Friday, August 28, 2009

Don't let them forget

Sorry about my 2-week hiatus! I thought I'd be able to post before my vacation, but no. We took the train as we have many times, and it's a great way to travel.

We need to remind our Congressional representatives and Senators that as important as health care is, they can't forget about the critical American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES for short). ACES, the first national bill that would curb global warming, passed the House on June 26, 2009. Now we need the Senate to pass it. (Obama will sign it if it passes.) The bill needs strengthening, but there's a lot of pressure on the Senate to weaken it further. Please, click here to find your Senators and either attend a town hall meeting or contact them directly to pass as strong a version of ACES as possible. Or, click here to send an email.

The fossil fuel industry is throwing a lot of money and influence into opposing this bill. The idea isn't to eliminate the use of fossil fuels anytime soon--we don't have enough alternatives developed yet. It's to develop incentives for reducing our output of greenhouse gases and develop alternative energy sources that would also provide jobs so that we can fight global warming, which threatens to make all our other problems seem insignificant. Serious effects are already being felt, and the consequences of business as usual would be dire for the human species as well as many others. Because of delays that are built into Earth's climate system, if we wait to act until the most serious consequences arrive, it will be too late to reverse them. We need to act now to prevent the worst consequences of global warming from happening. Let me know what you're doing to reduce global warming!
Stay cool,

Friday, August 7, 2009

Is "Cash for Clunkers" Good for the Environment?

There's been a lot of publicity about the cash for clunkers program - the government program that pays you to trade in an older vehicle getting less than 18 mpg for a new one that gets at least 22 mpg. But does the program really reduce global warming? The answer is: a very small amount. The problem isn't that the concept is bad, it just doesn't go far enough. But it still makes sense for most individuals to get rid of an old gas-guzzling clunker for a vehicle that getssignificantly more miles to the gallon.

Making a new car produces greenhouse gases, of course. If you trade in a clunker getting 18 mpg for a new car getting 22 mpg, it would take about 5 1/2 years of average driving to save the amount of greenhouse gases that went into manufacturing the new car, according to the dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, William Chameides, quoted on NPR here. After that, you would be reducing your carbon footprint. With trucks, it might take eight or nine years, Chameides says (trucks usually have more material in them and more greenhouse gases are produced in their manufacture). With the median age of cars on the road in the US older than ever at 9.4 years, and some of the new cars purchased getting more than 22 mpg, the net result is positive. However, the Associated Press calculated that the greenhouse gas savings from this year's cash to clunkers program would reduce the nation's greenhouse gas emissions by only a few hundredths of a percent, assuming 500,000 to 750,000 of the 260 million vehicles on the road in the US are traded in.

If you traded in a 20-mpg car for a 50 mpg hybrid, however, you'd make up for the greenhouse gases produced in manufacture in 20 months, according to Gil Friend of ClimateBiz. The greater the difference between the fuel economy of the old car and the fuel economy of the new car, the greater the savings in greenhouse gases. The longer you keep your new car the better for the environment, until there are newer cars whose efficiency is so great that it makes sense to trade in again. The savings with cash to clunkers is not as great as it could be - the original legislation required new cars purchased to meet stricter mileage standards to qualify - but it's a small step in the right direction. And it definitely makes sense for individuals to junk gas guzzlers and buy the most efficient vehicle they can, with or without a government program.
What's in your garage?
Stay cool,