Monday, 10 May 2010

Rising cost of carbon capture is killing the great green hope

Longannet in Fife is earmarked for a pioneering CCS scheme
Rob Edwards, Environment Editor

9 May 2010
Rising costs have prompted new fears for one of the central planks of the ­Scottish ­Government’s strategy for cutting climate pollution.
Scottish ministers want to keep ­burning coal in power stations by ­developing technology to capture and store the carbon dioxide they belch out. But new evidence from Norway suggests that this could cost nearly three times more than expected.
This comes on top of recent expert reports casting doubt on the ­feasibility of carbon capture and storage (CCS) – the great green hope of the energy industry. But technology is strongly defended by its backers in Scotland.
One of Norway’s flagship CCS projects is run by the state-owned gas company, Gassco. But it has revealed that the ­estimated costs have rocketed from £0.4 billion in 2007 to £1.2bn now.
“The CCS costs are big and higher than we initially thought,” said Sigve Apeland from Gassco. The company is trying to capture, transport and store 1.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from the Naturkraft gas-fired power plant at Kårstø.
This is only one example, but these kind of cost increases could kill off the prospect of having full-scale carbon capture working any time soon Dr Richard Dixon, director, WWF Scotland
Gassco told the environment company, ENDS, that the escalating costs were mostly due to the ­difficulties of actually capturing the carbon. It is a process that absorbs a lot of energy, which makes it expensive.
“This is only one example, but these kind of cost increases could kill off the prospect of having full-scale carbon capture working any time soon,” said Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland.
There is a pioneering scheme aimed at developing CCS at the Longannet coal-fired power station in Fife, run by ScottishPower. Both the ­Conservative and Labour parties have promised four CCS plants, but neither has said when.
A report from two universities in Texas has argued that the difficulties in storing carbon deep underground have been hugely underestimated. It concluded that burial was “a profoundly non-feasible option for the ­management of carbon dioxide emissions”.
Patrick Harvie, the Green MSP, said: “The doubts about carbon capture and storage are growing week by week, and it looks increasingly like an ­impractical and unaffordable ­technology.
“It is wildly irresponsible to use the mere hope of a viable CCS option as an excuse for new coal plants, as both Labour and SNP governments have been doing.”
The Scottish Government has backed plans to build a new coal-fired power station at Hunterston in north Ayrshire. But it is insisting that the plant starts up with one-fifth of its carbon being captured and stored.
Stuart Haszeldine, the ScottishPower CCS professor at the University of ­Edinburgh, pointed out that costs in Norway were always high. As CCS projects were developed, they would benefit from the economics of scale, he argued.
“It’s entirely to be expected that the cost of capture will be extremely high for the first 10 or so projects in Europe,” he said. “That is why these need support by national governments, as ­commercial companies cannot afford such expensive experiments.”
According to Professor ­Haszeldine, the ­experience gained from ­experimental plants would as much as half the cost of ­subsequent plants.
For ScottishPower, which is owned by the Spanish energy company Iberdrola, the point of its prototype CCS plant at Longannet was to find ways of reducing costs. “That is key to the future of CCS, being able to capture CO2 effectively and efficiently without it being cost-prohibitive to ourselves or consumers,” said a company spokesman

Lufthansa to use biofuel on flights by 2012

Hamburg: Sun, 9 May 2010
Lufthansa is set to become one of the world's first airlines to mix biofuel with traditional kerosene on commercial flights as carriers seek ways to cut soaring fuel costs, its chief executive said.
The German flag carrier will start running its engines on some flights on a mix of biofuel and kerosene within two years, Wolfgang Mayrhuber told reporters on the sidelines of an event late on Saturday.
A spokesman for Lufthansa added the airline will likely decide on a more precise schedule by the end of this year.
Aircraft account for an estimated 2-4 per cent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which scientists say could cause global temperatures to rise, triggering widespread disease, famine, flooding and drought.
Experts say global aviation emissions could reach 2.4 billion tonnes in 2050, which would be 15-20 per cent of all CO2 permitted under a global agreement and a nearly four-fold increase on current levels.
Lufthansa rival KLM, part of Franco-Dutch Air France, last year became the first airline to test biofuel in a passenger airplane, filling one of four engines on a Boeing 747 with biofuel for a 1.5 hour test flight.
The carrier has said it aims to make commercial flights which use biofuel from 2011.
Continental Airlines, the US airline that is set to create the world's largest carrier by merging with United Airlines parent UAL, had already used a mix of biologically derived fuel and jet fuel on a test flight.
Mayrhuber said Lufthansa had no plans to run individual test flights at this point. Instead, the carrier would wait until it could start using biofuel regularly on some routes to gather reliable data over a longer period of time.
In the long run, the use of biofuel is expected to save airlines money.
'First, we are hoping to get some resource security, and second, we hope that we will have some advantages in our costs for emissions trading,' Mayrhuber said at the event, which celebrates 50 years of Boeing planes at Lufthansa.
The European Union is set to extend its Emissions Trading System (ETS) to airlines from 2012, and the less traditional kerosene airlines use every year, the fewer certificates they have to buy permitting them to pollute the air.
Lufthansa has estimated its annual costs from the ETS at 150-350 million euros ($201-470 million) once airlines join the scheme.-Reuters

Wave Hello to Tidal Power

Analysis by Emily Laut Sat May 8, 2010 11:14 PM ET
“Deep Green” looks like someone’s flying kites from the sea floor. With its 12-meter (39-foot) wingspan and 100-meter (328-foot) cable tethering it to the ocean floor, all it’s missing is a colorful tail.
Though its wingspan seems big, the kites are small compared to other tidal energy designs. That’s one of the big advantages to Deep Green. The kite’s small size lets its turbine operate at greater depths, where currents are slower, boldly going where no tidal turbine has gone before.
When anchored, Deep Green can be steered into a figure-eight like a sport kite, its turbine capturing tidal energy at ten times the speed of the actual stream velocity, according to Minesto, the Swedish developers of Deep Green. When operational, one Deep Green sea kite is expected to generate 500 kilowatts of power.
But hold on to your Pop Tarts. It will be a few years before sea kites power your toaster. Testing is scheduled to start in Northern Ireland in 2011. Minesto hopes to have a commercial model of Deep Green out in four years.
As fossil fuels dwindle, the need for renewable energy sources becomes clear; scientists have even drawn up plans to power the planet with purely renewable energy. More and more companies are working with solar, wind, and tidal power. Tidal turbines’ main drawback is their cost, but the predictability of the tides makes up for it. When wind farms and solar panels get skunked on calm, cloudy days, the tides still come in like clockwork.

Save the planet on the low-carbon diet

At Otarian, menus have a feelgood global-warming index. A gimmick, or the next step in ethical eating?
By Jonathan Owen
It was only a matter of time. We've had organic vegan restaurants; eateries that only have raw uncooked food and Fairtrade bistros. Now comes a restaurant offering a menu aimed at saving the planet from climate change.
Otarian claims to be the first restaurant where each item on the all-vegetarian menu has its carbon footprint published alongside the price and carbon cost of the meat equivalent.
The brainchild of one of the world's richest women, Indian billionaire Radhika Oswal, it opens in London next month, hoping to capitalise on a burgeoning consumer demand for all things green.
Sales of low-carbon and environmental goods and services are now worth an estimated £106.5bn in Britain alone – part of a global market worth an estimated £3,046bn. Unsurprisingly, companies are rushing to cash in. But just last month, Which?, formerly the Consumers' Association, condemned what it called "greenwash", where companies make misleading claims about the environmental friendliness of products.
The owners of Otarian are one of India's wealthiest families whose business interests include Burrup Fertlisers, one of the world's biggest producers of liquid ammonium, a pollutant that can kill if ingested and is used primarily as a base ingredient for the production of fertilisers and explosives.
Dan Welch, co-editor of Ethical Consumer magazine, said: "Highlighting the climate change impact of our unsustainable diet, especially meat eating, is laudable. But there's a deep irony in the link to Burrup, one of the world's major manufacturers of the feedstock of chemical fertilisers."
Scientists have warned that nature can't cope with the million tons of chemical fertiliser used annually – acidifying soils, killing vulnerable species and creating what he called "dead zones in the sea".
This inconvenient truth is brushed aside by Radhika Oswal, a billionaire and lifelong vegetarian. "It doesn't mean that if you are doing something good that all parts of you have got to be good. I believe the world needs fertilisers to feed the population there is today," she said.
Instead, the Otarian founder is on a crusade to educate people about the carbon savings they can make by cutting meat out of their diet. She has invested millions in what she admits is more of a personal passion than a business venture.
Celebrity chefs including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver are among those who have pursued the green pound, with their enthusiastic promotion of home-grown ingredients and locally sourced produce paying handsome dividends in book sales. Raymond Blanc and Antonio Carluccio are among those who have signed up to the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) which was launched last March in a bid to make restaurants more environmentally friendly, and, of course, as a marketing tool.

Shale Gas Will Rock the World

Huge discoveries of natural gas promise to shake up the energy markets and geopolitics. And that's just for starters.
There's an energy revolution brewing right under our feet.
Over the past decade, a wave of drilling around the world has uncovered giant supplies of natural gas in shale rock. By some estimates, there's 1,000 trillion cubic feet recoverable in North America alone—enough to supply the nation's natural-gas needs for the next 45 years. Europe may have nearly 200 trillion cubic feet of its own.
We've always known the potential of shale; we just didn't have the technology to get to it at a low enough cost. Now new techniques have driven down the price tag—and set the stage for shale gas to become what will be the game-changing resource of the decade.
I have been studying the energy markets for 30 years, and I am convinced that shale gas will revolutionize the industry—and change the world—in the coming decades. It will prevent the rise of any new cartels. It will alter geopolitics. And it will slow the transition to renewable energy.
To understand why, you have to consider that even before the shale discoveries, natural gas was destined to play a big role in our future. As environmental concerns have grown, nations have leaned more heavily on the fuel, which gives off just half the carbon dioxide of coal. But the rise of gas power seemed likely to doom the world's consumers to a repeat of OPEC, with gas producers like Russia, Iran and Venezuela coming together in a cartel and dictating terms to the rest of the world.
John Gould/The Wall Street Journal
The advent of abundant, low-cost gas will throw all that out the window—so long as the recent drilling catastrophe doesn't curtail offshore oil and gas activity and push up the price of oil and eventually other forms of energy. Not only will the shale discoveries prevent a cartel from forming, but the petro-states will lose lots of the muscle they now have in world affairs, as customers over time cut them loose and turn to cheap fuel produced closer to home.
The shale boom also is likely to upend the economics of renewable energy. It may be a lot harder to persuade people to adopt green power that needs heavy subsidies when there's a cheap, plentiful fuel out there that's a lot cleaner than coal, even if gas isn't as politically popular as wind or solar.
But that's not the end of the story: I also believe this offers a tremendous new longer-term opportunity for alternative fuels. Since there's no longer an urgent need to make them competitive immediately through subsidies, since we can use natural gas now, we can pour that money into R&D—so renewables will be ready to compete without lots of help when shale supplies run low, decades from now.
To be sure, plenty of people (including Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and many Wall Street energy analysts) aren't convinced that shale gas has the potential to be such a game changer. Their arguments revolve around two main points: that shale-gas exploration is too expensive and that it carries environmental risks.
I'd argue they are wrong on both counts.
Take costs first. Over the past decade, new techniques have been developed that drastically cut the price tag of production. The Haynesville shale, which extends from Texas into Louisiana, is seeing costs as low as $3 per million British thermal units, down from $5 or more in the Barnett shale in the 1990s. And more cost-cutting developments are likely on the way as major oil companies get into the game. If they need to do shale for $2, I am willing to bet they can, in the next five years.
When it comes to environmental risks, critics do have a point: They say drilling for shale gas runs a risk to ground water, even though shale is generally found thousands of feet below the water table. If a well casing fails, they argue, drilling fluids can seep into aquifers.
They're overplaying the danger of such a failure. For drilling on land, where most shale-gas deposits are, the casings have been around for decades with a good track record. But water pollution can occur if drilling fluids are disposed of improperly. So, regulations and enforcement must be tightened to ensure safety. More rules will raise costs—but, given the abundance of supply, producers can likely absorb the hit. Already, some are moving to nontoxic drilling fluids, even without imposed bans.

But the skeptics aren't just overstating the obstacles. They're missing two much bigger points. For one thing, they're ignoring history: The reserves and production of new energy resources tend to increase over time, not decrease. They're also not taking into account how quickly public opinion can change. The country can turn on a dime and embrace a cheaper energy source, casting aside political or environmental reservations. This has happened before, with the rapid spread of liquefied-natural-gas terminals over the past few years.
In short, the skeptics are missing the bigger picture—the picture I think is the much more likely one. Here's a closer look at what I'm talking about, and how I believe the boom in shale gas will shake up the world.
One of the biggest effects of the shale boom will be to give Western and Chinese consumers fuel supplies close to home—thus scuttling a potential natural-gas cartel. Remember: Prior to the discovery of shale gas, huge declines were expected in domestic production in U.S., Canada and the North Sea. That meant an increasing reliance on foreign supplies—at a time when natural gas was becoming more important as a source of energy.
Even more troubling, most of those gas supplies were located in unstable regions. Two countries in particular had a stranglehold over supply: Russia and Iran. Before the shale discoveries, these nations were expected to account for more than half the world's known gas resources.
Russia made no secret about its desire to leverage its position and create a cartel of gas producers—a kind of latter-day OPEC. That seemed to set the stage for a repeat of the oil issues that have worried the world over the past 40 years.
As far as I'm concerned, you can now forget all that. Shale gas will breed competition among energy companies and exporting countries—which in turn will help economic stability in industrial countries, and thwart petro-suppliers that try to empower themselves at our expense. Market competition is the best kryptonite for cartel power.
For one measure of the coming change, consider the prospects for liquefied natural gas, which has been converted to a liquid so it can be carried in a supertanker like oil. It's the easiest way to move natural gas very long distances, so it gives a good picture of how much countries are relying on foreign supplies.

Before the shale discoveries, experts expected liquefied natural gas, or LNG, to account for half of the international gas trade by 2025, up from 5% in the 1990s. With the shale boom, that share will be more like one-third.
In the U.S., the impact of shale gas and deep-water drilling is already apparent. Import terminals for LNG sit virtually empty, and the prospects that the U.S. will become even more dependent on foreign imports are receding. Also, soaring shale-gas production in the U.S. has meant that cargoes of LNG from Qatar and elsewhere are going to European buyers, easing their dependence on Russia. So, Russia has had to accept far lower prices from formerly captive customers, slashing prices to Ukraine by 30%, for instance.
But the political fallout from shale gas will do a lot more than stifle natural-gas cartels. It will throw world politics for a loop—putting some longtime troublemakers in their place and possibly bringing some rivals into the Western fold.
Again, remember that as their energy-producing influence grew, nations like Russia, Venezuela and Iran became more successful in resisting Western interference in their affairs—and exporting their ideologies and strategic agendas through energy-linked deal-making and threats of cutoffs.
In 2006 and 2007, disputes with Ukraine led Russia to cut off supplies, leaving customers in Kiev and Western Europe briefly without fuel in the dead of winter. That cutoff effectively shifted Ukraine's internal politics: The country turned away from the pro-NATO, anti-Moscow candidate and toward a coalition more to Moscow's liking.
It looked like the U.S. and Europe would see their global power eclipse as they kowtowed to their energy suppliers. But shale gas is going to defang the energy diplomacy of petro-nations. Consuming nations throughout Europe and Asia will be able to turn to major U.S. oil companies and their own shale rock for cheap natural gas, and tell the Chavezes and Putins of the world where to stick their supplies—back in the ground.

Europe, for instance, receives 25% of its natural-gas supply via pipelines from Russia, with some consumers almost completely dependent on the big supplier. In the wake of Russia's strong-arming of Ukraine, Europe has been actively diversifying its supply, and shale gas will make that task cheaper and easier.
Shale-gas resources are believed to extend into countries such as Poland, Romania, Sweden, Austria, Germany—and Ukraine. Once European shale gas comes, the Kremlin will be hard-pressed to use its energy exports as a political lever.
I would also argue that greater shale-gas production in Europe will make it harder for Iran to profit from exporting natural gas. Iran is currently hampered by Western sanctions against investment in its energy sector, so by the time it can get its natural gas ready for export, the marketing window to Europe will likely be closed by the availability of inexpensive shale gas.
And that may lead Tehran to tone down its nuclear efforts. Look at it this way: If Iran can't sell its gas in Europe, what options does it have? Piping to the Indian subcontinent is impractical, and LNG markets will be crowded with lower-cost, competing supplies.
It's admittedly a long shot, but if the regime acts rationally, it will realize it has a chance to win some global goodwill by shifting away from nuclear-power efforts—and using its cheap natural-gas supplies to generate electricity at home.
Overall, the Middle East might get a bit poorer as gas eats into the market for oil. If the drop in revenue is severe enough, it could bring instability.
Shale-gas development could also mean big changes for China. The need for energy imports has taken China to problematic nations such as Iran, Sudan and Burma, making it harder for the West to forge global policies to address the problems those countries create. But with newly accessible natural gas available at home, China could well turn away from imports—and the hot spots that produce them.
The less vulnerable China is to imported oil and gas, the more likely it would be to support sanctions or other measures against petro-states with human-rights problems or aggressive agendas. Moreover, the less Beijing worries about U.S. control of sea lanes, the easier it will be for the U.S. and China to build trust. So, domestic shale gas for China may help integrate Beijing into a Pax Americana global system.
With natural gas cheap and abundant, the prospects for renewable energy will change just as drastically. I have been a big believer that renewable energy was about to see its time. Prior to the shale-gas revolution, I thought rising hydrocarbon prices would propel renewables and nuclear power into the marketplace easily—albeit with a little shove from a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system.
But the shale discoveries complicate the issue, making it harder for wind, solar and biomass energy, as well as nuclear, to compete on economic grounds. Subsidies that made renewables competitive with shale gas would get more expensive, as would loan guarantees and incentives for new nuclear plants. Shale gas also hurts the energy-independence argument for renewables: Shale gas is domestic, just like wind and solar, so we won't be shipping those dollars to the Middle East.
But that doesn't mean we should stop investing in renewables. As large as our shale-gas resources are, they're still exhaustible, and eventually we will still need to transition to energy that is cleaner and more plentiful. So, what should we do?
First, avoid the urge to protect coal states and let cheaper natural gas displace coal, which accounts for about half of all power generated in the U.S. Ample natural gas for electricity generation could also make it easier to shift to electric vehicles—once again helping the environment and lessening our dependence on the Middle East.
Then, I think we still need to invest in renewables—but smartly. States with renewable-energy potential, such as windy Texas or sunny California, should keep their mandates that a fixed percentage of electricity must be generated by alternative sources. That will give companies incentives and opportunities to bring renewables to market and lower costs over time through experience and innovation. Yes, renewables may seem relatively more expensive in those states as shale gas hits the market. And, yes, that may mean getting more help from government subsidies. But I don't think the cost would be prohibitive, and the long-term benefits are worth it.
Still, I don't believe we should set national mandates—which would get prohibitively expensive in states without abundant renewable resources. Instead of pouring money into subsidies to make such a plan work, the federal government should invest in R&D to make renewables competitive down the road without big subsidies.
In the end, what's important to understand is that shale gas may be the key to solving some of our most pressing short-term crises, a way to bridge the gap to a more-secure energy and economic future.
The trade deficit has crippled our economy and shows no signs of abating as long as we remain tethered to imported energy. Why ship dollars abroad where they can destabilize global financial markets—and then hit us back in lost jobs and savings—when we can develop the resources we have here in our own country? Shall we pay Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to develop our natural gas—or the citizens of Pennsylvania and Louisiana?
Ms. Jaffe is the Wallace S. Wilson Fellow for Energy Studies at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and co-author of "Oil, Dollars, Debt and Crises: The Global Curse of Black Gold." She can be reached at

Electric car drivers fear being stranded with flat battery

Ben Webster, Environment Editor

The era of carefree motoring may soon be over, according to a study which reveals that drivers of the new generation of electric cars are plagued by nagging fears of being left stranded by a flat battery.
They narrow their horizons and rarely venture far from home, abandoning the old notion of the freedom of the open road.
A six-month trial involving 264 drivers found that almost all experienced “range anxiety” and travelled only short distances.
They were over cautious when planning journeys and allowed themselves a generous safety margin to avoid the need to recharge en route. They tended to avoid using their cars if the battery indicator showed that the charge level was less than 50 per cent.

Even though electric cars such as the Mitsubishi i-MiEV are theoretically capable of travelling 100 miles between charges the drivers appeared not to trust the official figures. The maximum journey undertaken was only a quarter of the official range.
The suitcase-sized batteries take at least six hours to recharge and Britain has only about 300 public charging points, most of which are in London.
The Government-funded trial, involving drivers working for local authorities, private companies and universities in the North East of England, found that the maximum journey length undertaken was only a quarter of the car’s official range.
Cenex, the Centre of Excellence for low carbon vehicle technologies which conducted the trial, concluded: “Range anxiety effects were significant throughout the trial with 93 per cent of journeys commencing with over 50 per cent battery state of charge.
“The under-utilisation of range is undesirable in terms of efficient deployment and acceptance of electric vehicles and highlights a need for more sophisticated on-board range prediction aids.”
The trial also found that drivers altered their driving style, slowing down and avoiding unnecessary acceleration or braking when the charge indicator dropped below 50 per cent.
Neil Butcher, who is leading a Government-sponsored trial of 25 electric cars in the West Midlands, said that drivers tended to think much more carefully about their journeys before setting out.
However, he said that only one family so far had drained the battery and been forced to make an unscheduled stop.
“They were driving at high speed down the motorway on the first day they had the car and they ran out of charge about four miles from home. They stopped at a pub which let them plug in while they sat there for a couple of hours until there was enough to make it home.”
Mr Butcher said that range anxiety increased in cold weather because the battery capacity fell by up to a third. Using the heater also caused the range shown on the dashboard instrument to drop by up to 20 miles.
“It encourages you to wear a coat and gloves in the car,” said Mr Butcher.
He said that drivers would be confident about making long trips once a network of fast-charge points was deployed. These give an 80 per cent charge in as little as 20 minutes. However, these points cost up to £25,000 each to install and using them reduces the life of the battery.
David Jackson, electric vehicle project manager for Nissan UK, said that drivers of the Nissan Leaf, a small family electric car due to go on sale in March next year, would be able to use a mobile phone to monitor the battery level as it was recharging. They would also be able to send the car a message to warm itself up using mains electricity so that they could start at a comfortable temperature without shortening the car’s range.
From January drivers will be able to obtain Government grants of up to £5,000 towards the purchase of an electric car.
The Department for Transport has also given London, Milton Keynes and the North East a total of £8 million for the installation of 11,000 charging points by the end of 2013. The points will mainly be installed in car parks and at leisure centres, railway stations and supermarkets.
However, only 2,000 points will be installed next year and only 79 of those will be fast-charge points.

Browne’s legacy of cost cutting stored up barrels of trouble

Tom Bower
EVEN before taking over BP from Lord Browne, Tony Hayward admitted to a group of employees in America in 2006 that the group needed to restore the company’s core skills in engineering to reverse his predecessor’s drastic cuts.
Hayward knew that Browne’s legacy had made the company vulnerable to costly disasters. Four successive accidents in America in 2005 and 2006 had shredded BP’s reputation and, without insurance cover, had cost the company billions of pounds in repairs, compensation and lost revenue.
The explosion at the Texas City refinery that killed 15 people, the dangerous list of the $1 billion Thunder Horse oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, and two oil spills from pipelines in Alaska had aroused outrage across America. In Hayward’s opinion, Browne’s strategy had been short-sighted.
“We have a management style that has made a virtue of doing more for less,” said Hayward. To increase BP’s profitability and share price, Browne had encouraged the departure of hundreds of BP’s skilled engineers. To save money, Browne believed BP should use subcontractors to drill for oil, maintain refineries, monitor corrosion in pipelines and supervise the construction of oil platforms. Investigations of the accidents blamed cost savings and the inadequate skills of BP’s own personnel for poor supervision of the subcontractors.
Opprobrium was heaped on BP in Washington. In 2006, a report on Texas City by the US Chemical Safety Board, a federal agency, warned that BP’s managers, scarred by “a cultural issue”, posed “an imminent hazard”.
In the aftermath of the Alaskan spills, congressional investigators unearthed testimony by a former BP engineer in Alaska who had complained: “There is no doubt that cost-cutting and profits have taken precedence over safety and the environment.”
Congressman Joe Barton accused BP managers in 2006 of dishonesty in their testimony on safety and expressed concern “about BP’s corporate culture of seeming indifference to safety and environmental issues”.
He added: “This comes from a company that prides itself in its ads on protecting the environment. Shame, shame, shame.”
Severe corrosion caused by BP’s cost-cutting and poor maintenance of the pipelines was responsible, according to the US Department of Transportation’s inspectors, for the leak of 270,000 gallons of crude oil from the Trans Alaska pipeline system.
BP’s investigation of the Thunder Horse disaster revealed that its subcontractors in South Korea had failed to detect the installation of faulty valves.
On becoming chief executive in 2007, Hayward knew that Browne’s cuts had denuded BP of the skills to prevent similar incidents. His model for near-perfection was Exxon Mobil’s practices.
Every oil man acknowledges that Exxon Mobil’s method of operations is the industry’s gold standard. Since the Exxon Valdez tanker polluted Prince William Sound in Alaska in 1989, the group’s executives had imposed demanding requirements.
Around the clock, its engineers on the oil rigs second-guess everything planned and done by every subcontractor. BP lacks the staff to replicate such rigour.
Despite acknowledging the criticisms of “systemic lapses” for its sins in 2005, Hayward’s recruitment of engineers has been too slow to remedy his inheritance from Browne.
Since the latest accident in the Gulf of Mexico, Hayward has laid the blame on Trans- ocean and other contractors on whose expertise BP relied.
“It was not appropriate to second-guess Transocean,” said Robert Wine, of BP in London. BP had six supervisors on the rig at the time of the explosion, but Wine admitted that it did not have an engineer there to oversee the regular checks of the blow-out preventor or the concreting.
He also said that BP had been recruiting more skilled engineers. Hayward knows that BP is incapable of monitoring its subcontractors and that this lapse will make BP more vulnerable in the forthcoming litigation.
Hayward may be lamenting that he failed to hire more engineers. In America, critics of the oil giants have restated their former criticism of the company by quipping that BP stand for “Beyond the Pale”, “Bloated Profits” and “Broken Pipelines”.
Tom Bower is the author of The Squeeze: Oil, Money and Greed in the 21st Century

Greenhouse effects: Turf

Tony Juniper

Not all grass is as green as it looks. Some of the most productive farmland in England, in the Fens near where we live in Cambridge, is used to produce turf, rather than food; and, each time another batch is ready and dug up, about 1in of topsoil comes away with it. Turf also has to be transported, usually by road, to where it is to be laid.
That said, it’s an attractive option. Laying it may be heavy work, but turf gives a sense of achievement, as bare areas are almost instantly converted into green space. It can also be put down at pretty much any time of year.
There are, however, advantages in repairing or starting a lawn from seed. First of all, it’s a lot cheaper. You can also decide on the combination of grass varieties that will most suit your needs. For example, you can get mixes that are hard-wearing or do better in shade. You can also make it more wildlife-friendly by adding clover. Clover is a member of the pea family and its roots fix atmospheric nitrogen, fertilising the soil in a way that helps grass grow. The flowers produce food for nectar-feeding insects such as bumblebees. Some turf suppliers offer different mixes, too, but doing it yourself gives more satisfaction.
Get the grass going from seed, then oversow it with clover seed at the rate of about 5g per sq metre. Use the variety ‘Kent Wild White’ and plant during the spring. You can add other wild-flower seeds as well.
We replanted an area of grass destroyed by building works, and itis shaping up nicely. The weeds needto be kept under control, but it isgreen and lush, and we hope it canbe turned into a wildlife-friendly lawn by the time summer is properly under way. (See page 24 for more tips on attracting animals to your garden.)
If you are in any doubt as to the viability of growing grass from seed, take inspiration from Chelsea football club. I visited their training ground in Cobham, Surrey, to learn about the efforts they are making there to go green, and discovered they had decided not to use turf so as to cut down on pollution and save land.
Tony Juniper is an environmental campaigner and former director of Friends of the Earth