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.