Environment Forum

New EPA chief ready to give California new car rules of its own?

Environmental Protection Agency chief-to-be Lisa Jackson said science would be her guide on policy – and that may mean California is in the driver’s seat on setting new global-warming-style regulations on cars. (Not to mention the nearly 20 other states ready to follow in its footsteps.)

Jackson said she would reconsider whether California should get a waiver from the EPA that would allow it to regulate carbon pollution from cars, the San Francisco Chronicle said. The Bush administration has said no to such a waiver – but Jackson said she would focus on the science.

“She said today ‘I’m going to do it’. I mean, she didn’t say that — but I don’t think the auto industry has any doubt,” Sierra Club chief Carl Pope said shortly after a Senate confirmation hearing for Jackson. “She didn’t have to signal that strongly.”

Environmentalists see the waiver as one of the biggest issues facing incoming President Barack Obama.

Pope also interpreted her answers as meaning she would move to regulate carbon pollution from stationary power sources. The U.S. Supreme Court said EPA could treat greenhouse gases which contribute to global warming as pollution — but the agency has not under President Bush.

Drivers say Honda hybrid doesn’t go that extra mile-court

Green car owners have apparently complained in such large numbers that the Honda Civic Hybrid isn’t living up to high mileage claims that the carmaker has approached U.S. government regulators about revising its mileage guidelines, according to a lawsuit by one Honda hybrid owner.

A California appellate opinion filed on Monday showed that a Honda customer service representative told Gaetano Paduano, the dissatisfied owner of a 2004 Honda hybrid, that the company had received “a high number of complaints” that the sedan achieves significantly less than its promised mileage of 47-plus miles per gallon.

The rep also told Paduano that the company and rival Toyota have approached the U.S. EPA to change the mileage rating on their hybrid cars, the opinion said.

California takes leap of global warming faith

California is either about to bankrupt all its businesses, or it’s unleashing a green revolution.

Either way, it took a big step toward cutting greenhouse gases on Thursday, when its top air quality regulator, the California Air Resources Board, passed a scoping plan. That sounds deadly dull, we know, but it has excited a lot of people because it means specific targets are being set by the largest U.S. state in the midst of the worst economy almost anyone living has seen.

Some businesses fear they won’t be able to survive the costs. Some feel California will be economically reborn. Check out our story, and don’t be afraid to go to the CARB site and check out the plan itself, along with economic analysis and more.

How many jobs does it create to screw in a lightbulb?

Change to an energy-saving lightbulb – create a job? lightbulb.jpg

Energy efficiency efforts in California over the past three decades have created or saved 1.5 million jobs and added $45 billion to payrolls in the state, according to a report from David Roland-Holst of the Center for Energy, Resources and Economic Sustainability at the University of California, Berkeley.

It comes as the Golden State is debating whether plans to radically cut carbon dioxide emissions will be a financial burden for California or spur economic growth in a state that already leads in energy efficiency.

When people save money on utility bills and buying gasoline for cars, it frees up money for buying other things from groceries to appliances to theater tickets, Roland-Holst said.

Palin asks Schwarzenegger to terminate shipping fees

palin3.jpgCalifornia environmentalists are in tizzy this week, accusing Republican Vice Presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin of telling their governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, how to do his job.

At issue is a letter Palin sent to Schwarzenegger last month, asking him to veto a bill that would raise shipping container fees to pay for pollution-reduction programs at three major California ports.

The letter, which Palin sent to Schwarzenegger a day before she was announced as John McCain’s running mate, began circling on the Web on Thursday.

California ports’ emissions plan: Full steam ahead!

Today, Reuters ran a story about the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports’ aggressive plan to slash pollutants — mostly exhaust from diesel engines — that have harmed air quality and contributed to health concerns in the local communities.  In implementing the plan, the ports have butted heads with some of the industries that they do business with, such as shippers, railroads and truckers.

Nevertheless, the plan is moving full steam ahead, so to speak.

During the course of reporting this story, we visited both ports to get an up-close view of some of the measures they are taking. The two videos below demonstrate two of those efforts, one at each port.

The first, from the Port of Long Beach, shows a technology to cap and collect emissions from a ship’s engines using a 2,500-pound “bonnet” made by Advanced Cleanup Technologies Inc. The bonnet is lifted about 150 feet in the air to collect the exhaust from the ship’s auxiliary engines, which is then vaccuumed into a treatment system to remove the pollutants. The video first shows the bonnet affixed to the top of the ship, and later shows it being removed, allowing the dirty black smoke to escape into the atmosphere.

Turning your kitchen scraps into clean energy

Earlier this month, I toured a Waste Management landfill in Simi Valley, California as part of our series on how companies are turning household garbage and other waste into clean electricity. For our full coverage, click here.

The landfill, which is about 40 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, surprised me at first because it didn’t smell and the 300 feet of trash was covered in dirt and grass. It looked just like an ordinary hillside.

On one side of the mound, however, trash from all over Ventura County was being flattened and buried into the ground, where the methane gas it produces will be collected and produced into energy to power 2,500 homes. This prevents the methane, which is 21 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide, from entering the atmosphere.