Archive for the ‘Express 95’ Category

Picture This!

Posted by admin on February 9, 2010
Posted under Express 95

The Australian political scene is a funny place to be. Funny, if it wasn’t such a serious issue which is being joked about daily in newspaper cartoons. Or dismissed by some as inconvenient, costly and/or crap! We’re talking about climate change policy and primarily an emissions trading scheme to put a price on carbon.

Of course, it will take more than CPRS on its own to reduce Australia’s emissions to a realistic level, but hopefully the Greens are now seeing sense and can bring themselves to support a step in the right direction. We are even seeing former leaders of the Coalition prepared to “cross the floor” and/or come out of the woodwork to show what they support.

This issue goes beyond politics to consider some grand designs for clean air transport, biofuels coming onto their own, energy efficiency moves from a major oil company and renewables making their mark in the US. Two British business voices speak out strongly, and two pieces of research (one from the US and one from Australia) put things in perspective. Australia is reprimanded by one of its own for its clean energy shortcomings and the latest message from the Arctic is as bad as it gets.

Profile: Peter Young

Posted by admin on February 9, 2010
Posted under Express 95

Profile: Peter Young

British environmental and sustainability strategist Peter Young played a significant role in bringing about a concrete and binding Climate Change Act in the UK and the Aldersgate coalition, which he chairs, helped create the setting up of a climate change and energy ministry, combining the expertise in climate and the environment, energy and finance under one roof. Visiting Australia, Mr Young had some welcome ideas and lessons for politicians and business leaders alike.

Peter Young, Chairman of the Aldersgate Group and Strategy Director, Enviros (now part of SKM Group) was in Australia in the first week of February to meet with businesses, and specifically to address a forum organised by Environment Business Australia in Sydney.

Ken Hickson attended the Sydney forum, listened intently to what Peter Yong had to say and met the man of the moment. Here’s his report:

It becomes very apparent when meeting and listening to Peter Young that here is a man very much in touch with, even part of, strategy development and policy planning that both reflects and involves business and Government at the highest level in the UK.

He speaks with authority on climate change, renewable energy, energy efficiency, green jobs and financing the low carbon economy.

His belief is Australia can learn from, even adopt for itself, the recommendations of the Aldersgate reports on a financing the transition to a low carbon economy, developing a resource efficient future, and the creation of green jobs, as they could be just as applicable here as in the UK.

The role that he plays in the Aldersgate Group as chairman is one of leadership, as this quite unique group brings together government officials and agencies, NGOs, business leaders and politicians of all shades and persuasions.

Not only does the Aldersgate Group influence and help formulate Government policy, it also gives direction, even guidance, to businesses as to how to prepare for the social, environmental and economic challenges and impacts of climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy.

How Australia would benefit from having a group that acts and reports like the UK’s Aldersgate coalition. Fiona Wain put up her hand at the forum and offered EBA as a suitable vehicle to get this process started.

While Peter Young was in Australia, the latest Aldersgate report was released in London, announcing that the UK must adopt an industrial strategy which goes ‘beyond carbon’ to address critical resource efficiency challenges in all areas of the economy if it is to maintain employment and a competitive, sustainable advantage in global markets, now and in the future.

Another example is the report Aldersgate released last November:  ‘Mind the Gap – Skills for the transition to a low carbon economy’, which was launched at the House of Commons. It found that, despite the UK’s commitment to a rapid transition to a low-carbon, resource efficient economy, the Government’s skills strategy is inadequate to meet these needs. It is now imperative that ambition and delivery are accelerated.

Here’s another one, based on a report from the Group last October:

A more radical approach to financing low carbon projects is needed to ensure carbon targets are met, according to a report by the Aldersgate Group. It argues that a new strategic approach to reduce investor risks, mobilise capital and streamline institutional structures would accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy and reduce costs.

Three key recommendations were made that an effective financial strategy should:

1 Reduce the risk of investing in low carbon projects.

Significant advances in public policy will be required to make the necessary cuts in carbon

emissions. Concern that progress will not be fast enough or emission cuts deep enough

increases the financial risk of low carbon projects. This could be addressed by issuing

public guarantees or bonds index linked to emission reductions or carbon prices that can

provide a natural hedge for investors.

2 Mobilise private sector capital flows.

The Government must ensure that appropriate public policy mechanisms are in place to

mobilise capital from institutional investors at scale. Climate bonds could be particularly

effective by offering secure and long-term returns but these must be competitive.

3 Reform institutional structures.

Current structures which work on an ad hoc basis need to be reformed and rationalised

so that they can deliver in a more strategic and synchronised way. A Government-linked

financial institution, such as a Green Infrastructure Bank, could play a major role in

financing the low carbon transition. It would also create competitive advantage for the UK

and reduce dependency on the European Investment Bank which cannot meet predicted

future investment demand in the medium term.

The Aldersgate Group has some achievements up its collective sleeve. The coalition was instrumental in the creation of a combined climate change and energy ministry in Britain — which brings all the expertise in climate and the environment, energy and finance under one roof — and the subsequent introduction of the Climate Change Act.

Peter Young told Giles Parkinson of The Australian that finding ways to unlock finance is pivotal, be it for clean coal, nuclear energy, renewables, smart grids, or electric vehicles.

He told reiterated to those present at the Sydney forum that in Britain, Aldersgate has recommended that the initial financing gap be filled by government, perhaps in the form of loan guarantees now popular in the US. The benefit of this is that investors can focus on market risk rather than policy risk.

In a message as much for Australia as any other country, Peter Young urges governments to work more closely with universities to ensure that skills in new technologies are developed — electrical engineering for instance — and that training in current professions such as building, plumbing and electrical supply is expanded. It is those areas that may be the source of much of the green job expansion.

Here’s a little more information on Peter Young, who has 27 years experience in multi-disciplinary environmental management consulting.

He is also founder and Director of CAT Alliance Ltd, a member of the Advisory Council for the Environmental Industries Commission and was recently a commissioner on the Commission on Environmental Markets and Economic Performance.

 SKM Enviros is the new name for the combined expertise and capabilities of the water and environment, health and safety teams in Europe of Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) – a global engineering, sciences and project delivery firm – and Enviros Consulting – an environmental, sustainability, health and safety consultancy.

The launch of the new SKM Enviros business follows the acquisition of Enviros by SKM from Carillion plc in October 2009.

In a resource-efficient, low carbon economy, SKM Enviros’ aim is to lead debate, influence policy and shape development to achieve outstanding client success in a more sustainable way.

SKM Enviros consultants will work with other SKM colleagues worldwide to bring the best that the 6,500 strong multi-disciplinary consultancy – including 1600 water and environment professionals – has to offer its clients.

Peter Young, SKM Enviros’ Strategy Manager, said, “The response from clients and staff to SKM’s acquisition of Enviros has been everything we hoped for and the coming together of the two teams as one combined force is a natural next step. We are really excited about offering an improved portfolio of services to our clients and sharing with them the capabilities of the global business.”

Enviros Consulting was founded more than 35 years ago and in 2009 was voted the Best Consultancy in four categories at the edie Awards for Environmental Excellence: Climate Change and Renewables: Due Diligence; Waste and Recycling; Water and Wastewater.

While Peter Young was in Australia, the following announcement was made in London (on 1 February 2010) as the latest report was launched in joint meeting of the Aldersgate Group and the All-Party Parliamentary Environment Group at the House of Commons:

The UK must adopt an industrial strategy which goes ‘beyond carbon’ to address critical resource efficiency challenges in all areas of the economy if it is to maintain employment and a competitive, sustainable advantage in global markets, now and in the future.

This is the conclusion of a far-reaching, in-depth report by the Aldersgate Group, a coalition of companies, NGOs, professional bodies, MPs and others, who believe that high environmental standards are essential to long term economic growth.

The report – Beyond Carbon: Towards a Resource Efficient Future – states that resource efficiency will be one of the key determinants of economic success and human well-being in the 21st century and describes what a resource efficient economy might look like and what policies would be required to enable the transition.

It welcomes the publication of the Low Carbon Industrial Strategy. However, there is now a need to go “beyond carbon” and adopt general resource efficiency principles through practices such as true resource pricing and life-cycle management. Resource efficient policies should become key objectives for HM Treasury’s Management of the economy and be supported across Government departments, the report says.

It also states that while carbon may be the most immediate resource issue, it is not the only one. Water and other resources are also of critical importance. Substantial cuts in carbon emissions will require changes to the use of natural resources with significant indirect carbon impacts.

Sir John Harman, former Chairman of the Environment Agency and lead author of the report, said: “There is understandably a focus on carbon in policy making at the moment. However, there are equally pressing resource demands across many areas of the economy which need to be addressed, such as water resources against energy use, food production against biofuels, natural habitats against agricultural intensification and so on.  All of these will require a strong policy response and each will need to be addressed sector by sector.”

“We cannot rely on the market to act in time to anticipate constraints in natural resource stocks, we have to act in advance. The Low Carbon Industrial Strategy was an encouraging sign. For the first time, one of the economic ministries showed it wished to explicitly promote and shape Britain’s transition to a low carbon future. We now need to build and expand on this approach to promote low-resource consumption as a vital part of securing future competitive advantage. This report and the work of the Aldersgate Group can be seen as a step towards that.”

The report describes the possible features of a resource efficient economy by considering three contrasting economic sectors of food, water and materials. It makes clear that resource use has to be considered sector by sector. Although there are common issues, such as a need for a life-cycle approach to policy making and for the true price of environmental externalities to be reflected, they work out very differently in each sector due to the nature of the resources in question and the market structure in which each resource operates.

For example, the water sector is characterised by a small number of very large companies operating in a closely regulated manner. The report recommends the regulator’s role be enhanced to take a number of environmental considerations and costs into account and take some decisions on environmental grounds alone, rather than simply focusing on supplying water at least short-term cost to the consumer.

Conversely, the food sector has a large number of small enterprises, with the result that regulation is less all-encompassing and the market dominates. In the EU, 29% of all consumption derived GHG emissions are food related while the WWF estimates that food supply accounts for 23% of the total global ecological footprint. The food sector involves a complex interplay between land, water and nutrient resources so any regulatory response would have to include policies covering each diverse area. In addition there would have to be significant improvements made in food-chain economics to produce more with less and to reduce waste through the system, while far greater efforts would have to be made to drive sustainable consumption.

A one-size-fits-all approach would not work with such a complex production and consumption sector.

 “Each of the case studies shows that there are some common general principles of economic management for a resource efficient world, but each sector requires its own approach, and some of the measures will require us to step away from traditional economic thinking,” Sir John Harman added. “We have made a number of policy recommendations in this paper but they will need support across Government departments through policies on spatial planning, the remits of regulators and specific targets in key sectors. It is now in Britain’s interest to build and expand on this approach to promote low-resource consumption as a vital part of securing future competitive advantage, because the economies of the future will be the ones that make best use of the available resources.”

About Aldersgate Group

The Aldersgate Group is a high level coalition of progressive businesses, environmental groups and individuals who believe that high environmental standards will be a major part of future economic growth and international competitiveness.

By presenting objective evidence based on the diverse experience of our members, we promote the case that there is no inherent contradiction between regulating for high environmental standards at the same time as maintaining economic growth and stimulating wealth creation.  Quite the reverse: no economic policy which sacrifices environmental quality can succeed in the long term.

The Group engages actively with government and other key decision makers to contribute to the future development of UK economic, environment and sectoral policies, as well as providing a distinct voice that advances the better regulation and sustainability agendas.

Source:, and

”For the sake of the planet, let’s get going”

Posted by admin on February 9, 2010
Posted under Express 95

”For the sake of the planet, let’s get going”

Former opposition leader and Environment Minister in the previous Government, Malcolm Turnbull has savaged the coalition’s direct action plan to combat climate change as a “recipe for fiscal recklessness”, saying he would cross the floor to vote with Labor when a vote was taken on the carbon pollution reduction scheme, while World Vision chief executive Tim Costello – brother of former treasurer Peter Costello – urged the Greens to do ”everything they can” to get a scheme in place.

AAP reports (8 February 2010:

FORMER opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull has savaged the coalition’s direct action plan to combat climate change as a “recipe for fiscal recklessness”.

Giving his first parliamentary speech since losing the Liberal leadership in December, Mr Turnbull indicated he would cross the floor to vote with Labor when a vote was taken on the carbon pollution reduction scheme.

Mr Turnbull was scathing of the coalition’s new direct-action policy which aims to provide financial incentives to industry for reducing carbon emissions.

“We all know … that industry and businesses attended by an army of lobbyists are particularly persuasive and all too effective at getting their sticky fingers into the taxpayer’s pocket,” he told Parliament.

“Having the Government pick projects for subsidy is a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale.

“And there will always be a temptation for projects to be selected for their political appeal.”

A handful of Liberal MPs, including treasury spokesman Joe Hockey, were present in the chamber during Mr Turnbull’s speech.

The Government allowed Mr Turnbull an additional 10 minutes to complete his speech as other MPs, including climate change sceptic Wilson Tuckey, wandered into the lower house ahead of a maiden speech by first-time MP Kelly O’Dwyer.

Mr Turnbull said his strong and long-standing personal commitment to an emissions trading scheme prevented him from voting against the Government legislation.

Mr Turnbull committed the Liberals to supporting the legislation before he was dumped in favour of Tony Abbott, who has since released an alternative climate change policy.

Today, he urged Australia to have a climate change strategy in place before the next global talks in Mexico later this year.

“Prudence demands that we act to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and do so in a way that is consistent with, and promotes global action to do the same,” he said.

“All of us here are accountable, not just to our constituents, but to the generations that will come after them and after us,” he said, adding it was Parliament’s job to legislate for the nation’s long-term future.

It was positive that both sides of Parliament had agreed to at least a five per cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

“But it is not enough to say that you support these cuts, you must also deliver a strong, credible policy framework that will deliver them.”

Without a strong climate change policy, Australia could not expect other countries, such as China and India, to heed the call to tackle global warming.


Adam Morton in The Age (8 February 2010):

SOCIAL justice groups are pressuring the Greens to abandon their opposition to the government’s emissions trading scheme, arguing continued rejection of the contentious bill could set back climate change policy in Australia for years.

While none fully backed the government’s revamped scheme, World Vision, the Uniting Church and the Brotherhood of St Laurence each supported it being passed. They dismissed Coalition claims the scheme would hurt the poor, saying they would be adequately supported through a package paying 120 per cent compensation to low-income households.

World Vision and the Uniting Church called on the Greens to set aside concerns the scheme did not do enough to cut greenhouse gas emissions and accept it as the best option available. World Vision chief executive Tim Costello urged the Greens to do ”everything they can” to get a scheme in place.

”For the sake of the planet let’s get going, let’s show some movement, and a price on carbon is the only way,” he said.

Mark Zirnsak, director of the Uniting Church’s social justice unit, said the Senate’s opposition to the bill had been ”a real win for the sceptics”.

He said the Greens’ proposal of an interim $20 carbon tax, with the price rising with inflation, would lead to more delays and a further round of industry lobbying for compensation.

The Brotherhood of St Laurence’s Tony Nicholson said Labor’s proposal was the best on offer and its compensation for low-income households was ”very adequate”.

The emissions bill could pass if it was backed by the five Greens senators and retained the support of the two Liberal senators, Judith Troeth and Sue Boyce, who voted with the government in December.

Greens climate change spokeswoman Christine Milne dismissed this possibility. She said the Greens’ proposal – the subject of ongoing negotiations with Climate Change Minister Penny Wong – had won wide support as a ”deadlock breaker”.


Increase Productivity on Land, Reduce Emissions & Boost Soil Carbon

Posted by admin on February 9, 2010
Posted under Express 95

Increase Productivity on Land, Reduce Emissions & Boost Soil Carbon

CSIRO chief executive Megan Clark said the nation’s best scientists would collaborate with government agencies, universities and agribusinesses to find new, environmentally-friendly farming and forestry alternatives aimed at increasing productivity by 50%, while cutting carbon emissions by the same amount. Connection Research’s Graeme Philipson says the findings of a recent study highlight the opportunities for Australia to be a major international player in the technology of carbon sequestration in soil.
AAP Reports (8 February 2010):
The CSIRO has set its sights on increasing the nation’s agricultural productivity by 50 per cent, while cutting carbon emissions by the same amount.
Australia’s leading scientific organisation on Monday launched its newest research flagship program into sustainable agriculture.
Its goal is to work out how to secure the nation’s agriculture and forest industries by increasing productivity by 50 per cent, while also reducing carbon emissions intensity by at least that much between now and 2030.
CSIRO chief executive Megan Clark said farmers and foresters were facing new challenges and had to adapt.
“We simply cannot continue to farm marginal land or destroy forest for agricultural acreage this time,” she said at the launch in Canberra.
Dr Clark said the organisation’s best scientists would collaborate with government agencies, universities and agribusinesses to find new, environmentally-friendly farming and forestry alternatives.
Science and Research Minister Kim Carr said the new flagship program would conduct about $70 million worth of research and development a year.
About 60 per cent of the money would come from the federal government, with the rest mainly competitive grant funding from public and private sources.
Agriculture Minister Tony Burke said the goals were achievable and did two main things.
“They allow us to be making the transition to a low carbon economy, while at the same time taking advantage of … the increased demand for food throughout the world,” he said.
Graeme Philipson for Connection Research:


Carbon sequestration in soil has become a hot topic in recent month with the failure of the Copenhagen conference and the fierce debate in Australia over the government’s proposed CPRS (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) and whether agriculture and land use should be included in it. The federal opposition is promoting it as an important part of the answer to our climate change problems.

Many people have come into being with a range of soil sequestration technologies and techniques, but the debate is still in its infancy. Now Sydney based market analyst company Connection Research has released the finding of its survey of Australian practitioners and consultants in the science and economics of carbon sequestration in soil.

The survey was conducted by email in late 2009 and sponsored by software company Object Consulting. The participants were selected from a review of all individuals and organisations mentioned in newspaper and magazine articles and scientific literature in Australia in 2009. Of 167 parties identified, 82 responded.

“A number of key findings emerge,” says Connection Research’s Graeme Philipson, author of the report. “The most significant is that carbon sequestration in soil, by whatever means, is regarded as the most effective technology for removing CO2 from the atmosphere. It is regarded as more effective than renewable energy sources, more effective than energy conservation practices, and much more effective than so-called ‘clean coal’, which is regarded with great suspicion.”

Mr Philipson says there is a strong consensus that carbon sequestration in soil is the only way that significant amounts of CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere. Renewables and capture will take a long time to have any impact, whereas carbon sequestration in soil can be effective immediately.

“There is also a strong consensus that Australia has an opportunity to be a major international player in the technology of carbon sequestration in soil,” says Philipson. “But there are many challenges”.

The survey lists a number of these. They include:

  • Government Policy – there is a great deal of scepticism that the Australian Government understands the issues or is able to develop an effective policy framework.
  • Measurement and Verification – who will measure, verify and monitor the levels of sequestration?
  • Allocation of Resources – it all costs money. Who pays? Who receives?
  • Risk of Reversal – How do we know the process is permanent, or sufficiently so to make a difference?
  • Education – Most people don’t know about the technology. For it to be effective and for the public to be on side, there needs to be much greater public awareness of the technology and its benefits.


The report also shows there is strong agreement that verification of offsets through carbon sequestration in soil should be done through a statutory body or some sort of government or government-accredited agency. There is little support for the market determining the credibility of the verifier. But there is a strong belief in market forces – that the market rather than the government should determine the price or carbon, and therefore the value of offsets. There is a general distrust of government as a player, but an acceptance that effective government policy should set the framework.

“We believe the evidence points towards the emergence of a large carbon trading market in Australia and worldwide,” says Graeme Philipson. “Carbon offsets will be a very important part of that market, and the sequestration of carbon in soil will be a very significant component of those offsets. While there is some uncertainty over many aspects of the technology and the economics of carbon sequestration in soil, there is no doubt that it will be an enormous subject of debate and scientific enquiry over the next decade or more.

“Organisations and individuals who move now to establish expertise and visibility in this area will be well placed to take advantage of the many developments that will occur as the market matures and the technology become more defined and more effective.”

Graeme Philipson can be contacted on 0418 609 397, or at


Back to the Future: Slow is the New Fast

Posted by admin on February 9, 2010
Posted under Express 95

Back to the Future: Slow is the New Fast

A strong indication that the aviation industry is serious in its commitment to a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, a special Green Pavilion  appeared at the Singapore Airshow for the first time last week showcasing the latest environmental technologies.  And for the ultimate in clean air travel, the Aircruise is conceptually launched.  A giant, vertical airship is lifted by hydrogen and powered by solar energy, to benefit both travellers and the environment.

By Satish Cheney, Channel NewsAsia (04 February 2010):

SINGAPORE : The aviation industry is committed to a 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, and reflecting that challenge is a special green exhibition at the Singapore Airshow this year.

Major aviation companies are showcasing the latest environmental technologies at the Green Pavilion at the airshow.

The sector now accounts for two per cent of global carbon emissions and that could rise – especially since the industry is set for major growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The one positive thing about aviation and going green is green technology is tied to fuel burn. So as you reduce the amount of fuel you burn, you reduce the amount of carbon emissions and that is definitely related to profitability of the airlines,” said Paul Finklestein, VP of Marketing at Pratt & Whitney.

Reflecting how serious the industry is, in 2008, the European Union (EU) set up a 1.6 billion euros Clean Sky project – a programme to come up with new technologies quickly.

“The normal lifespan of an aeroplane is 30 years and the development of this kind of technology is 10 years. So we really have to start putting as much effort as possible into developing these new technologies,” said Holger Standertskjold, Ambassador & Head of Delegation, EU.

With aviation companies putting all their focus on coming out of dark economic times, there are concerns that green initiatives will take a step back. But aviation companies insist that will not be the case.

“We are pushing forward and this year, (we have) two main projects. The first one is implementation of bio fuels for aviation and the second one is development of modernised air-traffic management,” said Carine Huc-Pinault, director of Environment Strategy, Airbus.

Last month, Airbus flew for the first time a commercial flight with 50 per cent alternative fuel blended with normal jet fuel, successfully.

Despite emerging technologies, the failure to reach any serious agreement in the recent Copenhagen climate talks will mean that the aviation sector will have a challenging time.


By Kate Schneider (4 February 2010):

TOWERING airships could be the future of luxury travel following the introduction of a concept called the Aircruise.

UK company Seymourpowell today released details of the new travel and transportation concept, which it has likened to a hotel in the sky.

The Aircruise is a giant, vertical airship powered by natural energy and designed to carry travellers instyle and luxury.

Standing at 265 metres tall from base to tip and is capable of lifting 396 tonnes, the craft features penthouse apartments, stylish bars and an array of glass viewing floors.

The company based its design around a maximum of 100 passengers on board, making the journey an adventure in itself.

Nick Talbot, design director at Seymourpowell, said the concept presents an alternative vision of the future, where ‘slow is the new fast’.

“The Aircruise concept questions whether the future of luxury travel should be based around space-constrained, resource hungry, and all too often stressful airline travel, Mr Talbot said.

“A more serene transport experience will appeal to people looking for a more reflective journey, where the experience of travel itself is more important than getting from A to B quickly.”

Lifted by hydrogen and powered by solar energy, the Aircruise concept has benefits both for travellers and the environment.

“The physics of the airship requires a gigantic volume of lifting gas, yet simultaneously demands a relatively limited amount of weight. This allows for a potentially large amount of space with relatively few people onboard – a luxury for any traveller,” Mr Talbot said.

The company has designed a detailed technical specification for the aircraft and believes the project is “achievable”.

It is estimated the craft will travel from London to New York in approximately 37 hours with a cruising speed without tail or headwind of 100 to 150 km/h.

There will be six flight crew members and 14 support staff.

Korean giant Samsung Construction and Trading is also behind the project.


Save the Poles Expedition as Arctic Ice Disappears Faster

Posted by admin on February 9, 2010
Posted under Express 95

Save the Poles Expedition as Arctic Ice Disappears Faster

Climate change is transforming the Arctic environment faster than expected and accelerating the disappearance of sea ice, according to the latest findings from a research project involving more than 370 scientists from 27 countries. Intrepid explorer Eric Larsen has completed his South Pole journey over the southern summer, is getting ready to tackle the North Pole and then will climb Mount Everest -  all this within one year to promote clean energy and to “save the poles”.

Rod Nickel for  Reuters (6 February 2010):

WINNIPEG, Manitoba  - Climate change is transforming the Arctic environment faster than expected and accelerating the disappearance of sea ice, scientists said on Friday in giving their early findings from the biggest-ever study of Canada’s changing north.

The research project involved more than 370 scientists from 27 countries who collectively spent 15 months, starting in June 2007, aboard a research vessel above the Arctic Circle. It marked the first time a ship has stayed mobile in Canada’s high Arctic for an entire winter.

“(Climate change) is happening much faster than our most pessimistic models expected,” said David Barber, a professor at the University of Manitoba and the study’s lead investigator, at a news conference in Winnipeg.

Models predicted only a few years ago that the Arctic would be ice-free in summer by the year 2100, but the increasing pace of climate change now suggests it could happen between 2013 and 2030, Barber said.

Scientists link higher Arctic temperatures and melting sea ice to the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.

The Arctic is considered a type of early-warning system of climate change for the rest of the world.

“We know we’re losing sea ice — the world is all aware of that,” Barber said. “What you’re not aware of is that it has impacts on everything else that goes on in this system.”

The loss of the sea ice is taking away areas for the region’s mammals to reproduce, find food and elude predators, said Steve Ferguson, a scientist with the Canadian government who took part in the study.

Whale species previously not found in the Arctic are moving into the region because there is less sea ice to restrict their movements.

Climate change is also bringing more cyclones into the Arctic, dumping snow on the sea ice, which limits how thick it can get, and bringing winds that break up the ice, Barber said.

The study is part of the International Polar Year, a large scientific program focused on the Arctic and Antarctic. The scientists have not yet produced conclusions, but they expect to publish dozens of academic papers.

The cost of the Arctic’s rapid melt will be $2.4 trillion by 2050 as the region loses its ability to cool the global climate, the U.S.-based Pew Environment Group said on Friday. The group released a report showing the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet.

Both the Canadian government and the oil and gas industry are keenly interested in the possible environmental impact of development further north in the Arctic, said professor Louis Fortier of Laval University.

Currently, development is focused on mainland regions such as the massive gas fields in the Mackenzie River Delta on the Beaufort Sea. But receding ice levels may make the wider Arctic more accessible to ships and make drilling in more areas possible.

“Conclusions will come later, but … up to now there’s no indication that the impacts would be larger (further north) than elsewhere in the Arctic,” Fortier said.


From Save the Poles (1 February 2010):

Eric Larsen is making it happen. He completed his South Pole journey over the southern summer and is getting ready to tackle the North Pole. Then he will climb Mount Everest. All this within one year to promote clean energy and “save the poles”.

Here’s Eric Larsen’s latest update as he prepares for his Arctic mission:

“I spent a few hours yesterday with Richard Ortner, a meteorologist from Denver’s KMGH channel 7. We talked about our changing climate, life on the trail, polar gear and training.

“With only a few weeks before my North Pole departure, I am trying to reign in chaos. Not that easy. I wish I could report that everything is great and it’s been smooth sailing but the opposite is true. Our military flights to northern Ellesemere Island did not get final approval and Ryan Waters a stalwart mountaineer and polar traveler backed out of the North Pole team for personal reasons.

“I am trying to prioritize in these final weeks, but it only makes me realize what I already know. Everything is important! In a polar expedition each piece is a critical component of the whole. Training, gear, proper diet (ie clif bars), logistics, safety net, team, clothing, travel systems… I’ll stop there.

“I have had some amazing conversations with all sorts of folks lately about polar travel, solar power, mapping and much more.”

In 2009, renowned Polar Explorer Eric Larsen began an unprecedented journey to the top, bottom and roof of the world. During a continuous 365-day period, Larsen will mount major unsupported expeditions to the North and South Poles and an expedition to the summit of Mt. Everest. This feat has never been completed in one year. To date, only 15 people (no Americans) in history have been to all three ‘poles’.

The expedition’s objectives are:

  • Complete the first-ever expedition to Mt. Everest, the North Pole and South Pole in a continuous 365-day period
  • Promote clean energy solutions, advocate strategies for reducing carbon emissions post Kyoto 2012 and collect relevant scientific data
  • Produce a documentary film, book and educational CD-ROM that focuses on global warming, teamwork and the spirit of adventure
  • Develop a post expedition multi-media lecture series

Mount Everest and the North and South Poles represent the harshest and most extreme environments on the planet. Yet as inhospitable as these places are to humans, they are also the areas most affected by people. By summer 2040, the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free. Recently, the 1,250 square mile Larsen B Ice Shelf collapsed off of Antarctica and disintegrated into the Southern Ocean. Snow and ice once stretched to Edmund Hillary’s Everest base camp but now ends five miles above.

While we are seeing the most dramatic changes in the Polar and higher altitude regions, Global Warming is an issue that affects us all.


Enormous Biofuel Potential for Fast-Growing Eucalypts

Posted by admin on February 9, 2010
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Enormous Biofuel Potential for Fast-Growing Eucalypts

Biofuels can replace fossil fuels without eating into too much valuable farming land, says Australian expert Professor Robert Henry, who believes the world could completely overcome its dependence on oil by planting 100 million hectares of biofuel crops – equivalent to about a seventh of Australia’s landmass. But by reducing consumption by increased fuel-efficiency, the area required for biofuels could reduce to perhaps 50 million hectares.

Anna Salleh reports for ABC (27 January 2010):

Biofuels can replace a significant amount of our reliance on fossil fuels without eating into too much valuable farming land, says an Australian expert.

Professor Robert Henry, of the Bioenergy Research Institute at Southern Cross University in Lismore, reports his findings in the online ahead of print edition of Plant Biotechnology.

“It is possible to replace oil by using a relatively small proportion of our total arable land,” says Henry, who has also just completed a book titled Plant resources for food, fuel and conservation.

Recently, concerns have been raised about the potential for biofuel crops to take up land that could otherwise be used for producing food.

But Henry says his analysis shows the world could replace all its dependence on oil by planting 100 million hectares of prime agricultural land to biofuel crops – equivalent to about a seventh of Australia’s landmass.

He says while electric vehicles are an option in cities, liquid fuel alternatives to petrol will continue to be important for heavy transport and aviation because they have a greater energy density than batteries.

Henry says reducing consumption by increasing fuel-efficiency could reduce the area required for biofuels to perhaps plant 50 million hectares.

He says the leading biomass producers in the world include eucalypts and sugarcane, which produce 50 to 100 tonnes of dry biomass per hectare under the best conditions.

Henry says growing biofuel crops on degraded agricultural land would be another option, although this would require more land because the productivity is lower.

He says fast-growing eucalypts have enormous potential globally as a biofuel because they have high productivity in “less than perfect environments”.

Green biofuels?

But Henry says it will be important to roll out biofuel crops in a thoughtful way so that they are a genuine improvement on fossil fuels.

Today’s biofuel crops only convert certain parts of the plant – such as sugar, starch or oil.

But, he says, new technology should aim to convert all of the carbon in the plant, including the woody parts, into fuel to make biofuels an efficient option.

It would also be important to consider the impact of biofuel crops on biodiversity, says Henry. Areas of high biodiversity should be locked up, while tree crops may be planted to improve the biodiversity of degraded farmlands, he says.


Henry says another big issue to consider is that biofuel crops are generally chosen for their ability to grow fast and this means they can turn into weeds.

“What need to do is understand their ‘weediness’ before we grow them on a large scale,” he says.

Henry says it’s also important to consider the energy costs in biofuel production.

“The whole lifecycle assessment is important in this,” he says.

This means including fertiliser use, water use, and the location of biofuel crops – which would be best located in regional areas close to cities, says Henry.

“It’s a challenging area because there are so many things you’ve got to analyse to come up with the bottom line is in terms of your net impact,” he says.

Economic incentive

Henry there is a strong economic incentive for Australia to grow more biofuel crops because its oil production is declining.

“Most of our oil in 10 years time will be being imported and that will be a huge cost to Australia,” he says.

Henry says his analysis shows only a bit over a million hectares of highly productive land would be needed to replace the oil used in the country.

“I think we can move fairly quickly in Australia to replacing a third of our fuel with biofuel by 2020 or 2025 without great effort,” he says.

“But we have to have a more considered plan about how we’re going to approach that so we do it in a way that’s going to have a positive environmental benefit.”

Source:, and

Energy Efficiency Plays Vital Role for Energy Security

Posted by admin on February 9, 2010
Posted under Express 95

Energy Efficiency Plays Vital Role for Energy Security

Tony Hayward, group chief executive of BP, told the London Business School that energy security has become a defining issue for the 21st century and “in all circumstances, energy efficiency is the number one priority. That means more efficient vehicles, buildings and electronic appliances – more investment in technology and infrastructure, such as smart grids”.

Andrew Charlesworth for BusinessGreen (5 February 2010):

Energy efficiency will play a vital role in delivering energy security, Tony Hayward, group chief executive of BP told the London Business School in a speech yesterday.

Energy security has become a defining issue for the 21st century and “in all circumstances, energy efficiency is the number one priority. That means more efficient vehicles, buildings and electronic appliances – more investment in technology and infrastructure such as smart grids,” he said.

Fears of overdependence on expensive, imported energy were best allayed by focusing on efficiency, he said: “The most effective way to reduce such dependence is to curb energy consumption – and costs – by significantly investing in energy efficiency.”

Scares over Britain’s dependence on imported gas – which came to the fore during the recent cold period – were more problems of storage and distribution than issues of supply structure, he reasoned. “It’s about the need for investment in infrastructure such as pipelines and storage capacity.”

But energy independence is an unrealistic aim for the UK, he said, and gas will remain the optimum short-term solution to the UK’s energy needs. “Gas is the fuel that offers the greatest potential to achieve the largest greenhouse gas reductions – at the lowest cost, in the shortest time – and by using technology that’s available today.”

Hayward also told the audience that the Copenhagen climate talks should not be seen as a failure but the moment when the global climate debate became ” realistic”.

“There is a dawning realisation that we can’t afford to be paralysed by the absence of agreed targets… Individual governments need to act regardless of whether there is a global treaty…moving in the same direction, not necessarily in lockstep.

“For the first time since the climate debate began in earnest 20 years ago, the vast majority of the world’s countries are lined up and heading in the same direction. Most importantly, China and the US are on board,” he said.

BP forecasts that global energy demand will roughly double by 2050, a demand which can be met only by a diversity of energy sources, Hayward said. “That’s going to require investment of more than $1tn (£638bn) a year – every year.”

Consequently, fossil fuels will be with us for many years to come, he predicted.

“There will still be a major role for hydrocarbons… The share of renewable energy will certainly increase, but we have to be realistic about its contribution… The International Energy Agency can’t see [renewables] accounting for much more than five per cent of consumption in 2030, even with aggressive policy support.”

Nevertheless, BP will continue to factor a carbon cost into the investment choices and engineering design of new projects, he promised. “This is our way of ensuring that our investments are competitive not only in today’s world but in a future where carbon has a more robust price.”


Time to Join the Frontrunners for Clean Energy Boom

Posted by admin on February 9, 2010
Posted under Express 95

Time to Join the Frontrunners for Clean Energy Boom

No wonder Australia is lagging behind Spain, Denmark and China with renewable energy, writes Matthew Wright of Beyond Zero. Australia continues to rely on wasteful 19th-century technology. In periods of low demand, such as the dead of night, our antiquated coal-fired power stations throw energy away by blowing steam. We have failed to plan and invest in wind and solar, even though we have the land, plentiful resources and the technology.

The article by Matthew Wright appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald (3 February 2010):

No wonder Australia is lagging behind Spain and China with renewable energy, writes Matthew Wright of Beyond Zero.

Renewable energy is the fastest growing power source in the world, and already generates baseload electricity on the scale of utilities. Large solar thermal plants with heat storage can dispatch power around the clock every day of the week regardless of whether the sun is shining, and make handsome profits during demand peaks.

Wind power is being installed on scales that dwarf Australian grid requirements. These and other clean energy technologies are replacing coal on modern grids. While Australia continues to throw money at 19th-century technologies, Spain, China, the US and others are charging ahead with zero-emissions power generation, and creating export markets.

Spain consumes about as much electricity as Australia, though its population is about twice as large. Like Australia, Spain is blessed with strong, consistent sunshine, and it uses this attribute to ensure energy security. Already it has built 24-hour baseload solar plants, using molten salt to store heat which is then used to create steam and turn turbines. It started with Andasol 1, a 50MW plant, and has now completed two similar projects. More than 1,800MW of projects are under construction and the government has just approved another 2,440MW for their feed-in tariff scheme for construction over the next three years.

The Gemasolar project is the shining light of the Spanish boom in baseload solar power. This solar thermal plant has created 1500 jobs and will operate at 60 to 100 per cent of maximum turbine output for up to 90 per cent of hours each year. Very low maintenance shutdown requirements allow this efficiency, far greater than coal-fired power generators in NSW. When the turbine is idle, heat is bled off the ”cold” 290-degree salt storage tank to keep the turbine seals warm, allowing fast starting – as seen in the best hydro and gas plants. This capacity for baseload and fast-start ”dispatchable” power generation places the Gemasolar plant among the highest-value electricity plants, a fact not lost on investors.

This solar generation capacity is in addition to Spanish wind power. Wind turbines supply 11 per cent of Spain’s electricity demand, and this will more than double to 25 per cent by 2020. Another 6000MW of wind power is approved for installation in the next three years. That is just shy of three plants the size of the Bayswater power station near Muswellbrook, with all the jobs but no emissions.

Spain is phasing out coal and nuclear, and the companies that built the nuclear plants have re-tooled to build solar thermal plants with heat storage. These companies did not want to own the nuclear plants they built, but they have set up investment vehicles to own solar thermal plants.

Compared to the 10 years it takes to get a nuclear plant up and running, solar thermal plants with 24-hour baseload capacity have construction times as short as nine months, so such projects are not exposed to the same political, industrial and financial risks as nuclear plants. Envisaging a lucrative market for their solar infrastructure and expertise, the Spanish anticipate a healthy return on any subsidies for these technologies.

In China, solar hot water and photovoltaic (PV) panels have had huge commercial success. Maintenance-free evacuated tube solar hot water systems were developed in Australia. They are cheap – each tube wholesales for less than $5 and a system for a family costs less than $500. More than 50 million Chinese households now enjoy unlimited, free hot water from such systems.

China produces solar PV panels on a huge scale, and is the leading manufacturer of this technology for domestic rooftops. This triumph also owes much to Australian innovation, and to Australian governments’ failure to support the industry on home soil.

The University of NSW solar PV team is the world leader in its field and holds the global efficiency record for ordinary silicon cells. Much of the technology in China, particularly from the leading company, Suntech, leverages off this Australian innovation.

The Chinese were also ahead of the game when the global financial crisis hit. Their government moved quickly to arrange for government buildings to purchase surplus industrial output. This meant the billions of dollars Chinese companies had invested in PV plants were not wasted when demand suddenly fell.

This is in stark contrast with the situation in Australia. Melbourne’s Solar Systems has proven commercial success in displacing diesel in diesel/solar hybrid power generation for remote aboriginal communities. Solar Systems, a leader in its field, was unable to generate operational revenue and was forced into administration in August. With a bit of Chinese-style foresight, the Rudd government could have created a pipeline of projects for remote area power systems dependent on diesel. This would have been a responsible use of stimulus funds, and assured the company remained viable and ready for the boom after the global financial crisis.

Chinese wind power blows us away, too. A total of 30,000MW of wind power was planned to come online by 2020, but this target will be met early this year. China is now planning for 150,000MW of wind power by 2020, and again it is likely that this will be achieved much earlier.

Within the 150,000MW wind power target is the ”Three Gorges of Wind” project. Named after the world’s biggest engineering project, the Three Gorges dam, it will produce 70,000MW at seven large sites and twice as much electricity as the Three Gorges Dam, but cost half as much. The Three Gorges of Wind will produce about the same amount of electricity as the electricity grid on Australia’s eastern seaboard.

Denmark obtains 20 per cent of its electricity from wind, and this will increase to 50 per cent by 2025. Wind turbines from the 1980s will be replaced with new models that are 30 times larger and much more efficient in a wide variety of wind conditions.

NSW alone is 19 times larger than Denmark. It has about the same population and experiences as much wind in any given place. Our national electricity grid extends from Tasmania and South Australia to far northern Queensland. With such a massive resource over a vast area, wind power can make a large contribution to Australian energy security.

Australia continues to rely on wasteful 19th-century technology. In periods of low demand, such as the dead of night, our antiquated coal-fired power stations throw energy away by blowing steam.

In Germany, policy decisions have boosted renewable energy sales and provided the environment for a high-tech manufacturing industry. This is despite the fact that, under often-grey northern skies, PV panels installed in Germany may produce 50 to 65 per cent less energy over their lifetime than equivalent panels in Australia. German households and businesses will add up to three gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaic generation by the end of this year, bringing the national total to eight GW. That is 86 per cent of the entire Hunter Valley generating capacity.

Planning authorities in the US are also swamped with plans for wind and solar thermal power. More than 97,000MW of solar thermal projects are seeking approval from the US Bureau of Land Management. In the south-west of the country, the bureau is doing a study that would speed up development of more than 100,000MW of right-of-way sites (degraded government lands) for solar thermal plants. There go another 38 Bayswater equivalents. An underdeveloped grid is the main obstacle to the expansion of wind power in the US, but President Barack Obama has announced a huge modernisation plan.

The global financial crisis caused hold-ups with project finance, but with federal stimulus now behind many projects, thousands of megawatts of solar thermal with storage will break ground this year. It includes a huge complex in Nevada by the Spanish multinational Abengoa and another in California by the Israeli constructor BrightSource Energy. These companies are now exporting their expertise, a far more valuable commodity than coal.

With quick action, Australia could develop a solar thermal industry and join this lucrative market.

Those who perpetuate the myth that renewable energy cannot satisfy our electricity demand have an interest in long-established, emissions-intensive industries. These largely foreign-owned companies would prefer to see our energy keep coming from the same old dirty sources. The Rudd government seems more than happy to encourage this approach, signing up to the Coalition’s version of the emissions trading scheme to offer $7 billion of compensation to coal-fired generators, while stonewalling on renewables. This strategy, like the Coalition’s business-as-usual outlook, ignores the opportunities for jobs, export earnings, energy security and zero-emissions electricity on offer in the renewable sector.

With our advantages in sunshine, wind and expertise, Australia should move quickly to make up for lost time, and join the frontrunners in clean energy. Failure to act means Australians will remain stuck in the coal pit while the world prospers from a renewable energy boom.

Matthew Wright is executive director of Beyond Zero Emissions. It is developing plans that could shift Australia to zero emissions by 2020 using existing technologies.

Source: and

70% in US Survey Want CO2 Regulated as a Pollutant

Posted by admin on February 9, 2010
Posted under Express 95

70% in US Survey Want CO2 Regulated as a Pollutant

Most Americans continue to want their elected leaders at all levels of government to get on with the job of developing solutions to global warming, says Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University commenting on the latest comprehensive survey. “Two out of three also want to see ordinary citizens like themselves doing more about global warming.”

Centre for Climate Change Communication (4 February 2010):

New Haven, Conn.—Despite a sharp drop in public concern over global warming, Americans—regardless of political affiliation—support the passage of federal climate and energy policies, according to the results of a national survey released a few days ago by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities.

The survey found support for:

  • Funding more research on renewable energy, such as solar and wind power (85 percent)
  • Tax rebates for people buying fuel-efficient vehicles or solar panels (82 percent)
  • Establishing programs to teach Americans how to save energy (72 percent)
  • Regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant (71 percent)
  • School curricula to teach children about the causes, consequences and potential solutions to global warming (70 percent)
  • Signing an international treaty that requires the United States to cut emissions of carbon dioxide 90 percent by the year 2050 (61 percent)
  • Establishing programs to teach Americans about global warming (60 percent)

“Surprisingly, majorities of both Republicans and Democrats support many of these policies, including renewable energy research, tax rebates, regulating carbon dioxide, and expanding offshore drilling for oil and natural gas,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change.

“Further, majorities in both parties support returning revenues from a cap-and-trade system to American households to offset higher energy costs, perhaps opening a pathway for Congressional action.”

Sixty percent of Americans, however, said they have heard “nothing at all” about the cap-and-trade legislation currently being considered by Congress. Only 12 percent had heard “a lot.”

When cap and trade is explained, 58 percent support the policy, but this support drops to approximately 40 percent if household energy costs increase by $15 a month, or 50 cents a day. Sixty-six percent support cap and trade, however, if every household were to receive a yearly bonus of $180 to offset higher energy costs. In addition, 59 percent of Americans said they would likely spend the bonus on home energy efficiency improvements. This increases to 71 percent if the government offered to double the bonus if it was spent on energy efficiency improvements.

Sixty-two percent said the United States should make a “medium-” to “large-scale” effort to reduce global warming, even if doing so has “moderate” or “large” economic costs. This represents a 12-point decline since the fall of 2008. Sixty-nine percent said global warming should be a “medium” to “very high” priority of President Obama and Congress, while approximately half want local, state and federal officials to do more to address the issue. Both of those results represent 10- to 15-point declines since the fall of 2008.

“Most Americans continue to want their elected leaders at all levels of government to get on with the job of developing solutions to global warming,” said Edward Maibach, director of the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University. “Two out of three also want to see ordinary citizens like themselves doing more about global warming.”

The results come from a nationally representative survey of 1,001 American adults, age 18 and older. The sample was weighted to correspond with U.S. Census Bureau parameters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percent, with 95 percent confidence. The survey was designed by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities and conducted from December 24, 2009 to January 3, 2010 by Knowledge Networks, using an online research panel of American adults.

A copy of the full report can be downloaded from