Archive for March, 2012

“Bag It” feels like a different type of film even before you put it in the DVD player. That’s because there’s no plastic involved in the packaging. The inside that holds the disc is made out of a foam. I suppose that adds a little kick behind the “practice what you preach” motto.

The film starts by talking about plastic bags. It shows how Ireland used a 22-cent bag fee to cut plastic bag use, while China has banned some types of plastic bags. In the U.S., however, the American Chemistry Council put in a ban on charging a fee for plastic bags in California – and that has forced some towns to go as far as banning bags.

In the overflow of statistics that rushes out in the first 30 minutes of the film, one stood out. That is – there was more plastic used in the past 10 years than the  preceding 100 years. The film then veers off topic from plastic bags a bit, touching on the effect of plastic on humans (don’t put any plastic in the microwave!); as well as overpackaging; and the amount of plastic in the ocean, including how the plastic gets inside marine life.

The best part of the film is when it focuses on recycling. While some activists say plastic bags are better than paper, the film debunks that idea because the paper has more of a life in recycling. Dubbed a “gateway drug” to an environmental lifestyle by one interview subject, recycling is shown to be confusing and unregulated. You can put a recycle logo on a bottle even if it’s not recyclable. Plus, the film shows people often getting confused about what’s recyclable. The answer: It’s a lot less than you think, but it’s still worth it.

The film finds its focus at the end with a series of useful tips: Reduce single-use; don’t drink bottled water; when you need something, buy it used; bring your own container; reduce, reuse – and then recycle.

The final motto is: Simplify your life and rethink how you do things. That’s the same message from Lights Out, Green In, which preaches conservation.

Temperatures may rise faster than previously thought (BBC).

Federal regulators share blame for the Massey coal mine explosion, an independent report says (Washington Post).

Erosion threatens San Francisco (NY Times).

Idaho landowners win a Supreme Court case against the EPA (LA Times). Meanwhile, the EPA also loses a mountaintop mining permit case (NY Times).

Does energy supply drive energy demand? (BBC)

Western states want land back from the federal government (NY Times).

The UK opens a carbon-measuring center (BBC).

The U.S. has actually moved closer towards energy independence, though not without costs (NY Times).

High gas prices may reflect an improving economy (LA Times).

Obama supports the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline (BBC, also see LA Times).

Illegal logging is worth $10-$15 billion a year, a World Bank report says (BBC).

Water shortages could affect security interests (Washington Post). They’ve already become a significant property rights issue (NY Times).

Louisiana seeks to lift a highway above rising seas (Washington Post).

After 30 hours without power last week thanks to the Back Bay Blackout, it came back on while I was sleeping. If there ever is a more useless time to have power, that is it. But with the entire experience coming on one of my days off from work (Wednesdays), it allowed me to realize how useful and useless power can be. Let’s break it down …


  • TRAFFIC LIGHTS & STREET LIGHTS: The most useful, right? Without it, police had to man busy intersections in Boston for two nights, directing traffic by hand. And the street lights being off made things more dangerous as robberies or any other crime could go far more undetected in the darkness. Just walking from a car to my apartment past midnight on Tuesday had me a little spooked. Wednesday night was a little easier since it was only about 9 p.m.
  • REFRIGERATOR POWER: As much as shopping for just what you eat that day sounds like a delightful way to live, it’s not realistic. You need to stock up on milk, butter, condiments, eggs and some frozen foods. We didn’t have power for 30 hours, but kept the refrigerator and freezer doors shut the entire time, so we had no problems.
  • INTERNET: I couldn’t right my weekly Lights Out, Green In blog with the modem not working! (It would’ve been on daylight saving time, but you’ll have to wait until November to read it now.) With the radio and a phone app, I was easily able to get news, but the wonky phone email system made things a little tougher. There are some tasks for which you do still need a laptop or desktop.
  • HOT WATER HEATER: You can boil water for a morning tea or coffee, but you can’t avoid cold showers.
  • LAUNDRY MACHINES: I can make do without a dryer – and often do – but I don’t have a laundry bucket like the olden days. Could I have taken my clothes to a laundromat  minutes out of town? I suppose so, but it’s still dependent upon them using electricity.


  • TELEVISION: Things were a lot quieter and more relaxing as I was able to read. Although, with no Internet, it would’ve been nice to have the TV.
  • ALARM CLOCK, MICROWAVE, TOASTER, COFFEE MACHINE, OVEN: Making do without them, caused little problems.
  • LIGHTING: Sure, I used a flashlight – or the light from my phone – to make my way up the stairs and I needed a flashlight for my cold shower and to wash dishes in the sink, but my eyes adjusted.

HONORABLE MENTION: Smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors are useful, but we don’t notice them in everyday life.


Methane from the Arctic is a growing risk (BBC).

Cars are lasting longer, and emissions requirements may be a reason why (NY Times).

Brazil bars 17 oil workers from leaving the country (NY Times).

The Department of Agriculture may require environmental reviews before issuing mortgages to properties with drilling leases (NY Times).

Oceangoing ships must nw cleanse their ballast water before dumping it (Washington Post).


Gas prices keep on going up (Washington Post) and voters blame the president (Washington Post).

Rising sea levels threaten the U.S. coast (NY Times).

Louisiana seeks new ways to protect its coast (LA Times).

Fracking grows in California (LA Times).

Seattle tests LED street lights (NY Times).


Japan marks the one-year earthquake anniversary (BBC). Recovery progress has been slow (LA Times). Critics say it could’ve been avoided (NY Times).

The government continues to watch for eco-terrorism (Washington Post).

Gas price disparities are here to stay (NY Times).

An “affordable” green light bulb isn’t so affordable (Washington Post).


Deepwater drilling regains momentum (NY Times).

The UK sets up a green bank in Scotland (BBC).

Poland opposes the EU’s CO2 cuts (BBC).

The Senate rejects another effort to advance the Keystone XL pipeline (LA Times and Washington Post).

California’s bullet train is still stuck in the station (LA Times).

With the news that a tentative $7.8 billion settlement was reached being announced in the past week, it’s worth taking a deeper look at the financial situation behind the BP oil spill that occurred nearly two years ago.

The settlement takes care of 100,000 people, who either fell ill cleaning up the spill or were fishermen directly affected by the spill. Many fishermen have not yet filed claims and while the reaction to the settlement has been mixed (one-third goes to the seafood industry), it is expected to be approved.

The company has set aside $37 billion in total to deal with all claims, many of which remain unsettled. The U.S. government, states and other companies all still have suits against BP. This article outlines the different ways BP violated federal law and notes that the government could seek up to $90 billion from BP, although a settlement is expected to be closer to $20-$25 billion.

Save your tears for BP, however. They’re doing just fine

The fourth-quarter replacement cost profit, which is the industry’s preferred measure of profitability as it strips out the volatile value of oil inventories, came in at $7.6bn, up from $4.61bn in the fourth quarter of 2010. Full-year profit on this measure was $21.7bn, up from $20.5bn in 2010.


BP reaches a $7.8 billion settlement with 110,000 claimants (BBC, also see LA Times), and the market is generally pleased (Washington Post).

The BP case isn’t over for the feds (BBC). And Louisiana is still dealing with the spill’s effects (BBC).

Ohio faces a dilemma on shale gas (Washington Post).

Shell prepares to drill in the Arctic Ocean (LA Times).

Tortoises are slowing down desert solar projects (LA Times).

GM suspends Volt production for 5 weeks (Washington Post).

Higher gas prices haven’t affected the economy- yet (NY Times).