June 1st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
While the BP oil spill has officially become the worst in U.S. history, Americans remain divided over whether the government should increase offshore oil drilling, according to a nationwide survey of 1,001 adults conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Public Policy.
When asked specifically about drilling’s risks and benefits, 51% said the environmental risks outweigh the benefits, while 35% think the benefits outweigh the environmental risks. Nonetheless, 45% support increased offshore drilling, with 44% opposing it (margin of error: ±3.7%).
- 80% say pollution of the country’s rivers, lakes and reservoirs is a major problem; 16% say it’s a minor problem; and 3% say it’s not a problem.
- Air pollution is considered a major problem by 74%, and 73% worry about our overreliance on energy from oil and gas.
- 54% say global warming is a major problem, 23% consider it a minor problem, and 19% say it’s not a problem.
- Views about global warming are divided along partisan lines, with 70% of Democrats identifying it as a major problem; only 27% of Republications agree. Most Independents (53%) think global warming is a major problem.
- Perceptions lean toward the view that scientists are divided over global warming, with 49% of those polled saying many scientists have serious doubts about the evidence; 37% believe the evidence is widely accepted in the scientific community. Once again, views were split along partisan lines.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability
Read More:Public Divided on Environmental Issues
May 5th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Birds—from ducks and herons to terns and the brown pelican (Louisiana’s state bird)—are becoming the latest victims of the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf Coast.
“It’s a full moon, a high tide, and it’s bringing the oil on a free ride right into the coastal salt marshes on a southerly wind,” says Dr. Ken Rosenberg, director of conservation science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “It is also peak migration season for birds crossing the gulf; tens of thousands of exhausted shorebirds are going to be arriving in the next two weeks. They’re flying over water and stopping to refuel on the beaches and in the estuaries along the Gulf Coast, directly in the path of this massive spill.”
As with other environmentalists, Dr. Rosenberg blames “our thirst for fossil fuel” for this unprecedented manmade disaster.
“We’ve been playing Russian roulette with our environment, and the gun just went off,” he says.
Precursor to Human Harm
“Birds are an important first indicator of environmental health, and the old analogy of the canary in the coal mine is really relevant here,” Dr. Rosenberg says. “A lot of these birds are going to die, but that’s just the beginning of the story of what might happen to the coastal environment for both wildlife and people if the oil doesn’t stop flowing.”
At first, breeding bird colonies along the coast will be devastated. Next, thousands of brown pelicans—removed from the endangered species list only last year—will be affected, along with other water-bird colonies. Dependent on fish and other marine life for food and survival, bird populations will die as oil comes ashore. Gulf Coast ecosystems are already extremely fragile because of Hurricane Katrina and other storms.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates millions of birds are at risk.
“When a bird’s feathers become clogged with oil, they no longer act as a waterproof coat,” says Dr. Ian Robinson, IFAW’s emergency relief director. “Cold water penetrates to the bird’s skin and rapidly leads to hypothermia.
“At the same time, as the bird preens to try and clean the oil from the feathers, it inadvertently ingests toxic oil, which leads to symptoms of poisoning, including diarrhea and dehydration.”
“There will be a lot of people mobilized to try to save individual birds by bringing them into rehab and de-oiling them,” Dr. Rosenberg adds, “and there will be some success in saving individual birds. But whether that can save the breeding populations in these areas—we don’t know. If the oil then comes into the coastal marshes and the inshore ecosystems and kills the oyster beds and the shrimp and the fish nurseries, then there are much longer-lasting effects not only on birds, but on an entire way of life for people of this region.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Shattered Lives: Anatomy of an Oil Spill
Read More:Playing Russian Roulette with Our Environment
May 2nd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
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 Observatory
Read More:BP Oil Spill: Worst Environmental Disaster in Decades?
October 21st, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Transportation (DOT) are holding public hearings this week on the country’s first greenhouse gas emissions limits for passenger vehicles.
Hearings began today in Detroit and will continue in New York City on Friday and Los Angeles on Tuesday. You can thank President Obama for pushing this environmental agenda, in concert with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, automakers, the United Auto Workers Union and eco-conscious organizations.
According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), passenger cars and light trucks emit “nearly 20% of the nation’s greenhouse gases, in the form of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons. In April, EPA provisionally found that these four contaminants and two other greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare.”
The proposed standards would apply to new cars produced from 2012 to 2016. The EDF cites the following benefits:
- Breaking Our Oil Addiction and Strengthening National Security. The vehicles subject to the proposed standards are responsible for about 40% of all U.S. oil consumption. The standards would reduce our oil consumption by 1.8 billion barrels, while achieving a 5% annual improvement in fuel efficiency for U.S. passenger cars.
- Reducing Global-Warming Pollution. Vehicles covered by the proposed standards account for 60% of heat-trapping emissions from the transportation sector and about 20% of all U.S. heat-trapping gases. These emissions have increased by more than 1% annually. The proposal would cut carbon dioxide pollution from passenger vehicles approximately 21% by 2030, reducing emissions by 950 million tons.
- Saving Money at the Pump. Families can save more than $3,000 over a vehicle’s lifetime.
Read More:Feds Hold Public Hearings on Auto Emissions Limits
April 14th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
Timberland boots, loved by rap stars and construction workers alike, are greening up their act. This fall, 200,000 pairs of shoes will have soles made with recycled car tires. A company spokesperson calls it commercially viable and ecologically sensitive strategy.
Although it’s a small fraction of the nearly 30 millions pairs of boots that the company manufacturers each year. Timberland Mountain Athletics and Earthkeepers are the two brands slated to incorporate the recycled rubber.
The soles will be a mixture of 42% recycled tires and 58% traditional virgin rubber, but Timberland won’t be grinding old tires themselves. A Malaysian company called Green Rubber uses an eco-friendly system to reprocess tires.
Old tires contain many pollutants harmful to human health, such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons, which are also found in cigarette smoke and a single tire has the equivalent of two gallons of oil and a pile of old tires can burn for years.
Right now, the process can only make black soles, due to the original dark color of the rubber.
Via Green Inc.
Read More:Timberlands Got Recycled Sole
January 22nd, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
Luckily gas prices are on the down. But let’s face it. It won’t last! By the time summer rolls around, fuel prices will be way up again.
So, instead of pulling a Cheech and Chong and siphoning out someone else’s gas into a trash can, try these easy tips for boosting gas mileage:
- Drive under the speed limit. Keep it under 60mph.
- Properly inflated tires can improve mileage by 3%
- Use right the fuel. Check your owner’s manual.
- Keep up with maintenance. Get tune ups and oil changes.
- Lose weight. Have less bodyweight to lug around.
- Cut wind resistance. Remove luggage racks.
- Tighten your gas cap. Don’t let gas vapors escape.
- Don’t sit idle. Turn off your car in gridlock.
- Map out your trip. Plan a shorter route.
- Don’t run the air conditioning and park in shade.
You could probably add to that list. Try walking or bike riding more or taking public transportation—if you dare—like buses, subways and trains.
In related news, if you think the U.S. gets hammered with gas prices. Be glad you don’t live in the Netherlands, where gas prices can top $9.97 a gallon. Eek!
Read More:Improve Your Gas Mileage…
June 22nd, 2006 - Barbara Feiner
If you’re away from home Saturday night, set the TiVo or VCR. Discovery Channel will air the world premiere of Addicted to Oil: Thomas L. Friedman Reporting at 10 p.m. (EST/PST). The one-hour special (click here to view a preview) is must-see TV for readers who embrace organic living, offering an in-depth look at the consequences of America’s oil dependence and ways to solve it.
With gas prices averaging more than $3 a gallon across the United States and the cost of the war on terror mounting, topics like energy conservation, global warming and alternative energy have never been more relevant to American economic and national security. In Addicted to Oil, Friedman brings his incisive reporting to the political, strategic, environmental and economic impact of America’s fossil fuel addiction and proposes business, technological and governmental solutions for beating it.
Friedman (pictured, center of photo) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist who brought globalization to the masses with his book, The World Is Flat. He now takes petropolitics—a phrase he coined to define the relationship between oil prices and the power of oil-rich nations—into the mainstream by explaining how today’s energy crisis differs from the gasoline lines of the late 1970s. Friedman’s explanation of the intricate relationship between energy, national security and geopolitics couldn’t be more timely or compelling as he tells viewers, “This is not your parents’ energy crisis.”
In candid interviews with former CIA director James Woolsey, General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner and other key officials, Friedman explores America’s Achilles heel and the heart of today’s energy crisis: 97% of America’s transportation—including cars, planes and trains—is dependent on oil.
How did the United States get to this point? What is the message of petropolitics? Friedman examines the new realism that has driven some Americans to find a solution to the nation’s oil habit by researching and investing in green technologies for cars and homes, rather than waiting for government incentives. Friedman gives viewers a fresh perspective on the kind of cars they may be driving in the future by unveiling the materials and manufacturers of ultra-light automobiles, which can cut a car’s gasoline consumption by half.
Photo: Mark Mandler/Discovery Channel
Read More:Addicted to Oil