Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Sun Biofuels to Employ 1500 People in Kisarawe

29 March 2010

Dar Es Salaam — Sun Biofuels, a British firm that has invested in jatropha plantations in Tanzania, envisages offering full time employment to 1,500 Tanzanians in its jatropha biofuel project at Kisarawe.
Of the 1,500 people, 400 are already in the full time employment with the rest being taken in gradually as the project advances within the next four years.

Sun Biofuels Tanzania General Manager, Peter Auge said in Dar es Salaam over the weekend that the main beneficiaries of the employment will be residents from 11 villages bordering the project in the district.
He, however, said that it was not compulsory that all the 1500 people must come from the 11 villages, noting that some few skilled workers might be outsourced from other places.
The company Human Resources Manager, Mr Mohamed Tembo, said some people were furnishing wrong information pretending to come from the villages. "We later discovered that some were coming from far places."
According to Mtamba Village leader Mr Hamisi Lugalaba, employment to the villagers will better their lives as well as support government effort to conserve the environment through reduction of charcoal burning, the major income generating activity of people at the district.
Sun Biofuels Chief Executive Officer, Mr Richard Morgan said a total 287m/- has already been paid as compensation to individual villagers, with some villagers allegedly receiving as high as 23m/-.

Energy Efficiency Gaining Traction in Asia

More Asian companies need to follow the example of Philippine shopping-mall operator SM Prime Holdings, says columnist Dennis Posadas
By Dennis Posadas

As Filipinos get ready for the summer months, most people who cannot afford to go on vacation just hide away in air-conditioned shopping malls. The problem is, with the lack of rain recently, cooling those buildings is going to be a major challenge. Because of the poor weather, many of the hydroelectric plants in the Philippines have not been operating at full capacity; therefore Mindanao and other islands are experiencing power shortages.
So this is a problem for those whose business depends on a steady supply of electricity, like the shopping malls that so many Filipinos patronize. The biggest of these mall operators, SM Prime Holdings (SMPH:PM), operates 36 malls in the Philippines and three more in the Chinese cities of Xiamen, Jinjiang, and Chengdu. All told, SM Prime has 4.9 million square meters of floor space that it needs to keep air-conditioned.
That uses up a lot of energy, so SM started making its malls energy efficient as far back as 1998, a company spokesperson said in an e-mail response to questions. SM says it has spent more than $6 million to replace older, less energy-efficient equipment. Smart climate controls for air-conditioning (to compensate for fluctuating energy demand during night and day) have allowed SM to save more than 50 million kilowatt-hours a year. Green and sustainable design methods, including the replacement of older incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lamps, the use of skylights, and the use of foliage are some of the methods it uses to cut energy consumption. For 17 of its larger SM Supermalls with the energy-efficient air-conditioning systems, it estimates the savings at 67,165 megawatt-hours. Using 2007 as a baseline, the company was able to save 18,584 megawatt-hours in 2008 with an equivalent CO2 reduction of 15,000 metric tons.
More companies in Asia need to follow SM's lead in focusing on ways to use energy more efficiently. Renewable energy, with its images of wind turbines, seems to bring to life the romance of the lead character from Miguel de Cervantes's novel Don Quixote. But one cannot say the same of renewable energy's close but less sexy cousin, energy efficiency.
Efficiency Power Plants
One concept that may help explain it to laypersons is the "efficiency power plant." An efficiency power plant is a visualization of savings in power capacity from energy savings. That is a useful concept, considering how most laypersons struggle to conceptualize energy efficiency, which—unlike the popular images of renewable energy—doesn't easily call to mind images of wind turbines and solar farms. Nevertheless energy efficiency, like its more popular cleantech cousin, is enjoying an increased attractiveness for loans and investments in Asia.
There are still conceptual hurdles to overcome. A lot of industrial customers don't focus on energy efficiency projects because they view such projects as infrastructure, not savings. Sometimes companies that are given newer, more efficient electric motors still choose not to use them, saying the less efficient motors are still working just fine.
To encourage more local banks to lend for implementing energy efficiency projects, there should be a concerted effort to explain the benefits of energy efficiency to them. William Beloe is with the Sustainability Energy Financing program of the International Finance Corp. (IFC) in Manila. The IFC is the World Bank's private-sector finance arm. "We see ourselves as more of a catalyst," Beloe said, citing the IFC's strategy of supporting climate-change adaptation and mitigation efforts.
One of the IFC's initiatives is the Small Power Utility Group. Many of these small utilities are typically off-grid, and are normally the domain of governments. The IFC is trying to move these types of utilities, which are ideal for renewable energy, to the private sector. On energy efficiency, Beloe says the main issue is awareness. "It requires millions of decisions to make an impact," he says.

Hundreds of wind turbine jobs for Tyneside?

Published Date: 30 March 2010
By Paul Clifford
HUNDREDS of jobs could be created in the North East through a new £80m wind turbine factory.
German manufacturing giant Siemens have announced the offshore production facility could be built in Tyneside or Humberside. The move would create about 700 jobs in the factory and a further 1,500 in the supply chain. Siemens said it is working closely with regional development agencies, and the new turbines could be running by 2015 to meet future demand for renewable energy in the UK. Peter Loscher, president and chief executive of Siemens, said: "With the new wind turbine production plant in the UK, we're pushing ahead with our strategy of investments in attractive growth markets for eco-friendly technology. "In the foreseeable future, the wind power market in the UK will be characterised by major offshore projects, and we'll extend our market leadership with the new production plant." Andreas Goss, the firm's chief executive in the UK, said: "The new Siemens wind turbine factory will create about 700 new local jobs once it is in production, as well as additional indirect jobs in the supply chain. "With the anticipated growth in the renewables market, there is potential for expansion of the facility in the future. "This £80m investment, plus additional investment in our UK infrastructure for renewables, will provide a much-needed economic boost for the region, as well as driving growth in the UK's innovative wind power industry." Siemens has said the new factory will be built on the banks of whichever river attracts the most investment – the Tyne or the Humber. North East regional minister Nick Brown has given his backing to a factory on Tyneside. The Newcastle East and Wallsend MP said: "I think our ports and facilities here are a great offer and I look forward to a bid from North East England. "We have already attracted offshore wind turbines here and we have room in the region for more. "Our case is very strong, we will continue to back it, and we will leave no potential support unexplored."

Ocean acidification: the “evil twin of global warming”

30 03 2010
From the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies James Cook University
“Evil twin” threatens world’s oceans, scientists warn

The rise in human emissions of carbon dioxide is driving fundamental and dangerous changes in the chemistry and ecosystems of the world’s oceans, international marine scientists warned today.
“Ocean conditions are already more extreme than those experienced by marine organisms and ecosystems for millions of years,” the researchers say in the latest issue of the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TREE).
“This emphasises the urgent need to adopt policies that drastically reduce CO2 emissions.”
Ocean acidification, which the researchers call the ‘evil twin of global warming’, is caused when the CO2 emitted by human activity, mainly burning fossil fuels, dissolves into the oceans. It is happening independently of, but in combination with, global warming.
“Evidence gathered by scientists around the world over the last few years suggests that ocean acidification could represent an equal – or perhaps even greater threat – to the biology of our planet than global warming,” co-author Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland says.
More than 30% of the CO2 released from burning fossil fuels, cement production, deforestation and other human activities goes straight into the oceans, turning them gradually more acidic.
“The resulting acidification will impact many forms of sea life, especially organisms whose shells or skeletons are made from calcium carbonate, like corals and shellfish. It may interfere with the reproduction of plankton species which are a vital part of the food web on which fish and all other sea life depend,” he adds.
The scientists say there is now persuasive evidence that mass extinctions in past Earth history, like the “Great Dying” of 251 million years ago and another wipeout 55 million years ago, were accompanied by ocean acidification, which may have delivered the deathblow to many species that were unable to cope with it.
“These past periods can serve as great lessons of what we can expect in the future, if we continue to push the acidity the ocean even further” said lead author, Dr. Carles Pelejero, from ICREA and the Marine Science Institute of CSIC in Barcelona, Spain.
“Given the impacts we see in the fossil record, there is no question about the need to immediately reduce the rate at which we are emitting carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” he said further.
“Today, the surface waters of the oceans have already acidified by an average of 0.1 pH units from pre-industrial levels, and we are seeing signs of its impact even in the deep oceans”, said co-author Dr. Eva Calvo, from the Marine Science Institute of CSIC in Barcelona, Spain.
“Future acidification depends on how much CO2 humans emit from here on – but by the year 2100 various projections indicate that the oceans will have acidified by a further 0.3 to 0.4 pH units, which is more than many organisms like corals can stand”, Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg says.
“This will create conditions not seen on Earth for at least 40 million years”.
“These changes are taking place at rates as much as 100 times faster than they ever have over the last tens of millions of years” Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg says.
Under such circumstances “Conditions are likely to become very hostile for calcifying species in the north Atlantic and Pacific over the next decade and in the Southern Ocean over the next few decades,” the researchers warn.
Besides directly impacting on the fishing industry and its contribution to the human food supply at a time when global food demand is doubling, a major die-off in the oceans would affect birds and many land species and change the biology of Earth as a whole profoundly, Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg adds.
Palaeo-perspectives on ocean acidification by Carles Pelejero, Eva Calvo and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg is published in the latest issue of the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TREE), number 1232

Oil conglomerate 'secretly funds climate change deniers'

An oil conglomerate has allegedly spent nearly £16.5 million ($25 million) on campaigns to discredit climate change and clean energy policies, according to a new report.

Tom Leonard, in New York Published: 9:31PM BST 30 Mar 2010
Koch Industries, which is owned and run by two Kansas-based brothers and has substantial oil and chemicals interests, spent the sum between 2005 and 2008 to finance "organisations of the 'climate denial machine'", claims the environmental campaign group Greenpeace.
Despite the relatively small size of the conglomerate, the sum is three times that spent by ExxonMobil, the western world's biggest oil company, in the same period.

A Greenpeace investigation also claimed that between 2006 and 2009, the company and its owners - Charles and David Koch - spent £25.3 million ($37.9 million) on direct lobbying on oil and energy issues.
According to Greenpeace, Koch foundations had provided substantial funding to at least 20 organisations involved in highlighting "Climategate", the controversy surrounding climate scientists that was prompted by emails hacked from the University of East Anglia.
A recent survey found that 73 percent of Americans believe global warming is happening, but only 18 per cent believed strongly it was man-made and harmful.
The brothers share 24th place in Forbes magazine's latest list of the world's richest people, controlling America's second-biggest private company from their base in Wichita.
In all, their more than 20 companies employ 70,000 people in 60 countries and earn $100 billion in annual sales.
The business was founded by the brother's father, Fred, who invented a method of refining petrol from heavy oil but the company, which makes Lycra, is now involved in ranching, mining, paper making and fertiliser production.
Greenpeace, which described Koch as the "financial kingpin of climate change denial and clean energy opposition", supplied a list of 35 organisations and 21 politicians - 17 Republicans and four Democrats - who it claimed received money, either directly or indirectly, from Koch or foundations it had set up.
They include the Cato Institute, a conservative think-tank, and Americans for Prosperity, a free-market campaign group.
"Although Koch intentionally stays out of the public eye, it is now playing a quiet but dominant role in a high-profile national policy debate on global warming", said the report.
Kert Davis, research director of Greenpeace US, said it was time Koch Industries "came clean and dropped its, behind-the-scenes campaign against action on climate change".
"Efforts to pass US clean energy and climate policy are being hampered by polluter lobbyists and climate science denial campaigns, and Koch Industries is at the core of this obstruction."
Koch defended its track record on environmental issues, saying in a statement that its companies had "consistently found innovative and cost-effective ways to ensure sound environmental stewardship and further reduce waste and emissions of greenhouse gases associated with their operations and products".
Noting that the company had not yet seen the report, it added: "Based on this experience, we support open, science-based dialogue about climate change and the likely effects of proposed energy policies on the global economy."
Greenpeace Koch Industries did not reject Greenpeace’s claims about its support for climate opposition groups but said its report “distorts the environmental record of our companies".
It added: “We have strived to encourage an intellectually honest debate on the scientific basis for claims of harm from greenhouse gases. We have tried to help bring out the facts of the potential effectiveness and costs of policies proposed to deal with climate, as it’s crucial to understand whether proposed initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases will achieve desired environmental goals and what effects they would likely have on the global economy.”

Organic farmers paid for measures they already have in place

Organic farmers and landowners are being paid millions of pounds to adopt environmental measures many already have in place, spending watchdogs have warned.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 7:00AM BST 31 Mar 2010
The EU and UK Government is handing out £200 million over seven years to farmers willing to convert to organic methods and further help the environment by maintaining land for wildlife.
However the National Audit Office found that more than half of the farmers claiming money for environmentally-friendly options are being paid for measures they would have carried out anyway, such as maintaining hedgerows or historic buildings.

At the same time few farmers claimed money for more challenging measures such as attracting birds and insects by planting wild flowers or creating waterways.
Edward Leigh, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said farmers should do more to gain taxpayers' money.
"The scheme allows farmers to opt to be paid for activities they were carrying out anyway," he said. "I would say that this is money for old rope – being paid for letting your hedges grow."
The NAO report found the scheme, that began in 2007 and runs to 2014, benefited larger businesses rather than small family farms and take up was lower than expected.
Half the money for the Organic Entry Level Stewardship Scheme comes from Europe and the rest is from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), but the NAO warned that up to £10 million from the EU could be withheld unless enough farmers sign up.
Mr Leigh said the environmental benefits of the scheme are unclear.
"There is a consensus that organic farming is good for the environment," he said. "The problem here is that the department is not in the position to measure what environmental benefits have accrued from the money spent. This is simply spending in the pious hope that something good must somehow come out of it."
Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, insisted there are environmental benefits purely from going organic.
However he agreed the scheme could be improved by asking farmers to do more for wildlife in order to gain subsidies.
A Defra spokeswoman said the report did find there were environmental benefits and insisted the scheme was value for money.
:: Environment subsidies also provide additional income, employment and other social benefits for their local communities, a report commissioned by the Government has shown
The report on the ‘Incidental socio-economic benefits of Environmental Stewardship’ found the funding can lead to increases in local income and employment, as well as the development of farmers’ social networks and farm business skills.

EPA Confirms Delay in Permit Requirement for Carbon Dioxide

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that power plants, refineries and other businesses emitting large amounts of carbon dioxide won't be required to file for emissions permits before January 2011, confirming a decision the agency signaled last month.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has faced strong pressure in recent months from state regulators, lawmakers and various industry groups to delay moves to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from steel mills, cement kilns, the petroleum industry and other stationary sources. States said they lacked the necessary resources to handle an expected boost in permitting, while businesses said they needed time to prepared for the new rules.
Businesses are worried about the potential costs of monitoring and curbing emissions of greenhouse gases—those believed to contribute to global warming—which the EPA is moving to regulate under the Clean Air Act.
The Obama administration is expected to announce later this week final rules for regulating carbon dioxide from cars and trucks—effectively increasing the average fuel economy target for vehicle fleets to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016. The standard for model year 2011, which begins officially this fall, is 27.3 miles per gallon. Most major auto makers have already agreed to the higher 2016 target, as part of a deal to block California and other states from establishing their own vehicle fuel-efficiency targets.
Ms. Jackson had told lawmakers in a letter last month of her intention to delay greenhouse-gas rules for factories, refineries and power plants. The EPA said it would issue the regulations on stationary sources of emissions later this spring. The EPA said it planned to phase in the regulations, starting with the biggest emitters next year and the smallest businesses after 2016.
William Becker, head of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said providing nine additional months for states to revise their clean-air laws and regulations would allow agencies to align their programs with the federal permitting rules.
That would assure "a smooth and rational transition to the daunting but important challenges of regulating greenhouse gases from industrial facilities," he said.
Write to Ian Talley at

Coal fuels much of internet 'data cloud', warns Greenpeace

By Stephen Foley in New York
Wednesday, 31 March 2010
The digital photos, shared videos, tweets and Facebook chatter that make up our online lives may appear to have no physical form, but they contribute to some very real environmental damage, the campaign group Greenpeace warns.
The vast amount of digital data that we upload and access via social networks and on websites such as YouTube is stored in what the internet industry calls the "cloud", by which it means a vast numbers of computers owned by the likes of Google, Yahoo and Apple.
These computers are housed in "data warehouses" across the world, and a Greenpeace report yesterday said that many of these power-guzzling sites had been built in parts of the US where electricity is generated mainly at coal-fired power stations. Coal, the most widely used source of energy in the US, is also the dirtiest, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, the group says.
"The last thing we need is for more cloud infrastructure to be built in places where it increases demand for dirty coal-fired power," the report says. Greenpeace is putting pressure on internet firms to be more careful about where they build and says they should lobby more in Washington for clean energy.
A Facebook facility being built in Oregon will rely on a utility whose main fuel is coal, while Apple is building a data warehouse in a North Carolina region that relies mostly on coal, according to the report, Make IT Green. The companies criticised by Greenpeace say that they always take the environment into account, and Facebook said that it chose Oregon so that it could use natural means to cool its servers, instead of having to power air-conditioning.
"As the cloud grows, the IT industry's appetite for energy will only increase, so the industry must become strong advocates for renewable energy solutions and strong laws that cut global warming pollution," said Casey Harrell, a Greenpeace campaigner.
The organisation says that, at current rates of growth, data centres and telecoms infrastructure will consume about 1,963 billion kilowatts hours of electricity in 2020, more than triple their current consumption and more than France, Germany, Canada and Brazil combined.

New regulations on energy efficiency 'mired in confusion'

Businesses unsure how commitment to carbon reduction will work
By By Sarah Arnott
Wednesday, 31 March 2010
Businesses are confused about and unprepared for the implementation of the Government's Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), the energy efficiency scheme which starts tomorrow.
Nearly half of companies surveyed by the power supplier Npower said official advice about the new legislation had been "inadequate". About 49 per cent said they did not understand how to buy the necessary carbon allowances and 44 per cent said they do not know how to forecast their carbon emissions, according to a report published this morning.

The scheme is not new but it has been altered several times since the legislation was passed. There is still considerable confusion about which companies fall under its remit and what they are required to do.
Some 5,000 businesses – between them accounting for about 10 per cent of the UK's harmful carbon dioxide emissions – will form the core of the scheme, with another 25,000 expected to register but unlikely to have to participate fully. Those affected have up to six months from tomorrow to register, and another 12 months to establish the necessary monitoring systems.
The CRC is a variation of a cap-and-trade scheme. All organisations with half-hourly electricity consumption of more than 6,000 megawatt hours are required to submit annual carbon footprint audits and buy carbon permits for the following 12 months. Any surplus permits can be traded and any shortfall bought in the market.
A wide variety of organisations are affected by the scheme, including local authorities, supermarkets and banks. But such a wide remit is part of the problem, because what works for one sector may not make sense for another.
One area of confusion is the so-called "McDonald's Clause", which counts all franchises together as one carbon footprint. The same applies to rivals such as Burger King. But the model is less effective in other areas. In the car retail sector, for example, businesses are unclear as to whether the burden falls on the car maker, the operator or the individual dealership.
Similarly, property companies are unclear whether private finance initiatives such as the Government's Building Schools for the Future programme leave the private builders liable, or the public occupants. There is guidance available from the Environment Agency, which regulates the scheme, but even that is not conclusive.
"The consistent picture is that a lot of organisations feel very unprepared," said Ben Wielgus, the lead CRC adviser at KPMG. "The largest challenge is that there are still some detailed aspects of the scheme that need clarification. The problem that different organisations interpret the guidance from the Government in different ways, and the exact boundaries of who is responsible for what are still subtly unclear."
The CRC does not make money for the Treasury. All the payments are refunded to those taking part six months later, with either a bonus or a deduction depending on the company's position in a league table ranked by reduced power use.
Initially, the amounts at stake are relatively small. An organisation may spend 10 per cent of its utility bill on permits. If ranked in the top half of the table, it stands to make a profit of up to 10 per cent of that stake, and to forfeit an equivalent amount if not. But the CRC is staggered. In the second year, the bonus goes up to 20 per cent, in the third to 30 per cent and so on. Analysis by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests that the worst performers could be adding nearly 20 per cent to their annual energy costs by 2015.
The effect of a low ranking on a group's reputation is an even greater spur, especially for companies with green credentials to preserve. "The clever bit is the combination of fiscal and reputational incentives," said Chris Tuppen, the head of sustainability at BT. "Fiscal alone would have produced some improvement but the fact that there is a league table is almost as important to a lot of companies."
BT is one of several big companies to have voiced concerns about the CRC. A key criticism is that it takes no account of other green projects, such as wind turbines or electric cars. The Government has compromised, agreeing to include such initiatives in its Carbon Reporting Guidance scheme.
But self-generated green power must still be counted in the CRC– and permits bought for it – so the parameters of the league table must be made clear, according to BT.
"It is incumbent upon the Government, when it publishes the league table, to make it clear that they are representing energy consumption and not an organisation's entire carbon footprint," Mr Tuppen added.
CO2 in numbers
5,000 Organisations that will have to submit to the Government an audit of their carbon footprint and buy permits from March 2011
25,000 Companies that will have to register and measure their carbon footprint but are unlikely to have to pay
6,000 megawatt-hours Maximum electricity consumption for organisations that wish to escape the scheme
10 per cent Estimated cost of CO2 permit, as a percentage of an organisation's utility bill
£12 Initial price, per tonne of CO2, for allowances

Climate-row professor Phil Jones should return to work, say MPs

Ben Webster, Environment Editor

The climate scientist at the centre of the row over stolen e-mails has no case to answer and should be reinstated, a crossparty group of MPs says.
Phil Jones, of the University of East Anglia, was acting “in line with common practice in the climate science community” when he refused to share his raw data and computer codes with critics.
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said that the focus on Professor Jones, director of the university’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), had been “largely misplaced”. It said that there were innocent explanations for his use of the word “trick” and the phrase “hide the decline” in e-mails concerning global temperatures.
He stepped down in December pending the outcome of an inquiry by the university into more than 1,000 e-mails sent by him and colleagues.

The committee said that the blame for the mishandling of requests under the Freedom of Information Act lay with the university, which had “found ways to support the culture at CRU of resisting disclosure of information to climate change sceptics”.
The report said it was “regrettable” that the university had failed to understand the damage that would be done to the reputation of climate science by rejecting requests for data. The MPs called on scientists to “become more transparent by publishing raw data and detailed methodologies”. They recommended that the Government review the rules on the accessibility of data.
Phil Willis, the committee’s Liberal Democrat chairman, told The Times: “There is no reason why Professor Jones should not resume his post. He was certainly not co-operative with those seeking to get data, but that was true of all the climate scientists.”
Mr Willis said that the inquiry had failed to establish whether Professor Jones had deleted information to prevent requests to publish it. In one of the e-mails he asked a colleague to delete correspondence relating to evidence submitted to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
An MP on the committee told The Times that, before this month’s public hearing, the members had agreed not to question Professor Jones too closely because of his fragile condition.
Mr Willis rejected evidence submitted by Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, editor of the journal Energy & Environment, that Professor Jones had tried to undermine the journal because it had published reports that appeared to question his conclusion that man-made emissions were causing global warming. She wrote: “Dr Jones even tried to put pressure on my university department. The e-mailers expressed anger over my publication of several papers that questioned the . . . reliability of CRU temperature data. The desire to control the peer review process in their favour is expressed several times. CRU clearly disliked my journal and believed that ‘good’ climate scientists do not read it.”
Mr Willis said that he would have taken Dr Boehmer-Christiansen’s evidence “more seriously” if other scientists had made similar complaints.
The report called on Sir Muir Russell, the Scottish public servant who is chairing the inquiry commissioned by the university, to question witnesses in public. The MPs criticised the Information Commissioner’s Office for suggesting that the university had breached the Freedom of Information Act. The report said the question of whether there had been a breach needed to be resolved, with a full investigation by Sir Muir or the Information Commissioner.
The committee called for the time bar, which prevents prosecutions for breaches of the Act being brought more than six months after the alleged offence, to be removed.

Peer pressure plays a key role in low-carbon living

Being seen to be green and social status influence our green living choices far more than doing them for ethical reasons

Adam Corner, Tuesday 30 March 2010 11.20 BST
For most people, there is nothing quite as interesting as other people. We are incredibly well attuned to what others are doing and thinking – especially if they might be thinking about us. The choices we make speak volumes about our likes, our hates, our personalities and our social status. New research published yesterday suggests that our environmental choices are no different. Over and above the financial or environmental benefits of making low-carbon choices, we value the boost in social status this can provide – what's important is that we are seen to be going green.
Across three studies, Vladas Griskevicius and his colleagues at the University of Minnesota examined the conditions under which people selected the "green" option when provided with a choice between a regular and environmentally beneficial product. Some participants read a story about social status and "moving up in the world" before making their choice. Displaying a phenomenon known as "competitive altruism", these people opted to "self-sacrifice" and chose the environmentally friendly product, even though it was of inferior quality.
The authors of the study argued that what these participants lost in product functionality, they gained in social status. Voluntarily engaging in altruistic behaviour sends a powerful signal that you are caring and compassionate enough to take a hit for the team – and that you have the resources to act pro-socially. Previous research has shown that we take our cues for what is "normal" from those around us, and it seems that we're even prepared to "self-sacrifice" to boost our social standing. Combine these two findings and you have a powerful tool for promoting pro-environmental behaviour. As the long decarbonisation of the transport system begins, will people start competing over the efficiency rather than the acceleration of their cars?
Interestingly, participants in the study only displayed competitive altruism when they thought that others would be made aware of their choice – or when the green products were highly priced (signalling high status wealth). Coupled with the recent finding that individuals in an experiment who bought green goodies subsequently displayed more selfish behaviour, does this undermine the seemingly selfless nature of altruistic, pro-environmental behaviour?
The study certainly provides a window on the psychological basis of greenwash. When people make a consumer decision they buy into the idea of the product as much as the product itself. Unfortunately, the "idea" of sustainability can be a remarkably effective way of shifting patently unsustainable goods, and left to their own devices, people will compete to outdo each other on whatever criteria happen to be around. Flying to an eco-trek in Peru? I'll take two please.
Confronted with a problem like climate change, our consumption-based economy responds in the only way it knows how – by selling sustainability like it sells soap. But while a desire to be "seen to be green" clearly leaves us vulnerable to the dubious motives of commercial marketing campaigns (not to mention some ribbing down the pub), harnessing the primal urge for social status is critical for promoting pro-environmental behaviours that are more substance than spin. We may currently compete through demonstrations of conspicuous material consumption, but material goods are simply a marker for social status. It's the social status that's important – and the markers we use to signify it can easily change.
Griskevicius and his colleagues suggest that visible signs, tags and badges are an important aid for signalling to others that a particular behaviour is not just common, but desirable. Several studies in America have found that rates of recycling were boosted when householders were asked to make a public commitment to recycle, rather than just get on with it quietly.
But paying attention to the social aspects of how and why people take action to protect the environment goes far deeper than displaying a pro-recycling window sticker. Many environmental messages focus on what others should be doing, but time might be better spent setting a positive example and letting the social status that comes with altruistic behaviour do the hard work.
No one likes to be told what to do, but few of us can resist the temptation to get one over on the Joneses. And if what the Joneses are doing happens to be good for the environment, then being green to be seen might not be such a bad thing after all.

US oil company donated millions to climate sceptic groups, says Greenpeace

Report identifies Koch Industries giving $73m to climate sceptic groups 'spreading inaccurate and misleading information'

John Vidal, Tuesday 30 March 2010 15.32 BST
A Greenpeace investigation has identified a little-known, privately owned US oil company as the paymaster of global warming sceptics in the US and Europe.
The environmental campaign group accuses Kansas-based Koch Industries, which owns refineries and operates oil pipelines, of funding 35 conservative and libertarian groups, as well as more than 20 congressmen and senators. Between them, Greenpeace says, these groups and individuals have spread misinformation about climate science and led a sustained assault on climate scientists and green alternatives to fossil fuels.
Greenpeace says that Koch Industries donated nearly $48m (£31.8m) to climate opposition groups between 1997-2008. From 2005-2008, it donated $25m to groups opposed to climate change, nearly three times as much as higher-profile funders that time such as oil company ExxonMobil. Koch also spent $5.7m on political campaigns and $37m on direct lobbying to support fossil fuels.
In a hard-hitting report, which appears to confirm environmentalists' suspicions that there is a well-funded opposition to the science of climate change, Greenpeace accuses the funded groups of "spreading inaccurate and misleading information" about climate science and clean energy companies.
"The company's network of lobbyists, former executives and organisations has created a forceful stream of misinformation that Koch-funded entities produce and disseminate. The propaganda is then replicated, repackaged and echoed many times throughout the Koch-funded web of political front groups and thinktanks," said Greenpeace.
"Koch industries is playing a quiet but dominant role in the global warming debate. This private, out-of-sight corporation has become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition. On repeated occasions organisations funded by Koch foundations have led the assault on climate science and scientists, 'green jobs', renewable energy and climate policy progress," it says.
The groups include many of the best-known conservative thinktanks in the US, like Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, the Cato institute, the Manhattan Institute and the Foundation for research on economics and the environment. All have been involved in "spinning" the "climategate" story or are at the forefront of the anti-global warming debate, says Greenpeace.
Koch Industries is a $100bn-a-year conglomerate dominated by petroleum and chemical interests, with operations in nearly 60 countries and 70,000 employees. It owns refineries which process more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day in the US, as well as a refinery in Holland. It has held leases on the heavily polluting tar-sand fields of Alberta, Canada and has interests in coal, oil exploration, chemicals, forestry, and pipelines.
The majority of the group's assets are owned and controlled by Charles and David Koch, two of the four sons of the company's founder. They have been identified by Forbes magazine as the joint ninth richest Americans and the 19th richest men in the world, each worth between $14-16bn.
Koch has also contributed money to politicians, the report said, listing 17 Republicans and four Democrats whose campaign funds got more than $10,000from the company.
Greenpeace accuses the Koch companies of having a notorious environmental record. In 2000 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined Koch industries $30m for its role in 300 oil spills that resulted in more than 3m gallons of crude oil leaking intro ponds, lakes and coastal waters.
"The combination of foundation-funded front groups, big lobbying budgets, political action campaign donations and direct campaign contributions makes Koch Industries and the Koch brothers among the most formidable obstacles to advancing clean energy and climate policy in the US," Greenpeace said.
A spokeswoman for Koch Industries today defended the group's track record on environmental issues. "Koch companies have consistently found innovative and cost-effective ways to ensure sound environmental stewardship and further reduce waste and emissions of greenhouse gases associated with their operations and products," said a statement sent to AFP by Melissa Cohlmia, director of communication. She added: "Based on this experience, we support open, science-based dialogue about climate change and the likely effects of proposed energy policies on the global economy."
Top 10 Koch beneficiaries 2005-2008
Mercatus center: ($9.2m received from Koch grants 2005-2008) Conservative thinktank at George Mason University. This group suggested in 2001 that global warming would be beneficial in winter and at the poles. In 2009 they recommended that nothing be done to cut emissions.
Americans for prosperity. ($5.17m). Have built opposition to clean energy and climate legislation with events across US.
Institute for humane studies ($1.96m). Several prominent climate sceptics have positions here, including Fred Singer and Robert Bradley.
Heritage foundation ($1.62m). Conservative thinktank leads US opposition to climate change science.
Cato Insitute ($1.02m). Thinktank disputes science behind climate change and questions the rationale for taking action.
Manhattan Institute ($800,000). This institute regularly publishes climate science denials.
Washington legal foundation ($655,000) Published articles on the business threats posed by regulation of climate change.
Federalist society for law ($542,000) advocates inaction on global warming
National center for policy analysis ($130,000) NCPA disseminates climate science scepticism.
American council on science and health ($113,800) Has published papers claiming that cutting greenhouse emissions would be detrimental to public health.

Global water crisis and cheaper technology sparks surge in desalination

Fresh water production increases to 9.5m cubic metres a day – twice the annual flow of the Thames – as one-third of world goes thirsty

Juliette Jowit, Tuesday 30 March 2010 15.20 BST
The world's unquenchable thirst for clean water drove a record increase in the desalination and reuse of sewage last year, figures show, as water-stressed countries around the world try to build their way out of trouble.
Making fresh water from the sea was once the preserve of cruise ships and oil-rich Gulf states that could afford the huge cost of energy required to remove the salt. But as rivers, lakes and aquifers dry up, rains become less reliable, and the cost of desalination falls, communities in all parts of the world have begun to build and plan plants to turn oceans, estuaries, salty ground water and even sewage into clean water for factories, farms and homes.
The rise in fresh water production was the biggest ever recorded, reaching 9.5m cubic metres a day, the annual report by analysts Global Water Intelligence will say tomorrow. That is equivalent to twice the annual flow of the Thames, or about 10% of global capacity. Those desalinating and reusing water include some of the poorest countries, including Algeria, India and Ghana.
But wet overpopulated cities such as London and Dublin are also investing in the technology.
With water "manufacturing" allowing people to change fundamentally the geography of fresh water on such a large scale, Christopher Gasson, GWI's publisher, talks of "rivers flowing backwards".
"People do desalination when they run out of opportunities, and the problem is the world overall is running out of opportunities: groundwater is overexploited to the extent it's becoming saline and unusable; rivers are being drained; new dams are becoming less and less viable [and] long-distance transfer is expensive and controversial,"he said.
The fundamental reason for the rise of water manufacturing is a simple gap between demand and supply: in 2006 a report from the International Water Management Institute found one in three of the world's population were "enduring one form or another of water scarcity" – such as "when women work hard to get water, [or] you want to allocate more but can't".
Growing numbers of people, richer lifestyles, demand for water-intensive food such as meat, and dwindling supplies are expected to increase that number – to up to half the projected global population or more in the middle of this century. And that is despite an expected doubling of water manufacturing capacity between now and 2016, according to UK-based GWI.
The falling cost of desalination, thanks to technology improvements, is key, and the reuse of water can be cheaper still.
Contracts have been signed to deliver desalinated water in Algeria and Israel for 55-56 cents (36p) a cubic metre, and reuse plants can now turn sewage into drinking water for 40-45 cents a cubic metre, said Gasson. To compare, the average cost of UK drinking water is about 51p a cubic metre, though that also includes piping the water to the tap.
Comparisons between the energy needs of different desalination methods - heating up water for distillation or pushing it through membranes to filter the salt - have also become much closer. Continuing developments in membranes – which one day are likely to be modelled on the "technology" nature uses in kidneys and mangroves – will continue to bring down costs and energy needs, said Gasson. Systems using carbon-free energy are also being tested: nuclear desalination in the UAE, solar power in Australia, and biodiesel from plants at a desalination plant built by Thames Water in London.
Despite the advances, there are still serious objections to manufacturing water. The WWF remains concerned about building facilities in often environmentally sensitive coastal and wetland areas; about the intake of seawater, which is home to millions of tiny species, and discharge of the remaining brine, which can be contaminated with cleaning chemicals and particles from corroding pipes.Concerns about the energy use of plants also still remain, especially where they are still dependent on fossil fuels, or if they could divert renewable resources which could otherwise replace existing carbon-intensive energy supplies. Residents in upmarket Monterey, California, have long objected to a desalination plant being built there because they fear it would encourage more development.
Water worlds
Windhoek, Namibia: toilet to tap The capital , surrounded by desert,has the world's only system that treats waste water and puts it back into the public water supply, mixed with water from the city's main reservoir. The success of the scheme is credited to a long-standing public acceptance campaign, including advertising, education in schools and an "excellent" water-quality record.
Arizona and Nevada, US : desert desalinationNorth American states and Mexico share the Colorado river under a treaty signed in 1922. It has been suggested Nevada funds a desalination plant in return for more of Mexico's river water. into the river, allowing upstream towns and cities to keep more of the fresh flow.
London, UK desperate measures in the capitalDespite its rainy reputation, London receives less rainfall than Rome, Dallas or Istanbul. To cope with an expected 800,000 more residents by 2016, Thames Water has built a desalination plant next to its Becton sewage works.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Italy Learning From the Spanish Photovoltaic Debacle

March 29, 2010
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Analysis by: Mark Burger
Analysis of: Italy will unveil new solar incentives plan in April
Published at:
Italy is expected to be the number two photovoltaic market behind Germany. This was last held by Spain which, briefly, had the largest market for one year before collapsing from an excess of incentives and no cap to the opposite extreme. Italy looks like they are learning from Spain's excesses.
Despite continued growth, sooner or later the German photovoltaic market, still Europe's and the world's largest, will level off. By all logic, the number 1 and 2 markets should eventually be the US and China due to size, sunlight and population. Until that happy time, other national markets, like South Korea, a resurgent Japan and Italy, may assume prominence. Italy would be a natural for the PV market, with abundant sunshine and high electricity prices. Growth of the market indicates that it should be the number 2 European market behind Germany.But there are question marks around this promise. The financial cloud over the Euro and much of the European economy remains. The administrative process for Italian PV installations resembled too closely the problematic Spanish market, as well as much of the Mediterranean. More importantly, will Italy repeat Spain's boom and bust disaster of a too high incentive and no cap, then panic to too low a cap as well as incentive reduction, strangling the market in its crib? In this regards, Italy appears to have learned from the Spanish market collapse and is re-calibrating its feed in tariffs to reduce excess and adjust to downward prices in the photovoltaic industry. The new plan should be out shortly. The issue of a cap, even at 1,000 MW per year, may be more of an issue, as opposed to letting the FIT's decline to reflect market interest. Another contention is potential tension between megawatt-scale sized projects and smaller ones favored by local farmers. But the results should be a more sustainable market than what Spain was, and is.

Nick Clegg responds to Friends of the Earth

Nick Clegg has already responded to our letter and it's good that he describes himself as "a huge supporter of Friends of the Earth."
We're going to wait until we've received responses from all the party leaders to comment further, but in the meantime it'd be great if you let us know what you think - you can comment below.
Here's his letter for you to read.
Dear Andy,
Thank you and all your co-signatories very much for your letter. I couldn’t agree with you more: this election could be a turning point, not just for Britain but for the world environment. Some people think that’s overstating it, but the scientists tell us that the coming five years could be our last chance to avert dangerous climate change. That means the government we elect next has the most enormous responsibility: to provide change at home and leadership abroad to stop the disaster from happening.
I am a huge supporter of Friends of the Earth. I’ve met up with FoE campaigners twice in the last year – at Glastonbury and at Sipsom, the village that will be destroyed if plans for a third runway go ahead. I am delighted you have chosen to get so involved in trying to influence the outcome of the election in a green direction. It’s people like you who can and must make the difference and ensure the next set of MPs take that responsibility for the future of our planet seriously.
The sad truth is there are far too many people standing for Parliament, especially in the Labour and Conservative parties who do not. I wish we didn’t have to make climate change a party-political issue, but when some parties don’t recognise the need for change, it has to be. Labour voted down a plan Liberal Democrats put before the House of Commons to cut government emissions by 10% this year as part of the 10-10 campaign. And the Conservatives don’t even support targets to generate just 15% of our energy from renewables. Yes, they speak well about the environment, but when it comes down to it, they block the action we need.
As you say in your letter, these are difficult economic times, but the recession must not be an excuse not to take action now. Indeed, economic recovery and green politics can go hand in hand. That is why we’re committed to a green jobs package. By investing in green technologies, home insulation, and public transport, we’d create hundreds of thousands of new jobs that will last and make the economy sustainable too. Britain can also be the green powerhouse of Europe, moving to renewables and not relying on nuclear – and now’s our chance to prove it.
The climate challenge requires a response at all levels of government – and Liberal Democrats would hard-wire green thinking into our whole approach. We know how important it is to make housing greener, so in government we’d start a programme to do just that – as well as tightening up the rule on new homes so they’re fully energy-efficient and changing the way we charge for energy, so people who use less are better off. We’d cut fares for passengers on public transport and create a UK Infrastructure Bank to invest in high-speed rail and shift money from roads to rail. We’d reduce air pollution and set a target for zero waste, so we stop wasting resources and ruining our precious landscape with landfill.
I could go on and on about our policies on climate change and on protecting our natural environment. You can find pages of policies on our website, and I hope you’ll take the chance to take a look. We are full of ideas about real changes we can make – eager to get power and influence so we can make them happen. Wherever Liberal Democrats are have power, from parish councils right up to the European Parliament, we use it to implement green change.
I genuinely believe the future of the climate is at stake, and you can make a difference. You only have one vote: use it wisely.

Nick Clegg
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Millions struggle to heat homes as Government misses fuel poverty target

Millions of vulnerable people remain in fuel poverty despite a multi-billion spending scheme to help elderly people heat their homes, MPs have warned.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 7:00AM BST 30 Mar 2010
Ministers promised to end fuel poverty among deprived households by 2010 in England and to wipe out the problem completely by 2016.
But the influential Energy and Climate Change (ECC) Committee said both targets will be missed because taxpayers' money spent on the problem has not been given to the right people.

The number of households in 'fuel poverty' – or spending more than 10 per cent of their income on heating – has doubled to around £4.6 million this year.
Paddy Tipping, chairman of the committee, said efforts like the Warm Front Scheme have failed because the money is offered to the elderly and those on benefits. He pointed out that not all old people struggle to pay the bills while many vulnerable people do not claim credits.
He said the Government also failed to take into account rural communities that struggle to pay the bills because they are not on the mains grid and poor families in badly insulated homes.
"Some people who are fuel poor do not get help, while others who are not in fuel poverty receive assistance," he said.
The MPs suggested a database that shows which homes are better insulated and more data sharing on households with problems, although this has issues for privacy.
Consumer groups are also concerned about plans by British Gas to roll out smart meters to one million homes this year.
Which? is worried that information on the energy use of individual households could be "misused".

Climate change is the new health and safety

All public bodies should have a legal duty to protect their workers from climate change in the same way as institutions currently carry out health and safety checks, according to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 7:00AM BST 30 Mar 2010
The body set up to warn Government about the risk of environmental disasters said climate change will cause floods, droughts and heatwaves in future.
In a key report on 'Adapting Institutions to Climate Change' the committee of experts recommended that every school, hosptial and business should have a legal duty to adapt to climate change. For example by putting in place flood defences and plans for water shortages.

Sir John Lawton, Chairman of the Royal Commission, said global warming is a real risk and could cause huge problems for Britain.
He said all businesses and public bodies should have to carry out a "climate change adaptation test" in the same way as they currently conduct health and safety checks.
"The planet is already slightly above the worse case scenario so if we do nothing we could be looking at a temperature rise of 4C (7.3F) by 2100," he said.
"Any society confronted with those kind of dramatic changes to their climate would be very wise to take due attention to the risk that poses to society, infrastructure and people's lives and begin to plan accordingly. That should become central because just like health and safety scenarios - where people are going to get killed or injured - people are going to get killed or injured by climate change and that is why it is important."
But Sir John said that adapting to climate change will not cost organisations extra money or add bureaucracy.
Instead he insisted that it could be done by simply ensuring that things are done differently.
"We have to accept that there is a real risk of [climate change] devastating people's lives so it is a sensible thing to think about, rather than another layer of bureaucracy for bureaucracy's state," he said.

Getting paid to save energy, recycle? Incentives expand

Americans are being paid to save energy and recycle.
A growing number of private and public programs are offering cash, gift cards and other rewards such as cupcakes and massages for eco-friendly behavior.
"We definitely see this as a trend," says Jennifer Berry , spokeswoman for of Earth 911, an Arizona-based group that runs a the largest U.S. recycling database. "When you give people a reward for positive behavior, they're more likely to participate."
The incentives go beyond federal tax credits and rebates for energy-efficient home upgrades:
--U.S. cities are partnering with New York-based RecycleBank to give people points based on how much they recycle. Their recycling bins have computer chips that track volume, which translates into points to be redeemed at local stores, most commonly $10 grocery gift cards. They also get discounts on eBay purchases.
"We reward people for doing the right thing," says Ron Gonen, who founded the company in 2004. Los Angeles will try the program for a year, beginning April 5, with 15,000 households. That boosts participation to 300 cities in 26 states. Cities pay the company a share of the money they save by reducing their landfills.
--Thousands of households in all 50 states have registered to earn reward points for energy conservation through Earth Aid, a Washington-based company launched last year. Its software tracks utility bills and, based on savings, offers points to be redeemed at local and, soon, national stores.
"It's icing on the cake," says chief executive officer Ben Bixby, because participants also benefit by lowering their utility bills. His company earns money by referring customers to home remodelers. RecycleBank is starting a similar program in Chicago next month.
--At all U.S. stores, CVS/pharmacy began in October to give customers $1 in store vouchers for every four times they skip using a plastic bag. A shopper buys a "greenbagtag" for 99 cents, then swipes it at the register along with the ExtraCare store loyalty card for every purchase. Many grocery stores offer 5 cents for every resuable bag customers carry.
--Companies such as are paying people for used gadgets like iPods, which they recycle if the items can't be resold. Similarly, eRecyclingCorps, co-founded by Sprint executives, gives a trade-in recycling credit for an old cell phone when buying a new one.
--Two states, New York and Connecticut, expanded their "bottle bills" last year. Bills in 11 states pay customers to return used bottles, typically a nickel each. Berry says those states have higher recycling rates than other states.
"People want that five cents," says Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University's environmental economics program. To change behavior, he says, "economic incentives are very, very important."

'Gulf Stream isn't slowing down', finds research

By Tom Peck
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
The Gulf Stream does not appear to be slowing down, according to scientists who have used satellites to monitor changes in the height of the sea.
The stream brings heat northwards from the tropics and is a key factor in the climate of western Europe. Some models of climate change predict a slow down. Although the scientists, from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, noticed dramatic short-term variability, there was no longer-term trend, they said. In fact since 1993 the overall levels of flow looks to have increased.
"The changes we're seeing in overturning strength are probably part of a natural cycle," said Josh Willis from JPL. "The slight increase in overturning since 1993 coincides with a decades-long natural pattern of Atlantic heating and cooling."
Between 2002 and 2009, the team says, there was no trend discernible, just a lot of variability on short timescales.
The research is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The stream forms part of a larger movement of water, known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, which is itself one component of the global large scale ocean circulation.
The first observations suggesting that the AMOC was slowing down emerged in 2005, in research from the UK's National Oceanography Centre. At this time scientists suggested the volume of cold water returning southwards could have fallen by as much as 30 per cent in half a century – a significant decline.
However, later observations by the same team showed that the strength of the flow varied hugely on short timescales – from one season to the next, or even shorter. They have since not found any clear trend since 2004.

Wealthy landowners make millions in the wind rush

Jonathan Leake and Chris Hastings

SOME of Britain’s richest landowners are set to earn millions by building wind farms to exploit the lucrative system of subsidies for generating renewable energy.
Among the biggest potential beneficiaries is the Duke of Roxburghe, whose planned 48-turbine scheme on his Scottish estate would generate an estimated £30m a year, shared with developers. About £17m of this would come from subsidies from consumers.
Others seeking to capitalise on the new wind rush include the Duke of Beaufort, Sir Reginald Sheffield, father of Samantha Cameron, and Michael Ancram, the Tory grandee.
The growing interest in wind farms stems from the government’s subsidy system. A typical three-megawatt turbine will generate about £670,000 income a year, of which £350,000 comes in subsidies. Since the machines cost £2-3m and have a lifetime of about 25 years, the profits are considerable, even after running costs are deducted.
Many schemes have gone ahead despite objections from local residents concerned about blight and from economists who bridle at the “excessive” cost of the subsidy system.
However, developers, landowners and wind farm supporters say Britain must accept changes to its landscape, plus the cost of subsidies, as the price of cutting CO2 emissions.
One of them is RidgeWind, a company set up by Hg Capital to seek out large landowners to set up wind farms. Its website declares the company’s turbines are “contributing to a cleaner environment and reducing global warming”.
Last August RidgeWind switched on an eight-turbine wind farm at Bagmoor, part of the 3,000-acre estate of Sheffield, the father-in-law of the Tory leader. Industry estimates suggest this should generate an income of about £3.5m a year, shared with developers.
RidgeWind will soon erect 10 more turbines, each about 410ft high, on the Ellingham estate in Northumberland, owned by Lady Belinda Gadsden, whose title dates back to 1642.
Critics say it is ironic that the Renewables Obligation certificate (Roc) scheme was created by a Labour government but is handing large profits to investors and country landowners.
Under the system, renewable energy generators can claim a Roc certificate for each megawatt hour of electricity produced. A 3MW turbine produces about 7,000 megawatt hours a year, with the electricity fetching £320,000 and the Rocs another £350,000 at current prices.Power companies are obliged to buy Rocs to meet government targets for renewable power but pass the cost to consumers. They also take the bulk of wind farm profits.
One controversial proposal is at Mynydd y Gwair near Swansea on land owned by the Duke of Beaufort’s Somerset Trust, where RWE npower wants permission for 19 turbines. The scheme, which has 1,600 objectors, would generate an estimated income of about £12m a year including £7m of subsidy.
A spokesman for RWE said: “We will build and operate the wind farm and the landowners will receive an annual payment.” In Scotland, the Duke of Roxburghe, who is worth £80m, is seeking planning permission for 48 turbines on his grouse moor at Fallago Rig in the Lammermuir Hills in Roxburghshire, again in the face of strong local opposition.
The scheme, which could generate income of more than £30m a year, is a joint venture with North British Windpower, a company whose shareholders include Ancram, the former Tory deputy leader and 13th Marquess of Lothian.
Economists are concerned about the cost of subsidies, which are estimated to add £13.50 to the average household’s annual utility bills. Professor David Newbery, director of Cambridge University’s electricity policy research group, supports wind power but says Rocs are “bonkers”.
He said: “It is shovelling money towards people who have been lucky enough to get planning permission, [and] it encourages the construction of wind farms in remote places where it is very expensive to connect to the national grid.”
RenewableUK, the wind industry’s trade organisation, said Rocs had helped increase renewable energy. It said on its website: “The case for wind energy is simple: it is renewable, economic, safe and good for the environment.”
Additional reporting: Georgia Warren

UK infastructure 'must factor in effects of climate change'

Report says hospitals and power station planners must pass 'climate adaptation test' akin to health and safety regulations

Sonia Van Gilder Cooke, Tuesday 30 March 2010 07.00 BST

Hospitals, the energy industry, government agencies and other institutions should put new policies and programmes to a "climate adaptation test" akin to to health and safety regulations, according to a new report by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution.
The report, titled Adapting Institutions to Climate Change, says the test is needed to ensure new projects take into account increasingly variable and extreme weather, as global warming continues. Candidates for adopting the test include coastal industries such as ports, power stations and oil installations – which would have to withstand storm surges and rising sea levels – and hospitals, which it says should expect a rise in admissions during heatwaves.
The chair of the commission, Sir John Lawton, said: "If we don't get on with it now, the future is likely to be unpleasant and expensive." He denied that the test amounted to more government red tape, arguing that inaction would cost more than action.
The report adds that such a test would aid long-term planning in areas where it is especially important, such as energy. "In thinking about where you put the next generation of nuclear power stations, an adaptation test would require you to say, 'Is it a sensible place to build another power station and how will we protect it against sea level rise?" said Lawton. "You don't just put the new nuclear power station there because that's where the last one was."
The commission, an independent on influential body established in 1970 to advise the government on environmental issues, warns that UK institutions are woefully underprepared to meet the weather challenges of the future. Lawton said: "Recent flooding events and icy winters have exposed gaps in planning and infrastructure that suggest we're not even able to cope with the kind of extreme weather events we currently have, never mind the kind of extreme weather events we're going to be having over the next few decades."
The commission said that while projects such as the Thames Barrier had successfully built in adaptability, most institutions haven't even considered it – a situation that Lawton views as dangerous: "We're looking at a scenario where people get killed and injured," he said.
Commission members drew a parallel to now common health and safety assessments. Lawton observed that while Health and Safety "stops bad things that happen tomorrow", the benefits of climate adaptation operate on a longer time scale. "We're paying now for benefits for our children and grandchildren," he said. "The effects are less immediate, but they're no less serious."
The report recommends that the Climate Change Act of 2008 be amended to require government agencies to address climate change adaptation, and that a system be put in place to ensure agency accountability. The commission rejects the idea, however, that the test is unnecessary government bureaucracy: "If you put houses on the flood planes, you have to accept that, in the long run, there's a real risk of devastating people's lives," said Lawton. "The question is: as a society, can we afford not to do it?"

James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change

In his first in-depth interview since the theft of UEA emails, the scientist blames inertia and democracy for lack of action•
Leo Hickman, Monday 29 March 2010 13.15 BST
Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory.
It follows a tumultuous few months in which public opinion on efforts to tackle climate change has been undermined by events such as the climate scientists' emails leaked from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit.
"I don't think we're yet evolved to the point where we're clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change," said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November. "The inertia of humans is so huge that you can't really do anything meaningful."
One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy", he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."
Lovelock, 90, believes the world's best hope is to invest in adaptation measures, such as building sea defences around the cities that are most vulnerable to sea-level rises. He thinks only a catastrophic event would now persuade humanity to take the threat of climate change seriously enough, such as the collapse of a giant glacier in Antarctica, such as the Pine Island glacier, which would immediately push up sea level.
"That would be the sort of event that would change public opinion," he said. "Or a return of the dust bowl in the mid-west. Another Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report won't be enough. We'll just argue over it like now." The IPCC's 2007 report concluded that there was a 90% chance that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing global warming, but the panel has been criticised over a mistaken claim that all Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2030.
Lovelock says the events of the recent months have seen him warming to the efforts of the "good" climate sceptics: "What I like about sceptics is that in good science you need critics that make you think: 'Crumbs, have I made a mistake here?' If you don't have that continuously, you really are up the creek. The good sceptics have done a good service, but some of the mad ones I think have not done anyone any favours. You need sceptics, especially when the science gets very big and monolithic."
Lovelock, who 40 years ago originated the idea that the planet is a giant, self-regulating organism – the so-called Gaia theory – added that he has little sympathy for the climate scientists caught up in the UEA email scandal. He said he had not read the original emails – "I felt reluctant to pry" – but that their reported content had left him feeling "utterly disgusted".
"Fudging the data in any way whatsoever is quite literally a sin against the holy ghost of science," he said. "I'm not religious, but I put it that way because I feel so strongly. It's the one thing you do not ever do. You've got to have standards."

Shoppers choose green products to improve social status, says study

Researchers found consumers are willing to sacrifice performance for perceived social status from green products

Adam Vaughan, Monday 29 March 2010 18.16 BST

Shoppers choose hybrid cars, "green" washing-up liquid and energy-saving devices over cheaper but dirtier alternatives partly to improve their social status, according to a new study published today.
Researchers found consumers are willing to sacrifice luxury and performance to benefit from the perceived social status that comes from buying a product with a reduced environmental impact.
Bram Van den Bergh of Rotterdam School of Management, one of the study's authors, said: "Driving a luxurious non-green car, like a Hummer, communicates one's wealth, but also suggests that the buyer is a selfish and uncaring individual who is concerned primarily about his own comfort rather than the welfare of society. Driving a hybrid, like a Prius, not only displays one's wealth as it costs many thousands of dollars more than a conventional but highly fuel-efficient car, but also signals the owner cares about others and the environment."
In a series of three experiments for the study which is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the researchers found that people were also more likely to choose green products when doing so in public.
In one experiment, 168 students were split into two groups. One group read a story about social status while a second group read a story without a status message. Asked to make a hypothetical purchasing decision between a green car or a non-green model of the same price but more luxurious and better-performing, 37.2% in the control group chose the green car. That figure rose to 54.5% for those who read the story designed to "activate status motives." The authors claim the experiment is the first to demonstrate that playing on desire for social status is a way to encourage people to make green choices.
In another test, 93 students were asked to pick on a sliding scale between green and non-green products of the same price, depending on whether they were buying in public at a store or in private by shopping online. When the students read a status story similar to the first experiment, their preference in public for the green product was far stronger than in private. A third experiment showed buyers with social status in mind preferred green products when they were more expensive than their conventional alternative.
The authors, who also include Vladas Griskevicius of University of Minnesota and Joshua M Tybur of University of New Mexico, argue that the findings show an untapped way of motivating greener behaviour.
Adam Corner, a research associate at Cardiff University and expert on the psychology of communicating climate change, said social status is a key driver of behaviour: "It's not surprising that people might choose to try and signal their social status through the conspicuous consumption of 'green products'. Even if people don't care about climate change, they care about what other people think of them." He added that one of the most important aspects of the research is that the power of social status could be harnessed to become a critical tool in promoting wider changes in pro-environmental behaviour, such as voting for the greenest party in an election or engaging in environmental activism.
The study does come with one important caveat – no one was actually dipping into their wallet. Michael Valvo, a spokesperson for Toyota UK, said that the company's market research indicated the attraction of advanced technology and the cost of the ownership, not the environment or social status, were the main reasons drivers bought the Prius hybrid car. "Forking out £20,000 for a car is a pretty expensive way to make a statement about being green, it's the second biggest purchase after a house," he said.
The research also failed to reflect the complexity of ethical consumer activity, said Rob Harrison, the editor of Ethical Consumer magazine. "Ethical buying behaviour is far more complicated than this. If you look at the Co-Operative Bank's report on ethical spending, a third of that annual spend is on investment and banking, which you can't do conspicuously unless you leave investment brochures lying around on your coffee table. Our readers say they buy green and ethical products because they want to be instrumental about a goal, such as helping a farm in Kenya by buying fair trade Kenyan coffee." He said only a minority of green shoppers buy green products for status reasons.
A separate recent study suggested that ethical consumers are less likely to be kind and more likely to steal, a claim that Harrison said showed "a shallow understanding of the wider ethical consumer movement." Business leaders including the heads of Tesco, Coca-Cola and Reckitt Bencksier last year argued green consumerism could advert catastrophic climate change.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Green light for Maine Maritime tidal energy venture

The Tidal Energy Demonstration and Evaluation Center (TEDEC) based at Maine Maritime Academy (MMA), Castine, Maine, has effectively been established as the only in-stream tidal energy device testing facility in the United States.
It has received a special order of clarification from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), that will enable it to further the research and testing of field-scale models of tidal energy devices at two sites located near the academy.
The declaration was granted on the basis that TEDEC is hosted by Maine Maritime Academy with the intent of providing applied educational opportunities for its students while serving the furtherance of alternative energy development. Any electrical power realized through the testing process must not displace or replace power commercially available through the electricity infrastructure grid. The Center must remain non-commercial in nature with the purpose of providing scientifically-based, objective assessments and results.
Rick Armstrong, executive director of TEDEC, says the declaration clears the path for the start of immediate testing activity which has been delayed by a permitting process originally developed for application to hydropotential energy sources, rather than those of hydrokinetic energy.
The FERC regulatory process primarily focuses on managing the environmental implications of necessary infrastructure and processes related to the generation of hydroelectricity, through the use of dams and other gravitational flowing water systems.
"Tidal energy works with the environment and the natural flow of tidal waters, so many of the well-intentioned restrictions and precautions of the Federal Power Act are not necessarily applicable to this situation, especially in light of the fact that TEDEC at Maine Maritime Academy will focus on non-permanent, field test models that are relatively small and easy to remove," said Armstrong.
According to Armstrong, FERC's declaration considered impediments to the growth and success of the emerging tidal energy industry. He stated that there is a growing need for objective, scientific field tests and assessments of prototypes with little or no domestic proving grounds. Also, there is an industry need for trained personnel for the development of installations, maintenance, deployment, and monitoring of tidal energy devices. Armstrong said, "TEDEC, through its solid academic base at MMA, was able to assure FERC of its ability to provide support to advancements in the technology, while offering an educational platform for the expansion of related career paths for its students. Through TEDEC, MMA has seized the opportunity to involve its students from across the core disciplines of the college in a number of applied learning environments, from engineering performance review and operation, to baseline environmental studies, to aspects of entrepreneurship and business. This movement forward is a tremendous gain for the industry and our students."
Through TEDEC, the college will provide a tidal energy demonstration and evaluation center to economically and efficiently test and evaluate a variety of tidal energy devices currently under development around the world. The Center, the second of only two in the world and the first one in the United States, will also seek to create a model for tidal energy device testing in which educational and industry interests work cooperatively to advance technology while improving understanding of local natural resources and incorporating those features in design development. To minimize environmental disturbances and improve the overall viability of proposed renewable energy devices, the proposed center will enable academic research to influence not only testing procedures, but industry-wide engineering standards for tidal energy devices.
In addition, TEDEC is committed to assisting the regulatory community in developing protocols and permitting regimes that are appropriate to the emerging tidal energy industry and are specifically directed at environmentally friendly in-stream hydrokinetic technology and energy production.
As a non-profit, mission-based resource for alternative energy exploration, the proposed center will provide device developers with access to environmental research and interpretation, academic expertise regarding environmental influencers and impact reduction, and professional engineering suggestions and solutions.

Sugar-hungry yeast to boost biofuel production

Engineering yeast to transform sugars more efficiently into alcohols could be an economically and environmentally sound way to replace fossil fuels, say scientists presenting at the Society for General Microbiology's spring meeting in Edinburgh today.
Dr Christian Weber and Professor Eckhard Boles from Frankfurt University, Germany, have worked out how to modify yeast cells so that they successfully convert a wider range of sugars from plant waste such as wheat and rice straw into alcohol that can be used as biofuel.
Bioalcohols produced by microbial fermentations are an example of second generation biofuels that use raw materials not used in food production. Plant waste is available in large amounts and contains a mixture of complex sugars including hexoses and pentoses that can be fermented to alcohol. "As these feedstocks represent the biggest portion of processing costs, we need rapid and efficient conversion of all sugars present. At the moment there is a lack of microbes that will efficiently convert both hexoses and pentoses into ethanol," explained Dr Weber.
Bakers' yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae is already used in the beverage industry to efficiently convert hexose sugars, such as glucose, into ethanol. By transferring genes from bacteria that naturally break down pentose, Dr Weber's team have engineered S. cerevisiae to successfully ferment pentose and hexose sugars. "As pentoses represent a substantial part of the feedstock, the engineered yeast gives a much higher yield of ethanol for the same amount of feedstock," he said.
To enhance their biofuel potential even more, the yeast is being further modified to produce another bioalcohol - butanol instead of ethanol. "Compared to ethanol, butanol shows superior properties as a potential biofuel." It has a lower vapour pressure, ignites at a higher temperature and is less corrosive. Butanol could replace fossil fuels up to 100% without modifying existing engines," said Professor Boles.
BUTALCO is a company started by Professor Boles together with chemist Dr Gunter Festel that is developing a special technology to modify the yeast for pentose utilization and butanol production. The company is currently finalising the technology to use both pentoses and hexoses for bioethanol manufacture. Eventually a whole process chain will be developed covering all the steps of bioalcohol production from engineering through to downstream processing.

Concerns Over Global Warming Slipping

Posted by Robert Rapier on Sunday, March 28, 2010

Some readers strongly disagreed with me when I placed Climategate as one of the Top 10 Energy Related Stories of 2009. However, I have not changed my mind about what I think will be significant and lingering impacts from this event.
I am acquainted with a number of Global Warming skeptics, and I know many more who are on the fence. Many in the U.S. Congress fall into those categories. A story indicating possible data suppression/manipulation of climate data was going to get a lot of mileage. Skeptics are going to use it to full advantage, and many fence-sitters are going to be swayed. So my reasoning was that it would ultimately have significant long-term implications. In fact, I think if there was ever much chance the U.S. would pass major legislation to stem carbon emissions, Climategate squashed that possibility.
Polls have already shown that concern over Global Warming is falling in the U.S. This weekend I saw a story in one of the major New Zealand newspapers that shows concern is slipping here as well. One of the cited reasons? Climategate.
Recession eclipses planet’s problems
Public concern about global warming appears to have eased in the past year, following economic uncertainty and widespread media coverage of climate science slip-ups.
An online survey of 1066 people in February and March found the majority believed climate change was an immediate problem – but the proportion of believers had fallen from 76 per cent in 2008 to 65 per cent this year.
The latest poll follows a Nielsen survey of the Herald Readers’ Panel in December, which found one in five of 2296 respondents thought global warming was a giant con, and a further 28 per cent thought it had not been conclusively proved.
Almost all governments accept the findings of a UN report based on the work of hundreds of scientists which concluded in 2007 that warming of the climate was “unequivocal”.
But public confidence was dented when, shortly before world climate talks in Copenhagen, emails were released showing a few leading scientists tried to avoid releasing data to their doubters, in breach of British freedom of information laws.
Relative to the U.S., those in New Zealand who believe Global Warming is an immediate problem is still pretty strong at 65%. (The latest poll in the U.S. showed 35% thought the problem is very serious, and another 30% somewhat serious). But the New Zealand poll also showed a sizeable fraction who either think Global Warming is a scam, or that it hasn’t been conclusively proven.
One other thing this indicates is something that I have long maintained: Our environmental concerns have been facilitated by cheap energy. We can all afford the luxury of being environmentally concerned as long as it doesn’t inconvenience us. Once we start paying higher prices to protect the environment, people are no longer as enthusiastic. That’s why I believe that we will end up burning all the fossil fuels that we have, and the only realistic solution to rising carbon emissions is that we run out of coal, oil, and natural gas.
Of the 30% in the U.S. who believe Global Warming is “somewhat serious”, how many do you suppose would support 10% higher gas prices – or anything else that hits them in the wallet – to help mitigate Global Warming?