Fair and Organic Soaps

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps are run by the fifth generation of a soap-making family. Every product is fair trade certified and organic. The bottles that contain the soaps are made from 100 percent post-consumer-recycled plastic. The company's fair trade policy "provides for about 2,500 farmers and farm-worker families, totaling around 10,000 persons."

The soaps are all natural, biodegradable, and environmentally friendly," Michael Bronner, Director General of Sales, said.

During an interview with Coop America, David Bronner, the CEO, said that the company "donates significant amounts of our profits to various worthwhile causes and charities," the employees "
receive generous compensation and benefits, including no-duductible PPO health care and fully-funded profit-sharing." Executive compensation is "capped at 5 to 1 of the lowest warehouse position."

The U.S. needs many more companies to follow in Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps steps.

Hydropowered Ski Resort

Any business that invests in environmentally-friendly measures like renewable energy, composting, and recycling should be commended. The Whistler Backcomb, a ski resort, is located in British Columbia, and is the future site of the 2010 Olympic and Para-Olympic games, is one such business that deserves accolades. In September construction began on the Fitzsimmons Creek Hydro Project which will generate 33.5 gigawatt hours of hydroelectricity every year, enough to power the ski resort's 38 lifts and 17 restaurants.

"This project marks a new chapter in Whistler Blackcomb's history book and will become the bedrock of our enactment on climate change," says Arthur DeJong, Whistler Blackcomb's Mountain Planning and Environmental Resource Manager.

" We can now firmly step forward in producing a renewable energy project that makes sense, and to help us move ever-closer to our goal of achieving a net zero footprint within our operating area," DeJong added.

The ski resort is environmentally-friendly in other ways, including reducing the amount of waste it sends to a landfill. Between 2001 and 2005, it reduced the waste sent to a landfill by 29 percent. The resort recycles over 25 different types of materials, including over 800,000 beverage containers a year. In 2006 it composted 100 tons of organic materials, and expanded its composting program to include paper towels in all of the ski resort's bathroom.

Whistler Backcomb reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) it emits by 617,000 kilograms a year through a staff carpooling program. It further reduced its GHG emissions by switching 11,000 light bulbs to energy-efficient models, and installing a 1.0 megawatt river turbine to power light and heat in the lift hut and all of its restrooms.

House Passes Stimulus Package

The House voted for an $819 billion economic recovery package, or the American Recovery and Investment Act. Not one Republican voted for the package, and all but 11 Democrats voted for it. The package contains plenty of money for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Both are desperately needed to fight climate change. Over three million jobs will be created over the next two years as a result of the package. Considering the amount of jobs lost since last fall, that is good news.

Speaking about the package, Obama said, "I hope that we can continue to strengthen this plan before it gets to my desk. But what we can't do is drag our feet or allow the same partisan differences to get in our way.

"We must move swiftly and boldly to put Americans back to work, and that is exactly what this plan begins to do," he said.

Who are the eleven Democrats who voted against the package? Here is my "Democrat Hall of Shame" for the month:

Allen Boyd (FL)

Bobby Bright (AL)

Jim Cooper (TN)

Brad Ellsworth (ID)

Parker Griffith (Al)

Paul Kanjorski (PA)

Frank Kratovil (MD)

Walt Minnick (ID)

Collin Peterson (MN)

Heath Shuler (NC)

Gene Taylor (MS)

NASA Scientist Warns Obama Has Four Years to Stop Climate Change

Twenty years NASA scientist James Hansen warned Congress about the negative effects of climate change. Last year he warned that in order to stop climate change, carbon dioxide levels need to be 350 parts per minute (ppm). Currently carbon levels are 380 ppm. In 1960 they were at 315 ppm. A few weeks ago, Hansen warned that President Obama only has four years to help stop climate change.

"We cannot afford to put off change any longer," said Hansen. "We have to get on a new path within this new administration. We have only four years left for Obama to set an example to the rest of the world. America must take the lead."

Hansen believes the idea of cap-and-trade schemes "must be scrapped." He pointed out that the U.S. "did not sign Kyoto, yet its emissions are not that different from the countries that did sign it. It's just greenwash."

Concerning future climate talks, Hansen said, "I would rather the forthcoming Copenhagen climate talks fail than we agree to a bad deal," Hansen said.

Hansen favors a "carbon tax" imposed on oil and gas companies. He also is apposed to coal because it is "
responsible for as much atmospheric carbon dioxide as other fossil fuels combined and it still has far greater reserves."
He believes "we must stop using it."

For further reading:

Obama Starts Reversing Bush Environment Policy
The Stimulus Package and the Environment
Too Much for Roads, Not Enough for Public Transit
Obama's Weekly Address

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Will a Cap-and-Trade System Reduce Emissions?

During President Obama's campaign he pledged support for a cap-and-trade system, which places a limit, or 'cap,' on how much a company can emit greenhouse gas emissions. A company must purchase a permit for every ton of carbon dioxide it emits. For some companies it will be cheaper to emit less than its permit allows so it can sell the extra permits to other companies.

After the election, Obama said, "We will start with a federal cap-and-trade system. We'll establish strong annual targets that set us on a course to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020, and reduce them a further 80 percent by 2050."

Obama's targets are in line with a Union of Concerned Scientist (UCS) analysis which sets the desired limits at 15-20 percent below 2000 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below by 2050.

UCS believes that a "well designed cap-and-trade program would put a price on carbon emissions that reflects the cost of global warming."

Dag Hammarskj√∂ld Centre report mentions that the Los Angeles “industry successfully lobbied local government to replace existing and proposed air quality regulations with a trading program.” The SCAQMD allocated pollution allowances to the 370 worst polluters, “including oil refineries, power plants, aerospace companies, asphalt batch plants, chemical plants and cement plants.” Los Angeles still has the worst air basin in the country.

The report also criticized the Acid Rain program, created in 1995 by the U.S. federal government to reduce sulfur dioxide levels, and pointed out that the
the Congress “went out of their way to reassure polluters and utility investors that they ‘should expect that allowances will partake of durable economic value and that commercial and other relevant law will apply to allowances and function to protect their value.’”expressed its ‘intention to treat emissions allowances as if they were absolute property rights, except in exigent circumstances.’” According to the report sulphur levels in the U.S. increased by four percent in 2003 “as a result of the program’s banking mechanisms.”

The EU Trading Scheme

Created in 2005, the European Union's (EU) Emission Trading Scheme is the largest "multi-country, multi-sector Greenhouse Gas emission trading scheme world-wide,” according to the EU’s website. energy-intensive industries an allocation for emissions,” according to SmartPlanet.com. “Efficient companies can trade their excess emissions to companies that emit more than their fair share.”

There are critics of the trading scheme. “Just over a month ago, Europe was united in pushing other developed countries to commit to reductions of 25-40 per cent in emissions by 2020. Yet today it has only committed to a 20 per cent reduction,” said Steven Hale, director of Green Alliance in Britain, last year.

“This system, which has been running since the beginning of 2005, began by handing out carbon dioxide emissions permits, free of charge to big European companies. By and large, those who produced the most carbon emissions were given the most permits: the polluter was paid,” he wrote in his book Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning. He further pointed out in Heat that the scheme “seized something which should belong to all of us—the right, within the system, to produce a certain amount of carbon dioxide—and given it to the corporation.”

What a well-designed program should look like

Clearly not all cap-and-trade programs are effective. The UCS lists what a "well-designed" program should look like:

  • Stringently capping emissions, with firm near-term goals.
  • Include as many sectors as possible.
  • Include all major heat-trapping gas emissions.
  • Auction allowances rather than give them away to polluters.
  • Use auction revenues for the public good.
  • Exclude loopholes that undermine the integrity of the system.
  • Include strict criteria for cost-containment mechanisms such as offsets and borrowing.
  • Link with similar programs.

Obama Starts Reversing Bush Enviroment Policy

Monday morning, President Obama spoke about the importance of building a "new energy economy," reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the executive orders he was about to sign. He reminded Americans of the "longterm threat of climate change," and the dangers of being dependent on "foreign oil."

The two executive orders Obama signed concerning the environment are a good start in reversing former President Bush's environmental policies.

One of the executive orders forces the automotive industry to produce more fuel efficient cars. The new standards for 2011 cars increase fuel efficiency to at least 35 miles per gallon.

Our goal is not to further burden an already struggling industry," he said. "It is to help America's automakers prepare for the future. This commitment must extend beyond the short-term assistance for businesses and workers. We must help them thrive by building the cars of tomorrow, and galvanizing a dynamic and viable industry for decades to come."

The other executive order directs the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider California's request to set its own vehicle emissions standards. California contains the two worst air basins in the country: Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley.

"I'm directing the Environmental Protection Agency to immediately review the denial of the California waiver request and determine the best way forward," Obama said. "This helps us create incentives to develop new energy that will make us less dependent on oil."

Too Much for Roads, Not Enough For Public Transit

The $825 billion economic stimulus package President Barack Obama is working out with the Congress has one major flaw: it includes too many funds for new roads and not enough for public transportation. Consider this: $32 billion is provided for new roads and only $10 billion for public transportation.

Karen Wayland, legislative director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, points out that Congress should use the stimulus package to the U.S. away from "highways and toward railways and mass transit." “The transportation component of the stimulus package underfunds mass transit in deference to highways and bridges.”

“It is particularly disappointing to see that, unlike highway funds, public transportation and passenger rail funds have been cut below the levels suggested by the House Transportation Committee, limiting job creation in these areas,” said Brent Blackwelder, Friends of the Earth president. “Public transportation investments create 19 percent more jobs per dollar spent than investments in new highways.”

“There’s a lot of new asphalt-laying [in the bill],” head of the Safe Climate Campaign, Daniel Becker said, “and that will undercut a lot of the green efforts.”
Marchant Wentworth, Union of Concerned Scientists legislative representative, supports the overall stimulus package, pointing out that last year the Energy Department’s budget for renewable energy was only $4.1 billion.

“This is a massive, massive increase in [green] spending.”
However, Wentworth also pointed out that $10 billion for public transportation is not enough. “You could triple that and still have needs out there for relieving congestion.”

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Obama's Weekly Address

In President Obama's weekly video address he discussed the $825 billion American Recovery and Investment Plan, commonly referred to as the stimulus package, which he hopes to sign into law next month. One aspect of the stimulus package Obama mentioned is creating a clean energy economy by investing in renewable energy, laying down a new electrical grid, and retrofitting a million homes.

"We don't just throw money at our problems, we invest in what works," Obama assured Americans.

Watch the address:

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Freelance writer, journalist, editor

The Stimulus Package and the Environment

President Barack Obama and the House are working out an $825 billion economic stimulus package. The good news for environmentalists is that renewable energy, energy efficiency, and electricity transmission are included. During his first weekly address, Obama said the stimulus will do more than just "boost employment...It's one that will invest in our most important priorities -- like energy and education and...a new infrastructure -- that are necessary to keep us strong and competitive in the 21st century."

Break-down of spending on the environment
  • $50 billion for renewable energy projects
  • $37.4 billion to Energy Department, most must be spent in 100 days (mostly R&D)
  • $32 billion for a new smart electrical grid (digital) which would reduce waste
  • $20 billion in tax cuts for renewable energy projects
  • $16 billion for repairing and retrofitting public houses in order to make them more energy efficient
  • $10 billion public transportation…but $32 billion for building new roads
  • $6 billion for weatherizing modest income houses
  • $2 billion in loan guarantees for makers of advanced vehicle batteries and battery systems
Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Freelance writer, journalist, editor

For further reading:

Investing in Our Future: Support for a Clean Energy Economy