Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

You Have To Emit, Change Is Coming To ‘Minnesota Motors’

A lot of news about vehicles and the emissions they put into our air has been rolling out lately. Here’s a summary, and what it means to Minnesota. This week the White House announced it’s plan for fast-tracking higher vehicle fuel efficiency standards and, for the first time, introduce a national program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The announcement has (for the moment) the support of most major automakers and environmental groups. More Minnestoa dealers may be closing soon, a move that will have ripple effects across the state.  A group of partners (including the American Lung Association in Minnesota) is looking to bring electric vehicles to the Twin Cities. The airport has already got one.  Don Shelby at WCCO-TV gets all excited about the idea, and also gets fired up about a student biodiesel project

Bottom line: things are changing fast — fewer dealerships are a certainty, new types of vehicles (and fuels) are coming, and for once, most of the major players are moving in the same direction.

Yeah same here, but in a fraction of the time.

Say what?

“someone found my blog by searching for i have no friends no job no life”

That’s not fair.


Biofuels: Boom or Bust?

It all depends on who you ask, it seems. Yesterday’s announcement from the EPA on how greenhouse gas targets will be set for biofuels had some saying it was bad for ethanol, some saying it was good, and still others spliting the difference. The bottom line is that the EPA says that future ethanol producers will need to make some changes to reach the Fed’s target of 20% reduction (compared to gasoline) in greenhouse gas emissions, they currently are at 16%, which seems like a reachable goal. Minnesota’s ethanol industry has the capacity to produce more than a billion gallons of fuel annually, it leads the nation in E85 stations (360+) and on May 1 became the first state to require all diesel fuel contain a five percent blend of biodiesel.

Vote for new MN license plates.. quick!

This isn’t the most timely of posts since voting ends tonight (Sunday) at midnight, but the Minnesota DNR is asking  residents to choose four new critical habitat license plates. So go vote, if you care.

And is it just me, or does the plate with the loons look exactly like the regular license plates? Maybe I’m completely wrong, because honestly I just don’t pay attention to license plates. I voted, anyway.

What’s the big deal about ‘Air Quality Alerts?’

Whenever I share the news that the Twin Cities is under an “air quality alert,” as it was last week for particulant pollution, I always have a few people say “what’s the big deal?’  They mock the seriousness of the problem, noting that “no one is dropping dead” because of a little air pollution. A new report, covered today by USA Today, suggests otherwise.  Of 96 cities around the nation researched by the 18-year University of California-Berkley study, Minneapolis-Saint Paul ranks #9 in ozone levels.

UPDATE: I thought this sounded odd, because our air quality is among best in nation. Ranking in the USA Today table is in reverse order, with the least polluted cities at the top. That’s more like it!

Cub Grocery Stores Help Green The Twin Cities

The Twin Cities made the top 10 (we are #8) in a new list of American cities with the most Energy Star rated commercial buildings.  Energy Star is a US Department of Energy program that also rates things like refrigerators and furnaces. L.B. Suzakamo’s story in the Pioneer Press includes a cool Google map feature as well. She points out that the many Cub food stories that have the Energy Star rating put us in the top 10.

A new meaning for the term “green grocer?”

My Electric Utility Company Does Something Cool — Really!

Okay, I’m something of an energy geek, but even my non-geek wife thought this was cool.  We recently got a mailing from Connexus Energy, our electric company, that showed how our home compared to 40,000 randomly selected others for electrical use. We received a GREAT rating (the two smiley faces) for using 4,436 kilowatt hours in 2008, roughly 30% less than the average home and a 15% reduction from 2007.  I also had a easy to understand chart that maps out our monthly use, the average use, and what they called “our efficent neighbors,” who represent the top 20% of the low-use crowd.

Anyone else get anything like this from their power company?

Write an essay on biodiesel, win $1,000?

If anyone knows of a Minnesota high school senior who could use some extra cash for college, and has an interest in biodiesel, my employer is again offering an essay contest scholarship this year. The second prize is $500.  There is a separate scholarship for South Dakota students, BTW.

Confessions of a Minnesota air polluter

When I heard that much of Minnesota was under an air pollution advisory today, it came as no surprise. You see, I’m responsible for it happening.  The pollution in our air, which can be harmful to hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans with asthma or other lung diseases, is primarily caused by vehicle exhaust. While my car is small and fuel-efficient, it still pumps a witches brew of CO2 and toxic gases and particles into our air, everytime I turn the key.

Of course, I’m not alone on the highways, nor am I solely to blame for today’s air quality alert. But as a spokesperson for the American Lung Association of Minnesota, I know that my decisions contribute to the health of our air.  Could I have taken a bus to work today? Caught a ride with a co-worker? Bought a vehicle that has a less polluting hybrid-electric engine, or could run on less polluting E85 or biodiesel? These thoughts were on my mind today, as I drove into work.

I know that just thinking about the problems isn’t enough. Our world is divided into two different groups: those who talk about problems, and those who act to solve them. So if I really want to make a difference, I have to make some changes. How about you?

Did Bad Biodiesel Really Close Bloomington’s Schools?

As I braved another -18 degree commute to work this morning, I heard that Bloomington schools had been closed because “the biodiesel in the buses had turned to gel.” Sure enough, the story is all over the Twin Cities media, and is now on the national newswires.  However, this story out of KEYC-TV tells a very different tale.  Several commentors on the Strib story note that the straight petroleum #2 diesel fuel commonly used in school buses, tractors and semis across the U.S. has a proven track record of “gelling” in temps. like these — which is one reason why truckers keep their rigs running overnight in extreme cold. They also add a little #1 diesel (aka kerosene) in their tank to prevent fuel gelling.

Or, they could do what the Bloomington School spokesperson did — just blame the two percent biodiesel blend. BTW, there are thousands of diesel vehicles, including school buses and city buses, on the road in Minnesota right now, all using the same B2 biodiesel fuel that the Bloomington schoolbuses use. If biodiesel was really at fault, wouldn’t they all be gelled? Oddly, no reporter seems to have asked this question.

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