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Will carbon trading endanger the world ?
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What is the connection between Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the Indian railway engineer who has been much in evidence at the Copenhagen climate conference, as chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and an Indian-owned steel company's decision to mothball its giant Teesside steel works next month, ripping the heart out of the town of Redcar by putting 1,700 people out of work?

Nothing of this complex story is likely to be heard in the dreary concrete shed outside Copenhagen where, as temperatures drop towards freezing, 17,000 prime ministers, officials and climate activists are earnestly discussing how the planet is warming up towards extinction.

But it certainly sheds a little light on a colossal worldwide racket these delegates are helping to promote, because the end of the story is that we shall all be paying to export thousands of British jobs to new steel plants in India, for no gain in the reduction of worldwide CO2 emissions.

Thirty years ago Britain's state-owned steel industry, over-manned and highly subsidised, was the most inefficient in Europe. By 1988, after Mrs Thatcher's privatisation and having lost two thirds of its workforce, it was as efficient as any in the world. In 1999, for reasons never fully explained, much of it was sold off to the Dutch firm Corus, which in 2007 was bought by the Indian giant, Tata Steel.

One of Corus's prizes was the Redcar steel works, once Europe's largest blast furnace. It is this which is now to be mothballed, according to Corus because of worldwide "over-production". But this is transparently not the case, since its new owner,

Tata, is planning to more than double its steel production in India over the next three years. Furthermore, only last month Corus announced plans to build a 20 million euro plant in the Netherlands, with the help of 15 million euros from the EU and 5 million euros from the Dutch government.

Our Government says it is unable to help over the closure of Redcar because this would not be allowed under EU state-aid rules, although Gordon Brown says he may be able to offer a little "re-training". The real gain to Corus from stopping production at Redcar, however, is the saving it will make on its carbon allowances, allocated by the EU under its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

By ceasing to emit a potential six million tonnes of CO2 a year, Corus will benefit from carbon allowances which could soon, according to European Commission projections, be worth up to £600 million over the three years before current allocations expire. But this is only half the story. In India, Corus's owner, Tata, plans to increase steel production from 53 million tonnes to 124 million over the same period.

By replacing inefficient old plants with new ones which emit only "European levels" of CO2, Tata could claim a further £600 million under the UN's Clean Development Mechanism, which is operated by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – the organisers of the Copenhagen conference.

Under this scheme, organisations in developed countries such as Britain – ranging from electricity supply companies to the NHS – can buy the right to exceed their CO2 allocations from those in developing countries, such as India. The huge but hidden cost of these "carbon permits" will be passed on to all of us, notably through our electricity bills. Thus, at the end of the day,

Redcar will lose its biggest employer and one of the largest manufacturing plants left in Britain. Tata, having gained up to £1.2 billion from "carbon credits", will get its new steel plants – while the net amount of CO2 emitted worldwide will not have been reduced a jot. And the connection with Dr Pachauri?

Directly there is no connection at all. But it just happens that Dr Pachauri's other main job, apart from being chairman of the IPCC, is as director-general of the Tata Energy Research Institute, funded by Tata, which he has run since 1981. He may not benefit in any
way personally from Tata's exploitation of the various carbon trading schemes set up to implement the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, but it is the IPCC which provides the recommendations which drive those schemes,

Last year, on official figures, buying and selling the right to emit CO2 was worth $126 billion across the world. This market, now enriching many of our leading financial institutions (not to mention Al Gore), is growing so fast that within a few years it is predicted to be worth trillions, making carbon the most valuable traded commodity in the world.

Forget Big Oil: the new world power is Big Carbon.Truly it has been a miracle of our time that they have managed to transform carbon dioxide, a gas upon which all life on earth depends, into a "pollutant", worth more than diamonds, let alone oil. And many of those now gathered in Copenhagen are making a great deal of money out of it.

Undersea coal to create power insitu
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Vast coal deposits lying deep beneath the North Sea will be burnt in situ to generate up to 5 per cent of Britain’s energy needs, under new plans approved by the Government last week.The UK Coal Authority has awarded licences to Clean Coal, an Anglo-American company, to develop five offshore sites for a technology called Underground Coal Gasification (UGC).

The method, which has not been used on a commercial scale in the UK, although it is widely used in Australia, taps the high energy content of coal while doing away with the costly and labour-intensive need to mine it first.Rohan Courtney, a former director of Tullow Oil who is chairman of Clean Coal, said that the potential for the technology was enormous.

“There are enormous amounts of coal lying beneath the North Sea which have never been accessed,” he said. “This technology is going to open up the industry again in the UK.”The sites approved for use stretch up to 10km offshore from Sunderland, Grimsby and Cromer on the shores of the North Sea, Canonbie, near Annan in Dumfries and Galloway on the other side of Scotland, and Swansea Bay, outside the entrance to the Bristol Channel.

The combined coal reserves are estimated to be at least one billion tonnes, equivalent to more than one sixth of all the coal consumed in an average year around the world. Global consumption of coal is about 5.8 billion tonnes a year. Total consumption in the UK is about 80 million tonnes a year.

The technique uses two bore holes drilled into a coal seam. The injection well is used to ignite the coal and keep it burning by pumping down oxygen to supply the fire. The other is used to extract a methane-rich synthetic gas that can be used to generate electricity by driving an above-ground power station.

Mr Courtney said that polluting carbon dioxide produced from the burning process could be stripped out and backfilled into the cavities created beneath the surface using a technology that was easier than the carbon capture and storage (CCS) method that is proposed for use by power stations. However, the methane gas produced will also emit carbon dioxide when it is burnt.

Catherine Bond, chief executive, said that Clean Coal planned to conduct seismic and bore-hole surveys over the next 12 to 18 months. If the surveys produced promising results, commercial operations could begin in 2014-15, with each site costing an estimated $250 million (£152 million) to develop.

The projects are likely to prove controversial because the sites are close to big population centres, such as Swansea and Grimsby. Ms Bond said that the Environment Agency would need to grant permission for the projects before drilling could start and that a public relations campaign was planned to inform local people about the technology and how it worked.

She said that the underground fires could be extinguished easily by pumping water down the injection well or by restricting the flow of air.Opposition to the process in Australia has been modest because the onshore sites lie in remote areas, far from areas with large populations.UGC technology was invented in Britain about a century ago but has been refined recently through the use of advanced seismic technology and directional drilling developed by the oil industry.

Ms Bond said that UGC had become commercially viable in Britain with the advent of this new technology and because high oil prices had improved the economics.Enormous deposits of coal are known to lie beneath the North Sea, extending from onshore deposits that have been mined in Britain.

Offshore exploration for oil has also shown the presence of coal in many areas. Ms Bond said that, within 20 years, UGC could supply a large amount of Britain’s power needs, with some projects being developed far offshore using former oil platforms.

20 proven ways to save the world
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Our main thoughts with this topic is that Engineering plays the major role in all environmental issues. With the money wasted on the bank bail outs if the equivalent were spent on re-engineering a significant progess would have been made on CO2 reductions. Left to politicians and lobbyists the future looks grim.  

1 Solar power

Spain is leading the way with solar power. The PS10 solar tower is already in operation near Seville, producing electricity with the aid of more than 600 large movable mirrors called heliostats. The country’s largest solar-power station, which will store heat for up to 15 hours in molten salt, is under construction in Cadiz. It will be operational in 2011. Heat-generated steam will drive a turbine that will power 25,000 homes.

2 Carbon capture and storage

Coal and waste materials are burnt in permanently-running power stations that provide electricity, heat and sometimes hydrogen. The carbon dioxide this creates is captured and sent, safely, to be disposed of in disused oil wells and aquifers. Carbon capture and storage has been practised in the North Sea by the Norwegian company Statoil since 1996. EU leaders have promised around 12 pilot projects attached to coal-fired power stations by 2020.

3 Smart meters

Home electricity is likely to be managed increa-singly by smart meters to cut wastage. The Italians are leading the way. Some 85% of households have one; there are more in Italy than in the US.

4 Wind power

The government’s Climate Change Committee estimates that wind power could provide 30% of Britain’s energy by 2020. Offshore wind power is the key to that and the UK is already the world leader in installed offshore wind. The next development is likely to be wind farms on floating platforms anchored in deeper water. The first floating turbines were inaugurated 10 kilometres off the Norwegian coast in June 2009.

5 Nuclear power

Thanks to its reliability, nuclear power is already enjoying a renaissance with 53 reactors under construction in 13 countries, notably China, South Korea, India and Russia. A series of applications to build reactors, offering safety improvements on existing designs, is being made in the UK; the government may introduce a carbon tax to cover the nuclear industry’s unpredictable costs. A repository to contain Britain’s existing legacy of nuclear waste, however, remains 25 years off.

6 Solar panels

that heat water have long been used in sunnier parts of the world and are becoming more economic in UK.

7 Personal Rapid Transit

By the 2030s, many more vehicles will be powered by mains electricity or fuel cells run on hydrogen produced by renewable or nuclear energy. Personal Rapid Transit, based on existing technology, will eventually bring driver-less trains to our cities. Prototypes have been tested at Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

8 Carbon trading

New financial mechanisms, funded by carbon trading, are likely to be set in place in Copenhagen in December to tackle the destruction of the tropical forests such as the Amazon.

9 Wave power

Britain has the potential to dominate the global wave-power market, with 25% of wave technologies being developed here. Two different snake-like devices that move up and down with the waves offer the best prospects. Pilot wave farms are in operation off Portugal and Scotland. Wave power is 15 years behind wind power in being commercialised so it is unlikely to make a significant contribution to the national grid before the mid-2020s.

10 Eco aircraft

that resemble “flying wings” have been designed by the Royal Aeronautical Society and shown to be up to 25% more efficient  Boeing has been looking at the propfan, which promises 35% fuel efficiencies over current jet engines.

11 Tidal power

Existing technology, such as the La Rance tidal power plant in Brittany or the proposed Severn barrage, is expensive — but although the barrage is environmentally damaging, it could, in theory, supply 5% of the national grid.

12 Solar roofs

that generate electricity should become more attractive to home- owners next year due to a new tariff that reimburses them for surplus energy they produce.

13 Solar electricity-generating cells

Where roof space is limited, transparent cells that can be fitted to windows have been invented by Konarka, a Massachusetts company.

14 Reversible heat pumps

Many homes in the countryside that have enough land are already using these pumps, which use the ground or local aquifers as heat stores; heat is dumped in summer and recovered from them in winter. These offer substantial savings on using gas.

15 Second-generation biofuels

such as algae are known to yield up to 100 times the energy per hectare as corn, soy or sugar cane crops. Some 12% of annual global jet fuel is likely to be derived from algae, or pond scum, by 2030, according to the Carbon Trust.

16 LED bulbs

give up to 95% savings on traditional lightbulbs. Far better ones can be expected. Philips Research have developed a non-mechanical means of electrically adjusting the size and shape of a beam of light.

17 Combined heat and power

In Denmark, high-density urban homes take hot water from specialised municipal power stations. There are many more opportunities to use more waste heat produced in IT and power generation.

18 Air travel

can increasingly be replaced by better video conferencing.

19 Breakthroughs in existing technologies could change everything.

 Better batteries are a number-one priority if electric cars are to go from 40 miles between charges to 400. Lithium-air batteries offer the best hope of storing energy in cars.

20 Solar reflectors

could generate solar power in space and beam it back to collectors on Earth in the form of microwaves.

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