Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Genuine or Greenwashing: GM's Chevy Volt

General Motors has been relentlessly flogging its Chevrolet Volt "concept car," recently hosting a lavish event at DC's ritzy Georgetown waterfront to promote it.

There's only one problem. The Volt isn't much of a step forward from the EV1 of Who Killed the Electric Car? fame.

And GM's own research and development chief admitted as much, while simultaneously making a vague Giambi-esque admission that GM was, in fact, responsible for the EV1's murder:

According to the March 13, 2007 issue of Newsweek, "GM R&D chief Larry Burns ... now wishes GM hadn't killed the plug-in hybrid EV1 prototype his engineers had on the road a decade ago: 'If we could turn back the hands of time,' says Burns, 'we could have had the Chevy Volt 10 years earlier.
So why resurrect it now? From last week's Detroit News:

Plug-in hybrids will be on center stage in Washington today as the Chevy Volt makes an appearance on Capitol Hill as part of General Motors Corp.'s effort to convince Congress to pass a more palatable fuel efficiency increase.

GM's No. 3 official, Troy Clarke -- head of North American operations -- is returning to the Hill today to meet with a about a dozen mostly undecided lawmakers. He also will show off a GM concept car, the Chevy Volt, in trying to explain why the company believes the long-term answer to energy independence is through biofuels and the electrification of the automobile, rather than spending tens of billions of dollars to meet 4 percent annual corporate average fuel efficiency. (emphasis added)

And there you have it.

A Democratic Congress is rapidly accelerating towards tightening fuel economy standards for the first time in 17 years, and this is GM's way of trying to divert attention. We know we've ignored fuel economy for 17 years, giving you SUVs, ever-larger pickups, and the Hummer along the way. But we don't need regulation! See this Volt? It's proof we've learned the error of our ways!

Don't buy it. The argument, not the car. (You can't buy the car -- it's just a concept that won't be on the market until at least 2010).) GM foolishly passed on the chance to be a pioneer in the electric car sector, with the
explicit endorsement of President Bush:

"As soon as George Bush got elected, the U.S. car companies walked away from the partnership and didn't continue developing hybrids," [Clinton administration Energy Dept. official Joseph] Romm said. "And the Japanese did. As a result, they ended up the leaders."

Now they're trying to suppress tough fuel economy standards by greenwashing themselves with the Volt. But what happens if a Republican president is elected in '08 and the Senate swings a vote or two back to the GOP column?

Who's to say GM wouldn't kill yet another electric car?

(cross-posted from RaisingKaine.com)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Wednesday: Support ACE by Shopping at Whole Foods!

Here's an easy way to support Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment! Just shop at Whole Foods in Clarendon on Wednesday:
Please support Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment at Whole Foods 5% Day on Wednesday August 1. Whole Foods will be donating 5% of net sales to ACE. Shop
all day (store hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.) and help support ACE’s mission to create a more sustainable Arlington County. Whole Foods is located at 2700 Wilson Blvd. in Clarendon.

ACE will be at Whole Foods from 5 to 7 p.m. on August 1 with information about the Green Living Challenge and upcoming events.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Harry Potter Gets Greener

One of my environmental pet peeves? When someone is described as "going green" for taking only a small environmental step, as if installing compact fluorescent bulbs or planting trees or getting 5% of your power from renewable energy makes you The Lorax or something.

So while I don't think the following qualifies Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as green, the National Wildlife Federation points out it's a step in the right direction:

After hearing from outraged citizens across the country when they didn't publish book six of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter on recycled paper, Scholastic has changed its ways! For the first printing of book seven, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows...

* 65 percent of the paper used will have the
Forest Stewardship Council stamp of approval -- meaning it comes from forestlands that are managed in an environmentally responsible way. Certification assures that much of the paper for this book is not harming the birds and other wildlife dependent upon Canada's intact Boreal Forest--a critical shield against global warming.

* 30 percent of the paper will be made out of recycled content -- another big step forward in the book publishing business!

E Magazine breaks down exactly what that means:

This monstrous paper order of 16,700 tons will do a lot more than may initially meet the eye. By switching to 30 percent recycled paper, just the English-language editions of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows alone will save: 197,685 trees, an area 2.5 times the size of New York’s Central Park, or a whole lot of Whomping Willows in Hogwarts terms; 72,074,421 gallons of water, enough to fill 218 Olympic sized pools or make 6.3 trillion batches of Polyjuice Potion; 17,364,063 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, equal to taking 1,577 cars off the road for a year or stopping 8,420 dragon burps; 9,255,366 pounds of solid waste, which is the weight of 4,999 full-grown elephants or 2,364 fully-grown dragons like Norbert; 137,609 million BTUs of electricity, enough energy to power 1,512 homes for a year and equivalent to the energy in 154 million lightning bolts. (Source: Markets Initiative, using the Environmental Defense Paper Calculator.)

You can thank Potter's publisher here. But you should also encourage them to go even further. 100,000 copies of the deluxe edition will be printed on 100 percent recycled paper. Why not every book? And why not print the book using soy-based ink?

Now that would be environmental wizardry. Oh, come on, you didn't think I'd go a whole blog post about Harry Potter without some cheesy magic reference, did you?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fixing Four Mile Run

As reported in the Sun-Gazette, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) recently made this federal funding announcement:

$700,000 for the Four Mile Run project, to enable the Army Corps of Engineers to complete its study of the options to replace the current cement channel with a more natural stream bed. Completion of the study would give Arlington and Alexandria a green light to implement the first phase of the master plan to transform Four Mile Run into a habitat more suitable for wildlife and recreation.
Congressman Moran has been a leading advocate of renovating lower Four Mile Run, following through on the project for years now.

You can see a little history of Four Mile Run's channelization at the Northern Virginia Regional Commission's website. It's worked perfectly from a flood-control standpoint, but much like the Army Corps of Engineers' well-intentioned flood-control efforts on the Mississippi, the channelization had a devastating environmental impact.

But the restoration efforts could lead to the best of both worlds -- flood control and an aesthetically pleasing, environmentally friendly river. Arlington County's website has some tantalizing images of what the restored channel could look like.

Right now, if you live on South Glebe near Four Mile Run, you're essentially living next to a big concrete drain pipe. But once the restoration is complete, you'll be living next to a natural stream. That can only lead to new development and higher property values, so this project isn't just the right environmental move, it's the right economic move.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The World's Shortest Sidewalk

This sidewalk lies on N. Pollard St. near the corner with Wilson Blvd. across from the Ballston Gold's Gym. It's a total of two squares long, one on each side of the driveway.

When I see sidewalks like this, I want to meet their designer. Did they plan for just two squares of sidewalk? Did they plan a whole sidewalk, then run out of money after just two squares? Were they caught in the grips of the Great Concrete Shortage of '96?

The Washington Post documented the phenomenon in a great story back in 2004. A Walk on the Wild Side chronicled the reporter's attempt to walk the length of Route 50, encountering abruptly-ending sidewalks (and worse) all along the way.

What's your nominee for least-pedestrian friendly road in Arlington (or Virginia or DC)?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I Always Wanted to be a Hero, but Thought There'd be More Web-Slinging

As a kid, I always dreamed of being a hero. But it usually involved using my spider-sense to solve crimes. Little did I know I'd be recognized as a real-life Arlington County Community Hero a couple of decades later.

OK, so I've come to realize I'll never run faster than a speeding bullet or be more powerful than a locomotive or be able to leap a tall building in a single bound. But there are parallels between comic book heroes and Arlington's Community Heroes. The community's in trouble. Someone has to step up. Who's willing to step forward and do what it takes to solve the problem?

It's a bigger challenge than you'd think. What if you fail? What if you try to rally everyone to a cause and no one shows up?

Fortunately, my parents instilled several values in me that have given me confidence:

There are three rules that I live by: Never get less than twelve hours sleep; never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city; and never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese.

No, wait ... that was Coach Finstock's advice in Teen Wolf. My parents' advice was:

1) Listen to good advice, but don't be afraid to do what you think is right.
2) No idea is dumb or too unconventional if you're willing to do the work to see it through.
3) Whether you succeed or fail doesn't change the fact that you're a good person.
Fortunately I've been lucky enough to find mentors here in Arlington whose mindset is closer to my parents than Coach Finstock, like Elenor Hodges with Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment and Greg Castano with Community Role Models.

The best advice on leadership I've heard lately? A quote from Colin Powell:

Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ask The Green Miles: Beavers in Ballston?

This Saturday (July 28) at 5pm, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment and Community Role Models will co-host the Ballston Beaver Pond Cleanup!

Most Ballston residents don't even know the pond exists. It's right next to the Fairfax Drive I66 on-ramp. You can see 66 in the background of this picture ... and in the foreground, trash floating in the pond.

Most cleanups are limited to just picking up trash on the water's edge, but we're going all-out for this one. ACE has arranged for two boats and skimmers, so some intrepid volunteers will be able to get out in the water to get every bit of trash in the pond.

Once the cleanup is over, we'll head over to Bailey's in the Ballston Common Mall. Always a friend of volunteer groups, Bailey's is providing us with free appetizers. Even if you can't make the cleanup, please join us at Bailey's! We should be there around 7pm.

Sign up here! Here's a question from a volunteer:

Are there really beavers in this pond??

I went to Elenor of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment for the answer:

Good question. Not right now but there definitely have been off and on over the last few years. They tend to be transient, I guess like other residents of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

It is a good wildlife spot with lots of birds. In general, a nice little oasis in the midst of I-66/Ballston high rises.

If you have an environmental question, Ask The Green Miles!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Week of Bad News for Region's Water

Just about every day for the last week, the Washington Post has had a story about a threat to our region's water -- both in streams and in taps. The most worrisome report concerned levels of chlorine pollutants in DC's drinking water:

Toxic chlorine pollutants were found at unsafe levels in 40 percent of D.C. tap water samples tested this spring during the water utility's annual chlorine surge, according to a national environmental group's report to be released today.

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group conducted tests at 18 sites -- including private homes, an elementary school, the U.S. Capitol and the Environmental Protection Agency -- to measure the levels of chlorine toxins that could cause cancer, reproductive problems and developmental delays in children. In 90 percent of the samples, the tests found another class of chlorine toxin at levels that some epidemiological studies have associated with low birth weight and serious birth defects.

The findings suggest that the chemicals needed to help make Potomac River water potable could be creating a different risk to consumers. Chlorine is used to kill disease-causing microbes. Heavy use results in chemical compounds, called disinfection byproducts, that are formed when organic matter in the river water reacts with the chlorine.
You can read the full Environmental Working Group report here.

Also this week:

* A Smithsonian Institution researcher discovered an invasive species of Asian crab in the Chesapeake Bay.

* A joint study between the U.S. government and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation found ethanol production could damage the bay. How? More corn-based ethanol means more demand for corn, which means more farmers growing corn. It's yet another reason we should be looking at next-generation cellulosic or biomass ethanol instead of corn-based ethanol.

* Also from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a report discussing the impacts rising sea levels could have on the bay. The most disturbing passage:

[Smith Island minister Rick Edmund] said residents are hoping Congress will approve a $9.4 million plan, proposed by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), to build artificial breakwaters offshore.

But Edmund said island residents know that their problems will probably get worse.

"Climate change," he said in a telephone interview yesterday, "will get us in the long run."
* The final piece of news could be taken one of two ways. You could see it as, "The Potomac River is safe to swim in on some days!" Or you could see it as, "After all these years, on a lot of days the Potomac still isn't safe to swim in."

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Genuine or Greenwashing: Green.Yahoo.com

I was first introduced to the term "greenwashing" at the 2007 Step It Up Rally in Arlington while talking to Wendy Rieger of The Green Room blog about Vanity Fair's Green Issue.

"Do you think they really care about the environment," Wendy asked, "or is it just another example of
greenwashing -- companies pretending to be green to move product?"

It's a terribly hard question to answer. Are companies just doing the best they can? If so, can you blame them?

I faced that dilemma last month when Yahoo launched
Green.Yahoo.com. I got emails from several friends and even Yahoo itself asking me to help spread the word.

But the greenwashing question nagged at me.

Maybe it was the Ford ads displayed prominently on the page. Not one. Two. In fact, every page on the site has a Ford ad on it.

Granted, the ads were touting the Ford Escape Hybrid SUV. But the Ford Escape averages around 33 miles per gallon -- the same as my 1999 Saturn SL2 sedan, which isn't even a hybrid. (The failure of U.S. automakers to develop fuel-efficient vehicles deserves its own post another day, but we'll stick to greenwashing here.) The site also launched with a contest to give away Ford Escape Hybrid SUV taxis.

The Yahoo Green site links to the Yahoo Autos
Top 100 Green Cars page. The rankings somehow have the 2007 Volkswagen New Beetle, which gets an appalling 23 miles per gallon city, as the #25 most green car with no additional explanation.

The more I looked at the site, touting compact fluorescent light bulbs, composting, and other very nice things, I started to wonder ... where was talk about carbon emissions?

Nowhere on the site can I find any mention of the
need to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050 to limit the effects of global warming.

There's no mention of the Yahoo Green page anywhere on Yahoo's front page.

The more I looked at the site, the more I wondered. Was it designed to promote environmentalism? Or to sell Ford Hybrid SUVs?

The bottom line -- buying green involves the same principles as any other kind of smart shopping. Don't take claims at face value. Ask tough questions. Do your research.

Got a suggestion for Genuine or Greenwashing? Let me know!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ask The Green Miles: Paper Towel or Hand Dryer?

From blogger buddy Eric:
Which is better – drying your hands with paper towels, or using the electric dryer – assuming that is, that I’m wearing nice pants that I don’t want to use …
The short answer: Don't sweat the small stuff. And if you do, don't worry too much about exactly how you dry that sweat off.

Grist's Ask Umbra says it's pretty much a wash (no pun intended):

[I]t doesn't matter very much whether you use the blow dryer or the paper towel. The impact of how you dry your hands is so small that you'd be far better off spending your time and energy on more important issues, and those where the environmental payoff is clearer -- such as converting the lighting in all those public restrooms to energy-efficient light fixtures (or convincing the powers that be to do the converting).
Pablo Paster tries to take a crack at the issue from a greenhouse gas perspective, and finds paper towels may be slightly better, but not significantly.

Personally, I prefer the paper towel from a hygiene perspective. I dry my hands with the paper towel, then use it to open the door. MrsGreenThumb has some interesting tidbits about germ conventional wisdom - what's true and what's myth.

So on this one, you have The Green Miles' blessing to do whatever you'd like, guilt-free. If you like the hand dryer, use that. If you prefer paper towels, go for it. Just remember that they come from trees, so only take what you need.

The other choices that surround you will have a much greater environmental impact. Is the building you're in a green building? Do you drive or take public transportation? Do your members of Congress know you want them to sponsor legislation to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of global warming?

Got a question for The Green Miles? Ask it here!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Putting the "Conserve" Back in "Conservativism"

Last week I worried that the Florida Summit on Climate Change might be more hot air than real action. Turns out that action was
clear and decisive:
The silver-haired governor of Florida stood arm-in-arm Friday with the silver-screen governor of California, joked about being recast in Twins, and then -- as the cameras rolled -- signed a groundbreaking set of environmental protection orders.

Gov. Charlie Crist described the mandates as a framework for a new, more future-friendly way of living and conducting business in Florida.

''State government is leading by example,'' he said. ``It is the right thing to do.''

It also is a popular thing to do. Symbolizing the new star power of environmentalism, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger joined Crist at the signing ceremony after delivering a variation of his trademark line: "'We have to say `Hasta la vista, baby' to greenhouse gases.''

Among the components of Crist's plan, long on goals though short on specifics: Tough new pollution standards for automobiles; a strong regulatory push for solar and wind energy; state vehicles powered by biofuel -- all contributing to sharply reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 2017, with deeper cuts by 2025 and even more by 2050.
Word of the executive orders leaked out in the days leading up to the conference, so the summit's tone went from "what will Crist do" to "Crist has acted, now what will DC do?" Considering Republicans are stonewalling action in Congress and President Bush is threatening to veto every positive piece of energy/environment legislation that comes within 100 yards of his desk, it was really amazing to see two Republican governors taking the lead on state global warming action.

But as Gov. Schwarzenegger said, our best conservationist president was Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican. Some how the "conserve" in "conservativism" got switched from preserving nature to preserving the profits of fossil fuel providers.

Is your member of Congress a cosponsor of legislation to fight global warming? Find out here!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Yes, Averting a Climate Crisis Will Cost Money. How Much More Will Inaction Cost?

From "Louisiana’s Wetlands: A Lesson in Nature Appreciation," by John Tibbetts:
From 2000 through 2003, the Corps of Engineers and the state of Louisiana collaborated on a feasibility study for a $17-billion coastal restoration plan lasting 30 years. Yet this study, based on Coast 2050, also seemed far too expensive at the time. “It never went up to Congress because it exceeded what potentially could be funded,” says [US Geological Survey wetlands scientist Greg] Steyer. “We were asked to focus it on more of the near term, over ten years, addressing what are the critical projects that could be done.”
From today's Washington Post article on climate change legislation:
"I sincerely doubt that the American people are willing to pay what this is really going to cost them," John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a recent C-SPAN interview.
People often ask me, "If the science on global warming is really so solid and the problem is really so menacing, wouldn't our government have taken action by now?" My answer is that we ignore critical threats all the time.

Mike Tidwell published his book, "Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast," a full two and a half years before Hurricane Katrina hit. We knew New Orleans would be destroyed, yet as Steyer's above quote indicates, we decided not to spend the money to protect it.

We wouldn't spend $17 billion to restore Lousiana's wetlands to soften the blow of incoming hurricanes. Yet if Louisiana's wetlands and barrier islands had stood at their original (pre-Army Corps of Engineers-induced erosion) levels, it could've cut five to nine feet off Katrina's storm surge. Instead, we're paying $200 million to rebuild the Gulf Coast.

If we won't pay for renewable energy or carbon-cutting technologies, how much more will we have to pay to mitigate the effects of global warming?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Arlington Hybrid Taxi Proposal Moves Forward, Will County Board Support It?

Excellent news from the Washington Post (via What's Up Arlington's News You Care About):

The streets of Arlington County could get a little greener if a new taxi company offering fuel-efficient, low-emission hybrid cabs wins approval to operate in the county.

The Arlington Transportation Commission gave its approval to enviroCAB last week at the panel's annual taxi meeting and recommended that the company be allowed to operate 35 cabs in the county.

The company must now seek approval from the County Board, which could have a public hearing on the proposal as soon as September.
It's great to hear the Transportation Commission approved enviroCAB's request. Please email Richard Hartman, a transportation planner with the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services, to thank the commissioners for their decision.

However, this part of the article raised The People's Eyebrow:

County Board Chairman Paul Ferguson (D) said he supports the concept but said the board also wants to factor in the other cab companies when making its decision.

"I think there's a good possibility the board would approve it," Ferguson said. "The only real concern is just fairness to the other cab companies. I think it's a good concept and something that I
hope will succeed."
Granted, this is only a snippet of what could've been a longer interview. And granted, I'm sure Paul is just trying to be pragmatic.

But ... this is our region's leading environmental elected official talking? All we get is tepid endorsement? Why isn't Ferguson saying, "We should not only approve this, but let the word go forth from this time and place that anyone else applying for a cab permit in Arlington better make it a hybrid (or pure electric) or you have no shot of getting approved"?

As you can probably tell, it tends to drive The Green Miles a little crazy that here in a county where the vast majority of voters are Democrats and so many citizens are ardent environmentalists, our elected officials are often so overly cautious on environmental issues.

Why wouldn't both Arlington County and the taxi drivers want all of their cabs to be hybrids? Isn't stop-and-go cab driving exactly the kind of driving that maximizes the efficiency of a hybrid's regenerative braking? Wouldn't drivers want to cut their fuel costs in half? Wouldn't the county want to slash emissions from cabs? Considering Arlington County taxi riders are paying more for cab rides to help cover fuel costs, I would hope County Board members would ask companies like Red Top Cab these very questions.

Please email the County Board right now to let them know every single new taxi in Arlington should be a hybrid!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Florida Governor's Climate Change Summit: Real Action or Hot Air?

It's Tuesday night at 7:27pm and I'm sitting in National Airport waiting for my 5:40pm flight, which has been delayed until 10pm. A laptop and wireless internet is making the wait bearable, but if they cancel this puppy at 9:30pm, I'm gonna be pissed.

I guess it could be worse. See the depressed-looking guy across from me? I overheard him say he'd been trapped in the laptop pen since 2pm. Ouch.

I'm heading down to Miami for Governor Charlie Crist's Summit on Climate Change. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will also be there, along with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Theodore Roosevelt IV.

Surprising that two Republican governors would get together for a climate change summit, huh? But Florida and California are two of the states most at risk to be impacted by global warming. Florida could be devastated by rising seas and stronger hurricanes, while California's already-bad problems with floods, droughts, and wildfires could get even worse.

Will Crist and Schwarzenegger commit to take concrete steps towards addressing global warming? I don't get the impression that they'd put on this whole summit before the eyes of the environmental world just to talk. I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Live Earth Odds & Ends: Perplexing Pledge, Supermodel's Slip, and John Mayer's New 'Do

A few leftover notes from Live Earth ...

* The pledge thing is still confusing me. If you go to LiveEarthPledge.org, you'll find a six-point pledge. But if you go down below the last point and click "CLICK HERE to read the Live Earth Pledge," you'll find a seven-point pledge that's completely different from the six points on LiveEarthPledge.org.

* The only athlete who appeared was NFL linebacker Dhani Jones, who has filmed some public service videos talking about the climate crisis. Coincidentally enough, Jones recently signed as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints, whose Superdome home was severly damaged by a global warming-fueled hurricane.

* Supermodel Petra Nemcova related her experience
surviving the Asian tsunami to the climate crisis, saying the tsunami showed we must respect nature's power. Then she inadvertantly introduced the next act as, and I am not making this up, "Ludachristmas."

* You can see photo galleries and videos from the shows at the Live Earth website. You can also see fan photos on Flickr.

* Read National Wildlife President Larry Schweiger's review of the event and his train ride up with Al and Tipper Gore at Larry's blog (yes, he's my boss, but I thought his first-person account was pretty cool).

* The most comprehensive article about the event I've seen so far came from the Washington Post's J. Freedom du Lac and Joshua Zumbrun.

* You know John Mayer isn't as hard a rocker as he'd like to be when he hits the stage and the first thing a girl behind me says is, "Awww ... he cut his hair!"

Monday, July 9, 2007

Live Earth Review: Even Better Than Expected

Just got back from Live Earth in New Jersey, and it definitely exceeded expectations. It was worth the price of admission just to able to cross "see Bon Jovi do 'Livin' on a Prayer' at Giants Stadium" off my "things to do before I die" list.

It was a fantastic show, from KT Tunstall at 2:30pm all the way to The Police at 10:30pm. The Dave Matthews Band's performance was probably the best of the show, with Ludacris and The Smashing Pumpkins also impressing. After some great high-energy performances, it was a little awkward to have the last two acts (Roger Waters and The Police) average around 60 years old.

And no, The Police don't rock as hard as they used to, but Andy Summers is 65, how much can you expect? It wasn't until Kanye West and John Mayer came out to join them on "Message in a Bottle" that their set really peaked.

From an environmental perspective, here are three things I liked about the show and three things that could've been better:

- Concerns about the show's environmental impact were addressed. There were three waste bins behind every section -- recycling (for bottles), compost (for cups, napkins, and anything else biodegradable), and trash (for everything else). Food was served in paper or cardboard containers, and drinks and utensils were Greenware, made from corn. Shuttle buses were provided from New York City to the site.

- Whoever booked and produced the show should be immediately hired by the UN to solve the climate crisis.
There wasn't a single weak link in the acts or in the speakers. Thanks to a rotating stage that slashed the time between acts to just a few minutes, well-timed speakers, and highlights from other shows on other continents, there were only a couple of very brief breaks in the action for the entire eight hour show.

- This was not preaching to the choir.
I heard criticism on NPR on the drive up that An Inconvenient Truth only reached those who were already true believers. The crowd certainly contained its share of damn dirty hippies, but it was mostly just pop music fans. When the Garden State's own Bon Jovi hit the stage to one of the loudest ovation's I've ever heard anywhere, I turned to The Green Girlfriend and said, "If you're from Jersey, this isn't Live Earth, this is a Bon Jovi concert." Impossible to say how many (if any) converts were won, but a new audience was definitely reached.

- Muddy messaging. The seven point pledge Al Gore outlined from the stage wasn't mentioned until halfway through the show, and I didn't see it in writing anywhere in the arena. I managed to find the pledge on the Live Earth website, but I had to click three links to get it. There were green tips posted on banners hung on the concourses around Giants Stadium, but they were hung so high, The Green Girlfriend didn't know they'd been there until I mentioned them on the drive home.

- Organic useless crap is still useless crap.
Like at any music festival, there were tons of companies giving away free junk, but they tried to pass it off as OK because it was organic or made from recycled materials or whatever. We turned down most of it, but at least the Phillips necklace/ticket-holder had a card inside touting the virtues of compact fluorescent light bulbs.

- Big Oil loudly buzzing the stadium. Want to piss off 50,000 music fans? Fly a small plane over the stadium during the live acts trailing a banner to promote your front website attacking Al Gore. I won't give the link here because it doesn't deserve any accidental clicks, but I will tell you an enterprising blogger has found who it's registered to, and I know you'll be shocked to hear the owner has Fox News ties and has relied heavily on Big Oil for funding.

Friday, July 6, 2007

On Eve of Live Earth, Big Oil and GM Still Attacking Gore

The Green Miles will be packing up the Purple Car tomorrow and driving up to New Jersey for the Live Earth climate change awareness concert. I'll get a review posted here next week!

Amazingly, just days before the concert, a front group with ties to General Motors and major funding from Big Oil was still attacking Gore and his beliefs.

James M. Taylor's op-ed appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, primary employer of that paragon of journalism, Robert Novak. It accuses Gore of citing disproven theories in his recent book, "The Assault on Reason."

Taylor is listed as "a senior fellow for environment policy at the Heartland Institute." It's immediately apparent that Taylor brings no substance to the table -- only a prodigal talent in a favorite conservative tactic, trying to establish a flaw in one of Gore's supporting anecdotes and claiming that one flaw invalidates the entire book. The column is a 681-word "yeah, but ...."

One of Taylor's claims in particular set of my BS alarm:

Gore claims global warming is causing an expansion of African deserts. However, the Sept. 16, 2002, issue of New Scientist reports, "Africa's deserts are in 'spectacular' retreat . . . making farming viable again in what were some of the most arid parts of Africa."
A quick Google search revealed "New Scientist" magazine is not a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Even its own editor admits "New Scientist" is "an ideas magazine - that means writing about hypotheses as well as theories." Not exactly dripping with credibility.

On the other hand, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says climate change is drying up Africa's farmland, triggering war as groups compete for disappearing resources. And a blue-ribbon panel of 11 of the most senior retired U.S. admirals and generals, not exactly bleeding-heart liberals, says climate change threatens our own national security.

Now to the Heartland Institute. Its SourceWatch page is a veritable who's who of people and companies who profit by denying climate change and trying to keep America addicted to oil.

Just to name a few:

- Walter F. Buchholtz, an ExxonMobil executive, serves as Heartland's Government Relations Advisor
- James L. Johnston, Amoco Corporation (retired), member of Heartland's board of directors
- Thomas Walton, an executive of General Motors Corporation, member of Heartland's board of directors
It's not just leadership that Big Oil contributes to Heartland. According to ExxonSecrets.org, the Heartland Institute has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from ExxonMobil corporate and the ExxonMobil Foundation in just the last decade.

The science behind global warming is sound and solid. The planet is warming, greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are to blame, and we must cut carbon emissions at least 80% by 2050 at the latest to curb warming's worst effects.

To get the truth, read RealClimate.org. And to learn how to refute climate change deniers like Taylor, read Grist's "How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic."

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Green Miles Turns One

The Green Miles is celebrating its first birthday! As you can see by this picture, Miles (Green or otherwise) has always known how to enjoy a first birthday, preferably by demolishing a chocolate cake.

OK, so it's a belated birthday party. June 15, 2006 was actually my first post. But I've been so busy in my new job with the National Wildlife Federation, I didn't realize it had come and gone.

There were only eight posts in the blog's first two months, but I was unemployed for August 2006 and had some time to think about where I wanted The Green Miles to go. I did seven posts in August 2006, and kept that pace for the rest of the year, writing eight in September, six in October, six in November, and ten in December.

Then in January, I started getting serious about updating the blog every weekday. My friend Eric from What's Up Arlington and I started trading tips about how to improve our blogging and serve our readers better. Looking back, the blog's quality slowly started improving, and readership went up as a result, from about 700 readers in January to about 2,000 a month since then, with a spike of 3,700 in April thanks to links from Wonkette and AMERICAblog.

Want to get The Green Miles a birthday present? Here's the wish list:

- Donate now to Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment through the SixDegrees.org link on the right side of the page. Just a $20 donation will get you a one year ACE membership!

- Bookmark this blog right now and read it whenever you're looking to kill time at work. I try to have it updated by 9am every day. You'll be entertained, I'll be happy someone's reading -- everyone's a winner.

- Leave a comment on any blog post you agree with. Most of my readers are a silent majority -- they like what I have to say, but don't vocalize it. The few who have a bone to pick comment, then comment on comments. So if you think there's a positive message here, say so.
Any ideas on how to improve the blog over the next year? Let me know!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Brief Guide to Red, White, Blue and Green Fourth

Hopefully you have a short day at work today, hence less time to goof off and read this blog, so I'll keep the tips short:

* Are public fireworks displays bad for the environment? Yes. They contain toxic chemicals that pollute the air and nearby bodies of water, and the spent shells can scatter litter over a huge radius. Disney is taking the first steps towards environmentally friendly fireworks, but there's a long way to go. Obviously backyard fireworks have less impact because they're smaller, but let's be honest -- the chances of anything you buy by the side of the road being green are slim.

* If you're hosting a BBQ, make it a green BBQ. Can I address just the guys for a minute here? Girls, just skip on down to the next bullet. OK, guys, this could be the easiest way to impress the girls by making it seem like you planned a theme to your BBQ. All you have to do is buy organic stuff at the grocery store and use your regular dishes where possible instead of paper plates and plastic cups. And I am not making this up -- if you use pint glasses with them instead of plastic cups, kegs are environmentally friendly.

* Recycle no matter where you are. If you're going somewhere to picnic and watch the fireworks, I'm guessing there won't be recycling bins nearby. I'm always amazed that people who are religious recyclers at home will toss plastic water bottles in the trash without a second thought when they're out and about. I think it's kind of like how since they don't list calories at restaurants, everyone gorges themselves way more than they would at home. If you can, bring your empty bottles home to recycle.

* Press your politicians while they're pressing the flesh. If you see any politicians trying to win votes in your local Independence Day parade, ask them what they're doing to preserve our country's future by stopping global warming. The more people ask, the more pressure they'll feel.

Any other green tips for the Fourth? Post them in the comments!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Green Alert: Tell Arlington You Want More Hybrid Taxis

Tonight the Arlington County Transportation Commission will hold its annual taxi meeting. It holds special importance for Arlington's environment this year. According to the Examiner, a new company wants to bring dozens of hybrid cabs to Arlington:
Hans Hess, founder of the health-conscious Elevation Burger in Falls Church, is setting his sights on clean air. Hess is now the owner of Envirocab, which aims to be the world’s first carbon-negative taxicab fleet, operating in Arlington.


Envirocab is seeking approval from the county to operate a 100-cab fleet in Arlington, made up of Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrid vehicles.


Under law, Envirocab would be required to charge the same fees as other cabs in Arlington, Hess said. The cars used would cost more initially but would be cheaper to operate because of lower fuel costs, he said.

Envirocab’s fleet could potentially offset as much as 60 percent of the emissions produced by Arlington taxis, according to Hess. He said Arlington’s Fresh AIRE initiative, which works with county residents and businesses to cut emissions, inspired him.
The article doesn't explain how the company would be carbon negative, and I think the reporter uses the word "offset" when she means "reduce" in the last paragraph.

The Sun Gazette recently reported Arlington's main taxi company, Red Top Cab, plans to introduce hybrids ... but only five of them in a fleet of 300:
“The urban setting in Arlington is an ideal environment for hybrid/electric taxicabs,” Red Top's Charlie King said in a statement. “The dense traffic conditions prevalent in Northern Virginia result
in vehicles idling for extended periods of time. This is where the hybrid shines.”

King said that Ford Escapes currently are employed as taxis in New York, San Francisco and Chicago, and average 36 mpg in city driving conditions. In comparison, the Ford Crown Victoria - the mainstay of most taxi fleets - averages 16 or 17 mpg in city driving.
Email Richard Hartman right now! He's a Transportation Planner with the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services and the best person to send your comments for the Transportation Commission. Let the county know you want to see Arlington add as many hybrids as possible! If Red Top won't take the lead, then the Commission should support the addition of Envirocab.