The Daily Gamecock

Darla Moore School of Business hosts UK Minister of State Gregory Barker, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin as part of green forum

British official visits, discusses ways businesses can succeed

An esteemed group of political and business leaders — including the United Kingdom's Minister of State for Energy and Climate Change Gregory Barker, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin — discussed the green economy during a Friday forum inside the Darla Moore School of Business.

Graham had just returned from a visit to the U.K., hosted by Barker, to examine its energy policy. Barker is No. 2 in the U.K.'s Department of Energy and Climate Change and the department's leading Conservative.

"It is the boldest, most business-friendly, aggressive energy climate policy anywhere on the planet, and there is a lot to learn on our side of the pond about what they are doing," Graham said.

Graham said that the Conservatives' success in recent elections was due to their appealing to youth voters through green energy policies.

"One of the big changes the Conservative Party made was its energy policy," Graham said in his introduction to Barker. "I think the slogan was 'no one was going to out-green us.'"

With heavy overtones of the special relationship between the two nations, Graham praised his fellow conservative politician for his country's free market-friendly green strategy.

Barker began his speech by outlining Britain's budget crisis and expressing the Conservative commitment to austere measures as a solution, saying his colleagues plan to cut spending by 75 percent.

"We are making cuts that Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s could only have dreamt of," Barker said.

Barker said the U.K.'s deficit is higher than that of Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain and that the country currently spends 150 billion pounds ($240.6 billion) annually just paying interest. Barker said that is more than the entire budget of his country's Ministry of Defense, Foreign Office and International Development Program combined.

Barker described the U.K.'s loss of fossil fuel sources, aging nuclear plants and obsolete electrical grid as "the perfect energy storm" and said that any competitive global economy has to reduce its dependence on expensive foreign fossil fuels to survive. A gallon of gas in the U.K. is currently around $9.20.

"Last year, when the rest of the economy was struggling to reemerge from recession, the clean tech sector in the U.K. grew by a staggering 4.9 percent," Barker said. "That's real growth, creating real jobs, powered by real investment."

He closed his speech and opened up discussion to the panel by advocating increased partnership between the U.S. and the U.K. in the green sector. After the panel, Benjamin awarded the minister the key to the city.

Bill Rumble, a panel member and commercial director of Mark Group, a U.K. business that retrofits existing homes to make them more energy efficient, said he had absolutely no doubt that the green economy presents huge opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic.

"How often do we see the birth of a new industry? Not a virtual industry, a real one," Rumble said. "I think we're at that birth and that probably makes many of us in this room expecting parents."

Rumble said that green technologies would eventually impact every career field.

"Over time we'll stop calling it the green economy because it will just be the economy," Rumble said.


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