Monday, 11 January 2010

Electrics and hybrids to star

Pricier 'green' models take center stage at car show but it's not clear consumers are in sync
DETROIT—Electric vehicles, hybrids and small cars are slated to take center stage at the Detroit auto show, which opens Monday, as car makers try to forget the bleak year gone by and look to the future.
Fiat SpA, Volkswagen AG's Audi, BMW AG and Chinese auto maker BYD Auto Co. all plan to show new electric vehicles in various stages of development. Nissan Motor Co. will display its small Leaf electric car that is slated for production later this year. Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Volkswagen will show new gas-electric hybrids, while General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. plan to promote new gasoline-powered subcompacts and compacts.
But the rough year the industry just endured, which saw GM and Chrysler Group LLC go through bankruptcy and U.S. car sales fall to historic lows, won't be far from mind. The space at the show that historically was used by GM's discarded brands Hummer, Saturn, Pontiac and Saab will hold "Electric Avenue," a showcase for electric vehicles. And for the first year in memory Chrysler won't unveil a new vehicle at the Detroit show. Instead it will display a Maserati and a Ferrari among its Dodges, Jeeps and Chryslers, a reflection of its new management under Italian auto maker Fiat.
It is far from clear that the gas-efficient or gas-free cars the auto makers are promoting will lure consumers away from their large rides. The electric and hybrid models cost much more than similar gas-powered versions, and many consumers have moved back to larger vehicles after flocking to small cars during the brief period when gas hovered around $4 a gallon in 2008.
Last year, hybrid vehicles, which have been sold in the U.S. for 10 years, accounted for just 2.7% of all vehicles sold in this country, according to Autodata Corp. And sales of small cars fell last year from 2008, while sport-utility vehicles gained just under four percentage points of market share, according to Autodata.
"We are really seeing more and more vehicles available in smaller sizes," said Rebecca Lindland, an analyst at IHS Global Insight. The risk for car makers is that they aren't seeing "significant changes in consumer demand for those vehicles."
A report released Thursday by Boston Consulting Group cast doubt on the mass appeal of electric vehicles unless there is a major breakthrough in battery technology, which still costs too much to make such vehicles widely affordable.
The consulting firm estimates that fully electric vehicles will make up just 2.8% of the global market in 2020, while hybrids and range-extended vehicles—which use a small gasoline engine to recharge the batteries—will account for 23%.
Even so, car makers are charging ahead with electric-vehicle plans. GM on Thursday started production of the lithium-ion battery pack for its range-extended Chevrolet Volt, and the company's board is weighing an earlier launch of the long-awaited vehicle, said people familiar with the discussions.
The Volt initially was expected to come out late this fall, but the first cars could be on the road by late summer or early fall, these people said. An earlier launch would involve few vehicles and would likely be on a lease basis or involve a corporate fleet.
GM is seeking to beat to market Nissan's Leaf, which is slated to go on sale in December, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The company may also be able to sell the Volt at less than the expected $40,000 price tag, Jon Lauckner, GM's head of global program management, said Thursday.
Others that are joining the electric-vehicle movement recognize their mass-market potential may be limited. "It is popular at the moment to think battery-powered cars hold the solution. We have a long way to go before it is a reality," said Johan de Nysschen, head of Audi's North American operations.
Mr. de Nysschen expects the electric-vehicle market to be bifurcated. At one extreme will be compact, light commuter vehicles with short driving ranges. At the other end will be high performance cars that command a high price to help recoup their investment costs.
Audi's first electric vehicle will fall in the latter category, according to a person familiar with the plans.
BMW, which put out a limited fleet of two-seat electric Mini Coopers last year, plans to display at the show a four-seat BMW electric concept car based on its 1-Series that will be leased to fleet customers next year. —Sharon Terlep and Jeff Bennett contributed to this article.

U.K. Expands Its Offshore Wind Energy

Plan to Produce One-Fourth of Country's Needs Boosts Green Firms, Involves Big Costs, Technical Risks
Britain staked out a leading role in offshore wind energy Friday, announcing plans to develop 32 gigawatts of generating capacity in U.K. waters by 2020.
The project would cover a quarter of the country's electricity needs but involves enormous costs and technical risks.

Renewable energy is becoming big business and one of the biggest bets these days is offshore wind farms. WSJ's environment columnist Jeff Ball reports.
The selection of successful bidders for nine wind-farm sites in U.K. waters is a shot in the arm for the global wind-power industry, and will put the U.K. firmly on the path to a low-carbon future.
Britain will have to overcome significant obstacles to achieve its targets. Developers operating in U.K. waters face rising production costs, a weak supply chain and a lack of connections to onshore electricity grids.
The U.K. aims to become a leader in a sector still in its infancy. Only 150 gigawatts of wind-energy capacity is currently operational world-wide, and of that, only 1% is offshore -- barely half of it in the U.K., according the British Wind Energy Association.
Friday's announcement represents a ramp-up in global capacity and will benefit companies making everything from wind turbines to installation vessels. In past years, the U.K. held two licensing rounds for offshore wind farms, awarding eight gigawatts of capacity. Friday's third round is for four times that -- 32 gigawatts -- and will require the installation of about 6,400 turbines over the next 10 years.
Construction of the Round Three projects is due to start in 2014 at the earliest. The scale of the task has been compared with the development of North Sea oil and gas in the 1970s, which revolutionized the U.K.'s energy landscape.
The increase is essential if the U.K. is to achieve its green targets, which are some of the most ambitious among industrialized countries. Britain is committed to producing 15% of its energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar and wave power by 2020. At present, it generates 2.4% from such sources.
Each Round Three project will involve banks of large turbines anchored to the seabed that rotate in the moving air and power an electric generator. The turbines will be taller than 40-story skyscrapers. Each blade on the turbines will extend almost 200 feet. Also, these sites generally are further from land and in much deeper waters than those awarded earlier.
Some analysts say such enormous wind farms, far off in the stormy waters of the North Sea, remain a risky investment, given their size and the technical challenges posed by their construction. It is also harder and more costly to maintain and repair wind farms that are out at sea than those onshore.
Meanwhile, costs for constructing wind turbines have escalated in recent years, roughly doubling from £1.5 million ($2.4 million) per megawatt in the first-round projects to £3.1 million for Friday's round, according to the BWEA. Small wind-power projects have been delayed in the U.K. as investors waited for the government to increase its financial support for the sector.
But a senior official at the U.K.'s Crown Estate, which owns the seabed out to the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit around the country, said that having a manufacturing and supply base in the U.K. would make the projects cheaper to build.
"Once the supply chain and the whole industry is mobilized, it will force the pace of development, just like it did in the North Sea oil and gas sector," said Rob Hastings, the Crown Estate's director of marine estate.
The government's claims that expanding offshore wind capacity could create thousands of green jobs in the U.K. have been met with skepticism. Currently, most parts for wind power, such as towers, blades and control systems -- are produced in continental Europe.
Successful bidders in the Third Round include European utilities such as RWE AG and E.On AG of Germany; U.K. energy supplier Centrica PLC; Scottish & Southern Energy PLC, Iberdrola SA of Spain, and Sweden's Vattenfall.
Write to Selina Williams at and Guy Chazan at

Irrational fears give nuclear power a bad name, says Oxford scientist

Wade Allison says misplaced health stigma has prevented the full benefits of nuclear energy being explored
Alok Jha and Sarah Boseley, Sunday 10 January 2010 20.32 GMT

The health dangers from nuclear radiation been oversold, stopping governments from fully exploiting nuclear power as a weapon against climate change, argues a professor of physics at Oxford University.
Wade Allison does not question the dangers of high levels of radiation but says that, contrary to scientific wisdom, low levels of radiation can be easily tolerated by the human body.
Most scientists who have responded disagreed with Allison's conclusions, but his comments have highlighted the lack of understanding of how the body deals with low doses of radiation, a crucial issue given it is increasingly used in modern medical procedures such as scanning and cancer treatment.
Nuclear crises, from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the meltdown of a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, have created widespread fear and distrust of nuclear power, and global pressure to keep radiation at the lowest possible level, according to Allison, a particle physicist who makes his arguments in a self-published book, Radiation and Reason. He says long-term data on the health of survivors of the atomic bombs have demonstrated how good the human body is at protecting itself from radiological and chemical attack.
"The ability to repair damage and replace cells, we discovered in the last 50 years, show how radiation doesn't cause damage except under extreme circumstances," he says. "The radiation that a patient gets in one day from a course of radiotherapy treatment, it would take a million hours of exposure for someone standing in the radioactive waste hall of Sellafield. And, if you have radiotherapy, it goes on for several weeks."
Ionising radiation, the type from nuclear reactions, can break strands of DNA in cells and these can make a cell cancerous unless the body's machinery can fix the damage. Scientists have used data from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, plus that from experiments on animals and cell cultures, to create a measure of how much damage is caused by high levels of radiation. This has then been extrapolated back, in a straight line, to estimate the potential damage from low levels of radiation to create what is called the linear non-threshold (LNT) model.
"The problem with a lot of these discussions is that you eventually get to the point where you don't have any more data," said Professor Gillies McKenna of Oxford University, Cancer Research UK's expert on radiation oncology. "Even the data from Hiroshima and Nagasaki – there weren't enormous numbers of cancers created in those cases, so we have to extrapolate what we think would happen at low dose."
Since the end of the second world war, scientists have worked on the basis that there is no dose of radiation so low that it is not dangerous. Allison, however, believes there is a threshold below which any radiation exposure is fully repaired by the body – but this is a view mainstream scientists disagree with.
"I wouldn't say Allison's ideas are fanciful but when you weigh up all the evidence, the scientific authorities come to the conclusion that the LNT dose-response relationship for low doses is the best we can do," says Richard Wakeford, an epidemiologist specialising in the health effects of radiation at the University of Manchester.
Allison's hypothesis assumes that all of the DNA damage caused below a threshold of radiation dose can be fixed by the cells' internal machinery. "I can't see and nor do the majority of experts in the field how these processes can be 100% effective," said Wakeford.
"Radiation is particularly effective at causing double-strand DNA breaks, which make it difficult for the repair mechanisms in the cells to repair them properly."
Where McKenna and other scientists do agree with Allison is that fear of radiation is a problem. McKenna's expertise is in the use of radiation to kill cancer cells. "People become so fearful of radiation that they avoid diagnostic tests that might save their lives or avoid radiotherapy when they have cancer that is much more likely to kill them than exposure to radiation. He [Allison] is right that it has become a little bit hysterical. People are now avoiding CT scans or avoiding building nuclear power stations when in most aspects, radiation is a very useful thing."
Half of cancer patients will be given radiotherapy and more than half of those will be cured by it, McKenna said. "In most instances, where you use radiation – certainly in medicine and in most other forms of industry – the benefits greatly outweigh the risks."
Treatment involves a dose of radiation directed at the cancer cells which is 10 to 20 times the dose that would be fatal directed to the whole body.
Some areas of the country, such as Devon and Cornwall, have naturally high levels of radiation in the rock, and yet they do not have high incidence of cancer. "It would suggest to me that we can tolerate relatively higher doses of radiation, unless you add things on top like smoking," said McKenna, adding that there were good scientists on both sides of the debate, "but you reach a point where you can't generate the data you need and I do think we need to be careful not to exaggerate the risks and increase the fears."
Nothing has generated quite as much cancer concern in the UK as Sellafield power station in Cumbria. Concern about radiation leaks at the plant, known as Windscale when it was commissioned in 1956, grew over the years until in 1983, Yorkshire Television produced a documentary called The Nuclear Laundry, suggesting low-level radiation emissions posed a risk. In the 1990s clusters of childhood leukaemia cases were identified near the site.
Investigating those concerns has been the preoccupation of Comare, the government's expert committee on the medical aspects of radiation, since it was set up in 1985. After years of painstaking work and many reports, it has yet to establish a link between radiation and childhood leukaemia. The evidence for some sort of infection, possibly caused by the movement from one area to another of people working at the plant, is far stronger.
Comare's chairman, Alex Elliott, a professor of clinical physics at Glasgow University, says there is a wide spectrum of views on the dangers of low-level radiation. "There are those who believe people like me are part of an international conspiracy to hide the dangers of radiation from the public," he said. At the other end are the believers in "radiation hormesis", who say we live in a beneficent soup of low-dose radiation, which is essential for life and may even prevent cancer deaths.
Elliott steers a middle path. "The Comare view, along with the consensus worldwide, is that the current risk estimates are broadly correct," he said. "They keep being revised but if they are wrong, it is by no more than a factor of two or three in each direction." And, he said, "we believe the linear hypothesis should continue to be used."
It is almost impossible, he said, to carry out experiments that would prove that low-level radiation is dangerous or is not, because the risks are so small.
But radiation generates fear, he said. "Because we can't see, hear, smell or touch it, we are much less tolerant of radiation than anything else. We are definitely hysterical about radiation. We go to enormous lengths on the precautionary principle.
"I don't know how many people are killed on the roads each year, but we live with that. We're not thinking of banning trucks. We're incredibly bad at risk-benefit analysis."
But Wakeford said that calculating the risks of low-level radiation is becoming increasingly important. "One of the big issues today is just how you manage these new, relatively high-dose diagnostic procedures like CT scans. This is probably the big issue as far as low doses are concerned. In the US, remarkably, the average citizen receives more dose from medical diagnostic procedures than he receives from background radiation, which is a dramatic increase from the last time this was assessed about 20 or so years ago. When you come to make an assessment about balance of risk about whether to give a child a CT scan or not, these are real considerations, not hypothetical at all."
Comare, in a rare respite from studying leukaemia clusters at nuclear installations, recently produced a hard-hitting report on sunbeds, calling for a ban on their use by under-18s. "At the minute, it would appear that more people are damaged by sunbeds than by nuclear power in the UK," Elliott said.
Reasons to be fearful? Expert views
Mike Clark, scientific spokesman for the Health Protection Agency
"There is an international scientific consensus about the health effects of ionising radiation which is based on decades of research worldwide. This is the so-called linear hypothesis, by which you extrapolate health effects observed at high doses to calculate risks at low doses. There are scientists who disagree with this and clearly Professor Allison is one of them. However there are also some scientists who claim the linear hypothesis can underestimate risks.
"The Health Protection Agency accepts the scientific consensus and bases its advice on recommendations from the International Commission on Radiological Protection."
Professor Steve Jones of Westlakes Research Institute, who published research on the health of the former British Nuclear Fuels workforce and the link between high radiation doses and heart disease
"One of the problems, is that the effect of radiation at low doses is very difficult to determine from observational science because the effects are small. The cancer risk to any group of people over a lifetime is 25% and if you look at whether radiation will increase over that you will struggle to get a clear result. Another reason to be cautious is because some studies suggest that the risk of radiation may be an increase in circulatory diseases as well. A good judgement based on all the scientific information available is it would be unwise to move away from what we have."
Richard Wakeford, visiting professor of epidemiology at the University of Manchester
"I do not find [Allison's] these arguments particularly convincing. I have to say, when I've reviewed the evidence, it is very difficult to detect the adverse effects of radiation at low levels because the predicted excess risk of cancer is small and is easily hidden in the noise of other factors like smoking and diet and drinking. All the people who hang on to these arguments are missing the point. If you take the evidence as a whole from radiation epidemiology, there's probably a risk from cancer arising from small doses of radiation [and] they're around about what you get from a linear no-threshold dose response."
Susan Short, clinical senior lecturer in oncology at University College London
"I do have sympathy with the view that the effects of radiation have been overestimated but it reflects ignorance in the community about radiation; it's still portrayed as a dangerous unknown though we understand a lot about it really. People have such poor understanding of risk – these people who go and demonstrate against local nuclear power plants are the same as those who will happily smoke 20 cigarettes a day or lead high-risk lifestyles and don't see the irony."

Wind funds should be diverted to gas storage

If the British economy wasn't already in tatters, the current cold snap could have tipped it over the edge.

By Garry White Published: 6:40PM GMT 10 Jan 2010
Because of the slowdown in industrial activity, factories and other businesses are using less energy. That's why Britain's current gas crisis isn't as acute as it could have been.
Despite the fact that industry is running at a subdued capacity, some businesses – with interruption clauses in their contracts – had to switch to other sources of energy as their taps were turned off.

Proponents of wind energy believe that wind turbines will be a global panacea to all our energy needs. However, there was a major problem last week when energy demand was at its peak – the wind was not blowing.
Cold weather is often accompanied by low pressure. This means a lack of wind just at the time when demand goes through the roof.
Just 0.2pc of a possible 5pc of the UK's energy was generated by wind turbines over the past few days, according to energy consultant Utilyx.
Last week National Grid was forced to put out two gas balancing alerts. A GBA is issued when gas demand threatens to outstrip supply. It is a warning to large users that they may have to cut consumption and companies on interruptible gas contracts may have their supply stopped.
Part of the reason for the first alert last Monday was because some Norwegian gas production units had been undergoing maintenance at the weekend. Supplies then picked up in the afternoon and the imbalance came to an end.
The second alert was issued on Thursday and the fact that there were two in one week is significant. The last time a GBA was issued was in 2006 after a fire at a gas storage site.
This should be taken as a warning. We must ensure that we have secure energy supplies in the future – and we need more gas storage to do this. Otherwise we could be hostage to large fluctuations in the gas price in the winter months and experience a real crisis when the wind does not blow.
To be clear, it is highly unlikely that we will run out of gas: we are not facing the prospects of old ladies freezing in their homes as large swathes of residential customers have their supplies cut off.
However, demand will continue to grow and declining production from the North Sea caused Britain to become a net importer of gas in 2004. It is expected that the UK will import 80pc of its gas by 2015.
Gas demand hit an all time high of 454 cubic metres on Thursday and, with the UK's population forecast to grow to 70m in the next two decades, any cold snaps in the future are likely to see new winter records hit on a regular basis.
The UK has enough storage capacity for 4pc of annual consumption compared with 19pc in Germany and more than 100pc in the US.
The problem with gas storage sites is that gas can only flow out at a certain rate. "The UK's main gas storage facility, Rough, can only physically deliver about 45m cubic metres a day, or a tenth of a cold weather demand day," according to Alex Froley, European power & gas editor at Platts.
"National Grid says Rough currently holds about 2,900m cubic metres, so it would take about 64 days to physically empty even if run non-stop from now on."
Richard Haddelsey, an energy analyst at McKinnon & Clarke, noted that gas storage projects do not get significant government backing – unlike the wind industry – but thinks these sites are just as vital to Britain's future energy needs.
He accepts that the energy market is liberalised but thinks it is a government's duty to ensure that a country has the infrastructure it needs.
Gas storage facilities are a good idea for two reasons. First, they act as a buffer should gas imports be affected by international disputes or pipeline problems and second, and more importantly for the consumer, they allow gas providers to manage variable demand.
This will reduce the need for imports when gas is at its most expensive in the peak winter months. Cheaper gas can be bought in the summer and then stored for use in the winter.
Last week, about 20pc of the UK's gas needs was supplied by liquefied natural gas (LNG). However, there is a supply risk here as well.
LNG cargoes can be shipped to the place where gas prices garner a premium. If gas prices in the US are higher than in the UK, who could blame a supplier for directing ships into this market instead of the UK?
The key to energy security in the future is having a diverse supply.
Currently, billions of pounds in subsidies is being blown into the wind industry through the Renewable Obligation Certificates. Perhaps the next government should consider diverting some of this cash so we can save more gas supplies for a future windless, icy day

'UK should follow Scotland's lead on emissions cuts', say auditors

Published Date: 11 January 2010
AN INFLUENTIAL environmental committee has recommended the UK government follows Scotland's lead in its reduction of greenhouse gasses.
• Scotland has tough targets for cutting CO2 emissions, including from power stationsThe Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) urged the government to set the target for cutting carbon dioxide () emissions by 2020 to 42 per cent.The Scottish Parliament voted in June to cut the nation's emissions to that figure, making it the world's most ambitious greenhouse gas reduction target.Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, welcomed the report. He said: "We have been calling for others to follow Scotland's lead on setting climate targets, so it is very welcome to have this influential committee support the view."After the shambles of Copenhagen, it is all the more important for individual countries to show leadership in setting targets. "Scotland is already working out how to deliver on its 42 per cent target and the UK needs to step up to the same level of ambition if the global community are to be persuaded to work together to prevent temperatures rising above the 2C safety threshold. "Scotland's ambitious 2020 target was heard loud and clear by many nations during the Copenhagen summit. If the UK were to increase its target, this would send out a clear message to other world leaders that they need to rapidly make up for their failure to put enough on the table during the Copenhagen talks."The EAC last night also warned action in the UK to cut greenhouse gas emissions could be rendered "meaningless" if a global deal on tackling climate change was not secured.The committee urged the government to cut emissions more quickly at home – to prove to other countries Britain was serious about backing up its attempts to get an international agreement with action. The report examined the progress the UK was making in meeting its "carbon budgets", targets for cutting emissions over five-year periods set down in the Climate Change Act.It warned the government was only on track to meet the first budget (2008-12) because of the recession, and urged ministers to deliver the promised reductions and bring forward new measures to increase the rate of progress.Tim Yeo, the committee's chairman, said: "We must send a clear signal to developing countries that we are serious about making an international deal work – by meeting our own targets more quickly. The slower our progress, the less credibility we will have internationally."He added: "Setting carbon budgets involves making a series of difficult political judgements that balance what science is telling us with what is affordable, feasible and politically acceptable."The EAC also said the target for cutting emissions by 2020 should be increased to 42 per cent on 1990 levels regardless of what the rest of Europe did

Job Creation Takes On New Importance in Climate-Change Fight

If the public has to choose between creating jobs and spending billions to scrub invisible heat-trapping gases from the sky, jobs will win. That's why the campaign to combat climate change is morphing, at least politically, into an economic-development drive with an environmental twist.
Many billions of dollars are being spent on clean energy, even amid the recession. One key to combating climate change will be increasing that investment so the economy keeps growing but coughs out less carbon. Most talk focuses on a "cap and trade" system, in which companies would buy and sell permits to emit dwindling amounts of greenhouse gases.

But nations gathered at last month's Copenhagen climate summit declined to create a global cap-and-trade scheme. They couldn't agree on which countries should reduce their emissions the most. In Washington, proposals to launch a U.S. cap-and-trade program are crashing into similar fights among regions and industries.
So what's the alternative? A grab bag of more granular steps, each sold as creating "green jobs." One example: $2.3 billion in federal clean-energy manufacturing tax credits, whose recipients President Barack Obama announced Friday.
Michael Morris, chief executive of American Electric Power Co., an Ohio-based utility and one of the country's biggest carbon-dioxide emitters, doubts the U.S. will soon adopt a cap-and-trade program. Unless big developing countries like China accept an emissions cap -- something unlikely -- a U.S. cap, which would saddle American industry with higher energy costs, would make it less competitive, he said.
"I think there is no potential for a global approach to this issue anytime soon, and because of that, it's almost illogical that there would be a U.S. approach anytime soon," Mr. Morris said. "Having said that, I don't think there's any reason we as a country can't do some constructive and positive things."
He suggested that instead of harnessing the market by putting a price on carbon, the U.S. government could require utilities to produce a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable sources -- a cost they would pass on to their consumers in the form of higher electricity bills. To succeed, he said, the government would have to exercise more authority to allow the construction of power lines to take that clean juice to market. "The transmission piece is, in fact, a jobs bill," Mr. Morris said, previewing a message that was likely to be heard more often given today's 10% unemployment rate in the U.S.
Fans of a cap-and-trade system tout it as the ultimate jobs program. By driving business toward ever-cheaper ways to curb emissions, they said, it would create more jobs than it kills. They said it was the only way to prod U.S. industry to develop low-carbon technologies to compete against China, which was boosting its renewable-energy and energy-efficiency industries to nurture new exports and curb its foreign-energy bill.
"A market guided by a cap is the most powerful tool we have to match the focus of China's industrial policy," said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, an advocacy group that often works with business. Polls show that voters are even less willing than they were before the recession to spend extra money to help the environment. Any cap-and-trade proposal, Mr. Krupp said, must contain "something that jump-starts a lot of jobs."
Markets aren't as popular as they once were. And one aspect of a cap-and-trade system is emerging as a political liability: the chance for Wall Street traders to profit from the buying and selling of greenhouse-gas emission permits.
Many advocates of a cap-and-trade system said it was necessary, but not sufficient on its own, to control climate change. Research suggests it would produce most of its emission from power producers, because they have more flexibility than most other industries to switch to lower-carbon fuels.
The world still would need big emission cuts elsewhere -- namely from more-efficient cars, appliances and buildings -- to slash emissions as deeply as many scientists are calling for. Achieving that, many studies conclude, would require tougher mandates for the energy efficiency of various products.
It isn't clear that any politically viable environmental policy would meaningfully curb greenhouse-gas emissions. In Copenhagen, the U.S., China and several other countries pledged to cut their emissions or slow their growth. Even if those countries kept their Copenhagen promises, the average global temperature would rise 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by later this century, according to the International Energy Agency.
Many scientific panels have said that allowing temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels could trigger dangerous consequences from climate change.
Some scientists said the computer models projecting those temperature increases and those consequences were flawed, and that any environmental effect from rising carbon emissions would be manageable.
"There's still a major gap between the current pledges and the desired outcome," said Fatih Birol, the IEA's chief economist.
Yet an environmental policy that fails to promote jobs isn't going to do anything for the atmosphere, either, because it isn't going to get off the ground.
Write to Jeffrey Ball at

The end of consumerism: Our way of life is 'not viable'

New report says we must embrace a basic future to survive
By Jonathan Owen
Ditch the dog; throw away (sorry, recycle) those takeaway menus; bin bottled water; get rid of that gas-guzzling car and forget flying to far-flung places. These are just some of the sacrifices we in the West will need to make if we are to survive climate change.
The stark warning comes from the renowned Worldwatch Institute, a Washington-based organisation regarded as the world's pre-eminent environmental think tank.
Its State of the World 2010 report published this week outlines a blueprint for changing our entire way of life. "Preventing the collapse of human civilisation requires nothing less than a wholesale transformation of dominant cultural patterns. This transformation would reject consumerism... and establish in its place a new cultural framework centred on sustainability," states the report.
"Habits that are firmly set – from where people live to what they eat – will all need to be altered and in many cases simplified or minimised... From Earth's perspective, the American or even the European way of life is simply not viable."
Nobel prize winner and microfinance expert Muhammad Yunus, writing in the foreword, describes the report as calling for "one of the greatest cultural shifts imaginable: from cultures of consumerism to cultures of sustainability".
Almost seven billion people are demanding ever greater quantities of material resources, decimating the world's richest ecosystems, and dumping billions of tons of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.
And any actions taken by governments, or scientific advances to deal with climate change, are doomed to failure unless individuals get back to a basic way of life, concludes the report – which recommends things like borrowing books and toys from libraries instead of buying them, choosing public transport over the car, and growing food in community gardens. In addition, all products should be designed to last a lifetime and be completely recyclable.
A seismic shift in thinking is needed, according to senior researcher Erik Assadourian, project director of the report: "Making policy and technology changes while keeping cultures centred on consumerism and growth can only go so far. To thrive long into the future, human societies must shift their cultures so sustainability becomes the norm."
But the report's findings were attacked last night by Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. "Let's face it, by 2050, the combined population of China and India alone will have grown to three billion. By then, most Chinese and Indians will have adopted an urban lifestyle. This... makes demands for radical curbs in consumerism and CO2 emissions utterly unrealistic."
People need to be persuaded of the benefits of tackling climate change, rather than be presented with a "defeatist and doomsday scenario", according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). "Questions around consumption are not so much about the rate of it, but the fact that the full environmental impacts are not yet fully reflected inwhat is consumed... until environmental impacts are fully factored in, we need behaviours and/or production methods to change," said a DECC spokes-man.

U.S. Panel Reverses Ruling Against Mitsubishi Heavy

A federal agency that oversees trade disputes has rejected General Electric Co.'s claim that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. violated GE patents to build wind turbines that the Japanese firm imports to the U.S.
The U.S. International Trade Commission decision, handed down Friday without comment, reversed an administrative law judge's earlier ruling that Mitsubishi Heavy had violated the patents. The commission said it would issue an opinion detailing its reasoning.
"GE believes strongly in the merits of its case against MHI, and we will continue to protect our technology in the U.S. and around the world," company spokesman Daniel Nelson said in a statement. Mr. Nelson said GE would review its legal options. Tom Aiyama, a spokesman for Mitsubishi Heavy in New York, said the company was pleased with the decision but wanted to analyze it before deciding on future strategies.
The case comes as larger wind turbines are becoming more popular, particularly in the West, because they take up less land and can be more cost effective to operate, Emerging Energy Research analyst Matt Kaplan said.
GE, based in Fairfield, Conn., and Mitsubishi have pegged 2010 as key for large turbines, Mr. Kaplan said in a telephone interview last week. Mitsubishi has a 2.4 megawatt product and GE has a 2.5 megawatt product. Manufacturers that use GE's technology have purchased licenses from GE or developed technology to circumvent the patents.
Mitsubishi manufactures components for the wind turbines in Japan and Mexico and imports them to the U.S. where the machines are built. —Associated Press