Thursday, 11 March 2010

Academics demand independent inquiry into new nuclear reactors

• Lobby consists of 90 academics, politicians and experts• Claim appropriate information has not been made available

Terry Macalister
The Guardian, Thursday 11 March 2010
Pressure on the government to organise an independent inquiry into a new generation of nuclear power stations will intensify today with a call for action from a group of 90 high-ranking academics, politicians and technical experts.
The huge lobby says the "climategate" email scandal and other events have shaken public trust in the scientific governance of environmental risk, making a wider assessment of nuclear power more important than ever.
Paul Dorfman, an energy policy research fellow at Warwick University who has been coordinating support for an inquiry, said more debate was needed for a decision on nuclear to have full democratic backing. "The kind of consultation we have had so far has been flawed and inadequate. The government has put the cart before the horse by wanting endorsement before either the design of the reactor and the way waste will be treated has been decided. There is a democratic deficit here that needs correcting," he said.
Nuclear consulting engineer John Large, another campaign signatory, agreed. "The public consultation has been a failure because the appropriate information has not been made available for the public to make a proper assessment of the benefits and risks," he said.
"We need Ed Miliband [the energy and climate change secretary] to organise an independent inquiry as he is entitled to do under the justification regulations," he added.
These two critics are standing alongside a long list of academics, such as Jerome Ravetz of Oxford University and Mark Pelling of King's College London, as well as MPs including Simon Hughes of the Liberal Democrats, Michael Meacher from Labour and Jane Davidson, the environment minister in the Welsh assembly.
A "justification" process is a requirement under European Union law but Miliband will himself be able to decide whether he needs an inquiry or not. He is believed to want to take this step as soon as possible so that new nuclear power stations could come on stream in 2017, in time to meet an expected energy shortage.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change was unable to comment on the matter last night.

Leaf Clean plans share buy-back

Date: Wednesday 10 Mar 2010
LONDON (ShareCast) - Leaf Clean Energy, which recently saw its plans to merge with carbon trader Trading Emissions fall through, said it plans to buy back just under 15% of its shares at no more than 65p a share. The clean energy investment company’s net asset value (NAV) per share at the end of 2009 was 158.23 US cents, equivalent to around 105.7p per share. The company said its investments are performing ‘adequately against a difficult background’ and it remains confident that its portfolio will generate value. ‘The prospects for the environmental/clean energy market look considerably more positive than six months ago, as the underlying drivers remain strong - increasing focus on climate change and the environment more broadly and energy security issues,’ the company’s asset advisor, EEA Fund Management, said. The company saw loss before tax in the six months to 31/12/09 narrow to $22.83m from $39.51m in the corresponding period of 2008.

Gezhouba profits abroad

By Liu Yiyu (China Daily)Updated: 2010-03-10 09:45
The Gezhouba dam in Yichang, central China's Hubei province. LIU JUNFENG/FOR CHINA DAILYBeijing - China Gezhouba Group Co Ltd (CGGC), one of the largest engineering and construction companies involved in the Three Gorges Dam project, said overseas contracts are likely to take up half of its business in the future, according to its president Yang Jixue.
"Overseas markets will account for 50 percent of our business in the next three years, from the current 36 percent, boosted by massive projects in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia regions," Yang said.
The group now has 44 overseas projects - mostly hydroelectric-power related - in 17 countries or regions, according to Yang.
The State-owned infrastructure company, based in Central China's Hubei province, last month signed a 4.97 billion yuan ($727.78 million) contract with a Kazakhstan company to set up a hydroelectric-power plant in that country. The contract with Kazakhstan Natural Gas Technology Co Ltd would allow it to construct a 254-megawatt hydroelectric-power station on the banks of the Chilik River in Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan.
The volume of Gezhouba's overseas business ventures is much higher than its larger rivals - the average of which is 20 percent - mainly because as a leading builder of hydroelectric projects, Gezhouba has a limited market at home compared with its larger rivals which are more experienced in other infrastructure construction, industry analysts said.
"As the main contractor for China's Three Gorges Dam, Gezhouba is very experienced and advanced in hydroelectric projects, which afforded the builder many opportunities in the market, said Li Zhirui, an industry analyst with First Capital Securities. "China's construction contractors, as a whole, have big advantages because of their low labor costs in the global construction market."
However, they have a smaller market share in more mature markets including the US and Europe, Li said.
Yang estimated that the group would secure 50 billion yuan in new orders in 2010, with 20 billion yuan from foreign markets and 30 billion yuan from the domestic market.
"We expect 30 percent revenue growth this year based on current orders in hand and the growing momentum," said Yang.
The builder said new orders secured in January this year increased by 40 percent compared with the same period in 2009.
Gezhouba signed 42 billion yuan in new orders in 2009.
"The impact of China's 4 trillion yuan stimulus package on the infrastructure sector will fade out in the years to come, resulting in less investment in public construction work and forcing domestic contractors to tap developing markets," Li from First Capital said.
In the meantime, the company, primarily engaged in the construction of power plants, dams, roads, bridges and civil engineering projects, is also diversifying its business by increasing its cement output to 20 million tons in 2010, which, according to Yang, would generate 4 billion yuan in revenue this year.

China to achieve goal of cutting pollutant emissions - official

(Xinhua)Updated: 2010-03-10 17:32

BEIJING - A senior Chinese official said on Wednesday that the government was confident of achieving the target to cut emissions of major pollutants by 10 percent from 2006 to 2010.Zhang Lijun, vice minister of environmental protection, made the remarks at a press conference on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress, the top legislature.The government was considering to expand the category of "major pollutants" to include agricultural pollutants in drawing plans for the period from 2011 to 2015, he said.
The current scope of major pollutants includes sulfur dioxide and chemical oxygen demand (COD), a gauge of water pollution.He said environmental protection would be used as a tool to facilitate economic restructuring and transforming the development pattern. Market forces and long-term mechanism should play a greater role, he added.The country's COD and emissions of sulfur dioxide fell for four consecutive years after the target was set at the beginning of 2006, said Minister of Environmental Protection Zhou Shengxian in January.

China - Joint efforts against water pollution

By QIAN YANFENG (China Daily)Updated: 2010-03-10 07:37
Fish are released into Taihu Lake close to Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu province, to cultivate local fishery resources and purify the lake water. [Su Min / For China Daily]
Authorities call for provinces and municipality to work together to keep water in Taihu Lake cleaner
BEIJING: Authorities in the Yangtze River Delta are calling for cross-region environmental legislation to achieve better water quality in Taihu Lake, China's third-largest freshwater lake, that has been plagued by pollution for years.
Legislation is being urged for the Taihu Lake basin area that covers two provinces and one municipality. Officials said administrative barriers among governments of the three different regions and their self-interests have hindered the continued improvement of Taihu Lake water quality, and that cross-region legislation is vital to ensure efficient cooperation among them.
Zhang Quan, director of the Shanghai municipal environmental protection bureau, has submitted a proposal to the ongoing NPC session, calling for the establishment of a central commission on the protection of Taihu Lake water quality and comprehensive cooperation among regions in the upper and lower reaches of the lake.
Although the three regions, including Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces and Shanghai municipality, have done a lot in collectively fighting water pollution, efficient coordination is lacking, Zhang said. Self interests are usually prioritized above the overall improvement of Taihu Lake water quality, he said.
"For example, regions on the upper reaches of the lake sometimes disregard the interests of the lower reaches by discharging excessive pollutants into the lake in pursuit of local economic development," he said.
"That's why we need to promote environmental compensation so that the lower reaches would be compensated for any pollution caused by its neighbors in the upper reaches," he said.
The environmental compensation mechanism, which was already in place in Jiangsu, stipulates that cities on the upper reaches must compensate those in the lower reaches if their pollutant discharge exceeds the maximum limit.
In the first round of compensation finalized at the end of 2008, provincial capital Nanjing paid 18,000 yuan ($2,600) to the city of Changzhou, which in turn paid 180,000 yuan to Wuxi on the lower reaches of the lake.
The mechanism needs to be extended to the whole Taihu Lake area, and more needs to be done in overall pollution control and information sharing among the regions, Zhang said.
He also said the current governing body for the area is affiliated with the Ministry of Water Resources and is only responsible for flood prevention and utilization of water resources. It cannot address water pollution problems that are becoming increasingly serious today.
Zhang's call has won support from Mao Xiaoping, mayor of Wuxi, Jiangsu province.
"It is crystal clear that water pollution is not simply the responsibility of a single city, and to cure that problem, it needs concerted efforts from all those involved," he said.
Mao also said his government has closed more factories than it has allowed to open in recent years, in an effort to curb industrial pollution.
Taihu Lake has witnessed massive outbreaks of blue-green algae in recent years despite efforts to cut pollution discharges into the lake.
One such outbreak disrupted water supplies to 1 million residents of Wuxi in 2007.

Outlook for biodiesel less than shiny

By Zaidi Isham Ismail

THE outlook for biodiesel this year is choppy given the high prices of its feedstock crude palm oil (CPO) and waning interest, Frost & Sullivan Asian director Chris de Lavigne said.De Lavigne said that in the current world situation, interest in petroleum-based ethanol was down 70 per cent from its highest point in 2008; and in vegetable oil-based biodiesel, down nearly 80 per cent since it was highly realised in 2005.Interest in biodiesel peaked in 2007 and dropped 70 per cent by the end of last year. Its outlook was choppy, de Lavigne said in his working paper, "The future of biodiesel in uncertain markets".He was sharing his views with conference delegates at the annual Palm and Lauric Oils Conference and Exhibition (POC) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
De Lavigne said that history would repeat itself as palm oil prices were expected to rise, especially in the next two years, which would result in the commodity being too expensive to be used as biodiesel.He said the price uptrend would be caused by several things happening at the same time.However, he added that biodiesel was here to stay as numerous research and development activities were going on to make the renewable energy source attractive again in the future.He also said that the biodiesel sector needed the support of consistent and coordinated government policies, low raw material but high energy prices, improved feedstocks and advances in technology.

Feed-in tariff 'killing off' burgeoning UK small turbine industry

RenewableUK says inconsistencies in tariff favour solar panels, which takes microgeneration business out of UK

Zara Maung, Wednesday 10 March 2010 13.06 GMT
UK small wind turbine manufacturers say they will lose out to foreign solar panel manufacturers in the race to cash in on the UK government's new feed-in tariff scheme.
They claim their products will be penalised because solar panel owners will receive higher government subsidies than wind turbine buyers. As the arrangement stands, a wind turbine would qualify for 26.7-34.5p per KWh in government subsidies, while solar panels would typically bring in 41p per KWh.
Turbine manufacturers will also have to pay a fee of up to £100,000 to have their models certified for the scheme, and they argue that planning rules make it harder for customers to get approval for turbines.
Due to come into effect on 1 April, the tariff – also known as Clean Energy Cashback – will offer home owners a government subsidy for installing small-scale renewable energy technologies, including solar panels and wind turbines.
Alex Murley, RenewableUK's head of small systems, said: "Small wind is the only microgeneration technology which UK manufacturers dominate the market for. If we don't get this right we could be shooting ourselves in the foot and killing off a burgeoning UK success story."
According to Renewable UK, planning applications for small wind turbines have traditionally taken up to 14 months to process. Britain's oldest surviving small wind manufacturer, Ampair, has accused some local authorities of "systematically rejecting" applications.
The government promises to allow households to install small turbines without planning permission from June, but turbine manufacturers say the current planning allowance is too limited, restricting domestic wind turbines to a hub height of 10 metres and 2.2 metres blade diameter.
This will allow a 1.5KW turbine, producing an average of 800KWh a year in windy conditions – less than a fifth of the average UK household's electricity needs. By comparison, UK panel installer Solarcentury has estimated that the typical 18 metre square domestic solar panel installation would on average generate just over 2,000KWh – nearly half the average household's electricity consumption.
The government's Energy Saving Trust said that although such limitations are fine for urban roof top turbines, wind turbines in rural locations need to be bigger for small wind turbines to generate a significant amount of energy for the UK. It is these rural locations that will generate the lion's share of energy from "small" turbines. EST figures published last year show small turbines could meet 4% of the UK's electricity demands but only 4% of that energy would come from small turbines in urban locations.
UK manufacturers currently produce four-fifths of the country's small turbines, 3,500 of which were installed in the UK in 2008. All larger wind turbines and the vast majority of solar panels are manufactured abroad.
David Sharman, managing director of Ampair, claims the UK government is penalising its own manufacturing industry through inequalities in the feed-in tariff.
He also claims that the rigorous tests to qualify for the tariff's quality assurance certificate, the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), are prohibitively expensive at at £50,000-£100,000 per product certified. No small wind turbines have so far been MCS accreditedbut the government has set up an MCS 'transition list' for small wind turbines, which allows them to temporarily qualify for the tariff for one year while they complete the accreditation scheme.
Responding to criticism of planning restrictions for wind, a spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "We consulted on the proposals to find the right balance for these technologies. We want to enable homeowners to install microgeneration easily and also make sure we're fair about planning permission for larger installations. Different homes will be suitable for different technologies based on a number of factors – it's not a one size fits all."

RBS is not funding 'climate chaos' – it has excellent green credentials

We are ranked in the top five global lenders to renewables, well ahead of all other British banks

Andrew Cave
The Guardian, Thursday 11 March 2010
Kevin Watkins' article linking RBS to tar sands developments in Canada was highly misleading and ignored the billions of financing RBS has provided to renewable power projects (A fund for climate chaos, 5 March).
Watkins states: "Since recapitalisation, [RBS] has been bankrolling some of the world's most ecologically destructive investments. RBS is a global leader in underwriting loans for companies such as Shell and Conoco Philips, exploiting oil tar sands in Canada's Alberta province. Detailed analysis by People and Planet, the environmental organisation, documents a tar sand portfolio that has grown by $2.7bn since the government bailout."
We carefully assess the environmental credentials of the companies we do business with. RBS has no such portfolio and has not provided any finance directly to tar sands projects in the last three years – contrary to Watkins' assertion that large parts of our energy financing go directly to tar sands. Watkins also states that RBS's record in this area is an "open and shut case" – a surprising claim given his lack of discussion with us or consideration of our role in renewables financing.
Watkins declares that "RBS could be gearing its lending towards support for a low carbon transition strategy for Britain". If he had investigated further he would have found that over the past five years we have been ranked consistently in the top five lenders globally to renewables, well ahead of any other UK bank.
In response to Watkins claim that RBS is "subverting national policies on climate change", I want to make it completely clear that RBS fully understands the problem and we are contributing to the solution. Since 1998 we have financed over 8,800MW of wind generation globally – more than twice the total installed UK wind generation capacity.
At the end of last year, we were chosen as one of three banks to participate in a wind financing scheme backed by the European Investment Bank that will make up to £1.4bn available to onshore wind power projects in the UK over the next three years. These are not the actions of a bank intent on "funding climate chaos", as Watkins puts it.
But there are other issues to contend with. If we could treble our renewables financing overnight, we would. Unfortunately there are just not enough viable projects needing finance because of issues over planning, grid connections, cost and technology risks. We are closely involved in helping to remove these barriers, as highlighted in our submission to the recent Environmental Audit Committee.
The reality is that, whether we like it or not, our society is currently dependent on hydrocarbons. The transition away from them will require co-operation between governments, power companies, local communities and ultimately the end consumer. We are determined to play our part but oversimplification of the issues will take us nowhere.
Unveiled: Scotland's carbon capture plans to challenge climate change
Published Date: 11 March 2010
By Jenny Fyall
THE Scottish Government has unveiled a vision for Scotland to lead the way globally in key technology to capture carbon dioxide from power stations and store it underground.
A "road map" for the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been drawn up. It reveals that between 2015 and 2020 the Scottish Government is aiming to have two power stations furnished with CCS technology up and running.And the report reveals Holyrood is aiming for Scotland to have a quarter of Europe's CCS plants by 2020.The technology is considered crucial in the fight to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.It would enable power stations – currently among the world's biggest polluters – to continue operating without putting government climate change targets at risk.The technology captures emitted from the power station. It is then sent through pipes and held underground, such as in disused gas fields under the North Sea.However, the technology has not yet been shown to work on a commercial scale anywhere in the world.If Scotland can develop CCS first, political leaders believe that the country could export its expertise across the world, with huge benefits to the economy. The new road map, published yesterday, was produced by the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise.Energy minister Jim Mather said: "Scotland has all the attributes to become a world leader in carbon capture. "The North Sea alone has enough capacity to store emissions from industrial coal-fired plants for the next 200 years – a capacity greater than Netherlands, Denmark and Germany combined."And he added that Scotland's skills in the oil and gas industries could be transferred."As a hugely important technology in the fight against climate change, CCS offers Scotland a fantastic platform for low-carbon economic growth," he said."We now want to see a number of CCS demonstration projects developed in Scotland."ScottishPower has ambitious plans to fit out Longannet Power Station in Fife with CCS technology.It is competing with Eon for about £1 billion of funding from the UK government for the scheme. Eon is hoping to win the money for a CCS project at Kingsnorth in Kent.The Scottish Government also yesterday published guidance on how ministers will decide whether to grant consent to a new power station.It confirms that any new coal-fired power station would need to demonstrate CCS on at least 300 megawatts of its capacity from the start.This has been criticised by environmental groups as too low. Friends of the Earth Scotland argues that only new power stations entirely fitted out with CCS from the start should be allowed.Scottish Labour energy spokesman Lewis Macdonald argued Scotland's opportunity to lead the world on carbon capture depends entirely on continuing to belong to the United Kingdom and the single British market for electricity generation."Nothing will happen in Scotland on carbon capture and storage without full support from the UK government, simply because carbon capture and carbon storage are extremely expensive new technologies."He added: "Without British government support, the cost of taking forward CCS would have to be spread across only 5 million consumers, instead of over 50 million. Quite simply, nothing would happen."

More than two extinct species a year in England, report reveals

The biggest national study of threats to biodiversity found nearly 500 species that had died out in England, nearly all in last two centuries
Juliette Jowit
The Guardian, Thursday 11 March 2010
More than two animals and plants a year are becoming extinct in England and hundreds more are severely threatened, a report published today reveals.
Natural England, the government's agency responsible for the countryside, said the biggest national study of threats to biodiversity found nearly 500 species that had died out in England, all but a dozen in the last two centuries.
The losses recorded compare with a natural rate of about one extinction every 20 years before humans dominated the planet, but are almost certainly an underestimate because of poor records of any but the "biggest, scariest" creatures before the 1800s.
The high rate at which species are being lost is set to continue. Almost 1,000 other species face "severe" threats from the same problems that drove their relatives extinct – hunting, pollution, development, poor land management, invasive species and, more recently, climate change – says the report, Lost life: England's lost and threatened species. This represents about a quarter of all species in the best-studied groups, including every reptile, dolphin and whale species, two-thirds of amphibians and one-third of butterflies and bumblebees. In total, the report records 55,000 known species in England.
"Each species has a role and, like the rivets in an aeroplane, the overall structure of our environment is weakened each time a single species is lost," said Helen Phillips, the agency's chief executive. "We seem to have endless capacity to get engaged about rainforests but this reminds us conservation begins at home."
Tom Tew, Natural England's chief scientist, called for a "step change" in conservation, including more "targeted" schemes to protect individual species, better safeguarding of protected areas and better management of land outside the protected areas, especially farmland.
"This report is not all doom and gloom, but we're losing species at an alarming rate and many of our species are seriously threatened," he said. "These species could the tip of the iceberg unless we take action."
Matt Shardlow, head of Buglife, said: "The report [confirms] we are in the midst of an extinction crisis and it is happening here in England under our very noses."
Dozens of scientists trawled records going back to the first century AD from official lists and books. They identified 492 species recorded in England that could no longer be found, all but 12 of which disappeared after 1800.
A further 943 species are listed under the UK's Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) as plants and animals under threat. These include a number of species now extinct in many counties or regions of England. One statistic that shocked the experts was a study of nearly half of English counties, which showed one plant species going locally extinct every two years.
So widespread are the problems that some once prolific species are under threat, including the common toad, common frog, common skate and the corncrake. "They are not common any more," said Tew. "Our ancestors used to lie awake at night unable to sleep because of the noise of the corncrake."
Four of the species extinct in England also became extinct globally: the penguin-like great auk; Mitten's beardless moss; York groundsel, a weed only discovered in the 1970s; and the Ivell's sea anemone, last seen in a lagoon near Chichester.
Many more English animals and plants are also on the threatened list, including the whitebeam, a tree with young leaves like "white candles", said Tew: "That signals the start of spring; it can be found nowhere else in the world and has disappeared from much of England."
The remaining extinct and threatened species exist in other countries, though the agency warned that reintroducing species was not reliable because the threats still remained, and national or regional extinctions led to the loss of genetic diversity.
Last year Natural England also published a report highlighting the economic cost of not protecting natural ecosystem services such as clean air, clean water, productive soils for crops, carbon storage, flood defence and natural resilience to climate change.
Other benefits were beyond value, said Tew: "Lots of you, like me, feel the worse for not hearing the corncrake in the country, or the flash of a red squirrel. When we lose wildlife we lose something priceless, and that effects our quality of life."
The report calls for better conservation, especially following successful schemes to reintroduce or bolster populations such as the red kite and large blue butterfly.
Of the hundreds of species on the BAP list in the 1990s, seven have since become extinct but 45% are now stable or recovering. The government has also ordered a review of protected areas.
"Species loss is not inevitable; we can do something about it," added Tew. "But we need to think ambitiously if we're to meet the needs of this and future generations."
This week, Simon Stuart, who oversees the team of experts that declare species globally threatened and extinct, said humans were causing extinctions faster than new species could evolve for the first time since the dinosaurs disappeared.
Winners and losers
GOING: Species facing "severe" threats in EnglandRed squirrelNorthern bluefin tunaNatterjack toadCommon skateAlpine foxtailKittiwakeGrey ploverShrill carder bumblebee
RECOVERING: Recent conservation success storiesPole catLarge blue butterflyRed kiteLadybird spiderPink meadowcapSand lizardPool frogBittern

Europe's Road to Energy Security

Unconventional gas could free the EU from dependence on Russian gas supplies.

Last week, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev visited Paris to wrap up the sale of the French warship, the Mistral, to Russia. In turn, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was able to announce that France would get a stake in the Russian-sponsored Nord Stream natural gas pipeline and an increase in supplies of gas from Russia starting in 2015.
All this wheeling and dealing is hardly the epitome of great statesmanship. Nevertheless, it has become expected as European governments seek to close the gap between their own shrinking energy resources with those provided by Russian mega-supplier, Gazprom.
But it needn't be that way.
North America, for example, is now awash with natural gas. Technological advances in drilling and accessing "unconventional" gas sources—such as in shale and coal beds—have turned America from an importer of gas to a potential exporter. Estimates vary, but the United States likely has more than a century's worth of this fossil fuel at its disposal.
This revolution in gas supply has obvious and significant implications for American economic and energy security. However, if these technological advances were duplicated in Europe, the result could well be a geo-political game-changer on the Eurasian landmass as well.
Although it is still too early to predict the amount of accessible unconventional gas reserves in Europe, there are many locations in Europe, including areas in Germany, Poland and Sweden, that are analogous geologically to high-return sources of gas in the U.S. and Canada. Estimates by the U.S. Department of Energy and the International Energy Agency suggest that there are over 1,200 trillion cubic feet of unconventional gas reserves. This is more than six times the conventional reserves now on hand in Europe: More than enough to supplant nearly four decades of gas imports at current European levels of use. And many experts think these agency estimates are on the low side.
The advantages to Europe for tapping into this new resource are clear. It can substantially reduce Russian leverage over its European customers, such as Germany and many of its former Warsaw Pact allies. It can also prevent the "Gas Exporting Countries Forum," a collection of the world's leading natural gas producers that includes nations such as Iran, Libya and Venezuela, from becoming an "OPEC"-style monopoly for gas. With the U.S. no longer in need of importing significant amounts of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from abroad, the global glut has already allowed Europe to begin diversifying its suppliers and lessening its overall dependence on Gazprom.
In fact, precisely because Russia's Gazprom risks losing a substantial share of the European energy market to Europe's own producers, European development of unconventional gas could result in Moscow being a more reliable and pliant energy supplier. In turn, Russia still has a vast amount of untapped gas reserves but its production continues to decline due to its inability to draw investment and technology from the West. If Europe's capitals play their cards right, they ought to be able to get far better deals for their companies in developing Russian reserves as Moscow worries about no longer being competitive in this transformed gas market. In short, if Europe follows the American lead in natural gas exploration, when it comes to who is dependent on whom in the energy supply chain between Russia and Europe, the shoe could begin to shift to the other foot.
But there is a big "if" in that equation. Will Europe actually follow America's example?
Right now, Europe has nowhere near the drilling infrastructure or skill set that exists in North America. For example, the U.S. has somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 drilling rigs available for use in gas exploration, while Europe's total stands at less than two dozen. Also, labor costs are far higher; competition among companies to keep costs down is far less; and regulatory and environmental standards tougher. Much of America's drilling can take place in relatively open spaces; whereas European population density makes it more likely that governments on the Continent will face cries of "not in my back yard" from towns and individuals.
None of these issues are insurmountable, although they do likely mean that the rapid exploitation of unconventional gas sources that took place in North America will not be duplicated in Europe. That said, the fact that natural gas is a cleaner fossil fuel than coal or oil, and hence more environmentally friendly, should boost Europe's incentive to make the most of newfound reserves. No less an incentive is the fact that, in the absence of exploiting these unconventional reserves, estimates are that Europe will require a 90% increase in gas imports over the next two decades if it hopes to keep up with domestic demand. A failure to do so will only increase Europe's dependency on precisely those countries whose foreign and domestic policies we find problematic. But, conversely, exploiting these reserves could produce strategic windfalls that go well beyond simply increasing Europe's energy supplies.
Mr. Schmitt is director of the program on advanced strategic studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

An Energy Head Fake

The Administration is still hostile to oil drilling and nuclear power.
President Obama used his January State of the Union speech to promise "a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants" and "new offshore areas for oil and gas development." Judging by its recent decisions, we'd say his Cabinet hasn't received the memo.
Congress's ban on offshore drilling expired in September 2008, and a Bush Administration plan for leasing the energy-rich Outer Continental Shelf was due to begin this year. Yet within a month of taking office, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar halted leasing by extending the public comment period by six months. When that period ended last September, Interior said it would take "several weeks" to analyze the results. It has yet to release a summary.
Newt Gingrich's American Solutions group used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain Interior emails suggesting that the public comments ran 2-to-1 in favor of drilling. Instead of acknowledging this, Mr. Salazar last week informed Congress he was scrapping the Bush plan and that leasing will not begin for at least another two years.
The Administration failed to meet a deadline last month for submitting a court-ordered analysis of the environmental impact of new leases off the Alaskan coast. And in January, Mr. Salazar rebuffed Virginia's request—endorsed by its governor and legislature—to allow drilling offshore. Sensing a pattern?
Onshore, meanwhile, Interior canceled oil and gas leases on 77 parcels of federal land in Utah (a handful have since been reinstated). Mr. Salazar also yanked eight parcels from a lease sale in Wyoming. Several weeks ago a leaked Interior Department memo disclosed plans to have Mr. Obama use executive power—under the Antiquities Act—to designate 10 million acres of western land as "monuments," putting them off-limits to energy development as well as current timber or mining work.
As for nuclear power, Mr. Obama has promised an $8.3 billion loan guarantee to build two nuclear reactors in Georgia. However, Mike Morris, the CEO of American Electric Power, explained at a recent Wall Street Journal energy conference that while loan guarantees were a "nice thing," they were meaningless in the absence of regulatory certainty.
Only five of 50 states have what Mr. Morris calls nuclear-friendly "enabling" legislation that might convince corporate boards to commit capital to a long-term project. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, despite adopting a streamlined licensing process in 2005, hasn't issued key rules.
The Administration also sent mixed signals last week by putting the kibosh on Yucca Mountain for nuclear waste disposal. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has convened yet another "blue ribbon" panel on nuclear waste, which will probably have the half-life of uranium. Companies are already suing the feds for failing to meet legal obligations to collect waste, and the end of Yucca is one more reason for utilities to avoid making large capital bets amid uncertain government policy.
The President says he wants new supplies of home-grown energy, but the government's actions suggest continuing hostility to oil drilling and nuclear power. GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has been promoting a deal in which Republicans would endorse cap and trade in return for Democrats agreeing to more oil drilling and more nuclear plants. He appears to be selling a bridge to nowhere.

Review of Climate Panel Aims for Summer Release

by Eli Kintisch on March 10, 2010 5:28 PM
Yesterday the United Nations announced that a panel of scientists appointed by a global coalition of national science academies would launch an investigation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Speaking to reporters, Robbert Dijkgraaf, a Dutch mathematical physicist who co-chairs the InterAcademy Council, explained the outlines of the plan, but few details were available.
Dijkgraaf’s group, which represents 15 nations' national academies of science, said the review would include a close look at IPCC's procedures for assuring quality of data in its reports, the kind of literature used in its assessments, its review procedures, and ways it might publicize errors found in the future. In addition, Dijkgraaf said the review would look at IPCC's leadership structure, including issues about transparency and how it conducts its affairs. No members of the review panel have been named, although Dijkgraaf said he aimed to complete the report by August—a very quick turnaround for the National Academies.
Facing reporters at the UN headquarters in New York City, Dijkgraaf ducked questions about IPCC Chair Rajendra Pachauri’s leadership or the contents of e-mails at the University of East Anglia last fall. The review would be "really forward-looking," he said, suggesting that IPCC could "implement even better procedures for the next report," expected in 2014.
And Pachauri? “We are receptive,” he said. “This review will help us strengthen the process.”
“Nothing that has been alleged or revealed in the media recently [about the IPCC] alters the fundamental scientific consensus on climate change,” added UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “The threat posed by climate change is real.”

Climate Panel Details Its Review Plan

U.N. Appoints Another Global Science Body to Investigate Problems in Now-Controversial 2007 Report on Warming Trend

The United Nations detailed its plans for an outside review of its beleaguered panel on climate change, amid political reverberations as critics and advocates each jockeyed to use the announcement to their advantage.
The InterAcademy Council, a body representing scientific academies around the world, is to conduct a wide-ranging review of the procedures and management of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The review, to be done by August, comes in response to revelations of questionable behavior and factual errors by some scientists who contributed to the IPCC's 2007 report, which won a Nobel Peace Prize.
The report called climate change "unequivocal" and "very likely" caused by emissions from human activity. Most scientists say the conclusions haven't been undermined by errors in the report, but at minimum their disclosure has hurt the credibility of the report and the panel that carried it out.
Robbert Dijkgraaf, co-chair of the InterAcademy Council, said in an interview that the most delicate task will be to pick who participates in the review. The council needs people who have knowledge of climate science but aren't too close to the IPCC: "Clearly you cannot be the reviewer and the reviewed at the same time," he said. But people involved in previous IPCC reports could serve on the review committee, he said.
The council was set up in 2000 to advise international institutions such as the U.N. and the World Bank. The IPCC chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, participated in a previous council report on energy issues, but Mr. Dijkgraaf said that wouldn't compromise the council's objectivity.
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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has made climate change one of the top priorities of his tenure. Mr. Ban took no questions Wednesday and didn't directly address trhe future of Mr. Pachauri, who has faced calls to resign. But the two stood together at the U.N. podium and Mr. Ban was supportive.
"Regrettably, there were a very small number of errors" in the panel's 2007 report, Mr. Ban said. "Remember, this is a 3,000-page synthesis of complex scientific data. I have seen no credible evidence that challenges the main conclusions of that report." In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Pachauri said he would "certainly not" resign.
Critics of proposed greenhouse-gas regulations in the U.S. have begun using questions about the IPCC as their latest ammunition. Peabody Energy Co., one of the country's major coal producers, filed a petition last month with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington challenging the Environmental Protection Agency's move to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions because it relies on IPCC determinations.
The EPA "relied on a study that has enough uncertainty that you need to go back and revisit this finding," Gregory Boyce, Peabody's chief executive, said last week. The EPA said in a statement that it is confident its move will withstand legal challenge. "The question of the science is settled," the agency said.

The IPCC expressed "regret" earlier this year that its 2007 report erroneously claimed that Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035. The report also said inaccurately that about half of the Netherlands sits below sea level. IPCC leaders, including Mr. Pachauri, say an independent review is needed to try to restore public confidence in the panel.
The InterAcademy Council's board is likely to elect members to its review committee on March 22, Mr. Dijkgraaf said. He said the committee probably will include some people who have little exposure to climate science, but have expertise in issues such as quality control of data and use of non-peer-reviewed literature. The report will go through the council's board, which consists largely of presidents of national science academies.
"Scientific reputations will rest on this, and if it can be shown the science was sloppy, their stars will fall," said scientific ethicist Thomas M. Powers, director of the Science, Ethics, and Public Policy Program at the University of Delaware, speaking of those involved in the IPCC report. "Apart from divining rods, the best we can do is get the smartest people in the world, the people who know science, and ask them to review their peers."
Environmentalists said that they hoped the review would quiet criticism of the IPCC. It should "restore public confidence that has been shaken by an aggressive campaign to sow confusion about climate science," said a statement by Peter Frumhoff, who helped to write the 2007 report and is director of science and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, who is among those calling for Mr. Pachauri's resignation, on Wednesday said that the U.S. "cannot afford to continue to base our energy and environmental policies on contaminated U.N. data."
The InterAcademy Council will probe, among other things, the IPCC's guidelines for using non-peer-reviewed literature in its reports, how to ensure the IPCC considers a "full range of scientific views," and how it corrects any errors in its reports once detected, Mr. Dijkgraaf said, The council also will "look at the management of the IPCC," he said.
Neither the U.N. nor the IPCC will "exercise any control" over the study by the InterAcademy Council, Mr. Dijkgraaf said.
Write to Jeffrey Ball at