April 14, 2008

Bush ready to pass global warming legislation?

Bush_earth The Washington Times shockingly reports this morning that President Bush decided to to announce early this week that he wants Congress to pass legislation to combat global warming.

Key members of the Republican Party seem confused on the sudden shift in direction, and no one is certain what Bush will say. Many theorize that the recent states-driven lawsuit vs. the EPA to require regulation of greenhouse gases is forcing action the issue. Bush may fear a regulatory nightmare as we move towards carbon regulation, and likely wants to get ahead of the game in protecting businesses from overhead.

All current presidential candidates favor a cap-and-trade program, similar to the one currently running in the E.U. It is unclear whether President Bush intends to go that far.

It will certainly be an interesting week...

Link [Washington Times]

Target & Archer Farms reinvent cereal box packaging

Cereal_box_packaginA Minneapolis-based Target in conjunction with Archer Farms (an organic line) is trying to reinvent cereal packaging.

The new packaging removes the need for the inner plastic bag to hold the cereal in. It also features a snug-fitting lid to keep the cereal fresh.

The packaging itself is made from 55% recycled material with 50% post-consumer content, and claims to be fully recyclable itself.

Little else is known about the packaging since Target seems to be keeping mum on the subject.

Link [Sustainable Is Good]

Progress being made on see-through solar panel windows

Solarglass1

Windows are always a problem for a sustainable builder because they take energy from the home. Which led a company called Dyesol to wonder what they could do to flip that, and make windows give back to the home, possibly powering it completely.

The panels are made of interlocking solar cells, that use a colored dye to capture light. Not only are they cheaper to make than standard solar panels, but theoretically are more efficient. The dyes used right now are orangish, but they are working on blue, green, and grey.

Imagine this as the norm for skyscrapers in just a few short years.

Link [Inhabitat.com]

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Wal-Mart giving away 1 million reuseable bags on Earth Day

Reuseable_bagsEarth Day is this Saturday, April 19th. In response, Wal-Mart is giving away a stunning one million reuseable shopping bags at their stores.

If you want one, show up at 8am at your local store.

But if you miss it, don't worry too much. The bags are available for just $1 at Wal-Mart the rest of the time.

Link [Walmart.com]

Al Gore's new Slideshow

Al Gore has a new slideshow, focused on how climate change is worse than we expected, more of an emphasis on the oil situation, and a challenge to think "generationally" by becoming super-active citizens and getting laws changed. Check it out above.

From Ted.com

Wrap-Up

The Seattle Green Festival was a blast. I still have a ton of notes from speakers that hopefully I'll have the time to write up in the next week or so. But thanks to all of the sponsors and participants for putting on such a great show.

April 13, 2008

Misinformation at Seattle Electric Vehicle Booth

Electric_car_emissionsI swung by the Seattle EVA (Electric Vehicle Association) booth to chat with some of the folks over there. The conversation went something like this:

Me: So, does it really make sense to get an electric vehicle that runs from a coal-fired grid?

Old Man: Absolutely. Anything to get off foreign oil.

Me: But, what about the emissions? Are the emissions better through the grid than using oil?

Old Man: [rolls eyes] Of course they are. Electric vehicles are 5x more efficient than a gas vehicle, so the emissions are 5x better.

Me: Are you sure about that?

Old Man: [looks annoyed] Read this pamphlet. [Throws me a flyer and runs off to greet some other people].

Truth is, he is absolutely correct in saying that electric cars are 5x more efficient at using energy than gas cars. Problem is, the grid that gets the energy to us isn't very efficient, so much of the efficiency gains are lost in the transport of the energy.

Take a look at the graph above. That represents the lifetime CO2 emissions for different types of automobiles. Partly because the manufacturing emissions are higher for electric cars, an electric car run off of today's grid has a much worse emissions story than a hybrid. But if you can transform the grid to run from a renewable source, then you have something exciting to talk about. We're not there yet.

And this doesn't even begin to get into the water requirements to generate the power behind electric vehicles. Needless to say, I'm disappointed that Seattle EVA doesn't have their facts straight.

John Perkins - Confessions of an Economic Hitman

John_perkinsI've been excited for this one. John Perkins, a respected member of the international banking community, wrote a great book called "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" covering his job of trying to convince third world countries to take on huge loans with enormous debt.

He's starting off by asking how we create a revolution: how we upset the power in the banking industry that's been created in post-World-War-II America.

Here's the questions he asks:
1. Do we truly want change?
2. Do we have a unifying principle that allows us to justify that change without invoking biases on other people?
3. Do we have reason to expect that we can achieve that change?
4. How are we all going to do this?

Summarizing his answers:
1. Do we truly want change?
Less than 5% of the world's population consumes 25% of the world's resources, and creates 30% of the pollution. That leads to only one conclusion: our system is a failure, and cannot be a model for the world. It is a non-viable model that cannot lead. So we must change it. Period.

2. What is our unifying principle that allows us to justify change?
The way our system works: economic hitmen->jackals->military.

We need to commit ourselves to creating a stable, sustainable, peaceful world for everyone, everywhere. Not just our country. That is the only way our children will have a stable, peaceful world.

3. Do we have cause to be optimistic to expect that change? Can we change the world?
Yes. We need to ask ourselves "who is the emperor"? Right now, it's a "corporatocracy". We are the customers and the employees. They count on us, and we have a good success record of changing them when we choose to apply pressure.

He also makes the important point that he's NEVER met an evil CEO. They all want to create a better world, but they are trapped in the expectations of our economy. I'm glad Mr. Perkins pointed this out. There's so much "Corporations are Satan's-spawn," talk here, I was starting to go a little cross-eyed.

4. How do we bring about change?
Mr. Perkins tells the story of a fight between Rainforest Action Network vs. Mitsubishi. The fight got ugly, but they got an agreement signed at the end of it. Then he met the head of both organizations at a conference and found them both hanging out in the hot tub. The Mitsubishi CEO thanked the Rainforest guy because he wanted to do it, but didn't dare ask their managers, because they feared for their jobs. The CEO thanked the Rainforest guy because he forced him to do the right thing.

Moral of the story: organized efforts can persuade corporations to change their ways. Find the organization that draws out your passion, and get out and support it.

At the end of the day, things like "not buying bottled water" are band-aids. We must change the underlying model for how we live. Examine your life and figure out what steps you can take to get there.

The Card that encourages local shopping

Community_cardI just signed up for a cool program called the PCC Puget Sound Community Card.

The purpose of the program is to encourage consumers to shop locally and share locally, while benefiting the community at the same time.

Basically, you get a membership card, that many local Seattle businesses accept. When you use the card at your local business, you get a monetary refund from that business, AND a non-profit of your choice will also get some cash back.

What a great idea, and an easy way to support local businesses and causes.

Jim Hightower at the Green Festival

Jim_hightowerSat in on Jim Hightower's presentation yesterday. Jim has been the Agricultural Commissioner for Texas twice, and does a bunch of books and radio work.

My first impressions? Jesse Jackson has nothing on this guy when it comes to catch, angry rhyming. In the first three minutes we've had the phrases "strategize, organize, and mobilize", "Walmatters and Exxoners", "Warmongers and Fearmongers", "autocratic, theocratic, and plutocratic", and "Bushites and Bullshitters". Okay, well that last one is more of an alliteration, but you get the idea.

Jim seems pretty angry. Angry at Bush, angry at corporate America, angry at the oil companies, and angry at anybody who has money. He definitely feels that the Bush administration is immoral.

Interesting fact he points out: "Did you know that you can take the word "Presbyterians" and rearrange the letters, and it will spell "Britney Spears"?"

Not much environmental content in this particular speech. Jim is here to incite liberal rebellion and evangelism.

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