Wind-powered and plugged in

ST. PAUL – HOURCAR, the Twin Cities’ fast-growing car-sharing program, unveiled Minnesota’s first 100 mile-per-gallon, wind-powered, plug-in hybrid vehicle at the Minnesota State Fair.

A Toyota Prius hybrid was modified to get more mileage from electricity – extending its fuel efficiency to more than 100 miles per gallon. The HOURCAR plug-in hybrid (PHEV) was on display at the Minnesota State Fair’s Eco Experience, in the Progress Center Building.

It takes only four to five hours to fully charge the car’s plug-in battery from a standard 120V outlet. Each charge powers about 30 miles of travel. When the charge runs low, the car’s hybrid gas-electric motor takes over and provides more quiet, low-emissions driving.

After the Fair, the plug-in HOURCAR will be put into service at the Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op on the corner of Selby Avenue and Dale Street in St. Paul. Mississippi Market has committed to purchasing enough "green power" from Xcel Energy to offset any coal-burning pollution generated from bringing electricity to the car’s outlet. The green power purchase will develop more wind power in the state.

HOURCAR is a program of the nonprofit Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC). NEC Board member Jeffrey Stites, a Minneapolis attorney, sees a pollution-free future in the new HOURCAR PHEV.

"This car proves that technology exists today that can slash our dependence on fossil fuels and the pollution they create," Stites says. "There will soon be no excuse to burn gasoline to get around town. Once plug-in systems are commercialized – and that should be our top priority in the face of global warming and oil instability – prices will come way down and gas guzzlers will go the way of the dinosaurs."

HOURCAR has 13 cars in Downtown Minneapolis, Uptown Minneapolis, Loring Park, the Wedge neighborhood, Northeast Minneapolis, Downtown Saint Paul, and the Saint Anthony Park neighborhood. Hubs will open soon in Summit-University, Macalester-Groveland, and Minneapolis’ North Loop neighborhood. HOURCAR members make self-service reservations online or by phone, pick up an HOURCAR at a nearby hub, run errands, return the car to its reserved parking space, lock it up, and walk away. Cars have on-board computers to record trip information and members are billed monthly. There is no annual fee and all plans include gasoline, insurance, and maintenance. Visit www.HOURCAR.org for rate plans, hub locations and to sign up.

President Clinton launches large cities climate initiative

LOS ANGELES – Some of the world’s largest cities have pledged to take action to combat climate change under the umbrella of the Clinton Climate Initiative, launched August 2 by former President Bill Clinton. A partnership between the Clinton Foundation and the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, the initiative aims to take practical and measurable steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Berlin, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Caracas, Chicago, Delhi, Dhaka, Istanbul, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Melbourne, Mexico City, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Rome, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Toronto and Warsaw are on the initial list of participating cities, and more are expected to sign on shortly.

"It no longer makes sense for us to debate whether or not the Earth is warming at an alarming rate, and it doesn’t make sense for us to sit back and wait for others to act," Clinton said. "The fate of the planet that our children and grandchildren will inherit is in our hands, and it is our responsibility to do something about this crisis."

"The partnership between my Foundation and the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group will take practical and, most importantly, measurable steps toward helping to slow down global warming, and by taking this approach I think we can make a big difference."

President Clinton was joined by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to announce the first project of the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI). British Prime Minister Tony Blair was also present at the signing ceremony.

"There is no bigger task for humanity than to avert catastrophic climate change," Mayor Livingstone said. "The world’s largest cities can have a major impact on this. Already they are at the center of developing the technologies and innovative new practices that provide hope that we can radically reduce carbon emissions."

For its first project, the CCI will create a purchasing consortium to enable partner cities to reduce energy use and green house gas emissions. The consortium will pool the purchasing power of the cities to lower the prices of energy saving products and accelerate the development and deployment of new energy saving and greenhouse gas reducing technologies and products. – Environmental News Service

Green computers

PORTLAND, Ore. – More than 60 desktop computers, laptops, and monitors from three manufacturers recently were recognized as part of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funded effort to identify high-performance, environmentally friendly computer equipment. All of the products meet the new EPEAT "green" computer standard and they are listed online in the EPEAT database at www.epeat.net.

Compared to traditional computer equipment, all EPEAT-registered computers have reduced levels of cadmium, lead, and mercury to better protect human health and the environment. They are more energy efficient, which reduces emissions of climate changing greenhouse gases. They are also easier to upgrade and recycle. In fact, manufacturers must offer safe recycling options for the products when they are no longer useable.

EPEAT products are identified as EPEAT-Bronze, EPEAT-Silver or EPEAT-Gold, depending on the number of optional environmental criteria incorporated in the product.

"This initial list of EPEAT-registered computers is just the tip of the iceberg," according to Jeff Omelchuck, Executive Director of the Green Electronics Council, which manages the EPEAT program. "Other manufacturers are currently registering products. We’re thrilled to see the race to the top as manufacturers compete to develop the greenest possible computers."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, using very conservative assumptions, estimates that over the next five years, purchases of EPEAT registered computers will result in reductions of more than 13 million pounds of hazardous waste, more than 3 million pounds of non-hazardous waste, and more than 600,000 MWh of energy, enough to power 6 million homes. – World-Wire

Pesticide ingredient request

Fourteen states and the U.S. Virgin Islands petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to require pesticide manufacturers to disclose on the label of their products all hazardous ingredients. The petition says more disclosure will lead to greater consumer awareness of the potential health and environmental impacts of using pesticides.

The EPA now requires that pesticide labels disclose only the product’s "active" ingredients; that is, those toxic materials that are intended to kill insects, weeds or other target organisms. However, pesticide products also contain many other "inert" ingredients.

Although intended to preserve or improve the effectiveness of the active ingredients in particular pesticides, these inert ingredients often are toxic themselves.

Although almost 400 chemicals used for this purpose have been found by the EPA or other federal agencies to be hazardous to human health and the environment, the EPA does not require them to be identified on pesticide labels.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said, "Consumers have a right to know about toxic ingredients in consumer products, whether or not those ingredients are ëactive’ or ëinert.’ There is no logical reason for EPA to mandate disclosure of those ingredients that harm pests but exempt from disclosure other ingredients that cause serious health and environmental problems."

Current EPA regulations allows the identity of almost all "inert" ingredients to be omitted from the label based only on their function in the product, not on their health or environmental effects. States are preempted by federal law from requiring additional labeling for pesticides. – Environmental News Service

Saving the planet

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Troy Helming founder and CEO of Krystal Planet, a leading renewable energy solutions provider in North America, has released "The Freedom Plan" in his book The Clean Power Revolution (Team Reach), a practical guide to conveniently transforming our energy technology to avoid an inconvenient and turbulent future.

The first chapter of the book has been released in the form of a free podcast and is available for download to iPods on Apple’s iTunes service and accessible for streaming to mobile handsets on Pod2Mobile (www.pod2mob.com), an easy way to listen to podcasts and audio books on the go with a cell phone.

Simultaneously, the company has launched a blog, The Freedom Plan (www.thefreedomplan.org), a clearinghouse for relevant articles penned by Helming and guest experts providing the latest information, articles and opinions on all things related to green matters. The book, blog and podcast all demonstrate how, with just a few upgrades, unnecessarily high-energy bills can become a thing of the past.

"By embracing concepts like The Freedom Plan, we can build an entirely new energy infrastructure that can simultaneously reduce the cost of living and doing business," Helming says. "As many respected world leaders have suggested, such as former president Bill Clinton, the alternative and renewable energy industry is a trillion dollar business just waiting to be born."

Helming’s book describes how The Freedom Plan, created by the author, can realistically convert America to 100 percent clean power in 10 years for $2 trillion, while saving the U.S. economy approximately $20 trillion. The book is available for purchase at Amazon.com and The Clean Power Revolution website at www.cleanpowerrevolution.org. – World-Wire

Future motor fuels

Rudolf Diesel, the inventor of the diesel engine, designed it to run on vegetable and seed oils like hemp. In fact, when the diesel engine was first introduced at the World’s Fair in 1900, it ran on peanut oil. Two decades later, Henry Ford was designing his Model Ts to run on ethanol made from hemp. He envisioned the entire mass-produced Model T automobile line would run on ethanol derived from crops grown in the U.S.

Even in the 1920s, the oil industry had massive lobbying power in Washington. Lobbyists convinced policymakers to create laws favoring petroleum based fuels while disgarding the ethanol option. Nearly a century later, amidst oil wars in the Middle East, Global Warming, and a nearly depleted oil supply, the U.S. government is finally shifting attention to fuels that are more along the lines of Diesel and Ford’s original ideas.

In an interview with the New York Times in 1925, Henry Ford said: "The fuel of the future is going to come from fruit like that sumac out by the road, or from apples, weeds, sawdust – almost anything. There is fuel in every bit of vegetable matter that can be fermented. There’s enough alcohol in one year’s yield of an acre of potatoes to drive the machinery necessary to cultivate the fields for a hundred years." – www.organicconsumers.org

Sub Pop’s renewable power

SEATTLE – Sub Pop Records, the music label that has given rise to bands Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney and The Shins, recently announced that it has purchased enough renewable energy credits from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to equal 100 percent of the company’s energy use.

The credits are called Green Tags and are certified by Green-e, an independent certification and verification program for renewable energy products. Sub Pop records is the first Green-e certified record label company in the United States.

"I was made aware of the program by one of my co-workers. I was, quite frankly, shocked by how easy it is to support renewable energy. Green Tags are a simple way for anyone to choose wind energy, which, in turn, lowers dependence on burning fossils fuels for energy," said Jonathan Poneman, president of Sub Pop Records.

"Green Tags fulfill an important commitment to both the planet and the Pacific Northwest, where Sub Pop is rooted," Poneman said.

Earlier this year, Sub Pop Records’ recording artist Kelley Stoltz released Below the Branches as the first album to be green powered and incorporate the Green-e label on its packaging.

"Sub Pop has been synonymous with helping talented new artists support their passion for creating music," said Patrick Nye, director of sales of Bonneville Environmental Foundation. "Now, Sub Pop Records is directing the same energy toward new, renewable sources of power."

The non-profit Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) began in 1998 to develop the market for renewable energy certificates, or Green Tags.

BEF reinvests all the net revenues from Green Tag sales to fund solar power systems for schools and businesses, wind power systems for farms and ranches, and restoration efforts for salmon-bearing streams.

Sub Pop Records and Kelley Stoltz hope to influence other artists and music fans to consider what they can do to utilize clean renewable technologies. Visit www.SubPop.com. – Environmental News Service

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