Green Beat: December 2009

By Pax Rasmussen

New ideas from near and far for a healthier, more sustainable future.
by Pax Rasmussen DOE awards up to $5.5 million for the Automotive X Prize Competition

The Department of Energy announced last month that it will provide up to $5.5 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support the X Prize Founda­tion’s work to inspire a new generation of energy-efficient vehicles.

The X Prize Foundation creates and manages prizes intended to drive innovators to solve challenges facing the world. The Automotive X Prize is a private, independent, technology-neutral competition offering $10 million for clean, production-capable vehicles that achieve the energy equivalent of 100 miles per gallon of gasoline.

As part of the Automotive X Prize competition, teams are designing innovative, commercially viable, high-efficiency vehicles.

Bike bits

First, the Salt Lake City Council has approved a resolution to donate unclaimed bicycles held by the Salt Lake City Police Department to the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective. The SLCPD holds bikes that are abandoned, recovered as stolen property or as evidence in cases. After being held for a specified time period (typically 90 days) and attempts to contact bike owners are failed, the bikes can now be donated to the Bike Collective, instead of throwing them away or auctioning them off. The Bike Collective will then fix them up as needed and provide them to low-income residents or non-profit organizations. The resolution should result in 100-200 bikes per year donated to the Collective.

Also, QBP (a bicycle distribution company), which is opening a new distribution center in Ogden, is donating $10,000 to the Ogden Bicycle Collective. The Collective will use the QBP donation, along with matching funds from the Utah Conservation Corps and Utah State University, to hire a full-time administrator.

Salt Lake City now has its own bike lane tattletale website. If you see cars parked illegally in bike lanes, snap a photo and write down the license plate, and use the anonymous web form to report violators. They’ll appear on the site. And remember, everybody, respect the bike lanes!

Last but not least, it seems there is a rash of fake bike lane parking tickets appearing on windshields all over the world. Check out these websites for stories about citizen bike lane enforcement in Toronto, Boston, New York and London.

Jordan River gets blue bins

Last month, Salt Lake City announced the inception of a Jordan River recycling program. Blue bins will be installed at multiple sites along the Jordan River to promote “increased stewardship of the area.”

California slaps energy-hogging TVs

Last month the California Energy Commission voted 5-0 in favor of the first energy efficiency regulation in the country. Starting on January 1, energy consumption of new TVs will be cut in order to meet certain energy standards—by about a third! Even stricter rules will go into effect on January 1, 2013, cutting energy use allowed by these appliances by 50%. Major electronics manufacturers were predictably outraged, but the Energy Commission more or less said, “Too bad.”

Light bulb “nutrition facts”

Last month, the FTC proposed new labeling requirements for light bulbs, in response to a congressional mandate. The uniform label format would provide information on bulb life, brightness, energy cost, color temperature and wattage, as well as whether or not the bulbs contain mercury.

New Zealand under siege—by icebergs

You’ve heard about how global warming is melting the ice caps? Turns out, they don’t just melt—they break apart and run amok. Last month, the BBC reported that over 100 icebergs, some of which are bigger than 650 feet wide, are headed toward New Zealand. Scientists think these bergs broke away from the Ross Sea Ice Shelf in 2000, and have been drifting around since. I’m not sure what the implications of a bunch of icebergs heading toward your shoreline are, but it seems to make news.

Cash for Clunkers…a crock?

A couple of months ago, I reported on the $3 billion federal program, Cash for Clunkers, which was supposed to get millions of inefficient, old and dirty vehicles off the street and into scrapyards. So how did the program work out? According to an Associate Press investigation, not so well: Most of these polluting trucks and cars were traded in for new, but only marginally cleaner, vehicles. The most common swap (which occurred more than 8,200 times), was an old Ford F-150 for a new Ford F-150—an improvement of less than three mpg.

Slow climate change— have fewer kids

A recent report from the United Nations, called State of World Population, has drawn dramatic links between overpopulation and climate change. The U.N. estimates that by 2050, world population will be as high as 10 billion. The report stresses that support for women and providing family planning and reproductive health resources is the key to averting the major pressure this population will exert on the climate.

GoodGuide app—what’s in that shampoo?

There’s a new iPhone app that can help you get the inside scoop on questionable products. Using the camera in the iPhone, the app takes a picture of the barcode of any product and uploads it to GoodGuide’s server. You then get a page displaying ratings for that product—including details for health, environmental and social responsibility concerns. Plus, it’s free! update

Over the last few months, I’ve written about the International Day of Climate Action, organized through, which took place on October 24. Protests were held in nearly every country on the planet—the event was easily one of the biggest widespread political actions in history. Thousands of photos from well over 5,000 rallies and protests, from 181 countries, flooded into the web servers. Here in Salt Lake, several hundred people showed up at Library Square to advocate awareness of and response to climate change.

The goal of was to get as many people as possible to learn one fact: that 350 parts per million is what scientists, climate experts and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.

From 1900 to 2000, atmospheric CO2 increased from 295 to 365 ppm. The atmosphere’s CO2 level is currently up to 387.

This article was originally published on November 30, 2009.