Monday, October 27, 2008

Plastic Green Mountain Coffee

Plastic Green Mountain Coffee
Originally uploaded by bonbayel.

Green Mountain Coffee used to be one of my heroes - a business based on doing the right thing.

A lot of other people thought so, too, so Paul Newman, rest his soul, Heifer, National Wildlife and PBS among others, use GMC Fair Trade Organic coffees for fundraising. I have been delighted with their coffee and the opportunity to support these good causes.

But then, GMC got involved in the plastic waste business (not to mention unnecessary use of energy) in the form of Keurig cups. In this way, people don't have to get their little hands dirty with coffee filters, or drink the same kind as the guy in the next cubicle. They don't even have to use a paper pod. Instead, they get their coffee packaged in individual plastic containers, which include a paper filter.

The hot water most likely leaches out some of the nasty plasticizers from the plastic cups to add to the flavor of the organic, sustainable, fair trade coffee, and then the plastic is added to the waste that becomes part of landfill, ruining land for the Wildlife they supposedly support.

How low can a company go?

Of course the least they could do would be to take me off their mailing list when I ask them to, so they don't bring up my ire every time they send me a new one!

See my earlier post on this topic: Green Mountain Coffee is Generating Trash

Friday, October 24, 2008

Alert! Don't Allow Coal Companies to Annihilate Streams!

mountain top removal - photo by Teri Blanton

I received this as a comment to my message "Clean" Coal and the Candidates from Kentucky environmental activist Teri Blanton, and though it was too important to hide in a comment!

The Environmental Protection Agency is on the verge of approving a proposal that would allow coal-mining companies to dump mining waste directly into flowing streams, filling in the streams entirely and destroying all the life in them.

Since 1983 the Stream Buffer Zone rule has prohibited mining within 100 feet of flowing streams, but now the Bush administration and the Office of Surface Mining are trying to push through an under-the-table, last-minute effort to remove this protection.

If the EPA approves the repeal, it will be perfectly legal for coal companies to blow off the top of a mountain, then dump the waste straight into streams, killing the rare salamanders, fish, and other species that live in Appalachian waterways. EPA Administrator Johnson could make the decision at any moment, so time is critical.

Please take a minute to tell the EPA not to approve the Stream Buffer Zone revision, and pass this alert along to as many of your friends as possible.

Click here to take action.

Teri is a fascinating person, who has devoted her life to saving these mountains she loves. Take a few minutes to click the link above to read about her and her actions. And get yourself involved in this important issue as well. I discovered her photo and video page, with some moving pictures of moving mountains and she also took the disturbing picture at the top of this page. I am sure she'd be delighted with your help as well!

I've been reading more and more about how coal is getting priced out of the competition, so that soon we will be able to manage with solar, wind, geothermal and whatever else American (and other) ingenuity can bring. We don't need the coal! Let's not lose one more mountain to the power of Big Coal. Let's show them the Power of the People instead!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tilting at windmills? No on California Prop 10!

Cartoon from this week's New YorkerWe Californians have to decide on 12 different propositions on some big and small issues, 2 of which involve the environment. Both are sponsored by assumedly well-meaning rich people, who figured they can help the environment with their accumulated cash. However, all of the reputable environmental groups say

Vote No on Props 7 & 10!

This commentary in the LATImes today, by George Skelton, is as good an explanation as any I've seen: A clear choice and a murky one on two energy initiatives.

The Sierra Club of California has an election section on its home page (which will probably change after the election, of course. It links to these pages for its No to Proposition 7 and the official No to Proposition 10 site.

I will get back to this later with some of my own comments, but I am presenting my college (Oberlin) at a college night tonight, so I have to get off now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

ABC Won't Air This Ad about Clean Energy

The We Can Solve It Campaign had collected funds (also from me) to air this message on ABC to counteract the deceptive ads from dirty Big Coal and Big Oil. But they refused. (Guess who's made them sign their life away to get Big Ad Money!) As the "We Campaign" said in an email:

We delivered your note along with over 220,000 others. We had such a large response that the ABC website temporarily stopped accepting messages from anyone, anywhere.
You also helped build buzz -- lot of blogs and media outlets highlighted ABC's decision not to run our ad as both surprising and unfair. Great articles appeared in the Christian Science Monitor and Columbia Journalism Review, for example.

After you've watched the ad, you might want to go to the WeCanSolveIt website to see what else they can help you do to "solve it!"

Sunday, October 19, 2008

About cars with high gas mileage

Mother and Daughter with a Loaded Insight

When my Danish daughter and I did our great road trip to the Grand Canyon, we got 63 mpg in America's best car for mileage, a 2000 stick-shift Honda Insight, which was loaded to the gills with 2 women and all their stuff. I was really impressed by how well we did, but when she asked me how much that was in liters/km, which is the way they rate cars in Europe, she wasn't the least bit impressed.

An article in yesterday's LATimes U.S. carmakers' renewal means vast retooling reminded me of the incident. Here are some quotes from the article:

New British Ford Fiestas
Next month in Britain, Ford Motor Co. will begin selling a diesel hatchback that gets 64 miles per gallon. Across the channel, Parisians can buy a new gas-powered compact made by General Motors Corp. that gets a nifty 47 mpg.
Or this comparison of what Europeans expect:
For years, Ford and GM have been building high-end compact cars for Europe, routinely winning awards for such models as Ford's Mondeo and GM's Vauxhall Corsa. The cars emphasized high-end detailing and offered options reserved on these shores for premium brands. They cost more, but consumers happily paid because in Europe, Ford and GM are premium brands.
...and Americans:
At home, meanwhile, Detroit kept outfitting fuel-efficient cars with crank windows and cheap upholstery. In Germany, a Focus starts at 15,250 euros, or about $20,500. In Germantown, Pa., the less-refined U.S. Focus starts at $14,995. That $5,000 gap, experts say, is the difference between profit and loss on a smaller car....."I wish I could bring the European Focus to the U.S.," Jim Farley, Ford's head of sales and marketing, said in January. "But it'll never work in this market."
I thought it would be interesting to see what cars area available in England, so I checked out, where the headline is "Here is our widest ever range of lower CO2 vehicles." Here is the page where they tell about Emissions and Economy.

Just for curiosity's sake I decided to see what they have to offer at where the featured cars include one smallish one, and mostly big, luxury cars, and the menu goes from big to little and back to big. Just to be fair, I looked at their Our values: Environment section, which didn't say much about the cars themselves.

So why are American carmakers just figuring this out now? In the book I am reading now, Coming Clean: Breaking America's Addiction to Oil and Coal, there is a very telling quote by Professor Andrew Frank, of UC Davis, on page 118:

"I remember that when Toyota first introduced the Prius in 1997, American carmakers were ecstatic. They said that if Toyota really pushed their hybrid program, they'd go out of business!"

A couple of European cars you won't be seeing in this country.

A few years before I left Denmark, I was in the market for a small car to get me further than my usual walk, bike and bus routine. I chose a Suzuki Alto, which was made in India. I noticed that Suzuki has a new Splash car out on the British market, which must replace the Alto.

Another really popular car in Europe is the Ford Ka, which isn't much bigger than the Alto, but a lot more stylish and fun - and still being sold. It never came to this country!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

LATimes says we need "A president with an energy plan"

Finally the press is calling the candidates to order on Energy politics.
The LA Times has been writing a series of "Position Papers" for the candidates, and today's was on Energy. Under the subhead

Neither nuclear nor 'clean coal' will solve the crisis.

they wrote:
. . . That's why it's doubly disappointing that neither Barack Obama nor John McCain has a responsible energy plan. In pandering to voters in swing states, both have backed dangerous, dirty energy sources in contradiction of their own principles.

The United States gets nearly half of its electricity from coal-fired plants. These plants account for about a third of the nation's emissions of carbon dioxide, the prime contributor to global warming. They are also a top source of other air pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide, and worldwide they are the No. 1 source of deadly mercury pollution. You can't pretend to be a crusader against climate change and pollution, as both candidates do, while favoring expanded coal use -- yet Obama and McCain waste few opportunities to declare their support for “clean coal.” If by this they mean they want more research into pumping coal emissions underground, good for them. But the voters in coal-producing states such as West Virginia interpret the candidates' rhetoric as an endorsement of increased mining and burning of coal using existing processes that are anything but clean, and Obama and McCain have done nothing to disabuse them of that notion.
The editorial goes on to excoriate McCain on his plan to build 59 more nuclear plants, and concludes that
a big part of the next president's job will be trying to reseed the scorched earth left behind by the current one.
Thank you, LA Times! I hope the candidates heed your message!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Links on EVs, Energy, T. Boone Pickens and water

I have a friend, Nancy, who has been collecting lots of links on energy topics. Her main interest is plug-in EVs, and she is particularly interested in making sure that the California CARB requirements, which are in hearing for another couple of weeks, specify plug-ins.
She would like to make her collection of links available, so here they are. I have tried to group them somewhat. The comments are Nancy's.

The Most Important Video You Will Ever Watch

  • University of Colorado professor, Dr. Albert Bartlett's presentation on "Arithmetic, Population, and Energy." (This is the first of 8 videos, 55 minutes in all. Keep clicking the link below the screen when one ends.)
    B: It looks like it's going to be really boring, but hang with it! I just watched it. It is mind boggling!

On EVs and cars in general

California Air Quality Board (CARB) is taking comments until October 20th for The new 2008 California Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate. You can read the law proposal and other people's comments, and then please add your own comments at this link!
The ZEV Mandate is THE REASON we had the EV1 and other ZEV cars 10 years ago. Let's encourage them again!

You might also be interested in the pictures I took at the Alternative Vehicle and Transportation Expo in Santa Monica this year.


On T. Boone Pickens and water

Other topics

I must admit that I have barely scratched the surface on viewing all of this, but now they are all collected one place for viewing!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tell Obama & McCain: We Need Clean Energy, Not 'Clean Coal'

1Sky and a lot of others are just as fed up with the candidates' "clean coal" as I am.
They have made it easy for you to tell the candidates what YOU think about this. Just go to their page Tell Obama & McCain: We Need Clean Energy, Not 'Clean Coal'.

And while you're at it, check out Environmental Defense's interactive "Lost Eight Years" timeline with their 2009 Green Energy Agenda.

For more background information, you might be interested in my other blog posts about clean coal

Please vote NO on California Proposition 8

I wasn't going to use this blog for campaign purposes, other than those related to energy and the environment, but this is a matter too important and close to my heart.

California Proposition 8 is purposely misleading. It intends to take away the rights of some of our citizens to marry, a constitutional right that was established by the California Supreme Court last spring. The video below tells what marriage in California might be like if you vote "yes" - and being Californians, they've used humor to present the message:

Vote NO on Prop 8 if you live in California!
But that was too late for my very dear colleague and friend, Michael Stern, who died alone of an aneurism, without his partner of many years, Jim, whose daughters he helped raise, because they were not "related."

In memory of Michael or your own friends,
please vote NO on Prop 8 if you live in California.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

More about coal

link to book Coming Clean on Sierra Club websiteObama and McCain praised "clean" coal again last night - and McCain talked about putting up lots and lots of nuclear plants. (Goody! one on every corner, like gas stations or Starbucks!) The LATImes today even mentioned Obama's support for "clean coal" in an editorial today that was about McCain's dilemma, not coal or even Obama.

Obama offered openings. His support for "clean coal" is oxymoronic and transparently political. His message on global warming is undermined by his support for expanded domestic oil drilling.

But there was another debate last night that was all about "clean" coal. Democracy Now sponsored Can Coal Be Clean? A Debate Between Michael Brune of Rainforest Action Network and Joe Lucas of American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (Brune is the author of the book show here, Coming Clean, Breaking American's Addition to Oil and Coal, sponsored by - and available from -the Sierra Club.) You have the option of reading the text, listening to the debate or watching it on a variety of video formats. I recommend watching, because it is accompanied by a lot of pictures of coal power plants, coal mines and air pollution, that give you a good idea about what they're talking about. It ends with a great song about mountaintop removal before going on to another topic (War and Peace.)

Another interesting website is called Follow the Coal Money, where you can track which politicians have received money from Big Coal (and there's a link to track contributions from Big Oil as well.)
For example:

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)
Accepted $17,100 from the coal industry since 2000. $13,000 of those dollars were from industry PACS.
All contributions since 2000: $17,100
110th Congress (2007-2008): $0
109th Congress (2005-2006): $2,000
Pre-term contributions: $15,100
Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
Accepted $51,850 from the coal industry since 2000. $36,500 of those dollars were from industry PACS.
All contributions since 2000: $51,850
110th Congress (2007-2008): $0
109th Congress (2005-2006): $5,000
108th Congress (2003-2004): $28,850
107th Congress (2001-2002): $0
106th Congress (1999-2000): $18,000

The only reason it doesn't show any contributions this year is, of course, that they're going into different accounts this year.

I thought a few more links might be interesting, both for and against:

I'll write another entry soon about some of the books I've read recently. (I just ordered Coming Clean, so I'll have to wait with that one.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

"Clean" Coal and the Candidates

Like most "true believer" environmentalists, I would prefer to phase out coal power ASAP, shut down and mothball all atomic energy plants, "Conserve, Baby, Conserve" instead of drilling in the ANWAR, off our coasts and on public lands (which, I thought, belong to all of us!)

Sustainable energy is here

Of course, I'm not a "naysayer!" There are alternatives for all these nasty power sources, and we can be Energy Independent much quicker if we rapidly install wind and solar, the newest in hydroelectric technology, which doesn't involve building dams, and develop geothermal energy (as long as it doesn't destroy natural areas,) bio diesel and other biofuels (with their cradle-to-grave lifecycle is thoroughly vetted.) Many books have been written about this, environmental groups have lobbied, and I have sent every petition I've been asked to send.

Why don't those politicians understand?

But still politicians, including Presidential candidates for both parties, 3/4 of whom profess a great interest in sustainable fuels, and all 4 in energy independence, keep talking about "clean" coal (as well as nuclear and off-shore drilling, which are not the story I want to tell today.)

Gotta do something!

In desperation I have sent emails to various environmental organizations with an interest in this (like the Sierra Club (see,) Appalachian Voices, and others,) asking why they haven't been able to convince the candidates that there's no such thing as "clean" coal. But either they haven't responded, or they are just as frustrated as I am.

How can coal be clean?

In case you can't understand why anyone could get the idea that coal could be clean, you might want to read about this concept at But be sure to scroll all the way down to the bottom to read the Criticism section as well. "Clean" coal technology would be a dream come true - there's lots of coal, of course, both here and in China, among other places. But it just can't be done.

Do the politicians know something I don't?

To try to figure out why the candidates aren't listening, I decided to go to the blog area of to see what people were writing about coal. That's when my eyes were opened by this message from Ellen in Huntington, WV and the comments that followed:

The local NBC affiliate in Huntington, WV has a headline: VP Candidate Biden Says No to Coal Plants in U.S. The people here were starting to get used to the idea of voting for Obama, the local union UMWA staged a walk out to protest the NRA false claims about his gun stance! So I was hopeful that Obama would at least get a few votes. THIS ONE HEADLINE will give everyone of those on the fence or grudgingly going Obama the excuse they needed to vote McCain. With all the "I heart coal" bumper stickers, etc. this will be the end. UNLESS there is swift action, not just from spokespeople, but from the candidate, to ease their minds about the #$% coal industry. The article is complete with response from the Republican representative from the area.
This off-the-cuff one line is a game changer here in the coal fields. It is time to stand up and actually try to win WV or let those working so hard to do it FOR them give it up.

An article called Frank talk of Obama and race in Virginia in today's LATimes opened my eyes a little more. The coal miners' union UMWA is doing all that it can to get Obama elected, because they figure Democratic policies are better for their members than the other party's. But it stands to reason that coal is their livelihood, for better or for worse. We environmentals in their eyes are planning to take away their source of income.

Is there a win/win situation?

In our eyes, of course, we are saving them from early death from black lung, polluted water, coal dust, mountain top removal and the loss of their favorite fishing streams and hunting grounds. But we haven't provided them with alternative ways to support their families. Before we can remove coal as an energy source, we have to replace it in the local economy.

Now the large coal mining companies, like Massey, have started doing this all by themselves. With the new methods of mining they need far fewer miners than before. When they can, they fire all the union miners (I have my information from the book Coal River.) The miners that have been laid off in these areas are beginning to find other ways to support themselves and their families, and discovering that life doesn't have to be all coal dust and black lung. They are also getting very tired of losing their fishing streams to good topsoil shoved into the valleys. They are devastated when a family graveyard that has been kept for over a century is part of the earth that is moved. And of course, there is a lot of ill will between those guys on the big earth movers, who are non-union, and the local guys who got laid off.

Who are these West Virginians (or western Virginians, or Kentuckians or Tennesseeans) who depend on coal? Is it more the shareholders of the mining companies, their lawyers and everyone else who has a livelihood from the mines, but doesn't have to experience the destruction and ill health? Are they even Democratic voters?

What are the alternatives?

Originally uploaded by

While I was looking through pictures on Flickr to find an illustration for this article, I came upon this picture of windmills on the mountaintops providing energy, rather than relying on the coal under them. And I found a website devoted to tourism along the Coal River. So local people are looking for local alternatives to mining coal. Coal River Mountain Watch is looking for alternatives to destruction in green jobs.

I think there are a lot of residents of Appalachia who would welcome politicians who want to help them get beyond the destruction and ill health of coal - maybe not the ones who have the money to lobby or to contribute to politicians - but the real Americans who live outside the cities. the ones who are doing the hard work - or not, as their jobs disappear along with their hunting grounds. I think they'd be delighted with a new green job, and better health and opportunities for their children. Let's support the people! And we don't need coal to do it!