January 2007


The System's Rigged!

Support The CLEAN Energy Act And Help End Subsidies For Big Oil

The House of Representatives just passed a landmark environmental bill The CLEAN Energy Act. This bill, if signed into law, would raise roughly $14 billion that to be invested in renewable energies.

The bill creates a Strategic Renewable Energy Reserve to invest in clean, renewable energy resources, promoting new emerging technologies, developing greater efficiency and improving energy conservation.

The strength of the bill lies in its fairness. It would generate all funding by addressing key inequities. First, it would cut tax subsidies for oil exploration. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it would hold oil companies responsible for billions of dollars in unpaid royalties from Gulf of Mexico drilling leases signed in 1998 and 1999.

Predictably, Big Oil warns that taking away the petroleum industry's special privileges would hurt the US economy. But, good environmental policy creates jobs. According to the Renewable Fuels Association, the ethanol industry supported the creation of more than 150,000 jobs in all sectors of the U.S. economy, boosting U.S. household income by $5.7 billion in 2005 alone.

The CLEAN Energy Act would help end our dependence on all oil, both foreign and domestic.

However, it's not all cream cheese and daisies. The margin of support for this bill in the Senate is slim. Every vote counts, which is why it's so important that all of our members contact their Senators and urge them to support a Senate version of the CLEAN Energy Act.

*** Click here to Drive Change and let your Senator know that you support the CLEAN Energy Act.***

Related Links:

- Learn more about the CLEAN Energy Act.
- Read more about the unpaid royalties in the Seattle Times.
- BWC first reported on this story in the June 2006 edition of Driving Change. You can read the full story by clicking here.

Biggest Response Yet to a Driving Change Alert! If You Haven't Already Been A Part of Better World Club's Lead Delistment Campaign, Drive Change:

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.

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.

In the EPA we trust
To do right by our precious air
Not by the oil industry

- Marie F.
Telford, PA

Click here to read more BWC member haikus.

Pelosi Wants Ad Hoc Committee to Show Global Warming On Democratic Legislative Agenda

White House Set To Oppose Carbon Caps, So At Least It's On Somebody's

Dem Committee Chairs Cool to Pelosi's Idea

Wow! It's Working Already.

Based on an Associated Press Report

In an effort to show just the importance of the global warming issue to the Democratic Party, the new speaker of the House of Representatives is ignoring committee selection traditions involving some of Congress' oldest and most powerful members.

Putting power in the hands of members who are more active on environmental problems, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is creating a special committee to recommend legislation to cut greenhouse gases. The committee is expected to be chaired by Democratic Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, according to the Associated Press.

Markey has advocated raising mileage standards for cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles and is one of the House's biggest critics of oil companies and American automakers.

Meanwhile, the White House put down a rumor that President George W. Bush was going to endorse caps on carbon emissions in next week's State of the Union. In the Senate, Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat and the new chairman of the Senate Environment Committee, is introducing a national bill that follows her state's example and seeks to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by mid-century.

Pelosi's move, to some degree, would sidestep two of the House's most powerful Democratic committee bosses, in shaping what is expected to be at least a yearlong debate on global warming:

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, a defender of the auto industry, which is based in his state, Michigan, and at 80, the longest serving member of the House. Complete Story

More 'Washington Watch' in 'Kicking Asphalt'

- U.S. Considers Listing Polar Bear as Threatened Species


Tree Planting Is the Least Expensive Carbon Offset, But a Legitimate One?

Better World Club was the first company to offer offsets for the greenhouse gas generated by travel. We've been offering carbon offsets to our members for over five years now, via our TravelCool program. From the inception of TravelCool, Better World has avoided tree planting as an offset because of the questions regarding its effectiveness.

We've excerpted three pieces below that represent a back-and-forth over tree plantings and how effective they are in offsetting carbon emissions. "Round 1" reports on a study done by Ken Caldeira, a researcher at the Carnegie Institution at Stanford. "Round 2" is reporter Alok Jha's spin on the report. "Round 3" is Ken Caldeira's response.

Round 1:

When Being Green Raises the Heat

by Ken Caldeira
The New York Times

Carbon dioxide is heating up the Earth. Ice caps are melting, ocean levels are rising, hurricanes are intensifying, tropical diseases are spreading and the threat of droughts, floods and famines looms large. Can planting a tree help stop all this from happening?

To some, it's a no-brainer: We add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every time we use energy from coal, oil or gas; but each tree can remove more than a ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over its lifetime. Based on this logic, it might seem a good idea to go out and plant a tree to slow global heating.

And if you don't have the time, projects have sprung up throughout the world claiming to help cool the earth, ready to accept your money and plant a tree in your name. The computer company Dell will now donate $2 from every laptop sale to planting trees in an effort to offset the carbon dioxide emissions that result from powering their computers. For a 2 percent to 4 percent surcharge on bills, Pacific Gas and Electric will offer to offset its customers' carbon emissions by helping to preserve California's carbon-storing forests.

While preserving and restoring forests is unquestionably good for the natural environment, new scientific studies are concluding that preservation and restoration of forests outside the tropics will do little or nothing to help slow climate change. And some projects intended to slow the heating of the planet may be accelerating it instead. Complete Story.

Round 2:

Planting Trees to Save Planet is Pointless, Say Ecologists

Alok Jha
The Guardian

Planting trees to combat climate change is a waste of time, according to a study by ecologists who say that most forests do not have any overall effect on global temperature, while those furthest from the equator could actually be making global warming worse.

"The idea that you can go out and plant a tree and help reverse global warming is an appealing, feel-good thing," said Ken Caldeira of the global ecology department at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Stanford, California, a co-author of the study. "To plant forests to mitigate climate change outside of the tropics is a waste of time." Complete Story

Round 3:

Planting Trees is Far From Pointless

Ken Caldeira
Carnegie Institution, Stanford, California
Letter to The Guardian

I was aghast to see our study reported under the headline "Planting trees to save planet is pointless, say ecologists" (December 15). Indeed, our study found that preserving and restoring tropical forests is doubly important, as they cool the earth both by removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and by helping produce cooling clouds. We did find that preserving and restoring forests outside the tropics does little or nothing to help slow climate change, but nevertheless these forests are a critical component of Earth's biosphere and great urgency should be placed on preserving them. Complete Story

Additional Ways to Get Where You're Going:

Take part in the glorious circle of life and power your next trip to KFC with biodiesel made from chicken fat.

Finally, an endangered species we don't want to save. The Scientific American reports that global warming dissenters are a dying breed.

Unions and Republican-leaning conservationists get together to save the environment. (Seriously, that's actually the story)

More bad news on the global warming front: 2006 hottest year on record. Yes, but is it hotter than our latest cross-promotional product: The Men of Better World Club 2007 Pin-Up Calendar? We think not.

An independent review finds crude safety standards at BP's US facilities need to be refined. Recommendations are in the pipeline.

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


The Tree Farmer In The Dell

Computer Company Offers Carbon Offsets

Dell announced a new "Plant a Tree for Me" program, in which customers can choose to have $2 of a laptop purchase - or $6 of a desktop purchase - go toward funds to plant trees around the world.

The tree plantings are meant to offset the carbon emissions associated with powering a computer. Dell has also been recycling old computers and printers since 2004.

We applaud Dell for setting up a carbon offset program. Hopefully, other PC manufacturers will follow suit. However, tree plantings are a semi-controversial means of offsetting carbon emissions: Some in the environmental community don't believe it is the most effective method.* Ken Caldeira's article When Being Green Raises The Heat (also excerpted earlier in this newsletter) explores this issue further.

Regardless of the method used, we're excited about Dell's announcement and hope that it prompts other manufacturers to take responsibility for the impact their products have on our environment.

[*For this reason, Better World Club's carbon offset program, TravelCool, does not plant trees. Click this link for more info on TravelCool.]

Related Links:

- Song lyrics for "Farmer In The Dell"
- Read more about Dell's announcement in Forbes

Ready To Take The Ultra-Low Carbon Car Challenge?

It's Easy - First, We Replace Your Regular Coffee With Folgers Crystals...

Wait, That's Something Different

Ah, those Brits. Most countries, after having produced the Industrial Revolution and the Spice Girls, would be content to rest on their laurels and let others do the innovating. Not our friends across the pond.

Zytek, a British automotive engineering group, has produced the world's first commercially viable diesel electric hybrid vehicle. The car was developed with aid from the "Ultra-Low Carbon Car Challenge" program. The ULCCC is a government-supported program that encourages entrepreneurs to develop an affordable, five-door vehicle with CO2 emissions of less than 100g/km.

Related Links:

- Check out New Car Net for more info on the Zytek diesel hybrid.
- Read more about our love affair with Great Britain in the January 2007 issue of TravelCool, BWC's monthly travel enewsletter.
- Are you a sucker for punishment? If so, we also wrote a story on Peugeot's proposed diesel hybrid in the July issue of Driving Change.

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

- BWC High-Mileage Review: Biodiesel!

- Why American?

























































BWC Alternative Fuel Report

Fuel Prices Are Actually Kind Of Low

Yeah, We're Kind Of Shocked, Too

But, Please, Don't Use This As An Excuse To Run Out And Buy A Hummer

Crude oil recently dropped below $50 a barrel due to larger-than-expected increases in oil and gas inventories. This drop in crude prices is also reflected in refined fuel pricing. National averages prices for Gasoline, Diesel, B20 Biodiesel, and E85 Ethanol have all dropped over the last two weeks. Current prices for these fuels are the lowest they've been in the last eight months. B99 Biodiesel, the one exception, crept up $0.09.

Regionally, Southern B99 averages jumped $0.33, making B99 the only fuel whose national average price rose. E85 prices increased $0.10 on the West Coast, but a $0.15 reduction in the Midwest brought the E85 national average price down $0.02.

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 ( typing books backwards, Flashdancing with Jennifer Beals, etc.), or you can feed your fetish by checking out BWC's previous Alternative Fuel Report, Fuel Prices Change! Some Go Up and Some Go Down as published in the December 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.

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