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Osborne’s championing of HS2 proves his ideological objection to renewables

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George Osborne spoke with passion when asked by the BBC to give the “economic case” for HS2 yesterday. Alex Blackburne writes how the chancellor’s answer revealed his true colours when it comes to renewable energy.

The second phase of the government’s controversial high-speed rail network was revealed a little over 24 hours ago. The latest announcement said that the £32 billion project will connect Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and the East Midlands, with phase one joining Birmingham with London.

At a time when economic growth – and even more importantly, sustainable economic growth – is highly sought after, following the news last week that the UK’s economy shrank by 0.3% in the final quarter of 2012, HS2 marks a step forward in the government’s plans to revitalise its transport infrastructure, even if there have been some pretty strong and justified arguments against its development.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast yesterday morning, George Osborne waxed lyrical about the economic potential of the newly-unveiled plans. But reading deeper into his comments brings to light some confusing signals regarding the UK’s long-term prosperity.

He said, “I think [HS2] is the engine for growth in the North and the Midlands of this country; I think it’s going to create tens of thousands of jobs here in Manchester [and] across our great cities, and in the end as a country, you’ve got to make those long-term choices.

If our predecessors hadn’t decided to build the railways in the Victorian times or the motorways in the middle part of the 20th century, then we wouldn’t have those things today. So you’ve got to commit to these projects even though they’ll take many years.

And yes, they’re expensive, but they’re also an investment in an economy that will then create the money that will enable us to afford to NHS, the education system and so on.”

We’re so used to hearing the chancellor come out with such soundbites as “we’re all in this together” and that the government has “tough decisions” to make (see George Osborne Bingo) that when he said something about ensuring sustainable investment for the good of the UK’s future economy, one could be forgiven for being slightly taken aback.

This is George Osborne, who once described the environmental and renewable energy sectors as an “environmental Taliban. George Osborne, who has championed an inherently short-term ‘dash for gas’ over clean and limitless energy sources. And George Osborne, who Blue & Green Tomorrow named as one of the four horsemen of the climate apocalypse last year – the people negatively affecting the climate change debate from their powerful platforms in the public eye.

What’s sad, though, is that Osborne clearly has an ideological agenda against renewable energy. His comments about HS2 prove that he gets the notion of green growth and investing for the long-term to benefit people, the planet and prosperity. Weaning ourselves off dirty, expensive fossil fuels in favour of cleaner sources of energy is possibly the most important facet of this.

An undercover Greenpeace investigation in November recorded climate sceptic MP Peter Lilley saying that the chancellor “doesn’t need persuading” when it comes to launching an anti-wind revolt within government, and his autumn statement a month later did little in dispelling this view.

Mr Osborne, it is highly debatable whether our economy is healing. What is certain is that our planet is hurting and we needed you to do so much more”, we wrote at the time.

Despite displaying opposing political allegiances, Labour leader Ed Miliband and Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith both warned last year that potential investors could lose interest in the UK if the squabbling, uncertainty and instability within government continued.

The publication of the energy bill went some way to reinstalling confidence in the green economy, but its lack of a decarbonisation target and its heavy reliance on gas not only undermines some of the incredible work being done in the renewables industry, but also makes the UK’s job harder in terms of meeting legally-binding carbon reduction targets.

Osborne should be applauded for wanting the UK to make long-term, sustainable economic choices. But sadly, he’s so far ignored what the public wants and done his best to reject one of the biggest growth industries we have at our disposal.

Further reading:

Greenpeace investigation uncovers Tory anti-wind strategy

We need a credible green innovation growth strategy

The autumn statement fails to recognise our planet is hurting

Why policy is the biggest stumbling block of all for renewable energy

The Guide to Limitless Clean Energy

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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