A business group representing the world’s largest auto and oil companies has released a report that calls for more action to deal with the social and environmental impacts of cars and trucks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Poorman has more:
A business group representing the world’s largest auto and oil
companies has released a report that calls for more action to deal with
the social and environmental impact of cars and trucks. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Poorman has more:
The report was developed through the World Business Council for
Sustainable Development. It calls for so-called “sustainable
mobility.” That includes controlling pollution and greenhouse gas
emissions and reducing traffic deaths and congestion. Louis Dale with
General Motors worked on the report.
“There are about 800 million vehicles in the world today. By 2030,
just about 25 years from now, there will be almost a doubling of that.
Probably at least 1.5 billion vehicles.”
Dale says making environmental and safety improvements will help avoid
a backlash from government or customers. Dan Becker is with the Sierra
Club. He says the report is nice. But the companies could do more now.
“Hybrid cars are one example, but better engines, better
transmissions, better aerodynamics. The auto industry needs to take
these technologies off the shelf and put them on their vehicles.”
The industry report says that some improvements can be made now, but
effective cuts in greenhouse gas emissions will have to wait until well
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bill Poorman.
A new study compares reading the news online to having the paper dropped at your door – and it has no good news for lovers of the Sunday paper. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
A new study compares reading the news online to having the paper dropped at your door – and it
has no good news for lovers of the Sunday paper. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen
Mike Toffel is a researcher at UC Berkeley, where he reads the newspaper on a personal digital
assistant – or PDA. That’s a handheld computer. He wondered how much carbon dioxide that
activity released, compared to reading a hard copy of the paper. So, he looked at the design, use
and disposal of a PDA versus having the New York Times delivered from a printer 50 miles away.
Toffel found that production and delivery of the paper released more heat trapping gases.
“Reading the news for over a year on your PDA emits about 5 kilograms of carbon dioxide per
year whereas with a newspaper, depending on the scenario, it’s 160 to 700 kilograms per year.”
Toffel says he doesn’t really expect folks to start curling up with their computers on Sunday
morning. But his study may prompt people to read other things online, and use less energy in the
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
Attorneys general from eight states have filed a lawsuit against several major U.S. power companies. They say the utilities need to cut down on the amount of heat trapping gasses they release. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Attorneys general from eight states have filed a lawsuit against
several major U.S. power companies. They say the utilities need to cut
down on the amount of heat trapping gasses they release. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
New York, Iowa and Wisconsin are among the states suing five large
utilities that emit about ten percent of the nation’s total carbon
dioxide pollution. The states say many scientists believe the CO2
emissions contribute to global warming.
Peg Lautenschlager is Wisconsin’s Attorney General. She says a rise in
global temperatures would harm the Great Lakes region.
“We are looking at lowering Great Lake water levels… which will not
just impact the Great Lakes and the fish and wildlife that are therein,
but will also have severe economic impact.”
Lautenschlager says the Midwest would also see changes in crop cycles
and weather patterns. The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages…
but aims to have the utilities cut their carbon dioxide pollution.
Midwest environmental groups praise the legal action. But some
utilties say they already have plans to reduce CO2… and consider the
new lawsuit frivolous.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Chuck Quirmbach.
It can be tough deciding whether to buy organic foods at the market. Organic produce often costs more, sometimes doesn’t look as nice, and can compete with locally-produced products that might be raised organically but don’t carry the government’s certification. As part of an ongoing series “Your Choice, Your Planet,” the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant looks at what you’re getting when you buy the organic label:
It can be tough deciding whether to buy organic foods at the market. Organic produce often costs more, sometimes doesn’t look as nice, and can compete with locally-produced products that might be raised organically but don’t carry the government’s certification. As part of an ongoing series called “Your Choice, Your Planet,” the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant looks at what you’re getting when you buy the organic label:
(sound of supermarket)
Elizabeth Culotta is shopping around the natural and organic food section of the Acme Supermarket in Kent, Ohio. She’s glad there are now standardized stickers on the fruits and vegetables that say “USDA Organic” because it makes it easier to judge what’s grown without pesticides.
EC: “It matters to me, because I feel like organic produce is grown in a way that is better for the global environment. So it matters to me in a global sense. I’m not actually a person who that is worried about the health aspects of pesticides.”
JG: “If the prices were comparable, would you buy organic over conventional?”
EC: “Sure. Sure. Definitely. If you look at these organic cherry tomatoes, they look great. But they’re $3.99 a pint.”
JG: “Let’s go look at the conventional.”
EC: “Here’s some grape tomatoes. A little different. And they are… $1.49 for a pint. So that is less than half the price.”
One reason organics cost more is the price farms pay for USDA certification. It’s an involved process…
Mick Luber inspects farms for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. His group is approved by the USDA to certify farms as organic. This morning he’s visiting Larry Luschek’s farm in Ohio. Until a couple of years ago, cabbage, collards, or other produce claiming to be “organic” could be certified by any number of organizations. But, now the USDA has established guidelines everyone must follow. Luber says that actually hasn’t changed his inspections much.
(sound in fields)
Out in the fields… he sticks a metal probe in the ground and pulls out a soil sample… the soil structure looks right.
ML: “See that little white stuff there? That’s bacteria in the soil. It means the soil is alive. And you also look for earthworm activity.”
JG: “What would any of that mean for certification?”
ML: “Means soil is alive. That’s what the whole organic thing is about is alive soil. You’re not just using NPNK to produce your plants. You’re using the soil as a living organism.”
JG: “NPNK is?”
ML: “Nitrogen-potassium-phosphorous. A living soil is a living soil, it actually produces a lot of those things itself…”
In addition to the soil, Luber checks the equipment for oil leakage, the barrels used to clean produce, and everything else he can think of to bring back to an inspection committee.”
He sits at Larry Luschek’s kitchen table for more than an hour, asking where Larry buys his seeds and checking his receipts. There’s a lot of paperwork involved in getting the USDA’s organic certification.
Not everybody thinks it’s worth the hassle.
At the North Union Farmers’ Market in Cleveland, Mark Welton and his teenage daughter are selling rhubarb. Welton owns a three-acre farm…
MW: “We do everything organically with no herbicides, pesticides, lot of composting, cover cropping, crop rotation. You know, things like that.”
Welton used to certify his farm organic. But he stopped once the USDA national standards went into effect.
MW: “I just didn’t feel I needed to keep it going anymore. And it was getting expensive. It was getting expensive to stay certified. I said, I haven’t changed my practices, I’ve been doing it twenty years that way. I just felt now was the time just to say… okay, I’m done.”
Welton says people at the market know him and trust that he’s not using chemical-laden seeds or spraying things like NPNK on his fields. He says they can visit his farm if they want to check for themselves.
Farmer Bruce Cormack thinks that’s a lot more important than the USDA organic label. He wonders if huge organic farms on the west coast are really
BW: “I mean, I think the organic certification is supposed to be, as far as environment, less impact and better for everybody but when you have 800 horsepower tractors and shipping 4,000 miles it doesn’t make any sense. I don’t see how that is not impacting the environment.”
Shoppers at the farmers’ market know they’re paying more than the average price for produce. They don’t seem to mind because it’s fresh and locally grown. But not everyone has the time to get to the farmers’ market, let alone drive out to the farm to make sure it’s organic.
Back at the supermarket, Elizabeth Culotta is glad the federal government has standardized what it means to be an organic farm…
EC: “Yes. I mean I think that makes it simpler for someone like me to go into a grocery store and if I can find something that says organic, then I can probably be pretty sure that that’s probably going to meet what I want. As opposed to having to parse the label and trying to figure out from the ads who is exactly doing what.”
The USDA organic label does let people know how the food was grown and processed. It does not tell them whether it’s good for the planet. That’s something shoppers still have to figure out for themselves.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Julie Grant.
David Hammond's inspiration to experiment with a low-carb diet. (Self portrait by David Hammond)
Each year, Americans spend tens of billions of dollars on diets and diet aids. Low carbohydrate diets like South Beach, the Zone, and Atkins are all becoming household words and companies are scrambling to cash in. As part of an ongoing series called “Your Choice, Your Planet,” the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Hammond looks in the mirror as he investigates the potential environmental impacts of the low-carb diet:
Each year, Americans spend tens of billions of
dollars on diets and diet aids. Low carbohydrate
diets like South Beach, the Zone, and Atkins are all
becoming household words and companies are
scrambling to cash in. As part of an ongoing series
called “Your Choice, Your Planet,” the Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s David Hammond looks in the
mirror as he investigates the potential
environmental impacts of the low-carb diet:
(sound of shower door closing, shower being turned on)
Every day it’s the same. As I wait for the shower to
warm up, I fight off an assault on my self-esteem.
First, there’s my naked reflection in the bathroom
mirror. (Ugh.) To my right, a stack of clothes that
don’t fit anymore. And in front of me, the most
damning thing of all… the bathroom scale.
I know I should ignore it, but its pull is irresistible.
Hammond: “Okay, here comes the big
moment of truth. Ohh… you gotta be kidding
me. Well, according to my scale, I am four pounds
heavier than yesterday. I don’t know how
that can be possible.”
You see, I’m fat. Not “oversized.” Not “full-figured.” Fat. I weigh 268 lbs and desperately need
to lose some weight. None of my clothes fit. My
cholesterol is through the roof. And my wife? Well, she
seems to have cornered the market on migraine
(shower fades out)
But what kind of diet? I needed a diet that would
work within my lifestyle, not totally change it.
Because giving up meat wasn’t an option for me, I
figured low-carb was the way to go.
A recent Roper Report estimated that up to 40
million Americans were reducing their
40 million carb counters can’t be wrong, can they?
My gut told me that low-carb dieters must be
demanding more meat and poultry. But
was there an environmental impact?
For advice, I turned to the Sierra Club. They have a
program focused on concentrated animal feeding
operations — better known as factory
farms. These are operations where thousands of animals,
sometimes tens of thousands, are housed
together in relatively small spaces.
Environmentalists say the problem is their manure.
So much of it is produced, in such a small area that
simply spreading it on nearby fields can lead to
severe water pollution.
Anne Woiwode is the Director of the Sierra Club’s
office in Lansing, MI. She said that manure is not
the only problem. A bigger threat may be the
antibiotics that the animals are given to promote
“Up to 70% of the antibiotics used in
this country right now are being fed to animals so
that they are fattened quickly. And because
animals are consuming so many antibiotics, you
are actually creating super bugs or super
As far as my diet is concerned, with all this talk
about manure, bacteria, and super bugs, I wasn’t
sure that I needed to diet after all. I’d pretty much
lost my appetite.
Well, almost… it is still barbeque season after
What I need is a low-carb fix that I can feel good
about. A local butcher mentioned Roseland Farm.
It’s located in southwest Michigan, near the Indiana border.
They’re one of the region’s largest, certified organic
farms. It’s a family farm. Merrill Clark is one of
“We’re a 1,800 acre certified organic beef farm, we also
raise some grains and other garden vegetables on
a smaller scale but we are mostly known for our
beef. We’ve been, I’ll say certified organic, for
nearly 20 years.”
Certified organic means that Clark and her family
feed their cattle with crops grown without pesticides
or synthetic fertilizers. They also don’t give their
cattle antibiotics or growth hormones.
Nearly a quarter of their farm is devoted to grazing,
so the Clarks avoid the manure problems of factory
farms. They just leave the manure where it drops
and it becomes natural fertilizer.
Natural grazing also reduces the need to feed the
cattle grains like corn and soybeans. When used for
cattle feed, those grains are usually inefficient and
expensive to produce.
Even though the Clark family runs a large organic
farm, they know that in the scheme of things, they are still very small.
Merrill Clark says that’s fine.
“If some major Kroger or Meijer’s wanted to buy all of our
meat, I don’t think we would want to. We sort of
feel connected to our label and our own name and
our identity. It’s just so interesting this way. You
meet great people. Because you’re face to face with
your own customers.”
In my case, Merrill and I didn’t actually meet face-
to-face, but we bonded. We talked long after the
interview was over. And I was impressed enough to buy
a 35-lb cooler full of ground sirloin, strips, and
fillets. Enough to get me through those first few
weeks of my diet.
So even though I’m still fat, and tomorrow, the
bathroom scale was going to be just as unforgiving,
I’m starting to feel a little bit better about myself. For
the first time, I feel connected to my food. I feel a
bond to the farmer. And I feel like I was supporting
something worthwhile. And you know what, it
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m David
The Great Lakes from space (Color satellite photo courtesy of NOAA).
Leaders of the states and provinces around the Great Lakes have released two draft agreements to manage the region’s water supply. The proposals’ aim is to block any attempt to divert water from the lakes to drier parts of the world. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports:
Leaders of the states and provinces around the Great Lakes have released a draft agreement to
manage the region’s water supply. The proposal’s aim is to block any attempt to divert water
from the lakes to drier parts of the world. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett
There’s no immediate threat by outside interests to ship or pump large amounts of Great Lakes
water to the arid Southwest, or to any other part of the world that needs freshwater. And the
draft agreements aim to keep it that way.
There are two documents up for consideration by the public and policy makers. One would be a
binding compact between the states. The other would be a voluntary agreement between the
states and provinces.
Ohio Governor Bob Taft co-chairs the Council of Great Lakes Governors – which released the
“The whole effort is premised out of our concern that we have a legally enforceable framework,
and a clear standard.”
There’s already a federal law on the books that allows any one Great Lakes governor to veto a
diversion of water from the lakes. But there are concerns about challenges under the U.S.
Constitution, or free trade agreements.
The Great Lakes Charter Annex would require the approval of all eight states for any proposal to
divert more than a million gallons a day out of the basin. Even if a diversion is approved, there’s
a catch: whatever’s taken out of the basin would have to be returned once it’s used.
Noah Hall of the National Wildlife Federation says the practical effect of those requirements
would be a guarantee that the lakes don’t get pilfered by drier parts of the U.S….
“…Where they have growing populations and dwindling supplies of water, and they’ve been
looking at using the Great Lakes to meet their water needs for some time. I think they’ll
obviously see this agreement for what it is, which is a pretty large barrier – perhaps an
insurmountable barrier – to accessing Great Lakes water down the road.”
The agreement would also allow any three states to block withdrawals from within the basin of
more than five million gallons a day. Existing users would be grandfathered in, so only the most
mammoth project would likely come up for consideration – a new power plant, for example.
Hall says that means at most one project a year that would come up for review.
“But what it guards against is the threat of the absolute largest diversions. The massive
withdrawals. The ones that could by themselves harm or impact the Great Lakes, and lower lake
Eventually, states would be required to put rules in place for managing smaller withdrawals
within the basin. Even under a best-case scenario, that wouldn’t happen for at least a dozen
years. But Ohio Governor Taft says the end result will be preservation of the lakes for future
“We have a responsibility as stewards of this precious resource – 20 percent of the world’s fresh
water supply – to protect and preserve it for the benefit of the people within the region, and that
is what the draft agreement is intended to accomplish.”
The plan is up for public review over the next three months. Each Great Lakes state would have
to sign off on the interstate compact. It would also require the approval of Congress. And the
fast-growing arid southwest has more representation in Congress every term.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Sarah Hulett.
Environmental groups are turning to national ad campaigns to push automakers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles, and they’re singling out Ford Motor Company for the most criticism. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Poorman reports:
Environmental groups are turning to national ad campaigns to get automakers to
make more fuel-efficient vehicles. And they’re singling out Ford Motor Company
for the most criticism. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Poorman
The Sierra Club ran a series of ads criticizing Ford last year. Earlier this
year, the group Bluewater Network ran a series of ads portraying Ford chief Bill
Ford as Pinocchio, for backtracking on environmental commitments he made four
years ago. The latest campaign came this summer from Global Exchange and the
Rainforest Action Network. Those ads called on Ford to develop a fleet of zero
emissions vehicles. Jennifer Krill with the Rainforest Action Network.
“Right now, Ford is the worst in the US auto industry. Ford’s average fuel
economy of its car and truck fleet is the last among the top six automakers for
the fifth straight year.”
In the U-S Environmental Protection Agency’s latest reports, Ford’s vehicles got
an average of 18-point-8 miles per gallon. For its part, Ford says some of the
environmental groups’ demands are unaffordable. The company also comes out with
gas-electric sport utility vehicle this summer.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bill Poorman.
You might not be getting what you paid for in the seafood section of your grocery store. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… a new study has found some fish are being sold in the guise of others:
You might not be getting what you paid for in the seafood section of your
grocery store. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports a new
study has found some fish are being sold in the guise of others:
A new study finds cheaper fish are being sold as ‘red snapper.’ Amy Moran at
the University of North Carolina is a co-author of the study published in
Nature . She says DNA tests showed three-fourths of the ‘red snapper’
filets they tested from grocery stores were actually other species. Moran says
consumers are being deceived a couple of ways:
“The public perception of how common these species are is obviously influenced
by how common they appear to be on the marketplace. And if you go to the
grocery store and see Red Snapper everywhere and it’s $6.95 a pound, you can
rightly assume that it’s fairly common. But if what you’re getting is something
different, it’s going to lead to some public misapprehension of how common these
species are and that may at some level affect policy.”
Because less valuable fish are being reported as ‘red snapper’ catches,
fisheries managers are fooled into overestimating the population of the fish,
contributing to over-harvesting.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Home air cleaners are good at getting rid of dust and dander, and some manufacturers claim they remove harmful gasses too. Now researchers are taking a closer look at that claim. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Skye Rohde reports:
Home air cleaners are good at getting rid of dust and dander from the air, and some
manufacturers claim they remove harmful gasses too. Now researchers are taking a
closer look at that claim. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Skye Rohde reports:
Researchers at Syracuse University evaluated 15 different types of air-cleaning units in
their two-year-long study. They tested the units’ ability to remove 16 types of volatile
organic compounds, or VOCs. VOCs are chemicals that can cause eye and skin
irritation, and others are considered carcinogens.
The researchers found that none of the air-cleaning units removed all the VOCs they
tested. Jianshun Zhang was the lead researcher on the project. He says VOCs are
“Building materials, household products such as cleaning agents, wax, printers, copiers
and computers… there are many sources of volatile organic compounds.”
Zhang is calling for an established procedure to evaluate air cleaners’ effectiveness. He
says that until air-cleaning units improve, the best way to get rid of VOCs is to open
windows and use fans in your home.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Skye Rohde.
A lawsuit brought by several environmental groups in California seeks to increase protection against invasive species. The groups hope to force the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate ballast water discharge. Now, officials from the eight Great Lakes states are writing-in to support these groups in their lawsuit. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Celeste Headlee reports:
A lawsuit brought by several environmental groups in California seeks
to increase protection against invasive species by forcing the
Environmental Protection Agency to regulate ballast water discharge.
Now, officials from the eight Great Lakes states are writing in to
support these groups in their lawsuit. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Celeste Headlee reports:
Researchers say ballast water from oceangoing ships is one of the
primary methods by which invasive species enter the Great Lakes.
State Attorney General Mike Cox wrote the amicus brief for Michigan.
He says under current EPA rules any ship that claims it doesn’t have
ballast can, in fact, issue discharge into the water.
“Now we know that right now and on any given day, about 85 to 90
percent of these ships claim that they don’t have any ballast on board.
That’s a claim that stretches credulity, quite simply because all ships
need ballast if they don’t have cargo.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that it
costs 45 million dollars a year just to control zebra mussels and sea
lampreys in the Great Lakes. Cox and the seven other Great Lakes
Attorneys General say the EPA must do more to protect the waters from
invasive species. The AGs have filed eight separate amicus briefs
supporting the case against the government. For the Great Lakes Radio
Consortium, I’m Celeste Headlee.