Saturday, April 29, 2006

A NEW Green movement?

Have you seen the new ad by General Motors? It proclaims: "Energy independence? The answer may be growing in our own backyard." They are promoting FlexFuel Vehicles and their website.

What about Kermit the frog being used to sell Escape Hybrid SUVs for Ford? "I guess it is easy being green" are the caption along with its SUV being the most efficient. They get 36mpg city!

Then there are ads by Chevron asking us to find solutions to our energy problems. They are dispelling a lot of myths with their ads like: "Russian, Iran, and Qatar have 58% of the world's natural gas reserves. The United States has 3%. Will you join us?" they ask.

Pick up the latest Wired Magazine and one could see these ads within the first few pages. They would first see the cover with Al Gore and captions of how we can fight environmental destruction with capitalism and technology. I am rather skeptical of this new movement. They want to ignore a radical change in our way of life and assume and easier route is possible. How much more ignorant could they be?

Here's a clip from an article about a 'new Green movement' or as I call it greenwashing gone mainstream:


Green-minded activists failed to move the broader public not because they were wrong about the problems, but because the solutions they offered were unappealing to most people. They called for tightening belts and curbing appetites, turning down the thermostat and living lower on the food chain. They rejected technology, business, and prosperity in favor of returning to a simpler way of life. No wonder the movement got so little traction. Asking people in the world's wealthiest, most advanced societies to turn their backs on the very forces that drove such abundance is naive at best.

With climate change hard upon us, a new green movement is taking shape, one that embraces environmentalism's concerns but rejects its worn-out answers. Technology can be a font of endlessly creative solutions. Business can be a vehicle for change. Prosperity can help us build the kind of world we want. Scientific exploration, innovative design, and cultural evolution are the most powerful tools we have. Entrepreneurial zeal and market forces, guided by sustainable policies, can propel the world into a bright green future."

The electric zeal in which these writers proclaim a new era remind me of another ancient period: the dot-com boom. Journalists can afford to be glib about a 'green' future involving little personal sacrifice or change in our livelihoods while energy is cheap. But when oil prices continue skyrocketing, will converting food to ethanol be efficient? Will more starve so the rich can continue to drive their SUVs - is this a true green movement?

One way that is continually refuted by the tech-heads is to go carfree. This is not simple in our society of instant gratification, but it changes ones perspective. I dare anyone to try it for 3 months and still try explaining coherently of its ineffectiveness . The money saved alone can improve not just ones pocketbooks but ones community. You meet more neighbors walking and riding the bus, you become more immersed in a world you may not have realized existed.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Oil prices got you down? It seems that President Bush is still clueless as how to improve the situation. He is diverting attention from stemming our oil addiction to preventing price gouging, eliminating environmental regulations, and using ethanol. Of course, he has finally decided that oil subsidies are no longer necessary. Will these subsidies be diverted to renewable energy? Highly doubtful, unless congress somehow becomes enlightened.

We could save 18 cents per gallon by eliminating the Federal gas tax. This could happen, but it is penny wise and pound foolish. How would Federal highways be funded? Through income tax - whether you drive on them or not.

Of course, no one is discussing peak oil in the mainstream. Nor are we preparing for it - except for San Francisco. But we can learn what to do from an unlikely source: Cuba. A documentary has just been released by Community Solutions.
The film documents the island nation’s emergency transition to energy-saving local organic agriculture, renewable energy, and large-scale mass transit following the loss of more than 50 percent of its oil after the Soviet Union collapse in 1990. Anyone seriously interested in a sustainable solution for our energy problems should view this video.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

San Francisco - the first American city to address Peak Oil

San Francisco tends to lead many left-wing causes and has been leaning Green more lately than the average city. The San Francisco peak-oil resolution will not just change life in their city, but those wise enough to follow their lead. I truly hope that something like this is passed in Minneapolis and other cities throughout the region.

Our current Federal leadership isn't ignorant to this issue, they just would rather their oil buddies profit. They also believe the "free market" will solve our energy woes. Of course for the rest of the Republican Party, God will either save us or hasten the Apocalypse. Democrats are no better, embracing free trade and Globalization as giddily as their opponents. Yet Roscoe Bartlett is doing his best to convince members of Congress to take up the issue - and many Democrats are on board. May the Peak Oil Caucus grow as the public demands a response on this issue.

Of course we can all do our own part: reduce, reuse, recycle and live as green as possible. Politics can't force the American people to change their addiction habits. We must admit our addiction and work liberate ourselves.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Bush Is My Shepherd
Psigh 23

Bush is my shepherd. I dwell in want.

He maketh logs to be cut down in national forests.

He leadeth trucks into the still wilderness.

He restoreth my fears.

He leadeth me in the paths of international disgrace for his ego's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of pollution and war I will find no exit, for thou art in office.

Thy tax cuts for the rich and thy media control, they discomfort me.

Thou preparest an agenda of deception in the presence of thy religion.

Thou anointest your wallet with foreign oil.

My health insurance runneth out.

Surely megalomania and false patriotism shall follow me all the days of thy term

And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Hybrid Talk: Big Auto Bandies the H Word

By Bradley BermanTue Apr 11, 8:08 AM ET

Hybrids used to be the environmentalists' great shining hope for
combating auto pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and gas guzzling.
Those were the romance days for hybrids, the first two or three years
following their introduction in 2000. But the honeymoon is over. With
the emergence of performance-oriented hybrids and ultra-mild hybrid
systems, environmentalists now see the technology as one more example
of how Big Auto has hoodwinked consumers into believing their products
are as green as they can possibly get.

But it may be too late for the auto makers to put the hybrid cat back
in the bag. Everybody has seen what the best of hybrid technology can
do, shattering Detroit's myth that it lacks the know-how to greatly
extend average fuel economy. "Hybrids are the poster child for the
fuel economy debate," says Jason Mark, director of the Clean Vehicles
Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, like the Sierra Club, BlueWater
Network, the Rainforest Action Network/Global Exchange, and others,
share the view that the latest hybrids are being used as greenwash,
but they appear divided on which car company is the worst culprit. The
UCS, for example, sees General Motors (NYSE:GM - News) as enemy No. 1.
They have applied the term "hollow hybrid" to GM's current hybrid

"Bad Boys." "We think that hybrid technology ought to be reserved for
the environmental and consumer benefits [it] can deliver," says UCS's
Jason Mark. "Every quasi-hybrid under the sun is being labeled as a
hybrid for public relations benefits." Mark thinks that hybrid
technology should be put to better uses than turning a 16-mpg vehicle
into an 18-mpg vehicle. "The point is not to turn extreme gas-guzzlers
into moderate gas guzzlers."

What perturbs Mark and others is not only the mislabeling or misuse of
hybrid technology on the part of certain auto makers, but that those
same auto makers are lobbying and litigating to block any public
policy that will hold them accountable for the detrimental
environmental and social effects of their products. Mark calls GM "the
bad boys of public policy for fuel economy, emissions, and greenhouse
gases. In all public forums, they are the most aggressive in fighting
environmental regulations. If you ask anybody to rank the auto makers
on their policy performance, GM would be on the bottom."

The folks at Jumpstart Ford, a project of Global Exchange and the
Rainforest Action Network, might disagree. Their disapproval and
public protests are aimed at the Ford Motor Co (NYSE:F - News).
Jennifer Krill, zero emissions campaign director for the Rainforest
Action Network, thinks that Ford deserves credit for producing the
Ford Escape Hybrid. But, she said, the same year that Ford released
the Escape Hybrid, they "had the worst overall fuel-efficiency record.
One hybrid doesn't let them off the hook for being the most wasteful
auto maker."

Nobody'S Perfect. Don't think that Prius-producing Toyota has escaped
the attention of the environmentalists. Last fall, when Toyota (TM)
launched its "Hybrid Synergy Drive" ad campaign, BlueWater Network
launched its own campaign, entitled "Toyota: A Wolf in Sheep's
Clothing." The full-page ads in The New York Times and other
publications showed CEO Katsuaki Watanabe in the foreground and a man
wearing a wolf's head in the background.

"What people don't know, and what we wanted to tell them, is that
Toyota is not as green as it makes itself out to be," says Danielle
Fugere, director of climate change at BlueWater. "Yes, it has some
good green technology, like the Prius. But Toyota has consistently
lobbied against every attempt to increase vehicle fuel economy. It's
part of a group of auto makers suing against California's greenhouse
gas law."

While the various environmental groups have each chosen a different
company to target for their public education campaigns, they stand
unified in their criticism of the auto makers who have sued California
to block the enactment of AB1493, the greenhouse gas capping law known
as the Pavley Law. The regulation, which could affect as much as 30%
of the U.S. market (not just California), would be phased in from 2009
to 2016. It would require the auto industry to cut greenhouse gas
emissions from its new fleets by approximately 30%.

Major Lawsuit. The response from auto makers is that greenhouse gas
restrictions are a surrogate for fuel economy, because increasing fuel
efficiency is the only effective way to reduce the amount of carbon
dioxide released into the atmosphere. Therefore, they claim,
California is trying to regulate fuel economy standards, which only
can be established at the federal level. Otherwise, they argue,
manufacturers would have to produce vehicles based on two or more
different emissions standards. [In fact, tailpipe emissions are
already set at the state level.]

BlueWaterNetwork, Rainforest Action Network, Global Exchange, the
Sierra Club, Environmental Defense, and the National Resources Defense
Council have all joined the lawsuit to defend the Pavley Law against
the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Alliance of
International Automobile Manufacturers, which includes all of the
major carmakers, including those who sell hybrids.

The state of California and the environmental groups say that
greenhouse gas emissions are not strictly related to fuel economy.
"The auto makers can comply by using alternative-fuel vehicles," says
Blue Water's Fugere. "In some cases, an alternative-fuel vehicle will
get less fuel economy. California doesn't care if fuel economy goes up
or goes down. We want to know how much CO2 is coming up from the

Green Challenge. The legal contest, scheduled for 2007, is shaping up
into the biggest battle over automobile emissions and efficiency since
CAFE [corporate average fuel economy] was enacted 30 years ago. And it
highlights the fact that producing a hybrid -- however you define it
-- no longer makes a car company a green company. "I would like to
have a name like 'hybrid' denote this is a great, fuel-efficient
vehicle," says Fugere. "Point of fact, the auto manufacturers are
using the hybrid terminology to fool people."

Now the only way for a car company to be considered environmentally
friendly is to remove its name from the lawsuit blocking the Pavley
Law. Toyota? Honda? Ford? Anybody?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Only in a car-centric world do the elderly get ticketed for taking too long to cross the street. Hard to believe, but true:
An 82-year-old woman received a $114 ticket for taking too long to cross
a street
. Mayvis Coyle said she began shuffling with her cane across
Foothill Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley when the light was green,
but was unable to make it to the other side before it turned red.

She said the motorcycle officer who ticketed her on Feb. 15 told her she
was obstructing traffic.

"I think it's completely outrageous," said Coyle, who described herself
as a Cherokee medicine woman. "He treated me like a 6-year-old, like I
don't know what I'm doing."

Los Angeles police Sgt. Mike Zaboski of the Valley Traffic Division said
police are cracking down on people who improperly cross streets because
pedestrian accidents are above normal. He said he could not comment on
Coyle's ticket other than to say that it is her word against that of the
citing officer, identified only as Officer Kelly.

"I'd rather not have angry pedestrians," Zaboski said. "But I'd rather
have them be alive."

Others, however, supported Coyle's contention that the light in question
doesn't give people enough time to cross the busy, five-lane boulevard.

"I can go halfway, then the light changes," said Edith Krause, 78, who
uses an electric cart because she has difficulty walking.

On Friday, the light changed too quickly even for high school students
to make it across without running. It went from green to red in 20 seconds.

Councilwoman Wendy Greuel said she has asked transportation officials to
figure out how to accommodate elderly people.

"We should look at those areas with predominantly seniors and
accommodate their needs in intersections" she said.