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The president, the 113th congress and climate change



Twelve years ago today, the US Supreme Court gave a ruling that declared George W Bush the country’s 43rd president. Now that the dust has settled on the 2012 election, Charlie Wood writes how it is clear that practically nothing has changed when it comes to the environment.

The reign of Barack Obama has not been entirely bad for the environmental lobby, although many would take exception to that statement. The figure of $90 billion set aside for energy efficiency initiatives in the 2009 stimulus package was oft-cited by Republicans during the election cycle to underline profligacy on the administration’s part. Although a small portion of this money has clearly been badly invested (see Solyndra) the vast majority has gone towards initiatives like grid modernisation and home energy improvements – projects supported in principal by both major parties but only ‘owned’ by one.

There is a distinct sense however that the president’s environmental efforts may be curbed to a large extent during his second term. There was some furore over the lack of a climate change question in any of the three presidential debates, and although I have defended this strategy, I don’t believe it bodes well for members of the electorate who urge further action.

Obama has even admitted since the election that this is not considered a priority, saying, “There’s no doubt that to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices […] if the message is somehow we are going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s going to go for that. I won’t go for that.”

This statement prompted a withering response from the generally Obama-leaning Slate magazine, and seems to provide some insight into the mind-set of the president going into his second term – he’s done his bit for climate change at some political expense, now he wants to leave an economic legacy. For a pragmatist like myself, there is some merit to be seen in this way of thinking and, politically, there is little for Obama to gain and much to lose in going greener.  He personally will never again run for office, but by forcing through green initiatives he would forfeit vital political capital to a belligerent GOP controlled house

There will however be no shortage of voices urging him on both within his own ranks and from the media, and members of the new intake could adopt climate change as an issue to boost their political profiles and ambitions. This may seem like a rather craven way at looking at such an important cause, but the reality is that although the general consensus within the Democratic Party is that climate change is real, it is often the case that speaking out does not play well with local electorates (particularly in the South).

Politicians justify their tailored positions by saying if they are not elected they really can do nothing, but one particular state stands out for its commitment to energy efficiency and the profile of its newest members of congress. That state is Massachusetts; now represented by senator-elect Elizabeth Warren and congressman-elect Joe Kennedy III, RFK’s grandson.

Warren is in equal measures revered and loathed across the US political classes for her contribution to the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP) during her time as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel in the aftermath of the world financial crisis. Her expertise in the field of economics gives her a particular perspective, and in her campaign literature she went over and above the party line regarding energy and the environment, citing the onus on the people of Massachusetts to “protect our environment to support jobs and economic growth in the tourism industry” as well as highlighting that “renewable energy competes with old energies that get lots of special breaks from Washington”.

She also declines to mention the oxymoronic anomaly ‘clean coal’, nor champions the ‘all of the above approach’ that has become the de facto moderate position – she specifically advocates producing energy using wind, solar and hydropower.

The name Kennedy evokes many images, among them politics and Massachusetts. In January, Joseph P Kennedy III will become the umpteenth member of the Kennedy family to take a seat on Capitol Hill, and his surname will guarantee a hearing for any issues he wishes to explore. Kennedy’s campaign literature includes a well-written, substantive, frankly wonkish position paper entitled A Comprehensive Energy Policy for the 21st Century. Transportation policy, offshore wind energy and conservation and efficiency, among other things, are addressed in detail (it really is comprehensive, and unless I missed it, he doesn’t mention clean coal either).

These positions on energy and the environment may not seem radical by European standards, but the US is a country that loves its big cars and air-conditioners. Keeping climate change on the agenda is an incredibly tough sell, but the next two to four years may not be completely wasted if these high-profile newcomers can combine their efforts to do what they clearly believe is in the best interests of their state and their country.

There will be very little help from the other side of the aisle – there are only so many John McCains, and even he is playing more and more to his base now that his presidential ambitions are a memory.

A glance at the campaign literature of Ted Cruz, possibly the highest profile GOP rookie, exemplifies the Republican stance of “Drill, baby. Drill!” and this policy indicates that whatever the Democrats do will be purely symbolic given the state of gridlock in Washington.

They have to try, though.

Charlie Wood is a 30-year-old recent graduate of English literature at Leeds Metropolitan University, from Fleetwood, Lancashire, and West Cork, Ireland. He intends to pursue a career in politics and writing.

Further reading:

It’s the election, stupid: why the US is lost to a serious debate about climate… for now

Obama v Romney: the sustainability debate rages on

From ‘dirty power plants’ to Arctic oil drilling: can the US be sustainable under Romney?


How to Build An Eco-Friendly Home Pool



eco-friendly pool for home owners
Licensed Image from Shutterstock - By alexandre zveiger

Swimming pools are undoubtedly one of the most luxurious features that any home can have. But environmentally-conscious homeowners who are interested in having a pool installed may feel that the potential issues surrounding wasted water, chemical use and energy utilized in heating the water makes having a home swimming pool difficult to justify.

But there is good news, because modern technologies are helping to make pools far less environmentally harmful than ever before. If you are interested in having a pool built but you want to make sure that it is as eco-friendly as possible, you can follow the advice below. From natural pools to solar panel heating systems, there are many steps that you can take.

Choose a natural pool to go chemical free

For those homeowners interested in an eco-friendly pool, the first thing to consider is a natural pool. Natural swimming pools utilise reed bed technology or moss-filtration to naturally filter out dirt from the water. These can be combined with eco-pumps to allow you to have a pool that is completely free from chemicals.

Not only are traditional pool chemicals potentially harmful to the skin, they also mean that you can contaminate the area around the pool if chemical-filled water leaks or is splashed around. This can be bad for your garden and the environment general.

It will be necessary to work with an expert pool builder to ensure that you have the expertise to get your natural pool installed properly. But the results with definitely be worth the effort and planning that you have to put in.

Avoid concrete if possible

The vast majority of home pools are built using concrete but this is far from ideal in terms of an eco-friendly pool for a large number of reasons. Concrete pools are typically built and then lined to stop keep out any bacteria. This is theoretically fine, except that concrete is porous and the lining can be liable to erode or break which can allow bacteria to enter the pool.

It is much better to use a non-porous material such as fibreglass or carbon ceramic composite for your pool. Typically, these swimming pools are supplied in a one-piece shell rather than having to be built from scratch, ensuring a bacteria-free environment. These non-porous materials make it impossible for the water to become contaminated through bacteria seeping into the pool by osmosis.

The further problem that can arise from having a concrete pool is that once this bacteria begins to get into the pool it can be more difficult for a natural filtration system to be effective. This can lead to you having to resort to using chemicals to get the pool clean.

Add solar panels

It is surprising how many will go to extreme lengths to ensure that their pool is as eco-friendly as possible in terms of building and maintaining it but then fall down on something extremely obvious. No matter what steps you take with the rest of your pool, it won’t really be worth the hassle if you are going to be conventionally heating your pool up, using serious amounts of energy to do so.

Thankfully there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that your pool is heated to a pleasant temperature while causing minimal damage to the environment. Firstly, gathering energy using solar panels has become a very popular way to reduce consumption of electricity as well as decreasing utility bills. Many businesses offer solar panels specifically for swimming pools.

Additionally, installing an energy efficient heat pump or boiler to work in conjunction with your solar panels can be hugely beneficial.

Cover it!

Finally, it is worth remembering that there are many benefits to investing in a pool cover. When you cover your pool you increase its heat retention which stops you from having to power a pump or boiler to keep it warm. This works in conjunction with the solar panels and eco-friendly heating system that you have already had installed.

Additionally, you cover helps to keep out dirt and other detritus that can enter the pool, bringing in bacteria. Anything that you can do to keep bacteria out will be helpful in terms of keeping it clean.

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4 Ways To Get a Green House in 2018




green house and homes
Featured Image From Shutterstock - By

Demand for green houses is surging. In 2020, almost 20% of all homes on the market will be green.

If you would like to buy a green home, this is a great time to look into it. Prices are still pretty low and there are a lot more financing options available than there were right after the recession.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, now could be a very good time to make the move! A number of factors in the housing market right now mean that you might be able to afford your dream home. Although in many parts of the country house prices are still rising, if you do your research and plan wisely, there are lots of good schemes to help you get your foot on the property ladder, or trade up to the house you’ve always wanted.

Interest Rates and Stamp Duty

Although the Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.25% recently, they remain very low, which is good news if you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage. However, rates may not stay low and it’s predicted that there’ll be a further rate rise during 2018, so don’t wait too long. Another factor that’s going to help first time buyers in particular is the Chancellor’s decision to abolish stamp duty for first timers purchasing properties for under £300,000.

Different options

For many people looking to buy a green home, raising a deposit of between 5% and 20% may not be a realistic option, in which case there are a growing number of schemes to help. Increasingly popular are shared ownership schemes, through which the buyer pays a percentage of the full value of the property (typically between 25% and 75%) and the local council or a housing association pays the rest, and takes part ownership. This is suitable for buyers who may struggle to meet the up-front costs of buying outright. There will often be a service charge or management fees to pay in addition to the mortgage. The Government’s Help To Buy scheme is a good place to start looking if you’re interested in this option. This scheme is now available to people looking to buy green homes too.

ISA Options

If you’re still saving for a deposit, another scheme is the Help to Buy ISA. You can get a 25% boost to your savings on amounts up to £200 per month with this scheme. It’s only open to first time buyers and you can claim a maximum of £3000.

Other costs

Green home buyers are going to run into a number of other ancillary costs, most of which are common to other homebuyers.

When calculating how much you can afford, it’s vitally important to remember that buying a house comes with a whole host of other costs. Depending on the cost of the property that you’re buying, you may have to pay stamp duty of anywhere between 1% and 5%. There’ll be estate agents fee if you’re also selling a property, although there are a wide range of online estate agents operating such as Purple Bricks or Right Move that have lower fees than traditional high street companies. Conveyancing costs to a solicitor can add another £1000-£3000 and you may need to take out life insurance and hire a moving firm.

There are other initial costs such as, fixing parts of the home that aren’t upto your taste. Getting new furniture to fill up all the new-found space in your new home. If you are moving away from the city, you need to consider the cost of transportation as well, as it can take up quite a lot over time. Take your time, do your homework and shop around and soon you could be getting the keys to your perfect home.

I hope this article was useful for you to learn more about the basics that you need to be aware of before you start the process of buying your first home. If you have any doubts with regards to this, let us know through the comments and we will be glad to help you out. If you have any suggestions regarding how we can improve the article, let us know them through the comments as well for us to improve.

Do you have any other reservations against buying your first home? Do you see your house as an asset or a liability? Do you think it is important for everyone to get themselves a new home? Let us know through the comments.

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