Friday, 30 November 2007

Business call for plan on climate

Global businesses have called for a legally-binding and comprehensive international deal on climate change.

A binding agreement on emissions reductions would encourage business to invest in low-carbon technologies, a statement from 150 businesses said.

The statement - backed by Prince Charles - will be sent to environment ministers and heads of state ahead of talks in Bali on climate change.

Nokia, Tesco, Lloyds TSB and Nike are among the 150 firms that made the call.

The signatories represent companies from Europe, the US, China and Australia.
full article

Thursday, 29 November 2007

How solar power could become organic

Physicist Neil Greenham of Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory likes turning a good idea on its head. His PhD involved researching polymer light emitting diodes, since used for displays in some televisions, MP3 players and mobile phones. But then he joined a research group trying to use similar polymers to generate electricity from light. Now, more than a decade of pioneering work has resulted in an organic solar cell that doesn't use expensive silicon.

Conventional photovoltaic (PV) solar cells are made from a thin slice (around 200 microns) of silicon that is doped with chemicals to form a bilayer structure called a p-n junction. When photons of light are absorbed by the silicon, electrons flow, creating a small electric current. An organic solar cell takes a similar approach but uses an ultra-thin (100 nanometre) film mixture of two semiconducting polymers instead.

Is organic solar likely to replace silicon, then? Even though the more efficient silicon has an obvious cost penalty, Greenham doesn't think so: "There's going to have to be a lot more PV of all kinds. We want to make it cheap enough to really expand the market."

That view is shared by Professor Paul O'Brien at the University of Manchester. He's been involved with solar cells for more than 20 years, especially those that don't use silicon. "Silicon is made in a foundry and the technology is the same as we use to make silicon chips. That, of course, is far too expensive," says O'Brien, who reckons that solar cells need be no more pricey than high-performance self-cleaning glass. "Get the cost down, and the whole thing becomes viable."

Led by O'Brien and Professor Jenny Nelson at Imperial College London, a £1.5m Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council project is trying to do just that. Its target is a mass-produced hybrid solar cell with energy conversion efficiencies approaching 10%. The first laboratory prototype will be assembled next year.

"We're very interested in solar cells where we take an organic layer that's printable or sprayable containing an inorganic material like lead sulphide which will actually do the photon capture," O'Brien says. Photons knock out loose electrons, which then flow through the cell to produce electricity.

Lead sulphide (PbS) adds a new twist to silicon-free solar cells by using nanotechnology. The lead sulphide will be in the form of nanorods, 100 or so nanometres long and 20 by 20 nanometres in section. (One micron is 1,000nm.) When photons hit the rods distributed within a semiconducting polymer, electrons are released. Researchers also plan to use equally small "quantum dots" to achieve the same photovoltaic effect.

"The big driver for me is always cost reduction, not efficiency," O'Brien says. Despite falling short of silicon's efficiency, the benefit will be huge cost reductions. If all goes well, O'Brien reckons the new solar cell technology may be one hundredth of the cost of a silicon cell when in mass production - promising a solar energy revolution. "The world needs to look at alternatives to fossil fuels," O'Brien says.

The idea of solar cell research at UK universities delivering electricity as cheaply as fossil fuels do today is exciting. But waiting around for the science to become technology isn't an option, says Martyn Williams, senior parliamentary campaigner at Friends of the Earth. "We are aware of moves to find new ways to generate electricity from solar power. We have to move faster than that because every tonne of carbon we pump out is adding to the problem."

Six years ago, he installed solar PV on his Victorian terraced house when it needed a new roof. "It produced about £250 of electricity a year," says Williams, who received a £10,000 (50%) grant from the government.
Michael Pollitt

full article

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Energy Saving Kettle

Can anything new be done with the humble kettle? Well, with the Quick Cup, Tefal claims it has made it faster and more eco-friendly.

The Quick Cup serves hot water on demand in only 3 seconds and uses only a third of the energy of an ordinary kettle. Using Tefal's patented ‘Opti-quick’ technology system, you don’t need to pre-heat your water. Just push the button and the water is sent up the heating element in a spiral movement, heating it immediately as it travels. So no energy heating water you don’t need, or boiling water you don’t use. In fact. According to Tefal, that could be a £31 cost-saving per year using Quick Cup compared to an ordinary kettle.

full article

Britain's CO2 emissions could be cut by 80%

The CO2 emissions from Britain's homes could be cut by 80 per cent by 2050 but it would require massive investment and a quantum leap in commitment from the Government, according to a new report.

Almost £13bn a year for the next 10 years needed to be spent involving a complete overhaul of the national housing stock and ensuring every house in the country became energy efficient.

It would deliver huge carbon cuts from UK homes, eliminate fuel poverty, cut household power bills and create jobs, according to the Home Truths report by the Oxford Environmental Change Institute.

It slated the Government for rhetoric over cutting emissions including a blizzard of programmes and reviews, while CO2 levels had actually risen by more than five per cent since Labour came to power in 1997.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the housing sector accounted for 27 per cent of the UK's carbon footprint. In London household energy use made up 38 per cent of the total emissions produced by the city every year.

Key recommendations in the report included:

Financial incentives in the form of tax breaks and investments to ensure every UK home became low carbon leading to lower energy bills.

A roll-out of low carbon technology as well as stricter regulations on appliances, and phasing out of all lighting which didn't use low-energy bulbs.

Reform of the energy market so that householders would be guaranteed a premium price for any electricity they sell back to the grid from renewable sources such as solar panels and to ensure energy saving - not high consumption - was rewarded in tariffs.

Tough minimum standards for homes, monitored by energy performance certificates, needed to be introduced and progressively tightened.

Legally binding targets for housing emissions to be reduced by 3.7per cent each year from 2008.

Street-by-street programme of building improvements such as wall and roof insulation by local authorities in high energy use areas.

By Paul Eccleston
full article

Monday, 26 November 2007

How to turn your life and finances green

Mike Jones is a sustainability consultant, advising businesses on how to become more environmentally aware and efficient.

Four months ago, Mike, 48, and his wife Jacqueline, 43, switched from Southern Electric to Ecotricity to help reduce their house-hold's carbon footprint. About a third of all energy produced by Ecotricity is renewable and it invests money received from customers in building new sources of energy such as wind farms.

The couple, from Stroud, Gloucestershire, signed up to Ecotricity's New Energy Tariff, providing 'green' energy produced from windfarms, topped up with conventional energy bought elsewhere. Because there is a mix of energy, customers signing up to the New Energy Tariff do not pay a 'green' premium.

Ecotricity also has a zero carbon tariff called New Energy Plus, where households buy 100% of green energy. There is a premium of 0.5p per kwh. Fewer than one% of all households are signed up to green energy tariffs but the number is growing. All of the six major energy providers, including British Gas, Powergen and Scottish and Southern Energy, offer 'green' energy tariffs.

Smaller providers include Green Energy UK and Good Energy. Green Energy will also buy green electricity generated by customers through solar panels, bio-mass – such as pig waste – and wind turbines. Just as tariffs differ, so do the credentials of suppliers. The major suppliers may offer green tariffs, but last year British Gas, npower, ScottishPower and EDF Energy all increased their CO2 emissions.
Helen Loveless
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Sunday, 25 November 2007

UK's worst polluting regions

The Energy Saving Trust (EST) figures reveal the places with the highest emissions per household in the home countries are South Buckinghamshire (England); Orkney Islands (Scotland); Powys (Wales) and County Down (Northern Ireland).

CO2 per household is the lowest in City of London (England); Glasgow (Scotland); Blaenau Gwent (Wales) and Belfast (Northern Ireland).

The results of the survey will be used as a model to target councils and householders at street level and advise them on how to cut their energy use.

The chief executive of the EST, Philip Sellwood, said: "This latest Green Barometer report isn't about singling out local authorities, as each area is unique and has its own challenges and opportunities.

The survey identified 10 different types of family and individuals which it classified according to the amount of energy they used per household, their use of cars and attitudes towards the environment.

The amount of CO2 emissions from individual homes was calculated using energy bills data and then compared with the average for that type of home. Similarly emissions from cars were calculated using car ownership and mileage data and then compared with average use.

Attitudes towards the environment, including concern for environment, recycling, concern about pollution, were compared against average attitudes.

Breakdown of the 10 groups:

1. Environmentally Mature

Rich, affluent couples, living in large detached homes in the suburbs or more rural villages. Big consumers of household and vehicle energy. Well educate people who understood climate change.

2. Comfortable Conservatives

Professional people, comfortable conservatives resistant to change with house and car emissions above average.

3. Discerning Elders

Professional couples on the cusp of retirement. Pride in homes and cars. Large homes and high energy bills and interested in the environment.

4. Ethnic Tradition

Asian families and other ethnic groups living in suburban semi-detached houses or industrial terrace housing. Large, extended families.Limited car ownership and high energy use.

5. Educated Advocates

Mixture of young city centre professionals and educated couples enjoying a city lifestyle. University educated, likely to be sharing a house, transient but moving towards first home purchase. Car ownership low but company cars common. A key target for future.

6. Britain Today, Reflection of 'modern' Britain:

Household and vehicles emissions not high and attitude towards the environment below average. Relatively low potential for reducing CO2 emissions. Mostly suburban couples influenced by middle-market tabloid papers who like makeover shows and gardening programmes.

7. Financially Burdened

Families with high expenditure on everyday living. Stage of life where money is accounted for by mortgage and household bills.

Housing is newer and large, but the demands of a family result in relatively high energy use. Car ownership is average.

8. Environmentally Indifferent

Poorer families and elderly couples living in council or ex-council accommodation in towns and cities. Focus is day-to-day survival and low levels of concern for environment. CO2 emissions and car ownership below average.

9. Driving Dependency

Young sharers or couples living in new houses in private estates, who see the car as the only way to get around.

Cars are a lifeline for work, shopping, or visiting friends and relations. Most households will have two vehicles with one a company vehicle, leading to high mileage. Public transport links in these areas are poor. Current attitudes towards the environment are below average reflecting a 'live for now' attitude. They will become more conscious of surrounding environment and their 'legacy' as they have families. Low household CO2 emissions.

10. Restful Retirement

Elderly couples and widowers who have low energy use. Still living independently or in housing for the elderly.

For those in private housing there is little they can do, or wish to do regarding reducing CO2 emissions. For the independents there is financial motivation to save energy. Car ownership is low relying on public transport or families.
full article

Be nice to your boiler

Is your boiler struggling to cope with the recent cold snap? It might well be if it hasn't been serviced recently. Recent research by the utilities comparison site suggests that four out of 10 households neglect regular annual servicing of their hot water and heating system. And this could cost you, says Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch. 'If your boiler packs up you are facing a £500 bill, plus the misery of trying to get somebody out quickly to sort it out - not much fun in winter.'

One solution could be to invest in a boiler servicing and repair policy - but shop carefully. Packages vary hugely in terms of price and cover, and some can be very expensive. Josephine Sackett, a retired teacher from Hackney, pays £290 a year to have her 18-year-old Vaillant boiler annually checked and serviced, through a British Gas service contract called HomeCare 200. This includes year-round call-out cover, parts and labour, and central heating repairs. 'On occasions, their service has been rather perfunctory, or inconsistent. Once I was told I needed a new boiler; another time they said it was fine. But when I have had problems, they have come immediately.'

Still, almost £300 a year could be put towards a more efficient boiler. Keith Mathers, group service director at Vaillant, says boilers become more unreliable with age and that Vaillant's own cover is generally not offered once a boiler gets past the 15-year point. 'Otherwise, we charge £168 a year for an annual service contract, which includes parts and labour, with no annual limit on call-outs.'

Which? recently picked through a huge range of boiler service contracts. British Gas, which sells two-thirds of all UK contracts and covers most of the UK, generally came out well, with a wide range of deals, starting from £132 a year, provided you pay the first £50 of each repair. But Which? found the best value cover was offered by Powergen, with cover starting from £108 a year provided you stump up, again, the first £50 of each repair. This cover, however, is not available nationwide.

Or you could simply opt to have your boiler serviced every year and hope for the best. When Cash called several independent installers in London, we found annual service quotes from Corgi-registered engineers ranged from £65 to more than £90.

If your boiler is well and truly past it - most last 15 years - then it certainly is worth replacing it with the now compulsory fuel-efficient condensing type. The Energy Saving Trust reckons this will save you at least £150 a year.

Be careful, though, how much you pay for one. Prices start at £750, and installation can cost as much as £1,300. Tim Wolfenden, head of home services at uSwitch, says: 'Large energy companies might offer what seems a good deal for the boiler but they often recoup their profit with the installation.'

Wolfenden recommends buying a boiler through a wholesaler, or local heating specialist, then hiring a Corgi-registered gas engineer to fit it. Be aware that, though modern boilers can be vastly more efficient, they're also potentially more expensive to fix: a heat exchanger can cost up to £350. So Wolfenden recommends keeping your boiler in peak condition as it ages: 'Annual services will prolong a boiler's life. Do invest in them, especially after the warranty runs out.

Adrian Holliday
full article

Friday, 23 November 2007

The Real Cost of Going Green

Making your home carbon neautral could prove surprisingly costly – but the investment could soon reap dividends with big savings on electricity and gas bills, as well as helping the environment, new research suggests.

Making a three-bedroom, semi-detached home more carbon neutral can cost up to £9,000 if you want the bells, whistles and wind turbines, a study from Alliance & Leicester Personal Loans reveals.

The first steps on the way to helping make a home carbon neutral is fitting energy-saving light bulbs and ensuring it is insulated properly.Energy-saving bulbs last around 12 times longer, use 75% less power and are estimated to save around £65 during each bulb’s lifespan.

An estimated 5 million homes already have cavity wall insulation which cuts the amount of energy needed to heat a home. The insulation is injected between the inner and outer sections of brickwork and acts as a barrier to heat loss. The average family home could see heating costs slashed by 15% - or £100 to £120 per year. Given the work costs around £500, it won’t take long to make savings.

Loft insulation can help cut heating bills further by saving around £110 per year. It acts as a blanket, trapping heat rising from the floors below. According to the Energy Saving Trust, if everyone in the UK topped up their loft insulation to a depth of 270mm, nearly £400 million would be saved every year. Loft insulation costs around £300 for the recommended thickness.

The most effective way of reducing energy bills further is to replace boilers that are more than 15 years old. Modern systems are designed to be far more efficient and need less fuel to run, with many condensing boilers using 40% less energy. An efficient condensing boiler costs around £500 and could save around £240 per year, according to Energy Saving Advice. It means homeowners could easily cover the cost of their boiler within three years.

Double glazing prevents further heat loss through windows and is an effective way of making more savings on fuel bills. Homes can be double-glazed from as little as £1,400 for six windows.

While the idea of investing in wind turbines may sound expensive, they can help reduce a property’s carbon footprint by using wind power first, before drawing on the supply from the National Grid. Turbines can be bought from £1,500, plus additional installation costs.

Homeowners can also go one step further in their quest to become carbon neutral by plugging into solar electricity, which uses energy from the sun in order to generate electricity. Most systems simply require daylight – rather than direct sunlight - to create electricity, which means Britain’s weather need not deter homeowners from investing in solar electricity. But it does come at a price, as systems start from £5,000, although estimates suggest it will wipe around £200 off annual electricity bills
full article

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Hips to be extended to all properties

The government's controversial home information pack (Hip) scheme will be rolled out to all properties in England and Wales from December 14, it was announced today.

The packs, which are already compulsory for all homes on the market with three bedrooms or more, are designed to speed up the selling process and reduce the number of sales that fall through.

They offer potential buyers upfront information about a property, including title deeds, search information and an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating its energy efficiency.

The communities and local government department said the roll out to all properties would reduce the upfront costs faced by first-time buyers and allow homebuyers to reduce household fuel bills and carbon emissions.

It said early monitoring of the scheme showed it had gone smoothly, with Hips taking an average of seven to 10 days to prepare and costing between £300-£350, less than the £400 anticipated before the scheme was launched.

However, critics of the scheme have said they are a waste of money, and suggested they will cause a further slowdown in the housing market.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said the full introduction of Hips would "wipe 300,000 properties off estate agents books" as speculative sellers withdrew from the market.

Following the introduction of the packs on homes of four bedrooms or more on August 1, it reported a 51% fall in the number of homes of that size coming on to the market.

A 37% fall in the number of three-bedroom homes brought to market in September, when Hips were rolled out to cover properties of that size, was also blamed on Hips.

Rics, which took legal action against the government at the beginning of the summer over the packs, and in doing so delayed their introduction from the planned date of June 1, said a full roll out would hit first-time buyers.

The organisation's spokesman Jeremy Leaf said: "With prospective buyers and sellers currently taking a 'wait and see' approach to moving, activity in the housing market is grinding to a halt."

Leaf said accessibility to the housing market for first-time buyers would "go off the scale" as the supply of properties dried up.

"A lack of smaller properties for purchase will force first-time-buyers to remain in the lettings market where rents are already climbing at the fastest pace in over eight years," he said.

"If the housing minister genuinely wants to improve the plight of first-time-buyers, she should not continue with this flawed policy."

Strong argument for scheme roll out
But the government said an independent report it had commissioned from consultancy Europe Economics had found no impact on transactions or prices, except a short-term delay in new listings while a seller commissioned the pack.

It said the report had concluded the impact was short lived and marginal, and found strong arguments for carrying on with the planned roll out.

The housing minister, Yvette Cooper, said: "Hips and EPCs are already helping consumers to save hundreds of pounds off their fuel bills and are cutting search costs too.

"All homebuyers will be able to benefit from energy efficiency advice, with those receiving low green ratings of 'F' and 'G' especially targeted for support and grants to make improvements to cut their costs and carbon emissions."

The high number of leasehold properties among one- and two-bedroom properties has forced the government to temporarily amend the Hip regulations to allow homes to be put on the market with only a lease document included in the pack.

It had originally required other documents to appear, including statements of service charges and details of managing agents, but these have proved hard to obtain quickly.

The items will become compulsory in six months time, but in the meantime the government has asked the deputy chief executive of the Land Registry, Ted Beardsall, to look at how the provision of leasehold information can be improved.
Hilary Osborne
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Green Homes Service announced

The government is to invest £100 million in creating a 'Green Homes Service'. The Energy Savings Trust will conduct home energy audits, as well as offering advice on reducing waste and water use and connecting to grants and offers from energy companies.
Announcing the Green Homes Service environment secretary Hilary Benn said: "When it comes to cutting your carbon footprint, the old adage 'there's no place like home' really is true. We need to make this as easy as possible for people to do. There's a lot of help out there in the form of grants, advice, and other assistance, but it’s hard to know where to start."

He said the new-look Energy Saving Trust would act as a one-stop shop to extend the use of renewable energy at home and improve efficiency, and that the government wants 150,000 homes to be generating their own renewable energy by 2011.
Green Building Press
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Top eco-rating award for '20's terrace house

Solar panels, under-floor heating powered by a ground source heat pump, low energy lightbulbs and even a "green roof" have helped make a 1920s terrace house become one of the oldest houses in the UK to gain a top "eco-homes" rating.

While the Government has pledged to make all new build houses zero carbon by 2016, the Bournville Village Trust have refurbished one of their properties in Bournville, south Birmingham to demonstrate how the carbon footprint of current, inefficient, housing stock can be reduced.
Some of the features of the small three-bedroom terrace family home are to be expected: LED and low energy lighting and double glazing are now adopted as standard by the housing association in its refurbishment programme.
The heating and hot water supply are generated by a combination of solar panels and a ground source pump which draws heat from 65 metres underground.

Light wells into the kitchen - where the cupboards are made of recycled wood - bring in extra daylight and all the appliances in the kitchen have a A-grade efficiency rating. All the walls and roof are insulated.

Even the paint is water rather than oil-based and the downstairs rooms are tiled to allow the underfloor heating to work more effectively.

In the garden, bricks recycled from a wall taken down in the house, have formed the patio, while a pond, bird boxes and even the plants encourage wildlife. The fences are made from recycled plastic, which is manufactured to look very similar to wood.

There's green roof over the kitchen extension, planted with low-growing sedum which supports insect life and limits run-off, as well as water butts and composting and recycling bins.

Every part of the house has been designed with the environment in mind, so that even the driveway is porous to allow rainwater to drain away.

Some of the work is expensive and will not be applied to other refurbishment work by the trust. Some environmental features were rejected on the basis of cost - or because they would be ineffective, such as a wind turbine.
Jane Gething-Lewis
full article

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Emissions from UK homes could be cut by 80 per cent

Emissions from UK homes could be cut by 80 per cent by 2050, according to a new report by Dr Brenda Boardman at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute.
The report assesses the Government’s record and sets out, for the first time, a blueprint for delivering huge carbon cuts from UK homes while eradicating fuel poverty, creating jobs, cutting energy bills and increasing fuel security.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the housing sector have risen by more than five per cent since 1997 and account for 27 per cent of the UK’s carbon footprint. Although the number of households living in fuel poverty initially fell under Labour, the figure has since increased to four million – double the number in 2002.

The report, called Home Truths, found that current Government policies will only deliver half the cuts in household carbon emissions they should have achieved by 2020. The Government has no policies for cutting emissions from homes in the longer term.

Key recommendations

Introduce a package of financial incentives. This will make it cheaper for householders to cut their energy use and produce their own green energy. This package will include grants, low interest loans, stamp duty rebates and a reduction in VAT on energy efficiency measures to five per cent.

Reform of the energy market. A feed-in-tariff system is introduced which rewards households that fit low or zero carbon technology (LZC), such as solar panels, with a guaranteed premium price for any electricity they sell back to the grid. It is complemented by a renewable heat obligation, which requires a proportion of household heat to come from LZC sources, and a green gas tariff which encourages the use of waste gas as a fuel.

The aim is to fit every home in the UK with at least one LZC by 2050. UK households would be net exporters of electricity, generating up to ten percent more then they require.

Eradicate Fuel Poverty. Low-carbon Zones will be created, initially in areas where there is a concentration of fuel poor households. Local authorities would implement a street by street programme of improvements aimed at upgrading the walls, windows and roofs of homes in each zone by, for example, insulating solid walls. The report estimates that this approach would eliminate fuel poverty at a cost of £3.3 billion a year for the next nine years - treating 444,000 houses a year at an average cost of £7,500 per house.

Introduce and enforce minimum standards for homes. All homes in the UK will be issued with an Energy Performance Certificate grading them from G (very inefficient) to A (very efficient and almost carbon zero). Minimum standards for energy performance will then be introduced and tightened over successive years. Anyone who buys or rents out a house or flat that does not meet the minimum standard will not be allowed to sell or re-let it until it has been upgraded. By 2050 three million homes, which are so cold they are officially a health hazard, will have been upgraded, and the rate of heat loss in the average house will be halved.

full article

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Brown urges ban on plastic bags

The Prime Minister announced that he would like to "eliminate" single-use plastic bags from Britain as well as the flimsy paper equivalent.
n his first major speech on the environment and climate change since taking office, Mr Brown said supermarkets had already promised to reduce the "environmental impact" of plastic bags by 25 per cent over the next year.

He said: "I believe we can go further. Indeed, I am convinced that we can eliminate single-use plastic bags altogether in favour of long-lasting and more sustainable alternatives."

More than 13 billion bags are issued every year to shoppers, about 220 per person. Billions find their way into landfill, although they constitute less than one per cent of domestic waste, which experts say makes them more efficient than other forms of packaging.
full article

Monday, 19 November 2007

Grants for low-carbon homes tumble after change to rules

Grants for home installation of solar panels and wind turbines have plummeted despite the Government's publicly stated commitment to promote renewable power, official figures show.

Household payments under the Low Carbon Buildings Programme have tumbled from £536,000 a month before the rules of the scheme were changed in May, to £219,000 afterwards – a fall of 59 per cent. The number of householders getting grants has fallen 19 per cent.

The Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Willott, who uncovered the figures in a Commons question to the Energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, said the Government was in danger of "pulling the rug from underneath" Britain's micro-renewables industry.

Amid publicity about the danger of climate change, the Low Carbon Buildings Programme was very popular at the start of 2007 with the allocation of money running out in minutes on the first day of each month. The Government wants 20 per cent of UK electricity to be from green sources by 2020.

But in May, Alistair Darling, then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, cut the maximum grant for household renewable energy from £15,400 to £2,500.

Grants for solar PV and grants for heating were slashed by 83 per cent and those for wind turbines halved. Solar heating water was left unchanged at £400. As a consequence, more people are receiving small grants for solar water, but 24 per cent fewer are getting grants for solar heating, and the number of wind grants has fallen by 60 per cent. The total amount given to expensive solar heating installations has fallen by 76 per cent.

Ms Willott said: "The Government claims that by 2050, 40 per cent of the UK's electricity could be generated by micro-renewables, yet nothing is being done to make this happen.

"Ministers watered down this successful scheme because they couldn't cope with its overwhelming popularity. The new system has made installing micro-renewables far too expensive for all but the richest families."
full article

Tough action on climate

It is easier to sound tough than act tough when it comes to climate change. Today Gordon Brown will make his first major speech on the environment since becoming Prime Minister. It will contain some frightening figures: the International Energy Agency's prediction that on current trends energy demands will rise by 50% and global emissions by 60% and the UN's latest report suggesting that this translates into a 60cm rise in sea levels and 4oC in temperatures by 2100.

His message will be that Britain can be a world leader in a new global carbon economy and benefit economically. But many are beginning to question his assertion that it is possible to be both pro the environment and pro endless growth. In the decade since Labour came to power, Britain's total carbon emissions, including shipping and aviation, have continued to rise.

Tough targets look unconvincing alongside recent trends. A government that talks green presses on with road-building and airport expansion projects. Energy savings achieved by new technologies are squandered in bigger cars, more travel, more gadgets, increased consumption. The country with pretensions to lead the world on cutting energy consumption cannot even ban plastic bags and power-gobbling light bulbs. Meanwhile, it has been reported that Defra, the department dealing with climate change, faces £300m in cuts.

full article

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Carmakers zoom in on green initiatives

Progress has been slow, and technology and cost obstacles remain, but the automotive industry is making strides in developing environment-friendly vehicles. With the looming specter of more stringent regulation of emissions and fuel economy, automakers appear determined to stay one step ahead of legislators through their own initiatives to develop greener vehicles. Moreover, they realize that going green can be a useful marketing tool.

"There's no silver bullet," said Edward Wall, DOE program manager for vehicle technology. "We need to have a broad portfolio that looks at all of these technologies: advanced combustion engines, diesel engines, fuel cells, and hybrids."

Cheaper hybrids
Toyota, which produces the Prius, Camry and Highlander hybrids, appears determined to remain the industry leader. Toyota recently announced it would reduce the price of its Prius—the best-selling hybrid—by omitting several features. According to the Driving Change Network, Ford Motor Corp. followed suit by cutting prices on the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids.

These price cuts may give consumers added incentive to purchase hybrids, which typically cost several thousand dollars more than the gasoline-powered versions of the same car. Up to now, federal and state tax incentives were the only way for consumers to defray some of the cost.

full article

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Experts warn of 'abrupt' warming

"This is the strongest report yet by the IPCC - but says that there is still time to act," Bill Hare, an Australian climate scientist and one of the authors, told Reuters.

Among the report's top-line conclusions are that climate change is "unequivocal", that humankind's emissions of greenhouse gases are more than 90% likely to be the main cause, and that impacts can be reduced at reasonable cost.

The synthesis summary finalised late on Friday strengthens the language of those earlier reports with a warning that climate change may bring "abrupt and irreversible" impacts.

Such impacts could include the fast melting of glaciers and species extinctions.

"Approximately 20-30% of species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5C (relative to the 1980-1999 average)," the summary concludes.

Other potential impacts highlighted in the text include:

between 75m and 250m people projected to have scarcer fresh water supplies than at present
yields from rain-fed agriculture could be halved
food security likely to be further compromised in Africa
widespread impacts on coral reefs
Writing in the International Herald Tribune ahead of the report's release, Ban Ki-moon said the world may be nearing a tipping-point on climate change.

"We all agree. Climate change is real, and we humans are its chief cause. Yet even now, few people fully understand the gravity of the threat, or its immediacy.

"Now I believe we are on the verge of a catastrophe if we do not act."

full article

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Buyers need tax incentives to make eco changes

Nick Beart feels the Government has got it wrong with EPCs. " The EPCs are a wasted opportunity ," he says.
His two main objections are the lack of financial incentives to make energy efficiency changes, and the too-simplistic graphs. "According to our graph, our energy efficiency rating is on band E. It says that if all the changes recommended were made, the rating would be, err, still level E. That's cracking, isn't it. I've spent £400 on this report which tells me that I've got single-glazed sash windows, which I already knew and is why we have triple-lined curtains. It's also asking the purchasers to spend thousands on double glazing that would make no difference to the rating." Mr Beart argues that if the new owners of his house were given a financial incentive to make some of the changes, then it would have been a more worthwhile exercise.

His argument is echoed by environmental groups who say that without financial incentives, all the EPCs provide is information. The Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs recommended in a report in July, "That the Government provide a stamp duty rebate to purchasers who improve the energy performance of their property within one year of purchase." The Government has not yet responded to this.

Dave Timms, Green Homes campaigner for Friends of the Earth, says: " The first six months is the best time to make changes when buyers are renovating. With an incentive they would be more likely to make the m. The Government has got to aim high if we are to achieve our target and cut CO2 emissions from housing by 80 per cent."

He says part of the problem is that EPCs were introduced with the unpopular HIPs, which vendors have to provide at an average cost of £350 to £500. Despite this, over half of homeowners in the country did not know what EPCs were, recent research by the Energy Savings Trust shows.

Christopher Lacy, of estate agents Savills, says buyers are showing little interest in HIPs or EPCs and just seeing them as yet another cost of moving.

But some agents, such as My Place, south London, have embraced EPCs. "Inexpensive changes such as putting in loft insulation can help push a house up a band," says director Chris Kelly.

Michael Jack, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, says: "If the Government wants people to make their homes more energy efficient, then giving a tax rebate incentive would be a positive step."

One seller's view
Janette Bacchetta, who lives in Upper Norwood, south London, is not convinced that EPCs are worthwhile. She put her fourbedroom 1930s semi on the market this autumn and had around a dozen viewings in the first six weeks.

"Nobody asked to see my Home Information Pack in all that time and I'm afraid I have no idea what my Energy Performance Certificate says."

She says that the assessor who came to inspect her home spent 45 minutes in the house and didn't look in the loft.

"I'm not sure how helpful that level of information is going to be to a possible purchaser. I mean, they can see for themselves when they come round what kind of windows and boiler we've got."

Get a free report on your house from the Energy Saving Trust:
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The top 8 fuels of the future

Renewable energy is still just a small part of the of our overall energy use.

While it’s growing steadily, we’re going to need alternatives if we hope to reduce our dependency on oil, and the carbon-dioxide it chugs into the atmosphere when we burn it. Luckily, brainiacs in labs around the world are finding even more efficient ways to produce energy from what’s readily available and not buried beneath megatons of earthly crust. Look at eight different ways you may be tanking up at home and on the road in the near and distant future.

1. Hydrogen
Like the new BMW TV ads say, their still-unavailable Hydrogen 7 is “ready for the world… when the world is ready.” But progress on California’s “hydrogen highway” hasn’t quite hit the numbers supporters hoped it would. Fuel-cell technology has alternately been a darling of Wall Street and Detroit for almost a decade now, but we’ve yet to see many hydrogen-powered vehicles in the wild.

The technology seems like an environmentalist’s wet dream (literally), with hydrogen bonding with oxygen to produce power and water — and no greenhouse-gas emissions to speak of. But building a new series of hydrogen power stations hasn’t been as easy as once thought, and people still think “Hindenburg” when they think “hydrogen,” although it seems to be a safe enough technology that transit authorities uses hundreds of hydrogen-powered buses to move us around urban centers. Still, hydrogen’s ultimate downfall may be battery technologies and other clean fuels that could overtake it before it has the chance to get wide adoption.

2. Biofuels
This is a fractious bunch of youngsters, with fraternal twins biodiesel and corn-based ethanol trying to keep its younger sibling — cellulosic ethanol — from hogging the family photos. Enormous amounts of capital have flowed into developing both biodiesel (Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is funding the biggest biodiesel refinery in the country in Washington State) and corn-based ethanol (Sun Microsystems founder and venture capital Vinod Khosla has made big bets in this space). Converting vehicles and power plants to these renewable fuels that act and burn like fossil fuels has certainly made much headway. Heck, you could be burning an ethanol blend in your car right now and not even know it, and installing conversion kits for biodiesel makes putting on new spinning rims look tough.

3. Solar
Solar is probably the sexiest of the renewables, what with its black shiny arrays, tilting half-interested at Old Sol. Between tax breaks to install solar panels and new sleeker technology that makes your neighbors want to say “cool roof, man,” solar is beginning to take off. Thin-film technology — allowing you to bend the silicon components into more flexible shapes — and increases in solar-cell efficiency mean you can install solar in the Northeast more viably. And momentum is there among legislators as well. In Colorado, the state has passed a “renewable portfolio standard,” meaning that not only do utilities need to produce a great deal of renewable energy in the coming decades or face penalties, but they also have to buy a portion of that renewable energy from its customers with solar roofs.

4. Wind
Windmills have come a long way from Kansas farm country and being Don Quixote’s nemesis. Wind power first took off — as did many renewable energy sources — in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s with the last spike in the price of oil. But after that it stalled until fairly recently. With many states forcing utilities into renewable energy production, this has spurred great technological advances in wind power, and now wind projects are installed or planned in almost every state. The era of having your own windmill, and going “off the grid,” is also back, with personal household models costing under $20,000, assuming you have forgiving neighbors. And efficiencies in technology mean you don’t need a hurricane to generate a lot of power. But wind’s popularity has also created a bottleneck — estimates are that you’ll be waiting longer for a wind turbine (about 18 months) than you will for a black Prius.

5. Batteries
They’re not really a fuel, but they’re the “universal solvent” to our current rate of use of fossil fuels. Technically, we still burn more dinosaur soup making electricity for buildings than on the road, but all those cars and trucks we sit in use energy in other ways, too. They require gas stations everywhere, and that means yet more trucks to haul three grades of gas and Cinnabons to highway rest stops across the country. But new battery technology will last longer and charge more quickly, making it possible to burn the right fuel in the right place, rather than transporting the wrong fuel all over the place. So maybe as you drive from Seattle to Boston, you’ll top up your electric or hybrid car with tidal power in Seattle, wind power in Colorado, cellulosic ethanol in Nebraska, biogasoline in Illinois and biomass to carry you into Boston.

6. Tides
Think about how it feels to have someone chucking a bucket of water in your face, then multiply that by several hundred million, and you get an idea of the energy going untapped around our coastlines every day. Test facilities for harnessing tidal power in Canada’s Bay of Fundy have been around since the ‘70s, and San Francisco will be putting in a high-tech tidal plant at the Golden Gate soon.

There are certainly environmental concerns around tidal power, since these projects usually involve some kind of plant at the narrow mouth of a bay or inlet, where the water is moving fastest and most violently, meaning it’s not so great for the fish or birds nearby. But the future of ocean power is wave technology, where floating platforms and buoys, dozens of miles offshore, harvest the energy of wave motion. Think of an upside-down yo-yo, except your finger is an anchor at the bottom of the ocean, and the spinning spool floats on the surface. As each wave passes, the yo-yo gets pulled up, and pulls your finger… or a turbine.

7. Garbage
Meet the newest member of the energy family: last year’s trash. While incinerators haven’t really been widespread since the ‘60s because of pollution concerns, companies like American Combustion are working on the next generation of burning, like their PyreJet. It combines a long-range supersonic oxygen jet and focused carbon injection — essentially a jet engine — to reduce last night’s Dominos, a year’s worth of Sports Illustrateds you didn’t get a chance to read and that old blow-up doll into valuable energy for everyone. Now there’s always an answer to, “Who would want that?” when you’re at someone else’s house.

8. Nuclear Fusion
Like that kid in eighth grade who tried to be really cool but annoyed everyone, the nuclear industry has been talking a lot lately, telling everyone at recess about how their emissions “carbon-free.” True, but wind power doesn’t need to go around the lunchroom calling itself “plutonium-239-free,” so quit being a punk or I’ll be seeing you after school by the monkey bars at Three Mile Island, and don’t tell your homeroom teacher. But if the opposite of hate is love, then the opposite of fission is fusion, and while it’s not exactly around the corner, it holds out a lot of promise.

Yes, it’s the energy choice of the Sun itself, but simply put, in fusion, two lighter atomic nuclei fuse together to form a heavier nucleus. In doing so, it releases a few megatons of energy, ideally producing a waste product more benign, though not harmless, compared to its fissile brother. A European test plant managed to produce an output of 16 megawatts of electricity using fusion (about as much as a coal plant), but only for a few seconds. New test facilities are planned, so who knows? The atom may be our pal after all. (petrolplaza)

full article

Ditch the old boiler and save cash

Switching from a conventional boiler to one of the new condensing models will result in substantial savings for householders, according to Switch with Which?.

It says that replacing an old boiler with a new, energy efficient condensing model will more than pay for itself over the years.

For example, the Which? Best Buy Potterton Gold C24 HE combination condensing boiler costs £800. But compared to older models, a modern condensing boiler could cut your gas bills by between £160 and £360 per year depending on the size of your house.

Older boilers tend to lose heat through the flue, wasting nearly 40% of energy in gas.

Greenhouse gases
Not only does this lead to higher bills, it also means an increase in greenhouse gases.

Mike Stevenson, Head of Marketing at Switch with Which? added: ‘If splashing out on a new boiler before Christmas just isn't realistic, though, it doesn't cost a penny to check you're on the best deal for your heating bills, and switch to a better deal if you're not.

‘People who have switched through Switch with Which? are enjoying great average annual savings of over £200 per year on their energy bills, and switching now will let you reap the full benefits by the time you have to turn the radiators up.’

Energy tariffs
Customers using Switch with Which? can check the value of their current deal in just a couple of minutes, immediately start the switching process and within 10 minutes can have switched to another supplier

It’s the most comprehensive switching service available and provides the broadest criteria for selection of a supplier, offering customers a choice of all publicly available tariffs
full article

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Hydrogen brewing gets an electrical boost

A new microbe-powered device can extract up to 99% of the available hydrogen from biological compounds that have stumped previous attempts to ferment fuel from plant waste. The secret is to give the bugs a helping hand with a kick of electric charge.

Hydrogen is an attractive environmentally friendly fuel because burning it creates only water as a waste product. But finding an efficient, clean way to produce hydrogen in the first place is difficult.

Fermenting organic material using microbes is one possibility, but generally produces poor yields. Microbes reach a chemical dead end once sugar from material has been broken down into acetic acid, carbon dioxide and hydrogen. That releases at best only a third of the hydrogen in a molecule of the sugar glucose, for example.

"There is no known biological route to ferment glucose to [get] any more hydrogen than that," says Bruce Logan of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, US, who with colleague Shaoan Cheng has demonstrated a way around that the problem.
Reversed process

Their microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) enable microbes to break down organic materials completely, to just water, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen. The latest design can release as much as 99% of the hydrogen in acetic acid, a common dead end to fermentation.

MECs are modified versions of microbial fuel cells, which are used to harvest electrons produced by metabolising microbes as they feed to generate electricity. The electrochemical reactions are balanced when the used electrons are combined oxygen and hydrogen ions also released by the microbes to form water.

Logan's MECs are like microbial fuel cells in reverse. Instead of charge being drawn out, it is pumped in, and the hydrogen ions combine with electrons alone to form hydrogen gas. Applying roughly 0.5 volts provides enough energy to drive thermodynamically unlikely chemical reactions that break down the dead-end products that limited previous attempts to ferment hydrogen.

MECs can also break down other by-products of fermentation that put an end to the process, such as lactic, valeric, and butyric acids, says Logan. In tests it was fed cellulose and glucose and broke them down completely without problems.
'Great news'

The researchers were able to generate up to 1.23 cubic meters of hydrogen per day for every cubic meter of hydrogen fuel cell. This rate of hydrogen production is about 275 times faster than their earlier MEC.

In tests, the system produced hydrogen that, if fed into a hydrogen fuel cell that was 50% efficient, could generate between 1.2 and 3.4 times as much electricity as was fed into the system. By comparison, hydrogen extracted from water can only pay back about 25 to 30% of the energy used to extract it.

"It is surprising that such high hydrogen yields can so readily be obtained," says Patrick Hallenbeck of the University of Montreal in Canada. "The net energy yield appears much higher than what people are getting in other biofuel production processes – bioethanol, for example," he adds.

But the process is still much too slow to be practical, Hallenbeck adds. Logan and colleagues are currently working on improving the speed. The performance of the MECs exceeded the expectations of Lars Angenent, of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, US, who is also interested in using microbes to make fuel. "This is great news," he says.
Mason Inman
full article

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Using dishwasher at night 'could cut bills'

Householders could benefit from reduced energy bills if they agree to run their washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers in the middle of the night.

The proposal is part of a £6 billion British Gas plan, backed by rival energy companies, to change the way people use their appliances and run their gas meters.

The company calculated that if people used their tumble dryers, washing machines and other energy-hungry appliances in the middle of the night, it could save 1,000 megawatts or almost two per cent of the country's total energy usage.

This is because, in effect, it takes two power stations simply to cope with the surge at peak times, such as 6pm - when people come home from work, turn on the television and oven and put on a load of washing.

British Gas and the other companies want to offer consumers a more sophisticated version of Economy Seven, a tariff pioneered in the 1980s that is still popular.

Economy Seven gives householders a discount for running their boiler in the middle of the night. Energy companies could offer similar discounts to customers for using appliances during late mornings or mid-afternoon, when most people are at work.

However, they could offer these discount schemes only if the Government approves so-called "smart meters" to replace existing gas and electricity meters.

These would allow the energy companies to more closely monitor how much energy each family is using, and scrap the need for a meter reader to call at homes.

Instead the reading would be sent electronically to the organisation's headquarters.

This should save the companies millions of pounds - enough, they say, to eventually fund the £6 billion needed to provide the meters without consumers having to pay a penny.

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform is in favour of the scheme but has yet to agree with Ofgem, the industry regulator, how to make the meters available across the country at minimal cost.

As part of the plan to persuade the Government to approve the scheme, British Gas has commissioned research to show how much energy could be saved by people using their appliances at off-peak times of the day.

It estimated that smart metering could save each household £2.50 per year. Those opting for an off-peak tariff should enjoy far greater savings.

Any pricing, however, has yet to be decided as the meters are not likely to be introduced until 2010 at the earliest.

There are fears that if different companies, British Gas and Powergen, for example, installed meters in the same area, the cost of each sending an engineer to the same street could wipe out any saving to consumers.

A British Gas spokesman said: "This is our chance to really revolutionise the metering industry.

"If it is done properly, it could give the UK billions of pounds of benefits through cuts in energy use and better customer service."
By Harry Wallop
full article

Monday, 12 November 2007

Home green home

IT IS a quiet and picturesque parish in the Scottish Borders, but Ayton is on the cusp of a revolution in the way renewable energy can be used to run our homes.

Building work begins today on the town's Beanburn Road, to create what it is believed will be Europe's first hydrogen-fuelled, zero-carbon home.

It will be the house of the future - a home completely independent from the national grid, which will make Scotland a worldwide centre for excellence in renewables. It will be equipped with a wind turbine and solar cell and generate hydrogen from water.

Berwickshire Housing Association (BHA), which is behind the project, thinks it is the first of its kind in Europe and says it will make Scotland a world leader in the renewables industry.

The pilot will be in social housing, with a family recruited to live in it before it is completed in March 2008, but if the technology proves successful it could be rolled out to private homes
The scheme will see a photovoltaic - or solar power - system added to the house, along with a wind turbine. The energy produced by these will be used to electrolyse water to split it into oxygen and hydrogen.

The hydrogen will be stored in underground tanks - each of which will be capable of producing a month's worth of electricity and heat.

"In effect, you end up with a power station within the home," said Mr Brown.

full article

Sunday, 11 November 2007

The green home goes underground

BEETLEBANK, Earwig Green, does not sound the most attractive of addresses. But down a narrow, hedge-lined lane in the Weald of Kent, where half-timbered, tile-hung cottages and converted oast houses are the norm, is a stunning modern home of yellow brick, green oak, plate glass and slabs of crystalline schist rock... with a view down the upper Medway valley, with woods, fields grazed by cows, and the stately pile of Penshurst Place beyond.

“We are so lucky to live in this wonderful valley,” says the owner, John Morrison. John and his wife Helen, both 58, have just moved in after 18 months of building work overseen by their son, Robert, who acted as project manager.

It is not the first home on this site. The previous house was a wooden Red Cross first-aid hut, erected in the First World War, that had been added to over the years. “When the wind blew, there were so many holes in it that the building whistled,” says Robert, aged 31. “It was a pull-down job and start from scratch.” And what a scratch it was – 7m (23ft) deep, served by three trenches for geothermal heating that were 50m long and 1.8m deep.

“The earth below the frost line remains at a relatively constant temperature, which equates roughly to the average annual air temperature,” says Robert, who trained as an oceanographer. “Here that is 12C (53F). The trenches contain pipes in the form of loops that bring the water and antifreeze solution out and back to the house. A heat exchanger in the house heats the water for two storage tanks, one to service the underfloor heating pipes and one to provide hot water for the kitchen and bathrooms. Each night, Economy 7 electricity is used to heat the water to 60C or 65C, to prevent legionnaires’ disease, but by the time the showers are used in the day the hot water temperature will be around 40C, about right for a shower.”

Beetlebank is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so planning procedures meant that it was two years before the diggers were on site, in March 2006. “To get the living area my parents wanted,” Robert says, “we had to go into the ground; there are an awful lot of unknowns when you do that.”

Beetlebank is a lightweight steel structure with living space half above ground, half below. A central atrium brings light into the section below ground, which has a utility room, bedroom, media room, and an indoor pool and sauna full of natural light, supplemented by 100 low-energy LED lights. The pool has an underwater speaker. A cine-system can project TV or films on the wall. At ground level the living room has floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open onto a west-facing patio. The east side is all glass with a view towards Penshurst. There is an open fireplace on the north wall. The kitchen is open plan. On the south side of the atrium is the master bedroom with more great views. Another bedroom overlooks a water feature in the patio, across which is a two-man office.

Throughout, the flooring is of natural stone – crystalline oyster schist containing natural colours of blue and muted reds, with sparkling patches of fool’s gold. The same stone is used for the adjoining patio areas. If you walk over this flooring in bare or stockinged feet, you can feel the warmth rising up.

Find out how to build your own green home at


Most homes require a heating load of 8kW to 12kW. Installation costs about £1,000 per kW. Recouping the investment takes about ten years.

Ground-source heating systems can cut costs by 35 to 75 per cent, carbon dioxide emissions by 40 to 60 per cent, compared with a traditional fossil system.

The geothermal heating system for Beetlebank was designed by EarthEnergy, 01326 310650, . Robert Morrison: 020-7738 1557.

full article

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Green tax puts extra £1,000 on family cars

The Times has learnt that the review of low-carbon cars, commissioned by the Government and due to report in February, will recommend a range of tough measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Drivers who choose high-emission vehicles, including family saloons, will face much higher excise duties and a purchase tax. But grants are likely for people who opt for cars powered by alternative fuels and choose vehicles that are fitted with devices that reduce fuel consumption.

The Government has already raised vehicle excise duty to £300 for cars in Band G which produce more than 225g/km of CO2. The Band G rate is due to increase to £400 next year.

Department for Transport research found that the differential between each band would have to be increased to £300 to persuade most drivers to switch to lower-emission cars. The differential between bands E and F, which account for the majority of larger cars, is now £40.

The RAC Foundation said that the review should consider the impact on families of any tax changes.

Edmund King, the foundation’s director, said: “Many families need larger cars and it would be unfair to penalise them. Big increases in road tax could also be counterproductive because it can be greener for a low-mileage driver to keep running a larger car than switch to a hybrid.

“Professor King should beware of knee-jerk price signals based on the green agenda. Any changes must take effect slowly. People cannot be expected to change their cars overnight.”

full article

60 ways to go green

Want to know how you can reduce your carbon footprint and be more ecologically friendly as a family? As part of the Western Mail’s Environment Month, Friends of the Earth Cymru have come up with a 60-point guide to going green

The global warming carbon emissions we produce from our homes account for a massive 25% of total emissions in the UK. So everything we can do to reduce this will help

1. Just boil the amount of water you need for one cup of tea, rather than half a kettle full and save cash with each cuppa.

2. Use a lid on saucepans. In this way you’re saving energy and money with every meal.

3. Switch to energy-saving light bulbs. They cost a little more, but save up to 10 times the price over their lifetime and use at least two-thirds less energy than standard bulbs.

4. Turn off appliances. Switch off PCs and TVs when not in use. And never leave them on standby – appliances on standby wastes at least 6% of domestic electricity use in the UK.

5. Make sure your hot-water tank is dressed correctly. A British Standard lagging jacket costs £10 and the insulation for the pipe leading to the hot-water tank from the boiler costs £3 a metre. The yearly saving on your bill? Up to £20.

6. Produce your own energy by installing small-scale renewable energy systems, such as solar panels or wind turbines. Grants are available from the Low Carbon Building Programme. See if you’d like to find out more.

7. Save water. Did you know that having a shower instead of a bath can save about 40 litres of water? But avoid power showers as they can use more water than baths. Install spray taps for new sinks, as they use less water than normal taps.

8. Do all you can when it comes to household recycling. If you have a collection service – use it! Go to for lots of information on recycling in your area.

9. Avoid disposable batteries and use rechargeable ones. You can even use a solar-powered recharger – try for eco-gadgets.

10. Recycle mobile phones and printer cartridges. If you really need that new phone, find a home for the old one. Recycle through your local Oxfam shop or call ActionAidRecycling on 0845 3100 200.

11. Most high-street opticians will take your old glasses to give to people in need around the world.

12. Only print when absolutely necessary. If you do print, use both sides of the paper.

13. Candlelit dinners are not just for the romantics. Inside and out, try leaving the lights off to save electricity. Citronella or beeswax candles will also keep insects away.

14. Try a local grocer or a vegetable box delivery scheme instead of highly-packaged supermarket goods.

15. Buy refills. Using refills saves you money on the products you use in large quantities like laundry and dish-washing detergents.

16. Glass bottles can be re-used as many as 20 times. So use your milkman!

17. Buy green kitchen appliances. Choose fridges and washing machines which have the highest energy rating and the longest guarantees.

18. Close the fridge door. Each minute the fridge door is open takes three minutes of energy to cool down again. And don’t put hot or warm food straight into the fridge – allow it to cool down first.

19. Defrost your fridge regularly. It keeps it running efficiently and cheaply. If your fridge seems to frost up quickly, check the door seal.

20. Keep your freezer in a cool room or garage. It won’t need to work as hard, and so uses less energy.

21. Wash at low temperatures. Wash laundry loads on the low-temperature programme.

22. Dry your clothes outside. Use a washing line whenever it’s not raining, and you can enjoy the fresh smell that only comes from line-dried clothes.

23. Don't dry clothes on a radiator. It stops heat reaching the room, creates damp and encourages mould.

If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, there’s so much more you can do. Growing your own veg, making compost, helping wildlife and avoiding nasty chemicals can all help create a green haven just outside your door

24. Avoid energy-hungry patio-heaters. There are 2.3 million domestic patio heaters in the UK. Every one of them uses twice as much energy as a kitchen hob. For those evenings in the garden when it gets a little chilly, put a jumper on.

25. Collect rain water in water butts for using in the garden. A garden sprinkler uses as much water in an hour as a family of four uses in a day.

26. Make your own compost. Almost one third of our domestic waste could be composted, but ends up in landfill. Shop-bought compost for the garden costs about £2.50 for 20 litres. A heap in your back garden is absolutely free.

27. Get your children into gardening. Give them their own little veg patch and enjoy the cheap food. A bunch of radishes costs about 45p. A packet of 1,000 radish seeds costs about £1.

28. Grow hedges. For £25, you can buy 50 hedge plants that will give you 10m of thick hedge. Takes time to grow, but a lot nicer than a typical fencing panel which costs £25 for just under 2m, excluding the cost of posts and concrete, and wildlife and birds will love you for it.

29. Go peat-free. Avoiding peat-based composts means stopping the destruction of our peat bogs, which are invaluable habitats for a wealth of wildlife.

Going green doesn’t need to stop once you leave your front door

30. Use the car less. Cycle or walk instead and get some exercise. The average cost of a gym session is around £3.80, but the cost of pedalling fast to work is nothing.

31. Stick to 70mph where it says so – or keep under it. Not only is it illegal when you go over, but fuel costs can go up by as much as 4p a mile for small cars cruising at 80-85 mph on the motorway. According to the Slower Speeds Initiative, driving at 50mph instead of 70mph can reduce fuel consumption by a further 30%.

32. Use retreaded car tyres. You don’t need to always buy new. For more info, contact the Retread Manufacturers Association.

33. Start a walking bus group. Get the kids to class without having to do the school run twice a day.

34. Become a skipoholic. Rather than spend, spend, spend at the DIY store, look out for usable materials in local skips. Ask the owner of the contents before taking from any skips.

35. Libraries don’t just loan books. Lots of them hire out music cassettes and CDs, movie videos and DVDs, and even PlayStation games. Use your library to save yourself the cost of building up your own collection.

36. Shopping locally will cut out food miles and support your local economy. Large out-of-town supermarkets are driving the smaller local shops out of business so support your local shops and help the environment too.

37. Re-discover your local area. Holiday nearer home to avoid excessive travelling. You’ll be supporting the local economy, and discover a new appreciation for your area.

38. Avoid flying. It’s easy to get to anywhere in Europe by train. One call to Rail Europe on 0870 8371 371 will tell you all you need.


If you think going green is just for those who can afford it, think again. Lots of what you can do that’s good for the planet is good for your wallet too

39. Carry out a financial health check. Could your money be doing better financially and ethically? You could be banking with an ethical institution and getting as good a deal or better.

40. Do you really need it? Buy less and avoid waste. You can then spend more on things which you really need, and buy quality that will last.

41. Babies don’t need special baby food, especially not at up to a pound a jar. Buy a hand-held blender for £5 and purée ordinary, UK-grown organic food, such as potato, carrot, cauliflower and pear.

42. Give your time. Rather than searching for a present that may never be used, you could help with decorating, gardening or a big clear-out.

43. Cut the cost of cleaning. Add lemon juice (59p for 250 ml), soda crystals (51p a kilo) and bicarbonate of soda (44p for 200g) to your shopping basket to get your taps sparkling, dissolve grease, and shift stains on your work surfaces. All for £1.54.

44. Banish aerosols. Air fresheners fill your home with a toxic soup. Avoid wasting money and open a window instead.

45. Ditch disposable nappies. Switch to reusables. This could save you up to £600 in total. A set of 10 reusable nappies with simple Velcro fasteners costs about £70 new.

46. Save energy, save money. Use less energy in your home by improving insulation, draught-proofing, heating controls etc. Call the Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512 012 for free advice.

47. Pack your own lunch. Making your own sandwiches instead of buying over-packaged snacks could save you more than £4 a day.


There’s only so much that each of use can do in our daily lives. But there’s a lot more that our politicians can do that affects us all. Make sure the Government knows that you want a greener Wales

48. Campaign. Take part in letter writing campaigns, postcard campaigns, petitions, online actions – it does make a difference, honest!

49. Demand strong leadership on climate change. We need strong leaders to take tough decisions and come up with creative solutions. If Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ken Livingstone can do it, you can too, Rhodri Morgan.

50. Educate and inform. Ask the Welsh Assembly Government to launch a high-profile awareness raising campaign to improve understanding of climate change and the many solutions we can implement to reduce its impact.

51. Demand they spend our money wisely. The Assembly Government should move some of the expenditure from roads (50% of Welsh transport budget at present) to support better public transport, cycling and walking schemes.

52. Email you MP now. Ask your MP to take strong action on climate change by emailing them at


If there’s so much that each of us can do alone, there’s so much more we can achieve if we work as one

53. Join a Friends of the Earth local group. If you want to do more for the environment both locally and globally, join one of Friends of the Earth’s many local groups around Wales. For information on your nearest group phone 029 2022 9577 or visit

54. Have a clothes swapping party. Get together with you friends and swap clothes. This way you can get a whole new wardrobe for nothing and save the planet too!

55. Use your affiliations to magnify your input. As an employee, a union member, or a member of a club or society you’ll have more influence, so encourage your organisation to make itself heard.

56. Make your town a Transition Town. The transition network is all about people taking control of their own communities, and making a difference by working together. Find out more at

57. Join ‘Cymruaction’ at and become part of a powerful email campaign to protect the environment of Wales.

58. Share transport. Get together with work friends to car share.

59. Share tools and DIY equipment. Does every house in your street need a £70 lawnmower, a folding workbench for £30, and a steam cleaner at £100? Share with your neighbours, and it’ll do wonders for your community spirit too.

60. Join Friends of the Earth’s Big Ask Online March. Film yourself on a digital camera or a mobile phone and upload it at, and you’ll be joining Welsh luminaries Cerys Matthews, Goldie Lookin Chain and Huw Stephens and many others in asking the Government for a really strong climate change law. Or go along to The Point tonight at the Cardiff Swn Festival, where you can visit Friends of the Earth Cymru’s video stall and they’ll do the filming for you.

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Friday, 9 November 2007

Tony puts his energy into eco-friendly home

A RETIRED electrical engineer has started building an eco-friendly house that he claims will be "better than anything built in the UK before."
Tony Williams is building the property in Braybrook near Desborough.

It will include a number of energy-saving features so that it never has to be connected to mains electricity.

Mr Williams, who used to work in battery maintenance services, said: “I’m doing this partly out of long-term interest and also because I’m an electrical engineer.

“It’s going to be better than anything built in the UK before. We have to design the house not to lose any energy. We’re treating each wall as a separate wall and will do what’s best for that wall.

“The ultimate goal is to be off grid and not connected to the mains. We will have a fibre optic lighting system going down to the basement so that we use natural light as much as possible.

“We will also be collecting our own rain water and we’re getting quadruple glazed windows. It’s going to have air tight standards but we will be able to bring in fresh air using a heat exchanger, which will warm the floor during the day.

“The Government needs to build 15 million houses like this to have a chance of reducing energy use.”

Mr Williams expects to have the house built within a year and has undertaken around 90 per cent of the work himself.

Matthew Moden, branch manager for Skipton building society in Northampton, which has mortgaged the house, said: “The impact that homes have on the environment is a growing issue and attention is turning to ways to reduce that impact as much as possible.

“For someone like Mr Williams to take this to the next level and build his house in such an eco-friendly way is something we applaud and we’re here to help with funding for others that might follow his example.”
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Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Global warming 'cure' found by scientists

A "technical fix" that could stop global warming by taking billions of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and save the coral reefs from being destroyed by acidification has been developed by scientists.

The process could be used on an industrial scale to remove excess carbon dioxide caused by the burning of fossil fuels from the atmosphere in "a matter of decades rather than millennia," according to researchers from Harvard and Penn State universities.

The process relies on speeding up a process that happens naturally, whereby carbon dioxide dissolved in sea water breaks down volcanic rock and soils to make alkaline carbonic salts.

The water flows into the ocean and increases its alkalinity. Sea water containing more alkali can absorb more carbon, so more carbon from the atmosphere is "locked up" and becomes harmless bottom sediments, according to the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

Researchers estimate that it would take a cube of volcanic rock 10 kilometres across to return the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere to pre-industrial levels.

Unlike other proposed "technical fixes" that "sequester" carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, this one makes the sea more alkaline and therefore counteracts the other side effect of more carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere - the acidification of the sea.

The alkalinity of the sea has remained the same for 60 million years but the burning of fossil fuels has caused it to decrease.

It is feared that the drop in alkalinity will slow down the oceans' take up of carbon dioxide - which accounts for half the Earth's natural capacity for "scrubbing" carbon from the atmosphere.

It will also threaten animals whose bodies are made from calcium, which is alkaline, such as corals, shellfish and phytoplankton.

Scientists say the technique is adaptable to operation in remote areas, run on natural gas or geothermal energy.

"The technology involves selectively removing acid from the ocean in a way that might enable us to turn back the clock on global warming," said Kurt House, a graduate student at Harvard University.

However, Prof Andrew Watson of the University of East Anglia, who was one of the authors of a Royal Society paper on the acidification of the sea, said the "fundamental problem" with dissolving rock into the sea was "the immense scale on which you need to do it to make any impact."

He added: "We are producing 8 billion tons of CO2 a year and that takes the combined efforts of all coal mining, oil and gas production. If you want to make an impact on that you need a process of the same order of magnitude to make a difference.

"The local effect would be alkali pollution of the sea - but we are polluting the sea globally by putting carbon dioxide into the ocean. This method is expensive and therefore it's not the first line of attack for the global warming problem.

"The first is energy conservation, the second the substitution of fossil fuels with solar energy or biofuels, and the third - and above dissolving rock into the sea - comes carbon capture and storage from power plants. We know what technology is needed for that and engineering companies can do it."

Prof Watson, an expert on the carbon cycle and the oceans, said that dissolving rock was "worth considering" if the world got into a situation in which the oceans were dying because of acidity and we needed to alleviate the problem. "If you did it the right way you might be able to save the coral reefs from the worst effects. I would see it being done in areas where there may be another reason for doing it as well, such as this.

"There is no single 'silver bullet' for global warming."

Other "technical fixes" for global warming have concentrated on seeding the oceans with iron filings or nitrogen to stimulate algal growth in the hope that this would then die and take the carbon the plankton contained to the sea bed.
By Charles Clover
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Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Rainwater harvesting - green and cost effective

'It's crazy to be paying for water to be drained off, processed by the utility company and returned to you when the original water is fine to use for flushing your toilet and in your garden,' Bob Imrie tells me.

Instead, he channels the rain that lands on the roof of his three-bedroom home through a filter and into a tank sunk under his lawn. It is then pumped to his toilet, washing machine and an outside tap, enabling him to slash his water bill by at least 40 per cent and do his bit for the environment.

It also provides him with an emergency supply in the event of a hosepipe ban.

The Freerain ( system was already in place when Mr Imrie moved into his home in 2001, but typically costs £2,000 to £5,000 to retro fit in an existing property.

And with climate change experts warning that water shortages will become increasingly common, installing a system is likely to make a property far more attractive to potential buyers. In fact, it was the reason that Mr Imrie bought the house.

'I had driven past it before and not paid much attention. I had assumed the house, which is on an estate, was a standard new build. But then I read about it in a local newspaper and discovered that the properties had been built to a very high standard and designed to reduce their environmental impact.

"I suppose the property must have been more expensive as a result, but it didn't seem to be out of line with what I would have paid elsewhere.'

As a result of the rainwater harvesting system, and other eco technologies in his Nottinghamshire home, Mr Imrie's monthly water bill is just £7.

But despite the pressing need for water conservation, the industry is in its infancy in the UK, with only around 5,000 domestic properties benefiting from the technology. This is due, in part, to the fact that just 20 per cent of homes are metered and therefore most householders lack a financial incentive to cut water usage.

But Mr Imrie also believes that the Government is failing to promote the technology. 'It's mad that the Government hasn't made rainwater harvesting the standard for new builds,' he says.

It has also failed to offer grants to homeowners wishing to install the technology, unlike in Germany, where a mixture of carrot and stick has led to more than half a million rainwater systems being installed in homes and workplaces.

However, there is an additional financial advantage from installing the system that few people are aware of. 'About 5pc of your water rates cover drainage from your house,' Mr Imrie says.

'In my case, a pipe comes from downpipes off the gutter, goes into the tank and exits to the nearby dike, so if it's over full it flows into the dike That means I can get a reduction, but the water companies won't tell you that. It's only because I've worked in consumer law for years that I was aware of this,' says the former trading standards officer.

John Thorne retro-fitted a system to his four-bedroom property in Leicestershire last year and his only regret is that he didn't fit an even larger system.

He installed a number of green technologies, including solar panels, during the refurbishment, but it is rainwater harvesting that has impressed him the most. 'It is the most reliable and trouble free of the various systems we installed.'

As his wife is a keen gardener, he sank a 2,300 litre tank under his lawn but now wishes he had even more storage capacity. 'If I was doing it again I would have had a second tank just for the garden,' the 79-year-old says.

The Stormsaver ( system, which cost him around £8,000 in total, has halved his water bill, delivering a saving of £300 per year. As well as providing water for his garden, it is also used to flush his toilet and supply his washing machine.

Although it will take decades to recoup his investment, Mr Imrie believes that it still makes financial as well as environmental sense.

'I'm sure installing rainwater harvesting has increased the value of the property. So I think I would get my money back because of the growing interest in environmental issues.'

Jules Young, on the other hand, will be recouping her investment in about three years. The management consultant installed a Klargester Environmental/Envireau ( system during major refurbishment work to her semi-detached Victorian home last year.

'We originally looked at using it for the toilet but the economics didn't pay out because you would need two sets of pipes running through the house, which would take about 12 years to pay back, so we restricted it to the garden,' Miss Jones says.

As a result, her system cost less than £2,000 in total to install and involved little disruption. It also means that if the UK suffers another drought, her garden, which covers almost an acre, is likely to survive relatively unscathed.

'When we installed the system last summer there was actually a hosepipe ban in this area. Avoiding the full impact of a ban in the future was certainly one of our motivations. As we develop the garden over coming years it is going to be very useful.

"It would give us five to six hours of continuous watering, which, during an extremely long period of drought, would allow you to maintain your high specimen plants rather than your whole garden.'

Installing and maintaining the system has also been remarkably stress free.

'Even the builders found it straightforward and self-explanatory, even though they hadn't done it before,' she says. 'It's also easy to maintain as it's not difficult to get to the filter and remove any leaves.'

But is a rainwater harvesting system really necessary in the light of last summer's wash-out. 'Hot dry weather is sure to be a feature of the future, so unless you intend to grow palms this seems to be the way to go.'


Fact file

5 litres per day is the minimum amount of water we need to survive
120-220 litres is the typical domestic consumption per person
35 per cent is flushed down the toilet
12 per cent is used in washing machines
6 per cent is used in the garden
65 per cent of water consumption occurs in the home
5,000 UK homes use rainwater harvesting
500,000 homes and workplaces use the system in Germany

Useful links

The Environment Agency website has lots of advice on saving water at home, as well as a report on rainwater harvesting. Go to:

For data on average rainfall for various parts of the UK, go to

For details on suppliers of rainwater harvesting technologies, go to the sector's trade body, the UK Rainwater Harvesting Association at

For information on this and other environmental issues, go to the Centre for Alternative Technologies at You can also gain advice by calling 01654 705989

If you wish are interested in buying low-flush toilets, waterless urinals, water efficient taps and showers, and flow restrictors, go to
By David Waller
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10 steps to going green

Almost every business has an impact on the environment. Depending on your enterprise, keeping this 'footprint' to a minimum could either be a central part of what you

Start recycling

Paper makes up approximately 70% of all office waste in the UK. If you want to do something about this, it is easy to set up a recycling scheme in your office – not just for paper, but for metal, glass, print cartridges and other materials too. The website - - which lists telephone numbers for every local authority in the UK will help you put this into practice.

When printer manufacturer Lexmark carried out a survey of UK offices in 2004, it found that £230m worth of printed paper is wasted in British businesses every year; incredibly, a fifth of the 110 billion sheets printed (the equivalent of one million trees) are lost on desks, left on the printer or binned within five minutes.

Cutting down on waste is a challenge for every business. If you want to streamline yours, you could first look at your energy needs; are you switching off lights, unused plugs and using energy-efficient light bulbs. What about your water usage? Simple steps, such as putting a glass jar in the toilet tank (which reduces the amount of water used per flush) can make a difference. The best part is that your efforts won't just benefit the environment, but will reduce your energy and stationery bills too.

Buy green

If you are going to run your business from a building, such as an office or factory, you may need to buy in a lot of supplies: stationery, cleaning products, furniture, toilet paper, and hot drinks. You should try to deal with an ethical supplier, such as one like which only sells products that promote ecological sustainability, social justice and fair trade principles.

Cut the commute

Not such an issue if you're starting out from your kitchen table, but transport to work is worth considering if you intend to rent an office or begin hiring staff. Encouraging people to use bikes or public transport can help cut pollution and congestion. In the last 50 years, the number of private cars in the UK has risen from approximately two million to around 25 million, so anything you can do to slim the numbers – such as installing bicycle stands or organising a car pool scheme – can only be positive.

Use recycled stationery

The Environment Agency reports that every tonne of recycled paper saves 17 trees and 32,000 litres of water. As well as diverting paper from landfill sites and reducing the amount of chlorine used in manufacture, recycled paper is usually no more expensive to buy and of no discernibly different quality.

Choose ethical services

When you start up a business, you will need to choose a number of different services, such as bank accounts and insurance policies. Your ethics could influence these decisions in many ways. When you open an account for your ethical business, do you care how ethical your bank is? If not, you may only decide to look for the best interest rates and overdraft deal. But if you don't want to support a bank which may fund international arms deals or oil drilling, there are a number of ethical options out there.

Employ clean design and technology

If you plan to launch a new product, there are many ways to incorporate your ethics from the very start. If you want to check that every stage of your design process is as environmentally friendly as possible, you could talk to DesignTrack, a free and confidential service offered by the Envirowise agency. They will send over a design advisor to look at your idea, and suggest ways to reduce the environmental impact of your product over its entire lifecycle.

Use eco-friendly packaging

As a nation, we generate some 400m tonnes of waste annually, a figure which is growing by 3% each year. Much of this is product packaging, frequently plastic-based and hugely polluting.

Regular plastic can be replaced by either recycled plastics or compostable plastic alternatives. Envirowise has a free downloadable guide entitled: Unpack Those Hidden Savings: 120 Tips on Reducing Packaging Use and Costs.

by Paul Allen - full article

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Government should focus on greater energy efficiency

As the climate crisis finally has become a household concern, decision makers struggle with policy choices. Counteracting climate change has driven a search for alternative fuels rather than the conventional fossil fuels, oil, coal, and natural gas. These fossil fuels produce carbon dioxide, the major cause of global warming.

As an energy source, biofuels have won support and drawn criticism. The main biofuels in the U.S. today are ethanol made from corn and, to a lesser extent, biodiesel made from oilseeds (like soybeans, palm nuts, and rapeseed). Currently in development is cellulosic ethanol made from woody plants, switchgrass and organic wastes.

Rather than a green elixir, skeptics from both the left and the right argue that biofuel peril trumps biofuel promise. Cultivating, harvesting and refining crops into fuel requires energy, most of which comes from fossil fuels.

Critics argue that global biofuel production can raise food prices, spur fertilizer and pesticide use, shrink scarce water supplies, bring deforestation, reduce biodiversity, eliminate

wildlife habitat, lead to serious food shortages, increase poverty, further consolidation of corporate agribusiness and harm small farmers and rural communities. Besides, the potential total energy produced by America's ethanol plants amounts to only a tiny fraction of the overall energy market.

As a fuel source, moreover, ethanol contains just two-thirds as much energy as gasoline. And it takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than it actually contains. Whether corn or cellulosic, ethanol production will increase America's total energy consumption, not decrease it. Adding more ethanol and other crop-based fuels also can worsen air quality.

Oil dependence and global warming intersect in America's transportation sector. Cars and trucks account for two-thirds of our total oil use, and oil generates one-third of the U.S. carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming pollution.

Energy efficiency is the cleanest, cheapest and fastest way to cut oil demand. Raising fuel economy standards for our cars and light trucks, for example, saves money at the pump, cuts oil dependence and curbs global warming. A 3 percent increase in fuel economy standards for vehicles would save more gas than the entire 2006 production of corn ethanol.

Battery-electric, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles produce few toxic emissions or greenhouse gases and cause little disruption to the land, unlike the millions of acres required for the mass production of ethanol. Traveling on electricity generates no tailpipe pollution and costs 1-2 cents per mile compared to 10-15 cents per mile for traveling on gasoline or biofuels. One expert estimates that replacing the entire U.S. vehicle fleet with plug-in hybrids would decrease the nation's oil consumption by 70 percent.

Beyond the transportation sector, industrial, residential and commercial energy efficiency measures can cut energy usage and save money. This can be accomplished by increasing the energy efficiency standards applied to building design and construction, appliances, heating and cooling, lighting, computer applications and electric motors. A comprehensive energy program includes such conservation measures as improvements in recycling and mass transit.

When designing public policy to encourage the highest and best use of our energy resources, wind and sunlight, which can be harnessed for thermal, mechanical and electrical energy, meet the test. Plants, on the other hand, are problematic partly because they can be used for many non-fuel purposes: human nutrition, pharmaceuticals, clothing, chemicals, animal feed and building materials.

Most of the important global warming initiatives have come from the state and local levels. But America needs a national energy policy that moves us beyond our reliance on polluting fossil fuels.

With the technology and knowledge now available, we can begin to make the transformation. Besides, renewable energy creates more jobs per unit of energy produced and per dollar spent than fossil fuel technologies. The wind turbines and solar panels that produce green energy provide good-paying manufacturing jobs.

Lawmakers should back clean alternative fuels and stricter automobile and industrial emissions standards. Such a green energy policy means renewable energy and energy efficiency, both of which stabilize and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Government should institute a certification process for ensuring the production of alternative fuels in an ecologically and socially sustainable manner. Actually, any energy policy ought to be carefully managed and performance-based.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized a variety of research, development and utilization incentives for biofuels. We should now seriously invest in more sustainable energy sources like wind and solar. By harnessing the energy derived from natural sources like sunlight and wind, we can generate clean, safe, renewable, affordable and reliable electric power without contributing to global warming pollution.

Scharnau teaches U.S. history at Northeast Iowa Community College, Peosta. His publications include journal articles on labor history in Dubuque and Iowa. Readers may comment on this feature via e-mail at or by posting a comment below the article on
By Ralph Scharnau

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