Thursday, May 27, 2010

Choosing Gas

I used to care which company’s gas I purchased. The Better World Handbook ranked gas stations based on their environmental and social records ( So, based on this information I tried to buy BP and Sonoco and avoided Exxon and Mobil.

But over the past month I’ve stopped caring. With BP, a highly ranked gas company, destroying the Gulf Coast it is evident that even the oil drillers with the best reputations are not immune to environmental disaster. Plain and simple, drilling for oil is dirty. Lets treat this as a wake up call and focus on making decisions that demand less petroleum. Looking for the cleanest oil drilling company is sort of like looking for the tallest of the seven dwarfs--what’s the point?

Instead, drive less, drive more efficiently and purchase fuel-efficient cars.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Peak Oil?

For years, scientists, environmentalists and oil industry insiders have battled over the idea of peak oil. Have we finally reached that point? Well, oil is hovering around $70/barrel... not exactly peak oil prices and there are gigantic oil surpluses in the United States and around the globe (hence the low price of oil). This has a lot to do with the recession, of course. But these facts don't matter when you look at where we are drilling (Deepwater Horizons, anyone?) - Our search to find oil under miles of water and locked in sands or shales is proof that we have hit peak oil. We have exploited all the easily accessible supplies of oil and are now relying on hard to reach and unconventional sources; sources which have the potential to be extremely environmentally damaging. Even though prices may be relatively low right now, we are on the plateau of oil production, soon to start a steady decline in production in the next decades. Time to find an alternative.

Monday, May 24, 2010

California Power

CalCars is an organization trying to convert conventional automobiles to plug-in electric vehicles - They have launched a seven year campaign to convert millions of cars in the United States to Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV). New PHEVs will come onto the market in the next several years but CalCars offers immediate conversion (as well as immediate savings on the fuel, money and carbon emissions). Now all we need is to convert our energy generation system so that the electricity to power these vehicles is green as well. Good news, Cape Wind was given the go-ahead in Massachusetts the other week - This might pave the way for future offshore wind power generation station across the country. Now that is offshore power generation we can believe in! Maybe they should name the Cape Wind project "Deepwater Horizons" in honor of the death of the offshore drilling industry in this country.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Stop That Smoke

Like all products, cars only last so long before they start misbehaving. Eventually, engines stop working properly, break lights burn out and tailpipes start smoking. The Smoking Vehicle Assistance Program was started by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to solve the latter problem. Many different things, including incomplete fuel combustion, oil leakage and issues with coolant, can cause a car to start smoking. The program seeks to remove smoking vehicles from the road as they are the cause of significant air pollution and respiratory illness.

Have a smoking vehicle but don't want to junk it? Fear not! The Smoking Vehicle Assistance Program provides repair assistance programs for cars in need with a win-win solution: they will either help you to repair the car or pay you to retire it. Having a healthy, smog-free vehicle will reduce air pollution and keep both you and your car running for longer.

Guest post by: Rob Friedman

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Green Piece

Greenpeace is the kind of organization on the brink of radicalism, but you tend to agree with some of their underlying goals. The organization is throwing its weight against electric cars. Why you ask? As we have discussed many times on this blog, most of the electricity in this country is generated from polluting, non-renewable resources such as coal, oil and nuclear That means that electric cars will, in essence, be powered by those electricity sources. Greenpeace argues that until we have a greener energy supply, electric cars will never be green. Agreed, but does Greenpeace offer an alternative? Not really. I believe the best way to reduce energy use and green our economy is through increased efficiency. It is a relatively easy way to reduce consumption of resources rather than converting our entire fleet of cars and trucks and electrical generation system to use green forms of energy. That is not to say we do not need to change what energy we use as well, but if we want to jump start the greening of our economy, start with increasing efficiency first.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

People's Prius

Toyota has been on the cutting edge of hybrid electric technologies (despite some recent bumps in the road) and will be unveiling a new "people's" plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in 2012 - They are expected to be less expensive than other Toyota models of longer range hybrid electric vehicles. These "people's" cars will have an electric battery range of 13 miles. They will also be able to fully charge in 3 hours, compared to 10 hours for a normal plug-in vehicle. This could speed up the production of plug-in vehicles across the automotive sector if the new Toyota Prius model is successful. This also means that people could be driving cars that do not use gasoline for short distance driving. Power for the car comes from the energy grid (or if your lucky, solar panels on your roof or a wind turbine in your backyard). Now we just have to move away from generating our electricity from coal and our transportation system could be down right green.

Some companies already offer technology to convert existing hybrid electric vehicles to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. If you would like to spend some cash up front to convert your car (about $6,000), you could save yourself some dough in the future, not to mention thousands of pounds of CO2 emissions. Or you could wait until 2012 when you might need a new car anyway and get yourself a fresh "people's" plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Don't be a Pushover

As oil continues to gush into the Gulf of Mexico from the science-fiction-sounding Deepwater Horizons rig, one is left wondering if this is what the future of oil production will be around the globe Easily accessible oil reserves are being rapidly depleted and we are turning to more dangerous and potentially damaging forms of oil production (not to mention that oil is a finite resource). As part of Obama's comprehensive energy solution, he recently announced the intent to expand drilling off our coasts. Does this make sense? I applaud the push to produce more of our energy domestically (I think everyone does) but Obama shouldn't be beholden to conservatives (of both the Republican and Democratic kind) and the corporations which back them to make policy which is not an effective or healthy long-term solution to our energy crisis. By the way, this goes for nuclear energy as well. We cannot afford in monetary or environmental terms the cost of more exploration, production and spilling of oil, especially when the estimated amount off the coasts of the United States are a minute faction of what we use in just one hour of one day. How is this a solution to the problem? The quickest and most effective way to decrease our reliance on foreign energy supplies is to reduce consumption by increasing efficiencies in the short term. Over the long run we must look into alternative fuels such as cellulosic ethanol and algal fuels as well as energy production from wind, solar and geothermal plants. Don't be a pushover Obama, we need you now more than ever.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guide Me

Who new GPS could be so helpful? A study conducted in Germany found that using a GPS unit in your car can increase your mileage by a whopping 12% by avoiding traffic jams and finding the most direct route to your destination That could lead to serious fuel savings over time (not to mention avoiding the annoyance of traffic jams). Saving money, reducing emissions and calming frayed nerves - sign me up.

Earthgarage Moneysaver