God defend me from my friends – from my enemies I can defend myself
by Michael Smith
A private intelligence company has been engaged by police in Australia to secretly monitor internet and email use by activist and protest groups, according to a report.
The company was hired by Victorian Police, the Australian Federal Police and the federal Attorney-General's department to monitor and report on the internet activities of anti-war campaigners, animal rights activists, environmental campaigners, and other protest groups.
The Melbourne-based firm has for the past five years monitored websites, online chat rooms, social networking sites, email lists and bulletin boards, so says the report, and has gathered intelligence on planned protests and other activities, and even though many, if not even the majority, of those on the watch list have broken no laws.
Welcome to the fascist Dominion of Australia. Then again, it would appear that the mother country, Britain, is headed the same way, with the security services running roughshod over all civil liberties possible. Is this a sign of things to come?
This private intelligence company has also prepared threat assessments and intelligence reports for government agencies that included material from media reports, speeches, academic journals and publicly available company data, but no private correspondence, so it is claimed, was monitored.
As to the latter I would, personally, be very dubious. If they go as far as they have gone the chances are that they may have gone further still but that this is more secret than other things.
The company was not named at the request of its management for fear extremists may target the firm.
The news comes a month after Victorian police were found to have targeted community and activist groups in a long-running covert operation.
So much for the claims of freedom and liberties in Australia. If that is freedom and liberty then I would not want to see what happens should they change tack.
There is one difference between Australia and the UK and that is that in Australia it seems to be easier to find out those things that the services are up to compared to the UK. In the latter place the law and the culture of secrecy makes getting such information very difficult indeed, despite of the “Freedom of Information Act” and if they can claim that they are monitoring suspected terrorists then, well, no chance of getting info and anything that ends up leaked and then published could get one killed.
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
God defend me from my friends – from my enemies I can defend myself
Saves trees... use Online Book Rental
by Michael Smith
BookSwim is the first online book rental library service lending you paperbacks and hardcovers, Netflix®-style, directly to your house, without the need to purchase! Whether it's new releases, bestsellers, or classics, we have something for everyone, with free shipping both ways! Read your books as long as you want – no late fees! Even choose to purchase and keep the titles you love!
Now there is an environmentally friendly – or a more environmentally friendly – way of dealing with one's addiction to reading and books. This may be, aside from e-books, especially those in PDF that one can then print out if one so desires, a way to go for those of us who love reading but hate to have to buy all the books and then, once we have bought and read them have to deal with them afterwards.
While we all like to keep this book or that after we have read it for the “just in case we want to read it again” there are masses more books that we buy to read that we hardly will ever have a need or desire to read again. So, what do with them then. Because we have bought them and often paid good moment for them we are very reluctant often to dispense with them and throw them out, even if to a charity shop to be sold on to others and there are only that many friends and relations that you can otherwise pass them onto. With a service such a BookSwim this is all eliminated.
From an environmental standpoint dead tree books are not something that often is promoted and everyone is on about e-books nowadays, and I am even looking of producing e-books from the Green (Living) Review, the occasional sort-of annual “Best of Green Living”, in PDF, which is the best format for e-books, in my opinion, I still find reading on screen difficult for more than a few pages or so. Hence I still prefer to have books printed, even if printed from a PDF via my printer at home. It makes reading still a nicer experience. I certainly would not even try to read novels on screen. It just is not the same as a book, whether hardback or paperback.
BookSwim gives those of us who want to read books and may even want to keep the occasional book that we particularly like a chance to do just that without having to travel to the local lending library and without the danger of incurring late fees should we forget about the book for a while or such.
Yes, I know, that in most libraries, public lending ones, you can borrow books for free but... and the but is the inconvenience of having to travel to the library if you happen to live, say, in the boonies and then, as said, if you run late, forget about the book for a while, or whatever, you incur late fees and they can mount up if you cannot get to the library for some reason to return the book(s). In addition to that the books are not, necessarily, the latest offerings that are available at the local library and also, you cannot, if you like the book, purchase it. With BookSwim, on the other hand, you can.
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
WILDLIFE HABITAT COUNCIL PRESENTS ERICKSON RETIREMENT COMMUNITIES -- RIDERWOOD WITH CORPORATE LANDS(SM) FOR LEARNING SITE CERTIFICATE
Only Retirement Community in Nation Certified as Wildlife Habitat and CorporateLandsSM for Learning Site
SILVER SPRING, MD, November 2008: On November 18, Erickson Retirement Communities – Riderwood staff attended the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) Annual Symposium at the Marriott Waterfront in Baltimore, Maryland, to receive its official Corporate Lands for Learning site certificate. This certification demonstrates that the employees and residents at this Erickson Retirement Community are committed to providing exemplary site-based conservation education experiences for the community by using its habitat as a tool for teaching ecological concepts and the human role in conservation.
“Riderwood is the only retirement community in the nation certified as Wildlife Habitat and Corporate Lands for Learning Site,” said WHC President Robert Johnson at the awards presentation. “Erickson Retirement Communities should be commended for achieving this certification and take great pride in knowing that they have made important contributions to conservation education.”
According to Donna Mason, Riderwood’s Executive Director, “This valuable accreditation reflects Riderwood’s commitment to environmental stewardship and outstanding environmental education and voluntary efforts. It’s amazing to see how staff and residents work together to protect the natural resources, habitat, and native species of this region...I applaud their efforts.”
Since 2005, Riderwood has been the first retirement community in the world certified as a wildlife habitat by the WHC, and diligently works every day to save the environment. Employees, residents and local organizations work in partnership to fulfill four basic goals of a certified Wildlife Habitat Management Plan (WHMP), which include improving nesting sites and cover; improving the quantity, quality, and diversity of food sources for wildlife; removing invasive plant species; and providing environmental education year-round.
“Each year more and more of the fields and woodlands near Riderwood are turning into shopping centers, commercial buildings and homes. Our campus is providing a small, green oasis for uprooted wildlife. The Wildlife Habitat Council has offered valuable assistance in our efforts to maintain and improve the quality of our habitat. I’m just thrilled to be a part of this international effort to involve corporations in managing their lands in wildlife-friendly ways,” said Anne Blackburn, Riderwood’s Resident Chair, WHMP.
The mission of Riderwood’s CCL Program is to use the preserved woodland areas and wildlife habitat improvement projects on campus to help residents, their families, special guests and staff experience and value the natural world and assist them in being more proactive in its protection and use.
More than 2,800 of people live at Riderwood, an Erickson full-service retirement community that promotes a vibrant lifestyle. Erickson Retirement Communities [www.ericksoncommunities.com] is one of the leading national developers of full-service retirement communities. Headquartered near Baltimore, Maryland, Erickson has built an innovative network of 23 communities that combine a maintenance-free active lifestyle with an ever-expanding host of amenities, social activities, and wellness and medical centers, proven to improve both physical and mental health.
Source: Erickson Communities
by Michael Smith
Current policies to make low-carbon and more energy efficient homes risk leaving low income households out in the cold.
That was the warning from Dr Brenda Boardman, a senior research fellow at the University of Oxford's Environmental Change Institute.
Speaking at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) on Wednesday, Dr Boardman said that households who were in fuel poverty were not being given enough help to radically reduce their bills.
Meanwhile Government grants for low-carbon improvements such as micro-generation were, instead, being dished out to people who had already been able to pay to make their homes more energy efficient, she said.
"What I want to try to do is to make sure that low income households get low carbon homes," Dr Boardman said.
"I think there's a real risk at the moment that the only people with low carbon homes are going to be the rich."
She called for Ministers to revolutionise policies to boost energy efficiency in homes and to help the fuel poor.
Energy Performance Certificates could be used to identify the worst performing homes and the people who are in the most need of help to bring down their bills, Dr Boardman proposed.
"I think we need to start targeting people with the least efficient homes," she said. "We need a database of EPCs.
"We can't just rely on those from when a house is sold. We also need to generate an EPC when there's a Warm Front visit or a building regulations approval and then that should be given to the local authority."
Conservative estimates suggest that 70% of the UK's existing housing stock will still be in use by 2050, when the Climate Change Bill will require overall greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by at least 80%. Other estimates suggest it could be more than 90% of current housing.
The majority of people who are in fuel poverty are also in poverty or very close to real poverty and often do not even own their homes but rent from housing associations, local councils (where there are still housing stock held in council hands) and from other landlords. Hence, as they do not own those homes they have no way of improving upon the home's energy efficiency.
Even if they do own their homes, and that is a small proportion of those in fuel poverty, of that I am nigh on certain, they just do not have the means to do anything about making their homes more energy efficient. As to micro-generation, that is entirely a no go in rented homes, and also a no possibility for those in the latter case, e.g. those that own but have not the means to pay everything.
There should be an obligation on landlords – whether private or councils – to make homes energy efficient. This has to be done, though, in such as way as not to financially burden then already overburdened tenants.
Improving the existing housing stock is something that should have priority over any kind of Eco-Town developments and it should be those that can least afford to pay for energy that should, first and foremost, benefit and not those that can pay for the stuff out of their own deep pockets.
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
by Michael Smith
During the recently concluded 2008 CleanTech Open, some of the most exciting new innovations in the world of sustainability were being showcased. Among the winners that walked away with a prize package worth $100,000 in cash and business resources was BottleStone, a Los Altos Hills company that makes ceramic stone counter tops out of recycled glass.
It must be said, however, that this is certainly not the only company doing this and there are several in the UK and in other European Union countries. I have seen their products on several shows and are intending to write about this in a different vein in another article soon.
It takes about six wine bottles to create a square foot of BottleStone, which is a wonder to think used wine bottles do more than to serve as evidence of one’s drinking habits. What is more interesting, however, is BottleStone’s durability. In tests, the material proved to be just as strong as 1.5” thick brick or 2.5” thick concrete paver.
The glass waste used is direct from post-consumer sources, meaning it’s the same stuff that is on the side of the curb during morning trash pick up, and comprises 80% of the surface material – the other 20% being cement and ceramic, which act as bonding agents mainly. According to the company's website, there is no special processing done to the glass, and therefore there are zero emissions in the production of the new surface material.
The question many seem to have for new technologies like this is if they will be able to be successful in a recessive economy. The material, however, is eligible for LEED credits for builders and designers.
BottleStone sits in the “mid-high range” on price, cheaper than real marble or granite and similarly priced to other synthetic materials like Corian. It is, however, a more expensive alternative to the laminate and pressed-wood materials that are easily scorched, say, with an iron or damned in other ways. BottleStone, also, comes in a variety of colours.
The only thing that, as per usual, so to speak, gets me in this story is that it is, generally, so-called post-consumer glass that is being used for such recycling that should not, as yet, end up being recycled in the first place. Bottles should be returned to be refilled and refilled again, and the same for glass jars, until such as time that they eventually and finally, break. Then it is time for them to be made into new glass or into such products as the aforementioned.
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
Revolutionary Home HVAC System Reduces Energy Costs, Fuel Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions While Providing Back-up Power
BOSTON, MA, November 2008: American Honda Motor Company, Inc. introduced its all-new Micro-sized Combined Heat and Power (MCHP) Deluxe cogeneration unit today at the U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo 2008 in Boston, Massachusetts.
The Honda MCHP, introduced in Japan in 2003 and in the US in 2007, is a heat transfer and power generation device that provides home heating or water heating as well as electrical power for a variety of home applications. The new Honda MCHP Deluxe system features advanced, highly-efficient energy management technologies for home heating and power combined with a new automatic back-up power feature (a residential stand-by generator) that can provide back-up electricity in the event of a power failure.
When the Honda MCHP Deluxe module is paired with a furnace system such as the ECR International freewatt™, the total system provides heat for the home with the added benefit of electricity production. ECR is a full-service provider of American engineered-and-manufactured hydronic and forced air products, recognized worldwide for its innovation, quality, performance and reliability.
Honda MCHP: Features and Benefits
The freewatt™ system produces electric power as a byproduct of its heating function. In the freewatt™ application, the Honda MCHP module has provided as much as 75 percent of a home’s heating demand plus enough electricity to power lights, small appliances and security systems. The electric power produced by the system displaces electricity that consumers would otherwise purchase from the local electric utilities, helping homeowners save $500 to $1,000 per year on their electric bills.
MCHP owners also can utilize net metering to realize an additional, unique financial benefit of using the freewatt™ system. In states where this energy policy is legislated, homeowners can sell unused electric power generated by the MCHP to the public utilities in their communities, providing savings on electricity costs.
The new Honda MCHP Deluxe system incorporates a battery-back up system that includes a long-life, five-year nickel metal hydride battery for dependable starts in back-up power mode during utility power outages. The MCHP system also includes a Honda residential stand-by generator that provides back-up electricity in the event of a power failure.
- Operates on natural gas or propane;
- Features a DC/DC converter that detects utility power outages and provides power output of 1.8 kilowatts in back up and boost modes;
- Incorporates sensor technology to enhance engine performance.
In relation to energy costs, test data has shown that when a Honda MCHP system is paired with a product such as ECR’s freewatt™ to replace a typical 80 percent efficiency home heating system, homeowners can realize an average of 30 percent in energy cost savings.
In addition, the system produces 30 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions than a conventional heating system with electricity provided from the grid. This allows homeowners to take an active role in the effort to reduce greenhouse gases.
Finally, the system produces more uniform temperatures in the home without running noisy blowers at high speeds. The result is a constant and extremely quiet circulation of heated air ? enhancing at-home comfort.
“Across all markets in which we sell products, the Honda mission is to bring advanced, innovative and environmentally responsible products to our customers,” said Steve Bailey, vice president of power equipment for American Honda. ”The Honda MCHP systems fulfill this mission by helping homeowners save energy, reduce greenhouse gasses and save money on their home heating while enjoying the high level of comfort and performance they have come to expect.”
Honda MCHP: Operational Footprint
The basic MCHP operation is based on early large, expensive Combined Heat & Power (CHP) technology systems designed for commercial and industrial applications. In the MCHP and MCHP Deluxe, Honda has scaled down the original footprint and refined the technology for smaller applications such as single-family residences.
The Honda MCHP Deluxe units will be sold in the United States only and will be marketed via Honda’s Power Equipment Division in Alpharetta, Georgia. More than 60,000 MCHP units have been sold globally since its introduction in 2003.
Honda is the world’s preeminent manufacturer of engines for automobiles, motorcycles and power equipment, selling more than 22 million units globally in 2007. Honda engines are characterized by the same clean, quiet, fuel-efficient technology that is the cornerstone of the company’s unrivaled reputation for durability, reliability and quality.
Honda Power Equipment, a division of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., manufactures and markets a complete range of outdoor power equipment, including outboard marine engines, general purpose engines, generators, lawnmowers, pumps, snowblowers, tillers and trimmers for commercial, rental and residential applications. Its comprehensive product line is powered exclusively by environmentally advanced 4stroke engines.
Source: American Honda Motor Co., Inc.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA, November 2008: Bending to pressure from San Diego Gas and Electric, California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey on Tuesday introduced a third proposed decision in the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line proceeding that would allow construction of the power line without any restrictions.
Peevey’s proposal would allow the line to be used for transmission of electricity generated by fossil fuel-fired power plants, thus contradicting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reason for supporting the Sunrise line – the governor has said he would support the line because it would promote renewable energy transmission.
“San Diego Gas and Electric has shown their true colors,” said Justin Augustine, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “It is now obvious that renewable energy transmission is not, and never has been, SDG&E’s objective.”
Peevey’s proposal comes on the heels of two other proposed alternative decisions submitted October 31st. The first would deny construction of a 123-mile power line through some of California's last remaining wildlands, including national forest and other public lands. The Center for Biological Diversity supports this decision, as does the recent Final Environmental Impact Report issued for the project. The Report ranked eight alternatives and found the alternatives that did not require a power line were the best.
Moreover, Administrative Law Judge Jean Vieth, who is in charge of the Sunrise proceedings, concluded in a lengthy opinion that a power line is unnecessary and that “the significant environmental impacts of [all Sunrise powerline alternatives] strongly militate against authorizing the construction of any of them.”
The second proposed decision would allow construction of a power line, but with one important caveat: San Diego Gas and Electric must first agree to a renewable energy Compliance Plan. The Center had argued during the proceedings that the power line would result in increased greenhouse gas emissions and that there were no guarantees the utility company would deliver on its promises for renewable energy. Commissioner Dian Grueneich agreed and included a Compliance Plan in her proposed decision, should the line be built. The Plan is the first of its kind in California and is an important step towards reining-in greenhouse gases should the line be approved.
Peevey’s proposed decision comes after recent meetings between officials with his office and the utility company in which company officials informed Peevey that they do not want the Compliance Plan. But company officials’ opposition to the Plan is directly contrary to their own statements throughout the Sunrise proceeding that the power line should be for renewable energy.
“The decision proposed by Commissioner Peevey at the apparent behest of SDG&E would allow the line to be used for power generated by fossil fuels, which would contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. This is contrary to state law and state policy, and also directly contradicts the findings of Commission staff and the administrative law judge,” Augustine said.
The utility company is trying to “greenwash” its opposition to the Compliance Plan by claiming it will not use the line for coal-generated electricity and will replace failed renewable-energy contracts with other renewable contracts. What company officials fail to mention, however, is that their commitments would provide nothing more than the status quo and will likely fail to achieve 33 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard levels by 2020.
The Commission is scheduled to consider the three Sunrise proposals in December.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national nonprofit conservation organization with 200,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Source: Center for Biological Diversity
by Michael Smith
While (modern) technology is probably very useful indeed, and improving upon what we have is a great for reducing our environmental impact and footprint in a many ways, it cannot and must not be the be all and end all. Sometimes green gadgets get way too much attention over the totally effective non-tech solutions to problems in our lives, because, well, non-tech solutions are boring, or so, at least, it would appear. But it does not and should not (have to) be so.
Too much emphasis is being put on the modern stuff for the environment and many of the old techs that could reduce our impact and footprint are not even considered.
Let us take a closer look at ways in which we can do without technology to help the environment and to reduce our environmental footprint. It may help us re-center and also remind us of the fact that the world does not revolve around power outlets. There are alternatives that do not require electricity.
While E-Books E-books and e-readers have been getting quite a bit of attention on Blogs, and elsewhere, recently, and everyone tries to forecast the death of paper books and the newspapers printed on dead trees, the other FREE (well you do pay for it in your taxes really) alternative is being forgotten and that is the public library.
I must say that I do like e-books but in PDF rather than any other format so I can read them on a variety of computer screens rather than requiring some special e-reader. The Green (Living) Review is – still – intending to produce occasional collections in e-book (PDF) formats that will, probably, bear the title “Best of Green (Living) Review” and hence I am not against e-book. Quite the opposite and I am also not against receiving my news online whether from “papers” or other sources. But there are other, non-electronic ways that we should not forget. In this case, as indicated, that is the public library.
Only a rather small amount of people still use the library for obtaining books to read. Yet, along with so many other resources that are available in a public library including access to PCs, libraries offer the solution to pretty much any book that anyone may ever wish to read. Even if a particular library does not have the title someone may be seeking, they are likely hooked up to a network so that a nearby library can send the title right over to you. While this may take a day or two it is still possible and, what is more, it is all perfectly free.
Another kind of gadget that may not be all that necessary are Home Energy Monitors. While there is little doubt that energy monitors are an excellent way to help us cut down on our energy use. But there is an even cheaper and easier alternative available other than a power monitor to saving energy and reducing our environmental footprint and that is simply unplugging stuff.
If this does not underscore why green technology is more exciting to talk about than non-tech alternatives, then nothing will. Unplugging stuff, definitely, is a surefire way to consume less energy and there are two reasons for this. First, it stops the vampirePC
We know that PCs tend to be big power suckers, and we are always on the prowl for new technology that helps them run efficiently. From new computers that sip energy, to software downloads that keep a tight shut-down schedule, to silly EcoButtons (see my review), anything and everything can be helpful – the EcoButton though is not.
However, something that doesn’t get much attention is the fact that your PC already has power-saving capabilities built in to it that allow it to save energy right this second, at no extra charge.
Adjusting your PC power settings is a soft of non-tech alternative to tech power-saving programs. All you have to do is go into the power options on your computer to get started. For instance, on a laptop, you can go into the power options and program it to lower screen brightness, shorten the time for when it goes to sleep during inactivity, or shorten the time for when to turn off the display.
For the desktop or tower PC, aside from the power options that come standard built in the best way of saving energy is to simply physically turn off the monitor, regardless of CRT (bit old fashioned but works) or LCD flat screen, as it is the monitors that draw much more power than the PCs themselves. A PC that does not process anything takes only, basically, the energy it takes to run its fan, etc. So, turn your monitor off when you are not going to use the PC for a while but still want the possibility to get back to work quickly as and when.
LED lights and CFL bulbs get a lot of attention around these parts because the technology offers serious improvements over our current lighting and display issues. We don’t want to go without lighting when it is dark. That’s clear as day. And one of the key ingredients to switching to LEDs or CFLs is the energy savings – they use a lot less energy and what they do use is more efficiently turned in to lighting as opposed to waste heat. Yet, energy savings can come in more forms than a twisty bulb in a box…
Equally as efficient at saving energy is the decidedly non-tech alternative to CFLs and LEDs – turning off the lights. Using lights only when you need them, and only to the degree to which you need lighting is a big energy saver. Sure, there are even gadgets that help you turn the lights off. But really, all we have to do is flip the switch on only when we need it, and flip it off when we are done with it. Businesses that use extensive lighting can learn from this too; for example, does the light of a bathroom restaurant really need to be on when no one is in there? But, we don't talk about this because, well, you already know it.
There are a lot of simple non-tech solutions to our environmental woes that just don’t seem to get the press time because they aren’t the world’s first, or groundbreaking discovery, or just interesting to debate. They are, however, equally as important as new advances. Hopefully, we will remember them even as we ooh and aah over cool new innovations. power, that power that is drained even though no appliance is actually in use by just having the adaptor plugged into the wall. Secondly, because it can be annoying to plug something in every time you want to use it, you avoid using an appliance in order to avoid the hassle of plugging and unplugging. While this is utterly boring, and in no way as exciting as energy monitors and all that it is an energy-saving solution nonetheless.
Recycling is an absolute must. New technologies to help us better recycle the mess of consumer goods we create are vital. We love talking about the new ways to turn junk into fuel, or make something useless into something cool again. It is exciting to see not only the technologies involved in the actual recycling, but also what products now use recycleable materials and recycleable packaging. But what doesn’t get as many nods are products and ideas for how to go without the stuff that needs recycling.
Precycling is a simple concept – do things that avoid waste. I’m not sure why we don’t talk more about it, but I suppose because it is all about what not to do. However, precycling is awesome and deserves some web space. It includes actions like bringing your own storage containers to bulk food stores, skipping the overly packaged foods and goods, designing products that use the least amount of wasted material as possible, using lunchboxes, and passing on print jobs. Precycling revolves around the “Reduce” and “Reuse” corners of the green triangle. And actually, this is a pretty interesting topic! There should always, if we already have the material that may need to be recycled, the thought be given to “reusing” and “repurposing” of such items before they ever get anywhere near the recycling bin.
There are lots of simple non-tech solutions to our environmental woes that just do not seem to get the press time because they are not the world’s first, or groundbreaking discovery, or just interesting to debate. They are, however, equally as important as new advances.
We could also mention, in the field of transportation the humble horse and cart or buggy or even the mule or donkey and cart.
In many countries, including Britain, for instance, the horse is used again as the chosen “tool” for the extraction of timber in forestry as it has less impact on the ground than do the machines.
Maybe time we looked at a different angle again.
© M Smith (Veshengro, November 2008
WASHINGTON, D.C. November 2008: “With the dramatic increase in oil prices earlier this year translating into higher prices at the gas pump in the United States, concerns over U.S. dependence on foreign oil are once again part of the national discussion on energy security,” writes Jonathan G. Dorn in a recent Earth Policy Institute release, “Run Cars on Green Electricity, Not Natural Gas.”. “Combined with the growing understanding that carbon emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels are driving global climate change, the debate is now focused on how to restructure the U.S. transport system to solve these two problems. While the idea of running U.S. vehicles on natural gas has lately received a great deal of attention, powering our cars with green electricity is a more sensible option on all fronts – national security, efficiency, climate stabilization, and economics.”
Having a fleet of natural gas–powered vehicles (NGVs) would simply replace U.S. dependence on foreign oil with a dependence on natural gas, another fossil fuel. The United States has scarcely 3 percent of the world’s proved natural gas reserves, yet even without the increased demand that would result from an NGV fleet, the country already consumes nearly a quarter of the world’s natural gas.
A better investment is one that supports a fleet of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), such as the Chevy Volt slated for sale in 2010, which can use the existing electric infrastructure. With today’s energy mix, PHEVs running on electricity from the grid are nearly three times more efficient than NGVs on a “well-to-wheel” basis—that is, when considering the full life cycle of the energy source, from fuel extraction to combustion to vehicle propulsion. This is because internal combustion engines, such as those used in natural gas vehicles and in today’s gas-powered automobile fleet, are incredibly inefficient.
This important fact seems to have escaped T. Boone Pickens, the legendary oil tycoon from Texas who is now promoting a plan to replace natural gas in the electric power sector with wind-generated electricity and use the freed up natural gas to power a fleet of NGVs. Burning natural gas in a new combined cycle power plant is three times as efficient as burning natural gas in a car. Even including electrical losses from transmission, distribution, and battery charging, running a car on electricity from a natural gas power plant is more than twice as efficient.
Under normal driving conditions, well-to-wheel carbon dioxide emissions for vehicles running on electricity from natural gas–fired power plants are one fourth as high as emissions from cars directly burning natural gas. Since a PHEV operating in electric-only mode has no tailpipe emissions, electrifying transport would move the majority of carbon emissions from millions of vehicles to centralized electricity-generating plants, greatly simplifying the task of controlling emissions.
On economics, driving with electricity is far cheaper than driving with gasoline or natural gas. The average new U.S. car can travel roughly 30 miles on a gallon of gasoline, which cost $3.91 in July 2008 (the latest date for which comparable price data for natural gas is available). Traveling the same distance with natural gas cost around $2.51, while with electricity, using the existing electrical generation mix, it cost around 73¢.
Choosing natural gas to power our vehicles would send the United States down the same expensive and inefficient path that created our addiction to foreign oil and our dependence on a resource that will ultimately run out. Choosing green electricity can take us in a new direction—one that leads to improved energy security and a stabilizing climate.
Source: Earth Policy Institute
Honda’s Data Center First Silver-certified in the Country
BOSTON, MA, November 2008: American Honda Motor Co., Inc. [www.honda.com] has certified five new green buildings under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards this year as part of an effort to further reduce the environmental impact of Honda’s operations and products in the U.S. One of these facilities – Honda’s Data Center in Longmont, Colo. – is the first LEED Version 2.2 Silver certified data center in the country. Data centers are considered difficult to certify because of their large energy consumption.
Honda’s five LEED-certified facilities this year include:
- LEED-EB Platinum - Northwest Regional Facility in Gresham, Oregon;
- LEED-NC Gold - Honda R&D America’s Acura Design Studio in Torrance, Calif.;
- LEED-NC Gold - American Honda’s Midwestern Consolidation Center in Troy, Ohio;
- LEED-NC Gold – Honda Aircraft Company World Headquarters, Greensboro, N.C.; and,
- LEED-NC Silver – Data Center in Longmont, Colo.
“The USGBC sees Honda’s green building activity as a sign of its leadership and commitment to reducing the environmental impact of its buildings,” said Doug Gatlin, vice president of market development for the U.S. Green Building Council. “In fact, Honda was the first to build a LEED Gold certified mixed-use industrial facility in the USA. In this Gresham, Oregon, facility they’ve looked at landscaping, water efficiency, use of native species and then all the efficiency optimization measures within the building. Honda’s not only achieved LEED Gold but now gone back through to look at all the operational efficiencies that they can achieve and just this year earned a LEED Platinum certification through our Existing Buildings ratings system.”
Among many site-specific efficiencies and innovations, these new facilities share common sustainable features such as:
- Energy Star highly reflective roof and dual-paned windows with low-emissivity glass to reduce solar heat gain
- Extensive use of recycled and recyclable materials in the building envelope and interior
- Use of U.S. steel, guaranteed to contain at minimum 25 percent, and often as much as 90 percent, recycled content
- Energy-efficient light fixtures with motion sensors
- Diversion of construction waste from landfills to recycling centers
- Selection of suppliers based on the high level of recycled content of their products and their proximity to the job site.
A few of the unique features at Honda’s newly certified buildings include the Acura Design Studio’s high-efficiency displacement ventilation system that moves cool air from rooftop air conditioning units to large, floor-level grills, where it displaces heat from the human body. The 547,000 square-foot Midwestern Consolidation Center has a mezzanine made from wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as having come from sustainably-managed forest lands. And, the Honda R&D Central Plant uses an ice chiller system that reduces peak energy demand from air conditioning by as much as half.
“The triple bottom line for businesses pursuing LEED certification is people, planet and profit” said Gatlin. “Green building really demonstrates that environmental stewardship and profitability can go hand in hand. The improved indoor air quality for employees, reduced environmental footprint, and reduced operating expenses over the long term make it appealing for companies like Honda.”
Honda is a leader in the development of leading-edge technologies to reduce CO2 emissions, including advanced gasoline engines, gasoline-electric hybrids, natural gas-powered engines, and hydrogen fuel cells. Founded in Japan in 1948, Honda began operations in the U.S. in 1959 with the establishment of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Honda's first overseas subsidiary. Honda began U.S. production of motorcycles in 1979 and automobiles in 1982. The company has invested more than $10.6 billion in its North American operations with 16 major manufacturing facilities, employment of more than 35,000 associates, and annual purchases of more than $18.8 billion in parts and materials from suppliers in North America.
More information about Honda’s environmental initiatives and products can be found in the annual North American Environmental Report which can be downloaded at http://www.corporate.honda.com.
Source: Honda USA
by Michael Smith
While certain American politicians complain about a million dollars being included in the country's energy plan to promote bikes, in Britain is investing £140 million (about US$ 280 million) to create dedicated bike lanes, provide bike parking, safety training, on-street bike rental networks and a campaign to promote bicycling in 12 Cycling Demonstration Towns.
£100 million of the money, granted to the 12 Demonstration Towns, will be used to create dedicated bike lanes, provide bike parking, safety training, on-street bike rental networks and a campaign to promote bicycling. The towns include Blackpool, Cambridge, Chester, Colchester, Leighton/Linslade, Shrewsbury, Southend on Sea, Southport with Ainsdale, Stoke, Woking and York. The project will be coordinated by Cycling England, a national agency that was formed in 2005. The additional £40 million is allocated to safety and training, particularly for children, as well as infrastructure to encourage cycling to school.
The Transport Minister, Ruth Kelly says "A quarter of journeys made every day by car are less than two miles. Cycling is an alternative that could bring real health benefits to millions of adults and children, as well as helping them save money and beat congestion."
"The first step in persuading people to leave their cars at home is to offer them a real choice," said the minister. "Providing a step change in cycling facilities, dedicated cycle lanes, more training and information will have a big impact on how people choose to travel."
We at the Green (Living) Review have been calling for dedicated proper cycle lanes, modeled on those in Germany and the Netherlands and, maybe, we are now finally getting those, if the minister is to be believed. This is, certainly, not before time.
As I have already said in my previous article about the bicycle and the law maybe a change in the law is required that will make it legal for cyclists, as long as it is done with caution and pedestrians given priority, to use sidewalks where no dedicated safe cycle lanes are available.
The UK need not look far to see the opportunities for cycling that can come from this investment. Britain's neighbor, the Netherlands, are known as a cycling paradise, and further north Denmark too is more or less the same. Germany also is a leading light as far as cycling is concerned and, to some degree, has always been. England has a good case for believing that they can meet their goal of getting 2.5 million Brits to take up cycling, including that a quarter of all car trips in the UK are less than 2 miles.
While Britain still has a way to go to get the infrastructure right and especially the laws in place, together with education, and not only of cyclists but especially of motorists, this can but be seen as a good start.
We also, as said, do not have to look far afield to see models of how things can work. On the near continent we have good examples from which the British government can but learn. Let us just hope it does not take another 10 years or so of expensive studies and pilot projects before we are even starting to get the infrastructure in place.
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
by Michael Smith
The bicycle has been my sole means of transportation, aside from public transport and the one or other friend ferrying me about in a motor vehicle as and when, and I happen to feel pretty good about that.
This also, and for that I am grateful, means that my environmental footprint – I still refuse to call it “carbon footprint” – is a great deal smaller than that of other people and and I save money on gas and insurance. I addition to that cycling keeps me somewhat in shape and it is fun to boot. I also happen to love the beauty and technology of bicycles, as well as, their, to some degree, simplicity. Instead of aspiring to an expensive car I look forward to the day that I can afford – or the day they give me one to keep for review – a Pashley bicycle or a Velorbis or Dutch bike.
For most people, unfortunately, the bicycle is something that you use for transportation until you are old enough (and successful enough) to purchase a car. The fact that the bicycle is not seen as a sexy, technologically advanced machine worth aspiring to shows us that cycling has an image problem, but one that will be overcome, of that I am sure. In the UK bicycles are coming, slowly, back into fashion in all walks of life, though, for a strange reason more so by those of the middle and upper classes than the working class. The latter aspire to a car, more often than not, even if they can barely afford to buy and to run it.
The message that is constantly conveyed, on TV and in the movies, is that not only is cycling for transportation inconvenient and dangerous, it's also a sign of failure. It isn't surprising, then, that people aspire to purchase a better, faster, sexier car: that's what signifies that one is moving up in the world.
In addition to that any '10 things you can do for the environment' list will, without fail, include cycling, which turns a simple cycle ride into some sort of heroic act instead of what it is: fun and good for you. People do not want to be heroes, they want to work for a better world by having fun and using their creativity and talent to solve problems.
While there may be nothing wrong, even to people in the environmental movement, with nice cars, such as, for example, the Tesla Roadster with its electric motor and advanced lithium ion battery pack.
The bicycle is worth aspiring to, more so than people think, and that especially in the world where gas prices are on the rise and with the possibility that we are reaching or may have even reached already peak oil this is not going to improve.
While hybrids have dramatically altered the image of the car, the bicycle is still seen as a backward, slow toy that is better suited to children, starving college students and racers than to adults with errands to run. But bicycles today are more comfortable, light and advanced than ever before. The use of carbon fiber, titanium, hydraulic disc brakes, LED headlights and GPS units are things that one expects to find on fighter jets, race cars and the family saloon, but, nevertheless, they are becoming standard on £1,000+ bicycles. You can pay well over £7,000 for as bike, if you wanted to, even bikes made by Ferrari and Porsche – yes, those car makers. But you don't have to buy a bike for that price but we come to that in a minute.
There are also tons of bike racks, trailers and panniers, that is to say, saddle bags, that can enable one to do anything with a bicycles, from shopping for groceries, commuting to work, to hauling a fridge.
One can easily get into bicycling with a £100 investment in a bicycle from Halfords, Argos or some of the supermarket chains, and one could, if one wanted to, move on up to a top-of-the-line, racing cycle of £6,000 or such. This means that cycling is accessible and meaningful to anyone.
With the prices of gasoline being on the rise and, as I said before, the possibility that we have reached peak oil and that, hence, the prices will not fall ever again, in addition to the problems with the “credit crunch”, the use of the motorcar may be a more and more difficult thing.
The automakers seem to look at the hybrid to save the environment and try to get people to buy those motorcars, and the same is true for electric cars and while the electric ones do not have such a large environmental footprint as does the gasoline or diesel powered car with the ICE, and a smaller one still than the hybrid, it is still not going to be cheap to run one and still their production puts a much greater strain on the environment than does the production of cycles.
While this still may not make cycling immediately chique the use of the bicycle will, in due course, I am sure, become once again much more the norm and this not just because people have to turn over the pennies a lot more. When the infrastructure is being cerated, as it is being done in some countries already, to make riding a bike better and safer cycling is going to be in vogue once again. The problem is that the humble bicycle is still far too humble and the hybrid and the electric car and motorbike are given far too much coverage. There are much better low-tech alternatives available often to all those high-tech gadgets that are meant to save the planet.
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
Global Forum in Amsterdam provides key platform for bringing together government officials, private sector representatives, financiers and technology providers
WASHINGTON D.C., November 2008: In an effort to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of natural gas worldwide, the World Bank-led Global Gas Flaring Reduction partnership (GGFR) and major international partners are convening for a forum in Amsterdam to jointly look for the most effective ways of unlocking the value of wasted gas associated with oil production.
The Global Forum on Flaring Reduction and Natural Gas Utilization, to be held in Amsterdam on December 4-5, is organized by the World Bank’s GGFR partnership, along with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Natural Gas STAR Program, Methane to Markets Partnership, and the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (OGP). The event is also supported by major oil producing countries and companies, the OPEC Secretariat and the European Union.
During the drilling for crude oil, gas usually comes to the surface as well and is often vented or flared instead of used for private or commercial consumption.
“In a number of countries, regulatory, financial, and infrastructure barriers still hamper the utilization of natural gas associated with oil production,” says Somit Varma, World Bank Group’s Director for Oil, Gas, Mining and Chemicals. “Governments and companies need to cooperate in removing these obstacles and realizing the value of this wasted resource while minimizing the environmental harm caused by gas flaring.”
The Global Forum will review the regulatory and commercial barriers that lead to natural gas flaring and venting, and will highlight best practices and case studies of operations that have been able to overcome barriers to gas utilization. It will also provide, for the first time, an opportunity to look at emerging technologies for the utilization of flared gas.
The GGFR partnership estimates that globally at least 150 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas are flared or burned every year, causing about 400 million tons of carbon dioxide in annual emissions. The U.S. EPA estimates that over 100 bcm of methane is vented or lost through fugitive methane emissions in the oil and gas sector each year. As methane is 21 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2, this adds the equivalent of over 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually. Altogether, this is more than twice the potential yearly emission reductions from projects currently submitted under the Kyoto mechanisms.
The major flaring region in the world is Russia and the Caspian (about 60 bcm); followed by the Middle East and North Africa (about 45 bcm). Sub-Saharan Africa (about 35 bcm) is the third-biggest flaring region, followed by Latin America with some 12 bcm of gas flared annually.
“Reducing natural gas flaring, methane venting and fugitive emissions from oil and natural gas production are part of the solution to the global climate challenge,” says Dina Kruger, director of EPA’s Climate Change Division. “By working together through partnerships like the GGFR and Methane to Markets, the oil and gas sector can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase production, generate revenue, and provide communities with a clean and reliable energy source.”
The event will bring together government officials from oil producing countries, representatives from major oil and gas companies, technology and service providers, and potential financiers, in a unique platform for dialogue, best practices exchange, and potential business opportunities. Countries and companies represented include Angola, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Nigeria and Russia, as well as Shell, Chevron, Total, BP, ExxonMobil, Petrobras, StatoilHydro, Pemex, Pertamina, Sonangol, NNPC, and Lukoil.
Gabon, Iraq, the European Union, and Azerbaijan are some of the newest partners who have joined the GGFR partnership over the past few months, and more are expected to do so in the coming months.
The top 20 major flaring countries in the world, according to the latest satellite data available, include: Russia, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Algeria, Libya, Angola, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, China, Indonesia, Kuwait, Venezuela, Uzbekistan, the United States, Oman, Mexico, Malaysia and Gabon.
Gas flaring is when crude oil is brought to the surface from several kilometers below, gas associated with such oil extraction usually comes to the surface as well. If oil is produced in areas of the world which lack gas infrastructure or a nearby gas market, a significant portion of this associated gas may be released into the atmosphere, un-ignited (vented) or ignited (flared).
To learn more about the GGFR partnership and gas flaring, please visit: www.worldbank.org/ggfr
Launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in August 2002, the GGFR public-private partnership brings around the table representatives of governments of oil-producing countries, state-owned companies and major international oil companies so that they can together overcome the barriers to reducing gas flaring by sharing global best practices and implementing country specific programs in gas flaring countries, with funding provided in part by the European Union, the World Bank, oil companies and donor countries.
Source: World Bank
An in-depth survey of travel behaviour in two English towns and one city has revealed the huge potential for reducing car traffic and tackling congestion through relatively small and simple changes to people’s daily travel patterns. The research, conducted by Socialdata in collaboration with Sustrans, the UK’s leading sustainable transport charity, shows that walking, cycling or public transport provide practical alternatives for up to 54 per cent of local car trips.
Over four thousand people in Lowestoft, Watford and Exeter were surveyed and the results provide a snapshot of how people travel and, importantly, the changes that are possible to improve the quality of life for everyone.
In a typical week residents of these places spend an average of one hour every day travelling and average daily travel distance is around 14 miles. The greatest proportion of trips are made for leisure reasons, with shopping and work each accounting for around one in five trips and one in ten trips are for school or educational reasons.
Nearly 25 per cent of all trips are made on foot, just over three per cent by bike and eight per cent by public transport. Almost two thirds of trips are in a car, with 43 per cent as a driver and 21 per cent as a passenger.
But, while the evidence suggests an ongoing reliance on the car, Sustrans’ researchers discovered that nearly all residents are unhappy with this trend – 87 per cent of residents think that car traffic has increased over the past few years and the overwhelming majority judged this negatively. At the same time, there is massive support for alternatives such as walking, cycling and public transport, with nine out of ten people considering sustainable transport to be a priority for planners and policy makers.
The vast majority of car trips are within the town or city and of these around 40 per cent are under two miles, a distance that could easily be travelled by most people on foot or by bike. When you add to this the fact that nearly a half of all car trips (48 per cent) could be replaced by walking, cycling or public transport without the need for any improvements to transport infrastructure, the research concludes that there is a real opportunity to make a significant change.
Sustrans’ TravelSmart Project Manager Rob Wall explains the significance of the work: “The information reveals the enormous potential for people to occasionally leave their car at home and use alternative transport. This has very clear benefits - if everyone replaced just one return car journey per week with another way of travelling traffic would be reduced by more than 10% and people would be on the way to taking their recommended 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five times a week. This research challenges the notion that people are unable to make changes. We look forward to working with councils in these areas to see these results turned into the positive action that will make a real difference to people’s lives.”
The project is being funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Wellbeing Programme as part of a consortium of leading walking, cycling and health organisations.
"Imagine a 21st century green revolution for agriculture that, unlike its 20th century forerunner, does not depend on petrochemicals, deforestation and enormous inputs of water to fuel its growth, but instead focuses on something that has largely disappeared from the world—extension—or training farmers in good practices," said Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance, during her remarks at the Sintercafé annual coffee conference in Costa Rica today.
The Rainforest Alliance, an international, nonprofit conservation organization, works with people whose livelihoods depend on the land, helping them transform the way they grow food, harvest wood and host travelers. Through its sustainable agriculture program, farms that adhere to the standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) a coalition of conservation organizations in Latin America for which the Rainforest Alliance serves as coordinator, can become Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM. Over 662,365 acres (268,050 hectares) of coffee farmland worldwide have been certified.
Rainforest Alliance Certified farms curb deforestation, protect soil and waterways and provide habitat for wildlife. Workers and their families enjoy decent housing and medical care, and children have access to schools. Farmers benefit from increased efficiency, cost-saving measures and often a marketplace premium. Coffee from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms bears a little green frog seal of approval, which provides a guarantee to consumers that they are choosing a product that supports sustainable farming.
"In many countries coffee is grown in biodiverse, environmentally important regions by people generally living in poverty," Whelan said.
In order to experience a true green revolution, rather than making special green product lines, Whelan advocates embedding sustainability into everyday business models and products. "We at the Rainforest Alliance know that not only is this completely doable, but it is empowering for the farmers and other actors in the chain," Whelan said.
Each player in the industry has a role in changing today’s business model. Farmers can invest in sustainable practices and certification. Coffee companies can source from those farm that are third-party certified and educate consumers about the importance of those certifications. Investors can fund research and provide the financial support required to make drastic changes in coffee production, and governments can provide financial incentives and appropriate procurement policies.
The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. For more information, visit www.rainforest-alliance.org.
Source: Rainforest Alliance
by Michael Smith
On the 11 December 2008, European political leaders will decide what their response to global warming is going to be. Last year, they agreed to a 30% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Now, with the downturn in the economy, that deal is under threat and time is running out.
As a result, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and World Wildlife Fund through the coordination of the Climate Action Network (CAN) formed the campaign Time to Lead. Time to Lead is a movement that urges European citizens and organisations to act by contacting local legislators and issuing support of the 30 percent reduction in Europe’s own carbon emissions by 2020. Citizens act by joining the ‘call to action’ at http://www.timetolead.eu/.
The problem I personally have with this issue is that Global Warming, or better called, Climate Change, is, as far as I am concerned, and many scientists as well, a natural phenomenon rather than anything humanity had any dealings in. The Earth, our planet, has been doing this every so many years, manly that it has gone up to very high temperatures and then, some years, decades and even centuries later, it went back down to a mini ice age or two. History shows us this.
However, if there is a the slightest possibility that we have any chance by reducing our environmental impact we can keep temperatures low enough to make the planet safer for us to live then we must act, and act now.
We only have a few weeks until the all important vote so let’s make sure our voices are heard!
Aside from this, e.g. trying to get the temperatures kept on a level keel we must reduce our general impact on the environment and our environmental footprint.
We must do all we can to can in this quarter by especially reducing the pollution that we let lose upon our planet, the amount of refuse that we produce and such like. Reducing must come before we think about everything else in the “three Rs”. And reduce must be followed by reuse and re-purpose before we ever think of heading for the recycling bin and center. But, alas, I digressed a little.
For further information on the “Keep Global Warming below 2degC” campaign check out the website at: http://www.timetolead.eu/
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
New Rating System Resets the Bar for Green Building Performance
BOSTON, MA, November 2008: LEED 2009, the long-awaited update to the internationally recognized LEED green building certification program, has passed member ballot, and will be introduced in 2009 as the next major evolution of the existing LEED rating systems for commercial buildings. It includes a series of major technical advancements focused on improving energy efficiency, reducing carbon emissions, and addressing other environmental and human health outcomes.
LEED 2009 will also incorporate highly anticipated regional credits, extra points that have been identified as priorities within a project’s given environmental zone. LEED has also undergone a scientifically grounded re-weighting of credits, changing allocation of points among LEED credits to reflect climate change and energy efficiency as urgent priorities. This will be one of the most significant changes to the rating system, and will increase the importance of green building as a means of contributing immediate and measurable solutions toward energy independence, climate change mitigation, and other global priorities.
LEED 2009 incorporates eight years worth of market and user feedback in the form of precedent-setting Credit Interpretation Rulings, which will ensure clarity for project teams. Coupled with a credit alignment structure designed to create a more elegant and harmonized rating system, LEED 2009 will reset the bar for the certification of high-performance green buildings.
Process innovation in how new technical advancements are incorporated into LEED will also be introduced alongside LEED 2009, including a “pilot process” for individual credits that will allow major new technical developments to be flexibly trialed, evaluated, and incorporated into LEED. “The conclusion of the balloting process marks the culmination of tireless work done by representatives from all corners of the building industry,” said Brendan Owens, Vice President, LEED Technical Development, U.S. Green Building Council’s. “We have the deepest gratitude for our volunteer leaders, and for their bold steps towards resetting the bar for green building leadership and challenges the industry to move faster and reach further.”
The first public comment period for LEED 2009 opened in May 2008, followed by a second in late August. USGBC had received nearly 7,000 comments from members and stakeholders at the conclusion of the second public comment period on September 2. The final step is the consensus development process for LEED 2009 was to be balloted for a pass/fail vote among USGBC’s 18,000 member organizations. LEED 2009 successfully passed member ballot on November 14. Detailed information about specific proposed technical changes to the rating system can be found in the background documents that accompany the public comment forms on USGBC’s Web site.
About USGBC 2 of 2 The U.S. Green Building Council is a nonprofit membership organization whose vision is a sustainable built environment within a generation. Its membership includes corporations, builders, universities, government agencies, and other nonprofit organizations. Since USGBC’s founding in 1993, the Council has grown to more than 16,700 member companies and organizations, a comprehensive family of LEED® green building certification systems, an expansive educational offering, the industry’s popular Greenbuild International Conference and Expo (www.greenbuildexpo.org), and a network of 79 local chapters, affiliates, and organizing groups.
For more information, visit www.usgbc.org
About LEED The LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification system is a feature-oriented certification program that awards buildings points for satisfying specified green building criteria. The six major environmental categories of review include: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality and Innovation and Design. Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels of LEED green building certification are awarded based on the total number of points earned within each LEED category. LEED can be applied to all building types including new construction, commercial interiors, core & shell developments, existing buildings, homes, neighborhood developments, schools and retail facilities. LEED for Healthcare is currently under development and is expected to be released in early 2008.
Incentives for LEED are available at the state and local level and LEED has also been adopted nationwide by federal agencies, state and local governments, and interested private companies.
For more information, visit www.usgbc.org/LEED.
Source: U.S. Green Building Council
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Wiley (November 10, 2008)
Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1 inches
The book was only recently launched and the copy that I had for review was not the hardback version but a paperback advance uncorrected proof. Hence there were a few spelling a printing mistakes in that version. This copy also appears to have somewhat fewer pages than are claimed for the hardback version of the book. That said, however, the book is great.
In his book “CauseWired” Tom Watson is trying to map the impact of social networks in Web 2.0 on charity, politics and consumer movements.
Here the author tries to explain the trend by offering real world stories and by introducing the reader to some of the people, famous and almost unknown, that are powering the CauseWired movement, for lack of, I should think, better word, and this book is very much the product of the movement.
The book is the story of what people do online to change the world for the better. “Be the change!” Gandhi said, and those people are just trying to be that, using the latest methods available. The Internet has given causes the greatest platform ever available but the platform can also be used to malintent, as I mention a little further on.
“CauseWired” is a landmark guide to the next major technological and cultural shift. That of online social activism.
Let's face it, many Blogs are just intended to be that, that is to say, “social online activism” - in one way or the other. This can, obviously, also, though, be a double edged sword that cuts both ways in that it can be used for good but also for “malintent”. In other words; it could be used equally by people wishing to influence folks in a positive way as well as by those who want to rile up the masses against a particular race or groups of people, whether Blacks or Gypsies, against a religion, or against a political persuasion. Recently there have been a number of Facebook pages that were anti-Gypsy and, so it appeared run from Italy (no surprise there after the recent happening against Gypsies in that country) which called for the destruction of all Gypsies. After complaints by Gypsy groups to the Facebook management those pages have been, since, removed. This example was, however, from my side, intended to show that “social online activism” can cut both ways, for the good and for evil.
The book, however, gives a great insight into the capabilities of online activism through direct stories of how things started and how the developed, such as “Facebook”, for instance, and Causes.
For today's super-wired, always-on, live-life-in-public young people, whether in the USA or elsewhere, the causes they support define who they are. Societal aspirations have so permeated the "net native" population that causes have become like musical tastes. CauseWired illustrates wired causes in action, bringing real-world stories to readers.
This is the first book to track the massive societal impact on causes of online social networks – from Blogs, to video, to the rise of social networks, CauseWired reveals the extraordinary influence of online social networks--in raising money for charity, in changing the political climate and electing candidates, and in raising consciousness for causes.
From Facebook causes and campaigns on MySpace, to a raft of new startups and innovative projects, and political movements like the Obama campaign and Save Darfur, this immensely relevant book delivers actionable research and recommendations to help readers launch their own successful wired social campaigns.
The Internet is not so much a mass medium but rather a medium of the masses and while it is true that the CauseWired causes may not raise hundreds of dollars from their individual “members” and “subscribers” it is all more about building an audience than a base for fundraising.
“CauseWired” offers a fascinating insight into the rapidly evolving world of the Internet, of social networking, and that of social change.
The author demonstrates how individuals are using new digital outlets and tools – most important here, Blogging, social networking, and online giving platforms – to explore how we may each act to impact the critical events of our day from the 2008 election to Hurricane Katrina and Darfur.
With his engaging writing style and breadth of perspective he helps the reader to see not only what is happening today, but also allows us a glimpse into the possible future of what will happen in the years to come as we each act upon our potential to change our world and communities.
For anyone not wanting to be left behind in our new wired society – or for those that may already be behind – this book is an absolutely must-read.
Tom Watson has produced here what could be described as a marketing bible for the field of philanthropy and a primer for individuals who want to help change the world.
This is one of those books that was filling up very fast with post-it notes while I have been reading it. There is so much information there that also will come in useful for the causes that Tatchipen Media represents and is involved with.
Tom Watson is a journalist, media critic, entrepreneur, and Blogger with a twenty-five year professional career that includes the co-founding of two companies and several popular online publications, bylines in more than a dozen major newspapers and magazines,and a history of innovation in media technology and online communities.
His Blog and other materials are well worth a read as well, and a regular one at that. “CauseWired” most certainly is a book that I can but recommend to our readers, whether or not they are intending to set up their own CauseWired platforms.
Anyone interested in causes and in the how-to of using the Internet for the promotion of same will do well to get this book and give it a thorough reading. It may take the interested reader a while for, I am sure, he or she will end up like me, pasting annotation notes all over the place.
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
by Michael Smith
The law of the road also applies to cyclists but there are many that do not seem to wish to understand that – and I am saying that being a cyclist – and who insist on crossing red traffic signal, for instance. I have more than once, when being a pedestrian, near enough been run down by a Lycra-clad cyclist with an environmental fruit bowl on his head who refused to accept that the red light that was showing was also valid for him. I have had the bell rung furiously and even been sworn at for daring to cross the road – as was my right for I had green light – while he was trying to get through.
While a bicycle is not a car for the time being the law of the road applies to bikes in the same way as to cars. If a light is red that means stop. Maybe the laws, here and elsewhere, should be changed in such a way that a bicycle would be regarded differently and we could use, legally, the sidewalks, sharing it, with consideration, with pedestrians, thus making it then possible for cyclists to use, with caution, pedestrian crossings, and, all in all, making the bicycle one of the best means of transport then.
One of my biggest pet peeves, I have to say, is seeing cyclists running lights and stop signs, riding on the wrong side of the road, and such like. After all, while motorists often do not seem to know how to share the road and put others in danger, cyclists greatly damage their image by not obeying the laws of the road. However, I do not go as far as condemning cyclists for using, with caution, the footpaths, the sidewalks, as the roads are dangerous and motorists often have no idea of how to share the road with cyclists. As far as some motorists are concerned, and I have heard that more than once, cyclists should not be on the roads. In a way I do agree. We should have our dedicated lanes – separated from the main traffic – and/or be permitted to share the sidewalks with pedestrians.
While cyclists have the same rights – and also, not to be forgotten, responsibilities – as drivers of motor vehicles, a bicycle is NOT a car, and perhaps, therefore, it also should not be treated as such. Despite having said that I do, of course, believe a bicycle can do everything a car can, and maybe even more so.
If, however, we are to really view bicycles in the same way as cars, from a legal perspective, then we provide the infrastructure to make that a reality and also the education to motorists that cyclists have equal rights on the road.
As that, however, is not going to get into the heads of the majority of drivers, of that I am sure, the infrastructure to enable cycling to be safe must be provided in an addition to the roads. Cyclists need to have their own lanes, physically separated from the other road areas, in order to give them that safe distance from cars the drivers of which far too often do not give cyclists the necessary room to manoeuvre and thus cause unnecessary accidents and deaths.
If we would want to enforce equal rights for cyclists and motorists then, for starters, all drivers – and not just new drivers – should have to demonstrate an understanding of how to interact with cyclists on the road, in a variety of situations. They should know what rights cyclists have, as well as how to ensure that both driver and rider are safe. At the same time, cyclists should at least be given the opportunity receive the same education as drivers. While this should not be a compulsory test to lead to a license, maybe, it still would be good to be able to learn the way of the road.
Many cyclists do not know or simply do not care that they are required to follow the rules of the road. At the same time many cyclists – and this is equally important – are often totally unaware of the fact that in many situations, depending on country and local laws also, they can, for instance, take over an entire lane if there is no shoulder or if glass or potholes force them into the lane.
Once again, the problem is that a bicycle is not a car; it doesn't move at the same speed, takes up a fraction of the lane and poses almost no safety risk to others. As such, the law has to accommodate those difference, and while there are laws that do that, most cyclists and drivers are not aware of them, and even then they provide awkward solutions.
The bottom line is that when cities are designed without cyclists in mind, it becomes awkward to say that riders have equal rights. When a road is built in such a way that it becomes dangerous for a car to make a left turn, say, then people are justifiably outraged and the problem is often rectified. The fact that the vast majority of our roads are not built to make cycling safe means that we have to ensure that everyone clearly understands when and why cyclists can run lights, take over lanes and get other special rights, while at the same time we desperately need to invest in better infrastructure. Otherwise, we have a recipe for mistrust, misunderstanding and accidents. This is especially true now that gas prices are inspiring more people to get back on their bikes.
Some countries and come cities are addressing the problem. Many European countries are so different to, say, for instance, Britain. Germany has, as an example, cycle paths in most if not indeed all cities and also along their Bundesstrassen, the equivalent of what in Britain would be an “A” road. The Netherlands and Denmark are also extremely bicycle friendly and the Netherlands especially caters for the bike all over the country.
We need to address cycling in Britain in the same way if we want to lead the world, as Britain aims to do, in sustainable transport, for there is none better than the bicycle in this regard. However, we cannot expect people to follow the rules, as for instance not cycling on the pavement, if the roads are too dangerous for cycling and if there are no proper cycle lanes than protect the cyclist. Convention and common sense should make it possible to amend the law in such a manner that would allow the use of the sidewalks – as long as done with consideration – by cyclists, especially if otherwise it would mean using dangerous roads with risk to life and limb.
Will we ever see such changes for the better and the proper infrastructure to make the bicycle the choice of transport for people? I sure hope so.
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008
Almost half (49% ) of British parents are planning to take their children on a British seaside holiday in order to re-live their own childhood holiday memories, new research from Towergate Bakers reveals. The new trend could spark a fashion to go back to the best of British and boost the economy and our green footprints (despite the fact it could see a further downward turn for the aviation industry).
With Britain officially in a recession, Britons are turning to happy, nostalgic memories of their childhood British breaks to get them through the hard times.
Towergate Bakers asked a GB representative sample of more than 2,000 people which of their childhood holidays they were planning to retake with their own children.
- In credit crunch Britain , a new generation has rekindled its love affair with the Great British caravan. Rather than jet off abroad, almost two in ten (27%) British parents intend to take their little ones on a drive down memory lane inspired by their own childhood caravan holiday.
- As childhood nostalgia sets in, two in ten parents (29%) are planning to re-live the joy of their childhood family holiday and plan to take them on a country cottage holiday to return to their favourite childhood holiday spot.
- Holidays on the British coast49%
- Country cottage holiday in the UK29%
- A caravan holiday27%Camping20%
“Sticking to the best of British is becoming the fashionable thing to do. Rather than take off abroad, parents are choosing to revisit the places of their childhood in the year ahead so their children can have the same experiences they did.
“As a knowledgeable voice that people can trust when it comes to insurances, we recommend that parents check their insurance needs before heading off on a road trip in their caravans.”
Towergate Bakers is the leading specialist insurance based in Cheltenham , Gloucestershire.
As the leader in its field Towergate Bakers can provide static caravan insurance and touring caravan insurance, as well as insurance for park homes, leisure homes and motor homes. It currently looks after the caravan insurance needs for more than 50,000 policyholders across the UK.
Source: FD Consumer Dynamics
Final Oil Shale Regulations Endanger Lands, Communities of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 2008: Ignoring the wishes of two governors and numerous members of Congress, the Bush administration announced today final regulations for a commercial oil shale program affecting almost 2 million acres of public lands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. These regulations lay out the rules governing royalty rates, evaluation of lease bids, mitigation requirements, and other technical and procedural elements of commercial oil shale leasing and production.
In conjunction with this move, the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, will amend 12 resource management plans in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to allow oil shale development without the opportunity normally afforded the public to file an administrative appeal, or “protest,” of the decision.
“Cooking rocks and scorching the earth is not a solution to our energy crisis,” said Amy Mall, a senior policy adviser for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This is just another government giveaway to Big Oil, which doesn’t make sense when we have better, cleaner energy sources available now. We need to invest in clean energy solutions — like plug-in cars — that will reduce our dependence on oil, not dirtier fuels that spoil public lands, hasten climate change and suck up limited water resources.”
Oil shale is a sedimentary rock containing kerogen which, when heated to extreme temperatures, yields oil. However, the oil-shale industry remains years if not decades away from establishing the technical, economic, and environmental viability of the technologies needed to extract and process oil from shale, according to industry representatives. In light of these knowledge gaps, Congress last year passed and the president approved legislation that included limits on the BLM’s implementation of a commercial oil-shale leasing program.
Despite this limitation, the BLM hurtled ahead, issuing draft regulations for commercial oil shale development on July 22nd. On October 1st, the spending limitation enacted by Congress to give the oil-shale industry more time to conduct research and development on its privately owned lands and as part of BLM-overseen program expired. Even without the limitation, this research will not be completed for many years. Even so, the Bush administration has rushed to finalize these federal regulations, which have no environmental safeguards and provide for a reduced, or in many cases, non-existent royalty rate for an as-yet non-existent industry.
“The Bush administration is maintaining an unlawful position by amending these resource management plans without providing the public with an opportunity to have their decisions administratively appealed,” said Melissa Thrailkill, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.
An October 7th letter from The Wilderness Society to the BLM charged that the agency had “deprived the public of an opportunity to provide meaningful comment on the numerous areas included in the [Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement].” The letter further asked that the BLM withdraw the 12 plan amendments until the agency fully complied with applicable laws that require a period for the public to file an administrative appeal. BLM issued a Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the 12 resource management plans earlier this year, garnering nearly 105,000 comments during a 120-day period. Many of the comments identified significant deficiencies, yet the BLM made no adjustments to the 12 amendments.
“This is not the first time the Bush administration has rammed a policy through while depriving the public of their rights,” said Nada Culver, senior counsel for the Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center. “Unfortunately, it probably won’t be the last, either.”
Among the problems with the Draft PEIS were inaccurate estimates of water available in the Colorado River Basin to support a commercial oil-shale industry and the BLM’s disregard for the potential global warming impacts of pursuing oil shale without significant additional research.
Source: Center for Biological Diversity
Citing Widespread Concern about Increased Food Prices, Environmental and Economic Concerns Representatives of the Environmental Community, Animal Agriculture, Economists, Government Watchdogs Groups, Food Industry Groups, Grassroots and Latino Organizations Call on President-elect Obama and Congress to Phase Out Ethanol Subsidies as Currently Structured after 30 Years
WASHINGTON, DC— On November 18th, 2008, a wide array of organizations came together to call on the next Administration and Congress to repeal subsidies for ethanol in light of its harmful effects on the environment, consumers and numerous industries.
This November marks the 30th anniversary of the first government subsidies for ethanol. These subsidies now total nearly $5 billion annually. In recent months, a wide number of independent voices have spoken out against ethanol subsidies as a failed policy that does more harm than good. This includes three Nobel Prize winning economists, Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman and Amartya Sen, as well as international institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, the UN, the International Food Policy Research Institute and others.
On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of ethanol subsidies, Ipsos Public Affairs released the results of a national survey commissioned by members of the Food Before Fuel campaign. According to the Ipsos poll of 1,000 Americans, nearly nine in 10 (89%) are concerned about the rising cost of food, including 57 percent who say that they are very concerned. When provided with information about USDA data showing corn ethanol production is the cause of 10 percent of food price inflation, nearly half (49%) become less likely to support policies aimed at promoting the use of corn to produce ethanol. Moreover, when asked if they would support keeping or changing the existing Congressional policies, a majority (56%) of respondents call for Congress to change these policies by reducing or eliminating subsidies and mandates for the use of corn ethanol.
Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkey Federation commented, “Ethanol has been on the government payroll for 30 years. After three decades of government policies subsidizing and supporting the ethanol industry, we find ourselves at the end of 2008 with more questions than ever before about the wisdom of this course.”
“On many issues, these groups gathered here today do not see eye to eye. But we have come together because we all can agree that the government’s subsidization of the corn ethanol industry is a flawed policy that pits rural industries against one another, raises food prices for everyone and has failed to yield promised environmental benefits,” Brandenberger said.
Duane Parde, president of the National Taxpayers Union, was critical of the ethanol industry as a “demonstrative waste of taxpayer money in a time of economic hardship.”
”President-elect Obama and the 111th Congress have an opportunity to protect taxpayers and end business as usual,” Parde said. “We have spent 30 years and billions of taxpayer dollars subsidizing the production of ethanol with little to show for it. Despite the subsidies, ethanol is not competitive in the marketplace and the industry only survives because politicians shovel our money into their pockets. We must end the bailouts and subsidies for industries that are unable or unwilling to stand on their own.”
Craig Cox, Midwest vice president of the Environmental Working Group, said that, "After 30 years of subsidies, ethanol is displacing only 3 percent of the gasoline we use each year, is likely increasing rather than decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, and is threatening our soil, water and wildlife. Yet ethanol gets $3 out of every $4 of tax credits the federal government gives to all renewable alternatives including wind, solar and geothermal. It is time we direct our tax dollars to renewable alternatives, including biofuels, based on how well they protect our climate, our environment and our energy security."
Jason Clay, senior vice president for market transformation at the World Wildlife Fund, noted, “In its work with local communities and habitats across the globe, the World Wildlife Fund has seen the negative impacts of the biofuel policy not only on the environment, but on vulnerable populations throughout the world.”
“Biofuels have a role to play in our response to energy independence and climate change, but the rush to produce them has been ill-considered. The United States must set an example to the rest of the world by pursuing sustainable agriculture and energy practices that meet scientifically based environmental performance standards,” Clay said.
The survey was an Ipsos poll and was was conducted October 30 – November 3, 2008 via Ipsos’ U.S. Telephone Express omnibus. For the survey, a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 18 and older residing in the United States were interviewed by telephone. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate within ± 3.1 percentage points.
Source: Food Before Fuel
Recycling waste piles up as prices collapse
by Michael Smith
Thousands of tonnes of rubbish collected from household recycling bins may have to be stored in warehouses and former military bases to save them from being dumped after a collapse in prices.
Once again the bottom has dropped out of the market for recyclables and we have problems. Whoever said that it was supposed to be profitable selling the stuff – just joking. However, shipping the stuff 10,000 miles across the world definitely does not make sense to me and I am sure to very few readers either.
We have been here before a number of years back when the price for recyclables collapsed and the likes of the Scouts stopped collecting waste newspapers and such because they could not sell the stuff, and glass from recycling containers was actually put into landfill.
The well-meaning Joe Public and his wife studiously put those glass bottles, separated by colors, into the separate containers only for the council collectors to come along and empty all containers into one truck to go to the dump to have the broken glass landfilled.
The problem is that we look to make money out of the recyclables rather than to make something for sale out of the recyclables. Instead of recycling the councils actually just collect what in the German Democratic Republic was referred to as “secondary raw materials”, whether that was waste paper, tin cans, glass jars, bottles.
Then again, in the then German Democratic Republic, the country which the West called “East Germany”, glass jars and bottles, more often that not collected by the Young Pioneers, were simply returned to the factories and reused. Something that should be done again also in Britain and other countries of the developed world, instead of sending the collected glass, broken by then, off to be melted down again and turned into something else. What a waste. Only glass that has finally broken, after thousand of times refilling should, in the end, go to be recycled, say, into new bottles and jars or even into bricks, paving slabs or even kitchen counter tops. But that should only happen after the bottle or jar has finally come to the end of its life; not before, after one single use often, as is the case today.
Can we not develop a proper recycling industry in our own countries, be this the United Kingdom or the USA?
Also, how come that the bottom has dropped out of the market, supposedly, for so we are being told, when the prices for metals are at an all time high, including here aluminium – or aluminum as our American cousins say; the very metal soda and beer cans are made from.
The local municipalities are trying to claim that with the economic crunch, the price for recycled good has dropped, and that now they and collection companies have tons of worthless recyclables that they cannot do anything with.
Collection companies and councils are running out of space to store paper, plastic bottles and steel cans because prices are so low that the materials cannot be shifted. Collections of mixed plastics, mixed paper and steel reached record levels in the summer but the “bottom fell out of the market” and they are now worthless. The plunge in prices was caused by a sudden fall in demand for recycled materials, especially from China, as manufacturers reduced their output in line with the global economic downturn.
In an effort to store them, they are requesting for less strict storage regulations to try and keep the recyclables from being dumped while they ride out the economic crisis, and what a surprise – NOT!
Much of the recyclables in the UK are sold to China for the manufacturing of goods. However, as the economy sinks, so too does production, even in the cheap labor countries such as China, and therefore so too does the demand for recyclables. Plastics and metals that were once valuable have sunk to practically worthless. But it does not mean they should get dumped. We cannot, despite what so many Brits think, continue using landfill – there are no more holes in the ground into which to dump thinks. And this aside from the fact that landfill can and does also cause contamination of soil and water.
Authorities are hoping to store the materials in warehouses and former military bases until the slump passes, but that means lighter regulations on how much waste can be stored for how long.
Officials from the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are considering changing the regulations on the storage of recycled waste and are expected to issue new guidelines next week. They have been urged to relax the rules limiting the quantity of waste that can be stored and to allow it to be kept in secure warehouses or abandoned military bases and former airfields.
They expect the situation to worsen before it gets better, since the holidays produce so much paper and plastic waste with parties and gifts. But they do see a light at the end of the tunnel, since new recycling plants will be opening soon and the dependence on China for purchasing recyclables will be lessened, so we are told.
It is about time that we did the recycling itself and in fact, in my opinion, recycling plants should be operated locally by the individual municipalities so that the recyclables do not need to get shipped over long distance, unless we can use the canals and inland waterways that the government recently discovered can be used for transporting of freight. The fact that they were designed and build for just that task some 200 years or so ago totally escaped them.
It is really wonderful to hear that people are doing so well at recycling that it is rapidly piling up, but hopefully the piles will begin to be processed soon. Perhaps pileup will help to get more products made from recycled materials, proving we don’t need new raw materials to make new products.
Maybe also one day we will get it past certain groups and organizations of the what can but be called eco-fascists and actually will have, just like some other European countries, waste incinerating power plants where energy and heat is produced for the local community. There is always some waste that simply cannot be recycled and it has to go somewhere and it is better for it to go up in smoke – we can clean that smoke also without problems; the technology does exist – than to go into holes in the ground which we are getting rather short of.
First of all we must, however, have our own, ideally local, recycling plants where the material is sorted and then, ideally also, made into new products.
The real truth, to sum it up again, is that recycling should not be price based. It is an essential process to reduce the rate and then eventually stop resource depletion. Government legislation is required to ensure that all materials available for recycling are recycled. Recycling is not an economic exercise, it is a survival system.
© M Smith (Veshengro), November 2008