Taxpayers will be asked to contribute to the biggest home improvement programme since the Second World War after the Government failed to gain enough private support.
The Times has learnt that ministers want the publicly funded Green Investment Bank to help to fund their own energy-saving programme after banks refused to provide any loans.
A consortium of big energy companies, banks, construction companies and law firms appointed by the Government to find funding for the scheme will meet officials from the Green Investment Bank next week about securing an initial £300 million loan.
Negotiations to finalise the terms have already begun and the funds are expected to be secured in May.
Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, has quietly given his full backing to the plan. The Government had originally been confident that banks and financial institutions would provide the loans, but they have refused owing to concerns that households would not pay them back.
One Whitehall source said: “Senior officials in the energy department have finally admitted that the programme won’t get off the ground without Green Investment Bank funding. Private sector banks simply won’t back the loans when the levels of demand are unclear and there is no track record on repayment defaults. If this £300 million is secured, this will be a lifeline for the programme.“ Under the voluntary programme — called the Green Deal and due to begin in the autumn — householders will be able to take out loans for energy-efficiency measures, such as cavity wall or loft insulation. The intention is that the energy saved will lead to lower bills, which will more than cover the cost of the repayments. If the homeowner moves, the new occupants will pay off the remainder of the loan.
Green drive to cover all Britain's houses with eight inches of cladding 'could threaten historic character of some areas'
The face of Britain’s suburbs could be in for a permanent makeover under plans to make our homes more environmentally friendly.
Millions of homeowners will be encouraged to clad the exterior walls of their properties with up to eight inches of insulation in a bid to keep them warmer and cut energy costs.
But heritage campaigners fear the controversial proposals threaten the historic character of many neighbourhoods, if the traditional brick facade and period features of millions of Victorian and Edwardian-era homes are lost.
Under the scheme, an extra layer of insulation would be added to walls, which could then be rendered and painted to resemble the original brickwork or in a colour of the homeowner’s choosing.
As an incentive, those who agree to clad their homes could be offered a reduction in stamp duty or council tax.
Climate change minister Greg Barker is backing the plans as part of the coalition’s Green Deal, which will launch in October.
The £2.5billion fund aims to provide low-interest loans to 14million homeowners so they can undertake home improvements such as double glazing.
To qualify, they will have to show the work will make their property more energy efficient and cut fuel costs.
Mr Barker said cladding Britain’s seven million solid wall properties would create jobs and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He added: ‘We have some of the worst performing buildings in Europe.
‘More than half of our homes don’t have sufficient insulation. They leak heat like a sieve.’
But Chris Wood, of English Heritage, warned that adding external insulation to older homes could destroy their traditional facades. He said: ‘The aim is good but this risks threatening our visual heritage.’
Ian Dungavell, of the Victorian Society, said: ‘Insulation covers up details like window lintels, leaves eaves without overhangs and creates an odd appearance around cornices. It changes all the proportions of the building.’
Moronic California train plan
In a dusty, rock-strewn expanse at the edge of the Mojave Desert, a company wants to build a bullet train that would rocket tourists from the middle of nowhere to the gambling palaces of Las Vegas.
DesertXpress was on the verge of landing a $4.9 billion loan from the Obama administration to build the 150 mph train, which could be a lifeline for a region devastated by the housing crash.
The vast park-and-ride project hinged on the untested idea that car-loving Californians will drive about 100 miles from the Los Angeles area, pull off busy Interstate 15 and board a train for the final leg to the Vegas strip.
Planners imagine that millions of travelers a year will one day flock to a station outside Victorville, a small city where shuttered storefronts line the historic downtown.
An alliance of business and political big shots from the Vegas strip to Capitol Hill was backing the project that could become the first high-speed system to break ground under President Obama's push to modernize the U.S. rail network - and give the President's re-election prospects a lift in battleground Nevada.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has publicly blessed the train and the project has cleared several regulatory hurdles in Washington.
Yet even as the Federal Railroad Administration considered awarding what would be the largest loan of its type, its own research warned that it was difficult to predict how many people will ride the train, a critical measure of financial survival.
'It's insanity,' said Thomas Finkbiner of the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the University of Denver. 'People won't drive to a train to go someplace. If you are going to drive, why not drive all the way and leave when you want?'
Construction cost projections have soared to as much as $6.5 billion, not including interest on the loan. Some fear taxpayer subsidies would be inevitable.
Supporters pointed to research that claimed 80,000 new jobs would be created but FRA documents revealed virtually all those would be temporary - no more than 722 would be permanent.
The plan was being advanced by casino developer and contractor Anthony Marnell II, whose credits include building the Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas. He heads Marnell Companies, the majority shareholder in DesertXpress.
The train was also backed by project consultant Sig Rogich, a Republican adviser to two presidential campaigns who founded Nevada's most influential lobbying and advertising company and Canadian transportation giant Bombardier, a DesertXpress strategic adviser that wants to supply rail cars.
A decision on the loan was not expected until later in the year but the company has spent some $30 million sharpening its plan and refining ridership projections.
Rising gas prices and increasing traffic congestion could help ticket sales, and the company was touting reduced air pollution from fewer cars on the road.
Far from being a train from nowhere, company planners see the struggling city of 115,000, once a stop on Route 66, as a collection point for millions of drivers heading north to Las Vegas.
Bringing the line deeper into the populous Los Angeles area would raise formidable challenges, Mack said, from crossing numerous freeways to finding space for track.
The parking lot in Victorville has room for 15,000 cars. At peak hours, trains would depart every 20 minutes. Mack said an average round-trip fare could be as low as $75, though documents estimated $100. Mack added that the train will deliver convenience - and for a price, luxury.
DesertXpress officials once boasted they would build the line with private dollars, but they now planned to rely on FRA financing to cover the bulk of the cost.
Mack didn't directly answer if the company turned to the FRA because private investors were unwilling to take the risk, but said the loan terms are attractive.
'When somebody comes and tells me I will build a system that pays for itself, I'm suspicious,' said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, which questioned ridership potential in a report last year. 'There is no high-speed rail system in the world that operates without subsidies.'
The company was still arranging as much as $1.6 billion needed to cover its share of the construction bill for the 200-mile line.
Investments could hinge on the loan approval, which required the company to convince the FRA that taxpayers won't get stiffed. In a worst-case scenario, the train would become government property if the company failed.
The low-interest loan would be about three times the combined amount the FRA loaned 32 other projects through the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program since its inception in 2002.
If successful, the train could be a forerunner in a national high-speed rail network, while bringing a rich return for investors and delivering visitors to Vegas. It would also give Nevada residents an option to southern California, albeit many miles from tourist hotspots like Hollywood or the beaches.
The company was seeking funds at a time when a proposed high-speed train running from San Francisco to Southern California has been questioned because of ballooning costs and fear it will drain taxpayer dollars.
Early company research projected the train would lure away nearly one in four car, bus and airline travelers, about 4 million people annually. The company pegged first-year ridership at about 3 million, but that projection was trimmed to 2.5 million by government analysts.
The risks were summarized in a 2007 study commissioned by ACS Infrastructure North America, a division of a global construction company that DesertXpress said was seeking a role in the project.
It found most travelers were 'broadly happy' going to Las Vegas by car or airline. While most travelers would be open to riding a train, the report warned the company would need to lure riders with pampering.
With no traffic, the 270-mile drive from downtown Los Angeles to Las Vegas takes about four hours. Planners said the train ride from Victorville to Las Vegas would take about 80 minutes, but it was debatable how much time would be saved after parking, boarding the train and reaching a Las Vegas hotel.
Round-trip flights from Los Angeles to Las Vegas can be booked for under $100.
New paper claims ozone is most important driver of recent climate
A paper published last week in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics claims stratospheric ozone is the most important driver of recent climate, accounting for 75% of Earth's temperature variations during the period 1926-2011.
Ozone is in turn controlled by natural variations in galactic cosmic rays & solar activity, rather than man-made chlorofluorocarbons or 'greenhouse gases.'
The Svensmark hypothesis relates variations in solar activity to amplified variations galactic cosmic rays, which in turn result in changes in cloud cover. This new paper may provide a second mechanism by which variations in solar activity are amplified by the effect on galactic cosmic rays and ozone.
Climate sensitivity to the lower stratospheric ozone variations
By N.A. Kilifarska
The strong sensitivity of the Earth's radiation balance to variations in the lower stratospheric ozone – reported previously – is analyzed here by the use of non-linear statistical methods. Our non-linear model of the land air temperature (T) – driven by the measured Arosa total ozone (TOZ) – explains 75% of total variability of Earth's T variations during the period 1926–2011. We have analyzed also the factors which could influence the TOZ variability and found that the strongest impact belongs to the multi-decadal variations of galactic cosmic rays. Constructing a statistical model of the ozone variability, we have been able to predict the tendency in the land air T evolution till the end of the current decade. Results show that Earth is facing a weak cooling of the surface T by 0.05–0.25 K (depending on the ozone model) until the end of the current solar cycle. A new mechanism for O3 influence on climate is proposed.
* An increased climate sensitivity to ozone variations is analyzed.
* O3 driven model of surface T explains the greatest part of its variability.
* Impact of different factors on lower stratospheric O3 variability is estimated.
* Galactic cosmic rays have a greatest influence on O3.
* Mechanism for ozone influence on climate is described.
Obama's coal problem
Coal is many things to many people. It once powered the mighty U.S. Navy, the steam locomotives carrying commerce cross-country, and most American homes and businesses.
At the start of the 20th century, mining companies faced such difficulty finding enough labor to meet the demand that they crisscrossed Eastern Europe, promising company housing and good wages to young men who emigrated to America. It was the golden age of “King Coal.”
Today, Pennsylvania coal still generates more than half of the state’s electrical power, according to Edward Yankovich, United Mine Workers District II vice president. “In Ohio, 80 percent,” he added.
Yet it is the one energy resource about which President Obama dares not speak. In fact, Obama has not mentioned it since last year – and then, only in passing at a news conference. Last Thursday, in what the White House touted as his “big American-made energy” speech, the president never mentioned coal.
“That’s – that is just disappointing,” said T. J. Rooney, former state chairman of Pennsylvania’s Democrats, who oversaw several very successful cycles for his party.
Yankovich refuses to criticize Obama but suggests driving to one of those electricity-generating windmills in Somerset County to see how many cars are in its parking lot. “None. None,” he replies. “But drive over to Homer City in Indiana County, and you will see 200 to 300 at any time of the day.”
The coal-fired Homer City power plant is pretty imposing, home to the second-tallest smokestack in the country. It is in the midst of proposing a $725 million pollution-abatement project, to avoid being one of more than 100 coal-fired plants that power generators recently decided to shut down – including six in Pennsylvania – ahead of new federal clean-air rules that take effect in 2015.
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., says we need to find a balance of wind, sun and clean coal. “It’s not just jobs, it is costs, too,” he said, referring to monthly electric bills. “That last thing we need in this slow-moving economy is rising energy bills, not just at the pump but in the home as well.”
Rooney said Obama needs to address coal and the balance he will strike between environmental protection and rising energy costs: “It is an issue that will define his re-election fight here in Pennsylvania as well as Ohio.”
Last Saturday, Vice President Joe Biden appeared in Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, watched by nearly 300,000 people. The Scranton native shook hands, held babies -- and sometimes was booed.
Given Western Pennsylvania’s coal-rich history, some parade-goers likely remembered his declaration of support for clean coal in China but not in the United States. “No coal plants here in America,” he said in Eastern Ohio in 2008. “Build them, if they’re going to build them, over there. Make them clean.”
Maybe some of the 500 people who attended a meeting last week, about keeping the Homer City plant operating, also attended Pittsburgh’s parade.
Memo to Education Scotland: Stop Brainwashing our Children with One-Sided State Propaganda on Climate Change
Quote 1 'Children should not be overfed with one particular view of this ['climate change']. It is far too complicated for that.'
Quote 2 ' ...it is brainwashing our children.'
Quote 1 is by Professor Tony Trewavas of Edinburgh University. Quote 2 is by Martin Livermore, of the UK Scientific Alliance. Both quoted in this article in the Scottish Daily Mail on 24th March, 2012
Education Scotland is an agency of the Scottish Government, a government which has produced absurd legislation on climate, and committed to absurd targets on renewable energy, thereby leading the way in sub-scientific foolishness. The facade of scientific justification is easily exposed, but not by children. They tend to trust what the adults tell them, and hence have long been a clearly identified target for eco-propagandising by the zealots who are intent on telling others how to live.
The Royal Societies of Edinburgh and London have failed to defend the wider society from such manipulation and shoddy extrapolation from unconfirmed speculations about the importance of CO2 in the climate system, and so it is all the more refreshing to see a member of the Edinburgh Royal Society taking a more informed, a more independent, and indeed a more civilised approach on climate matters.
This is especially encouraging and important given the recent announcement of a concordat amongst the major political parties in Scotland in support of the preposterous 'climate change targets' of the Scottish government.
This announcement has been noted and commented upon at Bishop Hill, where it is deemed 'somewhat reminiscent of the Soviet Union'.
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