our views on the matter to politicians in the form of a quick text. (The days of delivering ream after ream of signatures to the doorstep of 10 Downing Street don't exactly chime with our environmentally conscious times, not least for a cause which is urging us not to cut down trees.)
As you do with these sorts of things, you call on your mates for support. So we have stars of a certain age and demographic lending their names to the prince's highly commendable cause: Harrison Ford, Joanna Lumley, Stephen Fry, David Attenborough, Robin Williams, Pelé, Richard Branson, Daniel Craig, Rod Stewart, Billy Connolly, Vivienne Westwood, Olivia Newton-John, Richard E Grant and, of course, Sting.
And, yes, as is also standard with these sorts of things, we have a host of corporate sponsors, including Tesco. (Would that be the same Tesco accused, along with other supermarkets, in a recent Greenpeace report of selling meat linked to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest?)
Let's hope the campaign does the job of forcing deforestation up the agenda at the make-or-break climate conference. Is it really as easy as sending a text, though? I suppose – as Tesco likes us to say – every little helps.
But it would have been nice to see a campaign with a more youthful edge to it. Given that the vast majority of text messages are sent by people aged under 35, can't anyone have been found younger than Daniel Craig – aged 41 – to lend their name and fame to the campaign? And while Sting has a long track record when it comes to rainforest campaigning, there's little point denying that he and his wife Trudie Styler have a reputation for rubbing some people up the wrong way when it comes to proselytising their own brand of environmentalism. (For proof, see Marina Hyde's memorable exchange with Trudie Styler earlier this year.)
One wonders similar thoughts, too, when viewing the trailer for the music video (free to download tomorrow) being used to front the "TckTckTck" climate change campaign organised by a broad coalition of NGOs, such as WWF, Greenpeace,, Amnesty and Oxfam. Midnight Oil's 1987 hit, Beds are Burning, has been rerecorded with new climate change-orientated lyrics (it was originally a protest song about Aboriginal land rights in Australia) by a Band Aid-style collection of musicians from around the world. But, again, let's look at who turned up for the recording session: Duran Duran, The Scorpions, Bob Geldof, Marion Cotillard and Youssou N'dour are, perhaps, the better known of the 55 acts taking part. (Midnight Oil's Peter Garrett says he supports the project but says, as Australia's environment minister, he won't take part.)
Why is it that these campaigns can't seem to attract anyone younger with global appeal? If you're heading up a campaign with youthful pleas to "text in" or "download now", then surely you need to use the services of artists who are bagging number ones today rather than a generation ago? OK, maybe I'm being a bit harsh – the record is also graced by the presence of Lily Allen, Fergie, Klaxons, and Mark Ronson – but why aren't they making more of these names in the publicity rather than, say, the Scorpions?

Call for research into pesticides implicated in deaths of honeybees

The Co-operative wants research into impact of neonicotinoid group of pesticides as UK premieres film Vanishing of the Bees
Alison Benjamin, Thursday 1 October 2009 00.05 BST
Campaigners today called on the government to commission research into pesticides that have been implicated in the death of billions of honeybees worldwide.
The Co-Operative wants the government to fund research into the impact of the neonicotinoid group of pesticides which the company has prohibited on its farms until it is proved they do not harm honeybees.
The call comes on the day of the UK premiere of the film Vanishing of the Bees, which explores the mysterious disappearance of honeybee colonies which are a vital pollinator of crops.
A number of culprits including parasitic mites, viruses, lack of nutritious food sources and pesticides have been blamed for the dramatic declines in honeybees. In the US more than a third have been wiped out each year since 2006/07, and close on a third perished in the UK last year.
Paul Monaghan, head of social goals at the Co-Op, said: "Neonicotinoids has been linked to honeybee declines elsewhere in Europe and that is why they have been restricted in Germany, France, Italy and Slovenia. However, very little independent research into their effects on bees has been carried out in the UK."
Earlier this year the government along with other funders, including the Wellcome Trust, put aside £10m to be used on pollinator research, but none of the money has been directed at the effects of pesticides. In June an influential committee of MPs warned that government risked diluting research into the problem.
"We want the government to carry out a systematic review of the impact these pesticides are having on the wellbeing of honeybees," said Monaghan.
Until this happens, the Co-Op has awarded £100,000 of its own money to a UK university, that it is unwilling to name, to carry out an independent review.
Wildlife charity Buglife, together with the Soil Association and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, has called for a temporary ban on neonicotinoids and for a review to assess their harm to pollinators following its recent review of current research which showed that the pesticides may damage populations of bees.
But the government insists there is no evidence that the pesticides "pose an unacceptable risk to the health of bees". A Defra spokesman said that a key part of the authorisation process for pesticides was an assessment of risks to foraging bees and bee hives. Studies conducted in the field monitor the impacts on honeybees confined to tents and exposed to flowering crops of maize, oilseed rape and sunflowers grown from seed treated with pesticides in excess of the UK approved application rate. No significant differences in bee behaviour or mortality were reported in treated and untreated crops, he said.
Matt Shardlow, chief executive of Buglife , said its research questioned the approval process. New rules to limit the use of pesticides were last week passed by EU ministers, which could remove up to a fifth of currently approved pesticides from the market. The UK government, which voted against the regulation, said it is unlikely these will include neonicotinoids.

More green investment, less spending on polluting practices

Green space, health and economic development are proved to be linked – this is where the money should be spent
John Vidal
The Guardian, Wednesday 30 September 2009

Switching public spending from "grey" projects such as roads and airports, to "green" schemes such as parks, tree planting and allotments, would not just save the government billions of pounds, improve health, and cut climate emissions, but it would create jobs and make British cities more attractive.
The analysis comes from two groups of government advisers, Natural England and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, and is supported by evidence from other countries. It shows that where cuts are made in those areas that add to pollution, waste and ill health, and money is invested instead in projects that save energy, improve health and reduce waste, the benefits are seen quickly.
For instance, the £10.2bn budgeted by central government for road building in Britain this year will increase traffic and emissions and leave the public purse to clean up the pollution and waste. Just half of that money would pay for a new park in every local authority. Equally, the £1.28bn set aside for widening the M25 by a single lane would benefit drivers by perhaps a few seconds a journey, but it would buy and maintain more than 3m new street trees.
Councils have bid more than £4bn this year for local road schemes, most of which will have marginal social benefits. That money could be invested in commuity gardens and urban farming, which have been shown to improve health and encourage exercise.
There is now a proven relationship between green space, health and economic development. Yet local authorities spend less than £20 a year per person on trees, parks, gardens, allotments, woodlands, rivers and waterways, which together provide clean air and water and enrich their citizens' quality of life.
The NHS is responsible for more than 18m tonnes of CO2 a year. If it invests in energy saving, it will not just save itself great sums in future as costs inevitably rise, it will help to avoid a catastrophe as diseases spread further and droughts, floods and heatwaves increase. Every year that addressing climate change is delayed, the public costs rise.
Government figures show that road traffic has increased 25% in the past 15 years, at the same time as obesity and public health costs have soared. Research also shows that where people have direct contact with the environment via animals, plants or landscapes, they more likely to be mentally and physically healthy. Hospital patients with views of trees rather than of brick walls stay in hospitals for far less time.
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New York Times columnist thinks Red China is now Green China. Oh really?

Thomas Friedman may have been too busy sipping tea with technocrats than beathing polluted air in Shanxi and Beijing
How green is China? Seems an odd thing to ask on the eve of a huge anniversary of red communist power. But, according to Thomas Friedman, the matter is settled.
The author and New York Times columnist argued this week that the most important global development of the past 18 months was that Red China became Green China.
Now I read Friedman's columns and most of the time I am struck with admiration and envy at his ability to provoke and convince. But I suspect he has spent too long sipping tea with Dalian's technocrats and not enough time breathing the air in Shanxi, Henan and Beijing.
The politburo's decision to promote clean energy, he argues, is the 21st century equivalent of the Soviet Union's 1957 launch of Sputnik, which convinced the United States that it was falling behind in missile technology.
China's renewable energy promotion policies are impressive and – if developed further – could transform the balance of power in the world. Friedman is absolutely right to prod the US to respond. But colour-coding such a big and diverse country is not so simple.
Industrially, China is predominantly black and will remain so for decades. Coal consumption has grown as fast as renewable energy. Despite a huge investment in wind, solar and hydro, China continues to depend on coal for 70% of its power. Despite gains in the efficiency of thermal power stations, the country's carbon emissions are the highest in the world and will probably double again in the next 20 years.
Environmentally, China has never been greyer. In the current surge of urbanisation and dam building, billions of tonnes of concrete have been poured onto farm fields and into rivers. A surge in car ownership has added to the haze that obscures the skies in most cities for much of the year.
And politically, China remains uncompromisingly red in ways that will be all too evident tomorrow when PLA tanks and missiles parade past Mao's portrait in Tiananmen Square for the 60th anniversary of Communist party rule.
Yes, there will be splashes of green and not just because of the military uniforms. Twice as many trees are being planted in China as the rest of the world put together. But the same country is also importing far more illegally logged timber than anywhere else.
All of which is to say, Beijing is doing great things for the environment. But it also continues to join wealthy nations in doing even more damage.
Perhaps a "Green China" can emerge from the haze to lead a low-carbon revolution. I certainly hope so. But for the moment, the country is too big, too fast-changing and too uncertain to paint into a corner, or a colour.

Water worries threaten U.S. push for natural gas

Reuters, Thursday October 1 2009
By Jon Hurdle
PAVILLION, Wyoming, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Louis Meeks, a burly 59-year-old alfalfa farmer, fills a metal trough with water from his well and watches an oily sheen form on the surface which gives off a faint odor of paint.
He points to small bubbles that appear in the water, and a thin ring of foam around the edge.
Meeks is convinced that energy companies drilling for natural gas in this central Wyoming farming community have poisoned his water and ruined his health.
A recent report by the Environmental Protection Agency suggests he just might have a case -- and that the multi-billion dollar industry may have a problem on its hands. EPA tests found his well contained what it termed 14 "contaminants of concern."
It tested 39 wells in the Pavillion area this year, and said in August that 11 were contaminated. The agency did not identify the cause but said gas drilling was a possibility.
What's happened to the water supply in Pavillion could have repercussions for the nation's energy policies. As a clean-burning fuel with giant reserves in the United States, natural gas is central to plans for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
But aggressive development is drawing new scrutiny from residents who live near gas fields, even in energy-intensive states such as Wyoming, where one in five jobs are linked to oil and gas which contributed $15 billion the state economy in 2007.
People living near gas drilling facilities in states including Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming have complained that their water has turned cloudy, foul-smelling, or even black as a result of chemicals used in a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."
The industry contends drilling chemicals are heavily diluted and injected safely into gas reservoirs thousands of feet beneath aquifers, so they will never seep into drinking water supplies.
"There has never been a documented case of fracking that's contaminated wells or groundwater," said Randy Teeuwen, a spokesman for EnCana Corp, Canada's second-largest energy company, which operates 248 wells in the Pavillion and nearby Muddy Ridge fields.
"We know they don't have the science to prove what they say," Teeuwen said of those who criticize fracking.
Critics say their kids have got sick, their animals have died, and their water has in some cases become flammable because of methane escaped into aquifers from gas wells.
But they have been unable to prove their case because drilling companies are not required to disclose exactly what chemicals they use, thanks to an exemption to a federal clean water law granted to the oil and gas industry in 2005.
The EPA, in its first tests in response to concerns over gas drilling and water quality, has not positively identified the source of the Pavillion contamination but it did name gas drilling as a possible cause. The agency is continuing its tests and expects to issue a report in spring 2010.
Luke Chavez, an EPA scientist leading the investigation, said he will now seek to determine the quantities of a range of contaminants and their health effects.
"We're taking a shotgun approach," he said.
In Pavillion, residents are on edge. Meeks' neighbor Donnet Baughman said she does not mind companies drilling for gas in her backyard, as long as it doesn't poison her water.
"We are not against the oil and gas industry at all," she said during an interview in her living room. "We just want them to do it right."
Baughman's water was clean, according to the EPA tests, but she is uneasy with the findings since she has a gas separation tank about 50 yards (metres) from her house, and some of her neighbors, including Meeks, were found to have bad water.
Three wells in the EPA's sample contained 2-BE, a potentially carcinogenic substance that's used as a lubricant in drilling, and in some household cleaning products.
Stung by grassroots complaints, and by a bill in Congress that would require disclosure of fracking chemicals, the industry says it is using the latest technology to keep fracking safe.
At the Frenchie Draw drilling rig 60 miles (100 km) east of Pavillion, EnCana workers used automated machinery to join 30-foot (9-metre) lengths of pipe and insert them into a new well, which extends 11,135 feet (3,394 metres) below ground.
The steel pipe can withstand pressure up to 9,800 pounds per square inch. It is encased in concrete to 2,500 feet (762 metres), well below aquifers, said John Schmidt, an EnCana field leader.
The pipes allow EnCana to inject a fracking fluid of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into the gas-bearing rock.
At specific depths identified by geologists, the pipe is perforated with small holes by controlled explosions. The fracking mixture then breaks up the rock, allowing natural gas to rush to the surface.
About 70 percent of the water mixture remains underground, while the rest is pumped back up and later re-injected into 10,000-foot (3,000-metre) disposal wells, Schmidt said. In 2010, EnCana plans to start treating and reusing the water.
Despite the industry's precautions, spills of fracking fluids occur.
On Sept. 25, Pennsylvania regulators ordered Cabot Oil & Gas Corp to halt fracking operations in one county after it admitted three recent spills of fracking fluid.
In Pavillion, Meeks said he suffers pulmonary hypertension and neuropathy in his legs. "They have ruined my life," he said. "I would like to get out of here."
He said EnCana stopped supplying him free drinking water this month, after he publicly opposed fracking practices.
"They are trying to punish me," Meeks said. "I'm a thorn in their side."
Half a mile from Meeks' house, across a valley dotted with gas wells, separation tanks and compressor stations, Rhonda Locker, 48, said she stopped drinking her water after it "went bad" in the early 1990s.
She started drinking it again about five years ago after installing a reverse-osmosis filter, but within six months started having seizures, bone pain, and cognitive problems.
Frustrated by not knowing what was causing her illness, she tried again in early September to drink the water, and experienced the same symptoms.
"It's like you have the flu every day," Locker said.
Locker, who has two gas wells within 500 feet of her house, said she has been diagnosed with a neurological disorder, which her doctors have failed to pin on any particular cause, but which she blames on a history of drinking the water.
Locker also suspects water contamination is to blame for her 26-year-old daughter's termination of three pregnancies, and for liver disease in her 24-year-old son.
In a shed outside, Locker's husband Jeff, a 56-year-old farmer, removed the filter from the reverse-osmosis mechanism that cleans their water sufficiently for bathing, revealing a cylinder turned jet black by the incoming well water. Like many of their neighbors, they drink only bottled water.
The Lockers considered selling up but decided they couldn't bear to leave their home of 25 years. They fear the value of their home has been undermined by water contamination, a concern echoed by Meeks, who said he had been informed by a realtor that his home is now worthless.
A sense of helplessness is leading some Pavillion residents to consider legal action against EnCana, said John Fenton, 37.
"We are not the kind of people who sue people," said Fenton, whose water is also contaminated. "For the first time in my life, I'm giving some serious thought to it."
But many are restrained by the knowledge that energy is the lifeblood of Wyoming, said Deb Thomas of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, an environmental group that has been an outspoken critic of gas drilling.
"It's the only economy our state has," she said. "Nobody wants to kill the golden calf."