by Lloyd Alter, Toronto on 03. 2.10

Cash for Caulkers

President Obama is set to announce a new residential renovation funding program that they call a “triple win”: a jolt to the sickly construction industry, saving Americans money on their energy bills and reducing dependence on oil and other fossil fuels. Last month they might have called it a “quadruple win” and mentioned greenhouse gas reductions, but they don’t do that any more, Senator Inhofe would complain.

If they do it right, the six billion dollar program can create a lot of jobs; caulking and sealing is labor intensive, and can put a lot of people to work. But with the power of modern media, it is really easy to do it wrong.

When Planet Green started out, we did a series of posts based on a terrific document prepared by the Rocky Mountain Institute: Cool Citizens: Everyday Solutions to Climate Change: Household Solutions, that looked at the cost of a renovation item, the amount of energy and carbon it saved, and calculated the bang for the buck. It is now eight years old and much has changed, as fuel got more expensive and compact fluorescents a lot cheaper. But the order is probably still pretty much correct.

Some of our Planet Green posts following the RMI order:

Where To Start
Get a Programmable Thermostat
Stop the Air Leaks
Add Attic Insulation
Insulate Your Water Heater
Add Attic Insulation
Install Efficient Showerheads
Install Faucet Aerators

Notice that window replacement is nowhere on the list; it is so far down the list in terms of energy saved per dollar spent that it is almost off the bottom. If I were handing out the bucks, I would ensure that everyone followed the list; no windows unless you caulk first.

But then Pella is spending more on full page ads than Obama is on the stimulus these days, so that won’t happen. And of course, Glenn Beck ran Mr. “put down the handgun and pickup a caulking gun” out of the White House, so the bucks will go to big business.

by John Laumer, Philadelphia on 01.21.10

big suv photo
Big ol’ Chevy Tahoe. Image credit:AutoWeek.

The Star-Telegram is reporting that “The health effects of air pollution are a major topic in Texas because the state is one of the most polluted in the country. A recent survey by Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth found that 1 in 4 children in North Texas has asthma, which can be both caused and aggravated by air pollution.” This in the context of a recent study which documented Texas kids are “more likely to miss school when certain types of air pollution increase.”

There’s no one source to point the finger of blame at. It’s about a predilection for big smoggy vehicles, refinery and petrochemical emissions, coal-burning power plants, ships and barges, and so on. The point is….

Environmental quality impacts school performance (my inference based on the correlation reported). I’m betting it’s not just in Texas that this potential correlation could be found.

Clearly, many US elected officials do not yet ‘connect the environmental dots’ linking air quality to quality of life and to learning, nor are some powerful corporate constituents wanting them to. For a clear demonstration of the latter effect, look no further than Alaskan Senator Murkowski , who is sponsoring an amendment that prevents USEPA from regulating greenhouse gases. To see who’s got the most horses in that rodeo read Senator Who Hopes to Block EPA from Regulating Greenhouse Gas Pollution is Top Fundraiser from Utility Companies

Who needs that permafrost anyhow?

Failing to have much trust in the sciences and still stuck on libertarian romanticism, it takes exploding underpants to get attention to the business of ‘dot connecting.’ How long before a Texas congress-critter tacks an amendment onto a Federal budget bill, preventing EPA from regulating smog causing emissions? Not long is my guess.

Who needs that book learnin’ anyhow?

Three more dots.

  • I wonder how many corporations pay big-time health care benefits for employee family asthma treatments while giving money to lobbyists who want to slow down air quality regulation enforcement?
  • China bears some of the responsibility for Texas AQ degradation.
  • As reported in an AFP release on Yahoo News.

Pollution from Asia is boosting levels of ozone in the skies above the western United States, a trend that could hamper US efforts to meet tougher smog standards,…The findings are important, as previous research suggests pollution at the altitude monitored in the study can descend and mix with surface air.If so, a long-standing question may be answered. There has been a rise in ozone levels in parts of the rural western United States, but there is little road traffic or industry in these regions to explain the increase.

The paper says the phenomenon could have repercussions for efforts in the United States to roll back its smog problem with tougher car-exhaust measures and other initiatives.

    Are you still with me on this?

  • Taking a leadership role in climate action enables the USA to add more pressure on China to clean up the emissions of both greenhouse cases and the associated smog causing emissions that float over rural Texas.

Mike’s adjacent post on the Chinese smog effect on Western USA is worth a look:

That’s all the dots I have for now.

More posts about Texas air quality.
Texas Coal Fired Utility Building ‘Alamo of Coal’
Texas PTA Partners With Government for Cleaner School Buses
Texas Board of Ed Neuters Science Textbooks’ Global Warming

Date: 19-Nov-09
Country: US
Author: Reuters

Russia toughened on Wednesday its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, saying it would target a 25 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2020 compared with a 10-15 percent pledge previously.

Following are the negotiating positions of the top greenhouse gas emitters before a U.N. meeting in Copenhagen in December due to agree a new global climate deal.

1) CHINA (annual emissions of greenhouse gases: 6.8 billion tonnes, 5.5 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – President Hu Jintao promised that China would cut its carbon dioxide emissions per dollar of economic output by a “notable margin” by 2020 compared with 2005. The “carbon intensity” goal is the first measurable curb on national emissions in China. Hu reiterated a promise that China would try to raise the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to 15 percent by 2020.

* Demands – China wants developed nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 and to promise far more aid and green technology.

2) UNITED STATES (6.4 billion tonnes, 21.2 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – President Barack Obama wants to cut U.S. emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, a 17 percent cut from 2005 levels, and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

* Obama says he wants an accord in Copenhagen that covers all the issues and that has “immediate operational effect.

Legislation to cut emissions by 20 percent from 2005 levels had been approved by a Senate Committee but people few think it can become law before the Copenhagen talks.

* Finance – The United States says a “dramatic increase” is needed in funds to help developing nations.

* Demands – “We cannot meet this challenge unless all the largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution act together,” Obama said.

3) EUROPEAN UNION (5.03 billion tonnes, 10.2 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – EU leaders agreed in December 2008 to cut emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and by 30 percent if other developed nations follow suit.

* Finance – EU leaders have agreed that developing nations will need about 100 billion euros ($147 billion) a year by 2020 to help them curb emissions and adapt to changes such as floods or heatwaves. As an advance payment, they suggest 5-7 billion a year between 2010 and 2012.

* Demands – The EU wants developing nations to curb the rise of their emissions by 15 to 30 percent below a trajectory of “business as usual” by 2020.

4) RUSSIA (1.7 billion tonnes, 11.9 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – Cut greenhouse gases by 22-25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. That means a rise from now — emissions were 34 percent below 1990 levels in 2007.

5) INDIA (1.4 billion tonnes, 1.2 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – India is prepared to quantify the amount of greenhouse gas emissions it could cut with domestic actions, but will not accept internationally binding targets, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said. [ID:nDEL381436]. India has said its per capita emissions will never rise to match those of developed nations.

* Demands – Like China, India wants rich nations to cut emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020. But Ramesh signaled room to compromise: “It’s a negotiation. We’ve given a number of 40 percent but one has to be realistic.

6) JAPAN (1.4 billion tonnes, 11.0 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – Cut Japan’s emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 if Copenhagen agrees an ambitious deal.

* Finance – Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told the United Nations that Tokyo would also step up aid.

7) SOUTH KOREA (142 million tonnes, 2.9 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – Cut emissions by 30 percent below “business as usual” levels by 2020, which is equivalent to a 4 percent cut from 2005 levels.

8) BRAZIL (111 million tonnes, 0.6 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – Will cut its emissions by between 36.1 percent and 38.9 percent from projected 2020 levels, representing a 20 percent cut below 2005 levels.

9) INDONESIA (100 million tonnes, 0.4 tonnes per capita)

* Emissions – Aims to cut emissions by 26 percent by 2020 below “business as usual” levels.

Taking CO2 from deforestation into account, Indonesia is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada on 10. 7.09

operation board game photo

What? How?
// We all know that air pollution is a bad thing. Not good for your lungs, not good for your heart. Asthmatics, children and older folks are particularly at risk. But a new Canadian study claims that air pollution is also increasing the risk of appendicitis in adults. Even short-term exposure to air pollution could have an effect.

air pollution appendicitis photo
Photo: Flickr, CC

Dominant Theory on Appendicitis
So far “the dominant theory of the cause of appendicitis has been obstruction of the appendix opening, but this theory does not explain the trends of appendicitis in developed and developing countries. Appendicitis cases increased dramatically in industrialized countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries, then decreased in the middle and late 20th century, coinciding with legislation to improve air quality. The incidence of appendicitis has been growing in developing countries as they become more industrialized.”

The researchers identified 5191 adults who had been admitted to hospital with appendicitis between Apr. 1, 1999, and Dec. 31, 2006. The air pollutants studied were ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and suspended particulate matter of less than 10 µ and less than 2.5 µ in diameter.

They then used government data on air pollution to figure out the level of exposure to various pollutants of the people with appendicitis. “They found correlations between high levels of ozone and nitrogen dioxide and the incidence of appendicitis between age groups and genders.” More men than women were found to have the condition, possibly because more men work outside, giving them a higher exposure to air pollution on “bad air quality” days.

What Now?
Now that a correlation has been found, researchers will try to figure out how air pollution could trigger appendicitis. They suspect that the pollutants may trigger inflammatory responses, but further studies will be necessary to figure out the causality (if any).

Via CMAJ, Science Daily

Jul 21, 2009 3:03 PM

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) told the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works that climate change legislation would impose significant costs on American consumers.

In his statement on behalf of ATA, Ray Kuntz, chairman of ATA’s Executive Committee and immediate past chairman of the associations, said any substantial cost increases imposed directly or indirectly on trucks by climate change legislation will curtail delivery of vital consumer goods across the nation such as food, medicine, and clothing.

“Constraining the country’s freight delivery system would change our way of life for the worse by significantly increasing the cost of everything we buy,” said Kuntz, who is chairman and chief executive officer of Watkins and Shepard Trucking, based in Helena MT.

A one-cent increase in the average price of diesel costs the trucking industry an additional $390 million in fuel expenses. Petroleum suppliers indicate that climate change legislation could increase the cost of gasoline by 77 cents per gallon for gasoline and 88 cents for diesel fuel. As trucking companies struggle with already miniscule margins, additional costs for fuel would be passed on to shippers of goods and materials and ultimately to consumers.

Kuntz addressed six other issues in his testimony relating directly to climate change legislation and trucking:

•Climate change legislation must address the need to improve highway infrastructure to reduce carbon output.

•Carbon oversight markets must carefully be monitored and transparent to prevent excessive speculation.

•Trucking needs to be addressed differently than passenger vehicles because trucks are not discretionary users.

•State transportation emissions reduction plans must not impede the delivery of goods.

•Federal regulations must pre-empt regional, state, and local carbon laws to prevent a patchwork jumble of laws that would impede transportation efficiency.

•Oil refiners should receive appropriate free carbon allowances for fuel production to help offset significant price increases for refined products.

Kuntz serves on ATA’s Sustainability Task Force, which developed a progressive sustainability agenda that will reduce fuel consumption by 86 billion gallons and CO2 emissions by 900 million tons for all vehicles over the next 10 years by: setting governors on new trucks to limit speeds to no more than 65 mph; reducing the national speed limit to 65 mph for all vehicles; reducing engine idling; reducing congestion by improving highways; using more productive truck combinations; supporting national fuel economy standards for trucks; and increasing fuel efficiency by encouraging participation in the U.S. EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership Program.

Visit for ATA’s entire sustainability report with detailed explanations.

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PregnantWe already know that air pollution can have a serious impact on kids’ health and development. It’s been confirmed that air pollution is linked to slowed lung function growth in children. Now there’s another really good reason to reduce causes of urban air pollution like car emissions.

For the first time, researchers have found a direct link between prenatal exposure to air pollution and lower IQ scores in children. Researchers studied pollutants scientifically known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which include vehicle exhaust and factory emissions. Mothers of children in the high exposure group were likely to have lived close to heavily congested streets, bus depots and other typical sources of city air pollution. Published in the August edition of Pediatrics, the study suggests that exposure to air pollution before birth could have the same harmful effects on the developing brain as exposure to lead.

EarthShare member organizations have long recognized the impact that toxins in our environment can have on the most vulnerable members of our society. Learn more, and find out how you can help protect yourself and your family. Are you a health care provider or parent? Check out EarthShare member Physicians for Social Responsibility’s online Pediatric Environmental Health Toolkit.


The manufacturer of FLIglobal’s eeFuel and eeLube fuel additives have been reducing toxins from the air we breathe for 20 years, now we can do it in the United States and Canada too.  The products pay for themselves, improve long term air quality and increase the life of your vehicles and engines.

We are seeking strong Managers, Problem Solvers and Leaders to share the solutions to pollution throughout the world.

Ethanol Industry’s 15% Solution Raises Concerns

(as published this day in the New York Times)ethanol

Published: May 8, 2009

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to make an important and far-reaching decision this year that will affect more than 500 million gasoline engines powering everything from large pickups to family cars to lawn mowers: whether to grant the ethanol industry’s request to raise the maximum amount of ethanol that can be added to gasoline.

That request has engine manufacturers and consumer advocates worried about possible damage, service station owners in a tizzy over the financial and legal implications and a leading petroleum industry group saying the move is unwise and premature.

Specifically, ethanol producers are asking that the maximum ethanol content in the most common blend of gasoline be increased from 10 percent — a limit set about three decades ago — to as much as 15 percent. The blend the industry hopes will become common is known as E15, but the E.P.A. could approve a blend between E10 and E15.

Last year, nearly three-quarters of the gasoline sold in the United States contained some ethanol, according to the American Petroleum Institute. E10, which is 10 percent ethanol, is by far the most common fuel, though the E.P.A. has approved the use of ethanol blends up to 85 percent — but only for the limited number of new and late-model cars and trucks certified by manufacturers as “flexible fuel vehicles.” The ethanol industry wants E15 to replace E10 as the standard fuel found at most stations.

The issue came before the E.P.A. in early March when Growth Energy, an ethanol lobbying group, and 54 ethanol manufacturers asked the agency for a waiver of the Clean Air Act so that more ethanol could be added to gasoline.

Although the request went largely unnoticed by the public, it got the attention of anyone who makes or sells gasoline engines, as well as some environmentalists and consumer advocates.

Approving E15 would have a huge impact on consumers, said Clarence Ditlow, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, and could cause problems including the voiding of car warranties. “There’s a lot to worry about,” he said. “All a consumer has to do is look at the fuels section of the owner’s manual, which says that the use of fuel above 10 percent ethanol may result in denial of warranty claims.”

Nearly 250 million cars and light trucks are registered in the United States, according to Experian Automotive. But the impact would be even broader. Kris Kiser, executive vice president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, a trade group, estimates that a change would affect 300 million engines in everything from chainsaws to weed trimmers.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association says 12 million boat engines would also be affected.

Growth Energy, whose co-chairman is Wesley K. Clark, the retired Army general and former Democratic presidential candidate, has told the E.P.A. that it has proof from several studies that E15 will not damage engines and will result in cleaner air while reducing the nation’s reliance on oil.

The studies were done by groups including the federal Energy Department, the State of Minnesota, the Renewable Fuels Association, the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Minnesota Center for Automotive Research and Stockholm University in Sweden.

Michael Harrigan, a former Ford Motor Company fuel-system engineer who is now a consultant to Growth Energy, said automakers had been doing enough testing that there should be no problems using E15.

And Tom Buis, the chief executive of Growth Energy, said, “We are confident in the science we prepared.”

But confident or not, Growth Energy has plenty of opposition from groups that say some of the studies it cites are inconclusive. The critics also say its assertions are unproved and in some cases misleading.

While automakers generally favor wider use of biofuels,
Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing 11 automakers, said Growth Energy had failed to prove that E15 would not damage vehicles engineered to run on a maximum of 10 percent ethanol. More testing is needed, he said.

“We are not asking for this to be delayed forever,” Mr. Territo said. “We are asking for this to be delayed until the testing is complete.”

Mr. Kiser, of the outdoor power equipment group, said some initial tests already indicated that E15 could cause serious problems — including safety issues — with some small engines.

At Honda, which makes a wide range of engines for products from minivans to power generators, the concern is that the effects of a big increase in an additive like ethanol are unknown, said Edward B. Cohen, vice president for government and industry relations at American Honda. “The impact can be on the emissions system, like the catalytic converter,” he said. “It can be on the various tubes or couplings that are part of the fuel system, and it could affect the performance of the vehicle, particularly cold starting.”

Honda can design engines to run well on new gasoline blends, Mr. Cohen said. The issue is the legacy fleet, whose engines were designed over two decades for varying requirements. There is no single answer, Mr. Cohen said, to the question of how E15 would affect them.The American Petroleum Institute is also concerned, said Robert Greco, the group director of downstream and industry operations. He said more research was needed — probably several years’ worth — before the institute would be convinced that E15 was safe for so many different kinds of engines.

“We think that the current waiver request is premature,” Mr. Greco said. “The science isn’t in yet.”

And Jeremy Martin, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental advocacy group based in Cambridge, Mass., said there was simply not enough solid information on which to make a decision that would have such a broad impact.

“We shouldn’t just look at a little data and extrapolate,” he said. “There are rules here, and there are procedures. And there is a proper engineering way to come to this determination. One can guess about the most likely outcomes, but that is not sufficient to put all the fleet at risk.”

Wendy Clark, group manager and principal researcher in the fuels performance group at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, said a lot of credible organizations were studying E15. But she said it was too early to know for sure how engines would be affected. One question is how many of the studies will be done before Dec. 1, the date by which the E.P.A. is required by law to make its decision.

Mr. Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety said: “What the ethanol people are asking the consumer to do is bear the risk. If only 1 percent of the vehicles on the road today had E15-related problems, that would be about 2.5 million vehicles.”

Among those concerned about the proposed change are service station owners, many of whom fear that their pumps and fiberglass storage tanks would need to be replaced. They also fear legal problems including lawsuits from customers claiming their vehicles were damaged by the fuel.

“It is a horrible thing for our members,” said Carl Boyett, president of the Society of Independent Gas Marketers of America.In their March request to the E.P.A., proponents of the waiver said E15 would provide “increased energy security, enhanced economic development, creation of American jobs, reduced transportation costs and environmental benefits.” The ethanol manufacturers contend that the increase is necessary because of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. That act includes a renewable fuels standard that requires a steady increase in the use of biofuels in the United States — to 36 billion gallons in 2022 from 11 billion gallons this year. To meet the goals, refiners must add biofuels to gasoline.

The industry has been meeting the requirements. In 2007 , it was required to use 4.7 billion gallons of ethanol and it actually used 6.85 billion, according to the petroleum institute. Last year, when the requirement was 9 billion gallons, the industry used 9.6 billion.

But Americans are now buying far less gasoline than was expected when the law passed. That decline has the industry worried that as early as 2011 or 2012 it will be impossible to meet the renewable fuels standard with a 10 percent limit, Mr. Greco said.

Mr. Buis of Growth Energy said: “We are up against a blend wall. That cap needs to be raised.”

While adding more ethanol would help refiners meet the law, it would not improve fuel economy. An October 2008 study for the Energy Department tested 16 late-model cars and found, on average, that mileage dropped 5 percent with E15 compared with gasoline that contained no ethanol.

In deciding whether to raise the cap, the E.P.A. says it must consider not just emissions, but also vehicles’ durability and drivability “over their useful lives.” The agency has acknowledged that E15 is a complex issue, given that engines vary widely in their age and sophistication. Some might run fine on E15 while others might be susceptible to problems.

The E.P.A. says one possibility is that it could approve the use of E15 for some vehicles or engines but not for others.

Mr. Martin of the Union of Concerned Scientists says tests may show that vehicles produced starting with 2004 models could run safely on E15. That year, more sophisticated engine controls were required, making it more likely their systems could detect and compensate for fuel variations. About 79 million cars and light trucks have been produced since the 2004 model year, Experian Automotive says.

Mr. Buis of Growth Energy said that the advantages and safety of E15 were clear and that allowing higher ethanol content would help to make the nation less dependent on petroleum. He said there was no reason to delay.

“You know, some people don’t want to do anything — they just want to test, test, test or study, study, study,” Mr. Buis said. “You know, this nation has been stalling for 30-some years from becoming energy independent.”