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Ben Tuxworth's Posts

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Is solar Britain’s new sunset industry?

Photo: doggy SchnauzerGovernment treasury departments don't generally respond well to the idea that the environment matters, and here in the U.K. things are no different. Yesterday, Energy Minister Greg Barker announced proposals for a 50 percent reduction of the "feed-in tariff" -- a program that guarantees homeowners an income for the power they produce from solar photovoltaics (PV). In doing so, he is widely viewed to have lost an argument with the Treasury about whether the government should keep its investment in domestic solar power at levels that support wide-scale adoption. The original aim of the tariff, known as FIT, …

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Can smart consumption replace green government?

A couple of years ago we were promised the "greenest government ever" -- not a difficult thing in the U.K., but it sounded fun all the same. Sadly, the green stuff that was a major part of Prime Minister David Cameron's "detoxification" of the Conservative party image a couple of years ago left no trace at last week's Conservative party conference, and has largely disappeared from the government's agenda in recent months -- stamped into the mud as politicians slug it out on spending cuts, growth, stimulus, and stagnation.  The new orthodoxy looks depressingly similar to the old one -- …

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How will cities be shaped by transit in the future?

Is this how we'll get around in the future?According to Chris Borroni-Bird, director of GM's advanced technology vehicle concepts work, we're about to see a new chapter in the story of cars and cities. "In the past 100 years, the automobile has shaped the city ... in the future, the opposite will be the case: cities will shape mobility." Sounds interesting -- but if it's true, how will we get about in 2040? With most big cities already struggling to provide effective mass transit, and the world's population growing and converging on urban areas, there's a crisis of mobility heading …

Read more: Cities

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Growth won’t make us happy — or more inclined to save the planet

She could be happier if she lived in a more equitable society.What's the "last great British taboo"? Sex? Religion? Lavatorial practices? Nope, it's what we earn, according to Times Editor Daniel Finkelstein, in his recent BBC Radio show "Can Pay, Will Pay." Finkelstein's exploration of our growing income inequalities, and the effect they have on us, made for fascinating listening. Discrimination of all sorts clearly still operates in the world of employment. Some of it is apparently intractable: Being tall gets you about an extra £1,000 [$1,580] a year per inch, and being ugly takes it away again. Other inequalities …

Read more: Living, Politics

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Will Ed Miliband take Britain’s Labor Party from red to green?

Ed Miliband, new leader of Britain’s Labor PartyPhoto: Ed Miliband campaignLONDON -- The fraternal psychodrama playing out in the Miliband family may have passed you by, but over here it's been the most interesting political soap since ... well ... Gordon and Tony. Previously on Miliband: Ed and David, sons of Marxist firebrand Ralph Miliband (a Jewish refugee from Nazi-occupied Belgium), enter politics. David, four years older, works in Prime Minister Tony Blair's office, becomes a member of parliament, swiftly moves up the ranks and becomes environment secretary, then foreign secretary, and is widely tipped to become Blair's successor and the …

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Britain’s Green Deal to unlock billions for home energy efficiency

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne.Photo courtesy Liberal Democrats via FlickrIn the wake of the new budget released in the U.K. on Tuesday, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne has been putting some flesh on the bones of the promised Green Deal for households. Huhne is a Liberal Democrat, so his remarks at the Economist Energy Summit began with the now ritual reassurances about the ability of coalitions to tackle the big challenges. The last one, he pointed out, won the war. (It wasn't you Americans after all!) This one will have to tackle the greatest challenge facing …

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Can voluntary action fix Britain’s shoddy housing stock?

Britain’s housing stock: charming but leakyPhoto courtesy UGArdener via FlickrPrime Minister David Cameron's call for Brits to take up the challenge of government by joining what he calls the "Big Society" exists so far largely in the realm of rhetorical flourishes. The political appeal is obvious: Maybe we can get communities to do stuff -- like run schools, or care for children, or protect the environment -- that government can no longer afford. With Chancellor George Osborne's first budget this week setting out how much worse it is going to get, the appeal will get stronger still. Some commentators have …

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Brits mad, and worried, about BP bashing

The cover of Great Britain’s Daily Express -- "His rants against BP are a disgrace."Photo courtesy of the Daily Express While it's definitely not a diplomatic incident, and of course Americans don't just think of BP as a British company, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has the British media transfixed. The Daily Mail has in recent days cranked up the anti-American sentiment, lambasting what it calls "Obama's inflammatory rhetoric," and contrasting it with the rather muted response so far from Prime Minister David Cameron and foreign secretary William Hague. "When disaster strikes, the U.S. will NEVER take …

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Population increases may thwart U.K. sustainability plans

Just the usual crowd on a usual day in London...Photo courtesy of Odolphie via flickr Environmentalists in Britain and elsewhere have sometimes been reluctant to talk about population in recent years. But with the U.K. Office of National Statistics projecting a 9 million rise in the country's population to 70 million by 2030, it's increasingly difficult to get away from the old Malthusian dilemma of population, resources, and economic growth.    Engaging in this debate is fraught with risks for the well-meaning green. As Sara Parkin puts it [PDF], "The maths of sustainability is simple -- it requires fewer people, consuming …

Read more: Living, Politics

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What to expect from Britain’s new coalition government

Prime Minister David Cameron and Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne heading out to announce that the government will cut its greenhouse-gas emissions by 10 percent over the next 12 months.Photo: Prime Minister’s OfficeEnvironment policy didn't break the surface during the U.K. election campaign. How will it fare in a coalition of parties at opposite ends of the political spectrum? Amongst the many surprises of the recent British election campaign was the near absence of environment from the parties' campaigns and the first ever prime-ministerial debates. Does it mean the British care less about the environment than in previous …