Aug 2005

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Washington Watch

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Member Alert
September, October Renewers--Don't Ignore New Roadside Assistance Phone Number

Last Fall, Better World Club expanded its roadside assistance network. This necessitated a change of phone number. The new phone number has occasionally been confusing to those of you who are renewing.

So, if you renew with expirations in September and October (or earlier), please be aware that there is a new Roadside Assistance Phone Number. Complete story
What's New
Better World Appointed to OR Task Force on Auto Emissions

Staff Senses Free Food

Mitch Rofsky, Better World Club's President, has been asked by Oregon's Governor Ted Kulongoski to join his Task Force on Automobile Emissions. You may remember from earlier editions of Kicking Asphalt that Rofsky has testified on this issue representing Better World Club's strong support of California's standards as well as Oregon's adoption of them. If you want to contact Mitch regarding the task force's work, use the Contact Us form on the Better World Club site. If you would like to sway Mitch's opinion, as Mitch is already on the record, it won't be easy. No small denomination bills, please.

Top Story
Administration Exempts Large SUVs from New Fuel Economy Standards

BWC Gas Guzzler Surcharge Is Safe

Proposed Bush Administration rules to require auto makers to increase fuel economy standards on pickups, minivans, and some sports utility vehicles will exempt the largest SUVs, such as the Hummer H2. (In a related story, the Bush Administration is raising adolescent physical fitness standards but exempting the fattest kids. It is also raising the standards for corporate securities disclosure but exempting the most dishonest companies. More details to follow.)

Better World Club surcharges 2005's worst gas guzzling vehicles (the Hummer H2, Lamborghini Murcielago, and Dodge Ram 1500) while discounting hybrids. Under the Bush's Administrations proposed rules, it appears that this policy will not have to change.

Better World surcharges the gas guzzlers not to say "nah, nah, nah" or we're "holier than thou" but for the same reasons that we offer carbon offsets: to encourage the owners of these vehicles to recognize the cost that they are imposing on the environment/society. Any amount raised from the surcharge (and we recognize, it's not going to be much), goes to our environmental donation pool.

Better World believes that it is the only company in the nation that imposes surcharges not based on corporate costs but on social costs.

Like many environmental proposals emanating from the Administration, this one is aimed more at assisting industry than raising environmental standards. The original rules averaged out requirements in such a way that American companies believed their fleets were disadvantaged. The new rules average out fuel economy standards by type of vehicle, making it easier for American companies to comply. Complete Story
All Aboard Ohio Is a New Affiliate, Will Help Better World Seek Train Discounts

All Aboard Ohio is a non-profit, member-based organization dedicated to promoting passenger and freight rail service throughout the state--and one of Better World's latest affiliates.

All Aboard Ohio seeks to preserve, expand and improve existing passenger rail services by educating the general public, interested groups, and federal, state and local officials. All Aboard also supports improvements to non-rail forms of transportation, which should be enhanced to improve safety and to better connect them with a passenger rail system.

Better World Club has asked All Aboard to help it obtain train discounts. Better World views train travel as a relatively benign form of travel from an environmental perspective. We'll keep you posted. Meanwhile you can check out All Aboard Ohio here:


Washington Watch
US Congress: New Energy Bill Actually an Environmental Bill

Who Knew???

If last week's bill-signing event was any indication, President Bush is awfully proud of the new energy bill legislation, which was labeled "not easily distinguished from corruption", by conservative George Will. Meanwhile, the US Senate's description of the bill (click here) is surprisingly green: recognizing America's need for reduced foreign oil dependence, lower gas prices, strong global warming provisions and energy conservation. Complete story
In the News
Plenty, CBS Morning News Feature Better World Club

Better World Club was recently touted the "environmentally friendly, socially responsible, nationwide roadside assistance and travel club". by Plenty, the new environmental magazine. Plenty appears to want to be cutting edge--the Wired Magazine of the environmental movement. Complete Story
Member Specials
Is Your House Smarter Than You? Year of Smart Homeowner Magazine Now Part of Better World Membership Fee

Your Better World Club membership now gets you a subscription with Smart Homeowner Magazine.. Smart Homeowner helps explain the ever more complex world of home technology and systems. Better World Club staff had just about given up trying to understand their homes and were planning on moving into yurts when someone ran across Smart Homeowner Complete story

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Better World Club a Product of "Intelligent Design"? No, We're Evolving.

In the May edition of Kicking Asphalt, we introduced a new section entitled "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is". It was so popular that we expanded it in July. We have since learned that a small number of you did not receive our last Kicking Asphalt, so we want to "introduce" the section one more time. If you wish to receive a copy of July's Kicking Asphalt, just email us. Those of you who read the section last month can skip the next two paragraphs.

This section is inspired by the perception that 'conscious consumers' are not a Birkenstock wearing fringe, but a part of a mainstream movement involving more than 60 million Americans. A Roper poll found that 27% of Americans would pay more for green products while a comparable number would choose the green product if it were no more expensive than the competition. A Yankelovich poll concluded that there were nearly 10 million "committed" environmentalists--and another 60 million "interested" ones. Yet we are unaware of our numbers--or our Buying Power.

Voting every two years is not enough. We need to vote with our dollars every day. But consumers need Information to make this easy. Better World will start by providing information as a regular feature of Kicking Asphalt that enables you to "put your money where your mouth is".

Mercury SUV Hybrid Gets Good Reviews

The new Mercury Mariner Hybrid SUV, American-made and built by union workers, will appear in showrooms this fall, but is already on sale. Environmentalists realize that with American companies now offering hybrids, it's important that they are seen as winners. "If we can work with Ford to make its Mercury Hybrid a hit," says Dan Becker, head of Sierra Club's global warming program, "Ford will be convinced that it can make clean vehicles and make money."

The Sierra Club also reports that because the Mariner's electric motor provides enough juice to drive at low speeds, the 133-horsepower gas engine can automatically shut down in stop-and-go traffic. So it gets even better mileage in the city (33 miles per gallon) than on the highway (29 mpg). Another efficient feature is regenerative braking -- when you brake, you generate electricity that recharges the battery.

Nike Takes a Step Forward

A few months ago, Nike released a report that has been described as "warts and all" by Fast Company Magazine on the problems of Nike's manufacturing operations, including evidence of child labor and sexual harassment and the regions where they occurred. This is a great first step. It's hard to believe Nike resisted this for so long and let's hope that its expanded consciousness will lead them to correct the problems that they have identified. (Disclosure: Better World Club has an Employee Discount Program with Nike.)

GM Doesn't

GM pulled $20 million in advertising from the LA Times because it didn't like the fact that GM has missed the market on hybrid cars with its "Big is Better" market strategy. "Shooting the Messenger" doesn't seem like a precise enough axiom when you also pay the messenger to get the word out on your product. Is "Shooting the Shill" an expression?

He Doesn't Even Get A Percentage...And People Knock Lawyers

Robert McCallum, today Associate Attorney General in the Department of Justice, but not long ago a lawyer for RJ Reynolds's law firm, apparently ordered Justice lawyers to slash $120 billion in penalties from the federal lawsuit against Big Tobacco. The stock of Altria Group, the maker of Marlboros, hit an all-time high.

I Only Want What's Fair: Say $30.00 for Each Dumped Worker's Pension...Plus My Salary

United wiped $9 billion off its books by handing its pension problem to the Feds. This means a substantial loss to United's 120,000 current and former workers, but CEO Glenn Tilton pocketed $4.5 million. As President Bush says about being a President, "It's a tough job. Really, a hard job."

Rev. Pat Robertson Comes Out Against CITGO Buycott

Gee, Kicking Asphalt thought it was done talking about Hugo Chavez, the Prime Minister of Venezuela, which owns CITGO Oil. As you may remember, KA has reported Jeff Cohen's call for a CITGO "buycott" and last month we included an exchange between BWC President Mitch Rofsky and one of our members on the subject. But last week, it was reported that Rev. Pat Robertson wanted to "take Chavez out". Naively, we thought he meant on a date (which KA encourages), but no he meant by assassinating him.

We believe Chavez is one of the toughest world leaders to get a handle on. As stated in earlier blurbs, there was controversy over how democratic the last democratic Venezuelan election was. However, a New York Daily News columnist has stepped forward to say that Chavez is in trouble because he wants to offer oil priced below market to third world nations. You can find it here: and make up your own mind.

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