Sunday, 9 May 2010

Cameron stresses Tory-Lib Dem agreement on low carbon economy

Conservative leader David Cameron has flagged up the desire to build a low carbon economy as one of the areas of common ground between his party and the Liberal Democrats as he seeks to woo them in an attempt to form an effective coalition Government. The environmental industries might take hard from the nod in their direction, though will be cautious until it is seen how rhetoric translates into policy. In the UK's general election on Thursday, the Conservatives won the most seats in Parliament, but failed to gain an outright majority, resulting in a hung parliament. As the results became apparent, the horse trading began with the leaders of the two largest parties both attempting to persuade the third that they would be best off siding with them. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said it was for the Conservatives, as the largest party, to have the first shot at 'proving it's capable of seeking to govern in the national interest'. David Cameron said he would make an 'open and comprehensive offer' to the Lib Dems while Labour's Gordon Brown, still technically Prime Minister until the new Government is formed, said it was right and proper that the other two parties were given all the time they needed to see if they could reach a deal, but that he would be happy to speak to either leader about common ground should they fail toform a coalition.
Sam Bond
Source: edie newsroom

'Building Green' for Environmental Sustainability

~ Frost & Sullivan Green Building Congress Malaysia 2010 will be held on June 9, 2010 at Kuala Lumpur ~

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, May 7 /PRNewswire/ -- "Green building" is a term which refers to a better way of designing and constructing buildings in an environmental friendly way. Green buildings consume less energy and resources. With lower operating costs they provide opportunity for better return on investment. There is growing confidence that investment in Green Building and sustainable construction technologies not only make environmental sense but economic sense too.
Realizing this early, Malaysia launched its Green Building Mission three years ago and more recently the Green Building Index. It is important that the industry responds to these initiatives. With a focus on green design, materials, construction, retrofit and maintenance of buildings, Frost & Sullivan will host the Green Building Congress Malaysia 2010. The summit will be held on June 9, 2010 at the Sime Darby Convention Center.
The summit will bring together the best minds, technologies and practices in the industry to share knowledge on latest trends and technologies of green buildings, while offering a glimpse into the assessment methods of green buildings by regulators.
Elaborating on the growing importance of green sustainability in building construction, Satish Lele, vice-president for the Industrial Technologies practice at Frost & Sullivan says, "Energy efficiency and demand from customers are seen as the topmost drivers for green solutions in Malaysia. There is now growing confidence that investment in green building and sustainable construction technologies will bring about not only environmental benefits but economic benefits too. By announcing the RM1.5 billion fund for green technology adoption in its 2010 budget and tax reliefs for owners and buyers of GBI certified buildings, Malaysia has already taken a leap in positioning itself as a regional leader in green buildings. It is thus ideal that this congress on Green Buildings is to be held in Malaysia."
The summit will be graced by the Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water, Y.B. Dato' Sri Peter Chin Fah Kui. Delivering the opening address, he will discuss the Malaysian government's vision and role in promoting the Green Building Mission, which was launched to raise awareness and promote efforts in achieving sustainable building and construction in the country. He will elaborate on the success to-date that the initiative has seen since its launch in March 2007.
The summit is supported by Nippon Paint Malaysia, a strong advocate of environmental sustainability and leader in environmentally friendly paint products. Dr Richard Seow, CTO of Nippon SEA Group will present the keynote address titled, "Building Green for Environmental Sustainability". In his keynote he will outline the benefits that organizations can reap through embracing sustainable building solutions and share the numerous methods in providing solutions to the industry and government in addressing climate change.
Other topics of discussion at the congress will include, tapping the market potential in green buildings, Green Building Certification – policies, guidelines and benefits along with a success story that demonstrates, successfully tapping green initiatives to attain financial gains.
Aside from these stand-alone presentations, the congress will break into three concurrent tracks - Green Buildings Design, Smart Energy Buildings and Green Buildings Material – post lunch. Each of these tracks will carry four separate sessions that will discuss the relevant sub-topics via presentations from builders, construction luminaries and Frost & Sullivan senior analysts. The choice tracks are open for delegate registration along with the main congress registration.
For a detailed program agenda / to register for the congress, please visit or e-mail your requests to
BASF is the bronze sponsor for this congress. The Malaysian Reserve is the official business newspaper, ZDNet Asia is the official online media partner, while PRNewswire is the official newswire. Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (PAM) and Green Building Index (GBI) are the supporting associations for this congress.
About Frost & Sullivan
Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, partners with clients to accelerate their growth. The company's TEAM Research, Growth Consulting and Growth Team Membership empower clients to create a growth-focused culture that generates, evaluates and implements effective growth strategies. Frost & Sullivan employs over 45 years of experience in partnering with Global 1000 companies, emerging businesses and the investment community from 40 offices on six continents. For more information about Frost & Sullivan's Growth Partnerships, visit
Neethiya Sadagopal
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House, Senate Advance Energy Efficiency Legislation News
Both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate on Thursday moved forward on legislation to improve energy efficiency in the United States.
The House passed a new program called "Home Star" that will help homeowners reduce their energy bills through energy efficiency investments and at the same time help provide sustainable jobs for construction workers.
The House bill establishes a new program that provides grants to homeowners for weatherizing their homes. Two paths are provided:
a "silver star" path that has $250-$1,500 incentives for a variety of specific energy saving measures, up to a maximum of $3,000 per home, and
a "gold star" path that provides incentives of $3,000-$8,000 per home for comprehensive packages of energy-saving measures (incentives increase as energy savings increase).
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that this bill will generate over 160,000 sustainable jobs and reduce consumer energy bills by more than $1 billion annually.
On the Senate side, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported out a set of amendments that adopt new consensus minimum efficiency standards on a variety of products.
The Senate bill adopts consensus minimum efficiency standards on residential air conditioners, furnaces and heat pumps, pole-mounted outdoor lights (e.g., street lights), drinking water dispensers, hot food holding cabinets (used to serve food in hospitals), and hot tubs. ACEEE estimates that after these standards have been fully implemented, they will save about as much energy annually as is now consumed by the state of Nebraska.
"Recent events at the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico and the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia show some of the significant human and environmental costs associated with our traditional energy sources," noted Steven Nadel, Executive Director of ACEEE. "We are happy to see both the House and Senate advancing legislation that will reduce the need for these traditional energy sources by promoting our cheapest and cleanest energy resource--energy efficiency," he continued.
The House effort has been led by Representatives Peter Welch (D-VT), Edward Markey (D-MA), and Vern Ehlers (R-MI). The Senate effort has been led by Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

Bill Gates pays for ‘artificial’ clouds to beat greenhouse gases

Ben Webster, Environment Editor

The first trials of controversial sunshielding technology are being planned after the United Nations failed to secure agreement on cutting greenhouse gases.
Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire, is funding research into machines to suck up ten tonnes of seawater every second and spray it upwards. This would seed vast banks of white clouds to reflect the Sun’s rays away from Earth.
The British and American scientists involved do not intend to wait for international rules on technology that deliberately alters the climate. They believe that the weak outcome of December’s climate summit in Copenhagen means that emissions will continue to rise unchecked and that the world urgently needs an alternative strategy to protect itself from global warming.
Many methods of cooling the planet, collectively known as geoengineering, have been proposed. They include rockets to deploy millions of mirrors in the stratosphere and artificial trees to suck carbon dioxide from the air. Most would be prohibitively expensive and could not be deployed for decades.

However, a study last year calculated that a fleet of 1,900 ships costing £5 billion could arrest the rise in temperature by criss-crossing the oceans and spraying seawater from tall funnels to whiten clouds and increase their reflectivity.
Silver Lining, a research body in San Francisco, has received $300,000 (£204,000) from Mr Gates. It will develop machines to convert seawater into microscopic particles capable of being blown up to the cloud level of 1,000 metres. This would whiten clouds by increasing the number of nuclei.
The trial would involve ten ships and 10,000sq km (3,800sq miles) of ocean. Armand Neukermanns, who is leading the research, said that whitening clouds was “the most benign form of engineering” because, while it might alter rainfall, the effects would cease soon after the machines were switched off.
Other types of geoengineering, such as mimicking volcanoes by using aircraft to spray reflective sulphate particles in the stratosphere, would have much longer effects on weather patterns.
Stephen Salter, Emeritus Professor of Engineering Design at the University of Edinburgh, said that there was no need to wait for regulations because the trials would not add chemicals to the atmosphere. But Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the Government, said that experiments with potential consequences beyond national borders needed international regulations. He told The Times: “I do not see any geoengineering solution which does not have unintended consequences or is not far too expensive.”

Presses roll for cheaper solar panels

Ben Marlow

THE solar power industry could be saved ... by printing presses.
British scientists claim to have invented an electrical material that can be used like an ink and printed on to panels by the presses that produce newspapers.
Omar Cheema, co-founder and chief executive of Solar Press, the company behind the technology, claims the breakthrough could be the key to getting round the industry’s notoriously high costs and make clean, cheap power available to billions of the world’s poorest people.
“Existing solar technologies are very expensive because they require huge investment of hundreds of millions of pounds,” he said. “Many people cannot afford it." So what is the secret that Cheema and his colleagues from Imperial College London have unlocked?

Their “ink” is made from three electrical materials, which are dissolved in a solvent. It can be deposited on to panels by a high-speed printing machine. When passed through an oven, the solvents evaporate, leaving behind circuits that react with sunlight to generate electrical currents. The result is a much cheaper solar cell that is more durable and has a similar density to water.
“Most printing factories have idle time when the presses aren’t being used. All we need to do is rent the spare capacity for an hourly fee,” said Cheema. “This means we can produce the cells almost anywhere in the world at short notice, and distribution costs will be minimal.”
If it works, the technology could be a shot in the arm for the solar industry. Today it costs about 12p per kilowatt hour to generate power from conventional solar technology — three times more than coal.
Cheema estimates that his solar ink could reduce costs by as much as 80%, opening up the solar energy market to billions of people in the developing world.
It seems hard to believe that the firm has succeeded where so many others have failed.
Solar Press certainly has ambitious plans. Cheema claims that the firm will be able to produce between 200 and 400 square metres of solar cells in one hour and 24,000 square metres of solar panels in 12 days.
That puts it on course to produce nine to ten gigawatts a year, roughly equal to the current output of the solar power industry.
The solar photovoltaic and thin-film technologies that today dominate the market rely on expensive raw materials that must be prepared in a vacuum at high temperature.
The Carbon Trust, the state-backed investment group, invested £1.5m in Solar Press a year ago to fund its spinout from Imperial College. Cheema is looking for several million more to ramp up production.
“We believe we can be profitable by the end of next year,” he said. “Other solar producers require hundreds of millions investment, but we need only $10m [£6.8m] in total before investors start to see a return. That’s because there is no capital outlay.”
The company will start by selling solar lights to the 800m households worldwide that have no electricity.

Five easy ways to make your company greener

Tom Bawden

IT’s fashionable these days for big companies to talk about how “green” they are. Small firms do it less. Indeed some are only now waking up to the demands from clients, the public and the government.
The Institute of Directors estimates that small and medium-sized businesses can slash energy bills by 20%, and save more than £1 billion a year, by taking a range of fairly mundane steps. Below are five examples from real businesses.
The law firm
The office coffee machine is a source of refreshment, gathering point for gossip and, in the case of one London law firm, an extraordinary fount of rubbish.

Shelley Rowley of Speechly Bircham worked out that the firm went through 317,500 paper and plastic cups in a year, which is equivalent to 738 for each of its 430 workers.
“I couldn’t believe how many disposable cups we were getting through,” she said. “I took my findings to the finance director and said I’d like to remove disposable cups and ask people to use their own mugs.”
Staff have been extremely responsive and the bring-your-mug-to-work scheme cut the group’s annual £14,355 bill for cups.
The climbing centre
Staff at the Castle Climbing Centre in Stoke Newington, north London, do not just scale walls — they also do dumpsterdiving.
Sorting through rubbish to pick out recyclable items was one of several initiatives that workers suggested when Audrey Seguy, the managing director, asked how they could be better corporate citizens — and save some money.
“We found we were recycling tons of milk cartons and plastic bottles,” said Seguy. “Now we get our milk delivered in glass bottles and we have stopped selling bottled water in our cafĂ©. Instead we sell reuseable bottles and provide water fountains. We have also provided recycling bins, with clear labels about what you put in them.”
These changes have helped the Castle, which has 40 full-time staff, cut its rubbish disposal bill by nearly £1,000 a year.
The architects
Workers at Heath Avery Architects have had to stock up on jumpers. Sarah Daly, managing director of the firm in Cheltenham, estimates that she has halved energy bills in the past 18 months with several simple measures, such as turning down the heating.
In the summer, she opens the windows rather than using the air-conditioning. The number of printers has been cut from six to two, and computers and lights are shut off at the end of every day.
The results have been dramatic. “We have made significant financial savings by reducing our energy use, but the benefits in terms of productivity are much greater,” said Daly. “Natural ventilation and daylight are much healthier than artificial light and air-conditioning, which is bad for the skin and can give you headaches.”
She added: “If people are walking round in their shirts in the winter, the office temperature is too high.”
The office supply fIrm
Every few days a lorryload of paper, pens and printers was delivered to Commercial Group, an office-supplies company, in Cheltenham. The products were unwrapped and the bubble wrap and foam packing they came in went straight into the skip.
Jason Hawkins, one of the firm’s employees, said: “We were unpacking stuff and throwing away the mountains of bubble wrap, shrinkwrap and boxes that it came in — then we were wrapping it back up in new packaging and shipping it out. It seemed a huge waste.
“So we asked the management if we could look into a way of reusing the packaging and we have been recycling most of it ever since.”
These days 98% of the packaging used by the company comes from incoming materials. The initiative is part of a broader green drive, which has allowed the company to reduce landfill rubbish from 100 skips a year to eight.

Green pioneers: Jungle millionaire Pedro Moura Costa in bid to save the Amazon

Danny Fortson

PEDRO MOURA COSTA’s journey from plant scientist to eco-millionaire began on the end of a shovel in Borneo.
It was 1991 and the recent Oxford PhD had followed his wife to the island, where she had gone to study for her doctorate. It was there that he fell into what, at the time, was an unheard-of project.
The Dutch electricity board felt bad about a fossil-fuell power plant it had built in the Netherlands. To compensate, it bought a patch of rainforest in Sabah, Borneo, and put Moura Costa, a biotechnologist, in charge of rehabilitating it.
He was hooked on the idea. “It was a great experience, like living in the heart of darkness. There were elephants and orangutans in the garden,” he said.

“This was the time of the build-up to the 1992 Rio summit, where the idea that companies and countries should reduce emissions was officially launched. It seemed to me then that environmental finance was the best way to combat climate change.”
The experience was the inspiration for Eco Securities, the developer of low-carbon energy projects that he started not long after his return to Britain in 1997 with partner Marc Stuart. Seven months ago, JP Morgan, the American investment bank, bought the company for £122m. Moura Costa pocketed £12m for his 10% stake.
At 46, he is not sitting back to count his millions. He already has the next project in his sights: saving the Amazon.
Moura Costa has clubbed together with a handful of prominent Brazilians to launch Guardiam, a group that will invest in sustainable businesses in the Amazon. It is not a typical investment firm. The aim is to apply “private equity rigour but devote part of the proceeds to non-profit activities”.
In the past decade, 67,000 square miles of virgin Amazon forest, equal to Wales eight times over, has disappeared, gobbled up by logging, cattle-ranching and agriculture.
Deforestation is hugely damaging because it not only releases carbon dioxide locked in plants and soils, but also removes plant life that sucks CO2 out of the air. It accounts for 60% of Brazil’s pollution.
Moura Costa said: “It’s a daunting task, but this is a unique moment. Some of our founders have been directly involved with slowing deforestation. The Amazon is an enormous asset that could be exploited sustainably.”
Guardiam hopes to raise $300m (£202m) for its first fund later this year. Other partners include Henri Philippe Reichstul, former chief executive of Petrobras, the state oil giant, Ricardo Semler, a prominent Brazilian entrepreneur, and Joao Paulo Capobianco, the former environment minister who led the crackdown that has slowed the disappearance of the rainforest. In the next five years they aim to invest $5 billion in the Amazon.
It is a big ambition but Moura Costa is undeterred. He has had practice at going where others would not.
When he started Eco Securities, it was selling a product nobody thought they needed. The idea was to act as a facilitator, helping Western companies and governments find and fund clean-energy projects in the developing world. Poor countries would benefit from new low-carbon projects. Aside from the feelgood factor, though, there was nothing in it for Western backers.
That’s because the scheme that allows backers to claim “carbon credits” from the projects they fund abroad to offset the pollution they produce at home didn’t come into effect until 2000. Since then, 2,100 projects — two-thirds in China — have been certified under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).
Eco Securities — under JP Morgan — is the biggest player in the market. The ride to the top wasn’t without controversy. Environmentalists claim the CDM is fatally flawed, allowing the rich world to delay costly measures at home by throwing money at a few dubious foreign projects.
In the past 18 months, the top two agencies that verify CDM projects have been suspended by the UN after being unable to prove they had vetted the projects they approved.
The fits and starts played havoc with Eco Securities’ business. Moura Costa left a year ago after a disagreement with the board. His attempt to buy back the company led to an auction that was ultimately won by JP Morgan.
He is sanguine about the outcome, an attitude surely helped by the £12m windfall. “I would have liked still to be running it, but I was also happy to sell out at that price,” said Moura Costa, who now has a vehicle called E2 to invest in new projects.
“When I started out I would knock on the doors of institutions and have to explain what emission reductions and carbon sequestration were. Nobody knew. Now most of them have teams of guys making a living out of this.”

Roadmap 2050 by Rem Koolhaas's OMA

Rem Koolhaas has helped come up with a daring plan to run Europe on a grid of shared renewable energy – and redraw the map of the continent at the same time
Rowan Moore
The Observer, Sunday 9 May 2010
I well remember my interview for a place at architecture school. As a kindly tutor leafed through my cobbled-together portfolio, on the wall I noticed a photo of a trapezoidal cabin with a whirly helical thing on top. It was, I was told, a prototype of an energy-efficient house, a concept of which I was then only dimly conscious.
That was more decades ago than I care to think, and it goes to show that green architecture is nothing new. It goes to the heart of the paradox most architects face: they tend to be hopeful, liberal types who want to change things for the better, but construction requires money and power, which are not always in the hands of the nicest people. So nice architects find themselves working for not-nice clients. Similarly with environmental matters: buildings gobble energy and resources in their construction and use, so the most ecological thing might be not to build them at all, but that would put architects out of work. So they are drawn to that conscience-salving potential oxymoron, the green building.
Just as what was once called health food has gone from muddy lentils to crisp Ottolenghi sophistication, so green architecture has been through many phases. For a while, it wore its ecology on its sleeve, sticking conspicuous turbines and ventilators on roofs, as in the large bronze chimneys over Portcullis House, the MPs' office building next to Big Ben. Now it tends to be a more technical matter, governed by the calculations of the engineering consultancies that have grown up to make buildings sustainable.
There has also been a shift in scale since my tutor's cabin. Now architects design green cities, such as Dongtan in China, or Foster and Partners' $22bn Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, which is currently on show at the Sustainable Futures exhibition at the Design Museum. But none have gone as far as the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), the practice created by Rem Koolhaas. It is proposing to redesign an entire continent – ours, Europe – along energy-saving lines. In fact, they would like to include North Africa as well. As Reinier de Graaf, the partner in charge of the proposal, says: "Megalomania is a standard part of our repertoire."
Called Roadmap 2050, it is a plan calculated to make the Ukip-ians of this world bubble and froth with rage, as it combines the belief that drastic intervention is required to mitigate climate change, with a desire to give meaning and power to the European Union. It has been commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, a philanthropic body dedicated to promoting policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it aims to show how the EU can achieve an incredible-seeming target of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. The proposal is being considered by the EU Council of Ministers, for their possible endorsement.
The proposal's starting point is the fact that renewable energy sources such as wind and sunshine are erratic and unreliable, which means they have to be supported by other forms of power. But they are also available in different quantities in different places – wind is abundant in Britain, sun in Spain – and in different seasons. The big idea is to create a power network across the continent linking all these sources, which could then compensate for each other. If it was windless in Britain but sunny in Spain, power could travel from them to us, and vice versa.
This is a political, as well as a technical proposal. "You can use this project to create integration. It creates a very pragmatic reason to integrate," says De Graaf. It coincides with work the OMA has been doing for several years on the ways that the European Union represents itself, through their design and research subsidiary AMO, which "operates in areas beyond the traditional boundaries of architecture". Koolhaas is a member of the EU's Reflection Group, whose job is to think about what might happen a decade or two hence.
With a cheeky, provocative tone typical of OMA, they even show a map of Europe redrawn as "Eneropa", with regions defined by their energy source. Ireland and the western half of Britain become the "tidal states", while the eastern half forms part of the "isles of wind". Former Yugoslavia is miraculously reunited as "Biomassburg". Most of Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece become "Solaria". OMA shows images of these places, like postcards from the future, with batteries of turbines, or plumes of geothermal steam.
OMA insists that its plan makes sense, even if you exclude climate issues. It has produced figures to show that the scheme would not cost all that much per head, especially when compared with road-building, war in Iraq, or bailing out bankers. They point out the benefit of reducing reliance on Middle Eastern oil and Russian gas. They argue that the economic benefits would outweigh the costs. They say that a reduction of even more than 80% could be achieved if North Africa, with all its sunshine, could be included in the grid. Their plan, they say, is "not rooted in apocalyptic hysteria", but is eminently practical.
It's a seductive proposition: go green and get richer. It is also refreshing and unusual to hear architects proposing environmental strategies that do not require the future commissioning of architects to design buildings. It also raises an obvious question: what on earth qualifies architects who spend most of their time designing museums or office buildings or Prada stores to pronounce on these subjects? This is partly answered by the fact that OMA is not acting alone, but is part of a team that includes management consultants McKinsey, energy consultants Kema and Imperial College London. But OMA still takes responsibility for the "overarching vision".
The other question is whether to believe them. OMA has over the years shown me new cities on islands off Korea, the transposition of Amsterdam Schiphol airport into the North Sea, and the redesign of the European flag of gold stars on blue into a multicoloured barcode derived from the flags of its different nations. So far all these ideas have remained on paper. Is there any reason to think the Roadmap would be different?
It is plain that their plan would need will and cohesion that has not been evident in, for example, the EU's attempts to solve the Greek debt crisis. Reinier de Graaf cites as a model President Kennedy's declaration that, before the 1960s were out, America would put men on the moon, but Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Union, is no Jack Kennedy. However, De Graaf argues that European countries cooperate better at a practical level than an ideological one. He also stresses that the Roadmap "doesn't require member states to give up their identities. It allows states to be themselves."
I have, frankly, no idea if by 2050 anything like this network will exist, or whether it will join the ranks of the fantastical and doomed, along with the cities teeming with autogyros imagined in the 1930s, or the 1960s' faith in the future ubiquity of hovercrafts. I doubt if anyone else knows, either. But, of all the abstract speculations about what sustainable futures might look like, there has not previously been one so tangible or engaging. Its value at the very least is to get people thinking about what, actually, we do want. OMA's Roadmap is either prophecy or provocation, but whichever way it's worth having.

The innovator: Hermione Taylor

The green sponsorship campaigner, 26, is asking people to pledge not money but a promise to minimise their carbon footprint
Lucy Siegle
The Observer, Sunday 9 May 2010

"I get referred to as an entrepreneur now," says Hermione Taylor, sounding more than a little freaked out. "It's strange – I never thought I'd set my own thing up." With a masters in environmental studies, Taylor assumed she'd just work for an environmental organisation and chip away at policy and global law. But then she became convinced that not only were individual actions key to scaling down emissions but that there was a way of encouraging a broader audience to make behavioural changes without lecturing them or boring them into defiance.
After finishing her studies last year, Taylor and a friend cycled to Morocco. "I wasn't comfortable asking for money, but people like to invest in other people's crazy trips, so I asked them to pledge to change to low-carbon behaviours instead."
She'd hit upon a new sponsorship model that replaces cash with action. The action is geared towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions. On her first trip to Morocco she saved 16 tonnes of carbon, which amounts to "1,600 balloons full", or the equivalent of 80 flights. Now in receipt of her first grant, she hopes to have a version of up and running by the end of this summer. Anyone taking part in a challenging event, from a marathon to a sponsored silence, can register. Their supporters will then pick from 30-40 green actions, ranging from simple commitments like cutting down on meat and washing their clothes at 30C to installing solar thermal heating. Taylor has high hopes: "In the first year I hope to remove 8,000 tonnes of carbon through the action of 120,000 sponsors. The main reason I think it will work is that it's a powerful way of giving people that incentive to do things that they've ignored or kept putting it off."

How to sell green energy

Linking oil dependency with US national security is an effective tactic to win public support for clean energy reform

Sahil Kapur, Friday 7 May 2010 22.00 BST
Fox News has revealingly declined to air an ad that emphasizes the national security perils of remaining dependent on oil in a call for clean energy reform. The decision by the network – primarily a communications arm for the Republican party's right flank – underlies an important lesson for proponents of energy legislation as they unveil their legislation this Wednesday: it's wiser to sell reform on the basis of national security and jobs, rather than the environment or climate change.
"Every day Congress doesn't pass a clean energy climate plan our enemies get stronger," says the ad, which uses menacing imagery of Iran and urges lawmakers to enact legislation to "cut our dependence on foreign oil" and "cut oil profits for hostile nations." The spot, created by the veterans group VoteVets, is airing on CNN and MSNBC, but was deemed "too confusing" by America's top-rated cable news network, reported Ben Smith of Politico. Fox didn't elaborate.
The link between oil dependence and national security isn't a new concept, but it's one that makes Republicans – and by extension Fox News – uncomfortable. They delight in their image as safety hawks but hope to scuttle President Obama's energy bill, so they don't want this to become a battle over security. Thus Democrats would be wise to get behind this narrative if they want America to face up to the energy realities of the 21st century.For the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, far from invigorating the fight for energy and climate change reform, has weakened its prospects in Congress – a clear sign that environmental concerns alone, no matter how grave, won't spur Washington into action. Times have really changed, because this wasn't always the case.
The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill brought us Earth Day and the National Environmental Policy Act. The 1989 Exxon Valdez tragedy paved the way for a stronger Clean Air Act. Today, the BP spill, shaping up to be the worst ecological disaster in US history, hasn't induced opponents of stronger environmental regulations to concede an inch. President Obama remains committed to lifting a longstanding moratorium on offshore oil drilling in vast swaths of coastal areas. What gives?
For starters, the belief that humans are contributing to global warming has consistently been declining nationally. Chalk that up to a relentless and extravagant campaign by the fossil fuel industry and conservatives, whose agendas are threatened by the realities of the climate change, to manufacture doubts about universally accepted science. Second, the recession has dampened the appeal of environmental action, which most perceive as less immediate and a threat to their bank accounts.
The policy priorities of Americans shine a light on this. A Pew Research Centre survey in January found that the top three issues on voters' minds are the "economy," "jobs," and "terrorism." "Energy" came in 11th, the "environment" 16th and "global warming" 21st. This is in spite of the fact that, as the Associated Press reported last November, "climate change has worsened and accelerated beyond some of the grimmest of warnings" in 1997, the year of the Kyoto Treaty.
Thus Republicans and right-wing Democrats aren't fazed by the spill. In fact, House Republican leader John Boehner and Democratic senator Mary Landrieu said it emphasizes the need for more oil drilling. The clean energy industry can't meaningfully compete with fossil fuels absent a price on carbon (something economists might call "internalising an externality"), which special interest-backed lawmakers won't easily support.
The best chance, then, for progressives to break the gridlock and launch a serious debate in Washington about alternative energy – in which the rest of the Western world and even China is racing ahead – is to streamline their messaging and make sure Americans know it would produce enormous long-term benefits in the way of green jobs and domestic security – by ending reliance on hostile foreign regimes.
Democratic Senator John Kerry and independent Joe Lieberman will unveil a comprehensive energy bill on Wednesday, likely without the support of Republican Lindsey Graham, who backed out on Friday. As proponents of reform work to drive their message home, they would be smart to heed the political lesson of the Gulf spill, and focus on the energy-related concerns that capture the attention and support of Americans.