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May 03 2012

15:37

EarthTalk: The Deep Carbon Footprint of Water Managament


According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the collection, distribution and treatment of drinking water and wastewater in the U.S. uses up significant amounts of energy and releases some 116 billion pounds of carbon dioxide each year -- as much global warming pollution as 10 million cars on the roadEarthTalk® is a weekly environmental column made available to our readers from the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I read somewhere that our various systems for collecting, distributing and treating water are very energy intensive and, as such, contribute significantly to global warming. How does that happen and what can we do to correct such problems?            – Marina Shaw, Monroe, CT

It’s true that the collection, distribution and treatment of drinking water and wastewater in the U.S. uses up significant amounts of energy and releases some 116 billion pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) each year—as much global warming pollution as 10 million cars on the road—according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Nationwide, around four percent of power generation is used for water supply and treatment, but in certain drier parts of the country that number is far higher. For instance, in California the water sector is the state’s largest energy user, accounting for some 19 percent of total electricity consumed there.

The key to staving off water emergencies is to use less. “Reducing water consumption saves energy because less water needs to be treated and pumped to end users,” reports the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Moreover, when energy use is reduced, water is saved because less is needed in the operation of power plants.” Some thermoelectric power plants, for example, use some 100 billion gallons of fresh water each day, which translates into 25 gallons to produce each kilowatt-hour of electricity.

Another way to reduce waste is by fixing leaky aging water pipes throughout the U.S. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that many drinking water systems across the country lose as much as 20 percent of treated drinking water each year due to leaks in their pipe networks. Making a concerted effort to fix these systems would go a long way toward preserving our aquifers.

Water waste can also be reduced significantly if new buildings and developments integrate so-called “low impact design” concepts into the planning stages, whereby the landscaping surrounding structures is designed to mimic the natural hydrology of the site, including strategically placed native plants, rain barrels, green roofs, porous parking lots and roads, etc. The idea is to retain rainfall on site where plants and soil can filter pollutants out naturally or where it can be re-used in gray water applications (such as for landscape irrigation or water for toilet flushing). Especially parched parts of the country can recycle and reuse wastewater on a larger scale to avert the costly importation of more fresh water.

Much water is also wasted in agriculture. Farmers can help by adopting any number of efficiency measures at their disposal, mostly in the realm of efficient irrigation technologies. “Switching from flood irrigation to drip irrigation, for instance, can increase water use efficiency as much as 40 percent,” reports NRDC, adding that even small changes can mean a 10-15 percent gain in water use efficiency on farms.

And everyone can do their part by turning off the water while brushing teeth or shaving and limiting the length of showers and the amount of lawn watering we do. Beyond these little things, home- and business-owners should consider investing in water fixtures that meet the EPA’s more rigorous water efficiency “WaterSense” standards (look for labels accordingly). To qualify for the label, fixtures must be at least 20 percent more efficient than current standards specify, while performing as well or better than less efficient counterparts. The price of WaterSense fixtures may be slightly higher, but most consumers will make up the difference quickly if they are replacing older inefficient faucets, taps or toilets.

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EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine.

April 04 2012

18:49

10 Lessons from 11 Business Sustainability Journeys


Accessing the triple bottom lineThere are many valuable lessons to be learned by reviewing the ways companies relate to sustainability. An increasing number of companies around the world are engaging major sustainability initiatives ahead of government regulation and in the absence of strong public demand.

Corporate sustainability is now part of strategic business decisions that are determining everything from manufacturing processes to marketing communications. As explained in a Sustainable Brands article, “Companies increasingly recognize that a proactive stance on sustainability is becoming a competitive necessity in attracting investors, employment talent and supply chain partners, as well as customers.”

Each company has had to deal with a unique set of circumstances and each company’s experience reveals a different insight. Here is a selection of ten companies and some of lessons that we can take from their sustainability journeys.

 1. Eastman Kodak Corporation: Adapt or Die

Companies that proactively engage sustainability are rewarded while companies that ignore sustainability are punished. This holds true for Eastman Kodak, which is forced to reinvent itself by the changing marketplace. The company must radically change its product offerings and its culture of complacency or it will die.

As reviewed in a Triple Pundit article, Kodak is already teetering on the brink. To raise capital, they are close to selling off some of their lucrative patents, and they have one year to submit a reorganization plan to bankruptcy court.

To survive, the 120-year-old film company is morphing itself into a digital imaging company. Through its partnership with Natcore Technologies, Kodak is also investing in inexpensive patented thin-film solar technology, specifically flexible solar cells, through a New Jersey-based startup. The solar cells cost as little as half as much as traditional thin-film solar cells to manufacture. This is a bold move for Kodak, but it will need to make similar bold moves if it is to regain its foothold.

2. Toshiba International Corporation: Bold Strategic Move

Adapt or die is a motto that applies equally to thriving businesses as well. Toshiba, once a leader in incandescent lighting, is now betting on LED technology as the future of lighting. As revealed in a recent press release, Toshiba completely abandoned production of incandescent lights in March 2010 and is now diving fully invested in LED lighting. Toshiba is the first major lighting manufacturer to proactively discontinue the production of incandescent lamps.

Toshiba is one of the largest lighting companies and LED light manufacturers in the world, they produced their first light bulb in 1890. On July 13, 2011, Toshiba announced that twenty of its energy-efficient LED lights have received the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star® label. An Energy Star qualified LED lamp uses up to 75% less energy, lasts at least 15 times longer than incandescent lighting and has a light quality, which remains consistent over time.

Being awarded the Energy Star certification is an important payoff for Toshiba’s bold strategy.

3. LG Electronics, Inc.: Lead through Public Private Collaboration

LG Electronics USA is based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and it is the North American subsidiary of LG Electronics, Inc., a $49 billion global force and technology leader. LG Electronics Inc. is reducing emissions by collaborating with government.

As reviewed in an April 3, 2012 PR Newswire release, LG Electronics USA plans to cut its carbon footprint in half by 2020. To help achieve this ambitious objective, the company is working in cooperation with the EPA’s Green Power Partnership, which is a voluntary clean energy program.

As part of the Partnership, LG USA will power its Englewood headquarters by purchasing more than 1.5 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power over the next 18 months. This translates to carbon emissions reductions equivalent to more than 200 passenger vehicles per year, or more than 100 average American homes annually.

Blaine Collison, director of the EPA Green Power Partnership, said LGs effort “provides an excellent example for other organizations.”

In addition to their partnership with the U.S. EPA, LG is also part of South Korea’s Green Technology Center (GTC), a research institute that will focus on developing environmentally friendly technologies.

4. Samsung: Get There First and Keep Innovating to Stay on Top

As reviewed in an Ecoleader article, Samsung has a green vision that will only get greener in the future. Like LG, Samsung is also part of South Korea’s Green Technology Center (GTC) research center and the company is already a leader in energy-efficient products.

In 2007, Samsung was first with internet connected appliances to increase energy savings and reduce costs, and in 2008, Samsung launched an eco-phone made with corn-based bioplastics. In 2011, the company launched more Green IT products and services and in the summer of 2011, Samsung joined the Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI).

Samsung will continue to innovate by increasing energy efficiency, reducing CO2 emissions and being less harmful to the environment when its products are recycled or disposed.

5. PPR Home: Innovative Metrics Shed Light on Supply Chains

As reported in GreenBiz, the parent company of some of the world’s biggest luxury and sporting brands, including Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and PUMA, are embarking on one of the world’s most ambitious green accounting programs. PPR Home has announced that it will adopt a group environmental profit and loss statement (EP&L) by 2015.

This new approach to accounting will help to monitor and manage greenhouse gas emissions, water use, pollution, and land use change. According to PUMA executive chairman, Jochen Zeitz, EP&Ls are superior to conventional sustainability reports.

 ”As the manager of a business, all you need to look at now is one page and you know what you need to do because it tells you exactly where you need to attack in order to get rid of your footprint,” Zeitz said. “But once you visualise and measure, you can actually manage the impact. Whereas before the visualisation was so hypothetical that it didn’t lead to concrete day-to-day decisions.”

The EP&L provide a more transparent view of the supply chain. PUMA’s E P&L revealed that 94 percent of its environmental impact was created in the supply chain, which has encouraged the company to find alternative materials to reduce that impact. Zeitz said that the company was looking into requiring firms to measure and report their environmental impact when PUMA is selecting suppliers in future.

6. HP and Dell: Manufacturing or Recycling

According to an article by Carol Baroudi, HP and Dell are each taking different approaches to sustainability. HP is emphasizing removing toxic compounds from manufacturing while Dell is focused on recycling through take back programs.

HP has been far better than Dell at removing toxic compounds from their designs. They have reduced PVC and BFRs, and they have completely phased out beryllium and other compounds.

Dell is better than HP at recycling their products at the end of their life cycle. Dell is working with the EPA on the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship. Dell and the EPA are promoting recycling for electronic waste. The goal of the Strategy is to “encourage electronics manufacturers to expand their product take-back programs, and use certified recyclers as a minimum standard in those programs.”

7. Unilever: Go Big or Go Home

Greenbiz has lauded Unilever’s efforts if for no other reason than the sheer scale of its sustainability ambitions. By 2020, the company, with annual revenues exceeding $63 billion, plans to cut its massive environmental footprint in half through its Sustainable Living Plan.

Big efforts get noticed as is evidenced by the fact that Unilever won top honors at the 2011 International Green Awards in London. Unilever was named the Grand Prix award winner because it has “the greatest capacity to change the way society and business is perceived, supported by factual evidence of systemic change.”

Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan articulates the view that business must prepare itself for a future in which resources are rare and more expensive.

“We are preparing ourselves for that future. We’re also trying to develop products and services which will allow our consumers to adapt to a very different world,” Gavin Neath, Unilever’s senior vice president of sustainability, said in an interview. “People talk a lot about things like climate change adaptation. In a real sense, part of what we’re doing in the Sustainable Living Plan is about climate change adaptation.”

8. ARAMARK: Training a Workforce

You do not need to be a multi-billion dollar company to develop innovative approaches to address sustainability challenges. One such concern involves securing qualified employees. ARAMARK has launched an Environmental Internship Program designed to meet the growing need for employees who have a practical understanding of environmental initiatives plus fundamental business knowledge.

The program provides young professionals with corporate experience and creates an awareness of the role environmental stewardship can play in all jobs. ARAMARK is a world leader in professional services, providing award-winning food services, facilities management, and uniform and career apparel to health care institutions, universities and school districts, stadiums and arenas, and businesses around the world.

“Environmental practices can be incorporated into virtually any job, and through the ARAMARK Environmental Internship Program, we can help develop employees who make the connection between the work that they do, and its impact on the environment and on our business,” said Rick Martella, ARAMARK Vice President, Business Affairs. “Embedding these internships in key roles across the company will provide environmental knowledge and skills that are not confined to a single position or type of job, and can be easily shared.”

9. Berg Engineering Consultants Ltd.: Be Proactive

Green is also growing in the building sector. As reported in the Daily Herald Business Ledger, the green market was 2 percent of non-residential construction starts in 2005; 12 percent in 2008; and grew to 28-35 percent in 2010. By 2015, an estimated 40-48 percent of new non-residential construction will be green. Experts say green building will support 7.9 million U.S. jobs and pump $554 million into the U.S. economy over the next four years.

By 2015, the green share of the largest non-residential retrofit and renovation activity will more than triple, growing to 25-33 percent of the activity by value — a $14-18 billion opportunity in major construction projects alone, industry experts say.

When Brian Berg Sr. established Berg Engineering Consultants Ltd. (BEC), there was no green market and there was no LEED certification. However, when he set up shop in the midst of the 70s energy crisis, he paid heed to prevailing conditions and positioned himself to be ahead of the curve in energy-efficient designs.

Now his firm has won numerous energy awards using energy efficient design in a huge and growing market.

 “Dad had to invent energy efficient design,” explains Brian Berg Jr. “Today it’s not so much a process, but education — staying on top of innovations, showing clients how spending a little more for a more energy efficient building envelope is a smart investment.”

10. Bluehorse Associates: Doing It for the Money 

Bottom line benefits are driving the adoption of sustainability. As Sara Pax, President of Bluehorse Associates, noted, it is ‘not about tree-hugging’: Sustainability is simply good for business. According to Pax, companies should be concerned about their environmental sustainability – but it has more to do with ensuring profitability than it does with saving the planet.

Bluehorse Associates is the maker of a tool for measuring environmental sustainability for the food industry called Carbonostics, which Pax claims can give food and beverage companies tangible information about which measures make most sense for business, as well as for the environment.

Consumer engagement should not be a top priority for companies, Pax said, as only a very small percentage of consumers change their purchasing decisions based on any environmental work that a company has undertaken.

Conclusion

Businesses are drawn to sustainability by the returns they see in the real world experience of other businesses. Research bears out the hypothesis that businesses that adopt a sustainable culture “significantly outperform their counterparts over the long-term, both in terms of stock market and accounting performance.” This was the finding in a November 2011 study conducted by researchers at Harvard Business School and London Business School.

Business is doing more for the environment than governments or grass roots populism. We can learn a great deal from the sustainability journeys of the brave pioneers who have dared to lead.

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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

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March 27 2012

19:12

Breaking News: EPA Issues First Limits on Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Power Plants


The EPA proposes its first rule limiting GHG emissions from power plants. The rule could effectively end new construction of coal-fired plants in the USIn a move that could effectively end construction of any new conventional coal-fired power generation in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today has proposed the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants.

“Today we’re taking a common sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy,” said EPA administrator Lisa Jackson. “Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies–in the health and economic threats of a changing climate continued to grow.”

The average US coal plant today emits about 2249 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of power produced. The new EPA rules will limit those emissions to 1000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour or at about the level of a modern natural gas plant.

“This is an important common sense step towards tackling the ongoing threat of climate change,” said Jackson. “We build on where the industry is going and lock that trend in, which we believe is an important signal for investors.”

The initial impact of the emissions rule on utilities is expected to initially be negligible; with natural gas prices at 10 year lows most utilities are shutting down coal plants, not building new ones. By the end of 2011 the share of electrical power generation from coal-fired plants dropped below 40 percent, the lowest share since 1978 according to the Energy Information Administration.

Jackson said that the EPA has no plans to set rules on existing plants, and the new limit will apply only to the construction of new power plants. Fifteen plants with pending instruction permits are exempt from the proposed rule.

Joe Mendelson, climate policy director for the National Wildlife Federation characterized the new EPA rule as a “milestone in the fight to rein in climate change. The EPA is taking a big step toward protecting the world our children will inherit.”

Additional sources and reading:
Washington Post
Bloomberg

October 24 2011

18:13

Enviro News Wrap: Oil and the Arab Spring; Climate Skeptic Confirms Global Warming; EPA Chief Hits Back on GOP Attack, and more…


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

 

September 07 2011

18:49

Obama Can Regulate the Environment and Create Green Jobs


President Obama should focus on creating green jobs and supporting environmental regulation. Jobs and a healthy environment are not mutually exclusiveAs U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to unveil his jobs and economic plan, his popularity is at an all-time low. Support from the President’s base has been eroded by the two week long protest against the Keystone XL pipeline and profound disappointment about the abandonment of stricter ozone regulations.

From the end of August to the beginning of September, a total of 1,252 protesters were arrested in front of the White House for opposing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Those arrested included 350.org’s Bill McKibben and NASA climate scientist James Hansen. The tar sands pipeline could galvanize U.S. action on climate because many believe we should be working to reduce the demand for oil rather than increase the supply.

The Obama administration decision to abandon stricter ozone pollution standards pleased Republicans and business groups who say environmental regulations kill jobs. However, the research shows that regulations are not killing small business.

Previous regulations, like amendments to the Clean Air Act, have resulted in far lower costs and job losses than indicated by industry and the GOP. When the EPA first proposed amendments to the Clean Air Act aimed at reducing acid rain caused by power plant emissions, the electric utility industry warned that it would cost $7.5 billion and tens of thousands of jobs. But as reported in the New York Times, Dallas Burtraw, an economist at Resources for the Future, indicated that the cost has been closer to $1 billion. The EPA cited studies showing that the law had been a modest net creator of jobs through industry spending on compliance technology.The costs of regulation should be factored alongside reduced mortality and morbidity. The New York Times reports that clean air regulations have reduced infant mortality and increased housing prices according to research by Greenstone.

The Sierra Club indicates that half of U.S. families live in communities where the air is unsafe to breathe. According to the Sierra Club, the new standard for smog would have prevented up to 12,000 premature deaths, 5,300 heart attacks and tens of thousands of asthma attacks and other serious respiratory illnesses each year. These protections from smog would have saved billions of dollars in health costs.

Countries around the world are investing in cleaner air and a healthier environment. According to ENN, the 2011 Global Green Economy Index (GGEI) show that expert practitioners in the green economy rank Germany as the top overall national green performer while a new index places New Zealand on top. The UK has also announced its national sustainability agenda.

Many other countries are getting very serious about their focus on sustainability. Bolivia forwarded a piece of legislation called la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra (the Law of Mother Earth), which encourages a radical shift in conservation, enforces new control measures on industry, and reduces environmental destruction.

Bolivia’s law redefines natural resources as blessings and confers the same rights to nature as to human beings, including: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered. Perhaps the most controversial point is the right “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.

Ecuador has enshrined similar aims in its Constitution, other nations have also shown interest in this approach including Nicaragua, Venezuela, Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In the summer of 2011, politicians in Turkey sought a constitution that would afford rights to the Earth. Even the African nation of Nigeria is working hard to protect their environment. To help with this task, Nigeria created the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) which was created to help enforce environmental laws, standards and regulations in the country.

In the U.S., the preoccupation with jobs overshadows any interest in the environment. When President Obama addressed a crowd of more than 10,000 people in Detroit on Labor Day, they were heard chanting “More good jobs.” During the speech, the President intimated what he’ll be saying in his major jobs address to the joint session of Congress.

“We’ve got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding,” Obama said. “I still believe both parties can work together to solve our problems. We’re going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party.”

A move toward stricter governmental regulation would help green industries to grow and provide jobs. Despite the prevailing public mood, job creation is intimately connected with environmental protection. But it is hard to imagine that Republicans will work with the President to pass any legislation, particularly environmental legislation. According to the Presidential Climate Action Project, there is a great deal the President can do without congressional input. In 2010 they provided a report (pdf) that lists a large number of actions that can be implemented with executive orders.

“What we’re saying is Congress has decided not to act, but [Obama] can do so,” former Sen. Gary Hart, a Colorado Democrat and a co-chairman of the group, said.

It’s not as if Obama has failed to make progress on climate issues. In October 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514, Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance. This EO calls on Federal agencies to set and meet specific sustainability related targets throughout their operations. As part of this undertaking, GSA is leveraging its purchasing power to promote sustainable procurement. More recently, the Obama administration developed landmark fuel efficiency standards for vehicles by regulating cars and light trucks as well as trucks and buses.

Despite the lack of legislative progress on the environment, the Obama administration has done more to promote renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions than any previous government. However, Obama’s efforts have been impeded by the unrelenting multi-front manipulation of powerful interests associated with the old energy economy, including the oil industry. Further, the Republican controlled House is working hard to dismantle the EPA.

It comes down to the choice between temporary jobs of the past which are ruining the environment or permanent jobs of the future that protect the planet.

Republicans and ill-informed members of the business community are indicating that now is not the time for environmental regulations or investment in sustainability. In 2008, some feared that a recession would undermine the growth of sustainability, but current events appear to indicate otherwise. Difficult economic times auger greater efficiency, and a weak economy is also the reason why economists argue that massive green infrastructure investments may be the best way to strengthen the economy and create jobs.

A President’s popularity is a function of jobs and the best way to create jobs is to enact regulations and invest in the green economy.
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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Austin Post and Take Part

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July 28 2011

14:17

Republican’s Launch a Covert Assault on the Environment


A majority of Americans don't agree with GOP attacks on the EPAEditor’s note: This post originally published in Richard’s blog “The Green Market” and is republished here with his permission

Under the cover of America’s preoccupation with the debt ceiling the Republicans are launching an all out offensive against the Environment. This is the latest attempt by Republicans to slash funding to the EPA and undermine environmental regulations. Cutting funding on environmental issues like air quality and pesticides will prove harmful to Americans and their environment. It will also eliminate jobs and undermine the economy.

“This is the most anti-environmental House in history,” House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman told the House. “The new Republican majority seems intent on restoring the robber-baron era where there were no controls on pollution from power plants and oil refineries and factories.”

Republicans want to emasculate the EPA by slashing 18 percent of its budget amounting to $8.65 billion this year and $7.15 billion next year. The bill proposes a budget cut of around seven percent for many other environmentally oriented departments and agencies.

On Monday July 25, the US House of Representatives started work on H.R. 2584, the 2012 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. This Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill funds many of America’s signature environmental laws. This is the first of 12 bills that fund the US federal government, all of which must be passed by the first of October.On Tuesday July 26, the House continued work on the Interior Department spending bill. On Wednesday and Thursday July 27 and 28, the House is expected to work on H.R. 1938, which would require the government to decide by November 1 on a proposed oil pipeline from Canada.

Minority whip Steny H. Hoyer, accused the GOP of ignoring the will of their constituents. “I got no message from any voter that I ought to come to Congress and undermine the air, water and land that they survive on, recreate on and rely on for the quality of their lives,” he said. “Not one constituent, whether they voted for me or against me, said ‘undermine the protections of our land and water and air’. Not one.”

In a recent sustainable business article, H.R. 2584 was referred to as the “Mother of All Anti-Environment Bills.” According to the Environmental Defense Action Fund, HR 2584 is the Mother of All Anti-Environmental Bills, because it contains nearly 40 anti-environmental policy riders.

“Instead of moving stand-alone legislation or openly debating the merits of gutting America’s environmental protections, the House is trying to sneak more than 40 anti-environment amendments and policy riders to the Interior Appropriations bill,” says Environmental Defense. “And that’s even before it comes to the floor, where many members of Congress have already announced plans to amend the bill and make it even worse.”

Here are some examples:

  • Prohibit the federal government and states from increasing vehicle fuel efficiency to reduce U.S. oil dependence, prevent climate change, and lower fuel costs
  • Block EPA from regulating water pollution, affecting the drinking water of 117 million people
  • Prevent the EPA from regulating air pollution: mercury, smog, soot and other pollutants from power and cement plants, allowing our dirtiest plants to emit unlimited pollution.
  • Cease protection for endangered species. No new species could be listed as endangered and no federal agencies would be prohibited from protecting critical habitats.
  • Open up lands immediately next to the Grand Canyon to uranium mining, despoiling one of our most iconic landscapes and potentially contaminating its waters with radioactivity.

The House of Representatives Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition (SEEC) blasted the Republican agenda, for attempting to use a federal funding bill to overturn our country’s most important environmental laws.

SEEC leaders – co-chairs Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Steve Israel (D-NY), and vice chairs Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Jared Polis (D-CO), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) – released the following joint statement on behalf of the 48-member coalition:

“Both parties and houses of Congress should be focused on preventing a default crisis, and on creating jobs in a competitive 21st century economy. But instead, this week the House will consider H.R. 2584 – an unprecedented back-door attempt to roll back essential pollution controls and public health protections in favor of bigger profits for the country’s worst polluters. This is a low mark for the 112th Congress that has already seen the GOP majority preserve giveaways to Big Oil and advance legislation to overturn common sense energy efficiency standards, slash clean energy innovation, and carve loopholes in important environmental statutes.

H.R. 2584 would overturn 40 years of bipartisan progress protecting the clean air and water on which all Americans depend, and the lands and wildlife that Americans treasure. The American people reject the false choice between a prosperous economy and a sustainable environment, which we’ve proven can go hand in hand. SEEC calls on the Congress to reject this bill.”

In addition to impoverishing America’s environment, Republicans are also directly cutting jobs and adding to the country’s unemployment rolls. For example, the proposed bill would eliminate the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, which provides funding for migratory birds. The Outdoor Industry Foundation estimates that bird watching and other wildlife viewing contributes $43 billion a year to the US economy. An estimated 66 million Americans participate in wildlife viewing, which supports nearly half a million jobs and generates $2.7 billion annually state and federal tax receipts.

“This environmental spending bill is one of the worst assaults on birds and other wildlife ever to come before Congress,” says Darin Schroeder of the American Bird Conservancy, the leading bird conservation organization in the US.

“These aggressive provisions are an unprecedented and blatant attempt to undermine bedrock environmental laws that Americans have depended on for nearly 40 years to protect their health, air, water and public lands. They also undermine the development and deployment of energy efficiency and clean energy technologies and forbid various agencies from proceeding with current work related to climate change,” says Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a national group of about 850 business leaders who promote strong environmental policy to grow the economy.

Here’s an excerpt from a letter Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) sent to the House:

“Strong federal resource management, protection and performance standards are fundamental to the success of American businesses and a thriving economy, and the clean energy technology sector offers the single most promising platform for reviving our struggling manufacturing base, creating new jobs and providing a robust opportunity for export expansion. However, the U.S. is swiftly losing our competitive advantage with countries such as China and Germany which are embracing the opportunities provided by improved energy efficiency and fast growing clean energy industries. Though we should rightfully be leading in this trillion dollar global market since many of these technologies were developed here with U.S. research dollars, this bill ensures that we will fall further behind.”

H.R. 2584 proposes deep cuts to funding for federal agencies that protect America’s air, water, lands, and wildlife, and contains 40 policy riders that would undermine the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

Tell your Representative to Vote Against This Bill. 

To see a list of all the Riders click here.

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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

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May 10 2011

22:09

How Affordable is Building Green?


Energy Star shows how to build sustainablyGreen Home Design – The ENERGY STAR Option

Guest Post by Shannon Combs

Homebuyer demands for energy efficiency and cost savings have ushered in a new era of architects and designers that are helping consumers to save energy, and in turn helping to reduce the emissions that drive climate instability.

Green building practices, long considered impractical and expensive, are meeting the EPA’s strict standards and delivering award-winning homes that are both attractive and financial viable. Responsible planning fuels sustainable design, and educated buyers now require their home plans meet the EPA’s ENERGY STAR seal of approval.

ENERGY STAR is the government’s stamp for environmentally friendly products. The program publishes stringent requirements for consumer items, commercial buildings, and family homes. Founded in 1992, the program has grown rapidly, becoming the industry standard for quality while producing energy efficient homes with lower operating costs.

The EPA reports ENERGY STAR homes consume 20-30% less energy than a standard home, and more buyers consider the ENERGY STAR seal a significant factor in the decision process. The trickle-down effect forced architects and builders to re-invent themselves with more sustainable design, material, and construction.
What makes an ENERGY STAR home?

ENERGY STAR qualified homes include proven energy saving features, all enhancing home quality, comfort, and even, resale. Approval requires better insulation, high-performance windows, and tighter ducts – materials meeting a higher standard than normal building code. ENERGY STAR heating and cooling systems, lighting, and appliances complement the comprehensive plan.

Do all new homes come with an ENERGY STAR?

Not yet. The EPA’s requirements are stiff and not all architects and builders have jumped on board. Awareness is also an issue, as many new buyers still don’t realize the ENERGY STAR can be applied to an entire structure.

However, conventional companies like these that sell blueprints and house plans are now offering energy star options on their websites. As green-building components scale and mature, costs have stabilized, which is moving the market toward ENERGY STAR.

Technological improvements and advanced building sciences have leveled the playing field, seamlessly integrating ENERGY STAR specs into home design without sacrificing health or aesthetics. Choose a design built for approval. Off-the-shelf designs may require upgrades, but the future cost benefits are worth the premium.

——————-

Shannon Combs is a freelance writer that contributes articles for the solar panel and solar battery charger blogs. She worked as green business consultant to help small business reduce their carbon footprints and help their clients consume less energy.

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April 18 2011

19:00

Enviro News Wrap: Renewables in California; Coal in Wyoming; the Shine Comes Off Natural Gas, and more…


Environmental New Wrap: the latest environmental storiesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has made an abrupt change in their coal portfolio and has decided to close 18 small coal fired power plants. The TVA regulates the same area that had the coal ash flood several years ago that buried several homes.

While BP has brought  a lot of attention to the US government’s regulation of off-shore oil drilling operations, the government has not yet organized itself to effectively prevent such a disaster from happening again.

MotherJones brings us an article that focuses on the dirty aesthetic of energy generation, from wind to coal.

Governor of California governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that increases the mandate for utility companies to increase their renewable energy portfolio to 33 percent by 2020. This is great for solar power and solar companies, which means more jobs in California.

In Wyoming the coal industry is picking up. This is great for job creation and terrible for the environment - making it a touchy subject between the the Wyoming people and the federal government.

Like many industries, the solar industry is bumping up against people that want their land untouched. In these situations compromise and flexibility are often the cure. But it is always a tough conversation when the contested land is claimed to be sacred burial ground by an American tribe.

Natural gas, the “transition” energy source away from coal, is beginning to be uncovered as a fraud. It is just another fossil fuel and it’s costs and risks are finally being revealed to the American public. The New York Times also has a story on the new confirmations of the harm of harvesting natural gas.

The European Union is getting serious about its distressed fish populations. The EU is stepping up regulation to make sure no one catches more than quota in EU waters.

Here it is, yet another break through in solar technology that could lead to super-efficient panels in the future.

The pesky Republicans are at it again, through add-ons to federal spending bills, they could greatly reduce funding for the network of government bureaus that protect our environment and keep us safe from polluting corporations. They are also moving on the state level, reducing funding for environmental bureaus there as well.

The youth Environmental movement is making its voice heard and their main message is that Obama has not done enough of changing the political game. Rather, he has just been playing by the old rules and getting the same results that brought us to our environmental challenges.

April 01 2011

19:22

Will Obama Throw the EPA Under the Bus?


Will president Obama throw the EPA under the bus?The Weekly Mulch from the Media Consortium
by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger (reposted with permission)

President Obama made an energy speech this week that had little new to offer, while on Capitol Hill Republicans were pushing to relieve the government of its last options to limit carbon emissions. In the House Republicans have passed a bill that would keep the EPA from regulating carbon, and in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid repeatedly pushed back a vote on the same issue.

But as Eartha Jane Melzer reports at The Michigan Messenger, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has become the latest senator to propose taking away the EPA’s authority over greenhouse gasses this week. If the Senate decides it wants to pursue this policy, it will have plenty of options to choose from.

Conflicting news leaked out about how strongly the Obama administration was willing to stand up for the EPA’s right (granted by the Supreme Court) to treat carbon as a pollutant under the Clear Air Act. Grist’s Glenn Hurowitz noted an Associated Press story with a comment indicating that the White House was telling Congress they’d have to compromise on this issue. But on Thursday the White House reassured progressive bloggers that it was opposed to any amendments to funding bills that furthered “unrelated policy agendas.”

The energy speech

The energy speech that President Obama delivered at Georgetown this week, however, did not do much to reassure climate activists that the administration will put forward a strong vision on these issues. The president talked about decreasing our dependence on foreign oil and set a goal of having 80% of the country’s electricity come from clean energy sources by 2035.

But as David Roberts at Grist writes, Obama skirted some of the trickiest issues. “The core truth is that for the U.S., oil problems mostly have to do with supply and oil solutions mostly have to do with demand,” he says. “America becomes safer from oil by using less. From the Democratic establishment, only retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is telling the public that truth.”

Is clean energy green energy?

President Obama is right that the country has room to pursue more clean energy opportunities. As Public News Service’s Mary Kuhlman reports, America is behind in the clean energy race. The Pew Environment Group just released a report that, according to Kuhlman, “finds the United States as a whole is falling behind in the global clean-energy race….The U.S. maintained the top spot until 2008, according to research from the Pew Charitable Trusts, but fell in 2010 to third behind China and Germany.”

But as I point out at TAPPED, when politicians use the words “clean energy,” they’re generally talking about mid-point solutions like natural gas and nuclear energy. President Obama’s proposed standard does not necessarily support renewable energy — wind and solar projects that are truly sustainable.

The alternatives

And as Gavin Aronsen writes at Mother Jones, renewable energy projects need more support.

“The near-term future of solar power in the US will also depend on whether President Obama’s stimulus money keeps flowing,” he explains. “For now, energy companies have until the end of the year to qualify for funding. Meanwhile, some solar advocates are suggesting alternatives like installing panels on urban rooftops.”

If these projects flag, the alternative to renewable, or even clean, energy is not appealing. The world is beginning to depend on energy sources that require greater effort and create more environmental damage. Oil from tar sands is one such source, although as, Beth Buczynski reports at Care2, “a research group at Penn State spent the past 18 months developing a technique that uses ionic liquids (salt in a liquid state) to facilitate separation of oil from the sands in a cleaner, more energy efficient manner. The separation takes place at room temperature without the generation of waste water.” Sounds like an improvement!

Does genetically modified alfalfa do a body good?

The Obama administration is not only disappointing on energy issues. At GritTV, Laura Flanders talks to New York Times food writer Mark Bittman about the future of organic food, and the two agree that the only person whose agriculture and food policy they can wholeheartedly endorse is Michelle Obama’s. Too bad she’s not part of the administration.

One recent gripe is the Department of Agriculture’s decision to approve genetically modified alfalfa.

“Essentially it’s the beginning of the end of organic,” Bittman said. “Once you introduce alfafa, which pollinates by the wind, you can’t guarantee that any alfalfa doesn’t have genetically modified seed in it. And alfalfa is used as hay, hay is used to feed cows, there goes organic milk. There goes a lot of organic meat.”

——————-

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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