Flotsam & Jetsam
British Car Gets 8,000 Miles per Gallon, Ox, and Ye Shall Re-seed, Dave Matthews Band Goes Green by Going Native, Up in the Sky! It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Greenpeaceman!, and more...!
December 16, 2006
British Car Gets 8,000 Miles per Gallon
Andy Green, a 45-year-old British inventor, claims to have created the world's most fuel-efficient vehicle -- a three-wheeler that gets 8,000 mpg. Tossing more mud in the eye of the world's major automakers, the "eco-motor" in the TeamGreen car was home-built for a piddling £2,000. Green, who is based at the University of Bath, was the only British competitor in a contest to build the world's most fuel-economic car.
The tri-wheeler is powered by a single-cylinder, four-stroke engine. Green, is novice when it comes to super-efficient transport. He already holds the UK record for fuel-economy with a previous car that managed 6.603 mpg. Elapsed time to build that roadster: two years.
Ox, and Ye Shall Re-seed
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba's oil supplies fell by 80%. With fertilizers and pesticides more costly and less available, the Cuban government undertook to the largest transition to small-scale, organically-based farming in history.
In short order, large, state-owned, mechanized farms gave way to smaller, organic farms. Since the change-over, the quality of the food has improved dramatically and the government hopes to make most of its cities food-self-sufficient.
By the early 1990s, 26,000 people had started urban gardens in Havana alone. Now, instead of running 75,000 tractors and purchasing a half million tons of fertilizer each year, Cubans farmers are reviving traditional farming methods, including the use of oxen to pull plows. In the late 1980s, there were only 1,000 oxen left on the island. Today, thanks to the growing interest in non-mechanized agriculture, Cuba is home to more than 300,000 pair of oxen.
Dave Matthews Band Goes Green by Going Native
The Dave Matthews Band has purchased "energy offsets" from two alternative energy providers -- NativeEnergy and Clean Air-Cool Planet -- to offset 100% of the carbon dioxide emissions from all its road-tours since 1991. By offsetting the CO2 pollution from tour buses, cargo vans, air travel and stage power, band is addressing global warming while helping Native Americans restore sustainable homeland economies in balance with the Earth.
By offsetting an estimated 18,000 tons of CO2, the band can claim the same global impact as having erased 36 million car miles. In 2002, the band mitigated 2,174 tons of CO2 from its summer One Sweet Whirled tour (in partnership with Ben & Jerry's and SaveOurEnvironment.org). These investments helped build the first Native American-owned and operated large-scale wind turbine on the Rosebud Sioux reservation. Subsequent investments benefited renewable energy projects from the Great Plains to Native Alaska.
NativeEnergy's costomers help build new wind projects by purchasing shares of the renewable energy credits (RECs). All RECs generated on behalf of the band will be permanently retired by Clean Air-Cool Planet, a nonprofit that acts like a land trust for the RECs. You don't have to rock to rack up clean-energy karma. Anyone can click on www.nativeenergy.com for info on offsetting travel, auto, home or business emissions.
AntsMarching.org, a DMB fan site, has launched a "Clean Air Challenge" to encourage its 115,000 members to offset the global warming impact of traveling to and from the band's shows. On average, more than 90 percent of the CO2 pollution attributed to touring stems from fan travel. Now, AntsMarching members can also be climate-neutral.
NativeEnergy also sells energy credits called "green tags" that let individuals and organizations compensate for their global warming pollution by powering homes and businesses with renewable energy. For more information, call (800) 924-6826 or visit: www.nativeenergy.com.
Up in the Sky! It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Greenpeaceman!
In June, a daring Greenpeace campaigner ridiculed the lax security at a nuclear facility in Normandy by floating into the site's secure airspace with the greatest of ease (courtesy of a 'pego-jet' powered parachute). He landed alongside the twin reactors -- well inside the plant's protective 3-kilometer "air exclusion zone."
The campaigner was protesting Electricite de France's (EDF) plans to build a European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPWR) at the Flamanville reactor site. EDF cannot deny their responsibility [for safeguarding the site] as they are owned almost wholly by the French Government," commented Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace International. "They have built an enormous nuclear industry with no serious consideration of the risks. It is clear that the EPWR..., like all nuclear plants, is vulnerable to an attack by a hijacked commercial aircraft -- and the reality is that operators would have as little as five minutes to respond.
And what was the security response to the Greenpeace incursion? The incident reportedly triggered a "large-scale alert involving military police and other security personnel, along with a helicopter and sniper." The chopper and the rifleman didn't arrive until "two hours after the alarm was raised."
Brazilian Dam Not All It's Cracked Up To Be
In late June, the controversial 626-foot (202-meter) tall Campos Novos Dam in southern Brazil suffered an "uncontrolled release" of water that effectively drained the reservoir of the recently completed dam. Aerial photographs taken by Friends of the Earth Brazil on June 24 show major cracks the dam's base. Glenn Switkes, International Rivers Network's Latin America Campaigns Director observed that, had the leak happened during the rainy season, thousands of people could have been drowned.
Last October, the $671 million dam began leaking almost as soon as its builders started filling the reservoir. Engineers blamed the seepage on a faulty diversion tunnel. But when the reservoir suddenly emptied -- falling over 160 feet (53-meters) in a couple of days -- it was clear that the tunnel explanation may have been, well..., a diversion.
The Movement of Dam Affected Peoples (representing farmers who lost their land or were evicted by dam builders) had already warned environmental authorities that the dam was leaking and voiced concern about flood dangers for people downstream. Their pleas were ignored. Switkes accused the company of "covering up the extent of the damage, the cost and time of repairing (or rebuilding) the dam, and the potential risks to people and property downstream.
The concrete-faced, rock-fill dam is the work of a consortium led by Brazilian construction giant Camargo Corrêa and the engineering firm Engevix. Tthe dam was financed by the Inter-American Development Bank and Brazil's state-owned National Bank for Economic and Social Development.
Following complaints about compensation for seized lands, the police staged violent a round-up of community leaders that has prompted the United Nations to launch an investigation of human rights violations.
Gold versus Water in Chile
The purest water in Chile flows through two rivers in the Valle de San Felix. The rivers are fed by two ancient glaciers. Thanks to the rivers, Indigenous farmers have always thrived in the valley and there is no unemployment. Unfortunately, large deposits of gold and silver have been detected beneath the glaciers and a company called Barrick Gold has a plan to extract these mineral. Barrick's Pascua Lama project proposes destroying the glaciers by boring two huge holes into the ice. One hole would be used to extract the ore; the other would be used to dump the toxic mine wastes. One of the members of this notorious mining multinational is George Bush Senior.
The Chilean Government approved the project to start in 2006 but the local farmers managed to win a temporary stay of execution. If the glaciers are destroyed, the farmers argue, the rivers will be poisoned with cyanide and sulfuric acid and the purest water in Chile will never again be fit for human or animal consumption.
Every last gram of gold will go abroad to the multinational. Not one ounce will be left with the people of Chile. Adding injury to insult, Chile's Ministry of the Interior has forbidden the farmers from making any TV appeals for support. Their only hope of putting brakes on this project is to get help from international justice.
What You Can Do: Send a simple message to the Chile's leaders: "We ask the Chilean Government not to authorize the Pascua Lama project to protect the whole of three glaciers, the purity of the water of the San Felix Valley and El Transito, the quality of the agricultural land ofthe region of Atacama, the quality of life of the Diaguita people and of the whole population of the region."
Global Paper Demand is Pulping Asia's Forests
The shortage of wood needed to feed pulp and paper mills worldwide is forcing companies to tap illegal sources and/or clear-cut tropical forests. An eight-year study by the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) found that international investors have sunk $40 billion (euro31.3 billion) worldwide into "financially risky and environmentally destructive" projects with little concern for their sustainability.
According to CIFOR Director General David Kaimowitz, "Financial institutions have shown a surprising lack of interest in understanding how the pulp companies requesting loans are going to get all this cheap wood. The only way they can meet production targets is through unsustainable logging of natural forests or by shipping in wood from distant sources at a much higher cost."
Environmentalists have accused pulp and paper companies of converting tropical forests into plantations and fueling massive fires that cause a choking haze that blankets Asia each year.
The growing demand for cheap wood -- especially in China -- is driving a rapid expansion of the wood pulp industry. Analysts expect companies to invest another $54 billion by 2015, much of it in Brazil, China, Indonesia, Uruguay, and the Baltic States.
CIFOR singled out private banks but also the World Bank's private sector lending agency, the International Finance Corp., for failing to adequate consider the environmental impact of their loans.
"Most banks have little in-house forestry expertise and rely heavily on data provided by the pulp producers themselves and on projections of global paper demand," the report said. "The study concludes that pulp mill projects often carry significantly higher degrees of financial risk than investors realize."
Still, the report found reason for optimism.
It said that a growing number of financial institutions -- such as Dutch banks ABN AMRO and Rabobank -- are adopting policies that require better social and environment assessments to avoid financing the purchase of illegally harvested timber.
Since 2003, more than 41 of the world's largest lending institutions have endorsed the Equator Principles, which require enhanced environmental and social standards for clients seeking loans.
Power to the (Rich) People
The Miami Herald reports that "for the truly rich in South Florida, having a huge generator to power all their home needs is becoming as important an accessory as a swimming pool."
One new South Miami-Dade home features a car-sized generator hidden behind a decorative wall -- and two 1,000-gallon propane tanks buried under the driveway to keep the home warm and cozy for three days if a hurricane takes out the power grid. (This reserve supply of back-up power would last longer if the 9,000 square-foot home didn't include air-conditioning and appliances, a Jacuzzi, pool pump and electric outlets at a boat dock.)
The $50,000 generator will produce 140 kilowatts -- 20 times more than the average home generator -- but since these custom projects cost $3 million and up, that's still less than 5 percent of the cost. The generator consumes about 27 gallons of propane an hour. With the cost of propane currently $2.85 a gallon for propane, that means a keeping your $3 million mansion lit and comfy will cost nearly $1,900 a day.
After getting slammed by six major hurricanes in the past two years, many South Floridians are buying generators or upgrading existing ones. The result is yet another class division. This time, the Herald says, the gap will divide "those who will sweat with candlelight and those still clinking their ice cubes as they watch their high-definition TV in cool comfort."
Plans for the new Casa Majorca condo development near Coral Gables include suppling generators for its $600,000 to $800,000, two- and three-bedroom units. ECOTEK Power, a Miami Beach company, has been fielding phone calls from contractors building homes "in the $7 million range,' who are looking to equip these mansions with "a decent generator" capable of protecting their art collections and cooling their wine cellars.
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