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An older model home which has gone energy-efficient conversion into a green alter-ego.  (Source: University of Oxford)
One of the oldest and most venerable universities in the world is looking to help homeowners take a chunk out of a very new problem

The University of Oxford is helping households both reduce their energy bills and reduce the CO2 needed to generate their energy, by as much as 80%.  Oxford revealed the framework of the plan to the public, and it is already creating much excitement and interest.

Central to the plan are Oxford's suggestions of government financial incentives for homeowners and higher efficiency standards on household appliances.

Brenda Boardman, a senior research fellow at Oxford University, authored the report and points that homeowners choosing to adopt the plan wouldn't just be acting altruistically -- they would be saving £425 each year -- enough say, buy that new iPhone, pick up a PS3, or snag a couple of Wiis (if you could find any!).

DailyTech recently reported that UK legislators had adopted the ambitious drive for emissions to be cut by 60% of 1990 levels by 2050.  Oxford's plan is even more ambitious.  Ms. Boardman states, "The bill calls for at least a 60% reduction, which is great, but this report shows that you can get an 80% cut in the domestic sector by 2050."

The UK government has stated its intention of making every new home zero-carbon emissions by 2016, even promising to possibly ban energy-hungry plasma TVs.  However, even if this is accomplished, Boardman points out, in 2050 over 80% of people will be living in homes in homes that had already been built, so the need for reform in existing housing is essential.

Ms. Boardman went on to state that if the government wants any hope of reaching its emissions goals, then changing and modernizing home usage was an essential step.  She explains, "It is crucial because it is large. Depending on what year's measurements you use, it accounts for about 25-27% of all the UK's carbon emissions."

The precise details of the plan are as follows:

  1. The housing sector would be legal bound to cut emissions by 3.8% a year, starting in 2008 (if adopted).
  2. Build more densely concentrated homes, chiefly in urban areas, to cut car use and increase adoption of micro-generator systems.
  3. A large program of tax breaks, including taxes for installing energy efficient insulation and reduced taxes on energy efficient goods and appliances.
  4. Develop a database to track fuel efficiency across the UK and target poverty afflicted areas with additional financial assistance.
  5. Have government sponsored home analysis program which delivers efficiency certificates to homeowners looking to make improvements and gives them suggestions for various potential activities to improve the property.

In an interview with BBC News, Ms. Boardman explained the practicality of the plan, saying, "The technologies are already there.  People know about cavity wall insulation, double glazing and more efficient boilers and lighting.  We are trying to give a framework to government policy so everybody will realize this is important and what we have to do in our homes to help with climate change mitigation."

One promising idea discussed in the report is micro generation.  The concept, which can be applied equally well to businesses and large homes involves using small electric generators and heaters, typically combined to local power and heat production and take stress of the power and gas grids.  By making the production local, energy use can be cut nearly 20%.

Carbon Trust, an environmental analyst has done a study on currently implementations and after exhaustive research feels that there is definitive evidence that this local production delivers tremendous benefits.  Their representative stated, "Our analysis of more than 30,000 days worth of data shows that micro CHP can deliver significant CO2 savings for small businesses and certain types of housing. However, if the market for this exciting technology is to develop, it needs a policy framework which provides appropriate incentives to target applications which offer worthwhile carbon savings."

A recent study showed the majority of people worldwide were willing to make lifestyle changes to help the environment -- so Oxford's plan just might work.  While Britain's emissions goals seem lofty, perhaps with Oxford University's plan, the nation will have a shot of reaching them, and even put a few dollars back into homeowners' pockets in the process.

Ms. Boardman's main study can be viewed here (PDF) and an additional paper by her released this year on energy efficiency and emissions achievability can be viewed here (PDF).

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RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By howtochooseausername on 11/29/2007 11:31:57 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not going to dispute that some people are using GW for political means.

In regards to GW being one sided. 13% of Republicans believe that GW is caused by human activity. Down from 22% a few years ago.

Although small, it is not a "completely one-sided issue".

Al Gore's documentary was not more political than science. Just because other people are using it for political goals, does not change the factual content of the documentary.

I don't dispute that scientists have biases and personal beleiefs. But research has been peer reviewed. What is the threshold for someone to accept a theory? There is just way too much evidence to support GW

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By Ringold on 11/29/2007 11:40:13 PM , Rating: 2
In regards to GW being one sided. 13% of Republicans believe that GW is caused by human activity.

I bet 13% of Democrats think George Bush is cute, too. :P

If that were 40-50%, I'd be impressed. 13% is such a tiny portion of what is a truly big-tent party as to simply reinforce the idea that at present its a one-sided issue. I'm actually surprised it's that low. Restores my faith in the party! Three cheers for independent thought!

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By mdogs444 on 11/29/2007 11:53:28 PM , Rating: 2
Although small, it is not a "completely one-sided issue".

When 81% of democrats beleive in global warming and 13% of republicans believe in global warming - I would say thats about as one sided as you are going to get in the political world.

Al Gore's documentary was not more political than science.

Actually, it was even ruled as such in the UK High Court. Not only was it found to be partisan and include extreme political biases, it was also found to contain the following errors, misrepresentations, and exaggerations:

The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro evidence global warming. The Government's expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.

The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 causes temperature increases over 650,000 years. The Court found that the film was misleading: over that period the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by 800-2000 years.

The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina and suggests that this has been caused by global warming. The Government's expert had to accept that it was "not possible" to attribute one-off events to global warming.

The film shows the drying up of Lake Chad and claims that this was caused by global warming. The Government's expert had to accept that this was not the case.

The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice. It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: in fact four polar bears drowned and this was because of a particularly violent storm.

The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream throwing Europe into an ice age: the Claimant's evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.
The film blames global warming for species losses including coral reef bleaching. The Government could not find any evidence to support this claim.

The film suggests that the Greenland ice covering could melt causing sea levels to rise dangerously. The evidence is that Greenland will not melt for millennia.

The film suggests that the Antarctic ice covering is melting, the evidence was that it is in fact increasing.

The film suggests that sea levels could rise by 7m causing the displacement of millions of people. In fact the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40cm over the next hundred years and that there is no such threat of massive migration.

The film claims that rising sea levels has caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The Government are unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.

Just because other people are using it for political goals, does not change the factual content of the documentary

Al Gore is a liberal and former Vice President. Its his movie, and his political agenda for the democratic party. The only people using it for political goals are the democrats. The other problem is actually the lack of factual material and misrepresentation of the material used.

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By howtochooseausername on 11/30/2007 4:05:43 PM , Rating: 2
Judge Burton agreed with the basic premise of Al Gore's movie. There were 9 items that he took exception with, but said that the movie could be shown if they were addressed.

Out of the hundreds of facts and issues covered in the documentary there were only 9 that Judge Burton could not find sufficient evidence to support. And let me state again, he agreed with the basic premise of the film.

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By clovell on 11/30/2007 4:39:20 PM , Rating: 2
He agreed that raising awareness on the issue was a good thing. He did not agree that spouting FUD and doomsday scenarios camoflauged between factoids was the proper way to do it.

RE: CO2 Cart Before the Horse
By mdogs444 on 11/30/2007 12:07:27 AM , Rating: 2
What is the threshold for someone to accept a theory?

The point is not when can a theory be considered fact, the point is that a theory is not fact...its nothing more than a theory.

The definition of theory is: a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact; guess; conjecture.

We have a theory of evolution that man is derived from apes - go ask a religious person why that isnt accepted. We have the big bang theory - another great theory with many possibilities, yet with no way to prove.

A theory is no more than a educated guess - which very well may be true - however it is not proven beyone a reasonable doubt to be true.

People need a 100% assurance before making life altering changes. Its like getting married when you're only 80% sure that you want to get married.

"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

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