Green jobs: time to look at the benefits of growing and using more wood

Government officials are searching for policies that will meet the twin aims of providing jobs and meeting the UK’s climate change targets. It is proving a difficult task. The easiest ways of reducing fossil fuel use will probably not create many new jobs in the UK. All large wind turbines are built abroad and although the construction work on a nuclear power station will generate a few thousand jobs, most of the key components will need to come from Europe and Japan. So where are the opportunities? I think two major areas stand out as excellent ways of generating jobs quickly without also dragging in expensive imports or sharply raising prices.

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Video conferencing: at last a good alternative to travel?

Video conferencing has been around for a surprisingly long time. AT&T ran the first call in 1927. Since then, pundits have been consistently predicting that video conferencing was just about to take off. They have been wrong for eighty years. Why should we believe the techno-optimists now?

In the last year, several companies have launched video conferencing products that provide an experience similar to real meetings. The quality is surprising and even sceptics have begun to see the advantages of using a meeting room for an hour rather than spending three days going to Hong Kong and back. Cisco’s Telepresence product is generating enthusiasm that is tempered by the enormous costs of setting up the equipment and providing the bandwidth. But the company says that prices will fall dramatically over the next few years.

Is this going to be enough to get people out of planes? The signs are good. Even low bandwidth alternatives suitable for home use are getting praise from the experts. So if Cisco doesn’t make video conferencing work, Bay Area start-ups like VSee will probably start eating into the market for lower cost products.

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