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Google profits from UK.gov's climate change quango rivalry

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The government department responsible for climate change policy has admitted bidding against one of its own quangos for advertising on Google, forcing up the cost to taxpayers.

Ed Miliband's Department of the Environment and Climate Change (DECC) said it sometimes battles the Energy Saving Trust to sponsor links on the dominant web search engine.

DECC has spent £361,700 in the last 12 months on search keywords such as "climate change" and "global warming" to target Google users with government publicity urging them to cut their carbon emissions.

The Energy Saving Trust has meanwhile spent more than £270,000 on similar advertising in the last 12 months.

The keywords are sold by Google in online auctions, so the rivalry between DECC and the quango means the cost per click is increased.

Junior DECC minister Joan Ruddock said the the amounts government departments pay Google "can be capped in order to minimise the risk of DECC and these Departments competing against each other for the same search keywords".

She did not say whether or at what level DECC or the Energy Saving Trust had been capped when bidding against each other.

Ruddock added that DECC's Google ads had been used to take people "quickly and effectively" to Act on CO2, its climate change website. It encourages the public to insulate their lofts, drive less, stop using plastic bags and grow their own vegetables.

News that DECC had bid against a taxpayer-funded quango for the same links emerged in a Parliamentary answer.

The Department is by no means Whitehall's biggest spender on Google. The Deparment of Health has spent more than £2,720,000 in the last 12 months on public sponsoring health-related searches in the last 12 months.

At Prime Minister's questions today, Gordon Brown repeated a pledge to cut government advertising spending by half. ®

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