6 U.S. Clean Air Act Milestones

(ref: Environmental Protection Agency, epa.gov )

Everything is ConnectedThe Clean Air Act is making the news due to a proposed amendment by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant. This would effectively block President Barack Obama and the EPA from holding the nation’s biggest polluters accountable for the carbon dioxide they produce and a major step backwards in addressing climate change.

Current legal authority for federal programs and particularly the Environmental Protection Agency regarding air pollution control is based on the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments which is usually referred to as the Clean Air Act of 1990. This legislation modified and extended federal legal authority provided by the earlier Clean Air Acts of 1963 and 1970. The EPA describes the following milestones in the evolution of the Clean Air Act as it exists today. Continue reading

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10 Photos Showing Evidence of Climate Change on Alaskan Glaciers

(ref: US Geological Survey usgs.gov)

Here are some comparative photos from the US Geological Survey showing evidence of climate change on glaciers in Alaska. Most startling are the photos of Bear Glacier showing the change over just a 5 year period from 2002 to 2007.  You can view the USGS report at http://www.usgs.gov/global_change/glaciers

1. Muir Inlet, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska (1941 – 2004)

Muir Inlet, 1941

Photo: William O. Field

Muir Inlet, 2004

Photo: Bruce F. Molnia

Continue reading

6 Unusual Alternative Energy Sources

(ref: Uncle John’s Certified Organic Bathroom Reader, pg. 73)

Desperate times can call for desperate measures and our need to find new ways to meet the demands of our insatiable energy appetite has resulted in some unusual (to say the least) ideas.

  1. Tornadoes — Canadian engineer Louis Micahaud has patented a "vortex engine". The plan (on paper anyway) involves creating essentially a controlled tornado 650 ft in diameter and between 1 to 12 miles high. It could power up to 200,000 homes.
  2. Beer — Since 2005, California brewer Sierra Nevada has been powering its brewery on a mixture of natural gas and methane (which is a by-product from the water-treatment process that the brewery uses).
  3. Miniature nuclear power generators — Hyperion Power Generation markets a nuclear reactor about the size of a hot tub. Designed to be buried underground, Hyperion claims that it can fuel 20,000 homes for up to a decade.
  4. Lasers — To get around the problem of solar cells not being very useful when the sun isn’t available (e.g. at night), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Osaka University are planning to build solar collectors 22,000 miles above the Earth and use lasers to beam the energy back to surface stations. The hope is to deploy these by 2030.
  5. Trees — In 2006, MIT scientists discovered that there’s a slight pH imbalance between a tree and its surrounding soil which can cause a small amount of electricity to be generated. A company called Voltree is planning to use this as a potential energy source.
  6. Japanese commuters — In 2008, the East Japan Railway Corporation tested a power-generating floor at the ticket gates in Tokyo train stations. Basically, the floor contains discs made of piezoelectric material that converts vibrations into electricity. Apparently, through the millions of people who walk through the station each day, enough energy is generated to power the computer displays and ticket machines at the stations.

Learn lots of other stuff you didn’t even realize you needed to know in Uncle John’s Certified Organic Bathroom Reader.

9 Ways That A Hybrid Car Can Make Economic Sense

(ref: Green America’s RealGreen Newsletter, Spring 2009 www.coopamerica.org)

"A lot of people get sticker shock when they look at the price of a new hybrid… the added expense won’t pay itself back very quickly on fuel savings alone… But this quick analysis misses a number of hybrids’ other economic benefits." — Bryan Palmintier, "Rethinking the Cost of Hybrid Cars", blog post.

  1. Federal Incentives — New hybrids may entitle their owners to federal tax credits ranging from $250 to $3,400. Check out http://www.irs.gov for more info.
  2. State and City Incentives and Perks — Some states offer incentives for hybrid drivers, including tax credits and ability to drive solo in "HOV" (high-occupancy vehicle ‘diamond’) highway lanes and even free or discounted parking privileges.
  3. Employer Incentives and Perks — A growing number of employers are encouraging their workers to commute in hybrid vehicles… [offering up to] $5,000 for purchasing or leasing a hybrid. See www.hybridcenter.org for a list of companies offering incentives.
  4. Loan Discounts — Many banks, especially credit unions, offer preferential loan rates for hybrid cars.
  5. Insurance Discounts — Farmers, Geico, and Travelers are among insurance companies offering discounted insurance rate to hybrid drivers in some states.
  6. Repair Costs and Brakes — Technology that a hybrid uses to recoup energy during braking can actually result in that hybrid car’s brake pads lasting three times longer than a conventional car.
  7. Resale Value — Hybrid car owners have been delighted to find that their cars have held their value better than non-hybrid versions of the same model. In California, only a limited number of "Clean Air HOV" stickers were made available. Those are transferable when the car is sold adding to the car’s resale value.
  8. Gas Savings — Even if gas prices have dropped temporarily, they will be going up again as we continue to reach the limits of our world’s oil supply.
  9. Benefits Beyond Money — Don’t you feel better driving a more fuel efficient car for those times you need to drive a car? (Along with other things you are hopefully doing to lower your carbon footprint on the planet)

Become a member of Green America and learn ways to live healthier, save more, invest wisely, and make a difference. Reach and Teach is proud to be a Green America certified green business.

7 Fascinating Ways We Know What We Know About Climate Change

(ref: How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate by Lynn Cherry and Gary Braasch)

One of the particularly exciting ways in which we are able to understand the very real effects of climate change on the Earth is through collaborative research involving students of all ages around the world collecting, sharing, and analyzing data alongside scientists. The Internet is making it possible as never before for these citizen scientists to share observations taken in their own backyard with thousands of others doing the same measurements in different global locations. Here are just a few ongoing projects that you can easily get to and even join on the Web.

  1. Thousand Eyes Project – From 1900 to 1923, Dr. Alexander MacKay set up a program in Nova Scotia for students and teachers to observe and record certain natural history events such as plants flowering, birds returning from wintering grounds, frogs peeping, and weather events over time. This data has now been placed on the Internet and the project continues today.
  2. Bird Sleuth – Students in 4th through 8th grade can engage in scientific study and real data collection through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s exciting citizen science projects. Data observed and collected is sent directly to research scientists at Cornell.
  3. Project Budburst – Changes in when flowers bloom gives clues about our changing climate. Project BudBurst engages thousands of people across the United States in making careful observations of first leafing, first flower, and first fruit ripening of a diversity of trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses in their local area.
  4. Journey North – Migration patterns of monarch butterflies, hummingbirds, whales, and other creatures are collected and tracked from citizen scientists across North America.
  5. Frogwatch USA and Frogwatch Canada – Around 1,400 volunteers monitor nearly 2,000 sites observing over 79 species of frogs and toads.
  6. Bonanza Creek Schoolyard Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) – A project in Fairbanks, Alaska where students extract tree cores and examine the tree rings to see how boreal forests are responding to climate change.
  7. Student Partners Project – Unites students, teachers, and scientists in creating opportunities to experience the life of a polar scientist while doing real research.

How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate shows the science behind the headlines – evidence from flowers, butterflies, birds, frogs, trees, glaciers and much more, gathered by scientists from all over the world, sometimes with assistance from young “citizen-scientists.” And here is what young people, and their families and teachers, can do to learn about climate change and take action. Climate change is a critical and timely topic of deep concern, here told in an age-appropriate manner, with clarity and hope. Kids can make a difference!

20 Green Jobs (and what they pay in California)

(ref: Green Jobs Guidebook, www.edf.org/cagreenjobs)

Here’s a partial list of jobs that can help save our planet while providing opportunities for career growth even in a struggling economy.

  1. Solar Lab Technician — Performs a variety of tests on solar devices, examines test samples and reads blueprints, diagrams, instruments and operational instructions. Salary: $19-$25/hr. Minimum education: Associate’s degree in a related field.
  2. Solar Energy Engineer — Perform site-specific engineering analysis and evaluation of energy efficiency utilizing building simulation software. Salary: $75K – $80K. Minimum education: Bachelor’s Electrical Engineering.
  3. Wind Turbine Sheet Metal Worker — Perform all operations necessary to make, install, and repair a wide variety of sheet-metal products related to wind turbine production. Salary: $14-$22/hr. Minimum education: Apprenticeship or Trade School.
  4. Wind Turbine Mechanical Engineer — Responsible for design, development, testing of all aspects of mechanical components, equipment, and machinery. Salary: $90K+. Minimum education: Bachelor’s Mechanical Engineering.
  5. Biologist – Marine/Fisheries — Plan and conduct evaluations of factors affecting California’s fish populations and provide oversight of fisheries monitoring programs. Salary: $25-$32/hr. Minimum education: Bachelor’s in Biology
  6. Environmental Health and Safety Lead — Ensure compliance of plant operations with federal and state requirements relating to air emissions, solid waste, hazardous waste, waste water treatment, and chemical management. Salary: $81K-$96K/yr. Minimum education: Master’s or equivalent in Environmental Science, Environmental Management, Environmental Engineering, Chemistry or Biology.
  7. Soil Conservation Technician — Provides technical assistance to land users in planning and applying soil and water conservation practices. Salary: $16-$24/hr. Minimum education: Bachelor’s in a related field.
  8. Forestry Conservation Worker — Perform manual labor necessary to develop, maintain, or protect forest, forested areas, and woodlands, and build erosion and water control structures and leaching for forest soil. Salary: $15-$22/hr. Minimum education: HS or GED.
  9. Forestry Restoration Planner — Collaborate with field and biology staff to oversee the implementation of restoration projects and to develop new projects. Salary: $73K-$84K/yr. Minimum education: Master’s in Ecology, Biology, Environmental Science or other related areas.
  10. Energy Conservation Representative — Inspects homes of utility customers to identify conditions that cause energy waste and suggests actions. Salary: $20-$32/hr. Minimum education: HS or GED.
  11. Energy Efficiency Finance Manager — Project-manages energy efficiency projects and policies and conducts relevant market analysis and research. Salary: $90K/yr. Minimum education: Bachelor’s in accounting, finance, business administration.
  12. Civil Engineer — Deals with overall design, construction, and maintenance of green buildings. Salary: $73K-$84K/yr. Minimum education: Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering.
  13. Commercial Green Building and Retrofit Architect — Participate in all phases of design for commercial and educational buildings. Salary: $90K-$107K/yr. Minimum education: Bachelor’s in Architecture.
  14. Commercial Energy Field Auditor — Conducts energy audits in commercial businesses and identify areas of improvement. Salary: $12-$14/hr. Minimum education: Associate’s degree in Building Materials, Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, Energy Management.
  15. Train System Operator — Work as a train conductor or train system engineer. Salary: $20-$24/hr. Minimum education: HS diploma or GED.
  16. Climatologist — Conducts climate change research and data analysis. Salary: $65K-$85K. Minimum education: Bachelor’s in scientific or engineering discipline.
  17. Environmental Scientist — Conducts research to identify and abate/eliminate sources of pollutants that affect people, wildlife, and their environments. Salary: $65K-$85K. Minimum education: Bachelor’s in scientific or engineering disciplines.
  18. Recycling Center Operator — Performs daily operations at a Recycling Center, including materials processing and customer service. Salary: $11-$18/hr. Minimum education: none.
  19. Environmental Technician — Develops methods and devices used in the prevention, control and correction of environmental hazards. Salary: $40K-$53K/yr. Minimum education: Associate’s degree in Engineering.
  20. Geothermal Operations Engineer — Collect and process information on geothermal field and plant performance and diagnose problems with geothermal wells. Salary: $70K-$80K/yr. Minimum education: Bachelor’s in Engineering.

You can read more about these and other Green Jobs by visiting the Environmental Defense Fund website at http://www.edf.org

Also try checking out 35 Colleges with a Strong Concern for Social Justice and Service-Learning.

5 Reasons Not To Drink Bottled Water

(ref: http://chrisbaskind.greenoptions.com, 6/20/2007)

Lighter Footstep editor Chris Baskind explored this issue in a popular blog posting. We’ve summarized his list here…

1. Bottled water isn’t a good value. It works out to 5 cents/ounce. Compare that to the price of gas which at $3.80/gallon works out to less than 3 cents/ounce.

2. No healthier than tap water. Because 70% of bottled water never crosses state lines, it is exempt from FDA oversight. Municipal water systems on the other hand are extremely well regulated.

3. Bottled water means garbage. Bottled water produces 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year and the bottles require up to 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce.

4. It means less attention to public systems. The less people drink tap water, the less attention they pay to the purity and safety of their local water.

5. It causes corporatization of water. Multinational corporations are purchasing groundwater and water distribution rights wherever they can. Access to clean water is becoming a commodity for sale rather than a basic right for people and other living creatures  on this planet.