Going green for the Holidays: Buying eco-friendly plasma TVs

Green consumers have helped bring about big changes in the electronics industry, and as a result, new electronic items now strive to meet government standards that could help the nation as a whole conserve resources. This holiday season, green shoppers can make sure they get all the items on their list while still sticking to their principles and values.

To make the best purchase for the environment, shoppers should look for the government's Energy Star label. The products, which are equipped with a bright blue sticker, are around 40 percent more energy efficient when compared to non-Energy Star models. As a result, these models could help reduce a substantial amount of energy over the lifetime of its use. Larger TVs also need to meet heightened standards. Energy Star-qualified 60-inch televisions, for instance, are about 60 percent more energy efficient when compared to other models.

However, while looking at the label can ensure the TV is eco-friendly, some TVs may be better for the environment than others. Unlike LCD TVs, which use a light bulb to generate the picture, plasma TVs use emissive displays.

In these TVs, gas is used to make the pixels in the TV glow, creating the image. Buyers may want to note that while some experts believe smaller LCD TVs are generally more efficient than vacuum tube TVs, plasmas are generally considered to conserve most energy.

But, while these differences are debated, consumers may want to choose a TV that has all of the other specifications they desire. For example, picture and sound quality often need to be assessed. Regardless of the type of TV they purchase, consumers who purchase any model that has been Energy Star-rated can rest assured that they are doing their small part to help less environmentally minded individuals secure helpful products. 

Renewable energy investments top $1 trillion dollars

While the fight against Big Oil rages on in the halls of Congress, consumers and the private sector as a whole continue to make investments in renewable energy, following the demands of eco-conscious Americans. Due in part to the effort of many Americans to commission new businesses and green buildings, renewable energy is passing more and more milestones every day.

On December 6, Bloomberg New Energy Finance released news worth celebrating about. For the first time since 2004 – when the organization's recordkeeping began – the total investment in renewable energy, smart technologies and energy efficiency topped $1 trillion.

Those who want to know which business spent the dollar that helped put the movement over the mark – and send them some thorough congratulations – may not have an easy answer. According to the report, this dollar could have come from spending on a Brazilian biomass plan, a Chinese wind farm or investments in a U.S. electric vehicle company.

In total, the report found that clean energy investment has increased by nearly $200 billion a year since the time when the data began to be collected. However, by doing their part, individuals aren't just helping the economy. By investing in green businesses and buying eco-friendly products, individuals can feel empowered by their consumer actions, knowing that this spending is going to a good cause.

Recent economic reports have linked this kind of consumer spending to green jobs. For example, individuals who choose to invest in American green businesses create the need for more jobs and help draw attention to the movement as a whole. By sounding their voice loud and clear, Americans can continue to fight for green investments at the federal level as well.

Obama unveils plan to increase green jobs with federal and private funding

Despite the fact that economic experts have long suggested that an increase in green jobs could help retool the economy, the political climate has made it difficult for the current administration to push the policies that its leader touted on the campaign trail.

However, in a press conference on December 2, President Barack Obama indicated that creating green jobs may soon become one of his top priorities in time for the 2012 campaign. There in Washington, D.C., Obama announced the Better Building Imitative, a federal program which relied on consultancy from former President Bill Clinton's Clinton Global Initiative America.

In total, the project will help provide $4 billion for eco-friendly upgrades to commercial and federal buildings through 2014. Only about half of these funds will come from federal funding and be used on government-owned properties. The remaining portion will be supplied by private companies looking to take advantage of the savings offered by eco-friendly products and services.

According to the president, this will help employ more than 100,000 individuals currently looking for or working green jobs in and around the construction industry. One example cited by Obama was a success story involving the Transwestern building from which he made the announcement. With the help of green upgrades, Obama said that Transwestern's CEO Larry Heard was able to save roughly $200,000 and create 250 jobs.

Speaking about the progress, Obama said, "It is a win for the business owners; it is a win for the tenants of this building; it is a win for the construction workers who are participating and for the property manager that's doing such a great job. So this is a great example of what's possible."

The commitment builds on a previous announcement made by Clinton's foundation in June, where the organization pledged to invest half a billion dollars into energy-efficient building projects. 

National Clean Energy Standard could be passed as soon as next year

According to a number of news outlets, Jeff Bingaman, a Democratic Senator from New Mexico, plans to introduce legislation next year that if passed could lead to an overhaul of the American economy and the increased funding and implementation of renewable energy.

Bingaman, who is the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, requested that the proposed Clean Energy Standard undergo further analysis by the Energy Information Administration, and the findings indicate it could have a number of benefits, including creating sustainable green jobs.

ThinkProgress.org suggests that the Bingaman bill would lead to resources such as solar, biomass and wind generating twice as much energy as they do under the nation's current energy policy. The proposed legislatioin also looks to cut carbon emissions from power companies by nearly 50 percent over the next 25 years.

Overall, experts suggest the measure could only have a marginal affect on the U.S. GDP, reducing 2035 projections by .02 percent. This statistic may be one of the more important findings, as critics of the bill had long suggested that an overhaul of the country's energy policy could be particularly damaging to economic growth.

Still, experts say that the bill may have difficulty passing through both the House and Senate, a fact that Bingaman himself acknowledges.

"I think it would be very difficult to get it through both houses," Bingaman told reporters in October. "But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t introduce it and talk about it and let people respond to it."

Despite this, President Barack Obama has voiced support for the policy, suggesting himself that a goal of getting 80 percent of the country's energy from low-carbon sources by 2050 was a top national priority.

More green jobs could be available due to solar energy

Due to the rising price of many traditional fuels and a need for new employment opportunities, many U.S. economic experts are beginning to look to renewable energy as a solution to both concerns. However, since policymakers have been slow to address these growing concerns, lobbying groups such as the Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy (CASE) have joined the fight. 

On December 1, CASE announced that 12 new companies joined its ranks. The move comes before a vote at the International Trade Commission (ITC), which will settle an anti-trade action filed by SolarWorld and several other solar panel manufacturers. Experts say the decision could have a big influence on the U.S. industry as a whole.

The complaint was originally filed on October 19, and it alleges that due to the emergence of Chinese solar panel makers and subsidies from the Chinese government, American businesses are now unable to compete in the solar panel market. As a result, the group is looking for the ITC and the U.S. Department of Commerce to intercede. Still, others argue that this may not be the best outcome.

"The rapid price reduction of solar panels in the last year has opened up new markets in the U.S. where solar was not previously cost competitive with grid power," Joe Bono, CEO of Solar Universe, a CASE member representing about 200 employees, said in the release. "This is an opportunity for more jobs and lower utility bills, a trend America needs."

Jigar Shah, one of the co-founders of case, agrees, saying that SolarWorld is attempting to level the playing field to increase its ability to compete, which may not be the best thing for the industry as a whole. By inflating prices, the industry may not be able to learn to adapt to the needs of the global market or help in the fight against climate change.