Environmental Grist: February 2008
Green news from around the country & the world.
Indian car company to sell world's cheapest car
India-based Tata Motors plans to launch what it's billing as the world's cheapest car later this year, a five-seater selling for about $2,500. The roughly 58-miles-per-gallon "People's Car" hopes to lure less affluent folks in India and other developing countries who often rely on ultra-cheap two-wheeled motorbikes and scooters for transport.
source: Agence France-Presse
California, 15 other states, and five nonprofits sue EPA over waiver decision
California has made good on its promise to sue the U.S. EPA over the agency's refusal to allow the state to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles, and 15 other states have made good on their promise to join in on the litigation. The swarm of states, along with five nonprofit groups, filed suit last month in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. The presumed shared feeling of the group, as stated by California Attorney General Jerry Brown: "The denial letter was shocking in its incoherence and utter failure to provide legal justification for the administrator's unprecedented action."
source: Los Angeles Times
Moving Kite Along
Cargo ship to use massive kite-like sail on trans-Atlantic voyage
A huge cargo ship set out to cross the Atlantic Ocean last month with some help from a massive kite-like sail that could offset up to 15% of its fuel use on the journey. It's hardly a return to purely wind-powered shipping, but it's a start for the hugely polluting maritime shipping industry. "This is a serious attempt to reduce bunker [fuel] costs and polluting emissions," said a spokesperson for the Germany-based shipping company that is testing the roughly 1,700-square-foot sail. "The kite will be used whenever it is possible on the voyage, and we are convinced it will revolutionize cargo shipping. We would consider fitting them to all our ships."
source: The Guardian
On Spins and Needles
Knitters seek out eco-friendly yarn
Knitting is a hot hobby these days – raise your hand if you received a hand-knit scarf as a holiday gift – and stitch 'n' bitch regulars are eager to break out from toxic-dyed, pesticide-sprayed cotton yarn. The next time you're in the yarn store, keep an eye out for a to-be-sweater of soy, corn, bamboo, or milk fiber, organic wool, or recycled crustacean shells (really!). Of course, many yarns are still shipped from afar, and some chemicals are necessary for anything dyed. "You really want to be really environmentally friendly?" says Clara Parkes, author of "The Knitter's Book of Yarn." "You raise your own sheep. You spin it, and you knit your own wool." Not a baaad idea.
source: Columbia News Service
The Italian Job
Milan, Italy, institutes congestion charge
In Milan, congestion pricing is the new black. (Oh, like you have a better fashion pun?) Under Milan's new plan, which kicks off as a one-year trial, vehicles driving into the urban center on weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. must pay up to $14 per day; low-polluting cars are exempt from the charge. The money raised will be put toward public transportation and bicycle paths, and Mayor Letizia Moratti hopes pollution will be reduced by 30% and traffic by 10%. On the first day of the scheme, traffic was estimated to be 40% lower than normal.
source: BBC News
Better Than Sacks
China announces ban on super-thin plastic bags, fees for others
China has announced a ban on super-thin plastic bags in the country as well as a fee for other plastic bags, both beginning on June 1. The ban was prompted by the usual plastic-bag concerns of rampant unsightly litter and the wasted resources used to produce it all. The notice suggested widespread use of cloth bags and baskets instead. Penalties for rule flouters, including manufacturers of plastic bags that are less than 0.025 millimeters thick, include fines and other penalties. Up to 3 billion plastic bags a day are used in China.
Let Your Commission Be Your Guide
Federal Trade Commission reviews environmental marketing guidelines
With growing consumer concern about greenwashing, the Federal Trade Commission has agreed to review its voluntary environmental marketing guidelines. The agency recently held a public forum addressing carbon offsets and renewable energy credits, the first in a series of workshops designed to review the guidelines, which have not been updated in 10 years. (See Greenwashingindex.com where consumers can rank the greenwashiness of various ads.)
Use of "smart grid" technology could save U.S. $120 billion, study says
A yearlong study by the Department of Energy has concluded that when consumers are given the means to closely track and adjust their energy usage, power use declines by an average of 10%. In addition, the study found that households' electricity usage during peak times fell by up to 15%. The study estimated that "smart grid" technology, if used nationwide, could save $120 billion in unneeded power plants and transmission lines, and over a 20-year period could displace the equivalent of 30 large coal-fired power plants.
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Tech companies offer free rights to eco-friendly patents
Four tech companies have partnered with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to introduce the Eco-Patent Commons, which will offer the rights to eco-friendly technologies for free. IBM, Sony, Nokia and Pitney Bowes have donated 31 patents into the public domain, including one for a shock-absorbing cardboard tray that would replace the need for Styrofoam peanuts and another for a way to recycle cell phones into new devices.
source: San Francisco Chronicle