Tuesday, March 31, 2009

House Democrats introduce global warming bill

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have unveiled climate change legislation that would seek to drastically cut carbon emissions and set a requirement for 25 percent of U.S. energy to come from renewable sources by 2025.

The bill also contains a cap-and-trade system to encourage utilities and other industry groups to work towards these goals.

“This legislation will create millions of clean energy jobs, put America on the path to energy independence, and cut global warming pollution.” Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement. “Our goal is to strengthen our economy by making America the world leader in new clean energy and energy efficiency technologies.”

Interestingly, the bill is called the "American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009." What does climate change legislation have to do with national security? Well, not much, but with a little politicking, you can argue that energy independence (i.e. not relying on foreign oil for energy) makes our country safer and more stable. By emphasizing this in the bill, Democrats have given moderate Republicans a way to support the bill and justify it using this argument to any of their conservative constituents who might have a problem with climate change legislation.

If you want more info, the full text of the bill is here, and you can also find a shorter summary on the committee's website.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Al Gore and Boston Mayor Menino announce Renew Boston project

Former Vice President and current environmental activist Al Gore is in Boston today to make an announcement with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino about the launch of the "Renew Boston" program, which is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the city.

Boston has received $6.5 million in federal stimulus money to start the program. Part of the money will be used to start a program that will retrofit and weatherize buildings across the city. The rest of the money will be used on municipal solar-electric, solar-thermal, and wind energy projects.

To read more on this program, check out this story from The Herald.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Celebrate Earth Hour tomorrow night

As the countdown on the top of our homepage will tell you, Earth Hour is a little over 24 hours away. Be sure and join this movement for global climate change by turning off your lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. tomorrow night.

The Daily Green has provided excellent coverage of this event over the last few weeks. In case you need motivation, here are some reasons you should celebrate Earth Hour. Also, here are Earth Hour festivities that will be going on around the world.

Last, but not least, be sure and take some pictures of your Earth Hour celebration and e-mail them to us and other green sites such as The Daily Green.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pike removes appeal time limits for overcharged tolls

The Turnpike Authority has agreed to remove the time limit associated with appealing tolls for FastLane users who were mistakenly overcharged.

Last month, The Herald reported that as many as 1 million FastLane users were being overcharged on the Pike because of faulty equipment.

FastLane users previously had six months to appeal a toll, but after internal meetings, the Turnpike Authority decided to remove the limit for those that were overcharged.

Be sure and check your FastLane statement (which is available online) and appeal any tolls you believe you were overcharged for. For more info, check out this story from The Herald.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Record year for solar power

The solar power industries in both the United States and Europe had a record year in 2008 as new installations expanded the solar capacity of many areas by significant amounts.

"Despite severe economic pressures in the U.S., demand for solar energy grew tremendously in 2008," said Rhone Resch, president and chief executive of the Solar Energies Industries Association. "Increasingly, solar energy has proven to be an economic engine for this country, creating thousands of jobs, unleashing billions in investment dollars, and building new factories from New Hampshire to Michigan to Oregon."

Much of the U.S. expansion was created by new solar power plants in California, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, and Tennessee.

For more info on this and the future of solar polar, check out this story from Business Green.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Poll shows Americans more concerned with economy than environment

The New York Times green blog reported this today:

"For the first time in Gallup’s 25-year history of asking Americans about the trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth, a majority of Americans say economic growth should be given the priority, even if the environment suffers to some extent."

This is hardly shocking given the troublesome economy and rising unemployment rates. While it is slightly depressing that many Americans are thinking in a shortsighted manner about the economy and environment, you can't really blame them.

However, you can blame the media for framing the debate in an uninformed manner. Too often the media discussion around the debate between economic growth and environmental protection seems to be an either/or discussion. The fact of the matter is that these issues are not mutually exclusive. As you've seen in this blog, it is possible for individual consumers to save significant amounts of money by going green.

And, on a national level, it is just as possible for our country to promote economic development and green principles simultaneously. With the stimulus package, the government created thousands of jobs and allocated millions of dollars to be used to enhance work and research in green technology areas, including reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

While it's great for The New York Times and other media outlets to create an apparent conflict by making a complicated issue black and white, it is not healthy for the discourse of the debate. So, the next time you hear someone discussing whether we should focus on environmental protection or economic growth, realize that the best answer is that we should focus on both.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Buy green with these nine environmentally-inventive products

Want to go green with some products that are as useful as they are green? Scientific American provides this slide show with nine such products that serve both purposes.

Our favorite product is the tote bag made from recycled items such as Capri Sun pouches. Check out the slide show for more inventively green items when you get a chance.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Leading by example, Obamas plan a White House veggie garden

In a victory for the local food movement, Michelle Obama told Oprah Winfrey in the latest edition of O magazine that the Obamas are planning a veggie garden near the fountain on the south lawn of the White House.

"We want to use it as a point of education, to talk about health and how delicious it is to eat fresh food, and how you can take that food and make it part of a healthy diet," Obama told the magazine.

The local food movement is gaining ground thanks to the economic recession. More and more Americans are starting gardens, according to The Daily Green.

For more info on this story, click here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pike toll hikes on hold

State officials are expected to use the money in a Mass Turnpike reserve fund to prevent the toll hikes that were expected to take effect March 29 at the Allston tolls and in the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels, WBZTV reported today.

The state officials told WBZ that they did not learn about the reserve fund until last night.

While there is another toll hike scheduled for July, state officials said they plan to seek alternative revenue sources to avoid that hike as well.

For more info, check out this story at WBZ's website.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Go green and save money

Think going green has to cost money? Well, there are many ways to be environmentally conscious and save money.

From adjusting the energy settings on your computer to changing out light bulbs around your house, there are a number of easy ways to go green and save money at the same time.

The Daily Green has a list of 30 simple ways to save money and be environmentally conscious. Check out it out here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Boston prepares to go dark for Earth Hour 2009

On March 28, in observance of Earth Hour, the lights on the Citgo Sign, Prudential Tower, Zakim Bridge, and other famous Boston landmarks will go dark for one hour.

The Globe has this slide show with pictures showing how cities around the world observed the event last year. Check it out, and be sure to join the city and turn your own lights off at 8:30 p.m. on the 28th.

A green laugh break

Because everything green doesn't need to be so serious, we would like to share with you this video promoting Earth Hour 2009. The song and video parody Sarah Silverman's I'm F'ing Matt Damon Song. The parody entitled I'm Flicking The Lights Off is very funny and worth watching.

Earth Hour 2009 is March 28th at 8:30 p.m. All you need to do is turn off your lights for an hour to help impact climate change.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Car manufacturer announces plans for U.S. electric car plant

Norwegian car maker Think has announced plans for a U.S. electric car facility and is in talks with eight states about a site for the plant.

Company officials said the plant would initially employ about 350 people and produce 16,000 cars a year, with plans to increase the workforce to 900 people and production to about 60,000 cars a year over time.

"The US is quickly overtaking Europe as an attractive market for EVs [electric vehicles] and is an ideal location to engineer and build EVs," Think CEO Richard Canny told Business Green.

The company did not say when construction of the plant might begin. For more info, check out this story on Business Green.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Where does vehicular air pollution come from?

Motor vehicles play a major role in air pollution. They are the single largest contributor of the precursors of ground-level ozone, which is a major urban pollutant. Motor vehicles also contribute significantly to particulate matter (PM) pollution. Both kinds of pollution stem from burning fossil fuels and vehicle use, and both contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory problems.

Here's the Science

Motor vehicles generate three major pollutants: hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. Hydrocarbons react with nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight (ultraviolet radiation) to form ground-level ozone. Elevated ozone levels mainly occur during the months of May through September. Nitrogen oxides also help form acid rain. Carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, deadly gas, can impair mental and visual functions and have other negative effects at high levels of exposure.

To read the rest of this article from Clean Air NY, click here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Study links smog to respiratory diseases

A New York University study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who live in areas with high smog rates (i.e. metropolitan areas) are three times more likely to die from premature respiratory diseases than those who live in areas with low smog counts.

Smog forms when ozone, which comes primarily from the tailpipes of vehicles and smokestacks of factories, mixes with sunlight.

The study is the first nationwide examination of the long-term impact ozone has on human health, according to officials at NYU's Lagone Medical Center.

The researchers also concluded that even at levels below EPA requirements for airborne ozone, long-term exposure still leads to an increased rate of negative health effects. Environmental groups argue that the current standards aren't strict enough, while industry representatives say the standards are already too strict in their current form.

For more info, check out this article in the New York Times.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

EPA proposes greenhouse gas reporting requirement

Staring in 2011, facilities around the country may be required to report their greenhouse gas emissions for the first time.

The EPA made the announcement about the proposal on Tuesday, saying that facilities with more than 25,000 metric tons of emissions would be required to report under the program. This would mean that facilities such as car manufacturing plants, power generators, industrial chemical factories, and other similar industries would fall under the regulation.

Such facilities account for 80 to 85 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to EPA estimates.

Awareness is certainly the first step in reversing the effects we are having on the environment with harmful emissions. Hopefully this program will increase awareness and encourage these facilities to reduce their emissions, making our environment safer for future generations.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Public transit use on the rise

Despite decreasing gas prices and increasing unemployment rates in the second half of last year, a record number of trips (10.7 billion) were taken on public transportation.

The number of trips nationwide in 2008 was four percent higher than the number of trips in 2007, according to the American Public Transportation Association. At the same, vehicle miles traveled in the U.S. decreased by over three percent from 2007 to 2008.

Boston recorded the fifth highest increase in subway use in the country.

“Even as gas prices fell for the second half of the year and hundreds of thousands of people lost jobs, more and more people chose to ride public transportation throughout the country,” said APTA President William Millar. “Given our current economic condition, people are looking for ways to save money and taking public transportation offers a substantial savings of more than $8,000 a year. That’s quite a savings.”

Monday, March 9, 2009

TD Banknorth Garden goes green, literally

The Garden is going green, quite literally, with a new lighting system that was installed last week.

The lights use LED technology that saves energy, reduces maintenance costs, and has a better lighting quality, according to Garden officials.

The lights can be set to many colors, including green during Celtics games, gold during Bruins games, and various colors during other events. For instance, the lights will have a tie-dye color scheme during an upcoming Fleetwood Mac concert.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Stimulus prompts expansion in green technology companies

Green technology companies in Massachusetts are hiring, and the main reason is the recent economic stimulus bill. The bill included about $100 billion to fund technologies that reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels and generate more electricity from renewable sources.

All in all, the stimulus package is expected to create or save as many as 79,000 jobs in Massachusetts.

The Globe has a slide show describing several of the green technology companies that are expanding in the area. Click here to check it out.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

MIT students build solar car

MIT students have unveiled their latest solar car for the 10th World Solar Challenge, a 2,000-mile race across Australia. The seven-day race features cars that run only on solar power.

The car weighs about 500 pounds and can reach speeds up to 90 mph. The top of the car is fitted with solar panels that can generate up to 1,200 watts of power.

For more on the car, check out this story on EcoGeek.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Google Earth tool tracks CO2 emissions

The Vulcan Project, led by a team of Purdue University researchers, has created a Google Earth tool that shows you CO2 emissions coming from each county in the U.S.

The tool breaks down emissions into industrial, residential, commercial, and other categories for each county.

The team plans to be able to release emissions data by street or even by building as more data is collected.

This tool is really cool and a great way to see where most of our CO2 emissions are coming from. Check it out at the link above.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bids go out for citywide bike share program

City leaders began accepting bids for Boston's proposed citywide bike share program today, which is schedule to begin in the spring of next year.

The program will place 150 or so kiosks around the city with bikes locked to them, and program participants will be able to swipe a credit card and pick up a bike. The kiosks will be located around busy areas such MBTA stations, colleges, and hospitals.

The fee for the bikes will range between $2 and $5 an hour, city officials said.

Biking advocates are excited about the program because it gives commuters flexibility in using bikes to get around the city.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Transportation bill would raise Logan parking fees

About a month after parking fees at Logan were raised $1, Governor Patrick's transit overhaul bill would raise the fees by another $2 if it gets passed in its current form.

The additional fee is dubbed the "carbon fee" in the bill and would raise parking fees to $6 for up to an hour, $18 for up to 3 hours, and $26 for a full day.

State Transportation Secretary James Aloisi Jr. told The Herald that the fee would fund airport-releated transportation projects and encourage people to take public transit to the airport.

The second part of that comment is ironic, seeing that national, state, and local governments just spent $15 billion on the Big Dig so it would be easier to drive to the airport.