Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wooden Hotel Keycards

How many times have you checked into a hotel and been given a non-biodegradable plastic key card to access your room? My wife and I take several trips around the country each year, for vacation and visiting family and friends, and we have always been under the impression that these key cards are reprogrammed for each new visitor. Apparently, so many of these cards are lost or taken home, only to be thrown in the trash anyway, that a typical 200-room hotel will go through roughly 12,000 plastic keys per year. This amounts to close to 1,300 tons of plastic becoming waste each year in the United States alone.

To answer this problem, Sustainable Cards, a Colorado based business, has created wooden hotel keycards. These cards have been used in Europe for years. They are biodegradable and are therefore a preferred alternative to gift cards and membership cards.

The cards will make their U.S. debut at the Democratic National Convention in Denver where approximately 70,000 biodegradable keycards will be distributed.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Growing Plastic in Switchgrass

When we think of plastic we might immediately picture carrying our grocery purchases home in those ubiquitous bags that end up floating on the breeze or being re-used to pick up after your dog. But no matter how they are used far too many of them are ending up in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” and causing problems for marine wildlife.

We have grown accustomed to seeing plastic in everything from toys to electronic products to cars, boats, trains and planes. Traditionally, plastic has been made from petroleum, that substance we all love to hate but are unfortunately doomed to need until we adopt a better and cleaner energy replacement.

One company has found an alternative method of producing plastic. Massachusetts-based biotech company Metabolix has discovered a way to actually grow the plastic in the leafs of perennial plants. So far, switchgrass is the leading candidate to host this process. Anything left over after the harvest can go towards ethanol production.

By applying the knowledge gained from metabolic engineering, scientists at Metabolix have been able to produce what is being called biobased plastic. Their proprietary line of bioplastics is known as Mirel and can be used for everything from credit cards to plastic containers and even vehicle components.

Three immediate advantages of growing plastic instead of using petroleum is that, one, it becomes part of the movement to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels, two, it makes a positive impact on global climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and three, it will biodegrade to carbon dioxide and water in all environments with biological activity including soil, home composting, industrial composting, septic systems, wetlands, rivers and oceans.

Many plastics breakdown into smaller components over time (usually a very long time) but according to company statistics, Mirel will completely disappear in marine water within just over 40 days.

They tested injection molded bioplastics cups through 20 dishwashing cycles and found no change in either dimensional form or molecular weight. What this tells me is that injection molded bioplastics will still take time to break down and since most people use these type of cups once and toss them out, they will remain in the environment, however, probably not as long as traditional plastic cups. They do not give any stats on how long this form of bioplastics will break down. Bioplastic drinking cups, picnic plates and utensils will surely end up on the market, so we will require an adjustment in how we view them as throwaways since they will obviously have a longer useful life.

In 2006, Metabolix and Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) formed a joint venture company operating under the name of Telles to commercialize Mirel bioplastics. ADM has begun construction of the world's first Mirel biorefinery located in Clinton, Iowa. This new facility will produce 110 million pounds of Mirel plastic resin per year with start up scheduled for late 2008. Telles is responsible for the manufacturing, marketing and sales of Mirel worldwide.

Currently applications they are targeting are packaging, consumer disposables, erosion control, agriculture and any other application that requires sustainability, and/or biodegradability.

Finally, we will be able to bring our love affair with plastic back out into the open.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Can you say Disingenuous?Can you say Disingenuous? Or Insincere, snow-job, sham, hypocrite?

George W. Bush, environmentalist. Sort of leaves a foul taste on a truthful tongue.

European leaders, American governors, corporate executives, evangelical preachers, key lawmakers and environmentalists have been pressing Bush to lead what they see as a bid to save the planet for years.

And now that he is about to leave the White House he decides he wants to be remembered as an environmentalist.

As if this will counter seven years of wasteful environmentally unfriendly policy and practices.

He has refused to believe global warming is a serious threat and actively went about disregarding the Kyoto Protocol.

He considered climate change as nothing more than leftist political agenda. He disregarded scientific finds and even went so far as to have scientific reports re-written or stricken from review because they didn’t fit with his personal belief.

And now he wants to be known as an environmentalist.

His negotiators infuriated counterparts at this month's talks in Bali by resisting a mandatory cap on carbon emissions. And just hours after Bush signed a basically useless energy bill, the administration invalidated an effort by California and 17 other states to impose tougher tailpipe emission rules, hiding behind the excuse that it makes more sense to have a single national policy, which we know will never be drafted mush less passed.

And now he wants to be known as an environmentalist.

This is nothing more than another paint job, another imagined feather in his cap for another self-imagined “job well done”.

Of course, any policy he will try to get passed involving cutting gasoline consumption and greenhouse gases will be just drastic enough so that they wont pass and then he can say he tried but congress was against him.

This sudden show of consciousness is his top advisors focusing on reformulating his legacy and he isn’t fooling anyone except his own lapdogs.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Government Regulation versus Biodiversity

Just what does George Bush have against science? Now he wants to overhaul the Endangered Species Act in favor of any and all agencies that a federal agency would fund, build or authorize that might harm endangered wildlife and their habitat.

Let’s look at the possible reasons that he (or the highest bidding lobbyist) might have for overhauling an environmental strategy that worked so well for over 30 years.
1 He is utterly naïve in believing that civil and construction engineers know enough, and care enough, about wildlife and their habitat, that they alone can make responsible decisions affecting environmental safety and survival, even if it leads to increased costs for their projects.

2 Biodiversity is over rated and environmental protection is just a scheme to place a higher value on dumb animals than on mankind.

3 Mankind’s place in this world is to rule over all we survey. Wildlife is here to serve mankind and if they can’t survive along side us on their own then it just proves their lowly, subservient status beneath human kind.

4 Any money spent on protecting wildlife that does not directly lead to making more money for this administration’s supporters is a waste of time and effort because, well, see #2 and #3.

5 Environmentalist are using the plight of endangered species to hamper attempts by resource-profiteers to extract fossil fuel resources from the planet that will further pollute the land, air and water.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and National Fisheries Service are the experts in determining whether a project is likely to jeopardize any endangered species or habitat. And they have been doing a great job at it for roughly 35 years. Perhaps too good of a job, according to Bush and his gang of profiteers.

Conservative Republicans have tried unsuccessfully in congress to eliminate what they consider unnecessary laws to protect wildlife that only cause delays and cost increases on many infrastructure projects. The Department of Interior proposal, which does not require congressional approval, is aimed at ‘correcting’ the habit of federal action agencies have of ‘erring on the side of caution’ concerning wildlife habitat protection. In other words, civil engineers and project managers are tired of tip toeing around possible biodiversity destruction and want to get on with their projects without deferring to the edict of environmental policy.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said “We believe federal action agencies will err on the side of caution in making these determinations". This places immense faith in project managers to put the welfare of the environment over getting their project done and getting paid quickly so they can get on to the next project. this faith is obviously misplaced.

At stake here is nothing less than the continued health of biodiversity, struggling against an administration that places far more importance on making profit for its financial benefactors than on the healthy existence of this planet. The incessant need for humans to control the environment rather than to live with it is bringing us all closer to the point of strangulation.

The importance of biodiversity cannot be overstated. Diversity is the basic building block of a healthy, flourishing environment. Without it mankind will cease to exist.

The weakening of U.S. environmental policy is nothing more than a transparent attempt to allow oil companies to determine if their exploration and oil drilling practices will be harmful to wildlife. We know far too well what decision would be made if choosing between drilling to extract oil or saving the life of some animal that they couldn’t care less about.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Chevron cries Foul over its environmental damage

Chevron and Texaco (which is owned by Chevron) are dumping toxic oil wastes into Ecuador’s Amazon rain forest’s rivers and streams and are upset because the indigenous people are taking them to court over it.

For the past five years, a group of U.S. trial lawyers, on behalf of thousands of indigenous Indian peasants, have been trying to get Chevron to clean up the mess and admit its responsibility for the many resulting cases of cancer and physical deformities that local Indian tribes are suffering from.

After a court appointed expert recommended Chevron be required to pay between $8 billion and $16 billion to clean up the rain forest, Chevron executives finally decided it was time to disclose the issue to its shareholders. After the initial shock at the prospect of losing their investment money, an army of Chevron lobbyists and trial lawyers descended on Washington DC to try to get the federal government to force Ecuador to drop the case. Isn’t it remarkable that the very people who would sue anyone for dumping toxic sludge on their own lawns are going off screaming and crying to the federal government to prevent having to pay for their part in doing the same thing to someone else?

Chevron, who has profited greatly from being given the rights to extract millions of dollars in oil from Ecuador, has the audacity to ask the U.S. government to yank special trade preferences for Ecuador if that country doesn’t drop the case.

This is the same corporation who recently pushed a new global ‘Human Energy’ advertising campaign. This ad was devised, created and broadcast all during the time that Chevron’s treachery was taking place in Ecuador. This ad campaign, boasting ‘conservation and responsible exploration’ is aimed at engaging people in today’s energy issues and highlighting the steps Chevron is taking to bring more energy supplies to the global marketplace. Funny, but I remember that ad highlight how their extraction practices are poisoning acres of rainforest, polluting miles of river beds, killing countless fish and wildlife and giving cancer to hundreds of Ecuadorian people. All in the name of bringing energy to Americans.

I guess they did not count on their campaign to raise awareness about the major issues to actually raise awareness about their careless and harmful practices.

They have spent millions on trying to convince the public that they are working together with consumers in areas of vital importance, such as supply and demand, energy efficiency and climate change while at the same time spending millions to gag the Ecuadorian government for uncovering its environmental irresponsibility.

Oil companies are only about finding more oil and pulling it out of the ground and moving it using the cheapest method possible, and maximizing their investments in drilling rights and refinery capacity. If the environment gets in the way of either goal, the environment pretty much loses. In this case a country and its citizens are slated to lose because under this current administration oil is king and oil corporations hold the keys to the kingdom. With their high-priced lawyers and such powerhouse lobbyists as former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, former Democratic senator John Breaux and Wayne Berman, a top fund-raiser for John McCain—all with access to Washington's top decision makers the odds are stacked against the lowly native Indian tribes of a third world country, no matter how much wealth Chevron has plundered from them.

Chevron has the low class to argue that it has been victimized by a "corrupt" Ecuadoran court system while the plaintiffs received active support from Ecuador's leftist president, Rafael Correa—an ally of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. It is odd that the fact of this relationship between Ecuador and Chavez did not matter to Chevron as long as they were making a profit. No matter who the Ecudoran people have sided with, basic morality dictates that no corporation or shareholders should profit from the harm they bring to bear on indigenous peoples.

Corporations think that just because they have invested millions in their country, even for the purpose of making many more millions in profit from it without sharing it with the host nation, that they should be free of any harm they bring to that country. Since Chevron and the U.S. government tout globalization, this case should be tried in a world court.

Now, to add a twist to this story, trial lawyers in the case have retained their own high-profile D.C. super lobbyist, Ben Barnes, a major Democratic fund-raiser. And they have tapped a capital connection that may pay off even more. Roughly two years ago, when Attorney Steven Donziger who is coordinating the D.C. opposition to Chevron, first got wind that Chevron might take its case to Washington, he went to see Barack Obama who just happens to have been a schoolmate at Harvard Law School. During the course of several meetings, Donziger showed his old friend graphic photos of toxic oil pits and runoffs. He also argued strongly that Chevron was trying to subvert the "rule of law" by doing an end run on an Ecuadoran legal case. Obama was "offended by that," said Donziger. Obama vetted the issue with Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy (who has long worked on Latin American human-rights issues), and in February 2006 the two wrote a letter to the then U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman urging the administration to permit the Ecuadoran peasants to have "their day in court."

In light of this, Chevron’s plea for help in Washington has taken on a new urgency because if Obama becomes president this case could remain in Ecuador. But we are no longer naïve enough to believe that you can count on what a President of the United States says he will do and what he actually does.

It is going to come down to whether an American company commands bigger clout than a Central American country with a long standing U.S. bilateral relationship.

The fact that Chevron withheld information from its shareholders concerning an ongoing lawsuit with a foreign country who helps provide profits says very little about the relationship Chevron’s corporate board holds with its shareholders. What else are they hiding?

Chevron and Texaco mow share space on the list of the world’s worst corporations for human and global responsibility along with Citgo which is owned by Venezuela.

Source: Newsweek

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Permaculture: A Revolution in Food Security

A new term has entered our lexicon, peak oil. What the everyday consumer is supposed to envision upon hearing this term is that the world has already extracted half of the planet’s natural oil resources and from this moment on the rate of production has entered a terminal decline. What this means to us of course is that the price of oil will only go higher due to its increasing scarcity and our ever increasing population size and our continued dependence on fossil-fuel-burning industry. British Petroleum (BP) claims we have not reached this ‘peak’ point while other oil companies say we have. And the debate continues without any clear way of knowing if we have reached peak oil because no one knows exactly how much oil is available under the planets surface.

Personally, I don’t know who to believe because I am not an expert, so I, like the rest of us, am at the mercy of those who are, or claim to be, experts. I do, however, believe we should aggressively research alternative energy sources no matter how much oil remains to be extracted. The longer we wait to actually adopt an alternative energy source(s) the more money we are throwing at big oil who clearly have no real interest in pursuing an alternative to using their product and the more environmental damage we are doing to the planets surface, air and water.

In the meantime, while we watch our government drag its feet in setting token and ineffective attempts at environmental policy while agribusiness and oil executives suck every dollar out of our pockets, there is a movement underway that has, unwittingly, been developing for years by individuals covering a wide spectrum of people who call themselves home gardeners, urban farmers, weekend garden ‘hobbyists’, and lately, locavores.

Permaculture and the increasing desire to become self-sufficient and sustainable is a lifestyle whose time has returned. Farming communities survived quite well for many, many years before we became industrialized and traded our independence for the convenience of having such things as: out-of-season fruits and vegetables every day of the year, and someone else to grow and can our foods.

With the emergence of recent issues concerning food safety, food and gas prices, genetically modified food, greenhouse gas emissions, transportation of food over great distances, and food freshness and quality, more and more people are becoming painfully aware of the dangerously vulnerable position we are being forced into. The continued reliance on agribusiness, government, big oil and even financial organizations to provide for our daily necessities is in jeopardy.

I am convinced that communities everywhere need to create local, sustainable, community gardens to supplement each individuals home gardens for the purpose of creating community food surplus in case of national emergency. I realize I may sound alarmist, but our nations cupboard is bare.

I recently discovered a group based in Nevada City, California, called Alliance for a Post-Petroleum Local Economy. APPLE is a grassroots group striving for a more self-reliant, sustainable local economy (as opposed to global economy that the world’s money changers are pushing for). They produce locally what they consume locally, as much as possible. It is an intuitive idea that I believe many people have been craving as an answer to our need for food safety and community activism. It is a means of re-establishing our own control over what we eat and how it is grown.

They have produced over 100 videos, they call them conversations, featuring everyday individuals who adopted permaculture and have taken the step towards sustainability in their own yards. Be sure to watch #51 “An Experiment in Back Yard Sustainability” and #100 “Suburban Permaculture with Janet Barocco and Richard Heinberg”.

One such video, entitled “How Much Food Can You Grow in Your Yard?”, shows an urban lot, measuring 75’ by 125’, in Port Townsend, Washington. The home owner, Judy Alexander, takes us through her self-sustained property re-educating us on how it is possible to grow enough food to sustain your family and have excess for neighbors, friends, or community storage.

Whether you agree or disagree with the narrators assessment that we have reached a peak of human innovation, information, wealth and health, check out the many other videos for some very educational insight to what it can be like to regain our independence and get back the satisfaction that being in touch with land brings.

There are of course many other groups out there creating their own sustainable Eden. One of my personal favorite experiments in permaculture is taking place at the “Little Homestead in the City”. They call themselves eco-pioneers living a homegrown revolution on a sustainable, real-life original urban homestead. They have set an excellent example of how anyone can create an environment that reaches out to the community at large and can therefore inspire others fulfill their own need for independence. It truly is a revolution.

Our dependence on oil is becoming more and more expensive in terms of cost of extraction and production which gets passed on to the consumer, and in the cost of damage to the environment in terms of exploration, extraction and burning of oil which is felt by everyone. We are being forced to accept higher food prices as the result of short-sighted use of food crops for the production of bio-fuels instead of using non-food crops. In our rush to sever ties to foreign oil we are made to believe that the only immediate answer is to damage the environment further by increasing the number of offshore oil wells.

Through the use of the internet and our increased access to each others gardens and skills, through blogs and websites as educational tools, we are all becoming more empowered to take the course of our future into our own hands, to grow our own food, and share the excess with neighbors in an attempt to get this food revolution off the ground.

Further reading:
Instant Permaculture for the Suburbs

Are we running out of oil?

Why peak oil is probably about now

Permaculture Institute

Homesteading Today

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Ever Wonder Where Your Discarded Computer Goes?

There are many websites dedicated to informing the public where to send their used computers, televisions, cell phones, iPods, etc. Sometimes the product manufacturer even allows you to send your product back to them when you are done with it. (See below). But where do these items go after they have left your possession?

There are no precise figures but activists estimate that 50-80% of the 300,000 to 400,000 tons of electronic waste collected for recycling in the U.S. yearly ends up in Africa and Asia where labor and cost of recycling is lower. Though this is a profitable activity and there are several licensed companies that recycle computers and their components; there are also many other companies who are not authorized, and which subject their workers to very hazardous environments while recycling computer parts.

Workers in these countries use hammers, gas burners and their bare hands to extract the precious metals and toxic chemicals, such as cadmium, lead, chromium, flame-retardants and mercury. Unsafe methods of disposing of computer components include landfills, burning to extract metals such as copper from printed circuit boards, or breaking and throwing components such as CRT monitors. In all these methods, toxins are released into the air, soil, and groundwater.

Greenpeace said they tested the environment around dump sites in Ghana, West Africa, and discovered higher than normal levels of carcinogenic substances, as much as 100 times above levels found in uncontaminated soil. The two scrap yards that were tested are at Abogbloshie in the centre of Accra, the main centre for recycling computers in Ghana, and in the city of Koforidua in the country’s Eastern Region.
Photo: ever wonder where-recycled computers

The group also noted the presence in most of the samples of other chemicals such as phthalates, which interfere with reproduction, and in one of the samples of a high level of chlorinated dioxins, known to promote cancer. “The nature and extent of chemical contamination found at these sites in Ghana is similar to that previously exposed by Greenpeace for e-waste open-burning sites in China and India,” the group said.

The most troubling of all is that children are employed to retrieve metal parts, mostly made of either aluminum or copper.

Greenpeace said container-loads of old and often broken computers, monitors and TVs arrive in Ghana from Germany, Korea, Switzerland and the Netherlands “under the false label of ’second-hand goods’”.

Considering the fact that estimates show that manufacturing one PC requires about 240 kg fossil fuels, 1.8 tonnes of materials, 22 kg chemicals and about 1,500 liters of water, this production process is one of the most environmental-resource-intensive ventures we participate in. Many people are tempted to buy a replacement computer because a new one is on the market or they just get tired of the old one and replace it even though it is still useable.

Environmentalists are pressuring governments around the world to find safer ways to dispose of electronic waste that are creating “toxic stews” in places like China, India and Pakistan. But they can’t do it on their own.

We can help cut down on e-waste by using the device to its fullest potential life span or at least ensure it will go to someone or some organization that will use it until it dies for good. We may not be able to stop how the waste is handled once it goes overseas but we can cut down on the amount that goes there if we would only become more responsible and not buy new when there is still useable life left. Remember: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.

Further reading:
Computer disposal, donation, and recycle information

Step by Step Guide to Recycle a Computer Properly

E-waste Piles Up in U.S. and Abroad

When PCs Pollute

Recycling Resources:
Tech recycling for the Upgrade-Happy

Recycling E-Waste

Electronic Product Management Directory

Recycling E-Waste

Friday, August 8, 2008

Monsanto Backs Away From Bovine Growth Hormone

The public has been told for years that rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), which has been used extensively by large dairies to boost milk production, has no effect on the human body.

The products are not required to be labeled by the U.S. FDA as having rBGH as an ingredient, thanks to our wonderful lobby system allowing the appropriate people to be paid off. The use of the hormone has been a concern of consumers, food safety organizations and scientists. Regulatory bodies in both Canada and Europe rejected the hormone due to numerous animal and human health concerns.

Now Monsanto, the company who makes it, wants to rid itself of it. “News of Monsanto’s divestment of Posilac is one more sign that no-one wants the growth hormone rBGH used in milk production, not even the company that makes it,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “In the last year we’ve seen retailers including Walmart, Kroger, and Starbucks fall like dominoes in the race to meet consumer demand for artificial growth hormone-free milk. “

Could it be that consumers are finally getting through to agribusiness? Don’t count get your hopes up just yet. The only reason this venture failed is because “rBGH is not used by small-eco-friendly farms. The artificial hormone has contributed to the growth of mega-dairy operations that cram together thousands of cows generating mountains of waste that are toxic to us and to our environment,” explained Hauter.

When Monsanto was unable to get the FDA to limit the number of “rBGH-free” labels used by these small dairy farms they went to state governments to try to get them to regulate against their use. Having failed this, Monsanto decided it was time to back away from its use.

In cows treated with rBGH, significant health problems often develop, including a 50% increase in the risk of lameness (leg and hoof problems), over a 25% increase in the frequency of udder infections (mastitis), and serious animal reproductive problems, i.e., infertility, cystic ovaries, fetal loss and birth defects.

Because rBGH use results in more cases of mastitis, dairy farmers tend to use more antibiotics to combat the infections, the residues of which also may end up in milk and dairy products. These residues can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals and contribute to the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria, further undermining the efficacy of some antibiotics in fighting human infections.

The next step is to find clearly identifiable links between human health problems and rBGH use and Monsanto will face a mountain of lawsuits.

This story is not yet finished.

Further reading:
What is rBGH?

Milk: America’s Health Problem

Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer

Institute for Responsible Technology: Your Milk on Drugs

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Plant Photosynthesis Leads to Cheap Storage of Solar Energy

The amount of sunlight that strikes the Earth in one hour supplies the entire planets energy needs for one year. Current technology to store excess carbon-free electricity during the day, to be used during heavily overcast days and at night, is too cost prohibitive and grossly inefficient to realize its full potential as a cheap, reliable, renewable energy source.

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have devised a simple method that will overcome both the high cost and the inefficiency of current solar electrical storage. They can now mimic plant photosynthesis to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen and then recombine them inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.
(Photo credit: MIT/NSF; the new, efficient oxygen catalyst in action in Dan Nocera's laboratory at MIT.)

Daniel Nocera Matthew Kanan were inspired by plant photosynthesis to use a catalyst consisting of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode to produce oxygen gas from water, another catalyst produces hydrogen gas. Electricity, whether produced from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source, runs through the electrode resulting in oxygen gas. Another catalyst, using platinum, can produce hydrogen from water.

The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it's easy to set up, Nocera said. "That's why I know this is going to work. It's so easy to implement," he said.

Electrolyzers currently in use by industry are not suited to artificial photosynthesis because they are very expensive and require a highly basic (non-benign) environment that has little to do with the conditions under which photosynthesis operates.

This new discovery, along with solar panels as thin as paint for homes and cars, and with nano flakes revolutionizing the transformation of solar energy to electricity, will greatly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and address global climate change. The biggest obstacle remaining is the government in legislating the switch-over from electricity-by-wire from a central source and big oil, who will not want to see the loss of income to their already abundantly over-flowing coffers. For individual home owners, the future is indeed looking brighter.

Further reading:
Home Windows Could Cut Carbon Emissions in Half

Cheap New Solar Panels

Nanosolar Powersheet That Could Change the World

Cheap, Green Solar Panels

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Republicans Think Properly Inflated Tires Is A Joke

It has been proven countless times that if you keep your car’s tires properly inflated and keep your car properly tuned you will get increased gas mileage.

Senator Obama made this same statement and Republicans have turned it into a joke by making this one of their daily talking points; Rush Limbaugh is having a field day; and Republican National Convention is sending tire gauges labeled “Barack Obama’s Energy Plan” to Washington reporters.

This illustrates the ignorance that we need to overcome to get this country on the right path to energy efficiency. Efficiency experts say that keeping tires inflated can improve gas mileage 3%, and regular maintenance can add another 4%. If everyone followed this advice then this nation could reduce our demand on oil by several percentage points.

Also, if we cut down on idling, we can improve fuel economy another 5%, and cutting down on speeding and unnecessary acceleration, will increase mileage as much as 20%. It truly is in our own hands to cut back on our oil dependency. And this will help lower gas prices. We have already witnessed this in that the recent decline in the number of miles driven has lowered gas prices. We are not powerless and doomed to be forever dependent on big oil, as the Republicans would have us believe.

Why is it that the simplest, easiest and most cost effective solution is often seen as a waste of time and therefore not taken seriously? This is exactly the time to say “it is the little things that add up to make a big difference”.

Their mantra is to get as many people as possible involved, with their hands out, to make as much money as possible from some unnecessarily complicated plan in order to ‘fix’ what can so easily be taken care of yourself.

Now, republicans have made this a political joke which will only serve to make more people think it is a waste of time. And it backfires on them by showing us all how unconcerned they are with reducing our dependence on oil. Once again the republicans have screwed up our future because of their ignorance. Only people who are affiliated with the oil industry would think this is a useless and dumb idea.

The latest rally cry is to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but we currently receive about 50% of crude oil and petroleum products from the Western Hemisphere (North, South, and Central America and the Caribbean including U.S. territories) during 2006. We imported only 16% of our crude oil and petroleum products from the Persian Gulf countries of Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. During 2006, our five biggest suppliers of crude oil and petroleum products were:
# Canada (17.2%)
# Mexico (12.4%)
# Saudi Arabia (10.7%)
# Venezuela (10.4%)
# Nigeria (8.1%)

The republicans grand plan for reducing oil prices is to expand offshore drilling which even they admit will only meet about 1% of this nation’s demand by 2030. How is that going to reduce prices today? Expanding offshore oil drilling will only benefit big oil by expanding their profit.

Instead of wasting campaign dollars on ads to attack Obama for trying to do something positive, these juveniles that call themselves republicans need to research the much publicized effectiveness of car maintenance to get better gas mileage and therefore reduce our dependence on foreign oil and lower the price of gas by decreasing the demand on gasoline, which is exactly what the voters want.

Please do something really big for yourself, drive responsibly, keep your car tuned up, and keep your tires properly inflated. Simple actions on your part and, yes, it does make a difference.