December 2006


Like A Lead Balloon

EPA Proposes Delisting Lead As A Pollutant

Is it just us, or have the folks at the EPA been taking crazy pills lately? Their latest foray into the enchanted forest of illogic and whimsy: They're actually considering dropping the health standards for lead pollution in our air.

The agency claims eliminating these standards might be justified "given the significantly changed circumstances since lead was listed in 1976" as an air pollutant. The "changed circumstances", apparently, being the 90 percent drop in airborne lead concentrations over the last 25 years. The EPA is thus arguing that regulating lead worked so well that it's now time to stop regulating it.

Lead levels in air have mostly fallen because lead was banned as a gasoline additive in the 1970s. Auto manufacturers had asked for the ban because it damaged catalytic converters.

The bottom line is that lead is still poisonous. It still kills people, and it still causes a host of health problems, including birth defects. These circumstances have not changed.

The EPA is currently accepting public comments for this proposed policy reversal. Click here to send the EPA an email and let them know that lead should continue to be regulated as a pollutant.

Here's a letter from Timothy J. Lafond, the Environmental Committee Chair of the Battery Council International. The BCI is the lobbying face of the lead battery industry. Timothy obviously cares a lot about the EPA, because he has several suggestions for making the agency more "efficient". According to the BCI, the best way for the EPA to be "efficient" would be for them to stop regulating lead pollution.

Wanted: A New Waiver

No, Not 'A Flock of Seagulls'

EPA Withholds A Waiver For California's New Emission Standards

In 2004, California adopted regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from light trucks and passenger vehicles. The new limits would phase in gradually, and by 2016 greenhouse gas emissions from new vehicles would be cut by 30%. Ten other states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon*, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) all jumped on the "Trashing-The-Planet-Is-A-Bad-Idea" bandwagon and adopted California's standards as well.

It's now 2006, and California is still waiting to implement the new standards. The only thing holding up approval is the receipt of a waiver from the EPA under section 209(b) of the Clean Air Act, which California has requested. The waiver requirement aims to ensure that the proposed state standards be at least as protective as federal standards. If lawsuits from automakers are any indication (and they are), the new standards are certainly "as protective" as the EPA's.

Drive Change and send EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson an email, letting him know that you want the new emissions standards approved.

Even better, mail Stephen L. Johnson a letter (and/or a haiku):

USEPA Headquarters
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W.
Mail Code: 1101A
Washington, DC 20460

Attn: Stephen L. Johnson

*Better World Club endorsed the new emissions standards, starting in California and following in Oregon, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

Related Links:

- Read the letter Congress sent to Stephen L. Johnson
- Learn more about New Wave and A Flock of Seagulls

Haiku Activism!

The true spirit of Bushido calls for a balance between the art of war and just plain old art. Once you've signed a petition for the EPA, why not show your sensitive, artistic side by sending them a haiku? It's the honorable thing to do.

Our air is dirty
There is a way to clean it
You make it happen

- BWC Member Leah R.
San Francisco, CA

Click here to read more BWC member haikus.


Finally, Someone Agrees With BWC Regarding Auto Emissions: It's Not Just About Global Warming, It's About Pollution

California Wants Auto Makers to Control Emissions Because Business Doesn't Have the Right to Pollute

Unfortunately, Legal Recourse May Be Limited In the Absence of Legislation

Arguing that the State of California is interfering with foreign policy and national regulation, major automakers have asked a federal judge to dismiss the state's lawsuit alleging that auto emissions are a public nuisance. The automakers argue further that the state is seeking to sanction them for selling a state-approved product.

In papers filed last week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, six manufacturers said the suit has no basis in state or federal law and could cause "incalculable damage (to) the nation's carefully regulated transportation industry and the national economy."

Hmmm.."carefully regulated"? Complete Story

More 'Washington Watch' in 'Kicking Asphalt'

- The Dumbest Tax Policy Ever? (cont'd)


Give Green, Go Yellow

How cash and corporate pressure pushed ethanol to the fore

By Tom Philpott

... got all liquored on that road house corn ...
-- Tom Waits, "Gun Street Girl"

Before it became widely used as a car fuel, ethanol was just grain liquor -- and the federal government was not particularly kind to it.

Shortly after the American Revolution, the new government imposed a draconian tax on the stuff, hoping to pay down wartime debt. Instead, it got the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, an insurrection eventually put down by forces led by President Washington himself. Similar hostility -- including the indignity of Prohibition, the 1920s-era federal ban on alcohol production -- marked official attitudes toward ethanol until 1978.

That year and thereafter, however, the government warmed considerably to "white lightning," as the 200-proof elixir is sometimes known. Rather than tax ethanol heavily, the government now lavishes it with tax breaks. Rather than ban production, the government subsidizes it. And commercial ethanol production, which withered away after World War II, now booms.

Why the change in fortune?

Ethanol's revival is intimately linked to one company, the giant grain-trading firm Archer Daniels Midland, and one seemingly unrelated product, high-fructose corn syrup. Complete Story

Additional Ways to Get Where You're Going:

Concern for the environment causes US motorists to drive less (Okay, fine. It's actually because of gas prices. It was a nice thought, though, wasn't it?).

Underwriter doesn't want to insure houses underwater. Allstate is no longer writing new homeowner policies in coastal areas due to severe storms caused by global warming.

The ten thousand mile walk to the curb: Recycling in Antarctica.

According to the Scientific American, a recent microbe census shows that the air we breathe any given day contains thousands of microbes.

Great, now who's going to clean this up? Global warming could lead to more junk in space.

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


Great Green Gift Ideas! Carbon Offsets! Better World Club Memberships!

Let Your Loved Ones Know You Care By Giving Them The Gift Of... Nothing

Carbon Offsets From Better World Club Allow You To Negate Emissions

You good-looking and intelligent members of Better World Club all know the importance of offsetting carbon emissions when traveling, but what about your friends and family? Through the purchase of carbon offsets you can make sure to maintain the esteem of your loved ones while also helping them to zero their environmental impact. What's more, not only do carbon offsets work to counteract the damage done to the environment by fossil-fuel emissions, but they're quick, inexpensive, versatile, don't require manufacture, and don't need to be shipped. Click here for more info.

You can also give the gift of advocacy and buy someone a BWC membership this holiday season.

Green Victoria

Retail Giant 'Victoria's Secret' Introduces More Sustainable Catalogs

Bowing to pressure from environmental groups, Victoria's Secret has agreed to stop sourcing paper for their catalogs from forests home to threatened Canadian caribou.

The company's catalogs will use either 10 percent-recycled paper or 10 percent new paper from sources certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as having been produced in an environmentally sustainable manner.

Victoria's Secret sends out more than 350 million catalogs each year to market its intimate apparel products.

Related Links

- Save even more trees by checking out Victoria's Secret online.

More 'Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is' in 'Kicking Asphalt':

- BWC High-Mileage Review: "The Little Test Car That Could": Remembering The Honda Insight (1999-2006)

- It's Official: GM Is Back On Our Christmas Card List. GM To Make Plug-In Hybrid Of Saturn Vue Green Line

























































BWC Alternative Fuel Report

Like Zombies Crawling Out Of Freshly-Dug Graves:

Fuel Prices Continue To Slowly Rise

Overall, prices continue to rise, with the exception of E85 and B99. B99 is being offered in fewer places in the Midwest and Northeast because it can freeze in cold weather. B99 tends to be expensive in the Northeast, so with Northeastern retailers ceasing sales for the winter, national average prices have dropped. E85 prices rose an average of $0.10 on the West Coast, but dropped or stayed the same everywhere else, resulting in an overall drop in average price.

B20, Gasoline, and Diesel prices have steadily risen since the November elections. Prices had been declining in the months prior to the elections.

B20 prices in the Midwest have stayed the same over the last two weeks, bucking the national trend. The Southern region contains the other major exception, with B99 prices jumping an average of $0.13 over the last two weeks.

Do you have an unnatural interest in fuel prices? Are you a fan of tables filled with important-looking numbers? If so, we recommend finding a healthier hobby ( collecting fingernails, fire walking with David Lynch, etc.) or you can feed your fetish by checking out BWC's previous Alternative Fuel Report, Silent but Deadly Gas (Prices) as published in the November issue of 'Kicking Asphalt'.

"Kicking Asphalt" and "Driving Change", and "TravelCool!" the eNewsletters of Better World Club

Maybe you already receive the monthly issues of Driving Change and Kicking Asphalt, but do you know about 'TravelCool!'? It's Better World Club's newest eNewsletter, written by BWC's remarkably frugal (aka, cheapskate) staff. Who better than penny-pinchers to let you know of the best deals and most appealing vacations? And, these canny consumers are socially responsible--so they are looking for the best eco-travel alternatives. If you're not already subscribed, you can check out the latest issue, or subscribe.

DRIVING CHANGE Anagram of the Month:

Can Giving Herd

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