Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Zap's New Solar Powered Pick-Up Truck

Electric car manufacturer and distributor ZAP is introducing its new XEBRA truck featuring a solar panel at the Green California Summit and Exposition in Sacramento, March 13 and 14. According to the Zap press release, the XEBRA Sedans and Trucks with a solar panel option put out 90 percent fewer emissions than gasoline powered vehicles, including those from power plants used to generate the electricity that powers the XEBRA.

ZAP says the solar panel enables short commutes on sunlight alone. The XEBRA truck or sedan travels at up to 40 miles per hour and can go up to 25 miles per charge. Classed as a three wheel motorcycle zero emission vehicle, the XEBRA seats two people.

Streetlegal, XEBRAs sell for $10,000 through a licensed dealer network.

Michigan Energy Company Sued for Mercury Pollution in Canada

DTE is being sued for its role in allegedly polluting the St. Clair River with mercury.

DTE Energy, the parent company of Detroit Edison, operates the St. Clair/Belle River coal-fired power plant complex in Michigan. On average, the facility emits 2,000 pounds of mercury each year.

Scott Edwards, a Canadian citizen and authority on mercury pollution, was in Sarnia court Wednesday charging that the St. Clair/Belle River generating station on the banks of the St. Clair River has been breaching Canada’s Fisheries Act for two years.

Edwards is the legal director for Waterkeeper Alliance, a global coalition of 150 grassroots environmental groups. He is being aided by three other affiliates of Waterkeeper Alliance, Mark Mattson, Doug Chapman and Doug Martz. Mattson is lead investigator and the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. Doug Chapman is lead counsel and the Fraser Riverkeeper. Martz is the St. Clair Channelkeeper.

More than half of DTE Energy’s mercury emissions land in Canada. When the mercury enters the St. Clair River, it is altered by bacteria into methylmercury which spreads throughout the food chain, altering fish habitat and rendering fish unsafe for human consumption.

Edwards is alleging that DTE’s mercury deposits are illegal under Canada’s Fisheries Act and has launched a private prosecution. Private prosecutions allow any Canadian citizen to independently prosecute offenses in the criminal courts. Fines under the Fisheries Act can range up to $1 million a day.

A test of pollution control technology in 2004 reduced mercury emissions at the St. Clair plant by 94 percent, but at the conclusion of the 30 day test, DTE Energy stopped using the mercury control technology.

“DTE has acted with a blatant disregard for the health and welfare of Canadian citizens and Canadian law,” says Edwards. “My hope is that this prosecution will result in significant reductions in DTE Energy’s mercury emissions and a cleaner and safer St. Clair River.”

Monday, March 12, 2007

Water Quality Financing Act passes House

The House of Representatives approved HR 720,the Water Quality Financing Act of 2007, on Friday, which will fund a critical part of the effort to clean up the Great Lakes. Clean water is obviously essential to public health and the environment, and this puts us one step closer to cleaning up the mess.

HR 720 authorizes $14 billion over four years for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF). The CWSRF provides low-interest loans to construct wastewater treatment facilities and other pollution-abatement projects. The vote count was 303 to 108.

Fully funding the CWSRF has been considered a critical part of the 2005 Great Lakes Regional Collaboration agreement designed to end the flow of wastewater from flowing into the lakes by 2020.

Another water-sources bill (HR 700), which passed, 368-59, on Thursday, authorizes $125 million for local governments, water agencies and non-governmental organizations. See related article below.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Climate Change: Corporations are Taking the Lead

The following is a list from the WorldWatch Institute examing the efforts and achievements of several large corporations in reductions of energy use and increases in renewable energy use. It seems necessary to continually point out to the right-wing nutjobs out there that corporate actions to combat global warming are saving corporations money by driving their energy costs down. These are just a few of the many examples of positive corporate action being taken on global warming and climate change, there are certainly dozens of more examples. If you find more, please send them to me.

Dupont – Has already achieved its target of reducing GHG emissions 65 percent below 1990 levels; the original target date was 2010. Dupont plans to derive 10 percent of the energy it uses worldwide from renewable sources by 2010.

Silicon Valley – Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Calpine, Lockheed, ALZA, Life Scan, and PG&E announced in March 2004 a plan to reduce CO2 emissions in Santa Clara County, California, to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. This is triple the goal that the Kyoto Protocol set for the United States as a whole (a 7 percent reduction below total U.S. 1990 emissions levels by 2012). Companies plan to curb their emissions by retrofitting buildings with more efficient heating and cooling systems and insulation; shifting auto fleets to hybrid vehicles; replacing light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs; and installing motion detectors. They expect all of these changes to be cost-effective. The city of San Jose will also take part, improving public transportation, enacting more energy efficient building codes, and converting its vehicle fleet to hybrids.

Alcoa has committed to reducing its GHG emissions to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2010.

Bank of America - In May 2004, the corporation announced unprecedented targets and timetables for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, with an initial goal to reduce emissions 7 percent by 2008, and pledged to stop funding projects that involve oil and gas exploration, among other things.

Power Companies – Five U.S. power companies committed in early 2004 to reducing their GHG emissions and to supporting a mandatory federal cap on CO2 emissions. As part of the PowerSwitch Challenge initiated by the World Wildlife Fund, Austin Energy (Texas), Burlington Electric Department (Vermont), FPL Group (Florida), Sacramento Municipal Utility District (California), and Waverly Light and Power (Iowa) have committed to undertaking at least one of the following by 2020: increasing the share of electricity they sell that is generated by renewables to 20 percent; increasing energy efficiency by 15 percent; and/or retiring the least-efficient half of their coal generating capacity.

Shaw’s Supermarket now sells renewable electricity in several New England cities, and at least 3 of its stores are purchasing renewable energy to meet 25 percent of their electricity needs. Shaw’s was the first supermarket chain in New England to offer green power to its customers. The renewable energy is generated on the rooftops of BJ’s Wholesale Club stores.

An estimated 10,000 U.S. businesses (and 110,000 households) are now using certified “green” electricity that is generated with renewable resources.

My additions to the WorldWatch list:

Earlier this month global financial services firm JPMorgan and Innovest Strategic Value Advisors launched the first bond index designed to address the risks of global warming. The JPMorgan Environmental Index-Carbon Beta, the JENI-Carbon Beta for short, is a United States high-grade corporate bond index. It enables credit investors to make decisions that systematically take into account risks and opportunities issuers face as they address climate change.

Johnson Controls, Inc. is expanding its business in the areas of designing, installing and servicing geothermal, solar, biomass, wind and other renewable sources as energy supply options for customers.

Wells Fargo & Company claimed the top spot in green power purchasing by buying 550 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy last year. Whole Foods Markets and Johnson & Johnson were in second and third place.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

How to Deal with Fox News

Thanks John Edwards and Democrats for finally telling Fox News to shove it. It's about time.

Here's a quick and easy way to rid yourself permanently of Fox News.

1) Find a tv remote, any remote will do. Doesn't matter who it belongs to, just pick it up.
2) Change the channel to Fox News. In Grand Rapids, this is cable channel 40.
3) Press the "Menu" button. A list of options will appear on the screen.
4) Use the arrow keys to scroll down to the "Channel Set-up" option. (Sometimes it just says "set-up".)
5) Select "Add/Remove Channel." A message should appear on the screen that says "Channel is removed."
6) Repeat steps 1 thru 5 with every television you come in contact with.
7) Enjoy the feeling of not being lied to by a bunch of conservative dickheads.

Copy and paste this everywhere.

Free Speach Threat: Bush Administration Says Scientists Can't Discuss Polar Bears

The fascists in the Bush administration have issued a gag order that halts free discussion by scientists and other government officials on the role of global warming in threatening the survival of polar bears.

In a memo obtained by groups working on the listing of the polar bear as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the fascist pricks in the Bush administration now require that all government travel requests "potentially involving climate change, sea ice, and/or polar bears" be accompanied by a memorandum "including a statement of assurance that these individuals understand the administration's position on these issues."

From the New York Times:

    Over the past week, biologists and wildlife officials received a cover note and two sample memorandums to be used as a guide in preparing travel requests. Under the heading “Foreign Travel — New Requirement — Please Review and Comply, Importance: High,” the cover note said:

    “Please be advised that all foreign travel requests (SF 1175 requests) and any future travel requests involving or potentially involving climate change, sea ice and/or polar bears will also require a memorandum from the regional director to the director indicating who’ll be the official spokesman on the trip and the one responding to questions on these issues, particularly polar bears.”

    The sample memorandums, described as to be used in writing travel requests, indicate that the employee seeking permission to travel “understands the administration’s position on climate change, polar bears, and sea ice and will not be speaking on or responding to these issues.”

The order comes as the Department of Interior held the last of three public hearings on its proposal in Barrow, Alaska on Thursday.

"We need leadership, not censorship on global warming," said Andrew Wetzler, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Endangered Species Project. "We rely on our government scientists and officials to be honest brokers with the public and on important issues. This directive restricts their ability to do their jobs," Wetzler said.

The proposal to protect polar bears under the Endangered Species Act was issued in response to a petition and law suit filed by NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Greenpeace.

Click here to view the US Fish & Wildlife-Alaska site on polar bear research. Polar bears live only in the Arctic and are totally dependent on sea ice for all of their essential needs, including hunting their prey of ice seals. The rapid warming of the Arctic and melting of sea ice poses a threat to polar bears, which could become the first mammal to lose 100 percent of its habitat to climate change as Arctic sea ice is predicted to disappear by the end of this century if global warming is not reversed.

Source: NRDC press release

Michigan Companies Win D.O.E. Solar Energy Grants

13 Solar Projects Chosen for Federal Funding nationwide, 2 major employers in Michigan

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman Thursday announced the selection of 13 industry-led solar technology development projects for negotiation for up to $168 million in funding over three years, subject to appropriation from Congress. The corporations involved invlude some of the largest in the energy business - General Electric, BP Solar, Dow Chemical, Powerlight, and United Solar Ovonic.

The Konarka project will focus on manufacturing research and product reliability assurance for extremely low-cost photovoltaic cells using organic dyes that convert sunlight to electricity. Other projects include a low-cost, high-concentration photovoltaic system for utility markets; a high-efficiency concentrating photovoltaic power system; and a project reducing silicon wafer thickness while improving yield of multi-crystalline silicon PV for commercial and residential markets. Another project will develop a high-powered, ultra-high-efficiency solar module that contains an inverter, eliminating the need to install a separate inverter and facilitating installation by homeowners. Yet another team will develop low-cost thin-film building-integrated photovoltaic systems.

Dow Chemical: PV-integrated residential and commercial building solutions.
This project will employ Dow’s expertise in encapsulates, adhesives, and high volume production to develop integrated PV-powered technologies for roofing products. Partners include Miasole, SolFocus, Fronius, IBIS Associates, and the University of Delaware. Subject to negotiations, funding for the first year of the project is expected to be roughly $3,300,000, with approximately $9,400,000 available over three years if the team meets its goals.

United Solar Ovonic: Low-cost thin-film building-integrated PV systems.
This project will focus on increasing the efficiency and deposition rate of multi-bandgap, flexible, thin-film photovoltaic cells and reducing the cost of inverters and balance-of-system components. Partners include SMA America, Sat Con Technology Corporation, PV Powered, the ABB Group, Solectria Renewables, Developing Energy Efficient Roof Systems, Turtle Energy, Sun Edison, the University of Oregon, Syracuse University, the Colorado School of Mines, and NREL. Subject to negotiations, funding for the first year of the project is expected to be roughly $2,400,000, with approximately $19,300,000 available over three years if the team meets its goals.

For a complete list of grant recipients, see the Department of Energy press release.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Meet the GREENS

MeetTheGreens.org is a new kids' guide to looking after the planet. Kids can watch THE GREENS' cartoon adventures and discover related green games, news, downloads, a blog, action tips, links, and much more. This innovative, Web-only project comes from WGBH in Boston, the producer of shows like ZOOM, ARTHUR, Frontline & NOVA.

Senator Boxer Bitchslaps EPA Director Johnson

Director Johnson proves conclusively that he is a humongous turd.

"The Bush administration's plan to cut some $500 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's budget shortchanges vital environmental programs and is unacceptable, members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee told the agency chief on Wednesday.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson endured a litany of criticism during the budget hearing, with committee chair Barbara Boxer leading the charge.

Boxer, a California Democrat, called the budget proposal "shocking," highlighting a $400 million cut to wastewater treatment projects, a $35 million cut to air pollution monitoring and a $7 million cut for the toxic waste cleanup program."

"This budget sends an unmistakable message to people who are concerned about our health and a clean environment - you are not a high priority," said Boxer, who questioned Johnson's commitment to the agency's mission to protect public health and the environment. I don't think an EPA administrator should sit back and take the kind of cuts to programs that you are taking and you in essence are endorsing," Boxer said. "Your job is to fight for the environment."

Click here to read the rest of this article.


House Passes Clean Water Bill

Good news for Grand Rapids and the Grand River.

The House of Representatives Wednesday approved the Water Quality Investment Act of 2007 (H.R. 569) with a vote of 367 to 58, authorizing a $1.5 billion program for cities to repair and upgrade aging and outdated sewage systems that often overflow during wet weather. The money goes to the EPA for sewer overflow control grants to states and municipalities. Combined sewer systems, which carry both stormwater and sanitary flows, and separate sanitary sewer systems can overflow with untreated waste during heavy rainfall or snow melts.

Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Congressman Jim Oberstar, a Minnesota Democrat who sponsored the bill, says cities and towns across the nation are faced with making massive repairs to infrastructure that is often more than 100 years old. "Duluth is a prime example of a city that would benefit from this legislation," said Oberstar. "They have a sewer system that is more than a century old. It gets flooded every time there is a heavy rain and raw sewage to flow into Lake Superior."

"Combined sewer overflows and sanitary sewer overflows create a huge pollution problem in America. This bill will help provide cleaner water in our communities, and will require EPA to distribute grant money to those communities most in need of assistance," said Congressman John Mica, of Florida, Republican leader on the Committee.

Today, the House of Representatives considered a companion clean water bill from the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The Water Quality Financing Act of 2007 (H.R. 720) will provide $14 billion in federal loan guarantees to help cities and towns finance water and sewer improvements. The measure would reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to provide low interest loans to government entities for clean water and nonpoint source pollution control projects.

Today is the 35th anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water Act.

Source: ENS Newswire


Thursday, March 08, 2007

New Federal Bill Introduced to Mandate Cloned Food Labeling

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has introduced the Cloned Food Labeling Act (S. 414), a bill requiring food from cloned animals or their offspring to be labeled as such. In a speech on the Senate floor, Mikulski cited growing consumer opposition to eating cloned food products and the need to track cloned food in case a recall is needed. California State Senator Carole Migden (D-3rd district) has introduced a similar bill to the California legislature. The bills are a response to the Food and Drug Administration's recent announcement that it intends to allow products from cloned animals and their progeny to be sold as food.

Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats have announced that they will not carry products from clones or their offspring. The nation's top dairy company, Dean Foods, also will not sell milk from cloned cows. Ben & Jerry's staged an event on Capitol Hill at which protesters dressed as cows handed out educational information to express the company's opposition to cloning.

Source: Union of Concerned Scientists website

Report: New Wisconsin Wind Farm Won't Impact Migratory Birds

A draft report of a one-year study of the distribution and behavior of birds in Forward Energy's wind farm near Horicon Marsh concludes that the project won't significantly interfere with nesting or migratory patterns of the rarer bird species observed.

The report was prepared by Curry and Kerlinger LLC of McLean, Va. from a three-part study designed in cooperation with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Wisconsin Public Service Commission staff. A final report will be issued after a DNR and PSC staff review.

The study's primary purpose was to acquire data for use in before and after comparisons when construction of the 133 wind turbines, each with an overall height of 400 feet, is completed. The project will be spread over 33,000 acres in Byron and Oakfield townships. The closest turbine would be located within two miles of Horicon Marsh, a stopover for thousands of migratory birds.

Source: The Fond du Lac Reporter

Ethanol Diplomacy: Bush the Idiot Heads to Brazil

Bush The Idiot visits Latin America this week, traveling to Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico on a six-day trip. Bush the Idiot will meet with Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Friday, hoping to sell him on a plan to cooperate on the production of biofuels and ethanol.

While in Sao Paulo, Bush and Lula will launch a biofuels initiative aimed at helping Brazil export its ethanol to the US. Apparently Bush the Idiot hopes it will help the United States reduce its dependence on Middle Eastern and Venezuelan oil.

All gasoline in Brazil is blended with ethanol made from sugar cane and over 80 percent of new cars are flex-fuel, running on gasoline or ethanol.

Currently the U.S. levies a 54 cent per gallon tarrif on Brazillian ethanol imports. No doubt, Bush the Idiot will screw that up.

Since the Idiot hasn't done a single thing right in years, ethanol and biodiesel producers in the U.S. should be on the lookout for impacts to their bottom line.

Source: Reuters News Service via Truthout
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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Toxic Sludge Headed to Michigan from Wisconsin

Argh!! I made the mistake of opening my email and found this little gem about more toxic shit heading our way from out of state.

"Toxic waste from a pollution hot spot in the Fox River will be trucked to the Detroit area for final disposal, companies involved in the cleanup announced Tuesday. Dredging at the hot spot along the river's western shoreline north of the De Pere Dam is set to begin in May. Trucks will carry the waste through De Pere and Ashwaubenon to reach Wisconsin 172 and eventually Interstate 43."

The trucks will be loaded down with PCB laden muck from the river. They will travel though Milwaukee, down I-94 through Chicago and across Michigan to Detroit to the Wayne Disposal Inc. Landfill. It is the only landfill in the Midwest permitted under the Toxic Substances Control Act to accept toxic waste. It's going to take all summer to move all the sludge.

Is anyone going to put notices up on i-94 telling drivers that there are truckloads of PCB's on the highway with them?

Call me crazy, (yeah, I'm a wacko treehugger) but If you put wet soil full of PCB's in trucks and drive it several hundred miles in the middle of summer, eventually the soil is going to start to dry out and turn to toxic dust blowing all over the road. I don't care how well you clean the truck or seal it, after several hundred miles of driving it's going to leak out.

I fully understand the need to clean up the river, but I think you folks in Wisconsin need to stop sending us your toxic crap and figure out how to deal with it there. If you can't figure out how to store it, then maybe your legislature should pass laws saying it can't be manufactured or used in production processes until you have a safe method of disposing it. Why should Michigan, dead center in the middle of the best sources of fresh water on Earth, have to be everyone's toxic dumping ground?


U.S. Predicting Steady Increase for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Bush administration estimates that emissions by the United States of gases that contribute to global warming will grow nearly as fast through the next decade as they did the previous decade, according to a long-delayed report being completed for the United Nations.

The Business-as-usual policy will result in emissions growing 11 percent in 2012 from 2002. In the previous decade, emissions grew at a rate of 11.6 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The report also contains sections describing growing risks to water supplies, coasts and ecosystems around the United States from the anticipated temperature and precipitation changes driven by the atmospheric buildup of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases. NOT good.

Source: New York Times

Pelosi Supports Solar and Fuel Cell Bill

In a meeting last Wednesday with solar and environmental lobbyists, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed her support for H.R. 550, an important bill that would extend the residential and commercial investment tax credit for solar and fuel cell equipment for eight years -- and revise other key tax credits for those industries.

H.R. 550, also known as the "Securing America's Energy Independence Act," would extend the residential and commercial ITC for eight years, modify the residential and commercial tax credit for photovoltaic systems to $1,500 per half kilowatt, remove the 30% cap for commercial installations and the $2,000 cap on residential installations and provide three-year accelerated depreciation for commercial solar and fuel cell projects.

Source: Renewable Energy Access

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I recycled my electronic waste today.

I was good today. I recycled my electronic waste at Goodwill. If you have an old computer that still works, you can take it to Goodwill and they will evaluate it to see if they can use it in their job training program. If it doesn't work, they will send it off to be recycled.

I had an old Hewitt Packard computer from my old job that has been sitting on the basement floor unused for years. I have no idea if it still worked, but I tossed it in the back of the pickup with the monitor and the keyboard and a whole pile of Windows cd's in a pile of snow and got ready to drive it over there. The next thing tossed into the pickup was an old Gateway computer that wouldn't turn on anymore. My sister gave it to me several years back. The fan inside made a noise like fingernails on a chalkboard. One day the screen went blank and never returned. Then I threw in an old Epson color printer that did nothing but chew up paper and make black lines. I gave them the printer software and the instruction manual, maybe someone somewhere can fix it. Then there was an old Macintosh monitor that I acquired from a friend. It worked great, so I wrote "This Works Great!" on it with a red Sharpie. My new monitor is a thousand times better.

So, 3 monitors, 2 computers, 2 keyboards, 1 large a enormous wad of cables and a large handful of cd's and instruction manuals just got recycled. I felt good about myself for a bit (I am morally superior!), but then I got back home and realized that I have yet another box full of modems that either don't work or are just so old and slow that no one will ever use them. Anybody need a 56K modem? Two for the price of one?

I started digging through the modem-laden box and to my surprise found a Toshiba laptop buried on the bottom that I bought used in 2000. I wondered what the hell happened to that thing. Jezeus Christopher, how did I acquire all this crap? Apparently I just covered the laptop with other crap and forgot where it was. It still works and is right now running Windows 95, but has no cd drive, no modem, no battery. I just set it on the bathroom scale and found out that it weighs 9 pounds. Make me an offer! (I will trade it for a 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon.)

Photo stolen from the ELPC website.

Who's in Charge at WMEAC?

Something that I completely missed, Tom Leonard is no longer the Executive Director of West Michigan Environmental Action Council. Mr. Leonard led the organization for more than 10 years and moved it from it's Eastown location to its present uber-LEED, ecofriendly Bazzani-built building in the Cherry Hill neighborhood in 2006. Tom Leonard made WMEAC what it is today, he started with little and made a huge impact. Having passionate professionals like Tom Cary and Lisa Locke working along side of him definitely made his job easier.

Rachel Hood took over the director position in January. Hood has been incredibly active in Grand Rapid for many years. You may remember her for her work with the Creston Neighborhood Association, Metro Health Hospital or the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum. She also sits on the board of the Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts and has been heavily involved with the Progressive Women's Alliance. That, my friends, is an arsenal of nonprofit experience. WMEAC is in good hands.

WMEAC is now at 1007 Lake Dr. SE, on the corner of Diamond and Lake Drive next to Marie Catribs Deli and a short walk from the Gaia Cafe. They've been fighting for West Michigan's environment for over 30 years. Check them out. While your over there, the Gaia Cafe still has a daily omelete special for around $6, the coffee selection is excellent and the waitresses are gorgeous and always smiling. I recommended getting the fresh-baked cornbread instead of toast.

Wisconsin's Northern Forests Threatened by Massive Logging Plan

For the past five years environmental groups have joined forces to fight timber sales and to protect the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Northern Wisconsin. In 2005, the Environmental Law & Policy Center won three federal lawsuits in the Federal District Court in Milwaukee, which led to injunctions and requirements that the U.S. Forest Service reconsider their plans to cut more than 22,000 acres of timber in the Chequamegon-Nicolet. Despite the Federal Court decisions, the Forest Service has already re-approved two of the three timber sales and is moving forward with five new timber sales totaling an extra 34,000 acres of logging.

ELPC filed administrative appeals on the two timber sale re-approvals with the Forest Service's Regional Forester, and more recently on the first of these new timber sales, totaling more than 8,000 acres.

Federal District Court Judge Lynn Adelman has urged the parties to try to reach settlements, but the Forest Service is no longer willing to work with ELPC.

Click here for more information.

Monday, March 05, 2007

There's a New Renewable Energy Directory and I'm in it!

Black Bear Speaks has been recommended for inclusion in Energy Planet: The
Renewable Energy Directory
, a visual directory that gives visitors the opportunity to preview and rate the best alternative and sustainability websites.

Black Bear Speaks is listed in the "Nature and Environment Blogs" category. Feel free to jump to the Directory's Environment Blogs section and give me a 5-star rating! Other websites in the Environment category include the National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Environmental Literacy Council and the Conservation Science Institute.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Take an Online Tour of American Electric Vehicle Factory

AutoBlog visited the American Electric Vehicle factory in Ferndale, Michigan recently and has dozens of images and a video of the assembly process of the AEV "Kurrent" on the blog now.

Or jump straight to the source. Check out the "Kurrent" at www.GetKurrent.com. It's cool! I want one with flames on the side and a place to mount my Happy Meal toys!

Of course, Black Bear Speaks beat AutoBlog to the punch by several months. Here's a previous post with a video interview with American Electric Vehicle's CEO and a hop inside for a video test drive with Michigan State University students.


Levin Introduces Bills to Combat Invasive Species in Great Lakes

Source: Press Release from Senator Levin's office.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., introduced two bipartisan bills aimed at protecting U.S. waters from the threats posed by aquatic invasive species. The National Aquatic Invasive Species Act and the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act would help combat these harmful species that damage U.S. aquatic ecosystems and natural resources.

“Invasive species wreak havoc on our waterways and cost us billions each year,” said Levin, who is a co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. “Because it has proven immeasurably difficult to fight invasive species once they have entered our waters, these bills are focused on preventative measures that will tackle the problem at the source.”

The National Aquatic Invasive Species Act would reauthorize and strengthen the National Invasive Species Act of 1996 to protect U.S. waters by preventing new introductions of aquatic invasive species. The legislation, which Levin is sponsoring along with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, would regulate ballast discharge from commercial vessels; prevent invasive species introductions from other pathways; support state management plans; screen live aquatic organisms entering the United States for the first time in trade; authorize rapid response funds; create education and outreach programs; conduct research on invasion pathways, and prevention and control technologies; authorize funds for state and regional grants; and strengthen specific prevention efforts in the Great Lakes.

“What is so important about the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act is that it to takes a comprehensive approach toward the problem of aquatic invasive species rather than just focusing on species after they are established and a nuisance,” Levin said. “The bill deals with the prevention of new introductions of species, the screening of live aquatic organisms imported into the country, the rapid response to new invasions before they become established, and the research to implement the provisions of this bill.”

The Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act, which Levin is sponsoring with Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wisc., would list three species of Asian carp – the bighead, black and silver carp – as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act. By doing so, Congress would prevent the intentional introduction of these species into the Great Lakes by prohibiting the interstate transportation or importation of live Asian carp without a permit. Congress passed the original Lacey Act in 1900 and the Lacey Act Amendments in 1981, which make it unlawful to import, export, transport, buy or sell fish, wildlife and plants taken or possessed in violation of federal, state or tribal law. This legislation would not interfere with existing state regulations of Asian carp, and permits to transport or purchase live Asian carp could be issued for scientific, medical or educational purposes.

In addition to Levin, Voinovich and Feingold, other cosponsors of the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act include Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Norm Coleman, R-Minn., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

Aquatic invasive species threaten biodiversity nationwide, especially in the Great Lakes. The leading pathway for these aquatic invaders is maritime commerce. In the late 1980s, zebra mussels were released in the Great Lakes after crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the ballast tanks of ships from the Mediterranean. Zebra mussels created such a problem for the Great Lakes that Congress passed legislation in 1990 and 1996 requiring ballast water management for ships entering the Great Lakes, which has reduced, but not eliminated, the threat of new aquatic invasions.

Invasive species are also an economic drain. Estimates of the annual economic damage caused nationwide by invasive species range as high as $137 billion. Because the Great Lakes fisheries are valued at $4 billion annually, preventing invasions into the Great Lakes from ballast water, hulls or the system of canals connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and Atlantic Ocean is critical. Once an exotic species establishes itself, it is almost impossible to eradicate and usually difficult to prevent from moving throughout the nation.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Big Business Schmoozing Treehuggers

For companies, alliances with environmentalists can help both the bottom line and the public image. I strongly recommended reading this article in the next issue of BusinessWeek.

    When William K. Reilly was plotting the private equity takeover of Texas utility TXU Corp. (TXU ), he foresaw one potential dealbreaker. It wasn't the money. The two main investors--Texas Pacific Group, where Reilly is senior adviser, and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.--wouldn't have any trouble financing the $45 billion deal. Nor was it about getting regulatory approval. Instead, says Reilly, "we decided the walk-away issue for us was not getting environmentalists' support."

    So Reilly called Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense, whose Texas attorney, James D. Marston, had been waging an all-out war on TXU's plans to build 11 coal-fired power plants. Krupp told Marston to hop on a plane to San Francisco for a top-secret meeting with Reilly's team. "I ran home, got a suit, took the dog to a kennel, and told my wife I loved her but couldn't tell her what it was about," says Marston.

    The ensuing negotiations were often tense. Enviros referred to TXU's expansion plans as the "Mein Kampf of the global warming wars." When Reilly heard that, he recalls telling his colleagues: "'This will be harder than I thought." After a marathon 17 hours, Reilly ended up giving Marston a big chunk of what he wanted: commitments by the new TXU owners to ax 8 of the 11 proposed plants and to join the call for mandatory national carbon emissions curbs. Meanwhile, the corporate raiders got exactly what they craved: public praise from Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) for the deal.
Green is not only the color of money, it is the future of the American economy.

Read a related article from Monday on the TXU buyout.


Green Business Growth in Lansing

I just stole this post from Absolute Michigan. Sorry Andy, I'm plagarizing you.

This week's City Pulse profiles four environmentally conscious Lansing area companies:

  • KTM Industries, makers of bioplastics and corn-based packing materials. The company also manufactures Magic Nuudles, a biodegradable styrofoam-like building block.

  • Paul Covert of Smart Office Systems, selling eco-friendly coverings for cubicle walls and "embodied energy" of reconditioned office partitions.

  • Deanne Nelson of Ki Design Solutions who says "Green is not Birkenstocks and burlap bag clothing and everyone smelling like patchouli, eating seaweed or whatever. It's just smart. It's using what you have, being resourceful".

  • Joel Weise of Indigo Financial Group, a Michigan (and national) pioneer in energy efficient mortgages who designs mortgages that address a home's energy efficiency.

    Read the article in the Lansing City Pulse.

  • U.S. Green Building Council to Release Green School Guidelines

    As more industries work to make their products and procedures environmentally responsible, green certifications programs help guide both industry and consumers.Recognizing the special vulnerability that children have to environmental exposures and the special considerations in constructing schools, the U.S. Green Building Council created a committee to draft guidelines for constructing green schools. The USGBC recognized many differences between standard commercial construction and school construction needs. Such differences can be noted in the addition of acoustical standards for classrooms and the requirement that schools are not to be built near landfills as to prevent potential toxic exposures. Public comment period closed on February 23.

    Read the press release from the Healthy Schools Campaign.


    JP Morgan and Innovest Launch Global Warming Bond Index

    The global financial services firm JPMorgan and Innovest Strategic Value Advisors Wednesday launched the first bond index designed to address the risks of global warming. The JPMorgan Environmental Index-Carbon Beta, the JENI-Carbon Beta for short, is a United States high-grade corporate bond index. It enables credit investors to make decisions that systematically take into account risks and opportunities issuers face as they address climate change.

    "Until today, bond prices did not reflect an increasingly important financial risk - climate change," said Edward Marrinan, managing director and head of investment grade credit strategy. "With climate exposures factored in, companies’ risk profiles - and their bonds - will more accurately reflect the trade-off between risk and return."

    The JENI-Carbon Beta is based on the JPMorgan US Liquid Index, an established benchmark for the U.S. investment-grade corporate bond market. A relative carbon beta score is calculated monthly for each issuer, relative to its sector, by Innovest, which provides environmental analysis to institutional investors. The JULI is then "tilted" according to the carbon beta scores of issuers to create the JENI-Carbon Beta. For example, within the automotive sector, an automaker that has curbed emissions from its plants and produces a fleet of vehicles with relatively high fuel efficiency might be "overweighted" compared to an automaker that has not taken such steps, Marrinan said.

    The JENI-Carbon Beta is meant to serve as a benchmark for mainstream investors concerned about the financial impact of climate change and related regulation, as well as for funds mandated to seek out investments that meet particular environmental criteria.

    "Awareness and concern among major investors have been growing exponentially," said Innovest Chief Executive Matthew Kiernan. "What’s been missing – until today – have been sophisticated investment tools and products to help them translate that concern into concrete investment decisions and actions. We expect this innovative new index to have a major, positive impact."

    Historical index levels and returns are available from January 1, 2006. Clients and investors can access the JENI-Carbon Beta on www.morganmarkets.com, dataquery.jpmorgan.com, www.jpmorgan.com/jeni, and Bloomberg page: JENI .


    Michigan company wins EPA innovation research contract

    A $70,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant has been awarded t to Lesktech Limited in Negaunee. The money will fund research with Michigan Technological University to develop a method to treat waste from copper mines along the shore of Lake Superior and reuse it in roofing shingles. The company is one of 36 nationally to receive a grant this year.

    The purpose of the SBIR program is to strengthen the role of small businesses in federally funded research and development, and help develop a stronger national base for technical innovation. An SBIR small business is defined as a for-profit organization with no more than 500 employees.

    EPA solicits research proposals for SBIR grants each year. The next solicitation opens on March 15 and closes May 16, 2007. For more information, click here.


    Thursday, March 01, 2007

    Bye Bye Kennecott Mine, Booyah!!!

    DEQ Withdraws Proposed Decision on Kennecott Mining Application! I hate to say "I told you so", but dammit I was right!

    Is this the end of Kennecott's plans for Michigan or does this just slow them down a bit?

    From the press release:
      The Department of Environmental Quality announced today that it has withdrawn its proposed decision to approve a permit for the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company to conduct mining operations at the proposed Eagle Project Mine. The decision was made after discovering that two reports on the structural integrity of the mine were not properly made part of the public record or given a comprehensive technical review.
    (Ahem, that means that someone buried the reports in the back of a file cabinet.)
      As a result, there has been an insufficient opportunity for the entire mining team and DEQ management to review the additional technical reports and determine their significance from a technical, legal, and policy perspective.
    (Someone hid information from the public and the management team? Is the buck being passed?)
      “This department has committed itself to making this process as open and transparent as possible,” said DEQ Director Steven E. Chester. “In light of this information, we must allow the needed time for ourselves, as well as the public, to give it the appropriate review.”
    ("Honest folks, this REALLY isn't my fault.")
      Director Chester also announced that the public hearings, scheduled for March 6-8 in Marquette and March 12 in Lansing, will be postponed and rescheduled at a later date.“I regret that canceling the hearings at this time may create an inconvenience for those who were planning to attend, but it is critical for us to gain a better understanding of the situation before we engage in that important part of this process,” added Director Chester.
    (We haven't decided who to blame yet.)
      In addition to a technical review of the reports, the department will be undertaking an extensive procedural review to determine how these documents were not immediately given the proper consideration and to ensure that there is a complete public record of information related to the mining proposal and its review. During this review, affected staff will be reassigned to other projects.
    Someone really fucked-up, but affected staff will be reassigned? Does this mean that the people who weren't doing their job are being moved to another project? No one is getting fired? I suggest that they be reassigned to a rowboat 5 miles offshore.

    Future United Nations Ambassador Turns One

    Future Nobel Peace Prize winner, Governor of Minnesota, United Nations Ambassador and all-around really nice guy, Tyler turned 1 year-old on Monday. Tyler marked the first anniversary of the beginning of his extremely cool life with ice cream.

    Overseas: Germans Building Massive Solar Power Plant

    Construction on a 40 megawatt solar power plant is under way at a former military base in the Saxon region of Germany. The total surface area of the planned photovoltaic installation is comparable to about 200 soccer fields. When completed in 2009, the project will be the largest photovoltaic project ever constructed. Currently the biggest PV plant in the world has an output capacity of around 12 megawatts.

    Source: Renewable Energy Access

    U-M Researchers Find More Hazardous Waste Facilities Located in Minority Areas

    Environmental justice scholars have claimed that hazardous waste facilities are disproportionately placed in poor, minority neighborhoods. New research from the University of Michigan supports these arguments.

    One assertion is that the hazardous waste facilities came first, which causes the neighborhood demographics to change. As that argument goes, the more affluent white people move out, and poorer minority people are forced to stay or move in, said Paul Mohai, a professor in the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment.

    However, the study concluded that minorities were living in the areas where hazardous waste facilities decided to locate before the facilities arrived. Mohai — who conducted the research in collaboration with Robin Saha, a former U-M Ph.D. student and post-doctoral scholar, now an assistant professor at University of Montana — also found that the demographics in the neighborhoods were already changing and that white residents had already started to move out when the facility was sited.

    Read More


    Time to Mobilize Against Nuclear Energy (again)

    DTE Energy wants to build a new nuclear power plant in Monroe.

    Source: Metro Times Detroit, Jack Lessenberry

    Read More

    Granholm uses Calvin College student wind project as evidence of energy innovation

    On a statewide tour to drum up support for her plan to speed Michigan's economic turnaround, Governor Granholm met with Calving College students working to build a wind turbine and satisfy campus energy needs. Then the governor promoted the visit to Grand Rapids on her weekly podcast.

    "I've been traveling across Michigan to look at some of the ways we are investing in our people and innovating to diversify our economy and create new jobs," the governor said. "Just this week, I met with students at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. They are building a wind turbine that will power lights and computers on campus."

    "Harnessing the power of the wind can help us create jobs and become the alternative energy center of the country, while harnessing the power and talent of our people will help us create a workforce that attracts companies from across the globe," the governor added.

    Read More

    Source: RapidGrowthGR