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Huhne successor must ‘rebuild trust’ in energy policies

Industry representatives have praised former energy secretary Chris Huhne for his work in pushing the environmental agenda forward. Alex Blackburne writes about how his replacement, Ed Davey, will have to be strong-willed to overcome the ‘anti-green’ ethos in Government.

Chris Huhne’s decision to resign as energy and climate change secretary has been met with regret by most in the sector, who claim that the Eastleigh MP should be “commended” for his efforts.  

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Industry representatives have praised former energy secretary Chris Huhne for his work in pushing the environmental agenda forward. Alex Blackburne writes about how his replacement, Ed Davey, will have to be strong-willed to overcome the ‘anti-green’ ethos in Government.

Chris Huhne’s decision to resign as energy and climate change secretary has been met with regret by most in the sector, who claim that the Eastleigh MP should be “commended” for his efforts.

Huhne quit his post on Friday following confirmation from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that he would be charged with perverting the course of justice, after allegedly persuading his ex-wife to take points on her license on his behalf, in 2003.

But clearly we should all reserve judgement as we still retain the principle, in this country, that a person is innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.

Upon learning that he would be charged, Huhne, speaking outside his London flat, said, “The CPS’ decision today is deeply regrettable.

I am innocent of these charges and I intend to fight this in the courts and I am confident that a jury will agree”.

After occupying the role for just over 20 months, Huhne has received significant acclaim for his work in the sector.

Juliet Davenport, CEO and founder of Good Energy, the UK’s only 100% renewable electricity supplier, was amongst those to applaud his efforts.

Whatever the terms of his departure, few can deny that Chris Huhne has really shaken up the energy debate over the last two years”, she said.

He has certainly been successful in driving that agenda forward”.

Friends of the Earth’s executive director, Andy Atkins, also reserved praise for the Lib Dem MP.

Chris Huhne has championed the environment in an administration that’s shown little enthusiasm for keeping David Cameron’s pledge to be the greenest Government ever.

He should be commended for insisting on tougher climate targets and fighting for a Green Investment Bank – but his department’s incompetent handling of solar cuts has put 29,000 jobs at risk”.

Atkins is referring to the Government’s proposed cuts to its feed-in tariff (FiT), a scheme that sees individuals rewarded for their use of renewable energy.

The solar sector responded angrily to the suggested slashes, with the High Court eventually ruling them to be legally flawed.

Huhne’s replacement as energy and climate change secretary is fellow Lib Dem Ed Davey, who was previously minister for employment relations, consumer and postal affairs.

David Hunt, director at renewable energy company Eco Environments, highlighted an opportunity for Davey to stop the Government’s appeal against the FiT ruling.

Such a move would send out a positive message to Britain’s beleaguered renewable energy that the Government does not want to send hundreds of solar businesses to the wall and throw tens of thousands of workers on to the employment scrapheap”, he said.

It was always going to be hard for Chris Huhne to make such a decision, but there is no reason why his successor should not make this the first priority in his in-tray and give a much needed shot in the arm to an industry which offers so much exciting potential for Britain’s economy”.

Meanwhile, chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, Gaynor Hartnell, called for Davey to “make rebuilding investor trust and confidence in the Government’s renewable energy policies [his] number one priority”.

Friends of the Earth’s Andy Atkins said Davey “must stand firm against George Osborne’s anti-green agenda and make the case that protecting our environment is a way to boost not hinder our economic recovery”.

One of the ways the Government is planning to do this is through the foundation of a Green Investment Bank – something that is currently in the pipeline.

Through FiT, and policies like the Green Deal, Chris Huhne had established himself as a noted proponent for environmental progression.

The circumstances under which he leaves his post are therefore unfortunate given his admirable contribution to UK energy policy.

As secretary of state he has certainly been successful in asking the right questions about the way we source and use energy”, reflected Good Energy’s Juliet Davenport.

In recent months, his particularly staunch defence of the role of renewable energy in meeting those challenges has been welcome.

It is vital that [Ed Davey] keeps the momentum behind energy market reform going.

But that has to be matched with a willingness to listen on things like the need for a more decentralised energy market, where many proposals still fall short”.

Davey has the chance to step up the UK’s green agenda, but it remains to be seen as to whether he’ll have the same kind of impact as Huhne did.

You can help make his job a lot easier by advocating renewable energy in your home.

Get in touch with Good Energy, who can make your home’s energy 100% renewable.

Picture source: Dave Radcliffe

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Environment

Road Trip! How to Choose the Greenest Vehicle for Your Growing Family

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Licensed Image by Shutterstock - By Mascha Tace -- https://www.shutterstock.com/g/maschatace

When you have a growing family, it often feels like you’re in this weird bubble that exists outside of mainstream society. Whereas everyone else seemingly has stability, your family dynamic is continuously in flux. Having said that, is it even possible to buy an eco-friendly vehicle that’s also practical?

What to Look for in a Green, Family-Friendly Vehicle?

As a single person or young couple without kids, it’s pretty easy to buy a green vehicle. Almost every leading car brand has eco-friendly options these days and you can pick from any number of options. The only problem is that most of these models don’t work if you have kids.

Whether it’s a Prius or Smart car, most green vehicles are impractical for large families. You need to look for options that are spacious, reliable, and comfortable – both for passengers and the driver.

5 Good Options

As you do your research and look for different opportunities, it’s good to have an open mind. Here are some of the greenest options for growing families:

1. 2014 Chrysler Town and Country

Vans are not only popular for the room and comfort they offer growing families, but they’re also becoming known for their fuel efficiency. For example, the 2014 Chrysler Town and Country – which was one of CarMax’s most popular minivans of 2017 – has Flex Fuel compatibility and front wheel drive. With standard features like these, you can’t do much better at this price point.

2. 2017 Chrysler Pacifica

If you’re looking for a newer van and are willing to spend a bit more, you can go with Chrysler’s other model, the Pacifica. One of the coolest features of the 2017 model is the hybrid drivetrain. It allows you to go up to 30 miles on electric, before the vehicle automatically switches over to the V6 gasoline engine. For short trips and errands, there’s nothing more eco-friendly in the minivan category.

3. 2018 Volkswagen Atlas

Who says you have to buy a minivan when you have a family? Sure, the sliding doors are nice, but there are plenty of other options that are both green and spacious. The new Volkswagen Atlas is a great choice. It’s one of the most fuel-efficient third-row vehicles on the market. The four-cylinder model gets an estimated 26 mpg highway.

4. 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid

While a minivan or SUV is ideal – and necessary if you have more than two kids – you can get away with a roomy sedan when you still have a small family. And while there are plenty of eco-friendly options in this category, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid is arguably the biggest bang for your buck. It gets 38 mpg on the highway and is incredibly affordable.

5. 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel

If money isn’t an object and you’re able to spend any amount to get a good vehicle that’s both comfortable and eco-friendly, the 2017 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Diesel is your car. Not only does it get 28 mpg highway, but it can also be equipped with a third row of seats and a diesel engine. And did we mention that this car looks sleek?

Putting it All Together

You have a variety of options. Whether you want something new or used, would prefer an SUV or minivan, or want something cheap or luxurious, there are plenty of choices on the market. The key is to do your research, remain patient, and take your time. Don’t get too married to a particular transaction, or you’ll lose your leverage.

You’ll know when the right deal comes along, and you can make a smart choice that’s functional, cost-effective, and eco-friendly.

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