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Energy award presenters castigate US environment policy

(BRUSSELS) - Backers of the international Energy Globe awards, hosted by the European parliament on Wednesday, castigated the US for its global role in conflicts and environmental degradation.

The prime movers behind schemes for solar power systems in southern India homes and to dry vegetables in Kenya were among the laureates at an international energy awards ceremony in Brussels.

And while one American project was among the winners, the US in general and President George W Bush in particular were cast in the role of villains.

"In the last eight years of Mr Bush I think the world has suffered more than it has suffered in the last hundred years in terms of environmental degradation," Maneka Gandhi, chairwoman of international Energy Globe Jury, told reporters ahead of the gala event.

"America has suddenly become a monster and it has destroyed more in Iran, Iraq, Afghan, Sudan the Middle East. What is this starting these silly fake wars which have killed millions and millions and created huge environmental degradation?" added Gandhi, a member of the Indian Congress party and former environment minister.

"Bush should have been declared a terrorist long ago," the member of the legendary Gandhi family said.

One of the guest presenters, Hollywood actor Martin Sheen, who played a US president in a recent US television series, said that "the only thing we lack in America is leadership".

"The United States is the world's biggest energy consumer as well as the world's biggest polluter," he told the audience seated, in a rare departure from parliamentary protocol, in the MEPs' seats.

European parliamentary president Hans-Gert Poettering was among the guests.

The celebrity contingent included Robin Gibb, member of the Bee Gees pop group, and British violinist Nigel Kennedy who performed at the televised event.

Awards on the night were given in categories of fire, earth, water and air along with a youth award and a "national honorary award" which went to host nation Belgium for an integration of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

The earth award went to a Kenyan scheme employing solar energy to dry fruit and vegetables.

The fire award went to a Danish-supported scheme to equip 16,000 homes in southern India with solar power systems.

The water award went to a US developed water filter produced from recycled waste polyester.

The air award went to biogas micro-plant in Vietnam and the youth award to solar powered house in South Africa designed by the University of Art in Linz, Austria.

The annual awards, decided by a jury, have been organised since 2000 by the GEG agency led by veteran Austrian environmental campaigner Wolfgang Neumann.

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