Sunday, April 24, 2005

Prius Envy

Toyota has remained at the head of the class when it comes to pushing the technology envelope in the "Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicles," as coined by our own EPA. Wired reports on the culture behind the Prius craze and why Toyota is keeping a strangle-hold on the market consistently driving for cleaner more fuel efficient vehicles.

"It may seem odd that the company poised to overtake General Motors in the next few years as the world's biggest automaker is out to render the traditional internal combustion engine obsolete. But the early success of the Prius is making believers out of Toyota suppliers. Toshiba, for example, recently committed $95 million to build a facility to manufacture hybrid control system microchips. Likewise, Sanyo announced that it will double output of its rechargeable hybrid batteries."

Wired takes a skeptical look at the future of hybrids but uncovers some real gems about Toyota and the market they have created and continue to control.

"In phase two, Toyota is doubling production to sell 100,000 new Priuses in the US this year. This spring, the company will introduce the Lexus RX 400h, billed as the world's first luxury hybrid, followed by the Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV. And it's considering opening a US manufacturing facility. Toyota has also begun advertising the Prius to the mass market."

Right now there are several campaigns targeting the worst fuel economist among automakers, Ford Motor Co., and pushing Detroit to get on board the hybrid train before they are bought out by the likes of Honda (also coming out with several hybrids) and Toyota. Checkout for more info on that campaign. Lets hope Detroit gets its head out off the sand on this before America loses the car market for good.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Well Known Alaska Alpha Wolf Shot

The leader of the famous Toklat family wolf pack has been shot and killed by a tour-guided hunter just outside of Denali National Park in Alaska. The wolf was 7 years old and was identified by the radio collar he wore attached by researchers who have been studying the famous pack for over 5 decades. According to one of those researchers the "Toklat lineage has suffered virtually a complete social breakdown," as a result of the recent deaths of the alpha male, two females and the alpha male's mate, all killed in wolf traps outside the park boundary. Meanwhile Fish and Game spokeswoman Cathie Harms says that the wolves in Denali will not be affected by this death. (Thats a tough last name for someone in the Fish and Game department).

Since the state government declared open season on Alaskan wolves, there has been a large uptick in trophy hunters headed to Alaska to get their mantle piece. What I find so pathetic is that the majority of these hunters are being led by guides who virtually put the hunter within 20 meters of the usually fleeing wolves, or even more ridiculous, guide the helicopter close enough for the hunter to shoot from the air. These "hunters" are shadows of the American hunters of the past who actually earned their kill with days of tracking and hours of stalking. Davie Crockett is rolling over his grave. Hey guys, go play a video game if you're so desparate to kill. Hell, we have a war on why not join the military.

NOW Runs with Earth Day Message

As many of you know (and I'm sure many of you forgot) tomorrow is Earth Day! What can you do? Well at the least, learn something. Find a new fact and pass it around for all to munch on. Or maybe give a small donation to a non-profit enviro group of your choosing (I know they've asked you because I work at one).
The best resource to learn something? How about PBS? No, its not a liberal hippie network. NOW, founded by Bill Moyers (a conservative Christian in some books) and now hosted by NPR veteran David Brancaccio, airs soon in your neighborhood featuring the now suddenly hot topic of global warming. Get the in depth on the NOW site and see when it airs in your neck of the woods.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Activist in Iraq

Marla Ruzicka, activist and head of the NGO CIVIC (Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict), was killed yesterday in Iraq when her vehicle was caught between a suicide bomber and an American convoy. Ruzicka worked with Global Exchange and Rainforest Action Network for several years here in San Francisco. Her loss hits home especially among so many of her peers and coworkers around the world.

She organized door-to-door survey teams fanning out across Iraq to get first-hand accounts of civilian casualities of dead, injured, homeless, displaced and abused. In 2002 she worked with USAID and the Senate Appropriations Committee to allocate money to rebuild homes for families that suffered losses as a result of U.S. military actions.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Real Deal on Clear Skies

Clear Skies vs. Clean Air Act. This should be a no-brainer but for those of you who are skeptical, I digress.

First of all, get the comparison chart here in case things get confusing. They did for me and it helped to have a simple visual. The problem with this plan (besides allowing more pollution for industry) is that the Clear Skies initiative is a 2-step program that has an OPTIONAL second step. So its like asking a professional athlete if he wouldn't mind a $1.5 million dollar signing bonus. Do we think industry will take advantage of this? Of course!

The Clean Air Act(CAA) requires the nation to cut emissions, specifically with 3 incredibly toxic substances: sulfur-dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury. The Clear Skies (CS) program does as well, just not as much. CAA states that national mercury emissions must drop by 5 tons per year through 2008. Thus far, we've managed to that. This means that between 2004 and 2008 we will have cut mercury emissions by 20 tons (5 tons x 4 years). The CS program sets the high bar at 26 tons by 2012, which is only 6 tons more but in a span of 8 years, not 4. If we stuck with the current CAA we could cut mercury emissions by 40 tons by 2012, much more than the 26 GWB is gunning for.

Sulfur dioxide has a similar issue. The CAA sets the SO2 cap at 2 mil. tons of by 2012. The CS program requests the cap to be raised to 4 mil. tons of SO2 by 2010. So we're DOUBLING our SO2 caps in almost half the time.

Nitrogen oxides: CAA sets the cap at 1.25 mil tons by 2010. GWB's Clear Skies Initiative sets it at 2.7 mil tons by 2018. Ok, so now we're giving industry the ok to put MORE pollution in our air AND making sure they have another 12 years to do it in. Huh? This is ridiculous.

To actually sell this as a "Clear Skies Plan" is truly amazing. I really hope it doesn't take a global-warming-triggered tsunmai or earthquake that hits LA or DC to wake these idiots up.

Johnson Gets Grilled By Dems

Looks like Stephen L. Johnson, GWB's nominee for head of the EPA, ran into a few hagglers in his confirmation hearings yesterday. Actually, he ran into Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Jim Jeffords (I-Vermont) among others who questioned him on specific points around his 24-year tenure within the EPA. It wasn't so much the disturbing government pesticide program that Boxer uncovered, or Jeffords' warning "not to become a rubber stamp for the administration," but it was rather his response to a probing question from Thomas Carper (D-Deleware). After promising the Environment and Public Works Committee (currently chaired by my favorite flat-earth member James Inhofe) that he would only make decisions on the "best available scientific information," Carper asked him why the agency provided the committee with detailed analyses of the administration's pollution-reduction bill, known as Clear Skies, but not two competing bills. Whoops. Carper had no real comment.

What the public didn't know was that there were 3 bills competing for the eyes of congress and only 1, the one favored by EPA, was backed up with a full analysis. Regardless, Johnson is a weak candidate for EPA head, a man who will continually put business and the bottom line ahead of the environment and the health of our biosphere. It doesn't help that he has no background in biology, ecology, sustainability or any other of the vital pieces needed to run the EPA in this day and age.