Apr 1, 2011 Charlotte Observer
As the United Kingdom slashes public spending to tackle its largest post-war deficit, new Prime Minister David Cameron set a heady goal: To lead the island nation’s greenest government ever.
The Brits believe lowering their greenhouse gas emissions, investing in energy efficiency and partnering government with private industry is a way to grow the economy. The UK energy and climate change minister, Gregory Barker, talked about the possibilities Thursday in Charlotte with representatives of British and local firms headed toward the same goal.
There’s a lot of work to do across the pond, Barker said.
The British record of energy efficiency is “rubbish,” he said, making it cheaper to heat homes in icy Norway than in Britain. The UK has embarked on a campaign to retrofit 14 million homes, an effort estimated to create 250,000 jobs. It plans to invest the equivalent of $5 billion in a new green-energy investment bank and will offer innovative financing for renewable heating sources.
“Green will touch every sector,” said Bill Rumble of the Mark Group, a British firm that specializes in making buildings more energy efficient. Millions of jobs for energy-efficiency technicians could be created, he predicted.
The long-term UK plan, Barker said, has bipartisan political support. “This is such a vital agenda,” he said. “It really is important that we work together.”
There’s no such unanimity in the United States. President Barack Obama’s administration has failed to win congressional support for limits on greenhouse gases, seen by energy advocates as a vital first step. Republican leaders are demanding more domestic drilling for oil and gas, while the Japanese crisis may shake support for new nuclear plants.
But that hasn’t stopped businesses here, U.S. executives said.
NASCAR, with its 70 million fan base, has a green campaign underway that ranges from recycling to solar power. US Airways, which has its largest hub in Charlotte, has reduced its per-passenger use of fuel by 45 percent in the past 20 years. The owners of Indian Trail-based Radiator Specialty Co., which makes petroleum-based cleaners, degreasers and lubricants, last year formed a company to make biodegradable products.
“Over the last five years, I have seen a tremendous shift” toward green products by businesses, said Heather Killgallon of RSC Bio Solutions, the new company. “They want something tangible, not just because it feels good.”