Tuesday, December 16, 2008

11th Hour Environmental Mischief

Eleventh hour environmental mischief

The Bush administration is quickly tinkering with environmental rules that would not stand scrutiny outside of this busy period of presidential transition.

Seattle Times editorial

The Bush administration is racing the calendar, busy salting federal regulations with changes. Most would be unlikely to survive scrutiny outside of the frenzied period when one presidency ends and another begins.

One example goes after the Endangered Species Act, and another mugs national parks in Utah in the name of oil and gas leases.

Last week, the Interior Department finalized rules that blithely allow government agencies to decide if one of their projects are a threat to an endangered species.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne described the change as a "clarification," of Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. Instead of consulting independent reaction from the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to assess consequences, it would be up to an agency's own self-serving discretion.

Hard-earned experience has taught the environmental community this is a bogus approach, and they filed suit in federal court to challenge changes they view as illegal.

The Interior Department is also trying to change language that covers the breadth of a designation of endangered status. In the past, listing bald eagles as endangered meant all bald eagles were covered. The administration wants to narrow the definition by qualifying and limiting descriptions of a species' range and territory.

Another last-minute flurry of activity is under way with the Bureau of Land Management, which wants to open 51,000 acres of oil and gas leases near Arches, Dinosaur and Canyonlands national parks.

Environmentalists are upset, appropriately so, and so is the National Park Service, which sounds like it was blindsided by the sales. They are none too keen about the prospects of drilling trashing up treasured and protected views and vistas.

The urgency of the leasing activity is suspect. Even as "drill, baby, drill" echoed in the presidential campaign, most leases on public land go unused.

Congress and President-elect Barack Obama need to keep a running tally of this bureaucratic mischief. These rules have sticky tenacity, so what the new administration cannot undo, it falls to lawmakers to make amends by statute.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company


The Evolution of Self

NEW YORK, NY, December 15, 2008 /24-PressRelease/

-- With 19,000 people going vegetarian everyday, people and animals getting sick from what they eat, environmental problems, animal abuse, endangered species and other serious issues, this is information that anyone (vegetarian or not) should be aware of. As those who occupy this planet cannot continue to keep their blinders on. While this book won't convince everyone to become a vegetarian or vegan, it will open their eyes as to the benefits of it, for both animals and humans. TE Sutton went out of her way to go over her own personal details as to why she decided to stop eating animals, start helping them, in turn helping her own self and countless others. She firmly believes she is a better person for it. She believes that you will be, too.

At long last there is a call to arms, a code of ethics if you will, for all who want to create a better life for animals while improving the health of humans. This young author will touch your heart and conscience as she shares how she evolved into a cruelty-free eating and living lifestyle. The journey will bring both tears and smiles. All who view the dramatic presentation of animals on her website will be transformed into a kinder, gentler person. And you'll likely find yourself on a new and personal mission once you've read this most soul-searching account of what goes on in both the commercial and private world of animals. You, too, will want to share how it feels to cry happy tears after you've helped rescue just one animal or helped change a law and saved thousands from torture. Follow your heart and join the movement. The rewards you'll receive will be endless. And you'll sleep better each night knowing you did a very good thing for the animals.

You did not just stumble upon this news story today. Perhaps you have come across it for a reason? If everyone will share what they have learned (from this book) with others in their lives, many lives will be changed for the better. Thousands of animal lives will also be saved. Purchase your copy of Compassion Is A Choice by TE Sutton today. Help yourself and the animals to experience a more promising tomorrow.

Discover for yourself why this young author is getting nothing but positive feedback, from all over the world. Tiffany Sutton takes great pride in helping to inform society about animal welfare with integrity and intelligence. Through her own words, both written and verbal, she promotes kindness towards animals in a peaceful manner and encourages others to do the same. "The ONLY way to reach people is with education and information, ONE person at a time".

On a personal note, Tiffany is active in helping feral cats in her community and is a sponsor for several animal welfare organizations. She helps to feed, rescue and foster cats and kittens for adoption. Tiffany has been self employed, working from her home office since 2003, so she could be with her companion animals. Her interests are fitness, reading, natural health and living a cruelty-free lifestyle.

Meet Tiffany:


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sweden points the way toward cutting vehicle emissions — and growing tax revenues

Sweden points the way toward cutting vehicle emissions — and growing tax revenues

Posted on November 21st, 2008
By Nathanial Gronewold

Climatewire: NEW YORK — Some of the world’s most innovative intelligent transportation systems (ITS) involve a web of new technologies that enables traffic managers to minimize vehicle congestion and reduce emissions that cause climate change. Some generate tax revenues that can be used to make roads safer and urban travel more efficient.

The more than 10,000 visitors to this year’s World Congress on ITS, which held sessions here this week, were shown a wide array of the latest ITS ideas as tech companies tried to woo government officials to their products and services. Demonstrations held on the few square blocks closed off on the West Side of Manhattan for the event featured cars that refused to crash into each other or run red lights. Other cars had onboard computers warning drivers to watch out for oncoming traffic or pedestrians that they can’t see.

The highlight of the show was a driverless vehicle that uses advanced sensors and cameras to navigate roadways and avoid collisions. While the fully automated passenger vehicle will probably not be seen on the roads for a very long time, the vast majority of the technologies presented here this week — including advanced monitoring systems, coordinated traffic signaling technology and quick toll payment systems — have proved themselves in the real world and are available for cities to take advantage of now.

This year’s trade show focused heavily on safety. Forty-three thousand Americans are killed in traffic accidents each year, and ITS enthusiasts say smart traffic management systems and advanced safety features can do much to bring that number far down. But organizers of next year’s annual intelligent transportation systems convention, to be held in Stockholm, Sweden, are planning to emphasize the benefits of ITS to solving the climate change problem.

As negotiations are expected to heat up in 2009, with European officials and a new U.S. president eager to reach a new international climate treaty, Swedish authorities say they are now pulling out all the stops to show how today’s technology can be used to gain big reductions in emissions from the transportations sector.

Preparations for the Stockholm convention provide “one very good example of what needs to be done and what has been done,” said Ingemar Skogö, director-general of the Swedish Road Administration, at a preview in New York.

Avoiding traffic congestion will be the first big step to reduce CO2

The best way to make big cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from all vehicles is through dramatic improvements in fuel economy, or by developing cars and trucks that don’t run on fossil fuels. Vehicles that run purely on biofuels spew much lower amounts of carbon dioxide than conventional vehicles, and fully electric cars, buses or trucks produce no direct emissions from their operation.

But until such technology can be perfected and can stand up on its own in the marketplace, governments eager to reduce the impact of transportation on climate would be wise to look to intelligent transportation systems instead, experts say. By simply avoiding congestion, cars and trucks burn much less fuel, ITS proponents note, thereby pouring less CO2 into the atmosphere.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that the American economy suffered losses of some $78 billion in 2005 while drivers were stuck in traffic. That amount measures lost time and productivity, but more importantly, lost fuel. About 3 billion gallons of gasoline are wasted each year as commuters idle in their gridlocked city streets.

The main reason behind implementing intelligent transportation systems is to reduce congestion and keep traffic, and the economy, running as smoothly as possible. And the best-designed systems not only reduce traffic jams but also clean the air. Officials at DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration estimate that well-coordinated traffic control systems using an array of technologies can cut vehicle emissions by 13 to 26 percent.

Municipalities the world over have known this for years, but the spread of advanced systems is still spotty.

The problem with ITS is that “there have been a lot of good ideas over the years … but we haven’t seen much deployment,” said Skogö.

Good ideas to end fuel-wasting gridlocks, but not much deployment

But as host to next year’s trade event, Sweden intends to lead by example, hoping that other countries struggling to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions will follow its cue and encourage wider adoption of advanced ITS.

Swedish officials say their nation has already managed to cut its greenhouse gas emission levels by 9 percent without hurting economic growth.

“However, more needs to be done,” especially in transportation, said Ambassador Ulf Hjertonsson, consul general of Sweden in New York.

Stockholm is one of the few cities to impose congestion fees on vehicles that enter the city’s most crowded quarters during rush hour times. The city is also rolling out “load pricing,” charging heavier cargo vehicles more for operating at peak times, to encourage trucking companies to have the biggest trucks enter the city when activity is relatively low. Both programs are expected to generate millions of dollars in additional revenue that officials can pour into road improvements and other transportation projects.

The city is also enhancing its real-time traffic information systems. Traffic information and public transit alerts can be beamed to individuals’ cell phones before commuters head out to work. If there are problems on certain roads or rail lines, then alternate routes are suggested, hopefully giving travelers plenty of time to figure out the best way to get to their destinations.

“It very much has to do with having the entire picture,” said Dan Jangblad, senior vice president at Saab AB, a division of the Swedish carmaker that produces such technology. The same information systems can be used to help traffic management officers and emergency personnel to cooperate with each other and keep traffic flowing, he said.

‘Dynamic’ speed limit signs that can change traffic flows

Another technology featured at the New York event that will make an appearance in Sweden next year is dynamic speed limit signs. Remote operators who wish to slow the flow of traffic in one area to adjust vehicle volume in another can lower the speed limit shown on the signs, reducing the chance of accidents and further traffic delays at the same time.

“You’re able to control the traffic by adjusting speed limits in a dynamic way” depending on what the circumstances call for, Jangblad explained.

Stockholm, like most other large industrialized cities, also makes heavy use of hundreds of cameras to monitor its highways and byways from a command center operating 24 hours a day. Officials this week demonstrated the Web-based system, showing conference in attendees in New York snapshots of real-time street conditions in various corners of the Swedish capital thousands of miles away.

All these technologies have helped Stockholm keep its streets in good order, officials said. That’s not an easy task, either, they point out, noting that the city is built on top of an archipelago of some 30,000 islands and islets.

But even taking into account the city’s creative congestion pricing zones and traffic management systems, it is Stockholm’s impressive public transportation system that explains why the city has a much lighter carbon footprint than comparable U.S. cities, including New York.

“Electrified railway is by far the best solution” for curbing CO2 emissions, said Sören Belin, managing director at the Swedish rail company Green Cargo. City officials estimate that more than 78 percent of Stockholm’s workers get to their destinations during the week via public transit.

Given the length and expense involved in expanding public transit, city officials in Europe and the United States would be wise to invest in tax dollars in ITS to make real fuel savings and emission reduction gains quickly, industry officials say.

World leaders have committed to reducing carbon emission levels by 50 percent by the middle of this century. Saab’s Jangblad said that cuts in transportation emissions — including from street vehicles, airplanes and large cargo ships — could contribute anywhere from 15 percent to 35 percent toward that ambitious target.

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