Is Green Tech losing out because of the recession? by Peter Judge
Business is trumping the environment everywhere, it seems. The US is gearing up to a grisly-looking presidential election, but the environment is pretty much off limits as a discussion topic. Everyone wants to increase oil and gas production at whatever cost.
Meanwhile in Britain we are at the opposite part of the election process - cosmetic mid-term reshuffles - but in the same boat.
Green groups were outraged when it emerged that the new Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, is a so-called “climate sceptic”. Has the government completely abandoned its carbon reduction targets?
Well, as we know, “climate sceptic” is an over-polite term for “science denier”. In the face of conclusive evidence that fossil fuels are raising the planet’s temperature, these people insist there is no need to change what we do.
Paterson has backed shale gas extraction, and opposed wind turbines. His appointment was welcomed by Lord Lawson, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer who set up the science-denying Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).
So yep, Paterson is a science-denier, or a “sceptic” if you prefer - and should be kept well away from the controls of the country’s environmental policy.
The one positive is, he won’t actually have much to do with global warming, apart from providing his quota of ministerial hot air. Government titles are slippery things, and the “Environment Secretary” is the head of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), so it’s mostly about farming and planning. It’s the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) that deals with energy policy.
Still, I kind of feel that people with Paterson’s ability to ignore facts shouldn’t be given any credibility or influence at all.
It is a very bad sign that the denial agenda, both here and in the US, is gaining power - and it’s fairly clearly a response to the continuing recession - or at least using the recession for its own ends. We can’t afford green measures, the business lobby is saying. We need to be able to pollute and burn at will, or we will always remain poor.
That level of politics may be remote from the data center, but are the same arguments echoing there? I’ve been asked whether the recession and the Euro crisis have reduced investment in Green IT, and I’m honestly not sure.
I believe that most step-wise, small Green IT investments pay for themselves, in reduced energy use, so they can actually become more attractive when times are tight. But the long-term wins become much harder to put in place.
In transport, people will certainly buy smaller cars which give more mileage (and maybe try to use their cars less) and so save money, and that also means they are burning less fuel. But people will also put off getting a new car, and there’s no appetite for a big change like a move to electric cars.
In data centers, lower energy use is definitely a major goal, but it’s got to be delivered by means are quick and cheap.
There is still a strong community around green investment, and an awareness that at some point, as the oil runs out or the planet rebels, we will have to have a lower-carbon economy. But at this point, there’s no appetite for actual change towards that economy.