• The Chevrolet Carbon Stories, Part 3 Metrolina Greenhouse

    It's no secret that all buildings, whether residential or business, need energy for heat. No building is a better example than a greenhouse, which traditionally uses fossil fuels to create enough heat to grow plants. That's a lot of energy expended. But what if we can substitute fossil fuel for biomass, especially waste wood or tree trimmings / waste from forests in place of fossil fuels? As part of its Carbon Reduction Initiative, Chevrolet is supporting Metrolina Greenhouse in North Carolina. Metrolina grows over 70 million plants a year and is one of four greenhouse projects from the same developer that is utilizing biomass burners for heating the greenhouse instead of fossil fuel burners. The greenhouses grow plant materials that are shipped all over the U.S. The biomass fuel is mostly wood that would otherwise be destined for the landfill, or low value wood from forest thinnings. This type of biomass meets the United Nation's Clean Development Mechanism’s "Definition of Renewable Biomass." This project will reduce fossil fuel consumption, divert waste from landfills and improve the quality of air for the community surrounding it. >> Read the Full Article
  • Economic woes no excuse for climate inaction, says China

    Economic problems in Europe and elsewhere should not get in the way of a new pact to fight global warming, China's top climate official said on Tuesday ahead of major climate talks in South Africa. Delegates from nearly 200 countries meet from Monday till Dec 9 in Durban as part of marathon U.N.-led negotiations on a broader pact to curb growing greenhouse gas emissions as the world faces rising sea levels and greater weather extremes. "After the financial crisis, every country has had its problems, but these problems are just temporary," Xie Zhenhua, vice-director of the National Development and Reform Commission, told reporters on Tuesday. Officials in Beijing have suggested economic turmoil in Europe and political unrest in North Africa have pushed climate change far down the list of global priorities, overshadowing next week's talks and undermining plans to provide cash and technical support to poor nations to adapt to climate change. >> Read the Full Article
  • Pumping water from High Plains aquifer reducing stream flows, threatening fish habitat

    Suitable habitat for native fishes in many Great Plains streams has been significantly reduced by the pumping of groundwater from the High Plains aquifer -- and scientists analyzing the water loss say ecological futures for these fishes are "bleak." Results of their study have been published in the journal Ecohydrology. Unlike alluvial aquifers, which can be replenished seasonally with rain and snow, these regional aquifers were filled by melting glaciers during the last Ice Age, the researchers say. When that water is gone, it won't come back -- at least, until another Ice Age comes along. "It is a finite resource that is not being recharged," said Jeffrey Falke, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. "That water has been there for thousands of years, and it is rapidly being depleted. Already, streams that used to run year-round are becoming seasonal, and refuge habitats for native fishes are drying up and becoming increasingly fragmented." >> Read the Full Article
  • U.S. proposes to double auto fuel economy by 2025

    The Obama administration proposed on Wednesday doubling auto fuel efficiency to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, a White House energy priority that has come under scrutiny in Congress. The plan grew out of an uneasy agreement between the administration, automakers and environmental groups to reduce U.S. dependence on oil imports and cut tailpipe emissions. Regulators hope to finalize the proposal by summer following a 60-day public comment period. The administration wants to give industry five years to develop fuel-saving technologies further and plan products before the rule would start taking effect in 2017. "We expect this program will not only save consumers money, it will ensure automakers have the regulatory certainty they need to make key decisions," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. Current standards require automakers to raise efficiency from 27 mpg today to 35.4 mpg by 2016. Targets beginning in 2017 would require a 5 percent annual efficiency gain for cars and 3.5 to 5 percent for light trucks, which include SUVs, pickups and vans. >> Read the Full Article
  • Chevrolet's Carbon Initiative Program, Part Two

    In the U.S., the best wind resources are in the Northern Plains – but it’s virtually impossible for a single individual to build a multi-million dollar turbine. But if a group of individuals come together, they can work with an enterprising electric company to create a community- supported wind farm. As part of its Carbon Initiative Program, Chevrolet is supporting the Crow Lake Wind Project, a 108 turbine, 162 MW wind project owned by the Basin Electric Cooperative, a public power entity serving rural cooperative power customers principally in the north central plains states. The project was built utilizing a first-of-its-kind community wind investment partnership. In addition, this is the largest project currently operational in South Dakota. The first 100 turbines, owned by Basin Electric Cooperative, enabled the two smaller projects to be developed. Seven turbines are owned by a group of around one hundred local community investors (farmers, ranchers, local businesses). The last turbine is owned by the Mitchell Technical Institute, a school providing vocational education to local students – including training in construction, operations and maintenance of wind farms. Fully operational since February 2011, the Crow Lake Wind Project introduces wind energy into a system heavily dependent on conventional coal combustion, diversifying the resource base. It also supplies and supports rural consumer-owned electric cooperatives and creates community jobs in construction and operations. >> Read the Full Article
  • Revenge of the internal combustion engine

    At the Chevrolet dealership here, customers want to see and touch the Volt, the gasoline-electric hybrid hailed by enthusiasts as the kind of innovation that could secure the future of General Motors. But they usually kick the Volt's tires and move on, often to a Cruze. The compact Chevy gets up to 42 miles per gallon, and you can buy two of them for the cost of one $40,000 Volt. Call it the revenge of the internal combustion engine. Major automakers and the Obama administration have bet heavily on hybrids and pure electric vehicles. But new and more efficient gas engines are winning on the showroom floor, an inconvenient truth that could slow the acceptance of electric cars. "They come in to look at a Cruze. They drive a Volt. They go back to the Cruze. It really helps us with sales of the Cruze," said Michael Mosser, general manager of Suburban Chevrolet of Ann Arbor. The plug-in Volt has become General Motors Co's high-mileage halo car. But the hybrid has also been outsold by its simpler sibling by 200 to 1. Globally, GM has sold about 5,000 Volts versus 1 million Cruzes. >> Read the Full Article
  • International Sustainability Standards: Pros and Cons

    Sustainability is an economic, social, and ecological concept. It is intended to be a means of configuring civilization and human activity so that society and its members are able to meet their needs and express their greatest potential in the present, while preserving biodiversity and natural ecosystems, and planning and acting for the ability to maintain these ideals indefinitely. Sustainability affects every level of organization, from the local neighborhood to the entire globe. With that said how do you specifically define what is sustainable? Economic needs are fairly easy to figure out; ultimately it is do you make a profit or not. Social needs will depend on the society involved and every society is different. There is a difference between urban and rural needs for example much less North Africa, China, and the US. Ecological standards will also vary because it is far from clear how much resilience that an ecosystem has and as a result there will be constant and shifting debate on those standards. Over the past two decades a growing number of voluntary sustainability initiatives and other multi-stakeholder alliances have emerged to improve the livelihoods of the millions of commodity-dependent producers and manufacturers around the world. The growth of such initiatives represents an important opportunity for all stakeholders to participate in the greening of global supply chains and improvement of producer livelihoods. The multiplication of these initiatives makes it increasingly challenging for all stakeholders to stay abreast of the latest developments and best practices across the voluntary sector. Moreover, it is exceedingly difficult to assess their utility and performance, let alone the steps required to mainstream best practice. >> Read the Full Article
  • Climate change imperils global prosperity, UN warns

    A new report from the United Nations Development Program warns that if drastic measures are not taken to prepare nations for the impacts of climate change, the economic progress of the world's developing countries could stall or even be reversed by 2050. This year's annual report, approaches the issue of climate change and environmental degradation from the standpoint of economic development and the eradication of poverty. "Even if someone's a climate skeptic, this report says, 'Put that aside for a second,' " said William Orme, a spokesman for the United Nations agency. "If you believe in something like a moral commitment to the global community and in getting people out of poverty, we must address these environmental problems." Each region of the world faces unique challenges between now and 2050, the report warns, but most are linked to environmental complications arising from climate change. >> Read the Full Article
  • Enterprise Leads the Car Rental Market with its First Ever Sustainability Report

    The car rental market is one of the markets that are constantly getting greener, offering a growing number of green services from the newest electric cars to car sharing programs. Yet surprisingly, none of the major car rental companies, until now, have published a sustainability report. Well, that was true until last week when Enterprise Holdings (which owns and operates the Alamo, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car brands) took the lead and announced the release of its first ever sustainability report. >> Read the Full Article
  • Toymaker Hasbro cuts deforestation from its supply chain

    Hasbro, the second largest American toy company, today announced a new packaging policy that excludes the use of fiber produced via destruction of rainforests, reports Greenpeace. The policy requires suppliers of forest products to "demonstrate compliance with all applicable international and national legal requirements for forest management, harvest, manufacturing and trade." It mandates third party verification of legality in cases when a supplier is sourcing from areas determined to be "high risk" for illegal logging. >> Read the Full Article