Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Eco-housing gets a boost

The second largest house-builder in the UK, Persimmon has pledged to support the government’s plans for low carbon emission housing. The company has said it wants to help build the 3 million houses needed by 2020. They have agreed to introduce environmental measures in the new homes to try to get the zero carbon emissions standard the government wants. They are currently testing things like wind turbines and photovoltaic solar cell roof tiles. The company in return wants the government to change the planning laws to speed up the planning application process and make it easier for them to buy land to build on.

This may appear to be a worthwhile move by a building company, but is it? Building new homes with renewable energy technologies is a great idea and needs to be a statutory requirement for all new houses, not a marketing ploy by builders. The worrying element of this deal is the relaxation of the planning application law that could allow builders to use precious greenbelt land to build on. They are in effect holding the government to ransom. The government knows the country needs 3 million new homes, so they will have to cave-in to house-builders demands to ease planning and building restrictions.

[Via The Guardian]

Biofuel demand starts to hurt poorest communities

As predicted by many environmentalists recently, the demand for corn (or maize) for biofuel production has started to cause suffering among the poorest of communities. Western demand for biofuel is leading to higher prices and declining food stocks for people in the poorest countries. An example of this is Mexico, where demand for corn in the USA has increased dramatically since president Bush stated his aim that the US produce 35 billion gallons of biofuels by 2017. Corn is a main staple in the Mexican diet, and when the price jumped by 50% there were protests in the streets. The Mexican government had to step in and enforce a price freeze. As demand grows further there are fears that decreased stocks and price rises will create more problems in Mexico. As Doña Catalina, making and selling tortillas from her little shop says "Poor corn..It isn't meant to go in cars. It is meant to feed our children and our grandchildren. And their grandchildren too."

The scale of demand for biofuel crops such as corn is staggering. In the US alone there are already 121 ethanol biorefineries with a 76 under construction. Even so, this will only meet a third of president Bush’s quota of biofuel production. The whole international biofuel production process has to be managed effectively and fairly otherwise it will be another case of the richer developed countries inflicting suffering on the poorest countries to satisfy their own greed.

[Via The Guardian]

Solar powered watch to save the planet

In the Guardian today there is an article called ‘Top 10 green gadgets’ which I just happened to glance at while I was reading the more serious news items. Number six on the list is a Citizen solar powered watch. I never thought of a solar powered watch as something that could save the planet, but now I’m convinced. All I need to do now is persuade my partner that this is something I simply must buy to reduce the threat of global warming. The rationale behind this broad statement is that people tend to buy new watches quite frequently, many just replace their watch when the battery has died rather than have the battery changed. 18.4 million watches are sold in the UK alone in 2003, imagine how many are sold every year throughout the world. Having a watch like this one means you can keep the same watch for life, saving energy and resources, thereby protecting the environment. You can find these ‘green’ watches at Citizens website. They have women’s and men’s watches in sporty, classic and dress styles. My favourite is the perpetual calendar sports model for £299, so if Father Christmas is reading this, I’ve been good all year, honest!