Environment Forum

Don’t rain on my electric car parade

Electric car organization Plug In America revved up the inaugural festivities this past weekend with a parade of 74 plug-in vehicles in Santa Monica, California, dubbing it the “greenest procession of its kind.”

The non-profit group first applied to ride in the Presidential inaugural parade in Washington, but was not chosen. Undeterred, it took the parade west, said spokeswoman Zan Dubin Scott.

“Today we congratulate President Barack Obama, who has called for one million plug-in cars by 2015,” Paul Scott, one of the group’s co-founders, said at the parade on Saturday, taking the moment to make a “plug” for more plug-ins by 2016. “With the audacity of hope and the confidence born of years driving these cars, we’re asking Obama to accelerate his plan and make it happen three years sooner, then to boost that number to ten million plug-ins by 2016.”

The procession featured a colorful array of electric vehicles including Toyota RAV4 EVs, Tesla Roadsters, Zero Motorcycles, Chevy 2-10s, a Solectria, a school bus, and even a converted battery-powered Hummer bearing an Obama poster on its side.

“This is an R&D test mule, we’re not really making Hummers,” said Michael Biron, R&D shop foreman for Malibu-based Vision Motor Corp, which outfitted the Hummer and manufactures electric big rig trucks.

How much electricity do you use in a year?

It was a disarmingly simple question but, embarrassingly, I didn’t have a clue when first asked that 18 months ago. Even though I’d have to describe myself as a genuine tightwad when it comes to expenditures, I simply had no idea, strangely enough, about how much money my four-person household was spending on electricity — nor how much carbon dioxide was being produced.

Now, after a year of carefully tracking the daily use of electricity, I’ve discovered a bit about when and where power is being used and, in theory, saved — without much pain. It seemed like a no-brainer and it honestly was not hard to cut our consumption by 1,000 kilowatt hours in 2008 to 5,000 kWh — saving about 200 euros and 500 kg of CO2 in the process. There were only minor sacrifices: rigidly turning off “standby” switches and unused lights, pulling plugs on little-used appliances, putting in energy-efficient lightbulbs, using the washing machine sparingly and the dryer only rarely, and replacing an inefficient dishwasher with a low-energy model.

In the past year, we used as little as 4 kWh on some days (in the summer) and as much as 30 on others (in the winter) — although most days were in the 10-to-17 range. Annoyingly, the house “wasted” about 3 kWh per day when we were away on holiday — largely due to the refrigerator, which I’ll be emptying and turning off next time. The 2008 total of 5,000 kWh (which amounted to an electricity bill of about 1,000 euros) isn’t bad for four people (one rule of thumb I’ve seen is 1,500 kWh per person/year) but I’m convinced that usage could be even less (the benchmark of 1,000 kWh per person/year is considered “thrifty”).

from UK News:

Decision time at Heathrow

The government has approved the third Heathrow runway, in the interests of jobs and British competitiveness.

The third runway -- something airport operator BAA pledged it would not seek if it was granted permission to build Terminal 5 -- will open up a sharp political divide, with several Labour MPs, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats opposed to the idea.

A cross-party parliamentary group is expected to be formed this week to press for the construction of an airport in the Thames estuary, an idea that has the backing of London mayor Boris Johnson, and protest groups like Plane Stupid and Climate Rush say they will hold protests.

from MediaFile:

CES: “Green” envy on Day 2

Fuji EnviroMAX batteries

Several exhibitors took up the “green” theme at CES 2009 as the “Pre” party continued. Any chance Dell had to upstage Palm disappeared in a cloud of secrecy with the “Adamo” laptop it briefly presented, but gave no details about.

Fuji said its EnviroMAX alkaline batteries were made of more than 90 percent recycled materials, had no mercury, cadmium and were PVC free.

Singapore-based Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies said their “HydroPack” water-activated and portable power system HydroPak could provide 4 to 5 hours of 50 watt emergency power without pollution or noise.

A Christmas coyote highlights human/wildlife proximity

My wife and I were walking on Christmas Day with our dog through some heavily forested trails in a suburban park north of Dallas when we came across a coyote cruising on the paths ahead of us.

We have seen coyotes in the same park before — it is part of an almost unbroken system of forest that wraps around Lake Grapevine near the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport — and it was a nice reminder that wildlife and humans in the early 21st century often live in close proximity if not always in peace. The same park contains deer, wild turkey and other critters.

The coyote is in many ways a classic example of an animal that has thrived because of human activities and has long fascinated me as a result. From their original hunting grounds in the North American west they have extended their range into virtually every ecosystem on the continent south of the tree line.

Obama is just the facts on environment

Was that a dig at outgoing President George W. Bush? President-elect Barack Obama introduced his new environmental team and insisted his administration would focus on “the facts” as it put together policy.

“We understand the facts demand bold action,” he said.

In case listeners didn’t get the point that the new administration thinks it’s different from that of outgoing President Bush, Veep-to-be Joe Biden gave it a try.

“There is no doubt about the challenges in front of us, but there is no putting our heads in the sand, either, as in my view we have done for some time. Particularly when it comes to science — welcome doctor,” he said, looking at Energy Department Chief-to-be Dr. Steven Chu.

Economy leaves consumers feeling more blue than green

Has the global economic crisis got you feeling more blue than green? If so, you’re not alone.

U.S. consumers are pulling back spending on everything, and carbon-cutting products like hybrid cars and solar panels are no exception. After all, being green often requires us to pony up big chunks of change with the promise of cost savings later. That pitch, according to many green business owners, isn’t working so well these days.

“People are so scared about the future that they don’t want to commit to paybacks that have too long a window,” said Alan Finkel, owner of Santa Monica-based Green Life Guru, a company that helps homeowners reduce their gas and electricity usage.

Citi mulls moving (coal) mountains after Bank of America acts

Now that Bank of America is cutting back on lending to mountain top removal mining companies, citing the environmental costs, rival Citigroup is weighing its options.

“Bank of America’s announcement has just been released so Citi will study the content,” the bank said on Friday. Citi and Bank of America were prime targets of Rainforest Action Network and others for their support of mountaintop removal mining for coal in Appalachia. Cutting the top off a mountain is a cheap and efficient way to get coal — and environmental groups call it an ecological disaster.

“We are continuing to learn about this issue through engaging and listening to a variety of stakeholders, including our clients. Today we met with a number of industry, scientific, and community experts to listen and learn from their perspectives. Citi has a long history of engaging in dialogue with our stakeholders on this and other critical environmental issues,” the bank said.

from The Great Debate:

Recession spells cheap carbon credits

carbonemission1-- Amanda Williams Palmer is the editor of Reuters’ European Venture Capital and Private Equity Journal (EVCJ). The opinions expressed are her own. --

Steel giant ArcelorMittal has shut down furnaces at a dozen sites across Europe for at least six months as its customers, mostly automakers, downsize because of the economic downturn. While environmentalists crack into the bubbly, serious polluters realize that carbon is about to get a whole lot cheaper. And cheap carbon is only bad for the environment.

ArcelorMittal and many other industrial manufacturers are busy selling surplus carbon credits in order to raise short-term cash, flooding the market where polluters trade EU Carbon Allocations (EUAs). Under the Kyoto agreement, companies need a certain number of EUAs in order to pollute. So ultra dirty European utilities, which face huge carbon shortfalls and have been slow to adopt cleaner methods, are buying those credits for a song.

Green buildings, Planet Walkers and Getting Paid by Eskom

Kenyan blogger Juliana Rotich is the editor of Green Global Voices, which monitors citizen media in the developing world, and is a regular contributor to this page. Thomson Reuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone. 

Green buildings, a man walking the planet and a net metering law have been inspiring bloggers in South Africa in recent days.

Picture of Green Roof in the western cape South Africa, by Mark Turner on Flickr.