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green@work : Magazine : Newlines : July/August 2006

Newslines
Actions and initiatives worth noting

2006
Ford, VeraSun teaming up to offer more E85 stations

In response to the lack of fueling stations across America capable of dispensing the ethanol-gasoline mixture E85, Ford Motor Company has teamed up with VeraSun Energy Corp. of South Dakota to change this by creating an ethanol corridor in the Midwest. VeraSun is the nation’s second-largest producer of ethanol.

Currently, fewer than 750 fuel stations across the country offer E85, a corn-based fuel created from a mixture of gasoline and up to 85 percent ethanol. Corn-based, high-octane fuel has risen from obscurity in recent years because it’s increasingly being viewed as a way to help the United States cut its dependence on foreign energy sources.

To further the use of E85, Ford and VeraSun are looking to add 50 sites that offer the alternative fuel along Interstate 55 in Illinois and Interstate 70 in Missouri. The plans also include an E85-themed ad campaign in certain Illinois and Missouri markets, and informational items including a map of the new E85 sites will be sent to owners of Ford’s flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs).


GM urging travelers to use alternate fuel

In time for the traveling season, General Motors is bringing the nation’s petroleum consumption to the forefront by providing facts about the benefits of driving FFVs and using alternative fuels such as E85 while traveling.

“With the increased road traffic this summer, now is the perfect time to start thinking about the amount of petroleum—gasoline in particular—that we can save by using alternative fuels such as E85 ethanol,” said Jim Bunnell, regional general manager with GM. “Compared to using regular unleaded gasoline, fueling a flex-fuel vehicle with E85 ethanol helps support our nation’s agriculture industry while reducing our dependence on petroleum.”

Ethanol is typically produced from corn and other grains that are grown primarily in Midwest states like Illinois, Nebraska and Kansas. By utilizing ethanol fuel in FFVs, not only are U.S. farmers benefiting, but the consumer saves as well. According to GM, a 580-mile trip from Chicago to the Cedar Point theme park in Ohio using E85 can save 27 gallons of gasoline. At prices hovering near $3 a gallon, the savings add up.


U.S. automakerspledging increased FFV production

To further support the push toward alternative fuels, Detroit automakers said recently they would double their production of vehicles capable of burning ethanol and other renewable fuels to 2 million cars and trucks a year by 2010, and called on Congress to help make ethanol more widely available.

GM said it would build about 400,000 E85-capable vehicles this year, while Ford estimated its total at 250,000. Chrysler pledged to build more than 250,000 FFVs in 2007, and nearly half a million in 2008. The three companies combined sell about 10 million vehicles a year in the United States.

This unified front presented by U.S. automakers comes at the urging of Michigan lawmakers to gain more leverage on key issues such as increasing the usage of alternative fuel. Detroit automakers and dozens of lawmakers have backed the “25-by-25” plan, which calls for replacing 25 percent of the nation’s energy demand with renewable fuels by 2025.


More Americans want solar energy systems

A recent survey has found that more than 80 percent of respondents would like to see solar energy systems available on new-home construction. This finding supports the opinion that many Americans are tired of playing catch-up to foreign nations that have seen amazing results from their solar energy plans.

Other findings include:
• 79 percent feel that homebuilders should offer solar power as an option for all new homes.

• 84 percent of Americans ages 25-49 support solar on new homes; 69 percent of those over 65 agree.

• Those living in the South and West are more likely to favor solar on new homes (83 percent) than those living in the Midwest or Northeast (74 percent).

• After being told that solar homes have a proven higher resale value, 64 percent would be willing to pay more for homes with a solar system.

• 73 percent believe that solar energy technology is more important today than ever.

• 42 percent say that saving money on monthly utility bills is the most compelling argument for installing solar power. Other respondents indicated it was to decrease the nation's dependence on oil (31 percent) or reduce environmental pollution (18 percent).

States are responding to these demands. California has approved the $3.2 billion California Solar Initiative, a 10-year plan that will provide residents and businesses across the state with rooftop solar panels. The Texas Legislature has also updated the state’s renewable energy portfolio to require 5 percent, or 5,880 megawatts, of electricity to be generated by alternative sources by 2015.

Hewlett Packard increasing recycling efforts

Hewlett Packard has announced it is hosting a series of product collection events throughout the country during the summer to raise awareness and increase the rate of electronics recycling among consumers. At these events, HP will accept a range of products from any manufacturer. Events will be held through September in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico and Oregon.

HP hosts recycling events in more than 40 countries worldwide. Its latest push is to help meet its goal of recycling 1 billion pounds of hardware and printer cartridges by 2007. So far, the project is responsible for recycling more than 750 million pounds. The recycled products have been used in new HP products, as well as in a range of other products, including auto body parts, clothes hangers, plastic toys, fence posts, serving trays and roof tiles.

New trend: Offsetting your carbon emissions

The HSBC Bank and Swiss Re Insurance are doing it. So is Al Gore and members of the Dave Matthews Band. Even scientist Hadi Dowlatabadi has jumped on the bandwagon. The trend they are following is called carbon offsetting, a practice that promotes achieving carbon neutrality.

Those who follow this trend measure or estimate the yearly carbon emissions produced by their automobiles, in air travel and in other uses. Once this is accounted for, they offset their emissions by putting money toward renewable energy sources or participating in other green activities.

Not all environmentalists are buying into this trend, however. They claim that the idea of paying to compensate for carbon emissions has inherent dangers of its own, especially if it merely serves as a method to justify excessive carbon emissions, such as driving a gas-guzzling car. Critics assert that more efforts need to be spent on educating people as to the ramifications of their decisions in lieu of “Band-Aid approaches.”

Efficient lighting can save energy, cut emissions

A recent study from the International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded that: “A global switch to efficient lighting systems, such as compact fluorescent lightbulbs, would trim the world’s electricity bill by nearly one-tenth.” Additionally, the IEA claims that the carbon dioxide emissions saved by a switch to efficient lighting would make cuts in emissions achieved by wind and solar power pale in comparison.
“Lighting is a major source of electricity consumption,” said Paul Waide, a senior policy analyst with the IEA, and one of the report’s authors. “Nineteen percent of global electricity generation is taken for lighting—that’s more than is produced by hydro or nuclear stations, and about the same that’s produced from natural gas.”

The carbon dioxide produced by generating all of this electricity amounts to 70 percent of global emissions from passenger vehicles, and is three times more than emissions from aviation, the IEA said.


Bush Administration pledges money to solar initiatives

President Bush’s Administration recently announced that it would pledge $170 million to public and private partnerships to make solar energy more competitive with conventional electricity sources by 2015.

The funding, which would begin in fiscal year 2007, would last for three years. To be eligible, industry-led teams would be required to match each dollar the government gives them toward the project, which could generate an additional $170 million.

“We will be asking the winning partnerships to focus their work on new manufacturing techniques as well as new component designs that will allow us to bring down the cost of producing photovoltaic fuel cells as quickly as possible,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman.
Photovoltaic cell technology produces energy when the cells are exposed to light.


 Congress calls for energy policy revamp

In response to citizen groups and special interests pushing for solutions to the growing energy crisis, Congress has reacted to the tune of introducing 477 energy-related bills this session. Many of those proposals involve increasing domestic energy production rather than the conservation and renewables that environmentalists prefer.

Pressure from the states has also prompted a look into new energy policies. Governors around the country are also calling for reform, and some have even followed up with suits against the government for energy-related pollution.

“Time is running out in this Congress to take action on energy,” Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said when introducing the Enhanced Energy Security Act.


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