Wishful thinking: my ‘Green’ budget incentives
As our ‘greenest government ever’ gets ready to cut some more sustainable options, here are some things I’d like to see from a ‘green’ government (not holding my breath, obviously):
1) Focus on public transport. This is one possible way to address many environmental concerns, and clearly the benefits would be considerable – a train journey in most European countries is quite an eye-opener (and rather shaming, frankly – in Germany, and to the amusement of the other passengers, I had to ask if I’d got into a first class compartment by accident, so immaculate and pleasant was the standard carriage). I don’t believe the obsession with personal transport is viable, even with a massive uptake in electric vehicles, since we still need energy to power the damn things. It is simply an inefficient way to move things about, as any form of commercial transport demonstrates.
The need for cars is considerably exacerbated by the lack of alternatives, and infrastructure like this is one area the market and private sector simply cannot address on its own. Given the importance of transport to the economy and well-being of the people, this is something the government should get back into, having conveniently washed its hands of the responsibility.
2) Major incentives to install viable renewable energy systems in new-build housing. I think particularly of ground heat pump systems, which may be uneconomic to fit retrospectively but whose costs are far more reasonable when the ground is being broken for a new build, and where the installation can serve numerous households. Such ‘community’ systems would make the stock more attractive to buyers, and represent a very sensible investment for both the developer and the government if it really does seek alternatives. Ground heat systems are also immune from any kind of inconsistent output issues.
3) Promotion of manufacturing techniques that allow more repair, less waste. It is of course a fundamental conflict of interest, where commerce can get us to buy new goods instead of repairing existing items. However, this throwaway culture is also a huge environmental burden and manufacturers should be obliged to consider this matter more responsibly, using their ingenuity to create goods with a greater overall lifespan.
4) Household 12 volt DC systems run from rechargeable batteries. We all have small units like phones that require wasteful chargers. Computers also largely operate on 12 volts or less, as can highly efficient LCD lights. A simple addition of 12 volt outlets and a common connector for appliances would save energy and the batteries supplying the power could be charged from domestic sources like solar.
We need to think more about energy use and the methods we currently take for granted. If we don’t turn our attention to these issues very soon, our options will be severely curtailed by escalating limits on supply and rapidly rising energy costs.