July 8, 2010


Will it Take Tar Balls on the Potomac For Washington to Stop Protecting Fossil Fuels?

(No, We Aren't Referring to Certain Members of Congress)

Energy Cleanup Needs to Extend Far Beyond the Gulf

Convince Your Senator to Pass Legislation That Recognizes the Cost of Carbon

Fossil fuels are a dirty business. That's nothing new, but with millions of gallons of oil still spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, the question becomes: is this a cost that we can afford?

Will the Gulf spill prove to be the catalyst for a transition to a clean energy future? Unlike the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969, which birthed the modern environmental movement, the Deepwater Horizon disaster has yet to spur the calls for progressive change that we'd expect from an event causing such widespread environmental ruin and the economic crippling of an entire region of the United States. (Don't get us started on the lax safety standards and slow response of big oil.)

Or to be more exact, calls for environmental reform are being met with the response that the economy needs more of the same???

The BP disaster is exposing how the marketplace doesn't force producers to internalize the external costs that they'd rather impose on the rest of us. Apparently, Congressmen like Joe Barton (R-TX) are happy to let them continue to do so.

But that's not how markets should work.

In June 2009, the House passed a comprehensive energy/climate bill, known as the Waxman/Markey Bill. After much delay, similar legislation, the Kerry/Lieberman Act has been introduced in the Senate.

The BP calamity is now increasing the momentum for the passage of the Senate bill. But the legislation as introduced has provisions to counter global warming that will be a main point of controversy and may not garner the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster. The Obama administration is committed to passing a comprehensive energy bill not just in response to the Gulf spill, but that will also address climate change, encourage investment in clean energy technologies, and move the U.S. toward energy independence.

It is imperative that the Senate's version of the energy bill mirror the House bill in establishing benchmarks for utility conversions to clean energy and putting a price on carbon emissions that recognizes the true cost of fossil fuels and provides investors the opportunities and incentives to finance new, cleaner technologies.

There are at least twenty-one states where one or both Senators are truly concerned about the issue and are personally inclined to vote for a comprehensive energy bill, but are politically wary of doing so. Help drive change by contacting your Senators and asking them to support an energy/climate bill that will put a price on carbon emissions and move the Unites States toward a clean, energy independent future.

Contact your Senator and encourage him or her to support an energy bill that puts a price on carbon emissions. A sample letter is available here.

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

Boy, This Oil Spill Has Gone On a Long Time

(Your Turn: How Long?)

Well, It's Been So Long…

Oil Spill? Given how long the BP oil has been flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, isn't "spill" a bit…hmmm…understated??? This is a disaster, a catastrophe, a tragedy.

After all, the spill has lasted a long, long time. In fact, it's gone on so long that, it's now longer than

· U.S. military efforts in the 1991 Gulf War
· The 2010 NBA Playoffs
· The 1969 Moon Landing
· The Presidency of William Henry Harrison
· A Bill Clinton State of the Union
· George Bush's Attention Span

In fact, if it lasts too much longer, it will surpass

· The Spanish-American War
· The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien
· America's obsession with the "Bennifer" relationship
· Any Academy Awards Ceremony

Well, you get the point. It's lasted a very long time. It's close to becoming an alternative lifestyle for residents along the Gulf.

Obviously, this is not the Obama administration's fault. And the administration deserves tremendous credit for BP's $20 billion commitment. (If you doubt it, look back at how Exxon escaped proper compensation for its 1989 Valdez "spill.")

But one can't help but wonder whether Obama was advised to let BP handle the spill and to keep his distance and whether the federal government could have organized greater relief more quickly.

If so, then that is a tragedy as well.

More 'Washington Watch' in 'Kicking Asphalt'

- Corrections - Last Washington Watch: Hey, If You're Going to Use That Drill, How About Some Novocaine?


Taking the Petro out of Petrochemicals

by Todd Woody, Grist,org

You can buy green jeans, green greens (at the farmer's market), and green beer. But the reality is that many, if not most, products in our industrial society contain some petroleum-based chemicals.

In fact, up to a quarter of the oil consumed in some regions of the United States -- such as on the Gulf Coast -- goes into petrochemical production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. A number of startups, however, are working to develop green chemicals that take the petro out of petrochemicals and eliminate the environmental and safety hazards from manufacturing industrial chemicals.

Complete Story

Additional Ways to Get Where You're Going:

Socially responsible eaters cannot live on organic food alone. Transforming the food system means fundamentally changing our food policy.

Lighting the way to a cooler energy future: 20 new solar cell prototypes that deliver on design.

Pink is the new green this summer. Green rosé isn't just the name of your favorite Korean television drama.

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


Interstate 5 to Become the Nation's First Electric Highway?

by Scott Guiterrez, Seattle Post Intelligencer

Starting this fall, you're likely to see a new breed of road sign along Interstate 5 for electric vehicle drivers looking for a spot to plug in and recharge.

With help from a $1.32 million federal grant, the state Transportation Department plans to turn Interstate 5 into the nation's first "electric highway" with enough charging stations so electric vehicles can make the entire 276-mile trip from the Canadian border to the Oregon state line, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced Monday.

Complete Story

Act Fast to get a Sonata Hybrid for Less Than a Prius

by Eric Loveday,

In case you missed it, Hyundai gave us a ballpark price for the 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. As Hyundai said, expect the hybrid Sonata to start in the mid-$20K neighborhood. Now, considering that the Sonata is a whole lot of car, the mid-$20K price is quite remarkable, but the deal will be even sweeter for a limited-time only. When Hyundai launches the Sonata Hybrid this fall (October or November), it will immediately qualify for a deep discount courtesy of the Feds. How much the Sonata Hybrid qualifies for is still up in the air due to MPG ratings, but it will almost certainly be substantial enough to drop the base price below the Toyota Prius, which unfortunately no longer qualifies for any help.

Complete Story

(And if You Don't Like That Deal)

Honda Fit to Become the Cheapest Hybrid on Market

by Michael Graham Richard,

Honda seems to have figured that if it isn't going to win the hybrid war on technology, it should at least try to win based on price. The first salvo was the Insight hybrid V2.0, which was about $3k less than the 3rd generation Toyota Prius, and the second on is coming soon under the shape of a hybridized Honda Fit which should sell for about 1.5 million Yen in Japan (that's about $16.5k in US dollars).

Complete Story

Read our review of the Honda Fit.


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