Friday, March 21, 2008

Dying to end your carbon footprint?

(Photo of St. Mary's Cemetery in DeKalb, Ill., from Flickr and photographer James Jordan.)

Worried about your carbon footprint? Think it will go away when you die? Think again. A cemetery in Australia has calculated the carbon emissions of cremation versus burial. Cremation releases more CO2 immediately – about 353 lbs. – while burial is only 86. But perpetual care of the grave site adds up over the years and can turn out to emit 10% more. So what’s a body to do? (excuse the pun) Well, the Centennial Park cemetery in Adelaide figures you can offset the whole thing by planting one tree. (Reuters)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ask your rep to support global warming bills

(Photo of Capitol Building from Flickr and photographer Wally Gobetz)

Three global warming bills in the House of Representatives need your help. While your congressman is home on break (until March 30), call and ask him/her to co-sponsor these important bills:
• The Safe Climate Act (HR1590), Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif.) overall bill calling for 80% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 (or 2% a year), and telling the EPA to set up vehicle emissions regulations, a renewable electricity standard (RES) and market-based system to cap emissions. This bill is stronger than the Lieberman-Warner bill currently on the floor of the Senate.
• A renewable electricity standard of 20% by 2020 (HR969). This bill from Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Todd Platts (R-Pa.) is similar to their 15% one passed by the House last year but then stripped from the Energy Bill by the Senate.
• The Right to Clean Vehicles Act (HR5560) introduced by Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), which overturns the EPA’s waiver denial to California, which is keeping 13 states from enforcing their own tailpipe emissions standards. A companion bill in the Senate was introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). (Sierra Club)
Find your rep at The House Web site.

Will threat of recession cool prospects of passing global warming bill in Congress this year?

President Bush’s top environmental advisor warned that passage of the Lieberman-Warner global warming bill could cut GDP as much at 6.9% by 2050. Taking the worst-case scenario from the EPA’s analysis of what the cap-and-trade bill could cost, James Connaughton (who also represents the U.S. at international climate meetings) told E&E News PM this week he was concerned about the potential cost of the bill. He said such a reduction in GDP would be recessionary. Referring to possible “compliance costs of $1 trillion,” he said, “That’s unprecedented in the environmental area.” Well, yeah. But global warming is unprecedented. And what will the cost be if we don’t cut greenhouse gas emissions the amount scientists say we must? Floods, famine, drought, disease, rising seas and a few other little problems. And, by the way, what is the war costing? Environmental advisors aren’t what they used to be. (E&E News PM)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

California bill seeks carbon labeling to show life-cycle GHG emissions of products

(Photo of Simon enjoying his yogurt from Flickr and photographer rikhei)

Nutritional labeling of foods has helped people eat healthier – well, some people. Now get ready for carbon labeling on your yogurt and soft drinks. Carbon labeling, showing how much greenhouse gas was emitted by producing the product, not only will let consumers buy ‘greener’ but will make manufacturers more aware of cutting carbon emissions. The UK is already doing this. Now comes a bill in the California legislature that calls for voluntary CO2 labeling as a first step toward what we may all see on most products in the next decade. In Britain, there are labels on everything from yogurt to soft drinks to fast-food snacks to diapers. Cadbury Schweppes and Coca Cola have acknowledged it makes them think more about their carbon footprint. An organization called Carbon Label California is pushing the concept. (ClimateWire 3/13)

Pew poll: Voters want more renewable energy, mass transit, greater fuel economy in autos

(Photo of California wind farm from Flickr and photographer findfado

Voters of all stripes strongly favor government support for renewable energy, increased fuel economy in cars, and mass transit. But they split along party lines on nuclear energy and taxes on oil exploration. The survey, newly released by the Pew Center for People and the Press, found the following:
• 90% favor government efforts to boost vehicle efficiency
• 81% want increased funding for alternative energy
• 72% favor more funds for mass transit
• 57% want research funds for ethanol (down from 67% in ’06)
• 22% favor an increase is the gas tax

There was a split along party lines for increased use of nuclear energy:
• 59% Republicans
• 46% Independents
• 34% Democrats
And for tax breaks for oil exploration:
• 52% Republicans
• 39% Independents
• 39% Democrats

The study

Near-record snow but warm temps

(Photo of snowbank in Toronto from Flickr and photographer Joe Nicholl)

Xtreme Weather Watch:
Don’t let anyone tell you all the snow this winter is proof there’s no global warming! As eastern Canada nears a record snowfall, average temperatures in the country are slightly warmer than usual and spring flowers have bloomed on the west coast for several weeks. Ottawa has had more than 13 feet so far and the most recent 20 inches nearly shut it down, as there was no place left to dump the snow. Toronto and Montreal were hit by a 2-phase storm a week ago, adding 20 and 16 inches respectively. One reason it’s still warm is the storms came from the U.S. Midwest, not the Arctic. While the east dug out, Vancouver on the west coast, was 50 degrees F. (See PlanetArk, 3/11)

Etc.: The death toll in Madagascar
from Cyclone Ivan is up to 93, officials report, and more than 300,000 people are without homes. Madagascar is prone to cyclones Feb.-May, but last year was the worst on record, when 6 storms killed 150. Some suspect warming seas have made the problem worse. (PlanetArk, 3/10)

Fierce storms battered the UK, France and Spain last week. England, Wales and Northern Island were thrashed for 3 days by rain, some snow, and winds up to 80 mph. On the Spanish Basque coast, waves reached a high of 26 feet. A trawler sank near the island of Guernsey in 70-mph winds. (PlanetArk, 3/11, 3/12,3/13)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Don't get discouraged, get active

(Photo of StepItUp demonstration in Santa Monica, Calif., Earth Day 2007 from Flickr and Step It Up 2007)

(Author’s note: I know many of my readers work on this issue every day of their lives. For some it’s a job. Others are volunteers. This isn’t targeted at you, but rather the many, many people who are concerned about global warming but feel helpless to do much about it. This is a pep talk for them.)

Weekly angst: A relative told me she no longer reads my blog on a regular basis because “I get too discouraged.” That wasn’t the point, but maybe others feel the same way. The point was to help you all:
* get informed,
* get motivated,
* get involved.
Perhaps I've fallen short helping you with the last item.

Just as the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements bubbled up from the people, so too must the global warming movement, if we are to accomplish what we need to in … well, a couple of years ago we were told we had just a decade to make big changes and avoid disaster.

What you can do

There are endless opportunities for individuals to get involved and help push the movement forward (quickly!).
* You can lobby your elected reps and you can vote.
* You can join forces with one or more environmental groups (see partial list in right column).
* You can reduce your own carbon footprint.

The League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club are both very active in promoting global warming legislation and in endorsing candidates. The upcoming election is especially important at the national level. We need a president in the White House who will lead and reps in the House and Senate who will vote for cutting greenhouse gases sharply and quickly. LCV is also developing a “dirty dozen” list of those who need to be defeated.

Join and sign up for action alerts from those two and other environmental groups, so you can sign petitions, make phone calls and send e-mails about important votes. For example, extension of tax credits for renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, keeps falling one vote short of the 60 it needs in the Senate. (Yo, John McCain) Those extensions are needed to keep the alternative energy business healthy and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

States and cities matter

The states are important too, because that’s where much of the trail-blazing is happening in the absence of federal action. So find out who your state reps are (if you don’t know now) and who is running in November. Work for the “good guys,” donate to their campaigns, lobby them in their district offices when they are home. Their vote or sponsorship of a clean-car or global warming bill could be critical. The local chapters of either LCV or Sierra Club can tell you what you need to know. Environment Illinois is also active in Illinois and the Environmental Law and Policy Center in the Midwest.

At the city level, urge your mayor and city council (or village board and president) to sign on to be a “cool city” with the 800 others across the country, and cut back on greenhouse emissions to meet Kyoto Protocol goals. Sierra Club has active volunteers working in their own communities to do just that.

With Earth Day coming up, there will be plenty of activities you can join this spring. One is Earth Hour, where businesses and individuals pledge to turn out their lights from 8-9 p.m. (regardless of time zone) on March 29. This is a worldwide event, with Chicago, San Francisco, Phoenix and Atlanta among the leading cities in the U.S. Learn more from a video at Earth Hour and sign up. (Thanks for the tip, Cara W.)

This is only one of many events you can participate in. I’ll do more to keep you informed of others.

Reduce your carbon footprint
At home, you can get rid of incandescent light bulbs, switching to CFLs or LEDs; bike, walk or take mass transit much more instead of driving; stop using plastic bags and water bottles; turn down the heat or air conditioning; and recycle. Check out “One Easy Thing” on The Daily Green for a lot more tips, or buy “The Low-Carbon Diet,” which I plan to review next month.

Many of you are already doing some of these things. But we need you to do more, to join forces with others to make things happen big and happen soon. You can make a difference. We're all part of the problem -- because of the way we live. We need to be part of the solution.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Deforestation puts snakes on the plain

(Photo of anaconda boa constrictor from Flickr and photographer Pierre Pouliquin.)
Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil in driving snakes into a nearby city in search of a new habitat. The EPA there has captured 21 snakes, including a 10-foot anaconda, in the city of Belem, near the mouth of the Amazon River. Illegal loggers, developers, farmers and ranchers cleared about 2,700 square miles in the last 5 months of 2007 alone, as demand for corn, soy and cattle puts pressure on forest land. Here's another good reason to keep the rainforest intact. (See MSNBC)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bill asks halt to new coal plants

(Photo of coal plant in Sauget, Ill., from Flickr and photographer Jay Dugger.)

Congressional Round-up: Sens. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) have introduced a bill creating a moratorium on new coal-fired utility plants unless they can capture and sequester 80% of their greenhouse gas emissions. They see the bill as a stop-gap until an economy-wide global warming law caps GHG at 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. There are 47 plants in the permitting process or under construction across the U.S., with another 67 on the drawing boards. Uncertainty about the future and environmentalists’ objections have put a stop to a number of plants that were planned. (E&E New PM)

The Bush Administration ignored an EPA
recommendation several months ago to increase fuel economy in autos because CO2 is bad for public health. See

Global warming deniers will lobby
Congress against regulating greenhouse gases, said Joe Bast, of the Heartland Institute, organizer of a deniers’ convention earlier this month. He vowed a strong campaign against cap-and-trade legislation. The deniers don’t believe that human activity and GHG cause climate change. (Greenwire)

Senators slammed EPA’s new ozone regs
and plans to change the Clean Air Act this week. They said the mandate for reduced ground-level ozone didn’t go far enough and will let many counties off the hook in forcing power plants and autos to reduce emissions. EPA also wants to change the Clean Air Act so decision-makers will be able to consider costs, benefits, risk trade-offs and feasibility in making decisions under the act. (E&E Daily, Greenwire)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Canada feels effects of climate change

(Photo of retreating Columbian Icefields from Flickr and photographer Bruno Bolzano)

News Update: Retreating glaciers in the west, sea level rise on Price Edward Island and a dramatic drop in water in the Great Lakes are all the results of climate change, according to a new study on Canada. No region is unaffected, says the report by Natural Resources Canada. There are some advantages: more summer tourism and more land available for forests. But the melting permafrost in northern Canada will damage infrastructure (not to mention release of GHG methane), more likely droughts in the prairies will hurt farmers, and water shortages will impact Ontario. On average, Canada has warmed 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.34 Fahrenheit)since 1948, twice the global average. The province of Quebec has heated up 2 degrees C (3.6 F) just since 1993. For more, see, 3/11

Etc.: Sweden has a target of 49% renewable energy by 2020, under the EU plan. Already at 40%, nearly all Sweden’s energy, except for transportation, is fossil-fuel free. See PlanetArk, 3/6

Car stickers will show a global warming score in California, starting with the 2009 models. They will be rated 1-10, with 10 the best. Other states are likely to adopt the idea. See the blog, Climate Progress.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sun shines on England

(Photo from Flickr and photographer Andy J. Crowder )

Xtreme weather watch: Known for being foggy and rainy, Britain just had the sunniest February ever recorded. Birds are nesting, flowers blooming and other signs of spring have been evident for some time. See Planet Ark.

Etc.: Record tornadoes in Jan. and Feb. High of 368 in U.S. beats 243 in 1999. See The Daily Green

Snowy weather kills Pashmina goats in Himalayas. Starvation a result of heavy snows in India. See Planet Ark

Northern Europe has warm winter. Record-breaking temperatures thwart winter activities. See Tree Hugger

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A week of news on ethanol and hunger

(Photo of cornfield from Flickr and photographer vampire_bear)

Weekly Angst: Not long ago some touted ethanol as an answer to fossil fuels. The Bush administration said it could save us from our “dependence on foreign oil.” In the U.S., for now, ethanol means corn – that’s what’s being produced and it’s popular in farm states like Iowa and Illinois. But scientists have pointed out life-cycle carbon emissions from corn ethanol are about as bad as from gasoline – and its potential supply is limited. Even Bush recognizes we need to move quickly to non-food, cellulosic products and the new Energy Bill calls for that to happen. But, recently an even greater concern has arisen. Corn prices have skyrocketed, farmers are switching from other crops, like wheat and soybeans, and now they are soaring in price too. Hunger on the rise as food costs grow and supply can’t meet demand. A series of news items over the past week tell us where we are right now with this dilemma.

News item: Midwest drought could spike food, gas prices
Increased dependence on corn and other grains for feed, food and fuel leaves the country vulnerable to a weather catastrophe that could cut supply and push prices up even more. The price of corn is already up 20% this year. Corn could reach $8/bushel (from $5.40 now) if a drought or heat wave hits the Midwest, experts say. A problem could occur as early as this summer, as global warming and La NiƱa increase the likelihood of drought. (LA Times, 3/2)

News item: Tough times for ethanol force shakeout

High corn prices are squeezing profits at small ethanol distillers. Production capacity nearly doubled in the past year to 8 billion gallons a year, but the high price of corn, and of natural gas to run the distilleries, is leading to consolidation and some bankruptcies. There are also problems getting the product to customers. While farmers benefit, profits for ethanol companies hit a low in November, surged briefly when Congress passed the Energy Bill, and now are dropping again. (Reuters PlanetArk 3/3)

News item: UN warns of ‘new hunger’ as food prices surge
A perfect storm of high food and oil prices, low food supplies, climate change, demand from China and India, and diverting crops to biofuel are causing a food crisis, the executive director of the UN World Food Programme said. The “newly hungry” have money but will be priced out of the food market, adding to the 25,000 worldwide who die each day from hunger now. Record food prices are likely to continue for several years and will cause social unrest and anarchy in the streets, she warned. Afghanistan is one of the most vulnerable nations. One solution is to use more land for food, less for biofuel, she said. (PlanetArk, 3/3)

News item: U.S. won’t meet its ethanol mandate, EIA says
It’s unlikely we’ll meet the Energy Bill ethanol mandate of 36 billion gallons/year by 2022 because of the lack of “advanced” cellulosic ethanol, the Energy Information Administration told a Senate committee. Instead EIA foresees 32.5 billions gallons/year. Most U.S. ethanol is now made from corn, with only small production from switchgrass, wood chips and other agricultural and forest waste, boding ill for the future. The projection assumes the end of tariffs on ethanol imports and significant supply coming from abroad. (PlanetArk, 3/5)

News item: California company begins cellulosic refinery
Ethanol company BlueFire will soon build a cellulosic refinery next to a landfill in Lancaster, Calif., to make ethanol from grass clippings, tree trimmings, and other biomass. The goal is to produce 3.5 million gallons by the end of the year, and eventually 17 million gallons a year. By 2011, the company hopes to be building 5 refineries a year, with a capacity of 55 million gallons each. The federal government is providing up to $385 million to BlueFire and 5 other companies for capital costs to build cellulosic refineries. (Greenwire, 3/3)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Cow dung finds powerful new use

If you’ve read anything about dairy farms you know they produce an incredible amount of manure. That manure decomposes and gives off methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. In fact cattle cause more global warming than cars. Some say the ultimate answer is to stop eating meat and dairy products.

Now a dairy farmer in California has come up with another solution -- a way to capture that methane to power homes. And PG&E is buying it. Vintage Dairy Farms and BioEnergy Solutions have a multi-million-dollar facility that washes the you-know-what in a huge vat until it’s 99% liquid. Then it screens out the solids and pumps it into a gigantic covered lagoon that “digests” it. What’s left produces gas which is piped to Northern California to power about 1,200 homes. Several other dairies have expressed interest. They need to get rid of the stuff some way. Source: Reuters PlanetArk
(Photo from Flickr and photographer *~Laura~*)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Fate of renewables lies with Senate

Congressional Round-up: Under pressure from more than 100 businesses, trade groups and environmentalists, the Senate continues to look for a way to extend tax credits for renewable energy and efficiency. The House has twice passed a bill extending the credits, due to expire at the end of the year, but both time the Senate fell 1 vote short of the 60 needed to avert a filibuster. Some GOP senators and the White House don’t so much object to extending the credits as they dislike the means of paying for them – rolling back tax incentives for oil companies. Senators were looking at the budget reconciliation bill as a way to extend the credits with the money coming from somewhere else, but that fell through this week. Options left include getting that extra vote (how about you, Sen. McCain?) or finding some other way to pay for it. GE and BP both added their voices to the call for extension. Both have investments in wind energy. Advocates say the extensions would create new jobs and help lower the cost of energy. Without them alternative energy projects are at risk, and investment is already slowing down. (Source: E&E Daily)

Two reps unveil bill to force EPA to grant tailpipe waiver

Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) were to introduce a bill Thursday to force the EPA to grant a waiver that would give California and 12 others states authority to implement their tailpipe emissions bills. The EPA’s denial of the waiver “defied science, defied the states, and defied common sense,” Welch said. Called the Right to Clean Vehicles Act, the bill had 42 co-sponsors Wednesday, most of them Democrats. Call and ask your Congressman to add his/her name (202-224-3121). Senate Environment Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced an identical bill (S. 2555) in the Senate more than a month ago and has said she will subpoena communications between the EPA and White House on the matter, to see if there was undue influence. The EPA director clearly ignored his staff’s opinion in refusing the waiver. Meanwhile 15 states have filed suit to have the EPA decision overturned. (Source: E&E News PM)

Dingell issues white paper on pre-emption of state auto rules
Two leaders of the House Energy Committee have raised a concern about state and local global warming laws, acknowledging they have led the way, but saying a federal law may have to pre-empt them. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), Energy Committee chair, and Rick Boucher (D-Va.), say that a patchwork of global warming laws could cause job loss in states that don’t have them, especially in the auto industry, which Dingell champions. The “patchwork” includes a tailpipe emissions law passed by California and 12 other states (currently blocked by the EPA), global warming emissions laws by California, Hawaii, Maine, Minn., N.J. and Ohio, emissions trading by regional groups involving 39 states, and several governors who have set emissions targets. In addition, more than 800 cities and villages have committed to meeting the Kyoto requirements of cutting GHG 7% below 1990 levels by 2012. The states, the two say, will probably need to do the monitoring, pass building codes and plan for land-use. The white paper, one of several related to global warming, is meant to stir debate of the issue and doesn’t offer specific answers, the authors said. (Source: Greenwire)

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Honda Civic GX 'cleanest' car

News Update: Honda Civic GX ranked No. 1 in the 2008 Greenbook Online, edging out the Prius. That’s because the car runs on compressed natural gas and has practically no greenhouse gas emissions. Owners can tap into a gas line and fill up their car right in their garage. The car, on display at the Chicago Auto Show this year, is only available in New York and California for now. Other clean-green cars:
2. Prius, a hybrid by Toyoto
3. Honda Civic Hybrid
4. Smart FourTwo, the little European Smart Car 2-seater
5. Toyota Yaris
6. Toyota Corolla
7. Mini Cooper/Clubman
8. Ford Focus (the only American car in the top 12)
9. Toyota Camry Hybrid
10. Honda Civic
11. Honda Fit
The cars are measured on greenhouse gases, other tailpipe emissions, fuel economy and manufacturing emissions (estimated).
(Sources:, ELPC) (Photo of Civic GX filling up with natural gas from Flickr and photographer geognerd)

You can help track climate change by recording early blooms
Everyone who wants to can record the first buds and leaves they observe on a new Web site to help scientists determine the effects of climate change on ecosystems. Project Budburst, at, was designed by scientists and launched in February. As the Earth warms and climate changes, flowers are blooming earlier in many places, causing problems for pollination if bees and migrating birds aren’t there yet. (Source: Miami Herald)

Eurostar high-speed rail sees growth of business travelers
Eurostar’s high-speed trains between London, Paris and Brussels carried 5% more passengers last year, the company’s CEO recently told a business conference, and 30% more business travelers in the past 2 years. He predicted a doubling of the Eurostar 3,100-mile system by 2018, noting that travelers are becoming concerned about emissions from airplanes, which have risen 90% in the past 14 years. The airlines are resisting a plan by the European Union to include them in its carbon emissions trading program. (Source: Associated Press)

Etc.: GM vice chairman calls global warming a “total crock of shit” but insists his views have no bearing on the company’s commitment to clean cars … 10,000 black taxis, or town cars, in New York City must go hybrid within 5 years, joining 13,000 yellow cabs … new BP CEO says renewables aren’t bringing in enough profits and they may sell off some wind, solar and biodiesel … Iditarod (dog sled race) moves starting place farther north, due to lack of snow … Virgin Airlines to use fuel-cell cars as VIP limos starting this month … Sierra Club launches campaign to stop 6 planned Dynegy coal-fired plants in 6 states … Alaskan native villages threatened by rising seas sue 24 utilities, oil and coal companies for damages caused by global warming.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Dust storms grow in American West

(Photo from Flickr and photographer michelangelo_mi)

Xtreme weather watch: A big increase in dust storms in the American West over the past 150 years is linked to human activity -- including a surge in settlers, cattle ranching and industry, a new study found. Researchers made their discovery by digging down to sediment in two lakes. The dust adds to the impact of global warming on the snowpack melt, and is helping to cause a much earlier spring melt in the San Juan mountains, researchers said. (PlanetArk)

China faces water shortage for Olympics, future forest fires
China, beset by severe drought in the north is worried about having enough water for the Olympics this summer. Reservoirs that supply water to Beijing’s 16 million people are dangerously low. The country ironically also is having severe cold and snow in the south, causing at least $15 billion in damage. There are fears of forest fires when the snow melts, because of the damage it did to the 10% of the trees. In some areas 90% of the forests were hurt. The “freak” winter weather in the south is the worst in 50 years. UN experts said it shows how the world must prepare for changing weather patterns brought on by global warming. (PlanetArk)

Madagascar hit by one of biggest cyclones ever; 60 dead

Cyclone Ivan struck the east coast of Madagascar, affecting more than 200,000 people, many of whom were still awaiting aid, officials said last week. At least 60 were reported dead. The island nation was victim to 6 cyclones last year, killing 150. Warming of the sea is expected to increase the intensity of cyclones, which some think is already happening. (PlanetArk)

Somaliland VP asks for drought aid to ‘avert calamity’

Suffering through a severe drought and drinking water shortage, Somaliland is calling for aid from rich nations and is asking its people to pray for rain. (PlanetArk)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Cars come in 'clean' and 'dirty'

(Photo of traffic on Lake Cook Road in Buffalo Grove, Ill., from Flickr and photographer Isipeoria)

Weekly Angst: It’s outrageous. Did you know auto manufacturers make two versions of each model. Some spew more smog-causing hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide, more carbon monoxide and particulates than others. It all depends on what state you live in and whether it has adopted California’s clean-car regulations. If it hasn’t, you get the dirty kind.

Conn., Maine, Md., Mass., N.J., N.Y., Ore., Pa. R.I., Vt., and Wash. have all adopted the California law. They’ve seen a change in air quality. Ariz., Colo., Fla., Ill., Iowa, Minn., N.M. and Utah have it under consideration. And environmental groups are pushing those states to pass the law, even though the U.S. EPA has blocked the latest change, reducing CO2. (Another outrage.)

Many believe the EPA will be overruled by the courts, or a new administration, or the bill introduced by Senate Environment Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and states that adopt California’s law may soon be able to regulate greenhouse gases too, more stringently than the federal CAFE law allows.

The California standards cut greenhouse-gas tailpipe emissions 30% by 2016, though the EPA-forced lag may change that because it was supposed to start with the 2009 model.

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups are asking for e-mails or calls to your state reps to co-sponsor and support a clean car bill. In Illinois you can do that through the Environmental Law and Policy Center's action network.

Clean cars for Illinois
Illinois is No. 6 in emitting greenhouse gases in the U.S.A. Not a record you want to have. Education maybe, or employment, but not No. 6 in GHG. And transportation contributes about 28% of the global warming pollution in the state.

When Illinois passes a clean car bill, it might cause a tipping point, advocates say, benefiting the entire country. A populous state, with 9 million cars on the road, a victory here could lead to manufacturers deciding it no longer pays to make two versions and all their cars could become cleaner.

The bill in Illinois (H.B 3424) has passed out of committee with House Speaker Michael Madigan (D) as a co-sponsor. It requires 2011 models to meet the stricter emissions standards, which would reduce GHG an estimated 18% by 2020 and 27% by 2030.

Global Warming Solutions Act
The clean car bill is also part of a larger package called the Illinois Global Warming Solutions Act (S.B. 2220). A shell bill, with the details not yet revealed, the Solutions Act also will deal with power plants, efficiency and cap-and-trade. It contains major recommendations from the Illinois Climate Change Advisory Group, appointed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), and helps meet goals of the Midwest Governors Conference. (Stay tuned for more on this package.)

RES already law
If you’re wondering about a renewable electricity standard for Illinois, one was already passed last year. Advocates took advantage of the electric utilities’ request for a rate hike and added in an RES that increases the proportion of renewable energy 2% a year until 2015 and then 1.5% until it reaches 25% in 2025. One caveat though – the changes have to stay within the rate cap set for the utility. Many other states have passed their own RES, which is good because while the U.S. House passed one mandating 15% by 2020, the Senate has rejected it. (Sources: Environment Illinois, Sierra Club, Environmental Law & Policy Center)