July 2007


Help Crush The SUV
Tax Loophole

A Loophole So Big, You Could Drive a Hummer Through It

Wow, That's Big

In 1984, the US tax code was altered to help businesses buy necessary heavy-duty vehicles for work purposes. Perhaps it couldn't be foreseen at the time, but the "Hummer Tax Loophole" was thus born. The increasing size of gas-guzzling SUVs has produced several models that qualify under this law, many of which get some of the worst gas mileage and are the biggest emitters of heat-trapping pollution on the road today.

Research shows that the total deductions allowed for an SUV weighing over 6,000 pounds is 35% greater than that for a smaller SUV or passenger car. This allows businesses to recoup the initial cost of the vehicle much quicker if they buy an SUV over 6,000 pounds. This loophole encourages businesses, including real estate agents, consultants and others to purchase a luxury SUV regardless of whether a vehicle weighing over 3 tons is necessary for their line of work.

Closing this loophole will reduce gasoline consumption and our nation's dependence on foreign oil. It will also save taxpayers money: according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, closing this loophole will save approximately $1.2 billion over 5 years and $1.5 billion over 10 years. New Hummer owners can currently deduct up to $25,000 per vehicle - as opposed to the paltry $2,000 hybrid tax incentive.

Closing the loophole would also more accurately reflect the intent of the original law. Oregon Rep.--and Better World Club member (as he prefers to be known)--Earl Blumenauer is leading the effort to do just that. There are two bills up for consideration in the House of Representatives that would close the Hummer tax loophole. The first is HR 2715, a bill that focuses exclusively on this end. The second is HR 2776, which is a larger energy bill that includes a provision for closing the loophole under section 206.

We encourage our members to Drive Change by contacting their Representatives and urging them to close the Hummer tax loophole by supporting HR 2715 and HR 2776.

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.

slow global warming
energy efficiency
is what the earth needs
- Sandra D.
Boonton, NJ

Click here to read more BWC member haikus.

Simple Things You Can Do To Fight Global Warming

Use a Blanket to Tuck In your Hot Water Heater

Hot water heaters use a lot of energy and generate a lot of CO2. A blanket costs less than $18 and can cut your home's greenhouse gas emissions by almost 4.5%.

Stephen L. JohnsonThe EPA Is Encouraging Farmers To Pollute To Study The Effects Of Animal Feces On The Environment

Just Announced: EPA Asks Auto Companies to Sell Millions of Low Mileage Cars To Determine the Impact on the Economy, National Security, and the Environment

While They're At It, Why Not Do A Study On The Effects Of Whacking Yourself In The Head With A Hammer?

In yet another move seemingly designed to avoid actually enforcing any environmental laws, the EPA is allowing 14,000 livestock producers (mostly hog farms) to pay a small fee to avoid complying with the Clean Air Act. The rationale? Participating farmers are assisting in "the first-ever national study of emissions from poultry, dairy, and swine operations".

Out of the 14,000 farms that have signed up, only 20 are actually being studied. The other 13,980 basically get to pollute for the next 2 years without any fear of lawsuit.

There are several reasons to view this "study" as yet another delaying tactic from the increasingly ironically named Environmental Protection Agency. Critics note that the scope of the study 20 farms out of 14,000 signed up is too small to generate any meaningful data. Also, what exactly does the EPA think they're going to find at the end of this study? Maybe that pig feces are good for us? Complete Story.

More 'Washington Watch' in 'Kicking Asphalt'

- We Interrupt Consideration of the Energy Bill for a New Idea: A Sky Trust


Henry Ford and Thomas EdisonGoing Back To Their Roots: Edison and Ford Are Innovating Once Again

Oooh...We Can Just Feel the Electricity

Or We Could If Ford Would Get These Vehicles to Consumers

Ford Motor Co. and Southern California Edison are pooling their resources to test plug-in hybrid vehicles. Ford will be producing a small number of plug-in hybrid versions of the Escape, which Edison will place with consumers in Southern California.

Plug-in hybrids have batteries that power an electric motor, with an internal combustion engine for use when the batteries run low. The batteries can then be recharged by plugging them into a standard wall outlet.

Edison will also collect data on the test consumers' energy usage and the impact that plug-in hybrids have on the power grid. There is potential for some great synchronicity here: plug-in hybrids could put the power grid to better use by charging their batteries overnight when electricity demand is lower, and then feed any excess back to power companies during peak hours. For a state known for power outages, this could be a huge boon.

Though we're glad that Ford is testing these vehicles and excited about the prospect of plug-in hybrids, we do need to sound a note of caution: At best, Ford won't be offering plug-in hybrids to the general public until 2010-ish.

Industry, specifically the oil and automotive industries, has traditionally been extremely hostile to any alternative fuel innovations for automobiles. The automotive industry now needs to adapt to higher mileage standards to survive, while the power companies are beginning to see the profit in cars that run on electricity instead of gas. So, with big corporate interests finally aligning (somewhat) with consumer and environmental interests, we may be seeing the re-emergence of innovation.

Additional Ways to Get Where You're Going:

We're going to guess that Colonel Mustard did it in the Polar Ice Caps using Global Warming: Clues to rising seas.

The Washington Post reports that ethanol hurts Chesapeake Bay.

Grist reports that ethanol hurts the gulf of Mexico.

ScienceDaily reports that ethanol hurts puppies and kittens. (Okay, they didn't really say that. In fact, this is an article about new "clean" coal research in China.)

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


Bad News: Honda Is Discontinuing The Accord Hybrid

Good News: Honda Will Roll Out A Diesel Version Of The Accord In 2009

Great News: I'll Be On Vacation In Europe For The Whole Month Of August*

by Erik Nelson
BWC staff writer

Honda launched the hybrid version of the Accord back in 2004. They wanted to market it as a performance vehicle, and so the hybrid system was paired with a V6 engine, instead of a four-cylinder. Unfortunately, this strategy hasn't been a winner for Honda. Most hybrid buyers are purchasing for fuel-efficiency, not increased power.

Accordingly (!), sales have been less than stellar. The Accord hybrid sold just 25,000 since 2004, and just 6,100 of the 2007 model. Because of poor sales, the hybrid Accord won't be offered in 2008. Instead, they plan to offer a diesel version in 2009.

Honda plans to continue producing hybrids, but will focus on smaller models like the Civic.

Related Links:


[*BWC management would like to note that this individual staffer's vacation plans are his own, and don't represent the vacation plans of Better World Club or its parent organization, Better World Club, Inc.. Furthermore, we're getting pretty sick of him bragging about it around the office.]

BP gets break on dumping in lake

Refinery expansion entices Indiana

By Michael Hawthorne
Chicago Tribune

The massive BP oil refinery in Whiting, Ind., is planning to dump significantly more ammonia and industrial sludge into Lake Michigan, running counter to years of efforts to clean up the Great Lakes.

Indiana regulators exempted BP from state environmental laws to clear the way for a $3.8 billion expansion that will allow the company to refine heavier Canadian crude oil. They justified the move in part by noting the project will create 80 new jobs.

Under BP's new state water permit, the refinery -- already one of the largest polluters along the Great Lakes -- can release 54 percent more ammonia and 35 percent more sludge into Lake Michigan each day. Ammonia promotes algae blooms that can kill fish, while sludge is full of concentrated heavy metals. Complete Story

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

- Toyota Banking On Hybrids Despite Expected Arrival Of Ecological Rivals

- DHL Offers Carbon Neutral Shipping


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