Another tale of two countries: UK dims lights, US dims hopes

The Houses of Parliament in central London, af...

London: also lovely with the lights off. Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Earth Hour was a big hit a couple of years ago–don’t you think?– when millions noticed the voluntary blackout rolling around the earth like the wave in a stadium full of bored fans. Isn’t it long past time we upped the ante: Earth Week, Earth Month, Earth Year?

The UK has a plan.

Beginning this month, large businesses and institutions in the United Kingdom must track the carbon emitted by their energy use. They have to either stay below a carbon cap or purchase allowances to exceed it. Revenue from the allowances will be cycled back to participants based on how well they perform, reducing costs even more for those who have already reduced them through conservation.

The Energy Efficiency Scheme is not a comprehensive national cap and trade program like the one going nowhere in the U.S. Congress. It’s a supplemental cap and trade program above and beyond the European Union’s existing emissions trading program, targeting a sector that produces about 10 percent of the UK’s greenhouse gases.

The new scheme is expected to make Earth Hour, or something like it, permanent in the UK, as businesses and institutions gain an incentive to turn off lights after hours, turn down the air conditioning and heat, turn off idling machinery.

I’ve written a few times since December about China’s progress developing alternative energy while America wallows in stalemate. China’s not the only country making America look like a fossil. The UK is also pursuing carbon capture and storage in Parliament this month, an initiative funded by an electricity tax–unthinkable! in America.

Listen to the conservatives they have across the pond:

Charles Hendry, spokesman on energy for the opposition Conservatives, said his party has no substantial objections to the bill.

“We think it’s an important piece of legislation and we’re expecting that there will be an energy act,” Hendry said late yesterday in a telephone interview…. Hendry said the Conservatives would like to see more measures touching on energy efficiency included in the bill, though their most important request has been met.

“The government have conceded some things that we wanted and we pushed for,” Hendry said. That included extending carbon capture and storage to cover industries outside coal. “That’s the most important change we wanted in the bill.”

via BusinessWeek.

Hello. Is that what Conservatives sound like?

You can almost hear American conservatives groaning at the terrible burdens such programs would place on businesses, can’t you? Except that those groans come from groups, like the Republican Party and the Chamber of Commerce, who claim to represent business while only representing certain segments of business.

In the United States, many businesses are becoming increasingly adamant that the United States do something. A coalition of 2,872 businesses launched an ad campaign yesterday urging Congress to enact emission-control legislation. That is, they want a climate bill. And while there are some hippie businesses on the list, like Gaia’s Mystical Corner, there are also some major polluters, like Exelon and PG&E, and some heavy hitters like The Gap.

“The businesses that are part of ABCE represent a range of views and regions,” said Christopher Van Atten, a spokesperson for American Businesses for Clean Energy, “and we stand united behind the need for comprehensive clean energy legislation that will create jobs, unleash innovation and make our nation more secure, while cutting greenhouse gas emissions.”

Many of the same businesses have supported the climate bill all along. Makes you wonder who’s left in opposition.

The offshore oil drilling proposed last week by President Obama was likely designed to fend off another ad campaign, an unfriendly one, from the Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth.

“The AEEG is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce-managed working group of the trade associations representing America’s carbon-pollution industries,” especially oil and gas, according to Think Progress. “Five of these AEEG representatives sit on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Association Committee of 100, helping shape the organization’s policy.”

Helping to shape the nation’s policy. Helping to keep the lights on. Helping to keep America in the dark ages.

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