Okay, it’s a bit like seeing your fiancée at your bachelor party, or more like a cannibal enjoying a dinner party, but President George W. Bush attended – and spoke at – the Renewable Energy Conference in Washington last week. The highlights of the Dubya’s remarks included lighting and appliance efficiency, renewable fuels, and tax breaks for investing in fossil fuel alternatives.
Bush also mesmerized the crowd by taking sideways credit for hybrid vehicles, stating, “When I was first elected, there were virtually no hybrids on the roads. Today there is nearly a million.” And then there were his comments about the rise of corn ethanol, which the Bush administration has been touting as the next fuel. He failed to mention the disastrous effects monoculture corn has on the environment, but he did express his concern for cattle and pig ranchers because the price of corn – agribusiness’ main feedstock – is rising.
Here’s a stupid idea somebody had: let’s spend time and money to restore the population of a precious and nearly extinct species and then remove it from the endangered list so we can hunt it.
Not sure why I wasn’t invited to that meeting…
Gray wolves were almost lost in the 1970s due to over-hunting. Man’s fear of the animal brought about an eradication campaign from the ranching industry and, believe it or not, government agencies. Wolves were hunted for reward to protect livestock, and for their meat and valuable fur. It wasn’t until their near extinction in 1973 that they were protected under the Endangered Species Act. Research and education regarding wolf behavior and biology followed, revealing that – surprise, surprise — wolves play a critical role in maintaining their ecosystems.
Kill first, learn second. Wonder who thought of that plan?
Of all the new jargon coming atcha from the green space – emissions trading, Chelsea tractor (UK slang for a gas guzzling SUV) and blackwater (that’s the water effluent, not the snipers) to name a few – my new favorite has got to be the “eco-poser”. Don’t play dumb. We all know one. Heck, there may be one looking back at us in the mirror.
A recent article in Alternative Consumer warns of this new breed and lists 13 ways to spot them. Their on-the-money observations include those who have “solar panels installed on the ‘weekend’ house but leave the engine running on the Range Rover when they ‘pop’ into Starbucks for that latte” as well as the people who have “a ‘Made in China’ label sticking out of their 100% jute gladiator sandals”. And then there’s the sort who writes “for an eco-friendly blog, but refuse[s] to fix that dripping faucet in their bathroom”. (I know what you’re thinking, but I called the landlord three times, asking him to take care of it.)
Here’s a despicable fact. Roughly 30% of the earth’s ice-free areas are used in livestock production, belching nearly 20% of all greenhouse gases – more than all GHG emitted in transportation. According to Pamela A. Martin, an assistant professor of Geophysics at the University of Chicago, reducing American beef consumption by 20% would have the same impact as putting a Prius in every driveway Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos
“In order to solve the climate crisis, we have to solve the democracy crisis,” said former Vice President Al Gore in a speech at the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in Monterey, California.
I would tend to believe just about anything Al said and, according to a recent Wired article, Mr. Gore says that “68 percent of Americans now believed that human activity was responsible for global warming, and 69 percent believed the Earth was heating up in a significant way. But this, along with buying hybrids and installing solar panels, wasn’t enough Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos
There’s a new contender on the green supermarket scene – one that won’t demand your whole paycheck. If you’ve ever spent $3 on a single avocado you’ll join me in my excitement over Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market. With an ambitious slogan promising “Fresh, Wholesome Food at Affordable Prices”, I was eager to see if they delivered Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos
Democrats are shaking in their boots…again. Last week, Ralph Nader announced that he’s running for president, criticizing Dems for being Republicans in costume, criticizing Republicans for being the lapdogs of big industry, and hoping to push the debate on all issues towards a more sustainable model.
This year, however, Nader seems a bit more critical of his opponents than he has in the past; he lashed out at both Obama and Clinton for their corporate ties, and the tone of his statements makes his Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos
If I wasn’t already certain there was a conspiracy by Big Oil to continue their unsustainable ways, I’d be a believer after reading about the good people at Los Alamos National Laboratory (think nuclear weapons)’s plan to capture CO2 from your tailpipe and turn it back into gasoline>.
Oh, and it gets better… The process required to sequester the CO2 and “refine” it requires huge energy inputs – similar to the amount needed to create clean-burning alternatives like hydrogen. Where do they suggest we get that energy? From nuclear reactors. That’s right, good ol’ nuclear powered gasoline factories are the way of the future. They did consider alternatives, but dismissed them early on as “too unrealistic.” I guess I’ll have to add the word noo-cyoo-ler to my vocabulary.
You’re no doubt aware of the raging debate surrounding genetically modified foods or foods made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) — foods which have had their DNA altered to in an effort to make them pest-resistant or give them longer shelf life, among other unnatural things.
On the whole, it seems European consumers are much more GMO savvy than their U.S. counterparts. For example, did you know that the majority of the cotton (used in vegetable cooking oil and vegetable feed), maize and soybeans crops grown in North America have been genetically modified? You didn’t? Hmmm… that’s probably because the U.S. food industry has protested against GMO labeling, whereas in the EU, all food containing GMOs are labeled accordingly.
As temperatures continue to tiptoe higher, buzzes of sustainable but efficient shifts in building and transportation are becoming increasingly important. Though nihilism periodically dominates some of these explorations, there’s much positive work and research being done in an effort to preserve life as we’ve come to know it.
A little known fact is that air travel contributes about 2% of the world’s total carbon output. In a pioneering effort to find a sustainable way to fly, Virgin Atlantic has created the first (partially) biofuel-powered jet. The Boeing 747 – which gets about 20% of its power from fuel made from the oil of coconut and babassu nuts – successfully flew a passenger-less test run from London to Amsterdam. So says Sir Richard Branson, President of Virgin Atlantic: “biofuel can work at 30,000 feet without freezing.”
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. farmers are having a hard time keeping up with Americans’ voracious appetite for organic foods, say industry leaders, who want federal officials to boost spending on crop research and market development.
Organic food sales grow by as much as 20 percent a year and were forecast for $16 billion during 2006, or nearly 3 percent of all U.S. food spending, the Organic Trade Association said at a pair of congressional hearings.
I see a battle looming. The world will be split into two groups, vehicle-wise – cornophiles and cornophobes. The former will be centered in Scandinavia, the latter, who knows where. Right now I’m personally leaning cornophobe based on my self-proclaimed, meticulous scrutiny of ethanol’s evil side. Sweden, the maker of turbo-powered Saabs, is leaning towards cornophile, at least for the immediate future.
The car manufacturers in Scandinavia are leading the bio-fuel revolution in part because of a zero-emission target date of 2020, and they should be commended for their commitment to the environment. The only problem is that King Corn is arguably more destructive than drilling for liquefied dinosaurs.
From what I can tell (and I dug quite deep into this one), the plan of those building cars in Sweden is sound. It was developed by a commission on “energy independence” and sees corn ethanol as only a transitional phase, a necessary evil on the road to clean energy.
To contrast, the U.S. National Commission on Energy Policy recently supported funding for future coal development and gladhanded the president and Congress over the mediocre energy bill passed last year. Sweden is also strongly supporting biofuels from waste and from rapeseed oil (RME’s) as “first generation” biofuels, recognizing that the first generation fuels use more energy than they give off. The next generation includes turning forest products – without cutting huge swaths – into usable fuels in a system that reverses this negative energy cycle.
Let’s hope the Swedes don’t get stuck on corn. It’s hopeful to see a country take a strong stand against continued pollution.
If you want to dig deep, click here — but I warn you, it’s not light reading.