Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The CCS buble , july 2009

Today:
  1. EU to help China bury CO2 emissions
  2. Germany agrees scaled-down CO2 capture law
  3. EU mulls €7 billion subsidy for carbon capture
A short one, but very interesting nevertheless. I hope you enjoy it.

Also, I'd like to announce that the next 2 weeks, I'll be in vacation, so I'll either post very rarely (like once a week) or I won't post at all until I get back from the Summer School I'm going to.

Quote of the day: CCS is a tough technology to crack and it's still far from being commercially available or even technologically safe. Yes, you can put CO2 wherever you want, but will it stay there and for how long? And how much energyyou'll waste to complete the process? These are important questions that nobody seems to answer.

EU to help China bury CO2 emissions

25 June 2009

The European Commission will today (24 June) present plans to spend €60 million of EU money on a carbon capture and storage project in China and other emerging economies, asking member states to chip in too.

A draft communication, seen by EurActiv, spells out plans to raise between €300 and €550 million of public financing, depending on the used combustion technology, to build a near zero-emissions coal plant.

The Commission says it has earmarked €60 million from the EU's Environment and Natural Resources Thematic Programme for clean coal cooperation between 2009 and 2013 to finance the Chinese project. A small proportion of this, around €3 million this year, will be used for cooperation with other emerging economies.

The draft document states that up to an additional €50 million could be made available for the design and construction of a carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration plant in China, if there is "continued political support from China and satisfactory progress with the NZEC project".

The Commission is proposing to establish a public-private partnership in the form of a "special purpose vehicle". This mechanism would enable public and private funding to be combined, while ensuring that public donors can set out policy objectives, the EU executive argues.

The Commission explained that it was targeting China for clean coal technology development due to the country's heavy reliance on coal and the advanced stage of existing cooperation.

The Commission argues that there is an urgent need for technologies like CCS in China, which gets 70% of its energy from coal. In 2007 alone, China built the equivalent of one 500MW coal-fired power plant every two-and-a-half days, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Moreover, the EU and China made a political commitment back in 2005 to develop and demonstrate near-zero emissions coal technology in both regions by 2020.

Cooperation is set to enter a second phase next year, moving from initial research to determining the site's location and the combustion and capture technologies to be used, as well as the transport and storage concepts. For the next two years, the Commission plans to develop a financing model in consultation with the European Investment Bank (IEB) in order to have the plant up and running well before the 2020 deadline.

The EU executive sees the CCS demonstration project in China as a model for other technology collaboration between industrialised and developing countries in the framework of a post-2012 climate change agreement.

However, environmentalists in particular have raised the alarm over funding clean coal, saying it could jeopardise sustainable development in emerging economies in the longer term. source

My comment: The game between China and the EU obviously becomes more and more interesting. Recently I learnt that part of the problems for Galileo, the European global positioning system is, because of the ill partnership between the EU and China. I won't point the finger and blame neither of the two, but still I think we have to learn our lesson and be more careful when dealing with China. I often call for more respect when it comes to important business partners, like in the case of Russia, so I'll call for the same for China too. If you underestimate your business partner, or treat him/her badly, you can get yourself into trouble.

But anyway, let's go back to CCS. I think I repeated enough times that I think this is just another way for oil companies to suck European taxpayers money. Because let's be realistic-if we want to become energetically independent, we would finance sources we have on our soil-like wind, sun, water and so on. We will work very hard on efficiency. We will support all the alternatives sources (though, I'm suspicious towards geothermal energy), we'll work on turning biowaste into biofuel or simply heat. There are so many ways to make it. But no, we go for CCS-the only way that oil, gas and coal can stay in business. Not to mention whole companies will benefit the most. It's ok, it's normal that big member-states try to secure more money for themselves, what I dislike is the direction the money flow. CCS is a tough technology to crack and it's still far from being commercially available or even technologically safe. Yes, you can put CO2 wherever you want, but will it stay there and for how long? And how much energy you'll waste to complete the process? These are important questions that nobody seems to answer. The Commission fund a unclear technology that is likely to go nowhere. Of course, a miracle could happen and we could find a way to store that CO2, I would love it. But I still don't think that the EC should invest into something suspicious. I'd rather vote my money to go for alternatives and efficiency!

And now, we have China getting into the game. Of course, this isn't a bad idea-China is hardly relying on coal so if we want to include them into a climate pact, we'll have to secure them a way to keep their energy level. But again, I really prefered we went for renewables. Note, even China started to invest heavily into them. Then why we fund CCS?! This is an absolute mistery to me.

Germany agrees scaled-down CO2 capture law

22 June 2009

Germany's grand coalition government has reportedly agreed to a scaled-down draft law on carbon dioxide storage after conservatives objected to some of the measures.

But sources said the agreement only allows for individual test sites rather than allowing a more comprehensive framework for CCS across Germany.

The breakthrough was reached in a meeting of parliamentary floor leaders from Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats - Volker Kauder and Peter Struck respectively - and Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel. On Wednesday, the conservatives said they planned to delay voting on the draft law on CCS amid concerns about it.

The CCS law would pave the way for further developing technology aimed at cutting pollution from coal-burning power plants, by holding CO2 indefinitely in underground storage facilities.

The coalition has spent months wrangling over rules to regulate the efforts of utilities such as E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall Europe to test and install the technology early enough for large-scale commercial use after 2020.

Speedy progress of the law is needed to allow these firms to meet timetables for pilot plants ahead of full commercial production planned for 2020, and to ensure that CO2 taken from the plants can be piped into suitable stores by that date.

Germany derives 50% of its power from coal but without CCS will not be able to keep this up in coming years, as stringent EU laws aimed at discouraging CO2 emissions set rising financial penalties on conventional coal burning.

Meanwhile, Germany's coal importers group VDKI, based in the port of Hamburg but close to the Rhein-Ruhr region's heavy industries which it serves, is worried about the sustainability of coal burning amid public criticism of the carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution it causes.

"We argue against this with the plans for higher energy efficiency rates at coal-fired power units and the hoped-for success in capturing and storing CO2 at power stations [in a tested, but not proven, process called CCS]," chairman of VDKI, Erich Schmitz said in a conference last week.

German imports of hard coal from India, China and Indonesia are likely to fall 22% this year compared with 2008 to a total 37.3 million tonnes, the importers group VDKI said.

If new building and CCS efforts were combined and successful, German coal generators may cut CO2 emissions to 96 million tonnes a year by 2015 versus 111 million in 2008, Schmitz said.

Germany uses hard coal for 20-25% of its annual power generation, depending on demand and rival fuels. source

My comment: Once again, we see China listed as a coal importer in Germany. I think this clarifies many questions for us. I won't comment further, I just hope people realise what CCS is-just another buble what would take their money and explode. In the end, we would lose billions to figure out, the process is too complicated for current technologies and we'll continue to use coal and pollute. If only those money were invested in real technologies and material development, not for the management and building of facilities, I think we would have much bigger chane for success with CCS. And yeah, a little note-I think CCS can be imensely useful in other fields, like space technology. I just disagree with the way (and the scale!) they fund it.

EU mulls €7 billion subsidy for carbon capture

30 June 2009

The European Commission yesterday (29 June) estimated that up to €7 billion could be made available to fund carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology from the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS). Meanwhile, renewables projects would get around €5 billion.

The assessment is based on projects that have been presented to the Commission so far.

Speaking at a stakeholder meeting in Brussels, a Commission official stressed, however, that there would be no upfront earmarking of money between CCS and renewables when the 300 million allowances, set aside in a so-called 'new entrants reserve', are allocated. Instead, funds will go to viable projects only.

The new entrants reserve is intended to pay for the incremental investments that utilities make in CO2 capture facilities, or for setting up renewable energy projects that are not yet commercially viable. As the ETS puts a price on CO2, the free allowances thus become direct subsidies to industries, provided that they share their knowledge with new businesses to get pioneering technologies off the ground on a commercial scale.

The issue at stake now is ensuring that the reserve generates the maximum amount of money, and that criteria are set for determining where it is allocated.

As one observer pointed out yesterday after the meeting, it is still early days in the debate, with different interest groups lobbying for as much money as they can. While the electricity industry called for clear priorities on CCS, environmentalists in particular have pointed out that only a clear shift to renewable energy can halt dangerous global warming.

The Commission is facing a difficult task in presenting fair criteria for allocating the allowances, as the scale of CCS and renewables differs widely. For each group of low-carbon technologies, the EU executive plans to introduce different criteria, which are not directly comparable.

A Commission paper issued earlier this month (EurActiv 10/06/09) points out that of 27 different categories of innovative renewables, the largest project provides 50MW of power, while CCS on the other hand offers up to 250MW.

According to participants in yesterday's meeting, the Commission is now planning to introduce both minimum and maximum requirements for eligible projects. This could then potentially exclude some smaller renewables projects upfront.

A call-back clause may also be introduced to ensure that the funded projects really deliver CO2 cuts. The Commission is reportedly in favour of such a provision, which would require utilities to start returning the funding should they prove to be unable to demonstrate that they are achieving their key objective.

The funding will most likely be distributed through two calls for tender, as supported by member states. At first, the EU would only allocate some of the allowances, leaving room for assessment before the second call is issued.

The revised ETS directive states that the 300 allowances from the new entrants' reserve will only be available until the end of 2015. Some observers noted, however, that there is pressure from some member states to extend it to projects that might not begin operating before 2015.

Both environmentalists and the CCS lobby, however, point out that the EU's ambitious 2020 climate targets require urgent action, and any project that delivers after 2015 cannot be used as a model for further commercialisation. On CCS, the EU's target is to have 10-12 demonstration plants up and running by 2015, which means that construction "should have started yesterday," one stakeholder argued.

Ultimately it is EU governments that will decide the course of action, as the eligibility criteria are set by the 'comitology' procedure in Council working groups. The Commission wants a quick decision and is seeking a Council committee vote on full criteria in the autumn, in order to publish a shortlist of projects by mid-2010.

Germany and the UK are already showing signs of a "typical big member state point of view," according to one party to the talks. They have indicated that the allowances should be allocated to each country based on population or size of emissions, for example, which would favour larger countries.

This differs wildly from the Commission's proposal, which suggests that a project-to-project basis will achieve the best value for money.source

My comment: Not much to say, the article says it all! I hope you realise how important moment we're going trough! And I fully support the idea of the Commission that projects should return the money if they prove to be not-working! Although this could scare off some of the projects, when you take billions, it's obvious you have to deliver. Otherwise, try with University grant or FP7!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Energy unbundling in Europe-welcome to neverland, july, 2009

Today:
  1. EU tackles 25 states over energy liberalisation
  2. Solar power 'could challenge electricity companies by 2020'
  3. 'Baltic Energy Market' takes shape
  4. Sweden seeks to steer EU onto energy-efficient path
Quote of the day:But note that in the article it is said that countries have already received such letters in 2006 for the same reasons. So, what exactly the Commission is doing to encourage countries to obey EU regulations is a mystery to me.

EU tackles 25 states over energy liberalisation

26 June 2009

The European Commission accused 25 of the bloc's 27 countries yesterday (25 June) of breaching rules to boost competition in energy markets, taking the first step towards possible court action.

It launched so-called infringement procedures for failure to implement the EU's second package of internal energy market laws - reforms phased in between 2004 and 2007 to open gas and electricity markets to more competition.

The 25 are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Sweden and Britain.

Only Malta and Cyprus avoided action.

"In this time of economic and financial crisis, it is simply unacceptable that European consumers and companies suffer the burden of an ill-functioning energy market," EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said in a statement.

The 25 will receive letters of formal notice for not complying with gas and electricity regulations, the European Commission said in a statement. Many of those states had received warnings on similar issues in 2006.

Key violations identified by the Commission include lack of information provided by electricity and gas transmission system operators that are obstructing access of supply companies to networks. The EU executive also singled out "the persistence of regulated prices, especially for the benefit of large customers," which it says are "putting obstacles in the way of new market entrants".

Other violations include the absence of "simple and inexpensive" dispute settlement procedures for consumers at national level, which the Commission sees as "a fundamental premise" of the EU energy market.

Meanwhile, environment ministers meeting in Luxembourg formally approved the EU's third package of reforms, which aim to liberalise EU energy markets further still. source

My comment:Oh yeah? Lol, only Malta and Cyprus are missing from the list. I wonder what they did to avoid it? :) Ok, it's not funny, yesterday we received our heating bill and it's so unfair, because we have to pay when we haven't use heating the whole winter! And every month, we have payed our bills like we use it. It's absolutely unfair. With electricity, it's little bit better, but the truth is that the prices are so high, it really doesn't matter-you simply cannot pay less. But note that in the article it is said that countries have already received such letters in 2006 for the same reasons. So, what exactly the Commission is doing to encourage countries to obey EU regulations is a mystery to me. And yes, I do think they have to forcefully make them follow the directives. It's not even about the EU so much, it's about consumers, electricity and gas producers are usually monopolists and providers are in the cases of East Europe-western companies. So, we have disobedience on governmental level. Done to screw the consumers and take their money, so that they can fill the gaps in their budgets. Fair? Not at all.

Solar power 'could challenge electricity companies by 2020'

23 June 2009

Photovoltaic power (PV) could meet up to 12% of Europe's electricity demand by 2020 if a favourable policy framework were established to support it in the coming years, according to a new study by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA).

Photovoltaic solar power could rival other forms of electricity production in most of the EU market (75%) without subsidies by 2020, the study concludes. In some parts of Europe, notably southern Italy and large parts of Spain, it will already be competitive by next year, it adds.

The study explored different policy scenarios, showing that a business-as-usual scenario will only deliver 4-6% of electricity from photovoltaic power. But with the right support schemes in place, the industry could make a significant contribution to the EU's sustainable energy strategy by bridging a third of the shortfall still expected to remain in 2020 and helping the bloc achieve its goal of producing 20% of its energy from renewables.

The industry insists that it is ready to deliver the necessary cost reductions, but says it will need well-designed support schemes for the next five or so years to increase production volumes.

In the past ten years, PV has had new capacity installed at a higher rate than any other energy source, the study states. EPIA argues that reaching 12% will not be impossible, but simply in line with previous development.

However, photovoltaic power currently supplies less than 1% of the EU's electricity needs and would require a substantial boost to reach significant production volumes.

The study argues that the best way to promote PV uptake is feed-in tariffs. This has proved a success in Germany, which is one of the world's leading countries in the field. In order to bring about a paradigm shift on photovoltaics, consumers would see their electricity bills increase by 2.2% to pay for the tariffs, according to the study.

Moreover, cutting red tape and adapting the grid to integrate large volumes of renewable energy will be necessary, EPIA adds. The study argues that net metering, which allows households to sell their solar energy back to the grids and charge more for peak-time energy, would boost PV's competitiveness. source

My comment: Ok, I didn't edit this article, because it's very useful. Solar panels are really worth the trouble, but without a well-developed grid, they simply cannot deliver! We have to require the political will to make those grids happen. And they will be extremely useful for further integrating Europe - if you're in say Britain and you buy your electricity from say Greece or Bulgaria, you'll be very careful with your xenophobic outrages. And this really is the next logical step toward our common market. Of course, it's unrealistic to expect you can transfer electricity from Balkans to Britain without any losses, but still, the point is that we need that grid. This will unify us a great deal, it will soon decrease the cost of electricity, remove the burden of coal/oil/gas burning for heating and it will create high-qualified jobs. That's wonderful! It will also ease our dependency over non-European energy sources-as Russia, Algeria, Turkmenistan and so on. We will produce what we need. And it's not only photovoltaic, it's wind, water and sun.

'Baltic Energy Market' takes shape

22 June 2009

Eight Baltic Sea states last week (17 June) launched an action plan to connect Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to EU energy networks, providing a signpost for the Swedish Presidency's agenda for the Baltic Sea region.

The Baltic Energy Interconnection Plan responds to calls for a more integrated electricity market in the Baltic region, as highlighted by the European Commission's Second Strategic Energy Review in November 2008.

Sweden is expected to drive the plan's implementation forward during the second half of the year, after having declared the development of the Baltic Sea region one of the priorities of its EU presidency.

The plan aims to extend the liberalised Nordic electricity market model to the Baltic states as the basis for a regional market there. This could then be integrated into the Nordic one, the Commission said.

Removing regulated tariffs and cross-border restrictions, separating the activities of Transmissions System Operators (TSOs) and opening the retail market fully are identified as steps to an integrated market that comply with the rules for the future EU internal market.

The plan covers a number of electricity infrastructure projects to link the Baltic states and Poland with the Nordic countries, and reinforce the electricity grid between the three Baltic states. A second set of projects establish interconnections between Nordic countries, including the Fenno-Skan II between Finland and Sweden.

A separate set of electricity interconnections is envisaged between Poland and Germany in order to reduce "loop flows" resulting from wind generation in the North rather than in view of market integration.

Energy infrastructure projects in the region could receive over half a billion euros of additional support, as many of the proposed projects are earmarked for money from the European Economic Recovery Programme (EurActiv 07/05/09), the Commission says. source

My comment: I, of course, support the development of the Baltic region, because it really is an energy island that we have to use properly. I just hope that this project won't be the end of the story, but merely its beginning. We all want access to cheap energy and we all have some form of energy with which to contribute to the European budget. For example, in Bulgaria, there are many rivers. Most of which have already power plants on them, but their effectiveness is questionable, so I'm sure we could work on that. But I know of one plant, that produces as much as a reactor of our power plant. Or two. That's quite much!

Sweden seeks to steer EU onto energy-efficient path

25 June 2009

Sweden plans to step up Europe's energy-efficiency legislation as it takes over the rotating six-month EU presidency at the beginning of July.

Sweden will be well-placed to push its vision on energy efficiency as it takes the EU helm in the midst of the revision of the EU's energy efficiency action plan. The Commission launched a public consultation on 8 June and plans to present a new plan in November.

Sweden has themed its economic and environmental strategy as a "transition into an eco-efficient economy".

Tapping into the EU's large energy-savings potential forms an important part of the switch to a new economic model. Sweden is thus pledging to push ahead with energy-efficiency legislation even in the absence of a political agreement between EU ministers.

According to Swedish government sources, the presidency will initiate discussions on the plan at the informal energy and environment ministers' meeting in Sweden on 23-25 July. It hopes to present the Commission's blueprint, if ready in November, at the December Energy Council.

Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Maud Olofsson said her country would adopt a "systemic perspective" to the plan. The incoming presidency will look beyond energy-efficiency standards for individual appliances to the whole energy chain, from production to end use.

Sweden is home to the best insulated homes in Europe, and has a long tradition of district heating from renewable sources.

The action plan aims to achieve the EU's goal of saving 20% more energy in 2020. But unlike the EU's other 2020 targets (slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% and raising the share of renewables in the bloc's energy mix to 20%), the energy-efficiency target is not binding.

Nevertheless, many are looking to the Swedish Presidency to push for legal commitments.

Sweden plans to reach an agreement with the Parliament before the year's end on key energy-efficiency proposals mapped out in the Commission's Second Strategic Energy Review in November 2008, and wants to move even without a common position in the Council.

The incoming presidency is set for hard bargaining on the buildings directive. MEPs' call for all new buildings to produce at least as much energy on site as they use by 2019 is viewed as unrealistic by member states, which are worried that the directive will prove expensive and administratively burdensome to implement.

The Swedish official said the Council talks had so far barely even touched on the issue of zero-energy buildings.

Sweden set itself an ambitious national agenda when it presented its "integrated climate and energy policy" in March. The government pledged to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 40% in sectors that do not participate in the EU emissions trading scheme by 2020, with the aim of becoming completely carbon neutral by mid-century.

To become 20% more energy-efficient by 2020 in line with the non-binding EU target, the Swedish government said it would invest around €27.3 million annually between 2010 and 2020 in implementing energy-efficiency measures.

Priority is given to initiatives that better inform households and businesses of opportunities to save both money and energy. Among other things, the government plans to introduce requirements for electricity and hot water metering in new and renovated buildings, and boost investment in technology in order to facilitate the introduction to the market of energy-efficient technologies. source

My comment: That's cool! I so hope that Sweden can achieve what nobody else did. Because efficiency is really important and because I so want to see Europe going green. It's they way I want to see Europe-green, self-sufficient and abundant. Eh, so many hopes for so little time.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Environment in Europe, june, 2009 - hesitation is all around

Today:
  1. EU, US criticised for low profile in Bonn climate talks
  2. France lines up carbon tax
  3. Commission pressed to table biowaste directive
  4. Ministers chide 'unrealistic' green housing plans
  5. Nanotech claims 'dropped' for fear of consumer recoil

But first, read here how the French Constitutional Council showed the finger to the Sarkozy's pet-project to stop Internet piracy. The Council said that only a court can stop the Internet access of the illegal downloaders. FUN! Although I must say I like the idea of decriminalising piracy-which essentially this law does-it will enforce only administrative actions. But still, I think that stopping the Internet access to anybody should be against human rights! (or limiting this access, actually, but that's another story). So people, enjoy!

Quote of the day: And if you ask me, it's dead simple-put an emission target and charge anything produced outside your country with the same amount that your producers pay to produce it home. I know it's against WTO, but who care about WTO! WTO is supposed to help, not to obstruct us....

EU, US criticised for low profile in Bonn climate talks

16 June 2009

The EU and the US took a backseat at the negotiating table during the second round of global climate talks in Bonn, while Japan shocked developing countries by announcing a "shameful" emissions reduction target.

As the two-week talks drew to a close on Friday (12 June), the negotiating text had swelled to hundreds of pages as all parties raced to add their amendments. There was, however, no movement towards agreement on financing for climate mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing countries, recognised as a prerequisite for any agreement in Copenhagen next December.

The European Union was criticised for sending the wrong signals, as EU finance ministers at their meeting on 9 June did not put forward any concrete figures but merely agreed on criteria for how developed nations should share the burden of future funding (EurActiv 09/06/09). The US was equally criticised for a lack of leadership.

It is far from certain whether the US will be able to get its climate bill through Congress by the end of the year, which would cement the government's mandate to sign up to emission reduction targets. Concerns are now being raised that the anticipated US leadership on ambitious commitments to reduce emissions will not materialise in the face of domestic realities.

Indeed, rich nations did not come any closer to agreeing a collective emissions reduction goal. They came under heavy criticism on the final day of the Bonn conference, when 40 developing countries of the G-77 specifically called for a 40% below 1990-level emissions reduction target for industrialised nations.

Neither the EU's 30% offer in case other developed nations sign up to comparable efforts, nor the target of returning to 1990 levels in the draft US draft climate bill come anywhere close to this. Moreover, Russia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Belarus and Ukraine refused even to define an initial target.

The eagerly awaited unveiling of Japan's midterm target for emissions reductions turned into one of the greatest disappointments of the talks. Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso announced that his country would cut its greenhouse-gas emissions to 15% below 2005 levels by 2020. However, this only translates into an 8% cut from 1990 levels.

"It was essentially a slap in the face of developing countries that called for a 40% target," Gore said.

Aso, however, asserted that the target was ambitious and pointed out that Japan was already the most energy-efficient economy in the world.

But observers were quick to note that the target was only marginally above the 6% commitment that Japan had made under the Kyoto Protocol.

But observers noted that discussions on funding mechanisms had seen some progress, as consensus was building around a Mexican proposal for a climate fund. The idea of the fund - to which all parties, including developing and developed nations, contribute according to their GDP, population and level of emissions - is proving popular due to its universality.

The contribution of the aviation and shipping industries to climate funding was raised, as a group of developing countries proposed a levy on international flight tickets and shipping fuel. This could be used to help them deal with the consequences of climate change, they said.

World leaders should step up to the plate at the G8 meeting in July in Italy and start fighting for an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen, green groups said. source

My comment: Yup, check here to see how the EU postponed with couple of months any decision on the climate. Oh well...And since G8 meeting is in progress, check here what the big guys are doing. More or less nothing. I don't get one thing. It's obvious that those emission targets will have to be accepted sooner or later, someone will lose, someone will win, why don't they simply find out who's going to win and find a way to use that profit to gain popularity. I'm sure I'm not smarter than the guys opposing the climate targets, but I don't get it why they prefer to procrastinate. They got their money in the form of CCS funds, most industries are already protected, but it's not going to happen without some commitment. And without someone to make the decision first. And if you ask me, it's dead simple-put an emission target and charge anything produced outside your country with the same amount that your producers pay to produce it home. I know it's against WTO, but who care about WTO! WTO is supposed to help, not to obstruct us....

France lines up carbon tax

12 June 2009

The French government has set the ball rolling to introduce a carbon tax in 2011, anticipating support for Sweden's plans to make implementing such a scheme at EU level the priority of its upcoming six-month turn at the bloc's helm.

French Environment and Finance Ministers Jean-Louis Borloo and Christine Lagarde opened the debate on the tax by presenting a white paper for public consultation on 10 June.

However, the government did not give details of what products the future tax should cover, nor did it specify how it should be implemented. Instead, it asked a panel of experts to work out the nitty-gritty at a meeting on 2-3 July.

The purpose of the tax is to nudge both businesses and consumers towards greener energy consumption to help France meet its targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The government insists that the tax would not add to the financial burden on industry and households, because it would be accompanied by other tax reductions.

The new tax was initially intended to come into being in 2010. But former Prime Minister Michel Rocard, whom President Nicolas Sarkozy put in the charge of the dossier, said it would not become a reality before 2011 at the earliest.

Sweden has made clear that it aims to push for a Europe-wide tax on CO2 during its presidency, which starts in July (EurActiv 12/05/09). The Swedish government considers its own tax scheme on fuel and diesel to have been a success, and hopes to relay this to its European partners.

Europe's emissions trading scheme, the EU's flagship climate instrument, already sets a price on carbon for industrial emissions. But Sweden argues that this still leaves 60% of emissions untouched, and is advocating a tax as the best way to bring them down. source

My comment: I don't get it, who this tax won't add to the financial burden on consumers, for real. This is nonsense. I'm not some crazy tax-hater, I think taxes are something useful and necessary. But still, I don't see why we have to add new taxes when we already have enough and we can always raise them if we need money. And what's even more, I don't see what exactly would this new tax do. If it will charge me for breathing and emitting heat, I'm sorry, I don't agree with that. If it's applied as an added value to every product based on the actual eco-cost of the production, I agree. But I very much doubt it would be like this, because it's too hard to evaluate such things. More likely it will be a universal tax. Then, I ask, how would it stimulate green production, if the money go to the government which of course will spend them in random ways? This is simply a nonsense and I urge people to think carefully on the issue and to ask their MPs what they think they're doing.

Commission pressed to table biowaste directive

11 June 2009

The European Commission is currently under heavy pressure from Belgium, Spain and industry to propose a stand-alone directive for biowaste management, in order to plug the regulatory holes left by existing EU waste legislation.

"After two decades of intensive legislating, what more do we need? What are the barriers? Why is biowaste recycling not happening?," asked Jos Delbeke, deputy director-general of the Commission's environment department, at a biowaste conference on 9 June.

"We already have the tools," he said, listing six existing EU legal instruments regulating the treatment of biowaste: the recently-revised Waste Framework Directive, directives on landfill, integrated pollution prevention and control, incineration and renewable energy, and the regulation on animal by-products.

Delbeke also noted that initial signs from member states indicate that a majority is against a new directive, instead favouring implementation of existing laws.

Biowaste management "can considerably contribute to member states' climate goals," argued Astrid Klug, parliamentary state secretary at the German Federal Environment Ministry.

She called for mandatory separate collection of biowaste and underlined the environmental benefits of recycling: quality compost to improve soil quality and increased capacity for soil to absorb CO2.

Meanwhile, concerns were raised over the cost of mandatory separate collection, particularly in scarcely-populated regions.

The fact that the EU's recent Renewables Directive considers biowaste as a renewable energy when incinerated was considered problematic by several stakeholders at the conference.

Luc Vanacker from the Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM) said it was about choosing between producing energy through incineration of biowaste or contributing indirectly to the EU's climate change goals through recycling it into compost to improve soil quality, fight erosion and increase carbon sequestration.

Diplomatic sources told EurActiv that the topic is "genuinely controversial", as the local and regional differences are so great that it will be very difficult to legislate on the matter at EU level. Meanwhile, the Commission will most probably propose a "loose" directive next year to at least reach agreement on the quality of compost, in view of fostering an internal market for compost, the diplomat said.

Meanwhile, Mayor of London Boris Johnson launched on 10 June a major initiative to convert London's food waste into eco-fuel to cut landfill rates and carbon emissions. Some two thirds of the city's annual total of three million tonnes of organic waste is currently burnt in incinerators or buried in landfill. source

My comment: I completely second this proposal. Enrichment of soils is a better use of bio-waste than energy production for many reasons. I think people don't have an idea how fragile soils on Earth are. They do get damaged by too aggressive use and chemical add-ons. They need time to regenerate. That time can be up to 20 or 50 years. We don't need that. And compost is unbelievable cure for the soil. I grow tomatoes, I can tell you how weak they are without the compost, as well as any gardener can tell you. The chemistry is an alternative, but with it the soil degenerate and become less fertile and less well healthy. We don't even talk about human health here. So, yes, I think this is a wonderful idea. We have to use any means available to ease our emission target and also to become more energy-efficient and more sustainable. I mean, why throw away something when you can use it?

Ministers chide 'unrealistic' green housing plans

15 June 2009
EU energy ministers received an update on progress made regarding the bloc's energy efficency legislation at their meeting on Friday (12 June), as the EU seeks safeguard its energy future in a sustainable manner.

The Czech EU Presidency and the European Commission presented a progress report on energy-saving legislation on buildings, tyres and energy labelling, which are to contribute to the EU's target of using 20% less energy by 2020.

According to a progress report from the Czech Presidency, many member states are concerned that the directive on the energy performance of buildings could come with too high an administrative burden.

Although generally supportive of the legislation, they think the European Parliament's first-reading position that all new buildings should produce on-site at least as much renewable energy as they consume by 2019 is "overly ambitious and unrealistic" (EurActiv 24/04/09).

On energy labels for consumer goods, member states seem to be divided between the Commission's proposals to change the current A-G classification by adding categories to the highest 'A' class, and the Parliament's first-reading position of retaining the closed scheme and upgrading classification thresholds instead (EurActiv 06/05/09).

After the Parliament's rejection of the new label format for televisions (EurActiv 07/05/09), the legislation on labelling is at an impasse, which the Commission is trying to unblock by conducting a consumer survey.

The directive on tyre labelling, on the other hand, has proven less controversial, although some member states wanted to add provisions for a tyre type used in Nordic winter conditions. The Commission will now propose an amended version in the form of a directive to speed up implementation.source

My comment: No comment, this is just for your information, most things have been already discussed here.

Nanotech claims 'dropped' for fear of consumer recoil

15 June 2009

Finding reliable information about products on the European market which currently contain nanomaterials is becoming increasingly difficult, according to high-level experts addressing a meeting of consumer groups from the EU and US.

Some products containing nanoparticles do not mention this on their labels, while other firms are falsely claiming to have enhanced their products by using nanotechnology, the Brussels conference heard last week (10 June).

Dr Andrew Maynard, chief science advisor to the 'Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies' at the Woodrow Wilson Center, has collated an inventory of products currently on the market which manufacturers claim contain nanotechnology.

He said around 800 products have been identified online, with the bulk of these found in the health and fitness sector, but that few of these pose a potential health risk.

However, he is concerned that controversy surrounding nanotechnology – some of which, he says, is not grounded in scientific fact – has led manufacturers to remove any mention of nanomaterials from their products.

Harald Throne, researcher at the National Institute for Consumer Research in Norway, echoed concerns that companies may be becoming less inclined to highlight nanomaterials.

He searched a website run by a major international cosmetics company, using keywords like 'nanotechnology' and 'nano', to estimate how many products contain nanotechnology. Throne's search turned up 29 products in 2007, but when he repeated the same exercise recently, there were zero hits.

This, he said, suggests that companies may now view 'nano' as a negative label rather than an added value.

Sue Davis, chief policy officer at UK consumer advocacy group Which?, said data was limited, and expressed concern that companies are reluctant to engage with consumers on the issue.

"We have to distinguish between marketing hype and real uses of nanotechnology," she said, adding that her organisation had found it difficult to extract reliable information from industry.

She said Which? conducted a survey of 67 cosmetic companies but received information from just eight. All eight respondents reported using nanotechnology in sunscreen.

"However, if you go online you can find products advertising carbon fullerenes in anti-ageing creams and nanosilver in toothpastes, despite the potential toxicity associated with these substances," she said.

Davis called for mandatory reporting to combat the lack of information in this area, as voluntary codes do not work.

However, Steffi Freidrichs, director of the Nanotechnology Industries Association, said the industry has been upfront about its use of promising new technologies and that companies go to great lengths to ensure products are safe.

She pointed to confusion about the definition of nanotechnology, with some NGOs defining 'nano' as materials smaller than 300 nanometres, while the industry uses the definition of less than 100 nanometres. source

My comment: Safety my ass. Ok, I'm sure they make their best to prove that their shower gel won't kill anyone immediately, but there are effects that are harder to track. Like cumulative effects that happen after you have used the thing many times or when you have combined it with other similar products. And there are many indications that some nanoparticles may be quite dangerous. So, I also think that companies have to explicitely declare whether they use nanotechnology. It's not about creating panic or fearing the new. It's about being reasonable. Nanoparticles won't kill you, but some of them may cause you discomfort or even diseases. So, let's be realistic and require that information, so that investigative organs would be able to trace problems to their source if the need arise.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Oil fun - the war is not over! june, 2007

Today:
  1. Russia builds Baltic oil pipeline to bypass Belarus
  2. Commission tables Baltic region blueprint
  3. Commission demands new powers in gas crises
  4. EU kicks off battle for billions of energy funds
Quote of the day: See, that's what the rotating Presidency is both cool and awful idea. Cool, because only a Baltic country can truly understand the problems of the region and the need to solve them. Why should France care about Latvia. On the other side, should all the money be focused on this project, when East-South Europe has similar problems?

Russia builds Baltic oil pipeline to bypass Belarus

11 June 2009

Russia started building a $4 billion oil pipeline on 10 June to cut Belarus from a key supply route to Europe, as tensions grow between the ex-Soviet allies over warming ties between Minsk and the European Union.

The new pipeline, which will skirt Belarus on its 1,000-km route to the Baltic, was first mooted after a transit dispute in 2006 and will tighten Kremlin control over energy supply routes, also giving it the option to divert flows from Ukraine.

"It's a very significant loss for Belarus, not only in economic terms but politically, as the country is losing its reputation as a reliable transit nation," Yaroslav Romanchuk, head of the Mizes think-tank in Belarus, said.

Russia, the world's second-largest oil exporter, is keen to bypass the countries that stand between its abundant oil and gas reserves and customers in Europe after arguing with both Ukraine and Belarus over transit conditions in recent years. The Baltic Pipeline System extension will carry 30 million tonnes a year, or 6% of Russia's output last year, to Ust-Luga port on the Baltic Sea. The route, known as BTS-2, is scheduled for completion in the third quarter of 2012.

Construction begins only weeks after Russia shelved a $500 million loan to ease Belarus through the financial slowdown, saying it was unhappy with the economic policies of Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko.

With Minsk caught in a struggle for influence between Russia and the European Union, Moscow dealt a further blow to its neighbour's $1 billion dairy export business by banning almost all milk products in a market where it had a 4% share.

Russia's foremost energy official, Igor Sechin, said BTS-2 would afford Moscow the flexibility to re-route oil either from the Druzhba pipeline through Belarus or the Odessa-Brody route that carries Russian oil south to Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

Ukraine has said it might reverse flows through Odessa-Brody to deliver Caspian Sea region oil to Europe.

A 172-km (108-mile) link to the Kirishi refinery in northwest Russia, owned by Surgutneftegaz, will join the pipeline's first stage. source

My comment: (Here you can read about the billions that Ukraine needs to pay to Gazprom. No wonder Russia is trying so hard to avoid this route and similar ones). And here, you can read how the EU responds to the threat. Telling countries to fill up their reserves now, to be safe in the winter. Too bad some countries like mine doesn't have anything to fill up. Again, a very biased way to solve the problem. Because when the relations between Ukraine and Russia get rough again, we'll be screwed. Nothing new, but this obviously isn't the best solution. Not at all. I hope, at least, that the new pipes will be as clean as possible. Връзка

Commission tables Baltic region blueprint

11 June 2009

Anticipating the beginning of the Swedish EU Presidency, the European Commission yesterday (10 June) tabled a wide-ranging strategy for the Baltic region, focusing on an environmental clean-up of the sea and energy interconnections. The EU executive said the strategy may provide a blueprint for other regions, like the Danube or the Mediterranean.

The Commission adopted its proposal for an EU strategyPdf external for the Baltic Sea region and an accompanying action planPdf external on 10 June.

The strategy identifies four pillars for EU action: environmental sustainability, economic prosperity, geographical accessibility and attractiveness and making the area safe and secure.

Accordingly, the action plan identifies 15 priority areas and a number of horizontal actions on which some 80 flagship projects have been tagged for implementation. Examples of priority areas include reducing nutrient inputs into the sea, encouraging sustainable agriculture, forestry and fisheries, improving transport links and cooperation on transposing EU directives.

The strategy foresees no new funding for the proposed measures. Instead, the region's member states are encouraged to use €50 billion of EU cohesion policy funding, and other EU monies will be made available too.

According to the Commission, €27 billion will be allocated to improving accessibility, nearly €10 billion to the environment, €6.7 billion to competitiveness and €697 million to security and risk prevention.

The plan also aims to tackle the region's isolated electricity markets, which suffer from insufficient interconnections. A list of priority projects is being established in the framework of the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIPPdf external ).

One key project is the 350-kilometre long NordBalt power cable from Sweden to Lithuania, which could be completed by 2016. Another cable, the 800 megawatt Estlink-2, will be built between Finland and Estonia and could be brought online by 2013. Power grids will also be strengthened in Sweden, Lithuania and Latvia, EU diplomats said.

The absence of economies of scale and significant competition has lead to higher prices and few incentives or opportunities to invest in infrastructure, especially renewable energies, the Commission said. The EU strategy aims to integrate energy markets, particularly in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, so as to reduce prices, facilitate the diversification of energy sources and "enable the introduction of solidarity mechanisms".

All new power links would be backed by a common Baltic energy trading market, to be set up by 2013, which would probably be guided by existing rules for the Scandinavian Nord Pool market.

Asked whether the new strategy considers the environmental impact of the Nord Stream pipeline project, a planned 1,220-kilometre natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, an EU official noted that the project had been left out of the strategy because "only issues that the EU could deal with" are included in the document. source

My comment: See, that's what the rotating Presidency is both cool and awful idea. Cool, because only a Baltic country can truly understand the problems of the region and the need to solve them. Why should France care about Latvia. On the other side, should all the money be focused on this project, when East-South Europe has similar problems? People from here would say "No" and that's why the idea is bad. I think that there should be a balanced approach, but this is extremely hard. Let's see how this Presidency will handle the problems in Eastern Europe. I don't want to blame them, before they had the chance to take a position. I just hope that the energy projects for here will stay high on the priorities, because it looks like it will be cold winter.

Commission demands new powers in gas crises

18 June 2009

European Union countries should hand the European Commission powers to coordinate gas flows in the 27-member bloc in the event of a gas crisis, according to a draft Commission report.

The proposal is the EU's main policy response to the supply disruption that occurred in January following a pricing dispute between Russia and transit country Ukraine.

Tension between Moscow and Kiev has mounted in recent weeks and many energy experts forecast a repeat in coming months.

"In a European emergency, the Commission may require member states [...] to release gas from strategic gas storage," said the draft report, seen by Reuters yesterday (17 June).

During such gas emergencies EU states would have to provide the Commission with daily updates of supply and demand forecasts for the following three days, with updates on withdrawals from stocks and the impact on their economies and power sectors.

EU states have asked the bloc's executive Commission for new rules to bolster energy security, but at the same time they have proved unwilling in recent negotiations to cede control of energy supplies.

Last week, EU energy ministers approved a similar proposal on oil stocks, having stripped it of its most important provisions - a move that Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said he deeply regretted. EU states would also have to seek Commission approval before slowing gas flows to their neighbours during a crisis, as some countries were suspected of doing in January.

The proposal, which will be fine-tuned and then put before member states and the European Parliament for approval in coming weeks, would also establish a permanent gas monitoring force composed of industry and Commission experts.

EU states would have to prepare national emergency plans, outlining the potential for cooperating with neighbouring countries and detailing different levels of alert. source

My comment: Now this is serious! I hope you get the power of the idea. On last crisis, Italy stopped gas flowes to neighbours to keep up with its own gas demand. And that was bad. I so hope this one passes and people see the benefit of it. After all, should we go for pan-European gas and electricity grid, we'll have to surrender the regulation in European hands. This is a good first step towards it. And, this could really help in time of crisis, although this would work only if we had the grid on the first place. Grid that our part of Europe, unlike western Europe doesn't have. Well, again, we're screwed. But this is a wonderful and very brave idea!

EU kicks off battle for billions of energy funds

10 June 2009

Advanced green technologies such as superheated solar towers and gas from trees can compete with industry-backed carbon capture and storage technology for around €9 billion of European Union funding, an EU document shows.

Money could also go to giant wind turbines, made of space-age composites, nearly as tall as the 300-metre-high Eiffel Tower and three times more powerful than today's biggest.

The report lays out the principles the European Commission will use for dividing 300 million emissions permits to companies testing new technologies that slash CO2 emissions from power generation and gives the first list of eligible technologies.

Under the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS), polluters must pay for allowances to be able to emit greenhouse gases. The free allocations under the reserve are therefore effectively a subsidy.

The report could kick off a battle between Europe's nascent green industries, backed by environmentalists, and the giant utilities that back carbon capture and storage (CCS).

"We think the majority should be earmarked for renewables," said Greenpeace renewables campaigner Frauke Thies. "CCS is risky and we don't know if they can deliver. But we know renewables can deliver and there is so much more potential."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown played a key role in securing the funding during last year's EU climate negotiations, but the big winners from CCS are utilities such as Germany's E.ON and engineers like Alstom of France.

CCS, essentially burying harmful gases, is seen by some as a potential silver bullet to curb emissions from coal-fired power plants, which are multiplying rapidly worldwide and threaten to heat the atmosphere to dangerous levels.

Sharing the technology with China and India could also prove critical in securing their commitment to a new global deal on fighting climate change at talks in Copenhagen in December.

While the technologies exist, utilities are reluctant to build CCS power stations without public funding, because the CCS component adds about one billion euros to the cost of each plant.

The European Parliament last year proposed billions of euros to help kick-start CCS, but could only get member states to back the proposal if the money was shared with new green technologies such as geothermal energy and concentrated solar.

Environmentalists argue that the companies lobbying for CCS in the EU made profits of over 90 billion euros last year and support is unjustified.

The current drafts indicate that CCS projects would receive at least 75% of the New Entrants Reserve. This comes on top of the €1 billion allocated to the technology under the European Economic Recovery Plan (EurActiv 07/05/09), which has led the supporters of renewables to cry foul against the Commission's bias in favour of clean coal.

Many renewables on the list of eligible projects, obtained by Reuters on Tuesday, are at the very cutting edge, such as so-called concentrated solar power systems using lenses and mirrors to eke the most energy out of the sun's rays.

"The principle is that the extra funding is distributed proportionately between CCS and renewables, but departures from this can be justified by a lack of suitable candidate projects," said the report.

Environmentalists fear the fragmented renewables industry will fail to compete against utilities that have proposed clearly defined CCS projects, many of which received recognition in a recent EU economic recovery plan.

The EU plans 10-12 CCS demonstration projects by 2015 to kickstart the industry. Operators will not be able to keep the knowledge gained in the pilot projects for their own commercial advantage, but must share it freely. source

My comment: Another hint for the huge success of CCS in Europe might be found here. This is an article about Germany and its new regulation on CCS. I didn't know it, but obviously, Germany relies very heavily on coal-burning plants. Thus, without CCS (and no new nuclear powers), Germany will be doomed, because it won't be able to decrease its emissions. So...any wonders why the billions go to CCS?! And now we see that France benefits heavily from it too. Too bad. My heart hurts when I read that, because CCS is just a myth. Yes, it can be done, but the technology is far from being commercially doable-if it was, companies wouldn't need billions of funding. But this technology dooms us to the old ways-because CCS means more coal and oil. No investment into renewable, no diversifying energy sources, no energy independence. Is that what we want? It's not what I want for sure!

 

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