By Randy Bryan with contributions from George Harvey
I watched the news highlights of Prince Harry and Megan (now Duke and Duchess of Sussex), their wedding, and their drive off from the wedding to the first reception in the Jaguar E-type convertible. Beautiful car. Wow! Never even noticed Megan.
Later, I learned that the car was an E-Type Zero, a car Jaguar converted to be a prototype all-electric. I was elegantly surprised. Not the carbon spewing, breakdown prone, beauty it once was. This E-type Zero is powerful, quiet, reliable, and still beautiful. I also recall Prince William and Kate drove away from their wedding in a car powered by biofuel. This younger royal generation (and Jaguar) was sending a clear and cleaner message to the world, thus making the moment even more memorable for me. They get it!
This also got me thinking about the leadership that the Royals, the UK, and Europe are providing on environmental issues. They all are clearly ahead of us in recognizing the planet is getting polluted, making plans to clean it up, and forging ahead with those plans.
The Royal Family has several long time environment efforts to their credit, from making hydroelectric power for their estates, to remodeling Windsor Castle for greater insulation, switching to LED lighting, installing computer controlled building environment control systems, to plastic reduction efforts and sustainable farming practices. Did you know that Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund were started with Royal (Charles) participation?
When the current Queen was young, during the War, she took a job as a truck driver in the ambulance corps, and she learned to do engine repair. It is said that she once bored her mother to distraction over supper with discussions of spark plugs. Later, when Princess Elizabeth was about to marry, cloth was still subject to rationing. The princess used ration coupons to buy material for her wedding dress. As monarch, Queen Elizabeth II has put some attention on the environment, and she passed that interest on to her family.
Charles, the Prince of Wales, is also the Duke of Cornwall (held in trust), a very large estate with only a small part in the county of that name. He ordered that all the foods it produced to be grown organically. Farmers of the duchy soon found there was a big demand for their products from all over Europe, taking them into a period of prosperity they had not seen for a long time. In 1990, Prince Charles, founded Duchy Originals. Now run by Waitrose, the business sells organic food in stores all over the world.
Much of the power for Windsor Castle, the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan, and the E-Type Zero, comes from a pair of Archimedes screw water turbines that the queen had installed on the River Thames in 2013. No wonder Adolf Hitler called the Queen “the most dangerous woman in Europe”. As he bombed England, the Queen Mum and the current Queen stayed in the country, facing the same risks as common folk. They lead by example.
On a larger scale, Britain and the UK have become leaders in offshore wind, solar and biomass power development. Nearly 20% of their power now comes from renewables, with a target of 30% by 2020. The Scottish center for offshore wind development is a world leader in turning offshore oil technologies to offshore wind systems. In transport, London has banned diesel vehicles in East London starting in 2018, and by 2040 Britain will ban sales of all petrol based vehicles country-wide. Jaguar and other British car companies are announcing their transition to electrified vehicle models.
Europe is being just as aggressive to clean up their act. Several cities have acted to ban diesel vehicle use within their city; Rome by 2024, Dusseldorf and Stuttgart by 2020. Paris, Madrid and Athens are making plans to ban petrol cars in the city centers by 2025, among others. A few European countries have announced their intent to ban all petrol based vehicle sales by 2040-2050. The world-wide leader in electric car adoption is Norway with 30% of 2016 car sales being electric, almost 40% in 2017, and reportedly over 40% so far in 2018. Both Norway and Britain have substantial interests in the fossil fuel business, yet recognize the need to clean up energy with policies to transition away. All Europe is aiming to reduce its hydrocarbon emissions by 80-90% by 2050, with a target of 27% by 2030. Europe is guided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCCC) science and remains as firm adherents to the Paris Agreement. They get it, too.
While the U.S. struggles with successful but fragmented sustainability efforts, our policy backing is missing. The UK and Europe are stronger in both policy and effort. They are leading the way right now, by example, not us.
Randy Bryan is one of the co-founders of Drive Electric NH. Randy has been an advocate for electric cars for eight-plus years. His company, ConVerdant Vehicles, has converted vehicles to plug-in hybrids, including his own Prius in 2008, and developed and sold inverters that turn a Prius into an emergency generator.
George Harvey is a staff writer for Green Energy Times and writes the geoharvey.com blog. George hosts the weekly show Energy Week on Brattleboro Community TV. The hour long program is packed with news and information about energy and global warning.