Approximately 3,000 homes in the Wisconsin area will soon be getting their energy and power from a most unlikely source: cheese.Read More:$28 Million Alternative Energy Facility to Run on Cheese
Approximately 3,000 homes in the Wisconsin area will soon be getting their energy and power from a most unlikely source: cheese.Read More:$28 Million Alternative Energy Facility to Run on Cheese
How does a nation, known for a furniture store that sells everything by the individually-wrapped part, have no trash?Read More:Totally Awesome or Super Weird? Sweden Is Importing Lots of Trash
By S. David Freeman
We keep staring in frustration and anger at the giant flow of oil spilling into the water in the Gulf of Mexico. It is a disaster.
But what is even a greater disaster is what we would see if we looked up, rather than down, and opened our eyes to the millions of deadly toxic “spills” into the air we breathe from cars, trucks, buses, power plants, ships, oil refineries, etc. They spill deadly poisons into the air we breathe every day.
We are more endangered than the birds and the fish in the Gulf. While we are rightfully concerned about the wildlife, let’s wake up to what we are breathing every day of our lives. And there is ample scientific evidence to prove that the “spills” of pollution in the air are just as deadly to human beings.
We need to remind ourselves that what we call smog is a witch’s brew of toxic stuff far more deadly than crude oil. No matter what we burn, whether its gasoline, coal, “clean diesel,” natural gas or biodiesel, it creates tiny particles invisible to the eye that become part of the air we breathe. They go past your nasal passages into the deep recesses of your lungs and into your bloodstream.
Study after study has proven that air pollution is the cause of epidemics of asthma among kids, and heart disease and premature cancer deaths among adults. The tragedy in the Gulf should be a wakeup call to remind Americans that we need to get off oil, not just to save wildlife in the Gulf, but to save our own lives.
It is time to recognize that forms of energy that are inherently dangerous (atomic power, deepwater drilling, and burning coal and petroleum) must be phased out. The truth is that—as we have seen—technology is not perfect and humans do make errors, as the BP oil spill and Three Mile Island reveal.
Remember, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. So, let’s stop going for the poisons, and commit our future to clean energy. The convenient truth is that a serious effort to bring on a renewable energy future, in addition to stopping large future oil spills, would:
I have just returned from a visit to China. The leadership in clean tech is now being captured by the Chinese. But it is not too late for America to at least be a major player. But if the tragedy in the Gulf is not a wakeup call, America will lose out. What is needed is leadership that calls for green action now.
There are vast publicly owned lands where solar and wind projects can be built by private companies if the government will grant speedy permission and financing. And the auto industry can be told by the government that, in a few short years, all your cars must be plug-in hybrids or all-electric.
We must make a firm national decision to say no to poisons: crude oil and coal and inherently dangerous radioactive atomic power. The future must be all renewable. Only then can we preserve our way of life.
Wake up, America. Stop talking, and start building green power—and no more fossil fuels or nuclear. Only then will America’s best days be ahead of us.
S. David Freeman is the former chairman of the board of Tennessee Valley Authority and headed the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and other large public power agencies. He is the author of Winning Our Energy Independence and a principal in the Renewable Energy Accountability Project, a nonprofit renewable energy watchdog agency.Read More:Stop Talking and Start Building Green Power
But American consumers will also feel the pain as gas prices rise. How else can Big Oil recoup the money it has lost from the spill?
Meanwhile, in other financial news, fishermen are losing significant income, and fishing may be banned for an extended period. Coastal towns that survive on tourism dollars will be forced to close recreational areas.
The economics of our dependence on fossil fuels has always posed a fascinating paradox.
“In the last month, we have seen a 15.61% decline [$80+ per barrel to less than $70 per barrel] in the price of oil per barrel, yet the price of gasoline at the pump remains in the stratosphere—$3 and higher, in most instances,” says George R. Cook, MBA, executive professor of marketing at the University of Rochester’s Simon School of Business. “I find it interesting that when the price of oil skyrockets, the next day the price of gasoline at the pump shoots upward, as well—but the reverse is not true. When the price of oil plummets, as it is doing now, the price of gasoline at the pump continues to remain high. Where is justice in this game?
“All we get are excuses from the oil companies about why it has to remain high,” Cook adds. “The real reason is that the oil companies’ philosophy is, ‘Sock it to the consumer,’ while they line their pockets with gasoline profits in the upper stratosphere. Here is an area for Congress and the administration to look into and set up commissions to investigate. Try helping the average consumer for a change.”
But Congress has too much on the line to cut its ties with Big Oil, whose lobbyists have contributed $143.8 million to congressional campaigns over the last decade’s election cycles (73% to Republicans, 27% to Democrats), according to the watchdogs at opensecrets.org.
Clearly, money impedes our transition to a clean energy future. As long as our elected representatives choose their wallets over their constituents’ well-being, nothing will change—and we’ll stand by as the political machine rapes our planet.Read More:Spill, Baby, Spill
The April 22 British Petroleum (BP) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is shaping up to be the worst environmental disaster in decades—a crisis Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) says is a stark reminder of the “high human, environmental and economic costs associated with the extraction of fossil fuels.”
The spill occurred after an April 20 explosion on a BP rig, which killed 11 workers. The rig capsized and sank 2 days later, and oil began to seep into coastal waters.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 210,000 gallons of oil (5,000 barrels) are leaking into the Gulf each day, endangering marine life and Louisiana’s seafood industry. Oil may now drift toward the Atlantic Ocean.
“We are taking every possible step to protect the health of the residents and mitigate the environmental impacts of this spill,” says Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
Louisiana’s Way of Life Threatened
“This incident is not just about our coast,” says Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. “It is fundamentally about our way of life in Louisiana. Our shrimpers, our fishermen, the coasts that make Louisiana [a] sportsmen’s paradise—this all makes up Louisiana, and this is our way of life. We have to do absolutely everything we can to protect our land, our businesses and our communities.”
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has issued recreational and commercial fishery closures. Biologists are monitoring activities and conducting daily field assessments for signs of oiled areas and wildlife.
Because 2,500 sea turtles may be affected by the spill, scientists are also surveying and reporting on oil-tainted animals and other marine life.
Evan Hirsche, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, expects the spill to reach two wildlife areas: the Delta National Wildlife Refuge at the mouth of the Mississippi River and the Breton National Wildlife Refuge, designated as a wilderness area in 1903 by eco-conscious President Theodore Roosevelt. Both sites are critically important to numerous species, including the brown pelican (recently removed from the endangered species list).
“Crucial That We Address Our Dependence on Oil”
Sen. Leahy doesn’t mince words in his assessment of the disaster.
“The evidence is clear that we cannot drill or mine our way to long-term energy security,” he says.
“We need to adopt a comprehensive energy strategy that addresses the challenges of the 21st century and does not simply rely on the energy sources of the past,” he adds. “We need to be more creative and in ways that strengthen our economy, our security and our environment. Our long-term energy security depends on promoting energy efficiency and supporting domestic sources of clean, renewable power, such as biomass, solar and wind energy.
“Instead of focusing so much on securing more fossil fuels,” he concludes, “it is crucial that we address our dependence on oil, invest in renewable energy, and offer incentives for utility companies and others to use these clean, domestic forms of energy.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Over a Barrel: The Costs of U.S. Foreign Oil Dependence
Image courtesy of the NASA Earth ObservatoryRead More:BP Oil Spill: Worst Environmental Disaster in Decades?
According to a new Department of Transportation (DOT) report, the United States can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by:
“Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change is one of the great challenges of our time,” says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Transportation is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gases, and the transportation sector must be a big part of the solution. This report provides valuable information that will help us in our effort to protect the environment.”
The report states:
The report, while making no specific recommendations, analyzes available strategies that would reduce transportation’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Among the findings:
The report discusses policy options for implementing these strategies, including efficiency standards, transportation planning and investment, market-based incentives, research and development, and economy-wide carbon policies.
“Earlier this month, we established historic new fuel economy standards that will save nearly a billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lives of the vehicles covered,” LaHood says. “In aviation, DOT has put energy and environmental concerns at the heart of NextGen, the initiative to modernize the U.S. air traffic system.
Environmental Groups Praise Report
“Ray LaHood made an important contribution to addressing climate change,” says Michael Replogle, global policy director of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy.
“Key strategies in this report would cut emissions at less cost than most other approaches to greenhouse gas reduction when considering vehicle operating cost savings. Such smart transportation strategies would put money in the pockets of consumers and businesses, create good jobs, and support livable communities and more efficient mobility. That’s good for business, the economy and environment.”
“Congress should use the report’s findings to guide investments and policy for transportation,” adds Kathryn Phillips, an expert on federal transportation policy for the Environmental Defense Fund.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Auto Mania: Cars, Consumers and the EnvironmentRead More:Cutting Transportation-Related Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Cars, sport utility vehicles, minivans, pickup trucks used for personal transportation and passenger vehicles emit about 60% of all mobile-source greenhouse gases—the nation’s fastest-growing source of greenhouse gases, according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
That’s why EDF President Fred Krupp believes the new standards for vehicle emissions and fuel economy offer a “trifecta” of benefits:
“Cleaner cars will deliver immediate results as the Senate finishes work on bipartisan climate and energy legislation,” he says.
What the Future Holds
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expect automobile manufacturers to meet the new standards by more widespread adoption of conventional technologies already in commercial use, such as more efficient engines, transmissions, tires, aerodynamics and materials, as well as improvements in air-conditioning systems.
And while the standards can be met with such technologies, EPA and NHTSA also predict some manufacturers will pursue more advanced fuel-saving technologies, including hybrid vehicles, clean diesel engines, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles.
“These historic new standards set ambitious, but achievable, fuel economy requirements for the automotive industry that will also encourage new and emerging technologies,” confirms Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “We will be helping American motorists save money at the pump, while putting less pollution in the air.”
The Automakers’ Perspective
Even the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM) seems to approve.
“We have long supported a single, national program that provides clear guidance for AIAM members to meet these important program goals, and these regulations harmonize the efforts of EPA and the Department of Transportation to do just that,” says Michael J. Stanton, the organization’s president and CEO.
Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, agrees.
“America needs a roadmap to reduced dependence on foreign oil and greenhouse gases, and only the federal government can play this role,” he says.
“A year ago, the auto industry faced a regulatory maze resulting from multiple sets of inconsistent fuel economy/greenhouse gas standards,” he adds. “NHTSA was promulgating new fuel economy standards required by Congress under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, while EPA was preparing greenhouse gas standards under the Clean Air Act.
“Meanwhile, California and 13 other states were planning their own state-specific greenhouse gas standards. When our engineers struggle with changing or conflicting laws, it derails efforts to introduce new technologies with long-term research and development timeframes. The national program announced [Thursday] makes sense for consumers, for government policymakers and for automakers.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Two Billion Cars: Driving Toward SustainabilityRead More:Even Automakers Approve of New Standards
Following a major directive from the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Thursday established historic new rules that set the nation’s first national greenhouse gas emissions standards.
The standards will significantly increase the fuel economy of all new passenger cars and light trucks sold in the United States. The rules could potentially save the average buyer of a 2016 model-year car $3,000 over the life of the vehicle and, nationally, will conserve about 1.8 billion barrels of oil.
The new program will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 960 million metric tons over the lifetime of the vehicles regulated, equivalent to taking 50 million cars and light trucks off the road in 2030.
“This is a significant step toward cleaner air and energy efficiency, and an important example of how our economic and environmental priorities go hand in hand,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “By working together with industry and capitalizing on our capacity for innovation, we’ve developed a clean cars program that is a win for automakers and drivers, a win for innovators and entrepreneurs, and a win for our planet.”
Starting with 2012 models, the rules require automakers to improve fleet-wide fuel economy and reduce fleet-wide greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 5% a year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established fuel economy standards that strengthen each year, reaching an estimated 34.1 mpg for the combined industry-wide fleet for model-year 2016.
Because credits for air-conditioning improvements can be used to meet EPA standards (but not NHTSA’s standards) , the EPA standards require that 2016 models must achieve a combined average vehicle emission level of 250 grams of carbon dioxide per mile. This is equivalent to 35.5 miles per gallon if all reductions came from fuel economy improvements—a 10-mpg increase over current standards.
“These are the first national standards ever to address climate change,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Gina McCarthy. “Over the coming years, America will witness an amazing leap forward in vehicle technologies, delivering fuel efficiency that will save us money and protect the environment.”Read More:New Rules: Fuel Economy, Vehicle Emissions
“Last year, the president showed the leadership and determination to help the House pass the energy reform legislation that is overdue for America,” said NWF Senior Vice President Jeremy Symons. “His call for action was clear. He is ready to help the Senate take on Big Oil and move a bipartisan clean energy and climate bill that creates jobs, limits pollution from energy companies and reduces our dependency on oil from hostile nations.”
Big Oil and its beneficiaries “are spending millions of dollars to block progress,” Symons said. “They are standing in the way of clean energy jobs, energy security and clean air. The Senate must deliver this year, and senators will need the president’s help to overcome the obstruction that has stalled past efforts at real energy reform.”
Symons also praised Obama for making environmental education a priority—one that prepares “America’s workforce for a clean energy economy.”
Click here for an update on what’s happening in Washington. We also encourage you to call or write to your elected representatives to express your views on the environment.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Green: Your Place in the New Energy Revolution
Photo courtesy of the White House
When President Obama gave his State of the Union address on Wednesday, he highlighted the importance of clean energy and green jobs.
“We should put more Americans to work building clean energy facilities and give rebates to Americans who make their homes more energy-efficient, which supports clean energy jobs,” he said. “And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America.”
The president also cited the need for U.S. innovation.
“Last year, we made the largest investment in basic research funding in history—an investment that could lead to the world’s cheapest solar cells or treatment that kills cancer cells, but leaves healthy ones untouched,” he said. “And no area is more ripe for such innovation than energy. You can see the results of last year’s investments in clean energy—in the North Carolina company that will create 1,200 jobs nationwide helping to make advanced batteries, or in the California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.”
The president called upon Congress to pass a comprehensive energy and climate bill, “with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America.” And while he acknowledged the costs involved in moving forward, Obama said we cannot afford to sit on our hands.
“I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change,” he said. “But here’s the thing: Even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future—because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Clean Energy Common Sense: An American Call to Action on Global Climate Change
Official White House photo by Pete SouzaRead More:Obama Pushes for Comprehensive Energy, Climate Legislation