February 2, 2010


Go Tell It On the Mountain Before There Isn't a Mountain to Tell It On

Help Us Convince The EPA to Stop Mountaintop Removal Mining

It seems pretty obvious that blowing up the top of a mountain would be bad for the mountain (and the surrounding environment). But, despite overwhelming scientific evidence pointing to the negative environmental effects of mountaintop removal mining, the Army Corps of Engineers has submitted 79 revised permit requests for mountaintop removal operations to the Environmental Protection Agency. (The EPA rejected the 79 permit requests last year because all requested operations would likely violate the Clean Water Act.) So far, one project has been approved.

When a mountaintop is "removed" to afford access to coal, forests are clear-cut and topsoil stripped, millions of tons of earth are exploded, and the resulting debris is then dumped into adjacent valleys, often burying the streams below. These processes not only cause (obvious) irreparable harm to a mountain, but also threaten biodiversity and the health of human populations downstream from valley fills. In other words, the results are anything but scenic. In fact, the whole thing makes for an altogether un-pretty environmental picture.

What's more, the entire process is employed only for the mining of coal, a source of expensive and dangerous pollution in itself. Government should be incentivizing the exploration of cleaner, sustainable energy sources, not encouraging an environmentally destructive activity that also furthers an industry with so many problems of its own.

Help us drive change by asking EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to stand strong against the coal industry and put an end to mountaintop removal under the demands of the Clean Water Act.

Readers can also contact the EPA's Mid-Atlantic office with comments and suggestions for EPA staff near proposed mining sites.

Once you've done that, we ask that you also forward this email to a friend.

Support Earthquake Relief in Haiti

Travel Plays a Role...

We're sure that all of our members have already given generously to help Haitians in the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince on January 12. But the destruction and chaos caused by the earthquake continue to hamper efforts to deliver foreign aid. Because it may take weeks before seaports can reopen, it's necessary to get as many supplies and aid workers into Haiti as possible by air. Many airlines are not only helping to organize relief efforts but are also providing incentives for their customers to continue to give. Flyers can donate both money and frequent flyer miles, and in some cases be matched in their donations or earn miles in return. Find out more (and give more) by clicking on your favorite carrier.

American Airlines / Continental / Delta / United*

*United customers should email receipts here to have donations matched and earn up to 500 bonus miles.

In an attempt to make its other contributors seem smarter, Common Dreams scooped KA on this op-ed by our esteemed President. You can find it here.

"Quid Pro...What?"

Can the Supreme Court Be So Naive as to Believe That Corporations Give From the Goodness of Their Hearts?

Well, The Court Says That Corporations Are People, So It's Possible

by Mitch Rofsky, BWC President

In 1979, I testified before the House Administration Committee on campaign finance reform. Orange County, CA Rep. Jerry Lewis (R), who later became chair of the House Appropriations Committee, interrupted my testimony:

"Mr. Rofsky, do you have evidence of bribery relative to any of the members of this committee?"

I was only 28 years old, so I did not have the presence to respond as I would today: "Sir, I think you are all evidence of bribery."

Well, apparently, one man's bribery is another's free speech. At least that's the conclusion you'd draw after the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that corporate spending during political campaigns is "free speech" and protected by the First Amendment.

Can Washington really be this naive? Has idealism been taken to a new level? Or is this a new kind of cover up, this time abetted by the Supreme Court?

Prosecutors enforce the strictest possible definition of bribery: the "quid pro quo," wherein a specific act is exchanged for some benefit, usually money. Obviously, the Court and other conservatives have adopted this definition as well: a legislator is only "bribed" if he changes his vote in exchange for a contribution. Yet common sense rightly concludes that millions of dollars in political donations aren't exchanged for nothing. The key is influence. And political contributors have plenty of it.

Here in Oregon, corporations are allowed to make political contributions. Better World Club has been explicitly solicited for funds and refused. We can only dream that every business will do the same. Complete Story

More 'Washington Watch' in 'Kicking Asphalt'

- New Network of Responsible Business Organizations Forms


Genetically Modified Tobacco Could Smoke Other Crops as Energy Source

Researchers Successfully Test Genetic Manipulations to Increase Oil Accumulation in Tobacco Leaves

by Jenny Mandel
Scientific American

Researchers at the Biotechnology Foundation Laboratories of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia have successfully tested genetic manipulations to increase oil accumulation in the leaves of tobacco plants, according to a paper published online in Plant Biotechnology Journal.

In most plants, biofuel oil is extracted from the seeds rather than the leaves or stems. But while tobacco plants produce very oily seeds, they do not make large numbers of them, the researchers said.

By engineering plants to overexpress one gene, the researchers doubled the fatty acids extracted from a plant to 5.8 percent of the dry biomass weight for one tobacco strain and 6 percent for another.

A second genetic change made the plant accumulate up to 6.8 percent per dry weight of extracted fatty acids, they reported.

The researchers said further experimentation should be done to test whether making both of the changes in a single plant yields the full cumulative increase.

But if either of those gains could be secured at a large scale, tobacco could become a useful biofuel feedstock, they said. Complete Story

Additional Ways to Get Where You're Going:

Drink green even when it's not St. Patty's. How sustainable is your happy hour?

Arctic ice can run, but it can't hide. (At least as long as it hasn't completely melted.) C.I.A. to help scientists spy on climate change.

We aren't holding our breath for you to finish that novel this year. Why not make a new year's resolution for the planet?

If you would like to contribute your opinion to Driving Change's 'Giving Directions' please email it to us at


Toyota Halts Sales of 8 Models in U.S. for Pedal Flaw

by Nick Bunkley
The New York Times

Toyota Motor, still struggling to resolve a problem with accelerator pedals, said Tuesday that it would temporarily stop building and selling eight models, including the popular Camry and Corolla sedans, in the North American market.

The unusual move follows two recalls of millions of vehicles in the last two months for a problem that the company has described as a "rare" condition in which the gas pedal can stick and cause a vehicle to speed up unintentionally.

Toyota said it would immediately stop selling the Camry, Corolla and Avalon sedans, Matrix wagon, RAV4 crossover, Tundra pickup, and Highlander and Sequoia sport utility vehicles. Complete Story

Toyota has definitely stepped up to address the problems surrounding the pedal malfunction. But until the situation has been completely worked out, know what to do if you experience unintended acceleration.

What's Green at the Consumer Electronics Show This Year

by Maura Judkis
U.S. News and World Report

There was plent of green to go around at CES, including an OnStar mobile app for the Chevy Volt, available later this year. The app, for iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry Storm and Motorola Droid, allows users to remotely control the car's electrical functions. You can schedule charging time for off-peak hours, start and stop a charge, and recieve text message alerts about your battery. One feature, which OnStar has dubbed the "Brag Bar," allows you to boast about your miles per gallon. Complete Story

Yes, Virginia, There is Winter Biking!

Browse a thorough list of winter cycling tips from Chicago Bike Winter here. Then add suggestions of your own!


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