Thursday, 6 May 2010

Bluechip Energy To Provide 25kW Solar Photovoltaic System For Abio Corporation

Expected To Be One Of The Largest Private Commercial Solar Energy Installations In Central Florida
By Lawrence Hefler
Lake Mary, FL
BlueChip Energy™, a provider of complete solar energy solutions for residential, commercial, and utility applications, today announced that it has started the installation of a 25kW solar generator system to provide renewable energy for Abio Corporation in Orlando.
"Abio Corporation now has a solar electric system that will help reduce their long term energy costs. Should electricity rates increase in the coming years, the dollar value of the energy produced by the system will increase proportionately"
The system is ideally suited for a small business and is expected to help offset the electric bills of the company by over $7000 per year. The Fusion™ 25kW Solar Generator was developed specifically for commercial applications. The system will produce 25,000 watts of electricity from Florida sunlight. 25,000 watts of electricity can power light commercial office buildings and warehouses with 100% green energy that does not create any carbon emissions. It’s the equivalent of preventing 18 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) from being released.
Abio Corporation invents products and manufactures them in the United States. Their goal is to make the best innovative products that will help people live a better life. “We chose alternative energy because we want to reduce our manufacturing costs and remain competitive in the new and ever changing international business community. We selected BlueChip because they are a local company that helps with local employment and advances technical skills for its employees”, said Phillip Mark, Owner and President of Abio Corporation.
The Fusion 25kW Solar Generator System will consist of 110 mono-crystalline solar modules rated at 230 watts, and five 5kW inverters. BlueChip Energy will provide the design and installation. Monocrystalline solar modules are the most efficient available, minimizing the footprint of the system. The system will be mounted on the rooftop of the Abio location on Kingspointe Parkway in Orlando. The solar modules carry a 25 year limited power warranty guaranteeing energy production for 25 years.
“Abio Corporation now has a solar electric system that will help reduce their long term energy costs. Should electricity rates increase in the coming years, the dollar value of the energy produced by the system will increase proportionately” said Tom Cernera, Vice President, Commercial Sales for BlueChip Energy.
With the Federal Tax Credit and the State of Florida solar energy rebate, the cost of the Fusion 25kW system has been dramatically reduced for small companies like Abio Corporation. The Florida solar rebate expires on June 30th, 2010.

On the Radar: Evergreen Solar, Solarfun Power, and Suntech Power

5/5/2010 12:30 PM

So, it seems that the concept of the solar-stock trifecta is a recurring theme this week. Thanks to a total dud of an earnings report and the work of one very industrious equities analyst, a trio of solar stocks appeared on my radar bright and early today. Read on to find out what's happening with Evergreen Solar, Inc. (ESLR), Solarfun Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (SOLF), and Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (STP).
Evergreen Solar, Inc. (ESLR) has backpedaled nearly 3% this afternoon as traders react to the company's earnings report. ESLR swung to a wider-than-expected first-quarter loss, and warned that it expects price declines during the second half of the year. As a result, the shares are now testing short-term technical support at the $1.10 level.
On the heels of this news, call volume on ESLR has surged to 17 times the norm, with more than 5,000 contracts changing hands. The stock's June 1 call has seen 5,010 contracts trade on open interest of 2,314, revealing that new positions are being added at this strike today.
Meanwhile, Solarfun Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (SOLF) has battled back from an early dip to gain 1.4% this afternoon. Wells Fargo started coverage of the stock with an "outperform" rating, with analyst Sam Dubinsky observing that SOLF is "leaving the penalty box" due to management changes and an improved cost structure. (The prolific Dubinsky initiated coverage of no fewer than six solar stocks today.)
The bullish note could be prompting short sellers to hit the exits, as 10.3% of the equity's float is dedicated to short interest. At SOLF's average daily trading volume, this translates to about 2.4 days' worth of pent-up buying pressure.
Finally, Suntech Power Holdings Co., Ltd. (STP) is off 2.8% as we enter the second half of the session, as traders seem none too impressed by the stock's new "market perform" rating from Wells Fargo. The stock has now gapped below short-term resistance from its 10-day and 20-day moving average, and it's testing support in the $12.50 region.
In today's session, the most active STP option is the June 15 put, with 873 contracts crossing the tape. About 79% of these contracts have traded at the ask price, and implied volatility is up 4.1% at last check. In other words, it looks as though traders are adding new bearish bets at this strike today.-posted by Elizabeth Harrow ( 12:30 PM

Solar panels: a tax-free return of 10pc pa

A tax-free, index-linked return of 10 per cent a year, guaranteed for 25 years may sound too good to be true.

By John GreenwoodPublished: 7:59AM BST 06 May 2010
A tax-free, index-linked return of 10pc a year, guaranteed for 25 years may sound too good to be true. But this is the level of return the Government claims you could receive by investing in a solar panel system for your home.
If you think installing solar panels is only for those committed to ecological issues, a new government scheme designed to increase uptake of renewable energy may make you think again.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change's (DECC) Clean Energy Cashback Scheme is offering big financial incentives to anyone installing solar panels in a bid to make doing so stack up as an investment to even committed climate-sceptics.
The cashback scheme, also known as the Feed-in tariff, has been going since April. Grants for solar panels have been abolished and replaced with a system where people who install them are rewarded for every unit of energy generated by their system. Energy companies are also required by law to buy back any excess they generate.
To qualify for the scheme you have to install solar photovoltaic panels, known as solar PV.
This type of panel generates electricity from sunlight. The scheme currently does not cover the other main type of solar panel, solar thermal, which warms the water in your boiler system, although the DECC aims to bring thermal systems on board from April 2011, albeit with lower cash rebates.
Wind-generated electricity is now covered under the scheme, however.
The scheme promises to reward investors in three ways. Firstly, you are paid the ''generation tariff'', which is a direct payment from your energy supplier for each unit of electricity you generate.
This starts at 41.3p per kilowatt/hour (kWh), and is fixed by statute to increase in line with the retail price index for the next 25 years. The second saving is under the ''export tariff'', which is a payment made for energy you export back into the electricity grid rather than use on site.
This pays an extra 3p per kWh. Finally, you also make savings on your electricity bills, now saving you about 13p per kWh.
"The biggest financial savings through solar go to those who use all or most of the electricity they generate. This means the retired or those who work from home get the best return on investment because they get the saving on their electricity bill as well as the feed-in payment," says Charlotte Webster, public relations manager at Solar Century, a solar panel provider.
Systems cost between £8,000 and £14,000, but the Energy Saving Trust says a 2kWp panel will supply about 40pc of the energy used each year by the average gas-heated home.
This would typically give a total saving of about £830 a year, and could also reduce your carbon footprint to the tune of almost one tonne of CO2.
The Government says systems should pay for themselves within about 12 years and should give real returns of 5 to 8pc or 7 to 10pc when allowing for inflation. These returns are based on electricity inflation continuing at 6pc a year, its average level for the past 10 years.
If energy costs rise higher, savings will be greater, but they will be less if they fall. The scheme is being funded by a levy on the bills of everybody else, with British households each paying on average £6.50 a year more to subsidise the Feed-in tariff payments.
Some environmentalists have criticised the scheme as a cash giveaway to wealthier people who have the money to invest and who own the property in which a system is installed.
But not everybody is convinced that solar panels are a one-way financial bet. Mark Dampier, head of investment at Hargreaves Lansdown, an IFA, points out that while Feed-in tariff payments are tax-free now, there is nothing to stop a future chancellor changing this.
Nor is it impossible for future ministers to cut tariffs.
"A return of 8pc a year sounds fantastic, but I am suspicious of anything backed by the Government," says Mr Dampier. "The idea of politicians guaranteeing anything for 25 years seems fanciful to me – you have just got to look at what they have done to pensions.
"What's more, the technology is still in its infancy. You could spend a lot of money putting a system on your roof that in a few years time will seem dated and inefficient."
Ken Rumph, a financial analyst at Nomura Code, a subsidiary of the Japanese bank, is, however, positive about solar panels as an investment.
He has written a report on the viability of solar generation for the bank, which concluded that the investment opportunity currently on offer will prove so favourable that the scheme will achieve its target of signing up 12,000 home owners faster than predicted.
Mr Rumph has spent £14,000 installing a system on his house in Berwick-upon-Tweed and believes it is money well invested: "I am expecting a 10pc return and although my capital is now tied up, I am getting income from a reliable source that is index-linked and tax-free.
"I expect the cost of electricity to go up, and I also anticipate that in five or 10 years, people will regard the system as an asset on the house. It has been an exceptionally sunny April, and I made £100 in the first two weeks of the month, having generated 240 kWhs."
A further concern, however, is the reliability of the claims made about the returns on the systems. Last month The Telegraph reported that consumer group Which? had found 10 out of 14 salesmen offering solar thermal systems were exaggerating the benefits and pressuring people into sales.
Solar Century said that report covered thermal and not PV panels, and that to get hooked up to the cashback system your panels must be installed by an operator who is an approved member of the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) watchdog. You can find an MCS installer through the organisation's website.
Mr Rumph also suggests using common sense. "When looking to take on an installer, treat it as you would any building project – get several quotes and look for personal recommendations."
Which? also suggests that because solar technology is a new industry, companies come and go, so it is worth paying with a credit card if possible to ensure protection under the Consumer Credit Act, provided, that is, you clear the debt immediately to avoid high interest payments.

Heated Exchange Over Climate

Linda Keyes
The placement of the brass rain gauge at the end of a boat dock at Mohonk Preserve in New Paltz has been criticized.
Weather experts are tangling over a 114-year-old thermometer at the Mohonk Preserve, New York's largest nonprofit nature preserve.
Set on a rocky spot near the Mohonk Mountain House close by the Hudson River in New Paltz, the white thermometer box has been visited by weather observers every day between 4 and 5 p.m. since 1896. While there, the observers record the high and low temperatures for the past 24 hours.
In an article appearing in the current issue of the "Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology," academics from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory say that the century-old weather station at the preserve offers a powerful commentary on climate change. "The site is optimal for daily climate analysis," write Ben Cook and his co-authors, noting that the station has been in the same spot and has had methodical recording over the years.
The Mohonk Preserve regularly invites research scientists to analyze its meticulously collected historical data on weather, plant life and wildlife for patterns related to climate change and other factors.
Self-described climate-change critic Anthony Watts of Chico, Calif., questions such claims following a 2009 investigation of the Mohonk site by, a website that researches and challenges climate station records and surveys. The former TV weather forecaster and weather equipment entrepreneur notes that the thermometer box is wind-sheltered and is situated near artificial heat sources, such as a building with a chimney, and that there are trees nearby, the shade and reflections from which can influence temperature readings.

He also notes the thermometer box is 29 inches from the ground; 59 inches is the standard. "They err in saying that site is optimal," said Mr. Watts. "The lower the thermometer and closer to the surface of the earth it is, the warmer the temperature."
Mohonk botanist Paul C. Huth, who has taken weather records for 36 years, agrees the site has flaws but said it can't be changed. "We're trying to maintain a standard of method and observation."
Mr. Watts also criticizes the placement of the brass rain gauge at the end of a boat dock. "It makes me wonder how many kids dump Pepsi in there or peed," he said.
Mr. Huth also shrugs off that criticism. "We're out there all the time," he said. "Attendants are well-trained to keep their eyes on the facilities."
Write to Paul Glader at

The chance discovery that averted ecological disaster

Steve Connor on how the hole in the ozone layer was discovered by UK scientists a quarter of a century ago
Thursday, 6 May 2010
It was perceived as one of the greatest environmental threats of the late-20th century. Twenty-five years ago this month, a hole in the ozone layer was detected high in the atmosphere over the frozen wastes of Antarctica; scientists warned it might spread to other parts of the world, leading to dangerous increases in cancer-causing radiation from the Sun.
The Earth's protective layer of ozone shields all life from the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays, and its gradual depletion by the release of man-made chemicals into the atmosphere threatened a dramatic increase in lethal skin cancers and blinding cataracts – a threat so serious it forced politicians to act.
Just two years after the discovery was publicised in 1985 by a team of three British scientists, the international community had drafted the Montreal Protocol, designed to curb and eventually ban the use and manufacture of ozone-destroying chemicals, such as the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used in products ranging from fridges to aerosol sprays.
The protocol soon led to CFCs being phased out in many countries. Britain ceased production and consumption of CFCs in 1995, followed five years later by other developed nations. By 2009, all UN member states had signed the basic protocol, which was seen as one of the most successful international agreements on the environment.
Now, a quarter of a century after the publication of the key scientific paper documenting the ozone hole, one of the members of the scientific team has said the discovery might not have been made so soon had it not been for a combination of dogged perseverance and good luck.
"My perspective is that luck played its part, as in many other scientific discoveries," said Jonathan Shanklin, who, along with colleagues Joe Farman and Brian Gardiner of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, gathered the key field data.
At that time, in the early 1980s, British science was being squeezed by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher. Long-term scientific monitoring programmes were especially threatened. Among them was the one responsible for the annual ozone measurements that had been carried out at the British Antarctic Survey's Halley research station since the late 1950s.
"In the 1980s, the British Antarctic Survey was looking at ways to economise, and the ozone monitoring at Halley was in the frame to be cut. Nothing seemed to be changing and there seemed little reason to keep it going. But it is programmes such as these that provide the crucial evidence for political decisions governing the future of our planet," Dr Shanklin said.
In fact, the measurements at Halley were not originally intended to monitor long-term changes to ozone but to help improve weather forecasting and to verify theories about atmospheric circulation. However, it gradually became obvious that ozone levels in the Antarctic spring – which occurs in October and September – were falling significantly after each southern winter, and were only partly recovering each summer.
There was already scientific speculation, backed up by serious theoretical work, about how the ozone layer might be affected by man-made pollutants such as CFCs in the stratosphere, where the ozone layer is found. Studies into ozone depletion in the 1970s by scientists Paul Crutzen, Mario Molina and Frank Sherwood Rowland led eventually to a Nobel prize in chemistry.
However, in the early 1980s nobody had noticed that the ozone layer above the South Pole was being depleted significantly at the end of each Antarctic winter, when the first rays of sunlight penetrate the darkness of the austral sky to cause ozone-destroying photochemical reactions with the chlorine of CFCs. The 1985 study showed that the lowest values of ozone seen in mid-October had fallen by 40 per cent between 1975 and 1984 – not quite a "hole" but worrying nonetheless.
"As I remember it, there was no real eureka moment in the discovery, more a combination of pieces falling into place," said Dr Shanklin, whose reflections are published in the current issue of Nature. The data was gathered from the ground using relatively simple instruments that looked up through the sky to measure the differences in UV light wavelengths known to be influenced by stratospheric ozone.
"What convinced the team was a graph plotting the minimum 11-day mean, which clearly showed that the spring decline was systematic. Farman crucially developed a chemical theory to explain the observations, linking them to rises in CFCs, and Gardiner carried out the essential quality control on the data," he said.
The study caused consternation, and some disbelief, among scientists in the US who were monitoring the ozone layer by sophisticated satellites. Their initial analysis had shown no such depletion but when they reanalysed the satellite data, they too detected the springtime depletion.
"I don't know what happened behind the scenes with the satellite teams, but I do know that they were overwhelmed by large amounts of data," Dr Shanklin recalled.
More than 20 years after the Montreal Protocol, there are signs that the ozone layer is beginning to recover. It could still take decades for it to return to the state it was in 50 years ago, but had it not been for three scientists who persevered with a seemingly irrelevant, long-term experiment, it would take longer still.

Marine paradise in peril as BP oil disaster threatens to become worst ever

Jacqui Goddard, Catfish Pass

Fish are leaping, a dolphin is cruising behind the boat and six brown pelicans have just flown overhead in a perfect V-formation like a display team. When Captain Sam Elliott cuts the engine, the only sound is the water lapping against the hull and the cry of gulls.
On the outer reaches of Louisiana’s marshlands, a 75-minute high-speed boat ride from the last inhabited community, it appears that the only powers at work are the forces of Nature. Yet just a few miles away, the forces of Man are leaving their mark.
Now gushing from the seabed at what BP admits may be as much as 210,000 gallons a day, crude oil is slicking its way through an area described by President Obama after a flyover last weekend as “one of the richest and most beautiful ecosystems on the planet”.
This corner of the ecosystem has its future pinned on protective booms being assembled here — a thin orange line of plastic barriers that snakes through the waters of Catfish Pass on the edge of Breton Sound, across hummocks of grass and earthy outcrops, into the distance.

If the line holds, thousands of acres of wetlands, valuable fishing grounds and oyster beds may be spared. But progress is unavoidably slow, the area yet to be covered is vast, the booms may be overlapped by the waves or pushed away by the winds, and thousands of square miles of ocean beyond are already contaminated.
“A needle in a haystack, that’s all this is,” says Captain Elliott, as Champion, his 21ft sports fishing vessel rocks gently beside the boom. “It still hasn’t sunk in yet that what’s happening out there is real. All that oil coming at us. If it gets through here, we won’t be able to fish here again for a few years. It’s like going to a funeral.”
All morning a fleet of vessels has been working to lay the barriers. First a length is dropped from one of the 12 oyster-dredging boats that BP has hired from fishermen; then helpers on smaller vessels anchor it in place.
On Tuesday conditions were challenging — 25mph (40km/h) winds, lashing rain and strong currents — and the frustrated cursing of the boom teams, led by professional oil spill handlers, could be heard over the radio.
Yesterday, weather and tempers were calmer, and progress was swift enough that by early afternoon there was no more boom left to lay, and the flotilla was wending its way back through the bayous to home base in Hopedale, on a sliver of land one hour east of New Orleans.
Captain C. T. Williams, a charter fishing skipper based at Hopedale, has known these backwaters for 30 years.
“It’s a waterman’s paradise. If you are here long enough, it’s very hard not to become addicted to it,” he says. “We have something very rare here — it’s not just like a mom saying, ‘My baby is pretty’. There’s something about it that’s just unique and compelling and humbling.”
Resident animals include racoons, rabbits, deer, feral hogs, coyotes, snakes, alligators, grey heron, blue heron, osprey and nutria — a semi-aquatic rodent known as a pest because of its destructive burrowing habits.
“The nutria is an outlaw, it’s a kill-on-sight thing, and yet I swear we’re going to see it at some animal rescue place getting a bath if that oil comes in,” Captain Williams jokes.
The slick, now believed to have overtaken the scale of the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska 21 years ago, has been meandering around the Gulf of Mexico for two weeks, growing bigger by the day, after an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.
Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are all in emergency mode, laying defences and planning for a coastal catastrophe as changing winds and currents make the slick’s path uncertain.
Captain Williams refuses to let the gloom set in as the world’s worst oil disaster threatens this treasured wilderness. “There’s a lot at stake here and everyone talks about the potential devastation: being put out of business; not having an oyster industry for ten years.
“But as it is today, we have a prayer. I’ll roll the dice if I think there’s a good chance of something, and in this case I believe we can make things happen, I really do.
“I am an optimist. I still have great hope even though it’s a monster that’s still being born out there.”

New cod? Quick-growing tropical cobia could replace dwindling species

Species has high oil content, white flesh, and grows three times as fast salmon, and 'could be next big farmed fish'
Alexandra Topping, Wednesday 5 May 2010 20.06 BST
A new fast-growing tropical fish that could provide an alternative to popular species for environmentally-conscious fish-lovers is being imported to the UK.
With recent studies revealing that UK's fish stocks have fallen by 94% in the past 100 years, Marine Farms argues that cobia, which has white flesh and a high oil content, could be the next big farmed fish species. The fish grows three times faster than Atlantic salmon and has good taste and consistency according to Bjørn Myrseth, the chief executive of Marine Farms, based in Norway.
"For us it is a very attractive fish because of the rate of growth. It can grow from about 1g to 5kg -6kg in a year, when it takes salmon around 30 to 36 months to reach the same size. It also has good eating qualities with very firm flesh and high oil content. It is easy to prepare and has a nice mild flavour," he said.
In the wild, cobia can grow up to 60kg, but it is very uncommon for the fish to be caught commercially, he said.
Marine Farms expects to produce 1,500 tonnes of the fish this year for export. There are plans to expand the site, which has the capacity to produce up to 6,000 tonnes a year, depending on demand.
"The challenge will be to introduce the fish and convince people to eat it – we have to make it known to people," he said.
The fish could also provide a viable alternative for other fish species that are under strain.
Said Myrseth: "With a high oil content, it is also great raw for sushi or sashimi. It can also be used as a replacement for fish such as tuna, if people are looking for an environmentally sustainable alternative, as the texture and flavour are quite similar."
The fish is currently placed at the more expensive end of the market and costs slightly more than Atlantic salmon, said Myrseth. "But we hope that as demand grows the cost of the fish will go down, and if demand is high enough it could become a relatively inexpensive fish in the future," he said.
Cobia has been commercially produced in Asia, particularly in Taiwan where it is stocked in about 80% of ocean cages, according to the Marine Farms website.
It has operated a cobia farm in Florida since 2002 and has opened operations in Belize and Vietnam.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, which publishes guides for sustainable seafood purchasing, recommends US-farmed cobia as it is farmed inland with closed recirculating systems that help prevent diseases and pollutants.
However, it advises against buying cobia from outside the US as it is often farmed in floating or submerged cages and pens in nearshore and open ocean waters. "This creates a risk of disease transfer, escapes and pollution impacts on surrounding ecosystems and species," according to the Seafood Watch website.
Myrseth said all Marine Farm cobia was sustainably farmed in low-density ocean cages with site rotation to prevent disease and damage to the environment. "This is very important to us, because if the environment is impacted we are the first to feel that," he said. The company's cobia is fed on fish oil, fishmeal and vegetable protein but it aims to feed the fish on vegetable protein in the future, he added.
Dawn Purchase, aquaculture officer at the Marine Conservation Society, said: "With 50% of global seafood now being farmed it is essential that all current and new farmed species coming into the UK market is produced in the most environmentally sustainable way possible, which ensures the health and diversity of the environment on which it depends."
Charles Clover, creator of The End of the Line – an exposé of the fishing industry – declined to comment on cobia specifically but said the farming of carnivorous fish posed significant environmental problems because of the shortage of smaller fish to provide food.
"Without that it is difficult to see how the aquaculture industry is going to continue to grow, unless they find some way of creating synthetic fish food," he said. "And as fish have been eating other fish for millions of years, that is not going to be easy."

Don't let disputes over data get in the way of safe water for billions

Sanitation for all is an achievable goal. But we can't risk distractions and lose the political will
Jon Lane
The Guardian, Thursday 6 May 2010
Your article reported criticism of the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets for water supply and sanitation (Doubt cast on claim that UN clean water targets will be met, 26 April). This concerned me because it fell into the trap of focusing on a narrow argument about data.
"The World Health Organisation said that since 1990 1.3 billion people had gained improved drinking water and 500 million better sanitation," you report; whereas Professor Asit Biswas, president of the Third World Centre for Water Management, "said official figures showing that many cities and countries had met their targets were 'baloney'". However, I believe the bigger picture is that "even if the MDG goals were reached in full, billions of people would still live with very poor water and sanitation".
Solving the problem is more important than arguing about numbers and definitions. The climate change debate has demonstrated how dangerously disputes about methodology can distract attention, public support and political will, from the big issue.
Moreover, Biswas was misleading when he said that if, in the developing world, "we put concrete around [a] well – nothing else – it becomes an 'improved source of water'; the quality is the same but you have 'improved' the physical structure, which has no impact." But there is an impact. Such a simple measure, if accompanied by hygiene education and environmental improvements, protects the well against faecal contamination or other pollutants.
For water and sanitation, there are numerous low-cost but highly effective technologies and interventions. To dismiss them unilaterally is unwise. During my 20 years in water supply and sanitation, I have seen a sufficient number of successful projects, in many of the least developed countries, to convince me that safe sanitation and drinking water for all is not merely a dream.
Biswas is also wrong in "calling for politicians to be removed from water management" and replaced by technical experts. Rather, both are necessary. There are many proven technologies: what is most lacking is political commitment. A large part of our efforts should be dedicated to persuading decision-makers of the economic and social benefits to be gained from investing in drinking water and sanitation.
Despite the article's basic premise, more people are gaining access to clean drinking water. There is increasing recognition of the business opportunities associated with sanitation. People should be persuaded to demand sanitation and to have this demand met by local entrepreneurs. In this way, toilets could become like mobile phones: everyone will want one, and affordability will improve. Human faeces (properly composted) should also be recognised as an economic commodity and not a waste product. The Chinese have known this for centuries, and only now are other nations catching up.
A few years ago talking about toilets was still a taboo; today, more politicians recognise its importance and are leading the sanitation revolution. The data from Unicef and the WHO should be used as a means to help us measure progress, not be dismissed for its shortcomings.

Offices raided and 21 held as EU probe into carbon trading fraud intensifies

Denmark criticised for slow reaction after apparently being targeted in alleged 'carousel' scam
Felicity Carus
The Guardian, Saturday 1 May 2010
British tax authorities have arrested 21 people after raiding homes and offices across Europe as part of a crackdown on alleged carbon-trading fraud, HM Revenue & Customs confirmed today .
Some 450 staff took part in raids on Wednesday as tax authorities across the continent intensified an ongoing investigation into alleged carbon-trading fraud, which is estimated to have cost €5bn in unpaid taxes.
Deutsche Bank and energy company RWE were among 230 offices and homes raided this week by German authorities. Four arrests followed, including one in the UK under a European arrest warrant.
In a linked operation in the UK, eight people were arrested in Scotland and 13 in England, said the HMRC spokesman.
Pressure to stamp out suspected fraudulent activity on the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) has increased in recent months. Denmark appears to have been particularly vulnerable to so-called carousel fraud and has had to slash the number of accounts on its carbon registry, which allows traders to buy and sell pollution permits within the ETS from 1,200 to 140. Most of the remaining accounts are barred from trading as the investigation continues.
An interim carbon register, seen by the Guardian, reveals that at least 172 UK-registered accounts have been removed from what had been Europe's largest registry after the Danish authorities imposed tight new registration requirements. The final figure of UK-registered accounts removed from the registry may be much higher.
Denmark's climate minister Lykke Friis admitted that British authorities had contacted Denmark last autumn to request closure of UK-registered accounts. But the Danish Energy Agency, which runs the registry and climate ministry, previously led by the EU's new climate chief Connie Hedegaard, have been criticised for a slow response which allowed alleged fraudulent trades to continue.
A total of 58 people across Europe have now either been arrested or charged in connection with alleged carbon-trading fraud in the last nine months.
Carousel fraud, also called missing-trader fraud, involves bogus traders buying pollution permits in the EU emissions trading scheme in one country without paying VAT. They sell them on in another country with VAT added, but pocket the difference, rather than pay the VAT to the relevant tax authorities. With the profit made, the trader goes missing.
At least three of the British nationals have been charged so far. On 29 December last year three British men who cannot be named for legal reasons were arrested at a hotel in Brussels in connection with trades worth €2.11m.
The Belgian prosecutor of Tournai, Jean Bernard Cambier, confirmed that the last of the three men was released on bail in February. The men have so far been charged with money laundering and falsifying documents, and a third charge of VAT fraud is still subject to an investigation. Under Belgian law the names of the accused are not usually released since the men denied the charges. A court date has yet to be set, but if convicted, the men face up to five years in prison.
The Danish authorities were asked to change their registration procedures by the European commission in July last year. In an email seen by the Guardian, Istvan-Laszlo Bart, an official from the commission's directorate-general of environment, demanded that the Danish Energy Authority change its procedures to include documentation such as a copy of ID or a passport. "If you are not requesting [proof of identity] it is not a surprise that everyone opens accounts in the DK registry," he wrote to a member of staff at the Danish carbon registry.
In addition, an internal climate ministry document from last August, obtained by the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, said that Danish tax authorities had notified the ministry that "especially Denmark is now the target for VAT fraud".
At around the same time, Britain, France and the Netherlands scrapped VAT on carbon trading after concerns about carousel fraud on the carbon markets. Soon after, on 19 August, seven arrests were made in Gravesend and Greater London A further two people handed themselves into police at Heathrow later that day. No formal charges have been made. HM Revenue & Customs announced at the time of the arrests that the suspected fraud could be worth £38m.
But the authorities in Denmark were slower to respond, and had to rush through legislation just before the UN climate change summit in Copenhagen in December, which was chaired by Hedegaard, who denies knowing about the suspected fraud until the newspaper reports. "I was never informed about this until last autumn when Ekstra Bladet looked into the fraud," she told the Guardian.
The Danish Energy Agency tightened registration procedures for new accounts, requesting passport ID and VAT numbers, from last summer. But existing account holders were not required to provide the documents, despite the European commission's request in July that they "retroactively request this from all operators". In December last year, the DEA finally began to request this information, setting a deadline for compliance of 1 February. The Guardian's enquiries have now revealed that almost 90% of the accounts have been deleted.
Richard Gledhill, head of carbon markets and climate change services at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: "This is tried and tested financial fraud, applied to a green market. Carbon trading was a US$125bn (£81.9bn) market last year, so it's no surprise that it has attracted this sort of highly organised crime.
"Fraudsters have arbitraged differences in national rules and processes, and taken advantage of the relative inexperience of some market participants. What's needed is harmonised systems and procedures across the EU. and rigorous compliance. Market players have to be more vigilant, to stay one step ahead of the fraudsters."

Carbon calculator reveals Labour and Tory policy as science fiction

Economic growth is incompatible with cutting carbon emissions, most of which are produced by manufacturing and consumption• National Carbon Calculator: Can you cut UK emissions?• See how the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives and Labour would cut emissions

It's not surprising that neither Labour nor the Tories wanted to run the Guardian's National Carbon Calculator. Had they done so, they would have had to acknowledge that the figures on which they base their climate change policies are a work of science fiction. The government claims that our total emissions amount to 627 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e). The Tories have never disputed this figure. It's convenient for both sides to accept this falsehood, and to pretend that the challenge is far smaller than it is.
As the figures pulled together by the calculator team show, the real total (using 2007 figures) should be 950Mt. The government artificially excludes the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the goods we import and the international travel we commission. It's not hard to see why ministers choose to overlook these figures. If just the outsourced emissions (gases released in producing goods we import) are counted, all the cuts the UK claims to have made since 1990 would be cancelled out – and then some.
According to the government's provisional figures for 2009, the UK has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 198MtCO2e since 1990. But the Carnegie Institution for Science estimates that we have outsourced 253Mt. The sad and shocking truth is that the apparent success of the UK's carbon-cutting programme, on which the government bases its boast that we're a world leader in reducing pollution, results from the collapse of our manufacturing base and its re-establishment overseas.
So throw in 253Mt for outsourced emissions, 7Mt for the international shipping we use, 67Mt for international aviation plus the 2Mt the government has failed to include for extra greenhouse warming (not CO2) caused by domestic flights, and you discover that the UK has left 329Mt of carbon off its national accounts, or very nearly 50% of the 2007 total (636Mt). The figure would have been even higher had the team included the net 40Mt of emissions which Professor Dieter Helm of the University of Oxford calculates [PDF, see figure 7, page 18] is caused by UK citizens holidaying abroad (net means that the emissions from foreign tourists holidaying here have been subtracted).
Even if the calculator achieves nothing else, highlighting this massive discrepancy should shake up the debate and change our view of what the UK has achieved.
Just as striking are the figures for manufacturing and consumption. When I started playing with the calculator, at first I skipped over the top category. This is because, like many environmentalists, most of my work has been focused on efforts to tackle our direct consumption of energy: the heat and electricity we use at home and in offices, and the fuel we use for transport. I immediately ran into trouble. However many wind turbines and nuclear power plants I commissioned, however many drivers I shoved on to the railways and businessmen I dragged kicking and screaming out of aeroplanes, I couldn't get the totals down by anything like the required amount. Only then did I notice how great a proportion of our emissions come from manufacturing and consumption.
Consulting my book Heat, first published in 2006, I now realise that I used to be half-aware of the scale of this issue, but somehow, in the midst of all the excited debates about how our electricity should be generated, our homes improved and our transport networks run, I had managed to forget it. So it was a shock to discover that manufacturing and consumption (if you include the construction industry) accounts for 541Mt of our emissions, or 57% of the true total. This is a good bit higher than I thought in 2006, because the sector's impact is massively boosted by the outsourced emissions the official figures don't count. The great majority of the UK's offshore total results from our consumption of foreign goods. The exclusion of these figures from official accounts is one of the reasons why we have neglected this sector.
Of the 541Mt caused by manufacturing and consumption, 223Mt is embodied in the imported goods (minus food) we consume; 141Mt arises from the energy used by UK industries; 87Mt from all food production and consumption (onshore and offshore); 19Mt from industrial process emissions (the CO2 released by chemical processes like cement manufacture); 23Mt from the waste we create and 48Mt from the freight vehicles (some of them excluded from official figures) required to move our stuff around.
Like most people in the environment movement, I spend my time talking vaguely about the need to reduce the consumption of goods, but specifically – with figures attached – about the need to reduce the direct consumption of energy. But however well we insulate our homes, change our travel habits, alter the electricity supply and switch to more efficient appliances, however much the public sector cleans up its act and the efficiency of commercial buildings is improved, we'll still be only scratching the surface of the problem. The real issue is not our direct consumption of energy but the greenhouse gases embodied in the goods we buy. It strikes me that in focusing on direct consumption I've helped to give both the government and business an unduly easy ride.
So here we bump into the second probable reason why Labour and the Conservatives have chosen not to try out the calculator (Simon Hughes of the Lib Dems did run the calculator and shared the result). It highlights the glaring contradiction in the manifestos of all three main parties: they all seek to boost economic growth by raising consumption, but consumption has already pushed greenhouse gas levels way beyond the point that they consider sustainable. You can pursue a policy of economic growth and reduced carbon emissions only by engineering a fudge of the kind the calculator exposes: offshoring one third of our emissions, most of which arise from the goods we consume. The impacts of rising consumption are hidden by excluding them from national accounts.
Only the Green party has approached this issue honestly, by accepting upfront that economic growth is the problem and that current levels of consumption cannot be sustained. It's time we called out the other parties on their failure to acknowledge, let alone tackle, this contradiction. And it's time we all recognised that consumption is the big issue.