Wrap-up: Washing bags, hybrid 7-seaters, stockpiling and salad dressing

The Internet has been bursting with economic and environmental news, good and gloomy. Who needs gloom? Not us. Here are some interesting stories to carry you around the Web this week:

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Cleaner cars OK’d by Obama

Good news on the car emissions front. This today from the Natural Resources Defense Council:

Less than a week into office, President Obama announced monumental decisions this morning that show America and the world that he will lead our country in a bold new direction to protect the environment and fight global warming.

The President directed his EPA to immediately review the Bush Administration’s denial of the right of California and other states to set global warming pollution standards for new cars. He also directed the Department of Transportation to set higher national fuel efficiency standards.

What will that mean in the real world? If Obama’s EPA, as expected, approves the California program, new cars sold in that state and at least 13 others will have to reduce their global warming pollution by 30 percent between 2009 and 2016. And the Department of Transportation will require more efficient new cars to be on the road starting in 2010, and set a course for the average new car to achieve maximum feasible fuel efficiency by 2020.

Simply put, President Obama is not just stepping up to the threat of climate chaos. His call for a fleet of cleaner cars will help reduce our dangerous dependence on oil and push automakers to make the cars that the world wants and needs in the 21st century.

NRDC’s climate attorneys were present at the White House this morning, and you can imagine their elation at this historic breakthrough. Thanks to your support, NRDC led the fight in 2002 for California’s Clean Cars Law — the very first law to cut global warming pollution from automobiles.

And when the Bush Administration and the automakers threw up roadblocks to that law, NRDC and our partners took the legal fight all the way to the Supreme Court — and won. But the Bush EPA persisted in its unlawful obstructionism until the bitter end.

This morning, President Obama took America’s foot off the brake and put cleaner cars into high gear. The automakers should be lining up to thank him. This is just the kind of turbo-charged policy they need to start producing cars that are better for the planet, better for consumers, and better for the economy.

This is especially good considering news that was released on NPR today that global warming is irreversible, for practical purposes — meaning that we should reduce our carbon dioxide emissions NOW to try to have a positive influence for people in, oh, a thousand years.

Get paid for your gas guzzler

On Wednesday, legislation introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate proposed paying consumers to stop driving super-polluting vehicles.

Called “cash for clunkers,” the law would pay Americans on a sliding scale if they hand over a car for scrap. Qualifying vehicles are those that got less than 18 miles per gallon when new. Drivers would not receive cash, but instead would get a voucher for up to $4,500 toward the purchase of a new or used vehicle that exceeds federal fuel efficiency targets by 25 percent or more.

Alternatively, people could choose to receive a voucher toward public transit fares.

The voucher scale would be this:

  • 2002 or newer – $4,500 voucher for a new vehicle; $3,000 for a used car or transit fare
  • 1999-2001 vehicles – $3,000 for a new vehicle
  • 1998 or older – $2,000 for a new vehicle

Legislators envision the program lasting for four years. Get the full scoop here.

You might already qualify

Some people don’t have to wait for the legislation to pass. Some U.S. states (Texas and California, for instance) will pay consumers to stop driving those inefficient cars. Canada might give you a bike. See this link for more information, then search for your own region’s policies.

Paint giveaway, hydrogen-cell minivans and high-fructose corn syrup – Friday wrap-up

This week has been packed with interesting news — and it’s especially appropriate for homeowners and parents.

New car option on the way?

When I posted last week about the Chevy Volt, someone commented that they were waiting for a fuel-efficient vehicle that can accommodate a larger family. Apparently, Chrysler *might* be thinking about doing just that with a possible hybrid or hydrogen fuel-cell minivan option.

Contest for a home facelift — the green way

“Special-materials industry giant Rohm and Haas” has created the Paint Quality Institute, which is sponsoring a contest to win one of eight exterior home paint jobs. Apparently, Rohm and Haas has a whole line of low-VOC paints — and they’ll include a spruce tree for the winners, who will be announced on Arbor Day, April 24.

The contest runs until Feb. 1, 2009. You must submit a photo of your home and an essay of 200 words or less that explains why your home needs a spruce-up. (Thanks to the Lean Green Family Blog for posting about this event.)

The dirt on high-fructose corn syrup

Has anyone else gagged on those syrupy-sweet ads about why high-fructose corn syrup is no big deal? You know, because your friends will mock you if you criticize it …

If you’d like a quick rundown of some sources that will explain why we should be cautious about HFCS (beyond the fact that it has infiltrated so many of our foods, and that much refined sugar isn’t so good for our bodies), check out this post from My Green Side.  For more information about HFCS and diabetes, check out this article.

The (almost) gasless car is (almost) here

Chevrolet has unveiled the final production model of its Volt, a car that can travel 40 miles on a battery charge … without any gas. They say it will be available in 2010.

It’s not a Flintstone-style, foot-powered vehicle. Instead you fill the tank with gas, and the gas powers a generator that can charge the batteries on a longer journey.

Of course, it’s not free of all energy use. (Remember physics? Motion is energy. OK, I never took physics. But that’s the general idea.) Instead, you plug it in to charge the batteries, so theoretically, you could use clean power, solar, wind, etc. No word on whether the “common household plug” it will use will be 110 volt or 220 volt, but it would be annoying to have to run new power to your garage if it were the latter.

The price is estimated somewhere in the $35,000 range. The mileage? Well, that appears to be seriously confusing, but consider it somewhere between 48 miles per gallon and 100 mpg.

Now if only they can invent a gasless dog. Or a car that charges its batteries using canine gas as a power source …

Hybrid car competition heats up!

Today, hybrid car competition has heated up with the announcement that Honda is planning to introduce two new hybrid models.

One of them, the company hopes, will be priced at under $20,000 for a five-seat, four-door hatchback model. That’s at least $4,000 less than Toyota’s Prius and is likely to make price incentives a possibility for car buyers — they haven’t been happening because Toyota’s had the groovy-hybrid market all to itself. (Honda makes a hybrid Civic and that’s it, for now.)

This is excellent news for those of us looking to improve our footprint next year. It will be even better news in about four years when those vehicles really start hitting the resale market.

See the full story here.

Driving Change

This week, I have an appointment with the government, and I’m excited.

No, I don’t mean mailing my gargantuan check to Uncle Sam. Not so thrilled about that one.

I’m talking about Thursday, when I’ll head to a local park to have three small devices affixed to my car:

The two small measuring devices will usually be installed out of sight under the dashboard of the vehicle. This involves a simple 3 wire connection to the battery, ground and ignition. An aesthetically pleasing glass mounted antenna will also be mounted on the inside of the rear window. This 4” oval antenna is easy to install, will not interfere with your field of vision, and requires no holes be drilled into the car.

It’s all part of a new pilot project in Denver called Driving Change. And it’s aesthetically pleasing!

Driving Change, which is sponsored by the City of Denver, as well as some technology companies that are doing the dirty work, will seek to find out whether and how much curbing aggressive driving behaviors decreases global-warming gases being produced by automobiles.

In their words:

Driving Change is the world’s first pilot project to determine if there is a direct, measurable, positive correlation between driving behavior and CO2 emissions.

Driving Change wants to demonstrate how you could easily reduce your vehicle’s carbon footprint up to 20% by identifying aggressive driving styles and helping you modify your behavior. This, in turn, will also lead to reduced fuel expense and consumption.

20-30% of U.S carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions come from the burning of gasoline in internal-combustion engines of cars and light trucks. Aggressive driving behaviors that are being measured in Driving Change increase the production of CO2. By minimizing ‘aggressive’ driving behaviors:

  • Hard braking
  • Fast starts
  • Speeding
  • Excessive idling

You can reduce your CO2 emissions and gasoline consumption, which means dollar savings at the fuel pumps, too!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not big on aggressive driving. But I AM crazy about spreadsheets! I can’t wait to see my results. Participants have to commit for a year. I will update here periodically and let you know what I’m learning.

Meanwhile, Denverites, if you want to sign up, go here.