Climate bill takes aim at transportation emissions on land and at sea

April 1, 2009 at 2:47 pm

(Source: New York Times- Greenwire; Image: Steve Edwards @Flickr)

Roughly one-third of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions are from the transportation sector, according to government estimates, and several key lawmakers have said that no climate and energy measure can be complete without addressing transportation.

Sweeping climate and energy legislation that Democratic leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee unveiled yesterday takes direct aim at greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles across the transportation spectrum, from passenger cars to oceangoing ships.

 The bill from Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) would create a suite of federal emissions standards for cars and light trucks, as well as trains, heavy-duty trucks, and ships. It also seeks to curb emissions by pushing the development of plug-in electric vehicles and infrastructure and by setting a “low-carbon fuel standard” for the transportation sector.

Roughly one-third of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions are from the transportation sector, according to government estimates, and several key lawmakers have said that no climate and energy measure can be complete without addressing transportation.

One of the bill’s provisions would require the president to “harmonize” federal auto fuel economy standards with any future emissions levels set by U.S. EPA and the strict emissions standards that California is hoping to enforce later this year, if it receives the waiver it needs to do so.

Earlier this year, the White House signaled that it was considering a similar move that would blend new corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standards with the auto emissions standards California is fighting to enforce. Under the federal Clean Air Act, California is the only state that can enforce its own standards — but only with an EPA waiver. If California receives the waiver, other states would be permitted to enforce the same tailpipe standard. Thirteen other states and the District of Columbia have already moved to adopt the stricter standards, and a handful of others have indicated they will follow if the waiver is granted.

The Waxman-Markey bill also pushes for greater use of plug-in electric cars and trucks, which are seen as a promising way to curb emissions and displace oil consumption by using electricity in the transportation sector.

The bill calls for states and utilities to develop plans to support the use of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and all-electric plug-ins and for the Energy Department to launch a large-scale electric demonstration program. The state plans would determine how utilities would accommodate large fleets of plug-ins and would consider a host of charging options — including public charging stations, on-street charging, and battery swapping stations — and establish any necessary standards for integrating plug-ins into an electrical distribution system, including Smart Grid technology.

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Park, Charge, Go Green! Solar Carport Gives Plug-Ins a Charge

April 1, 2009 at 2:29 pm

(Source: Wired)


One of the great criticisms of electric vehicles is the power they rely on often comes from fossil fuels, leading critics to question how “green” they are. A British firm has a solution for that — a carport topped with photovoltaic cells that can charge an EV.

Specialty glass and plastic manufacturer Romag says the PowerPark is just the thing for parking lots where electric vehicles may one day compete for spots to plug in. The first PowerPark was installed at the company’s headquarters, and Romag says additional installations are planned around the United Kingdom.

So far, the cost of installation and materials varies based on volume and location, but Webster said that the canopies could be purchased singly or in groups. Pricing “should be competitive with other forms of BIPV.” That’s Building Integrated Photovoltaics, for those of you who are really off the grid.


Each PowerPark canopy is rated at 1.5 kilowatt peak, a measure of a photovoltaic system’s peak output. Even in misty, foggy Northern England, the company estimates each parking space could generate about 1,100 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. The canopies are linked to the electric grid so energy “can be generated for use in the associated buildings when cars are not being charged,” Webster said. “No electricity is wasted.”

It’s got a distinctive shape that advertises itself and just might end up the most attractive piece of engineering in a Walmart parking lot. It could even help to drive sales, as customers might linger a little longer in the store waiting for their Tesla to charge.

Stimulus needed for boat owners? Boats Too Costly to Keep Are Littering Coastlines

April 1, 2009 at 1:46 pm

(Source: New York Times)

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. — Boat owners are abandoning ship.  Gary Santos, a Mount Pleasant, S.C., councilman, checks a state notice on a forsaken sailboat.  They often sandpaper over the names and file off the registry numbers, doing their best to render the boats, and themselves, untraceable. Then they casually ditch the vessels in the middle of busy harbors, beach them at low tide on the banks of creeks or occasionally scuttle them outright.

The bad economy is creating a flotilla of forsaken boats. While there is no national census of abandoned boats, officials in coastal states are worried the problem will only grow worse as unemployment and financial stress continue to rise. Several states are even drafting laws against derelicts and say they are aggressively starting to pursue delinquent owners.

“Our waters have become dumping grounds,” said Maj. Paul R. Ouellette of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “It’s got to the point where something has to be done.”

Derelict boats are environmental and navigational hazards, leaking toxins and posing obstacles for other craft, especially at night. Thieves plunder them for scrap metal. In a storm, these runabouts and sailboats, cruisers and houseboats can break free or break up, causing havoc.

Some of those disposing of their boats are in the same bind as overstretched homeowners: they face steep payments on an asset that is diminishing in value and decide not to continue. They either default on the debt or take bolder measures.

Marina and maritime officials around the country say they believe, however, that most of the abandoned vessels cluttering their waters are fully paid for. They are expensive-to-maintain toys that have lost their appeal.


Lt. David Dipre, who coordinates Florida’s derelict vessel program, said the handful of owners he had managed to track down were guilty more of negligence than fraud. “They say, ‘I had a dream of sailing around the world, I just never got around to it.’ Then they have some bad times and they leave it to someone else to clean up the mess,” Lieutenant Dipre said.

Florida officials say they are moving more aggressively to track down owners and are also starting to unclog the local inlets, harbors, swamps and rivers. The state appropriated funds to remove 118 derelicts this summer, up from only a handful last year.

In South Carolina, four government investigators started canvassing the state’s waterways in January. They quickly identified 150 likely derelicts.


Click here to read the entire report on this emerging problem.