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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : March/April 2006 : Newslines

Newslines



Farmers cashing in on green efforts
Practicing carbon sequestration with their crops is now earning farmers extra cash. This reward, given to farmers who help reduce the carbon dioxide given off by decaying plants, is a result of efforts by the Iowa Farm Bureau’s partnership with the Chicago Climate Exchange.

Farmers who wish to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions employ practices such as no-till planting, a method that keeps crop residue in the soil because it is not plowed up. Keeping decayed plants in the soil reduces the release of carbon dioxide—carbon sequestration. Farmers who utilize these methods are organized by the Iowa Farm Bureau, and sell their efforts at the Exchange in the form of agricultural “carbon credits.” These credits work much like other emission credit programs, where those who keep their emissions below standards can sell off unused emissions to those who exceed limits.

Farmers are paid $1 per acre and already the Farm Bureau has sent out checks totaling $382,500 to farmers in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. The average farmer in Iowa participates with 400 acres; Nebraska’s farmers average 800 acres; and Kansas leads the pack with farmers averaging 1000 acres in the program.

Not all are impressed by this program, however. Joseph Bast of the Heartland Institute in Chicago warns that participating in voluntary programs like this one can give political support to those who wish to implement mandatory regulations.

Bio-diesel fueled by Bay Area co-op
BioFuel Oasis of Berkley, Calif., is helping socially conscious consumers make a statement. The worker-owned cooperative run by five women provides consumers with an alternative to traditional diesel fuel. Their product is a mixture of 85-percent vegetable oil and ethanol or methanol. The bio-diesel is not only a renewable energy source, but it is also nontoxic and biodegradable—and the emissions are cleaner, as they contain no sulfur and 78 percent less carbon dioxide than diesel fuel. Additionally, no engine conversion is necessary to fill up an automobile’s tank with bio-diesel, and the product can be mixed with regular diesel fuel at any time.

BioFuel Oasis does warn customers of certain side effects to utilizing the bio-diesel, such as the need to replace older fuel lines and seals with synthetic parts to prevent degradation. Also, they recommend that their customers mix bio-diesel with regular diesel in cold-weather conditions.
Those who don’t live in the Berkley area can visit www.backyardbiodiesel.com to learn how to whip up this mixture at home so they, too, can benefit from bio-diesel.Australia joins greenhouse gas fight

Ten thousand schools in Australia are looking to make the leap to solar power as the nation moves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote clean energy. The switch to solar power is designed to help schools upgrade the cooling and heating systems for classrooms. The efforts aim to make the learning environment for both the students and teachers more comfortable, reduce air pollution and improve education.
Proponents of the plan cite that the excess roof space most schools have make them perfect recipients of solar panels. Kim Beazley of Australia’s Labor Party said that with the expansion of solar power in the schools will come a natural progression of its domestic use. Based on current building trends, Beazley expects that Australia will have 1.5 million solar-powered homes by 2015, and 2.25 million by 2020.

Honda is greenest and meanest
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently announced the year’s “greenest” and “meanest” vehicles. Top honors went to the Honda Insight with an overall green score of 57, with the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic GX also faring well.

Among the meanest—or lowest-scoring vehicles—were the Bentley Arnage, the Lamborghini Murcielago and the Dodge Ram SRT, which came in last with an overall score of 12. The scores came from a series of tests such as fuel economy and tailpipe emissions.

View the complete list at www.greenercars.com.Europe’s Green Paper released.

The March release of the latest European Green Paper once again addresses Europe’s growing dependency on Middle Eastern oil and Russian gas. Past Green Papers have addressed Europe’s energy issues, and have led to legislative initiatives to increase renewable energy and focus on energy efficiency. Additional topics included in the paper are the migration of greenhouse gas and concerns for the long-term availability of fossil fuels.

The paper, which calls for a European energy policy, focuses on five goals and six priority areas. The five goals mentioned in early drafts of the paper include: to speak with one voice on strategic energy issues; to diversify the mix of primary energy resources; to become the world’s most energy-efficient region; to become the world leader in low-carbon energy research and development; and to complete the internal energy market by 2007.

The six priority areas are as follows: a common European external policy for the security of the energy supply; a common European internal policy for the security of the energy supply; increasing the use of clean and indigenous energy sources; strategic planning for European clean energy technologies; a Europe-wide action on energy efficiency; and completing the internal European electricity and gas markets by 2007.

EPA looks to reduce industry chemicals
The Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response is calling on companies to rise to the challenge to reduce the volume of priority chemicals in products and waste. The result of this could not only reduce toxic chemical releases, but also reduce costs associated with handling and disposal of these chemicals.

The challenge, which is sponsored by the National Partnership for Environmental Priorities and The National Environmental Performance Track, looks to reduce toxic chemicals that are found in the environment and accumulate in living organisms—priority chemicals. A complete list of priority chemicals and what they are found in can be seen here: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/mrpbs/manuals_guides/ ep_manual_/ep_manual_app8.pdf.Air pollution bills falling short
Environmental groups are looking to Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine for support in their effort to strengthen restrictions on coal-fired plants in the state that emit mercury and other pollutants.

Virginia legislation requires Dominion Virginia Power to reduce mercury emissions by 86 percent by the year 2015. However, critics from the Southern Environmental Law Center, based in Charlottesville, Va., complain that the bill does not include some of the smaller utility companies in the state.

Cale Jaffe of the Law Center cites the fact that Pennsylvania’s and Georgia’s recent proposals are tougher on mercury emissions than Virginia’s legislation. The Sierra Club has become involved as well, stating concerns that the current legislation could lead to mercury hot spots developing in the state. Mercury has been shown to cause brain and nervous system damage.

Lebanese group staging fight against pollutants
It may come as a surprise to some that a nation in the oil-rich Middle East would be leading the charge to use eco-friendly instead of diesel fuel, but that is exactly what Eco-Power, a project of the Center for Development and Planning, is doing in Lebanon.

The project began when experts in Lebanon realized how much oil was being used by restaurants. The leftover oil was either sold to be mixed with other fuels for heating, or simply poured down drains—and both methods of disposal are catalysts for severe environmental pollution. Now, the group has convinced more than 90 percent of restaurants in Beirut to give them their leftover oil, which is then used to produce fuel for diesel engines. The result is fuel that produces 80 percent less pollutants than a standard diesel engine.

In two weeks, the group has collected 8,000 liters of used vegetable oil. The goal of the project is to collect 1,000 liters daily.Cool seats a hot fuel-saver

The Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently reported that if every car on the road utilized ventilated seats, the amount of gasoline consumption in America would be reduced by 7.5 percent—a figure that equates to 522 million gallons of fuel per year being saved.

The theory behind this is that if vehicles equipped with the ventilated seats—which consist of two built-in fans that suck warm air and moisture through their perforated leather and send it away from the driver or passenger—drivers would be able to turn their air conditioners down a notch or two.

Currently, many luxury cars offer this as part of a package. Other features included in some of the luxury packages actually reduce fuel savings, such as Cadillac’s heated steering wheel. Some manufacturers offer climatized seats, which actually utilize an automobile’s air conditioner to cool the seats, again reducing fuel economy.

The Department of Energy continues to research the future possibility of ventilated seats.

Toyota rolls out first Lexus hybrid sedan
Toyota Motor Corp. began selling the first hybrid sedan under its high-end Lexus brand in Japan in March, saying the domestic launch would be followed by a rollout overseas starting in April.

Toyota has been expanding its gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain through its product lineup as it drives toward its goal of selling one million units of the fuel-saving vehicles annually sometime around 2010.

The GS450h, powered by the world’s first hybrid system specifically designed for cars with rear-wheel-drive, twins a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine with an electric motor to provide power comparable to a 4.5-liter vehicle, but with the fuel economy of a two-liter engine, or around 33 miles per gallon, the company announced.

Toyota wants to sell 1,800 GS hybrids a year in Japan, and 5,700 units globally in 2006. It also plans to launch a hybrid version of the LS sedan, Lexus’s flagship model, after the new gasoline version debuts this fall.

The GS450h is the second hybrid offering for the Lexus brand, after the RX400h sport utility vehicle. Toyota, the world leader in hybrid sales, sold 234,950 hybrid vehicles globally in 2005, up from 134,690 the year before.

Better air quality linked to longer lifespan
A Reuters report stated recently that reductions in fine particulate air pollution do seem to translate into a survival benefit on a population level, researchers have shown.

A direct link between death rates and small airborne particles 2.5 microns in diameter or less—dubbed PM2.5—has been noted in numerous epidemiologic studies, but it was unclear if improvements in particle exposure would actually lead to better survival, according to a report by Francine Laden and her colleagues at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

The drop in mortality “was observed specifically for deaths due to cardiovascular and respiratory disease and not from lung cancer, a disease with a longer latency period and less reversibility,” Laden explained in a statement.

As they explain in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, in an earlier analysis of data from the Harvard Six Cities study, long-term exposure to ambient PM2.5 was associated with increased mortality.

Laden’s team analyzed data for eight additional years of follow-up, during a period when air pollution was declining in many of the cities studied. The urban areas included in the study were Watertown, Mass.; Kingston and Harriman, Tenn.; St. Louis, Mo.; Steubenville, Ohio; Portage, Wyocena and Pardeeville, Wis.; and Topeka, Kan.

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