Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Revenge of the Electric Streetcar

The tracks have already been laid in this section of H Street NE near Union Station. The city is hoping these abandoned storefronts will be humming with new business activity when the streetcar line launches in the spring of 2012. 
For a hundred years streetcars transported people in and around our Nation's Capital. At various times betwen 1862 to 1962 residents of Washington, D.C. enjoyed trolley service to historic neighborhoods such as Georgetown, Anacostia, Adams Morgan and even as far as Rockville, Maryland and Leesburg, Virginia.

At its peak in 1916 there were over 200 miles of streetcar tracks in the Washington area including 100 miles in the city. Now D.C. is moving forward with an ambitious effort to build 37 miles of modern electric streetcars and the tracks are being laid for the first two lines in Anacostia and H Street NE. 

The local D.C. Sierra Club chapter has been active the past three years in working with the District Department of Transportation to get the lines built as fast as possible. They recently held a happy hour event at the Sova coffee shop in the Atlas District along H Street to celebrate the progress made and talk about the next steps forward.

"People are excited about it," said Sierra Club D.C. Transportation Committee Chair Jason Broehm, who organized the happy hour event on H Street.  "It's an area that needs revitalization. Businesses are starting to move in here. We think that streetcars will bring a lot more economic investment in this corridor that really needs it."

The Sierra Club claimed two victories this past year -- successfully lobbying for $47 million in funding to ensure the H Street line begins operating in the spring of 2012; and pushing the D.C. council to pass legislation that temporarily allows overhead wires on the H Street corridor, which they hope will eventually become permanent (an 1889 federal law bans overhead wires in Georgetown and the historic center city.)

Advisory Neighborhood Commisioner Tony Richardson represents the H Street corridor and credits the Sierra Club with reviving the streetcars which had stalled a bit at DDOT.

"I live here. I'm about the community growing. I have a lot of businesses in my area. This is an up and coming area which is one of the reasons why I moved here. So to me it was a simple choice. It was logical for me to hop in and do my little part," said Richardson.

"The business people are elated. It can't come fast enough for them. They're looking forward to new customers. They're looking forward to people coming and not having to worry about parking. They've seen the studies. They've looked at other cities. They know the economic benefits to streetcar lines. So they're all aboard, no pun intended. They really want this thing to happen like yesterday."

More pictures of the H Street Corridor where a streetcar line will operate starting in the spring of 2012:

Monday, August 30, 2010

Boxer Touts 30/10 Plan To Supporters

Senator Barbara Boxer, who is facing a tough re-election fight, is 100% in with the 30/10 Initiative to speed up all twelve Measure R transportation projects in Los Angeles County. This support was evident in a recent email she sent to supporters. Here is the full text of the email:

August 30, 2010
Dear Friend:

Recently I was pleased to join a lively group of more than a thousand working people, community activists, and labor and transportation leaders rallying in downtown Los Angeles in support of job creation in California.

The rally focused on the urgent need to implement the “30/10 Plan,” which will build a dozen major transit projects in Los Angeles County over the next decade and create more than 160,000 jobs.

I am proud to be a strong supporter of the 30/10 Plan, which will create jobs in Los Angeles, build our transportation system more quickly, and reduce congestion, pollution, and America’s dependence on foreign oil.

As Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I have focused on 30/10 in hearings and in my discussions with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

This spring I asked Secretary LaHood to help me get the 30/10 Plan moving forward. He has worked to accelerate development of the Westside Extension – a key 30/10 project known as the “Subway to the Sea” - and is continuing to work with me on finding every opportunity under current law to move ahead with 30/10.

As we develop the new transportation law, we have the opportunity to reform current programs – using 30/10 as a model – to leverage resources, create more jobs, and accelerate construction of the transit systems, roads, and other facilities that our communities need in California and across the country.

We’re also moving ahead with transportation projects funded by the Economic Recovery Act, which has brought more than $5 billion in transportation investments to our state and put hundreds of thousands of Californians back to work.

We all know that these are very tough times for California, with far too many people out of work. Be assured that I will keep working and will do whatever it takes to get us to better times for our state and our nation. We still have a long way to go, but the 30/10 Plan is an important step in the right direction.


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Green SoCal Headlines: August 30, 2010

California Businesses Join Forces to Create Clean Energy Alliance (Environmental Leader)
Summary: In the wake of out-of-state oil companies spending millions of dollars to oppose California’s AB32 climate law, an alliance of California businesses as well as labor, environmental and community leaders have partnered to create the California Apollo Program, which provides a strategy on how the state can continue to create clean energy jobs through a number of initiatives ranging from renewable energy use to retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency.

Big California solar energy push moves forward (San Francisco Chronicle)
Summary: California's long-awaited boom in solar power plant construction took a major step forward Wednesday when state regulators approved the first in a string of projects that will soon blanket thousands of acres of desert with mirrors harnessing the energy of the sun.

California to Launch Next-Generation Feed-in Tariff for Solar Energy (BusinessWire)
Summary: The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a proposed decision to launch a new renewable incentive program designed to drive mid-sized renewable energy development.

Health testing way down at California beaches (LA Times)
Summary: The monitoring is at its lowest level since becoming law more than a decade ago, putting swimmers, surfers and divers at greater risk of exposure to contaminated water, a Times investigation shows.

Southern California Warned to Prepare Now for Major Earthquake (Environment News Service)
Summary: A major earthquake on the San Andreas fault northwest of Los Angeles is likely to happen "soon" warn scientists who have charted quakes there dating back 700 years.

AT&T Activates First of Six Solar Power Installations Planned for California (Environmental Leader)
Summary: AT&T has activated a 296-kW rooftop solar power installation at its Trade Street site in San Diego, which will generate an estimated 420,000 kWh of energy in its first year of operation.

LA residents rally for transit, jobs and an economic boost for region (Transportation for America)
Summary: Thousands rallied at the Los Angeles City Hall in support of the jobs that could be created by a visionary program to fast track a slate of planned public transportation projects — if the federal government will do what’s necessary to help a metro area that’s helping itself.

Rail authority stands by its ridership projections (Silicon Valley Mercury News)
Summary: the California High-Speed Rail Authority released a revised environmental study Friday night that stands by its ridership projections, despite a contention from project opponents that the numbers are inflated.

Judge won’t reopen bullet train lawsuit (San Francisco Business Times)
Summary: A Sacramento judge likely will deny a request by Atherton and Menlo Park to reopen a lawsuit that would have bullet train planners reexamine whether to route trains through the East Bay rather than the Peninsula.

Ban on sewage dumping along California coast to get federal teeth (Silicon Valley Mercury News)
Summary: Cruise ships and large commercial ships will be banned from dumping any kind of sewage -- even highly filtered wastewater -- along California's coast out to three miles from shore, under new rules from the Obama administration.

MTA and its beleaguered Transit Access Pass system (LA Times)
Summary: "Smart. Simple. Secure." That's the slogan the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has adopted for its new Transit Access Pass system, but at this stage of its development, a more apt description would be "Dumb. Complicated. Insecure."

CODA Holdings Names Former General Electric Executive Mark Jamieson Chief Financial Officer (CODA Website)
Summary: CODA Holdings, a California-based technology company whose advanced battery system will power its soon-to-be-released CODA Sedan and be marketed for other transportation and utility-related applications, has hired former General Electric (GE) and HD Supply executive Mark Jamieson as Chief Financial Officer. Mark will manage CODA's finance, human resources, information technology and recruiting functions.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Biden, Chu: Recovery Act Energizes Innovation

Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu unveil a report with a new analysis on the impact of Recovery Act investments in innovation, science and technology at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building's South Court Auditorium on August 24, 2010 in Washington, D.C.

Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Steven Chu held a press conference on Tuesday morning in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House to talk about a new report analyzing the Recovery Act's investments in science and technology breakthroughs.

The report, titled "The Recovery Act: Transforming The American Economy Through Innovation," was released by the Vice President's office and focuses on how federal seed money from the landmark legislation is spurring private sector growth in key areas related to American competitiveness in the 21st century global marketplace.

"Both the President and Vice President understand that innovation is directly tied to our nation’s future prosperity," said Chu in his opening remarks before Biden took to the podium. "It’s also hard-wired into our DNA. Throughout our history Americans have never been willing to accept that something can’t be done. We refuse to accept that any challenge is impossible. No matter what the challenge is we’ll find a way."

Chu went on to list some examples of innovation that are happening thanks to investments from the Recovery Act. They include cutting the cost of solar power in half by 2015, which will make installing solar panels on rooftops cost competitive with retail electricity from the grid; cutting the costs of advanced batteries for electric vehicles by 70% while at the same time adding "perhaps a hundred times the current energy storage capacity"; doubling U.S. renewable energy generation capacity and manufacturing by 2012; and building a smart grid "that lets appliances talk to the power grid, optimizing electricity use and saving consumers money."

"Our investments in innovation are creating jobs, creating new industries, making existing industries more competitive, and, in the process, they’re driving down costs for new technologies that are badly needed, and helping our nation reassert our place as the world’s center for inventors and entrepreneurs," said Biden about the Recovery Act report.

The Vice President explained the four investments the report focuses on. Here they are taken directly from the White House website's transcript of his comments:

1. Modernizing transportation, including advanced vehicle technology and high-speed rail;
2. Jumpstarting the renewable energy sector through wind and solar energy;
3. Investing in groundbreaking medical research; and
4. Building a platform that will enhance the private sector’s ability to innovate, through investments in broadband and the Smart Grid, by giving them the tools they need to grow.

"I want to see a day when you can pop the hood on your electric car made in Smyrna, Tennessee, to check on your advanced battery made in Holland, Michigan, or Noblesville, Indiana, and an electric motor made in Longmont, Colorado, as you recharge your vehicle at an electric charging station in San Diego," said Biden.

Here is the full video of Chu and Biden's remarks about the new Recovery Act report on innovation:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Q&A: Bicycle Advocate Angela Koch

Coming from the bicycling mecca of Portland, Oregon, Angela Koch knows a thing or two about spokes and wheels. But her interest isn't in how to fix a derailleur gear or change a flat tire. Koch's passion is in educating people about the joy of choosing two wheels for fun and commuting.

That's why we in the D.C. area are lucky to have nabbed her from Portland. Koch is currently the Events & Advocacy Coordinator at popular bike shop Revolution Cycles.

She recently took time out of her busy schedule for an email Q&A with Green D.C.

Green D.C.: How did you first get involved in bicycle advocacy?

Angela Koch: I've lived car-free or car-lite for the past 15 years so bikes as a solution to a lot of problems has always been one of my interests. In 2007, I got a job with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, a highly respected and effective statewide bike advocacy organization in Oregon. My title was Safe Routes to School Director, but my youngest daughter at the time (who was then 3) used to call me The President of Bicycling For Kids. I always thought of myself as just a programs person with a stronger interest in improving children's lives, but after three years in such a fantastic place, I couldn't help but evolve into a confident bike advocate.

GDC: You come from a city and state -- Portland, Oregon -- that has made great strides over the years in cultivating a bicycle culture and creating a biking infrastructure. Why did you decide to move to the Washington, D.C. area and how would you compare where this area is now compared to a place like Portland?

AK: My two motivating factors to move here were personal- moving to be closer to family- and professional- I found an amazing job with Revolution Cycles. They're doing cutting edge work as a retailer by taking on bike advocacy so directly and I wanted to be a part of that.

Comparing this area to Portland is a bit of an apples and oranges dance. Both areas are enjoying the benefits of the work of individuals and organizations that have been chipping away for years at improving infrastructure and changing policy in order to improve conditions for biking. Both areas also enjoy the benefits of very passionate people and groups who are working tirelessly to be innovative and thorough in their efforts.

The differences, I think, have more to do with the regional differences than with an attitude toward biking. In Portland, there are fewer jurisdictions that have to coordinate with each other, lower cost of living and housing costs that are better poised to support creating livable communities and an historically forward-thinking approach to planning and policy that supports sustainable initiatives such as biking. The biggest difference is mode split; Portland has a super high mode split for bikes.

DC is just plain bigger: there are three DOTs, federal land and security issues, trails managed by National Parks and a much larger metropolitan area that makes for a much larger ship to turn around when it comes to livability issues. The DC area is also a much more transitory place with people coming and going all the time so I imagine that affects our ability to make behavior change messages really stick. But, places like Arlington County are leading the way and are definitely very 'Portland' in their approach and the recent big changes in DC (bike boxes, contraflow lanes, bike lights) are incredibly exciting and right up there with Portland.

GDC: What is the biggest challenge you find in bike advocacy at the moment?

AK: Oh, don't hate me, but I think the biggest challenge has to do with the behavior of all road users and the tendency to lob grenades at each other from our respective bunkers. Seriously, every day I see people behaving badly - cyclists, drivers, pedestrians - and that makes it challenging to focus on the real issues of safety, livability, congestion mitigation, etc. It's kind of sad how quickly a thoughtful dialogue can deteriorate when you get thrown off track by individual stories of the time I saw a fill-in-the-blank do something stupid. My point of view? There are dummies out there but we shouldn't let them control the public discourse over an issue that's so vital to our community.

GDC: Do you have a particular success story you'd like to share in your work as a bicycle advocate?

AK: There are some really personal individual stories that warm my heart, but the most recent one really got me thinking about the bigger picture and the paradigm shift we're working toward. I just did a Ladies' Night event with the Georgetown GM, Katie Knight, in our store in Stafford. We had an awesome turnout and Katie and I had a blast talking to the group about how to ride, where to ride and why it's important that more women ride their bikes. Afterward, folks were mingling about and one lady pulled me aside. I was expecting a question about chamois cream or something embarrassing based on her hushed voice. Instead, she wanted to know about my life as a car-free mom of three. She shared that she's wanted to go car-free for a few years now and is trying to convince her husband. They're a military family, just moved here, and had hoped to get a place on the base so they could make the shift to car-free living. But they didn't, and she was bummed but still hopeful. I was struck by how shy she was about the conversation, as if she was admitting to a deep, dark secret. It was exciting to help her understand that there's no need to be so hard on herself, that what's important is to at least be thinking about it. Shifting your mindset to a less car-centric one is a great first step.

GDC: In a recent blog post titled "Be the Change" on the website CommuterPageBlog, you recap a recent family errands/shopping trip you took for your two kids by bicycle. It looks like it was a challenging but ultimately rewarding experience. When I was living in Los Angeles I would ask people why they drove instead of walking, biking or taking public transportation, and they would always say that they don't want to drive but their jobs (many of them were actors with portable wardrobes) require them to because they have to travel to multiple areas of L.A. in a single day with all their stuff. Your story is proof that it can be done without a car. What would you say to the car-free skeptics out there?

AK: I'd say what my step-dad used to say to me all the time growing up, "Can't never could." Again, it's a mindset. If you're creative enough and diligent enough, there's a solution out there to just about everything. The only thing holding you back is your own fear or skepticism and who wants to live life that way?!

GDC: Are there any interesting projects you are currently working on to make Arlington and Greater Washington a more bike-friendly community?

AK: From big picture to small picture, we're collecting signatures for the People For Bikes campaign that Bikes Belong is leading. This is a campaign to get 1 million people to sign in support of bikes so that when transportation funding is on the table at the federal level, advocates can honestly say they represent the wishes of 1 million people who want more transportation dollars allocated to bike projects. I'd love for people to come into any one of our stores and sign your name. It's that simple.

We're leading Hub Spin rides and hosting or collaborating on other fun events with partners to encourage as many people as possible to bike for the fun of it. On August 27, I'm leading a Hub Spin to a Nationals game, September 18 we're doing a bike scavenger hunt in Crystal City, and September 26 I'm leading a Progressive Dinner Hub Spin to Zaytanya, Oyumel and Jaleo. Also, on International Car-Free Day, September 22, our Clarendon store is hosting an event for local business leaders to learn more about the Arlington Transportation Partners' Car-Free Diet.

I'm also hoping to take our Ladies' Night events and grow those into a series suitable to different demographics and experience levels to share information and resources about bike safety, maintenance and advocacy. There are some specifics brewing, but you'll just have to stay tuned a bit for that.

And on a more micro level, I'm attending the Arlington and Rockville Bike Advisory Committee meetings and I'd like to get connected to the DC Bicycle Advisory Council meetings as well. We're starting to do research in the Stafford area to see how we can effect change down there. In addition, I've initiated our own Revolution Cycles Advocacy Committee in order to educate and energize our own staff to get more involved in bike advocacy work.

GDC: What advice do you have for both drivers and pedestrians in terms of sharing the road?

AK: Drivers: SLOW DOWN. Traffic calming is one of the best ways to reduce the number and severity of crashes. Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to spend as much money on traffic calming treatments because everyone just naturally slowed down?

Pedestrians: Look both ways, make eye contact and cross where and when you're supposed to. It's pretty much the same for all road users: be smart and follow the law.

Mostly, all road users should try and remove labels and remember that we're all people just trying to get somewhere.

GDC: What can we learn from other places around the world in our transition to a multi-modal transportation system with spokes and wheels a part of the solution? Cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen seem like model bike-friendly areas that are able to share a lot of best practices with us.

AK: First and foremost, funding parity is critical in order to build the infrastructure necessary to support safe multi-modal transportation. What that means is that at the very least, we should spend the same percentage of transportation dollars on bikes as the percentage of trips made by bikes. It's a super simple concept that will leverage tremendous change that benefits entire communities and regions for a pretty small investment.

Next, get more people to ride bikes so that everyone is safer. It's a fact that as bike trip numbers rise, safety increases. And who should those people be? Women, families, grandma and grandpa - mainstream people using their bikes to get around and get life's work done and enjoy themselves while they're at it.

GDC: What are your thoughts on bike sharing, and particularly the new Capital BikeShare that is launching in September?

AK: I am so in love with bike share it's not even funny. Seriously, Revolution Cycles is a founding member of Capital BikeShare because it's going to get more butts on bikes, as we like to say. Anything communities can do to make cycling convenient and accessible is a step in the right direction and that is flat out what Capital BikeShare is doing. Thanks in a big way to all the electeds who supported it and made it happen.

GDC: Any other thoughts you'd like to share about bicycle advocacy in our Nation's Capital?

AK: This area is uniquely poised to make a tremendous difference because of the proximity to policy makers and power. I'm convinced that the more this region can model (flaunt?!) bikes as a viable form of transportation for a significant portion of the population, we'll reach a tipping point and it will be impossible for skeptics to continue to debate what I think is a total no-brainer issue. This is vital, exciting work and I'm glad to be a part of it!

How You Can Help Climate Refugees in Pakistan, Russia

Climate Change -- the biggest threat to survival in the history of humanity -- is wreaking havoc upon Pakistan and Russia this summer. And just as the international community came to our aid when Global Warming hit us hard through Hurricane Katrina, we have a responsibility to pay it back as the second largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions next to China.

The Pakistan Floods have killed 2,000 people, destroyed nearly a million homes and displaced over twenty million people according to Wikipedia. The moonsoon rains that caused the flooding are said to be the worst in the area in 80 years. 

Russia is experiencing its worst drought in 50 years and the hottest summer since records began 130 years ago. This is crippling its wheat industry. The government already declared a ban on wheat exports. It has also sparked severe wildfires that have cost an estimated $15 billion in damage so far and have forced President Dmitry Medvedev to declare a state of emergency.

And the poisonous smog from the wildfires reached Moscow where in addition to the brutal heat wave has caused an average of 700 deaths a day, twice the average. The smog and heat wave may have killed over 15,000 people so far. And the fires have affected areas contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster and there is fear that soil and plants contaminated by radioactive material could be released into the air and spread to other areas.

So what can you do to help? Click here for a list of relief organizations that are working hard to help the people suffering from these climate disasters. Please try to donate whatever you can.

The Dirty Truth About Big Oil: Citgo

Citgo has been on an advertising blitz of late with full page ads in every glossy magazine on the newsstand. The oil and gas company wants you to believe that they are as American as apple pie with the tagline: "As Road Trips Go, This One Has Been Rolling 100 Years." There are pictures of happy American families at the gas station in the 1950s. 

Don't believe it for a second.

While Citgo might have been born in America over a hundred years ago, it is currently a wholly owned subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company -- Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., (PDVSA). That's right. The Latin American nation run by fanatical anti-American leader Hugo Chavez also runs your neighborhood Citgo.

Here are a few gem quotes from Mr. Chavez:

“I hereby accuse the North American empire of being the biggest menace to our planet.”

"Let's save the human race, let's finish off the U.S. empire."

"Israel has gone mad. It's attacking, doing the same thing to the Palestinian and Lebanese people that it has criticised - and with reason - [in the case of] the Holocaust. But this is a new Holocaust."

Landmark Theatres Goes Green

A recent trip to Landmark-owned Bethesda Row Cinemas revealed that the theater chain is reducing its carbon footprint by selling eco-friendly popcorn bags called EcoSelect. This is great news for moviegoers.

Here is the press release:

In honor of Earth Day, Landmark Theatres is initiating the launch of the new EcoSelect popcorn bag in its 55 theatres across the country.

EcoSelect popcorn bags are made of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified natural fiber—up to 50% of the energy used to produce the natural fiber is sourced from hydro power and renewable bio-fuels. The bags are printed with water-based inks on natural, chlorine-free paper and are 100% biodegradable.

“Our customer base not only loves independent film but are also environmentally conscious and this is one more way we feel we can connect with them in a positive way,” said Landmark Theatres’ CEO Ted Mundorff.

“Landmark Theatres sells almost 2 million bags of popcorn every year. It’s important to make improvements where you can and this is just one step in an ongoing effort,” said Damien Farley, Landmark Theatres’ Director of Concessions.

What's Swedish For Green?

The answer is IKEA of course! Those big box yellow and blue suburban home furnishing stores are doing what they can to instill environmental values into everything they do.

Some lament that the super retailer has displaced local furniture stores around the world and there is also the little fact that founder Ingvar Kamprad was a member of the far-right fascist political group New Swedish Movement as a teen until 1948.

But I tend to look at the positives. And IKEA has come a long way in terms of treating employees with respect, community involvement and of course being a steward of the environment.

Here are a couple of pictures I snapped from the College Park, Maryland location on a recent trip.

And here is an excerpt from Wikipedia on IKEA's environmental initiatives:

Environmental performance

After initial environmental issues like the highly publicized formaldehyde scandals in the early 1980s and 1992, IKEA took a proactive stance on environmental issues and tried to prevent future incidents through a variety of measures. In 1990, IKEA invited Karl-Henrik Robèrt, founder of The Natural Step, to address its board of directors. Robert's system conditions for sustainability provided a strategic approach to improving the company's environmental performance. This led to the development of an Environmental Action Plan, which was adopted in 1992. The plan focused on structural change, allowing IKEA to "maximize the impact of resources invested and reduce the energy necessary to address isolated issues." The environmental measures taken, include the following:

Replacing polyvinylchloride (PVC) in wallpapers, home textiles, shower curtains, lampshades, and furniture—PVC has been eliminated from packaging and is being phased out in electric cables;

minimizing the use of formaldehyde in its products, including textiles;

eliminating acid-curing lacquers;

producing a model of chair (OGLA) made from 100% post-consumer plastic waste;

introducing a series of air-inflatable furniture products into the product line. Such products reduce the use of raw materials for framing and stuffing and reduce transportation weight and volume to about 15% of that of conventional furniture;

reducing the use of chromium for metal surface treatment;

limiting the use of substances such as cadmium, lead, PCB, PCP, and AZO pigments;

using wood from responsibly-managed forests that replant and maintain biological diversity;

using only recyclable materials for flat packaging and "pure" (non-mixed) materials for packaging to assist in recycling.

introducing rental bicycles with trailers for customers in Denmark.

More recently, IKEA has stopped providing plastic bags to customers, but offers reusable bags for sale. The IKEA restaurants also only offer reusable plates, knives, forks, spoons, etc. Toilets in some IKEA restrooms have been outfitted with dual-function flushers. IKEA has recycling bins for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), energy saving bulbs, and batteries. In 2001 IKEA was one of the first companies to operate its own cross-border freight trains through several countries in Europe.

In August 2008, IKEA also announced that it had created IKEA GreenTech, a €50 million venture capital fund. Located in Lund (a college town in Sweden), it will invest in 8–10 companies in the coming five years with focus on solar panels, alternative light sources, product materials, energy efficiency, and water saving and purification. The aim is to commercialise green technologies for sale in IKEA stores within 3–4 years.

Green SoCal Headlines: August 23, 2010

Picture courtesy of Metro's The Source website
Pressing forward on the 30/10 Initiative (The Source)
Summary: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer co-hosted a ’roundtable’ discussion on the 30/10 Initiative this afternoon at City Hall in downtown L.A.

L.A. Mayor's Bike Summit Recap (L.A. Streetsblog)
Summary: On Monday, August 16th, Mayor Villaraigosa held what turned out to be a very successful Bike Summit. The Metro Board Room was filled to capacity, and more than 100 cyclists had the opportunity to ask the Mayor and other City staff questions, raise important concerns and make suggestions on how to make LA more bike friendly.

Calif. Desert on Pace to Become World's Solar Capital (NY Times)
Summary: Southern California is poised to become the world's solar power capital as the Obama administration continues to stamp its approval on large-scale renewable energy projects across the Mojave and Colorado deserts.

Hollywood Greens Up With Environmental Database (Planet Ark)
Summary: The Producers Guild of America on Wednesday unveiled www.greenproductionguide.com -- a database of environmentally-friendly products and services from vendors across the United States.

CARB Report Sets Goals for Sustainable Communities (Environmental Leader)
Summary: The California Air Resources Board released a draft report on Monday that proposes ambitious targets for land use and transportation planning in 2020 and 2035 to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with passenger vehicle travel.

Mapping the Shape of California's Green Economy (Green Biz)
Summary: Long considered to be a green business hub, California boasts more than 3,500 green companies and workplaces in every major metropolitan area.

America's 100 Greenest Schools (Sierra Club Magazine)
Summary: UC Irvine at No. 6; UC San Diego at No. 15; Pomona at No. 23; UCLA at No. 27

California is new front line of BPA fight (Grist)
Summary: A bill authored by Democratic state Sen. Fran Pavley would essentially ban BPA in products such as baby bottles, sippy cups, infant formula and baby food jars designed for children ages three and younger. The bill recently passed the Senate but faces stiff opposition in the Assembly by the chemical and infant formula industries.

Texas oil vs. California clean tech: the battle over Proposition 23 (Grist)
Summary: Proposition 23, an initiative that would suspend Assembly Bill 32 (AB 32), the state's landmark global warming law, provides the first ballot box test for climate change legislation -- and for the prospects of reviving a national cap-and-trade bill.

Boxer attacks Fiorina's pro-oil drilling stance in Santa Barbara (LA Times)
Summary: With images of the Gulf Coast oil spill still fresh in voters' minds, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer campaigned in Santa Barbara on Wednesday, arguing that Carly Fiorina's support for additional oil drilling off California's coast could threaten the jobs of nearly 400,000 workers whose livelihoods depend on the coastal economy.

Mojave Desert Solar Project One Step Closer to Powering 20,000 Homes (Environmental Leader)
Summary: Chevron Energy Solutions’ proposed 45-megawatt solar photovoltaic (PV) plant on 516 acres of federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) moved one step closer to being build after clearing its final environmental review by BLM. The solar complex is expected to generate enough electricity to supply 20,000 California homes with power.

Guffaws for Green (Wilshire & Washington)
Summary: When the environmental org Heal the Bay was looking to make a splash to push California lawmakers on a proposed ban on plastic shopping bags, it chose not to pluck a celebrity for a standard public service announcement but to create a four-minute “mockumentary” narrated by Jeremy Irons.

Kangaroo rat in San Diego County remains endangered (S.D. Union-Tribune)
Summary: A tiny creature blamed for slowing development in Southern California still needs protections under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ruled.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Energy Efficiency Shopping Spree

I wasn't planning to buy energy efficiency products, but at a recent visit to Target I was so excited that this massive chain store was selling this technology that I couldn't resist. And plus they were all selling at clearance prices so who could turn down saving money up front, saving money on energy bills long term, and of course helping save the planet by reducing electricity use from dirty coal-fired power plants.

The first items I purchased were Energizer rechargeable batteries and an Energizer battery charger. The charger juices up any AA and AAA batteries which of course means less batteries ending up in toxic landfills. And all the chargers are Energy Star certified.

The next items were all from a company called Practecol. Here is the company info from their website:

"Practecol is the first home sustainability brand with a cohesive collection of superior, simple-to-install-and-use products that promote sustainability. Our company equips consumers with the tools needed to reduce their environmental impact at home while saving money. Even our packaging is eco-friendly. Each Practecol product is packaged in an eco-friendly Prac-PacTM and is recyclable, recycled or biodegradable. The paper is made of 80% post consumer waste and is printed with renewable, soy based inks. All plastic packaging is partially made from pre-consumer recycled plastic and is 100% recyclable.


A new movement toward an “eco-frugal lifestyle” is sweeping the country as consumers seek opportunities and solutions to save money while also preserving valuable natural resources. In response to the growing number of consumers who want to save money and protect the planet, Practecol offers a one-stop holistic solution to finding and evaluating products designed to optimize energy consumption, weatherize the home and conserve water.

Mission Statement

Our mission is to be the first home sustainability brand to provide consumers with a cohesive collection of superior, simple-to-install-and-use products that promote sustainability. Our focus is to reduce environmental impact, consistently adopt green manufacturing practices and deliver a compelling economic value to our customers through rapid payback.


Save and Sustain. Simply."

The Energy Monitoring Consumption Meter is a great way to start to take control of your energy use. You just plug it into the wall outlet and then plug the appliance into the device and over a 24-hour period it monitors how much energy is used so you can find out where the energy hogs are and reduce or eliminate them. It tells you the kilowatts used per hour, the total price at a default of twelve cents per kilowatt hour (this can be changed to reflect your actual electricity rate) and more.

The Refrigerator Kit reduces electricity wattage through a temperature gauge for an optimal 36-38 degree environment, an alarm that goes off when the door is open for more than one minute since this wastes valuable electricity, and a dirty coil cleaner.

Lastly, I purchased a couple of Simple Switch Outlet Adapters which helps stop wasted standby power. You just plug in the device and then plug the appliance into the device and when the appliance is turned off you flip the switch to eliminate vampire energy suckers when the appliance is on standby mode. The website claims that you can save $40 a year by flipping the switch to eliminate standby power each time you turn off your TV.

And there are many products that will soon be available nationwide at Target and other retailers such as water saving devices, weather sealers and more.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Videos: Russia Launches new HSR and Global Warming FAQ

Russia has launched their second high speed rail line that will travel at speeds of up to 250 kmph and whisk passengers from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

Five frequently-asked questions about global warming, covering sources, the influence of particulate pollution, the impact of the sun, and possible solutions.

Green Headlines: August 11, 2010

How not having a car became Hollywood shorthand for loser (Slate)
Summary: Greenberg is just the most recent film in which a character's non-automobility—whether for lack of a car or for lack of the ability to drive—is used for comic effect, whether as a metaphor for a deeper personality flaw or as a token of marginality and/or plain creepiness. As the humorist Art Buchwald once observed, "People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him."

LA pushing to become nation's mass transit leader (Washington Post)
Summary: The region famous for jilting the street car to take up a love affair with the automobile is trying to rekindle its long ago romance with commuter rail.

New Survey Says 76% of Californians Favor High-Speed Rail (HSR News)
Summary: A new survey (admittedly conducted by a pro-HSR group) says that an overwhelming 76 percent of Californians are in favor of the state's plan to build a high-speed rail line.

Solarbuzz: US Solar Market To Grow Tenfold by 2014 (Solarbuzz)
Summary: Despite a challenging domestic economic environment, the U.S. solar market grew 36% in 2009, according to the United States PV Market 2010 from Solarbuzz. This growth was, however, not nearly as strong as the region's 62% growth in 2008. California accounted for 53% of US PV on-grid installations, and is expected to maintain its strong position in 2010.

Southern California Edison Awards 36 Contracts for Utility-Scale Solar Rooftop Project (MarketWatch)
Summary: Southern California Edison (SCE) awarded 36 contracts to independent power producers for a total of nearly 60 megawatts from photovoltaic solar panels that will produce emission-free energy for SCE customers. The panels will be installed on 31 unused rooftops and five ground-mount sites in SCE's service territory.

California's clean energy future threatened by federal delays, state officials say (LA Times)
Summary: Plans for a massive expansion of clean energy in California are being jeopardized by federal foot-dragging, according to state officials who say that more than 20 nearly shovel-ready solar and wind projects are being held up by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Chevron and City of Brea begin construction on 1.8 MW solar project (PV Magazine)
Summary: Chevron Energy Solutions, along with the city of Brea, has started construction on a 1.8 megawatt (MW) solar and energy efficiency project, in California, the U.S. It is hoped that, when completed the project will save the city more than USD$13 million and reduce city energy use by 40 percent and is expected to be completed next year.

Los Angeles DWP Moves to Add More Wind, Solar Generation to Energy Mix (Sunpluggers.com)
Summary: The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has moved forward on solar, wind and electricity transmission projects as it begins transitioning to increased use of renewable energy.

U.S. Crackdown Forces Calif. To Yank Home Solar, Energy-Retrofit Loans (NY Times)
Summary: California pulled funding for its home solar and energy-retrofit loans yesterday in response to federal mortgage overseers' negative ruling on the program.

Graphene: Solar Cells of the Future? (Alternative Energy)
Summary: A southern California University team has come up with what could be the alternative new breed of economical and flexible solar cells.

Green Transition Scoreboard™ Tops $1.6 Trillion in 2010 (Ethical Markets)
Summary: The Green Transition Scoreboard™ from Ethical Markets, the independent global multi-media company, tracks total private investment in companies growing the green economy since 2007. The mid-2010 update shows a rise to $1,646,719,228,993 from $1.24 trillion at the end of December 2009.

50 Best Twitter Feeds To Stay On Top Of Green News (Top Online Engineering Degree)
Summary: With the green movement consistently gaining momentum thanks to the passionate efforts of activists worldwide, those interested in learning more about its philosophies and applications desire to dig up as many news stories as possible.

Biotech offers promise for producing fuel (LA Times)
Summary: The announcement of an altered bacterium with fuel-production abilities is the latest breakthrough in the fast-expanding field of 'synthetic biology.'

USPS Goes Green (Alternative Energy)
Summary: In strict adherence to guidelines released by the Department of Energy, the United States Postal Service gets on a fast track to reach the goal for energy reduction. Green roofs, green buildings and an optimally efficient management system of energy consumption form part of the energy-reduction strategy.

As the green economy grows, the 'dirty rich' are fading away (Washington Post)
Summary: Big business is more divided on energy and the environment than ever before, and the growing rift reflects major power shifts in the economy.


What: Rally for 30/10 Jobs
When: Friday, August 13th, 12 p.m.
Where: L.A. City Hall, South Lawn (Main and 1st)

What: Mayor Villaraigosa's Bike Summit
When: Monday, August 16th, 9 A.M. to 11 A.M.
Where: Board Room of the MTA Building
One Gateway Plaza, Los Angeles 90012

New Penn Station Can't Come Soon Enough

New York City's Pennsylvania Station -- the busiest train stop in America -- is the ultimate symbol of our nation's shameful neglect of rail travel over the past sixty years.

As opposed to the impressiveness of historic Grand Central Terminal or the efficiency of modern European and Asian high-speed rail stations, Penn Station is the forgotten stepchild of transportation hubs.

Right now Penn Station is a mess. It is cramped, ugly, hot, smelly and forces passengers to huddle around the big arrival and departure board to wait for the gate announcement at literally the last minute before a mad scramble to crush each other while trying to get down the one escalator to the train tracks. It is not the way people should arrive or exit the greatest city in the world.

In fact there are third-world train stations that are easier and more pleasant than Penn Station. And like rubbing salt in the wound, Shanghai, China's high-speed rail station has installed a massive solar-power system. From the UPI story:

"The project is the world's largest stand-alone integrated photovoltaic -- or BIPV -- project, reports China's state-run news agency Xinhua.

Using 20,000 solar panels, the 6.68-megawatt system covers an area of 73,000 square yards.

The system, which started transmitting power to the grid in Shanghai Sunday, is capable of producing 6.3 million kilowatts hours of electricity each year, supplying power to 12,000 households in Shanghai.

The solar-powered train station has produced 300,000 kilowatts of power since it began operating in early July. It is expected to reduce coal consumption by 2,254 tons and cut carbon emissions by 6,600 tons."

But Penn Station hasn't always been such an awful place. Before the controversial construction of Madison Square Garden that started in 1963 demolished it, the old Penn Station was one of NYC's finest landmarks with its grand Romanesque architecture. It represented America's golden age of rail travel.

But thankfully there are plans in the works for a new Penn Station and while there have been many delays, it appears that the project is back on track again thanks to an injection of federal stimulus money. The original plans were initiated by the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

The station would be built across Eighth Avenue at New York's General Post Office, The James Farley Post Office. From Wikpedia:

"On February 16, 2010, $83.4 million from the federal government's TIGER program was awarded to the Moynihan Station project, which together with $169 million from other sources allows the first phase of construction to be fully funded. New construction plans include two new entrances from West of Eighth Avenue through the Farley Building, doubled length and width of the West End Concourse, thirteen new "vertical access points" (escalators, elevators and stairs) to the platforms, doubled width of the 33rd Street Connector between Penn and the West End Concourse, and other critical infrastructure improvements including platform ventilation and catenary work. On July 30, 2010, the New York state government approved the plans; as a result, construction is expected to begin in October 2010, with completion of the first phase scheduled for 2016."

GPS Reduces GHG

Getting lost or taking a longer route while driving has real consequences for the environment. That is why installing an in-car global positioning system (GPS) is important for those who get behind the wheel frequently because it helps drivers stay on course and navigate the fastest route to their destination -- saving fuel and reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

And now there are many GPS devices that include real-time traffic information so there is the ability to not have to sit in congestion with the engine idling, thus further reducing tailpipe emissions and the need for more fuel.

Many commuters live in places or work types of jobs where public transit, walking or biking is simply not an option. So GPS is a great option for frequent drivers concerned about reducing our addiction to oil and lessening our own pollution.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Michigan Making Progress

Michigan is ground zero of the economic recession. No state has been hit harder by previous failed economic policies and the loss of America's manufacturing sector. That is why it is crucial that The Wolverine State carry the torch of the new clean energy revolution in the United States.

At least that was the message Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm conveyed to the audience gathered at the Center for American Progress in downtown Washington, D.C. to hear her speak about the progress Michigan has made in clean energy on the one year anniversary of Vice President Joe Biden's trip to Detroit in which he announced a massive investment of Recovery Act stimulus funds into Michigan's advanced battery industry.

According to CAP Vice President Sarah Rosen Wartell, who provided introductory remarks before the governor took the podium, of the $2.4 billion in advanced battery funds, over half went to Michigan. She also noted that the state is now home to sixteen battery companies representing nearly $6 billion in public and private investment, creating almost 62,000 jobs.

Perhaps it was the fact that Granholm was born in Vancouver, Canada and her grandfather immigrated from Sweden and her grandmother came from Norway -- all three countries being on the cutting edge of the transition to clean energy -- but she was about as animated and excited about clean energy as any public official I've ever seen.

Granholm sadly pointed out that Michigan has lost jobs every single year of the first decade of the 21st century -- over 800,000 jobs lost out of a population of ten million. That staggering figure is due to Michigan being at one time the automotive capital of the world and having seven times more manufacturing employment than other states, so they were hit seven times as hard.

"We are the poster child for this global shift in manufacturing jobs," said Granholm. "So I’m obsessed about creating jobs for everyday citizens in America and that’s why this clean energy opportunity is so huge."

She told a devastating story that took place when she first took office in 2003. A town called Greenville had just found out that the Electrolux-owned refrigerator factory was threatening to go to Mexico and bring the 2,700 jobs with it. The governor held a meeting with representatives from the town of 8,000 and the company management. After offering amazing incentives like zero taxes for twenty years and building them a new factory, the management told Granholm that it was more than they expected, but that they can pay $1.57 an hour in Juarez, Mexico so there was nothing they could do to overcome that.

Afterwards Granholm attended what employers call the "last supper" where the hundreds of recently jobless people gather one last time to say goodbye and ask each other what they are going to be doing next. She said a 48-year old man who was with his two daughters walked up to her and told her that he had worked for the company for 30 years and that his father and grandfather worked for the company and that he went from high school to factory and it was all he knew how to do. With his children on each side of him he asked the Governor point blank: "I'm too young to retire. Who's going to hire me?"

"That question has been asked in communities all across the industrial Midwest as we have seen this manufacturing base hollowed out in America," said Granholm. "We don’t make things in the United States. We are a weak nation. And that’s why this energy bill gives us such an opportunity."

But things have changed in Michigan since the state signed an energy package into law in 2008. Since then there has been somewhat of a mini renaissance, although the unemployment is still at 13.2%, second only to Nevada.

Granholm threw out these numbers since the state's energy bill came into law and the national Recovery Act passed:
  • Solar: 6 companies; $3 billion invested; 20,993 jobs
  • Wind: 10 companies; $173.5 million invested; 4,965 jobs
  • Advanced Batteries: 16 companies; $1.3 billion invested; 62,000 jobs
Granholm stressed how important it is to pass a national clean energy and climate bill because states can only go so far in pushing clean energy jobs through legislation. She said that nations that have feed-in tariffs like Canada and Germany are stealing jobs that could be here in the U.S.A. She also mentioned that Sweden -- a country of similar size to Michigan -- has created 400,000 jobs through clean energy and that there is no reason Michigan can't do the same with the right policy in place.

"We are missing out if we don't adopt smart policy," Granholm said. "The Federal Government must play a role by passing an energy bill. With the right policy in place it will send market signals and will bring jobs."

And regarding that town that lost all the refrigerator factory jobs back in 2003? Well, Granholm was happy to report that Greenville plans to go completely off the grid by powering every school and city building with solar energy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Dirty Truth About Big Oil: British Petroleum

What is there to say about the most despised company on earth at the moment? Well, actually there is plenty to write about concerning BP's long history of negligent behavior in their oil drilling operations.

Enough ink has been spilled over the Deepwater Horizon well explosion, so I'll focus on previous BP-initiated disasters.

  • In 1965 the BP oil rig Sea Gem collapsed and capsized, killing thirteen crew members.
  • In 2005 BP's Texas City, Texas oil refinery exploded causing 15 deaths, 180 injuries and forcing thousands of residents to stay in their homes.
  • From 2006-2008 three workers were killed at the same Texas City refinery in separate accidents.
  • From 2007-2010 the Texas City and Toledo, Ohio refineries were cited for safety violations 829 times by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. BP was responsible for 97% of oil refiner safety violations during that time period.
  • In 2009 a helicopter taking home workers from BP's platform in the Miller oil field crashed 11 miles off the coast of Scotland in the North Sea, killing all 16 on board.
So it is no surprise that a company with such a spotty safety record would eventually be a part of the worst environmental disaster in United States history. It will take years, possibly decades, before the full environmental impact of the Gulf Coast oil disaster is realized. 

It is not all doom and gloom with BP however. There is a small bright spot in BP's investments in solar energy that will hopefully become a bigger part of the company's profile in the coming years as petroleum becomes out of favor with politicians and the public. 

BP Solar is the third largest producer of solar panels in the world and the company has also heavily invested in wind power as well. And while it is discouraging to see BP Solar close its Frederick, Maryland solar plant for the rapidly expanding Chinese market, it is at the same time encouraging to find out that BP is working with Wal-Mart on a pilot project to install solar panels on rooftops. If BP and Wal-Mart can get together on a massive solar power project then maybe there is hope after all.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Dirty Truth About Big Oil: Royal Dutch Shell

What is it about Big Oil and the Nazis? In my last blog post I wrote about Standard Oil of New Jersey (now ExxonMobil) and its nefarious ties with Hitler's Germany. In this post I'll try to uncover the sinister roots of Royal Dutch Shell while painting a brighter picture of their modern-day move towards renewable energy.

The Anglo-Dutch petroleum company was created in 1907 from a merger between Royal Dutch Petroleum Company and the Shell Transport and Trading Company. The alliance would help compete with John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil.

The Nazi connection stems from Royal Dutch co-founder/chairman and later Royal Dutch/Shell chairman Sir Henri Deterding. Called the "Napoleon of Oil," Deterding admired Hitler and was a fervent supporter of the Nazi party. Here is an excerpt from the 1975 book "The Seven Sisters" by Anthony Sampson courtesy of the website Royal Dutch Shell PLC:

"His influence on the company was erratic and as one Shell veteran recalls: ‘Deterding’s interventions were like thunderstorms; suddenly flattening a field of wheat, while leaving other fields un-scathed.’ The stately managers of Shell began to have the worrying impression that their Director-General was going mad, and still worse, going pro-Nazi. His anti-Communism, spurred on by his Russian second wife, had already made him sympathetic to the Nazis. But in 1936, just after he had celebrated his seventieth birthday and his fortieth year with Shell, he married a third time, to a German girl, Charlotte Knaack, who had been his secretary. He was now convinced that the Nazis were the only solution to the Communist menace.

He died six months before the outbreak of war: memorial services were held in all Shell offices in Germany and Hitler and Goering both sent wreaths to the funeral on his estate."

And here is an excerpt from the website Shell News about the petro company's Nazi ties:

"Approximately 1,385 forced laborers worked at oil refineries and petrochemical plants owned and operated by the Royal/Dutch Shell Group during the Second World War. These workers, largely civilians from Eastern Europe and the Low Countries of Western Europe, were compelled to work on the grounds of Shell's German and Austrian subsidiaries, Rhenania GmbH and Shell Austria AG, respectively. At these locations, the forced laborers toiled long hours under the watchful (and often brutal) guard of Hitler's S.S. men. Deported from their home countries by force, these workers were housed in filthy barracks, and were denied freedom of movement and proper nutrition. For their work, which was contracted from the S.S., the laborers received no pay from Shell or the German Government.

Shell's ties with the Third Reich, however, were not limited to the use of forced labor. It was also a founding partner in Deutsche Gasoline (25%), the national German petroleum company explicitly crafted to give the Reich greater control over domestic gasoline production - for both military and civilian purposes. Shell additionally held the dubious distinction not only of having collaborated with the Nazi Regime to bring Deutsche Gasoline into fruition, but also of sharing control over the company with I.G. Farben Industrie - the infamous producer of Zyklon B poison gas."

And while Shell is currently joining the likes of ExxonMobil in focusing on R&D of next-generation biofuels such as the promising area of algae oil, last year the company cut back on investments in other renewable energy such as solar and wind (Shell owns 11 wind farms in the U.S.). And even with biofuels only about one percent of Shell's investments go towards clean energy -- that leaves the other 99% for dirty, polluting fossil fuels.

If there is any silver lining in this story, it is that earlier this year Shell announced plans for a $12 billion venture with Brazilian sugar producer and ethanol developer Cosan to create sustainable biofuels. But with its spotty history of reducing renewable energy funding and pulling back on projects like the world's biggest planned offshore wind farm in Britain, there is no guarantee that Shell will maintain its commitment to biofuels. For the sake of the planet I hope they do.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Dirty Truth About Big Oil: ExxonMobil

While the Gulf Coast region is soaking in oil, the American public is being fed a steady diet of clever and deceptive marketing and advertising from Big Oil to keep us addicted and away from alternative energy sources.

These fossil fuel companies are also spending millions of dollars to lobby against climate and clean energy legislation on every level.

All of these efforts have been well-documented. But many in the American public don't know about the controversial history of these companies and their manipulative tactics to cover up their true purpose -- making record profits off the American consumer at the expense of the environment and our health.

This series of blog posts will examine the Supermajors -- ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Total S.A. Also, smaller companies such as Citgo will be investigated.


This company is the legacy of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil. In 1909 the Department of Justice sued Standard under the Sherman Antitrust Act for monopolistic practices and restraining interstate commerce. In 1911 the Supreme Court ruled that Standard Oil must be dissolved and split into 34 companies. Ironically, two of those companies -- Exxon and Mobil -- later merged to become today's dirty energy powerhouse.

But even more sinister is Standard Oil's support of pre-war Nazi Germany. This is an excerpt from the book "Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler," written in 2000 by Anthony C. Sutton.

"The Standard Oil group of companies, in which the Rockefeller family owned a one-quarter (and controlling) interest, was of critical assistance in helping Nazi Germany prepare for World War II. This assistance in military preparation came about because Germany's relatively insignificant supplies of crude petroleum were quite insufficient for modern mechanized warfare; in 1934 for instance about 85 percent of German finished petroleum products were imported. The solution adopted by Nazi Germany was to manufacture synthetic gasoline from its plentiful domestic coal supplies. It was the hydrogenation process of producing synthetic gasoline and iso-octane properties in gasoline that enabled Germany to go to war in 1940 — and this hydrogenation process was developed and financed by the Standard Oil laboratories in the United States in partnership with I.G. Farben."

And in case you don't know about I.G. Farben, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

"IG Farben built a factory (named Buna Chemical Plant) that produced synthetic oil and rubber (from coal) at Auschwitz, which was the beginning of SS activity and camps in this location during the Holocaust. At its peak in 1944, this factory made use of 83,000 slave laborers and prisoners. The pesticide Zyklon B (infamous for its use in gas chambers during the Holocaust), for which IG Farben held the patent, was manufactured by Degesch (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekämpfung), which IG Farben owned 42.2 percent of (in shares) and which had IG Farben managers in its Managing Committee."

ExxonMobil would like us to believe it is "taking on the world's toughest energy challenges." Really? According to a 2008 ABC report, the company only spends one percent of their profits on alternative energy sources. But there is some encouraging news as the petroleum company recently announced a new $600 million collaboration with Synthetic Genomics Inc (SGI) on research and development of the next generation of algae-based biofuels. I hope this will be a serious commitment to transition the company from primarily petroleum to algae oil.

I hope ExxonMobil sees the writing on the wall and understands that Peak Oil is coming and Global Warming is real and is caused by human-made greenhouse gas emissions. If so then this might be a chance to start to repair its ignoble past and present for a bright future with algae oil.

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