May 19th, 2009
It is a great deal for the environment– and a terrible day for global warming. President Obama announced today tough new national rules for auto emissions and mileage standards. His administration has embraced standards that California sought to enact for years over the objections of the auto industry and the Bush administration.
The new rules, which will go into effect in 2012, will create a single new national standard that will yield a car and light truck fleet in the United States that is 40 percent more fuel-efficient by 2016 than it is today. The mandated national average for automobiles and light trucks will be 35.5 miles per gallon. The current national standard is slightly more than 25 miles per gallon.
Popularity: 2% [?]
May 14th, 2009
The Obama administration announced its proposed budget for the fiscal year 2010 which includes a significant boost in funding for the EPA. The $10.5 billion funding will be a 34 percent increase from 2009’s $7.8 billion in funding.
“It takes significant strides to ensure that our air, land, and water are safe and clean,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in her May 7 speech. “And it significantly improves accountability and transparency, ensuring fiscal responsibility at a time when every dollar counts.”
So what’s the EPA’s plan for the extra money? According to Jackson, $3.9 billion will go toward improving the nation’s water and wastewater infrastructure. Jackson says the funding represents a Obama’s dedication to improving the environment.
“EPA’s new budget reflects the President’s commitment to growing a clean energy economy while protecting human health and the environment,” Jackson said.
EPA’s other plans include $475 million for the Great Lakes Initiative, $17 million for creating a greenhouse gas registry and $1.3 billion to clean up eligible hazardous waste sites, which is part of the Superfund site initiative.
Beginning in 2011, the government will reinstate the Superfund tax on businesses, generating $1 billion a year in revenue.
The new budget will also create jobs. The EPA plans to have enough money to hire 30 additional enforcement staff members in its Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Program.
“We see remarkable opportunities to create green jobs,” Jackson said. “We see new growth in communities that are cleaner, healthier places to live, work and invest. And we see new innovations that will protect our planet for the generations to come. EPA has been given extraordinary support, and a revitalized mission. We’re ready to get to work.”
This article was reproduced with the kind permission of Earth 911. For more news and information visit http://earth911.com/.
Popularity: 3% [?]
April 17th, 2009
We are tickled pink to learn about President Obama’s new high speed rail plan for America. What better way to cut traffic, reduce our global warming contribution, AND create jobs? Yahoo for this Choo Choo Plan, we say.
The President is committing $13 billion to fund his plan. He’ll be using $8 billion from the existing stimulus plan and plans to allocated $5 billion over the next five years.
The plan identifies 10 corridors for federal funding, including California, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, the Southeast, the Gulf Coast, Pennsylvania, Florida, New York and New England. (For an illustrated map see this Wall Street Journal article.)
Popularity: 3% [?]
January 23rd, 2009
It’s pretty clear that we’re in uncharted economic waters these days. Unemployment numbers just get worse and worse, stock portfolios continue to tank, and companies formerly at the pinnacle of the US economy flirt with bankruptcy.
At Low Impact Living, we have a pretty strong view into how small green businesses are doing out there, and it isn’t pretty. Part of that has to do with the housing market. New green homes aren’t getting built. Major remodels that often occur when people are prepping their homes for sale or have just purchased a new one are few and far between. And even medium-sized projects are hard to fund due to the evaporation of home equity.
But there’s another disturbing driver that’s starting to rear its ugly head: the shutdown of major green infrastructure projects by governments across the country.
California often leads the way when it comes to major green investments, with CA voters funding billions in bond measures over the past ten years for environmental projects. In mid-December, all of that came to a screeching halt: construction projects across the state were put on indefinite hold to the detriment of the environment. Multi-million dollar projects ranging from urban stormwater treatment to watershed restoration to dam removal are affected, as are the jobs and ecosystems that depend on them. (disclaimer: I’m involved with several projects that were affected).
In New York, the governor’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year cuts off all state funding for zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums. In addition to protecting threatened and endangered species, these facilities often serve as the only open and green space for residents of urban areas. Check out the Wildlife Conservation Society’s funny but poignant plea below:
In Florida, the legislature has proposed suspending the $300M / year Florida Forever program, which is used to fund the acquisition and protection of natural lands throughout the state. Also on the chopping block: $10M per year to clean up the state’s waterways.
And in Colorado, the governor recommended cutting Colorado’s Solar Incentive Program rebates in half and making major cuts to the state’s wastewater and drinking water facilities inspection and groundwater monitoring programs.
I’m sure that you have examples from governments big and small near you (and if you do, please share them via comments below!). The consequences of these cuts are pretty clear: lost jobs, lost open space, and a dirtier environment. Let’s hope that President Obama’s stimulus plan ends up filling these gaps before even more damage is done.
Popularity: 15% [?]
January 15th, 2009
President Obama, we humbly beseech you to make your new home, The White House, a model green home. You have an incredible opportunity to make it a home from which all Americans can learn, and of which we can all be proud. What better way to start our country off on a bright new green path to the future than by making The White House the Great American Green House?
We’ve been encouraged by some of the things you’ve said about your intentions to make your home more eco-friendly, and we’d like to offer some thoughts on how you might flesh-out your green home renovation program.
First, let’s ground ourselves in some numbers. The White House is over 55,000 square feet and has 132 rooms. There are over 35 bathrooms and the building has three kitchens. Using our Household Environmental Impact Calculator, (and a few resources like the CBECS data for commercial buildings as your house doubles as an office building) we estimate that that The White House has a carbon footprint in the range of 1.2-1.5 million pounds of CO2 per year, uses somewhere around one million gallons of water, and generates over 50,000 pounds of trash each year. As a point of reference the average 2000 sq. foot American home has a carbon footprint of 65,000 pounds, uses 90,000 gallons or water and generates 3,800 pounds of trash per year. So The White House is no low-impact house! We have our work cut out for us.
Fortunately your predecessors have already taken some steps in a positive direction. President Carter famously installed a solar water system in 1979, which was then unfortunately taken down by President Reagan. However, in 2002 a new solar system was installed to power lighting for the grounds. Apparently the toilets have been changed to low-flow models and many of the water fixtures have also been upgraded. President Clinton commissioned the Rocky Mountain Institute to do a study on the White House and make recommendations for environmental improvements. We’re not sure how many of those got made– you’ll want to kick the tires on that one. (Perhaps someone from RMI could comment here?)
Here are some ideas we’d like you to explore for turning The White House a nice shade of green:
1) Let’s get the entire building off the grid. You could install more solar panels, and/or augment the system with a wind turbine. You could also look at geothermal energy options. We think it would quite feasible to generate enough power for the building using renewable energy sources. This would serve as a great example of clean-power living, and would actually save the government money in the long run.
2) How is the insulation situation? I’m sure you have attic insulation but let’s have a look inside the walls. I read that there are hundreds of year’s worth of copper wiring in many of the walls– let’s clean them out and blow in some soy foam or denim insulation. Full insulation could reduce heating and cooling costs by 5-10%.
3) Let’s turn part of the lawn into an organic vegetable garden. Encouraging Americans to eat fresh, local, organic produce will cut down on carbon emissions and also help us live healthier lives. That green grass is lovely, yes, but it sure sucks a lot of water for a low return on investment. Eleanor Roosevelt started a Victory Garden at your house long ago…let’s bring back that wonderful tradition! Author Michael Pollan has also advocated this idea. It would be a great treat to serve visiting dignitaries “Roasted White House Garden Vegetables” with their meal, would it not?
4) Speaking of organics, let’s make sure there’s a composting system in place. What happens with all of the food trash from the kitchens today? Well a composter could reduce the building’s trash load by 25-25%. It would be easy to set up, and your gardeners could use the compost mulch on your vegetable garden.
5) We hear Michelle has picked her decorator… and we hope that they’ll choose to use plenty of eco-friendly product in your decoration choices. How about some cork floors? They are sustainable and absorb sound. Or some reclaimed American wood flooring could look very nice. For furnishing we recommend antiques (anything used is more sustainable than newly made) or eco-friendly furniture made of sustainably-harvested woods and other recycled materials. For paints, obviously make sure to use no-VOC varieties, so that you and your family don’t breath toxic fumes. We need you to stay healthy for at least eight years!
6) Let’s review the lighting. Is everything running on LED and/or compact fluorescent lighting? The Pentagon has just announced they’re switching to LEDs– so should The White House. And we’d also want to make sure that we had maximized the use of light sensors– no need to light uninhabited areas. Perhaps there is even an option for increased day-lighting? We could install some new solar tube lighting to save energy and money.
7) How about getting all of your vehicles to run on biodiesel? There are a lot of big SUVs rushing around you and your home… it would be wonderful to have them running on American biodiesel fuels. Energy independence starts at The White House! You could have a biodiesel pumping station right there on the White House lot. Maybe one day even Air Force One will run on biodiesel!
Those are just some initial ideas. We here at Low Impact Living can’t wait to see you inaugurated and we hope you settle into your new home very nicely. We’ll look forward to hearing news of your Green House plans!
Popularity: 6% [?]