Friday, March 30, 2007

A small step on a giant problem


At my home, everybody recycles -- soda bottles, newspaper bags, the papers themselves, flashlight batteries, whatever can be reused or made over into raw material. So it was heartening to read that in San Francisco, big retail stores are going to have to start packing merchandise in biodegradable bags instead of those polyethelene ones (in photo, my kitchen stash) that you see caught in bushes, hedges and street nooks of every city in the land. The ubiquitous grocery bag of the clerk's "paper or plastic?" refrain is made out of oil, perhaps 450,000 gallons a year of it for San Francisco alone, according to the green city supervisor who offered the bag ban. This will save some oil, save some landfill space, and gently point our nation toward better stewardship of our finite resources. Of course, you could always carry your own bag to the grocery, and use it over.

Here's more from the San Francisco Examiner.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Encouragement from the land of Agnew

The environmental movement gets its act together in Maryland, says the Washington Post.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Down the wrong road on saving oil

Updated March 27

The Detroit big three automakers sat down with President Bush today and talked about doubling their production of cars that run on a gasoline and ethanol mixture or on biodiesel. Not that their proposal was any surprise, since the president's state of the union address two months ago told everybody that ethanol was the way to go. I wonder if he'd cleared that path with the big three before declaring it? Several more details are in the Washington Post version, and here's the White House transcript of remarks by Bush and his visitors. That's a White House photo I used, by the way.

It all makes me sad and a little bit cynical. What about increasing CAFE standards, the fuel-economy yardstick? What about making cars smaller and lighter, and lowering speed limits? What about telling Detroit that fuel-efficient cars are the right thing to do, even if unit profits have to come down a bit? Where is it written that maximum profit is the ultimate goal of public policy?

Feel like some background reading? I recommend hybridcars.com and this weekend piece from the Post, which includes this nutshell graf:
Biofuels, such as ethanol made from corn, have the potential to provide us with cleaner energy. But because of how corn ethanol currently is made, only about 20 percent of each gallon is "new" energy. That is because it takes a lot of "old" fossil energy to make it: diesel to run tractors, natural gas to make fertilizer and, of course, fuel to run the refineries that convert corn to ethanol.

If every one of the 70 million acres on which corn was grown in 2006 was used for ethanol, the amount produced would displace only 12 percent of the U.S. gasoline market. Moreover, the "new" (non-fossil) energy gained would be very small -- just 2.4 percent of the market. Car tune-ups and proper tire air pressure would save more energy.
(Emphasis added.) So check your tires, everybody!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Making sense about energy consumption

It's not just what we drive, and how fast, that accounts for the way America gobbles down petroleum. It's also how we build, and where, car columnist Warren Brown argues powerfully in the Washington Post.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Governor Crist wants action on global warming

Impressed by Al Gore's documentary about global warming, and by California's example in reducing the gas emissions blamed for the warming, Gov. Charlie Crist says he wants to put Florida on the front line in fighting the problem. His intentions are reported today in the Palm Beach Post, along with some of the legislative doubters he'll have to contend with.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Corn's flaws as an energy solution

I've posted on this topic before, but this is a particularly good piece. And it won't be the last one you see here. Check it out.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Thoughts on what's important

I haven't yet had the pleasure of meeting Barnie Day, though an uncle was and my sister is his friend. I admire his writing and his public service, though, and want you to take a minute and read his latest.