Tuesday, March 29, 2011

IDEAS FOR MOMS -- PBS Show that introduces your little ones to nature and the outdoors

"Wild Animal Baby Explorers" -- Check your local PBS station for airing details.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Kids and Nature: Novel Idea

Guess this is one way you could teach your kids about nature ...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What to Do About High Gas Prices

I filled up my car this morning -- $20 more for a full tank since the end of 2010. Considering that we are likely going to see over $4.00/gallon this summer for gasoline, I suspect that the per gallon price won't return to last year's levels even after summer. Higher priced gasoline is here to stay -- partly because of markets and partly because oil production has peaked.

For the future, there are mainly three paths we can take in reducing sticker shock at the pump: higher fuel efficiency, electric, and biofuels (fuels made from plants). It is important to know what each brings to the table and how it affects your pocketbook and the environment because politicians and government agencies are making decisions on where to give tax breaks and incentives based upon public comment, government reports, and lobbyists.

Increasing fuel efficiency of our vehicles through new technologies and, in many cases, downsizing our vehicle size is doable today. This also includes improving fuel efficiency for heavy trucks. Many of the newest consumer vehicles available, some not even hybrid, have significantly increased their fuel efficiency. If you are in the market for a new vehicle, you can go to www.fueleconomy.gov and compare fuel efficiency quite easily. Fuel efficiency, along with safety and durability, should be your main concerns for a new car to protect your family and your budget.

Electric: the automobile industry has taken electric plug-in vehicles by storm, and you will see more and more of these all-electric or hybrid electric plug-ins available for 2012-13 along with smart grid applications and more prolific plug-in charging stations. At www.fueleconomy.gov you can see how the government is breaking down fuel economy for these electric vehicles, based on new electric-fuel formulas. If you can afford the higher price, perhaps through the help of rebates, I highly recommend electric options.

On the biofuel side, what is probably the most confirming evidence of peaked oil is a new, draft report from the Environmental Protection Agency that looks to determine which of all the biofuels would be less harmful to the environment and most efficacious for public consumption (considering greenhouse gases, transportation, fuel efficiency, technologies, etc.) as alternatives to oil. A majority of non-diesel vehicles sold in the U.S. are now E85 (high ethanol fuel) compatible -- also called flex-fuel vehicles -- and can use these biofuels. A list is found here.  Of course, diesel used biofuel as well.

The preliminary biofuels results in this EPA report were by in large not positive. Most of the biofuels have massive amounts of environmental hazards and impacts. Only perennial grass as cellulosic ethanol is listed as the most positive of all choices, yet this type of biofuel (along with algae-based fuel) is probably the farthest from being realized. As this report moves to final draft, we will likely see the corn industry and its industrial suppliers of pesticides and fertilizers ramp up efforts to protect their businesses and their expected corn ethanol boom -- no matter the environmental impact -- lots of PR spin expected. But corn, and other types of biofuels, have substantially negative environmental impact on water pollution, water used, air pollution, soil contamination, and loss of biodiversity.

While biofuels have the potential to reduce our dependence on oil, they cannot be the end-all, be-all of our dependence on oil.  Instead, by combining sustainable electric, higher fuel efficiency, and the least environmentally impactful biofuel technologies we can free ourselves from oil price spikes and reduce greenhouse gases -- and the best part of this three-prong approach is that it is quick to bring to market, while drilling for more hard-to-find oil is not.

For more on clean energy and curbing volatile gas prices, see this NRDC report here.