Archive for March, 2009

The logging industry is trying to become more environmentally friendly according to this New York Times article.  Also in the Times, Thomas Friedman argues that we need a climate bailout to go along with the economic bailout, and there’s this story about Earth Hour.

U.S. environmental policy is changing, says the Washington Post, which includes increased involvement in international climate change talks.

The LA Times says that interest in green careers is increasing on college campuses.  It also had this article about a potential conflict between environmentalists and alternative energy supporters, and this one about the ethanol industry’s opposition to California’s proposed carbon emissions policy.

The San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at a sustainable home.  The Houston Chronicle says that lobbyists are flocking to climate change issues.

Small appliances such as snow- or leaf-blowers emit a pound of carbon dioxide every hour.

On Saturday at 8:30 p.m.,  2,712 cities and towns in more than 80 countries will turn off their lights to celebrate Earth Hour. On Saturday at 8:30 p.m., I will be working at a desk with a computer on and the overhead lights on. It’s a situation I can’t avoid, but will leave me feeling like I’m missing something.

In a nutshell, that’s what sums up the amazing parts and downsides of Earth Hour, which has galvanized thousands of communities across the world to turn off their lights for 1 hour at 8:30 p.m.

To have gained commitments from such a large block of governments, businesses and households, is an impressive feat and one that is unmatched by any other energy awareness group. The collective action to turn off your lights has been made into a community event and the need to do it becomes contagious as people want to join the fun. “To do something right, you must turn off the light.” As is written elsewhere on this site, getting people united behind a cause is truly important and has been done in the past – see, World War II.

In addition to getting people to collectively conserve energy and think about doing it every day, there is also a measurable benefit to the environment. In 2007, when Australia first took part in Earth Hour, it reduced its energy costs by 10 percent across the city during the hour. This is a huge reduction in carbon emissions.

But while the timing of Earth Hour will provide for a nice photo – the city or town in darkness – it also doesn’t allow people to really see how unnecessary overhead lights are. At night, they are useful. On Saturday night, I’ll be at work and if my lights are turned off, people won’t be able to do their job. During the day, natural sunlight can be used to light buildings. Don’t forget buildings and other dwellings have existed a lot longer than Edison’s invention. People won’t turn off their lights every night at 8:30 p.m., but they can turn most of them off during the day, so the best use of Earth Hour would be to demonstrate that to people.

Despite this missed opportunity, Earth Hour is wildly successful and something to be admired. I don’t need to remind people reading this blog that Lights Out, Green In wants businesses and households to pledge to turn off their nonessential lights every day from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., but our mission for the 15 months we have been in existence is much like Earth Hour’s – we would like people to realize how useless some lighting is.

First, we at LOGI want to thank everyone who came out on Saturday night for our fundraiser in Pittsfield, MA.  A big thank you to the people at Pittsfield Brew Works, those who donated raffle prizes, and to Jenn Smith for their efforts in making the night a big success.

In environmental news this week, the EPA says emission of toxic chemicals was down 5 percent in 2007 (New York Times).  The Times also had this story about issues involved with greening co-ops.

Climate change may be to blame for problems in the Chesapeake Bay region, says the Washington Post.  Meanwhile, the Post reports that President Obama has appointed a chairman for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commision, and on the green jobs front, the U.S. has extended a $535 million loan for constructing a solar energy plant.

More hybrids are being built, but the demand still isn’t there, according to this LA Times article.  This Times article talks about legal issues around rainwater harvesting.

The Senate this week voted to protect more than 2 million wilderness acres (San Francisco Chronicle).

The Dallas Morning News says that the Texas legislature has a number of pending bills related to climate change issues.  In Minnesota, the McKnight Foundation has pledged $100 million to fight global warming (Minneapolis Star-Tribune).

Energy efficiency doesn’t always lead to energy savngs, says this USA Today article.

And today, the EPA has proposed regulating greenhouse gases.

New front-loading washing machines typically use only 16-25 gallons of water per load.

In lieu of my weekly opinion blog, a slice of good news …

Lights Out, Green In gained nonprofit status approval last week from the federal government. The decision is retroactive to Feb. 26, 2008, and lists LOGI as a public charity under the 501 (c) (3) federal laws. The approval clears the way for all donations given to the all-volunteer LOGI from the Feb. 26, 2008, date and going forward to be claimed as tax deductible by the giver. Lights Out, Green In is also exempt from paying taxes as an organization, but will be required to file annual financial reports with the IRS. The nonprofit status is permanent.

Lights Out Green In extends a huge amount of thanks to Secretary of the Board Mary Welsh, who took the reigns on filing for nonprofit status and is responsible for this success.

Municipal financing helps some California homeowners power their home with solar panels, says this New York Times article.  Meanwhile, this Times article says that the feed-in tariffs that support alternative energy in Europe are beginning to make their way to the U.S.. Also, the Times reports that Honda’s latest hybrid offering hopes to have a mainstream appeal.

California’s Climate action team warns against the prospect of rising sea levels, according to the LA Times.  The Times also has news of a study that explores the long-term effects of ozone exposure.

Expanding the energy grid to deliver renewable energy is a vexing problem, says the San Francisco Chronicle, which also has an editorial calling on California to be ready for climate change.  The Chronicle also reports on a study that finds that life on Antarctica is being affected by climate change.

Climate change legislation will be hotly debated by legislators and lawmakers alike, says the Washington Post, which also has this story of one couple reaping the benefits of solar power.

Researchers at last week’s conference in Copenhagen warned that climate change effects may become irreversible. (cnn.com)

And lastly, don’t forget about this Saturday’s fundraising event (details in Matt’s post from March 2).  If you like St. Patrick’s Day, you’ll love this opportunity for another green celebration.  Hope you can make it!

Germicidal UV lamps – standard in hospitals – are now available for residential use.

The most important climate change summit since Kyoto is upcoming in Copenhagen at the end of the year. I’ve alluded to it in previous posts – such as the ones introducing President Obama’s energy team – but I will continue to touch on it from time to time, including today, in the months leading up to the conference. There’s also a message board thread on the topic.

The latest article to catch my eye on the subject is from across the pond. The UK’s Guardian paper has an interesting take on things. The basic premise is that business would just STOP (even more than the current recession has stopped things) if the U.S. tried to impose the 25-40 percent cut in greenhouse gases by 2020 that scientists say is needed to stem earth-shattering, irreversible effects of global warming.

Europe is shooting for that mark and could conceivably reach it (since they joined Kyoto and have been proactive for years, which the U.S. has not been), but it would have an adverse effect on their businesses. The key here is for everyone to be on the same playing field globally. IF Europe knew the U.S., China and India were all following the same rules, they’d be all for it, but they are wary of going any further unless there is commitment. As it stands, with the world plodding through the first global recession, greenhouse gas demand is lowered, but nations are unwilling to set long-term restrictions on businesses right now.

The U.S. seems to be willing to set these restrictions, but – despite hearing “Yes We Can” chants during 2008 – it is being bandied about by top-level officials that we CAN’T reach the 25-40 percent cut by 2020. The Guardian’s article states that any restrictions that look at 2050 as a target wouldn’t provoke countries such as China and India to take immediate action.

Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, said domestic political constraints made it impossible for the U.S. president to announce ambitious short-term climate targets similar to those set by Europe. And he questioned the value of a new global climate deal without such a U.S. pledge.

And so we stand at a stalemate before we even get to the table. We need to make progress on this before Copenhagen, so we have parameters of a deal. I guess some upside is that we’re at least working on it. And the U.S. is setting up a structure to monitor these emissions, which according to this blog are decreasing in the Northeast due to the recession. Monitoring is the first step to then demanding and tracking a decrease in emissions.

But what Obama promised to do during the campaign – take a chisel to the budget – needs to be done with greenhouse gas emissions. Cutting auto emmissions will help and states are partaking in their own carbon cap and trade deal. So let’s try and do a lot of these semi-major changes and they will add up. If businesses and households got in step with the pledge and other such conservative practices that don’t harm commerce, it would help. Then maybe the U.S. can say 2025 is a more realistic for about a 30 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions. The little things can make a difference and hopefully the U.S. and the world can keep that in mind in the meetings leading up to, and during, the Copenhagen conference.

Hope everyone enjoyed the extra daylight yesterday afternoon.  The start of daylight saving was moved up to early March a few years ago partly because of the belief that it saves energy.  But evidence is mixed, as this US News blurb from last week and USA Today article from last year indicate.

Rail travel is often touted as a much more energy-efficient form of transportation than flying or driving.  And as this New York Times feature notes, it’s a great way to meet people and see the country.  The Washington Post also notes that high-speed rail is a major priority for President Obama.

One effect of rising sea levels is beach erosion.  But as this New York Times article about a Florida court case shows, remedies for erosion may be fraught with their own environmental problems.  The Times also reports that the possible scuttling of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project reopens the debate about what to do with the waste.  And it has this story about achieving a carbon neutral household at a low cost.

Ethanol producers want the ethanol limit in motor fuel to be raised to at least 15 percent, says the Washington Post.  The Post also has this story about a clean coal project in Illinois that has been revived under the Obama administration.

California presented its case to the EPA for tougher emissions laws says this LA Times article.  the Times also has news of a separate state proposal to set a low-carbon fuel standard.

A lush green lawn may not be so green after all according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.