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Former BP chief Lord Browne speaks against alarmism on biofuels

Robin Pagnamenta, The Times
Biofuels can play a key role in global efforts to tackle climate change, but “media alarmism and misinformation” are damaging their potential, according to Lord Browne of Madingley.

The chairman of the Accenture Global Energy Board and former chief executive of BP told The Times that there was a risk of premature policy changes because of fears that biofuels would indirectly boost greenhouse gas emissions through knock-on effects on land use — a concern that he said was important but was based on science that was new and, therefore, poorly understood.

“The right way to distinguish between good and bad biofuels is by using clear, stable and predictable carbon dioxide and sustainability standards,” Lord Browne said in an e-mailed series of answers to questions set by The Times.

He said that Europe should stick to its stated target of including a 10 per cent mix of biofuels in all vehicle fuel by 2020. Failure to do so would “risk destabilising the investing environment in European renewables for a generation”…
(20 October 2008)
Lord Brown fails to address the impact of biofuels on world food prices.-SO

UC Berkeley study: Green efforts boost economy

David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle
Rather than cost money, California’s plans to fight global warming and improve energy efficiency will boost household incomes by $48 billion and create as many as 403,000 jobs in the next 12 years, according to a UC Berkeley economic study released Monda

The state has already proved that efficiency pays, said author David Roland-Holst. Starting in the 1970s, the state adopted building codes and home appliance standards that have cut electricity use. Those efforts saved Californians $56 billion between 1972 and 2006 and created about 1.5 million jobs, according to the study.

“We find, I think demonstrably, that energy efficiency is good for the economy and good for jobs,” said Roland-Holst, an adjunct professor in the school’s Center for Energy, Resources and Economic Sustainability. “We find that even with very modest targets for energy efficiency improvements, California can continue its legacy of sustained job growth.”

California officials are drafting detailed plans for cutting greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, and those plans rely heavily on using energy more wisely.
(21 October 2008)

Making the case for wind power, again

Jerome a Paris, European Tribune
This is a simplified version of the presentation I will be making this Tuesday morning at the ASPO 7 Conference (the full presentation should be posted on that website in a couple of days). I must admit that I have been a bit nonplussed to see that the peak oil community seems to share the oil industry’s dismissal of wind power’s irrelevance and uselessness in the face of the currently energy challenge (maybe I am unfairly judging from a few individuals’ comments, but it’s definitely an existing undercurrent in the community).

So, in reaction, let me put up here a few arguments that suggest that wind could play a major role in solving our current energy woes – not a silver bullet, but rather more than a side show.

First, the “wind is too small to make a difference” argument: well, so was nuclear, until it got big enough. Wind is following the exact same growth trajectory:
(2X October 2008)
Also posted at :
Daily Kos
The Oil Drum: Europe

Wood heat rises again

Gregory M. Lamb, Christian Science Monitor
High cost of oil and gas fuels a boom in wood stoves. But what is the cost to climate?

… Both traditional and pellet-burning wood stoves are in high demand as cold weather begins to grip the northern United States and Canada. Sales of wood stoves are up 55 percent so far this year over last, according to industry figures. And sales of wood pellet stoves are even hotter: up 135 percent over the same period last year.

But as people polish their stoves and admire their woodpiles, environmentalists and health officials are expressing concern that burning wood in old or poorly designed stoves could add significantly to air pollution. And although wood represents a local and renewable fuel source, its credentials as a “carbon neutral” fuel – not adding to global warming – are hazy at best.

Even the very cleanest-burning and best-maintained wood or pellet stoves release a much higher level of emissions than a typical oil furnace, a common heating fuel in the Northeastern US. Natural gas, the most popular heating fuel nationwide, burns even cleaner than oil.

Wood smoke “is a fairly toxic cocktail,” says Lisa Rector, a senior policy analyst for NESCAUM, a nonprofit group that advises eight Northeastern US states on air-pollution control issues. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), wood smoke contains a number of potent health hazards, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and fine particulates. The American Lung Association estimates that in some locales fireplaces and wood stoves are the source of 80 percent of the fine particulates found in the air.
(21 October 2008)

UK announces world’s largest algal biofuel project

Alok Jha, The Guardian
The world’s biggest publicly funded project to make transport fuels from algae will be launched today by a government agency which develops low-carbon technologies.

The Carbon Trust will today announce a project to make algal biofuels a commercial reality by 2020. The plan could see up to £26m spent on developing the technology and infrastructure to ensure that algal biofuels replace a signficant proportion of the fossil fuels used by UK drivers.

Mark Williamson, innovations director at the Carbon Trust, said: “We must find a cost-effective and sustainable alternative to oil for our cars and planes if we are to deliver the deep cuts in carbon emissions necessary to tackle climate change. Algae could provide a significant part of the answer and represents a multibillion-pound opportunity.”

Transport accounts for one-quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions and is the fastest growing sector. Finding carbon-neutral fuels will be crucial to the government meeting its target to reduce overall emissions by 80% by 2050…
(23 October 2008)