Wednesday, November 26, 2008

RIP incandescent bulb. Long live CFLs and LEDs and other abbreviations

Clean Break reports (first, I think) on the death of the GE incandescent bulb. The GE folks have been working on an energy efficient version of the incandescent, without the mercury and with better light than CFLs (which can make you look 25 yrs. older than you really are). But the company told the blogger that they've abandoned that project and are now working on LEDs and something called OLEDs (o for organic). 

This is a bummer, just before Thanksgiving. Sure, CFLs are great. But the light they give off just isn't as intense and bright as the old standby. Sorry Al. 

Plus, they contain a drop of mercury, which kinda freaks me out. The kids have one in their room. If it breaks, I've got to get out the ET spacesuit. 

LEDs are brighter, but they also give off a weird look. I was stuck at a blinking (sorta) red light on the way home from work today. Stuck because the light was kind of half blinking, half shutting off. I realized after a bit that it was an LED. 

Anyway, we're all going to have to get used to a new way of illumination, I guess. 

Pass the shadowy gravy. 



Green Gets the Shaft

When it comes to End of the Year lists, green gets the shaft. At least so far.

The word of the year, according to Merriam-Webster, is "bailout," as in help the dinosaur auto companies stay on their feet. Granted, I live in Michigan and I don't want to see the Big Three go out of business and lay off people. But these auto execs have been asleep at the wheel for a long time (good pun, huh?) and they've already received $25B to retool for more fuel-efficient vehicles.

What bugs me more is that another word of the year, hypermiling, didn't get barely any coverage. That word of the year designation was made by New Oxford American Dictionary. A hypermiler is someone who pushes their gas tank to the limit, rolling through stop signs and drafting big trucks to stretch their mpg rating. King of the Road, if you will. But this enviro word of the year was barely a blip on the newscape compared to the consumption-happy word of the year, bailout.

Speaking of consumption-happy, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

(Looking forward to End of the Year lists when it comes to Rock 'N' Roll. Let's hope GNR makes it, or I'll be back here to criticize. Or AC/DC or Motley Crue. The past is back to kick your ... butt.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Chinese Democracy Turkey

It's two days from Thanksgiving. And I have many things to be thankful for:
--- Chinese Democracy was released on Sunday
--- I just picked up a six pack of Brown Shugga
--- My kids are quietly watching a Benji movie
--- I'm driving downstate to see my folks on turkey day, and meet their new dog. 

Things are good. I've got a cold, but can't complain otherwise. 

And it looks like PR folks are gobbling up opportunities to put out Thanksgiving-related, eco-friendly news items. Call me a sucker, but some of these are pretty decent.

The EPA, which is trying to do more outreach these days, has a Blog of the Week Question: How did you minimize environmental impacts while making holiday travel plans? 
My answer: I dunno. Driving a little under the speed limit? Rejoicing to Mother Earth for $1.67-a-gallon gas? Oh, I've got it: Bringing home leftovers!

The folks at the Renewable Fuels Association have a ditty on the increased costs this year for a Thanksgiving dinner. The costs are up by 5.6 percent. Some blame the ethanol business for inflating the price of corn and associated foods. Not so, says the RFA:

"Because gasoline prices would likely be 20 to 35 cents per gallon higher without ethanol, the only noticeable economic impact of ethanol on Thanksgiving dinner this year is the money saved when driving over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house."

Regardless of whether you blame corn or not, take it easy on the salt this year. Believe it or not, there's a Salt Institute, which says there's a shortage of salt this year, due to high demand in 2007. Prices are up by 300 percent. Just don't blame ethanol. 

- GM

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Green Mullet Podcast? Black Friday Mary Delgado

Sorry about the title. Trying to get more hits. 

A friend of mine suggested I do a twice-weekly podcast. I don't have the time. Maybe once a week if we're lucky. I should mention that this friend and I often chat on the Can Cam, also known has Google Video Chat. Sorry if you can't get the image out of your head. 

This podcast would (conceptually) be me, a microphone, some hard rock snippets, some enviro news snippets, more of me. 

What might be on this week's podcast (if there was one?) How about the VW Jetta TDI being named Green Car of the Year? This car is a diesel and costs $22K and up . It comes with a particle filter and a $1,300 federal tax credit. It also has a cool Web site. So while the Big Three were getting beat up on Capitol Hill this week, the VW folks were getting an award from the Green Car Journal

Cue some music: Magic Carpet Ride, the Remix

Segue to the new 90210 (which I'm trying to watch while I type). Segue back to the environmental stuff: 

The clean diesel Jetta doesn't have a microwave, because they're bad. And you'd probably burn your Hot Pocket trying to drive and nuke. 

The folks at Plenty Mag (subscribe) have a warning about microwaving plastic, which I find pretty scary. Kind of like My Chemical Romance

Other folks at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel microwaved a bunch of "microwave-safe" plastic and found it leached toxic levels of the chemical Bisphenol A. BPA, as it's known, is linked to neurological and development effects in lab animals. Is anything safe anymore? Is anything regulated anymore? Thank god for journalists, who are soon to be an endangered species. 

Cue some White Wolf, which once had an album (cassette) called "Endangered Species."

- GM

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Now that's what I call Happy Holidays

Ah, Christmas morning. You wake up to the sound of little kids (in my case) tugging on your sleeve. Then comes the unwrapping and the gift opening: the scissors, the box cutters, the untwisting, the swearing (to yourself). 

But it doesn't have to be this way. In fact, the folks at Amazon (no endorsement implied) have introduced Frustration-Free Packaging for the holidays. 

The toy comes in a brown cardboard box. You open the box and out comes the toy. No struggling with sealed, glossy cardboard packages and toys displayed in plastic clamshells and fastened with wires. Just the toy your kids want to play with!

You see, being environmentally friendly can be fun. And Amazon is actually saving money with the program. Rock on, I say. Hopefully, this is just the start of something big. 

(I feel a bit more positive today, you might have noticed). 

- GM

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The End of Coal Plants? Nah

The death of Bon Scott didn't kill AC/DC and a ruling in Utah by a U.S. EPA panel isn't going to kill coal plants. I live in Michigan (one hand up, middle two fingers down), where there are eight coal plants proposed. I think that's more than in any other state. 

Green folks here have rejoiced over news of this Utah decision. Makes sense. They don't want to see more coal plants built in the state. And if coal plants are forced to regulate their CO2 emissions, well, that really drives up the cost to build. And the economy's not doing so good around here. 

But enviro groups are being too quick to jump to the conclusion that this ruling will have an effect on the permitting of new coal plants in other states like Michigan. 

First of all, utilities don't pay to build new coal plants. Customers do, through their rates. 

But state regulators won't let utilities build risky coal plants, you say. When was the last time you commented on a utility rate case? You need to read the state study that's driving new power plants in Michigan. Electric demand is going up, baseload power is needed. Period. 
Here's the deal: The EPA panel has rejected a permit for a plant in Utah. It said the EPA's Denver office granted a permit without requiring the best available control technology, or BACT, for CO2.               

Let's just say that this somehow leads Michigan regulators to require BACT for CO2. They already require BACT for other pollutants

So ... the state will spend time reviewing the EPA decision. Then, the state will come out with a plan for implementing "BACT review for CO2" (give that a couple of power chords and you've got a hit).

There will be a public comment period. More review. A final plan. That plan will require years of study, because utilities will argue (quite well) that there are no commercially available controls for CO2. So the state will do some (more) demonstration projects. 

Years are going by while all this is happening, and the plants are being built. They'll be "grandfathered in," don't worry.

And what makes you think this Utah decision won't be appealed for years to come? Remember the big landmark ruling in 2007? Where did that lead? Nowhere. 

Oh, but you blame it all on Bush. We have Obama now. He's vowed to regulate CO2. But he needs Congress, too. Think that will happen in the first 100 days? In his first term? 

I'm not trying to be Mr. Negative here, but if people don't want to see so many new coal plants, they have to turn down their stereos and USE LESS ENERGY. You can't have it all. And don't give up on nuclear, please. Of course, don't give up on solar, wind and biomass and all that. But don't kid yourself about this Utah thing. 

- GM. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

the fifth estate

that's a reference to journalism, and the death of it. or the impending death.

by the time my kids grow up, they may never know what it means to read a balanced, unbiased, well-researched story in a newspaper. newspapers are gray and white things that more people used to read before the internets came along. i'm telling you, however, that good journalism won't die if i can help it. the internets figured out how to improve journalism, in ways. all newspapers have to do now is listen. we'll see.

in the meantime, let me pass on some interesting quotes from past presidents, some of whom promised to give us 'energy independence.' on a tangent, i know. bear with me.

Nixon promised it. Then Ford and Carter. Now Obama. Maybe in the era of pesky pajama-ed bloggers and Al Gore, the new guy will succeed. Gas at $2.08 a gallon won't help, however. It's up from $1.89 yesterday. I was hoping (with indigestion) that gas would hit $6 a gallon. Then the U.S. would make some real moves.

If nothing else, Obama is getting tons of advice and support from green groups.

- GM

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama: How long will it last?

Today has been a great day in America. Nov. 5, 2008, the day after most of the country (in their right minds) voted for Mr. Change, also known as Barack Obama.

Kind of reminds me of when Bill Clinton was first elected. The feeling of hope. The feeling that something better was around the corner. Yesterday was a day when most of the country (in their right minds) stood up and rejected the policies (war) of the past eight years. It was great to see the spontaneous eruptions of joy in the streets.

How long will this feeling last? How long before Democrats are back attacking Republicans, Republicans are back attacking Democrats?

There are high expectations for the new guy. It's up to each of us to pay attention. We don't get to vote once and then sit back for the next four years. Let's demand better from our leaders. Let's say that if Congress doesn't cooperate with our new Commander in Chief that we're not gonna take it. Thanks Twisted Sister! Seriously. Let's take some advice from a classy guy named John McCain.

- GM

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Youth Vote to McCain?

My daughter says she's voting for John McCain tomorrow, and I couldn't be more upset.
She's only seven, and her vote won't count. But I guess she's voting in a mock elementary school election, and has made up her mind.

Where in the world did she get the idea that McCain is a better choice than Obama? He's got more kids, she told me. He also wants to keep gas prices high, she continued. (Not sure what the benefit is of that, unless you hope it will reduce fuel consumption).

It seems that my daughter knows a lot about McCain. I wonder where she heard it from? Her teacher?! I bet so. She sure as hell hasn't heard me singing the praises of McCain. Four more years of failed Bush policies.

I tried to convince her before she went to bed that Obama is a better choice. He will improve the economy and get our troops home sooner, I told her. He also cares more about the environment, I said, before kissing her good night.

Will you make more at your job if Obama wins? She asked. Yeh, that's right, I told her. Sleep tight.