Archive for the 'Clean Cars' Category

Youth activists demand action on America’s oil addiction

This blog post was cowritten by Monica Christoffels, student activist in Eugene, Oregon and Anastasia Schemkes, Green Transportation Organizer at the Sierra Club Cascade Chapter. 

More than 50 students from around the Pacific Northwest joined hands across the coast of Samish Island, WA in recognition of the second annual Hands Across the Sand international day of action against oil drilling. With the island’s lush forest behind them, they looked out on a serene Puget Sound – their view only to be interrupted by the looming smokestacks of the Anecortes Oil Refinery.

These students stood in solidarity with thousands of Americans across the country in sending a message to our elected officials and fellow citizens: we must do all we can to move America beyond oil.

With toes touching the water and eyes fixed on the ominous smokestacks, the students dug their feet deeper into the sand, becoming more determined to stand against America’s dangerous addiction to oil and for clean energy solutions.

These 50 students were attendees of the Sierra Student Coalition’s Northwest SPROG, one of six summer organizing training programs to be held around the country this summer. They spent a week at a camp on Samish Island, WA learning organizing skills such as messaging and framing, tactics and strategy, campaign planning and articulating a compelling narrative that inspires others to act.

Northwest SPROG attendee Monica Christoffels felt compelled to organize Hands Across the Sand event this year because she wanted to remind people of how much is at stake in the clean energy future.

“I took part in Hands Across the Sand last year, when the BP oil spill galvanized hundreds of thousands of people from literally every corner of the globe, all linking together to protest offshore oil drilling.” Christoffels said.

This year, Hands Across the Sand came at a moment of opportunity to weaken the stranglehold oil has on our economy. This summer, the Obama Administration is working on new efficiency standards for cars – and we need to call on our leaders to increase fuel efficiency as one way to reduce our nation’s dependence on oil.

The White House is set to announce new fuel efficiency standards for 2017-2025 this September. The highest standard under consideration, 62 miles per gallon, would cut the average car’s oil consumption by half – reducing America’s dependence on oil by over 44 billion gallons per year.

“Hands Across the Sand shows me that people all over the world are ready for a clean energy future, and gives me hope that we can achieve that someday.” Christoffels continued.

The youth that attend SPROGs around the country every summer – including those at NW SPROG this year are not only ready for a clean energy future, they are the ones helping create it.

With the tools they learned at SPROG and the same passion that brought them together on the beach, the students at NW SPROG are among those pushing their communities, local leaders and the Obama Administration to make “someday” right now – we can start with 60mpg by 2025.

Tell the Obama Administration you want higher fuel efficiency standards, visit

“The Politics [on oil drilling] May Have Changed, But the Facts Haven’t”

“…what wouldn’t do a thing to lower gas prices is … to open up Florida’s coastline to Offshore drilling. it would have long-term consequences to our coastlines but no short term benefits since it would take at least 10 years to get any oil… it will take a generation to reach full production and even then the effect on gas prices will be minimal at best” Candidate Obama – June 20, 2008 – Jacksonville, FL.

Young people from Florida changed the course of history when they delivered their state to President Obama in the 2008 elections. They worked hard, knocked on doors, called reluctant family members, all in an effort to elect the candidate that spoke those words. Well, after a year and a half spent doing some really great (but woefully insufficient) things to move us towards a clean energy economy, seems like the President is turning his back on the wise words he spoke on his campaign.

“Today we are announcing the the expansion of offshore oil and gas exploration, but in ways that balance the need to harness domestic energy resources and the need to protect America’s Natural resources… the only way this transition [to domestic fuels] will succeed is if it strengthens our economy in the short run and in the long run”

Many progressive bloggers already challenged the President’s assumption that opening up the Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling would be politically (or economically) smart, but few provided alternative strategies to drastically, quickly, and efficiently achieving the stated goals of the President’s new initiative.

Making efficient cars more accessible to the general public is something the administration is already doing great work on. In addition to today’s announcement about doubling the efficiency of the Federal Government’s auto fleet (spoken as a sidenote to the oil drilling expansion),  the Obama administration also enacted stricter greenhouse gas limits to newly built car emissions.

Continue reading ‘“The Politics [on oil drilling] May Have Changed, But the Facts Haven’t”’

The Hummer is history

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that General Motors’ bid to sell the brand to a Chinese heavy equipment manufacturing company fell through. Unless the contract is picked up quickly, no more Hummers will be manufactured.

Hummers have been notorious as environmentally unfriendly vehicles and a source of controversy ever since they were introduced to the public. The most fuel-efficient Hummer averages about 16 mpg, a frighteningly low number when considering that some hybrids get an average of upwards of 40 mpg. That’s more than double the fuel-efficiency of the Hummer.

The popularity of the Hummer brand has declined in recent years. The brand was popular soon after its release, with 71,524 Hummers sold in 2006. By December 2009, sales were down 85%.  Stock prices have continued to drop, and GM recently filed for bankruptcy.

The discontinuation of the brand is a good sign. Continue reading ‘The Hummer is history’

Hey Michigan, Let’s Define Our Decade w/ our leadership & vision for green economy revitalization

Michigan, and its neighbors Indiana and Ohio sit at the forefront of the recession. Once the cornerstone of American manufacturing, the drop in U.S. based auto manufacturing has left thousands unemployed in the Midwest and the Millennial generation in search of an economic future. In the Midwest where unemployment hovers at 15% in Michigan – the highest jobless rate since early 1983 – combined with a growing national trend of jobless young people, emphasized by the Labor Dept.’s report that the employment rate of 16-to-24 year olds has eroded to 46.6 percent — the lowest ratio of working young Americans in that age group, including all but those in the military, since WWII, it is time for us as young people to chart a new economic path, we must Define the Decade for the auto states as the decade we become the clean energy manufacturing states.

The potential of the green economy in the Midwest cannot be overstated – it could revitalize our economy while maintaining environmental equity, thus sustaining future generations. Closed auto plants could be retrofitted to pump out solar panels, wind turbines and advanced transportation to power the new clean energy United States economy. However, the fossil fuel industry led by forces trying to push through 8 coal-fired power plants in Michigan have led major marketing and public relations campaigns, to win over the jobless with the promise of job security through building more fossil fuel based infrastructure. This being the case, public opinion and commitment to building the green economy will deepen only once people can see, participate in, and benefit from concrete community-based energy solutions. So this must be our focus as we dive head first into 2010 and a new decade.

Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition, Global Exchange and the Energy Action Coalition have some exciting work planned to get us started. Read on to get the details.
Continue reading ‘Hey Michigan, Let’s Define Our Decade w/ our leadership & vision for green economy revitalization’

Detroit and Labor’s Green Jobs Future

“We’re living somebody else’s vision for our city.” Donele Wilkins, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice

Detroit has a 22% unemployment rate. It is the poorest major city in the country and has the highest rate of segration out of every other city in the nation. The city counted over 45000 ecologically contaminated sites before they just simply stopped counting. The mayor, Dennis Archer, in the early 90s tried declaring the entire city a brownfield site. Detroit needs a green jobs future that will clean up Detroit’s environment and bring jobs back to the city that can lift poor residents out of poverty.

I was inspired today at a forum on bringing green jobs to Detroit at the IBEW Local 58. The event was held by the Sierra Club, AFL-CIO and Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, but there were tons of different groups and organizations represented there from the labor, environmental and social justice movements. The three speakers covered the issues that link the environmental and labor movements together and how we can work to build a stronger “blue-green alliance.” Continue reading ‘Detroit and Labor’s Green Jobs Future’

International Youth Make NYT #1

Photo by Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Photo by Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

I can’t quite believe it, but Thomas Friedman covered our epic adventure across India in the Climate Solutions Road Tour and for a few sweet hours, we were #1 on the NY Times Most Popular list. I am thrilled that he’s finally writing youth stories that are actually covering the beauty of the international youth movement, and as excited as I am about the Indian Youth Climate Network, it is so inspiring to see this fit into the incredible actions going on around the world by international youth leading up to PowerShift with so much hope for a massive global campaign leading up to Copenhagen. Tom Friedman does not see all of the incredible work going on or he is not paying attention, but perhaps he – and others – are waking up. Young people are not going to wait any longer. Global youth are taking action, starting projects, mobilizing governments, and changing the climate dialogues nationally and internationally. Friedman writes:

I met Howe and Ringwald after a tiring day, but I have to admit that as soon as they started telling me their story it really made me smile. After a year of watching adults engage in devastating recklessness in the financial markets and depressing fecklessness in the global climate talks, it’s refreshing to know that the world keeps minting idealistic young people who are not waiting for governments to act, but are starting their own projects and driving innovation.

Continue reading ‘International Youth Make NYT #1′

Stop Stalling: Time to Hit the Reset Button on Detroit

Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Institute and WattHead – Energy News and Commentary

Last night, the US House of Representatives approved $14 billion in emergency loans to keep GM and Chrysler on life support into the new year. Senate Republicans are in revolt though and may block passage without new amendments to allow more dramatic restructuring of the company’s debt.

“If we don’t have the forced restructuring plans in place, many of us don’t believe that American car companies will come out of this in a competitive position and the taxpayers’ money will be wasted,” Senator John Ensign told the Washington Post (R-Nev.).

I hate to say it, but I’m forced to agree with Republicans on this account: $14 billion to prop up GM and Chrysler until Obama takes office is an obvious half measure, a stall tactic that will merely punt the tough decisions down the line another couple months. While it may buy us a month or three, the proposed bailout will amount to nothing in the long term unless more dramatic actions to restructure and reinvent the American auto industry are taken.

Continue reading ‘Stop Stalling: Time to Hit the Reset Button on Detroit’

Too Big To Fail? Too Big, Period.

Cross-posted from the Breakthrough Institute and WattHead – Energy News and Commentary

The executives of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler made yet another trek to Washington DC this week – this time ditching the corporate jets to drive hybrid cars – and once again pled for a federal bailout to prop up their struggling companies. Up to $34 billion taxpayer dollars are apparently all that stands between at least two of the “Big Three” automakers and bankruptcy.

GM’s executives told Congress the company will fail very, very soon unless it receives at least $12 billion in loans in the coming months. Chrysler warned they could go belly up by year’s end without $7 billion in government aid. Even Ford, which is doing a bit better than its two Detroit brethren, is asking for an open, taxpayer-funded line of credit of up to $9 billion dollars.

All this means its time for Congress and the American public to face two basic facts.
Continue reading ‘Too Big To Fail? Too Big, Period.’

GM Goes Grassroots. A Son is Torn

I first posted this in the Huffington Post Green section last week.  Since then, it’s gotten a lot more attention than I anticipated – including the BBC, executives at General Motors, and most poignantly GM auto dealers, mechanics, and family members all feeling the heavy weight of the US auto industry’s crisis.

I first posted on HuffPo because I thought it important to connect so many of the things we talk about here with those who would not otherwise get a chance to see it, but I wanted to share it with this community of wonderful friends and colleagues as well.  Thanks everyone for your support, friendship, and most importantly for fighting for the future we HAVE to have.

On November 12, Tom Brewer received an “URGENT call to action…” along with all other General Motors employees in the United States from GM North American President Troy Clarke. The return email address was “” The urgent task at hand: Call your members of Congress to request that the American auto industry receive a government “loan” of at least $25 billion.

Employees were then directed to a website through which to take action:

As a grassroots clean energy advocate and strategic communications professional, it’s a type of request I know intimately. I’ve written and received countless emails just like it. Two this week. Tom, however, has not.

Continue reading ‘GM Goes Grassroots. A Son is Torn’

Cellulosic, Plug-In Hybrids Are Biofuel Solutions? Think Again!

After a long break from blogging, I’m glad to have the time to get back! First of all, from my title you will have probably noticed that I’m partially against cellulosic and plug-in hybrids as the solution to the world food crisis that biofuels and oil are helping to fuel. Sure, cellulosic can ensure we don’t use corn for ethanol and we don’t change wheat, barley, and other crops to corn fields for ethanol production. Sure, we can use plug-in hybrids and, if we’re lucky to scale renewables enough, power them with clean electricity and wean ourselves off of coal and oil. But have you stopped to think about what that means? I bet Mr. Henry Ford would have told you that you don’t have to think about it, that you should just go ahead and support the “real” solutions… Right!

In the last two weeks, biofuels have been attacked more than ever before from many angles. The world food crisis has become so severe that anybody who supports any biofuel that either uses food crops or takes land that would have otherwise gone to food production is criticized sharply. The arguments against biofuels, especially corn ethanol, are clear.

·         First, ethanol produced from corn takes a chunk away from the corn that would otherwise go to direct human purposes, excluding livestock (of course, nobody ever questioned before the fact that directing corn and soybeans to cows makes the supply available for exports lower, and therefore keeps prices relatively higher; in other words, food prices before the current crisis could have been much lower if it wasn’t because of the luxury of eating high quantities of meat; maybe a big tax on meat can lower other food prices, which politician will be smart enough to propose this?).

·         Second, as the demand for corn and soybeans surges, land that was used for other purposes is converted to corn and soy fields, therefore increasing the cost of the other crops (wheat, barley, etc.) because they’re less available.

·         Lastly, using ethanol has no impact on how much oil we use because the energy balance is 0 or negative. On top of all this, we are losing benefits from cheaper ethanol that could be imported from Brazil if our goal was really to get rid of oil at the lowest possible cost.

So, we know all these things. We also know that the increasing price of oil, now nearly $125 per barrel, is also pushing food prices up, and that decreasing water supplies and crazier weather is also pitching in into the food price hikes we’re seeing. What we also know is that every policymaker and the public at large is thinking that the way out of this is making ethanol from something that doesn’t take up food or converting our cars to plug-in hybrids to have them run on electricity. So lots of money is going into cellulosic research and lots of venture capitalists are fully funding new ventures that hope to bring to market “environmentally-friendly” plug-in electric vehicles. At the same time, GM, Ford, Toyota, Honda, and other car companies are stepping up their development of these same technologies to bring such cars to market soon. What’s the problem with this?

Continue reading ‘Cellulosic, Plug-In Hybrids Are Biofuel Solutions? Think Again!’

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