When you go to get your flu shot, there’s a good chance you’ll also be getting a dose of a toxic chemical. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
When you go to get your flu shot, there’s a good chance you’ll also be getting a dose of a toxic
chemical. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Thimerosal long has been used as a preservative in vaccines. But it contains mercury, and mercury
is not good for anyone. In children it can damage intellectual and nervous system
development. The mercury preservative has been removed from many vaccines, but Barbara Loe
Fisher with the National Vaccine Information Center says it’s still used too often.
“We still have it in influenza vaccine, diptheria-tetanus, some hepatitis B vaccines. Those are all
given to children. And there’s a pneumococcal vaccine that’s given to sick children that also has
Thimerosal, so, you know, on any given day a child could get more mercury than they should be
exposed to because the manufacturers just haven’t gotten it out of all the vaccine.”
Loe Fisher says manufacturers can produce the vaccines in single dose vials, eliminating the need
for the preservative, but the pharmaceutical companies have been resistant because it’s cheaper to
produce multi-dose vials with the mercury preservative.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers recently announced plans to change their policies on enforcing the Clean Water Act on some wetlands. The move is in response to a Supreme Court decision that puts limits on the federal government’s jurisdiction over wetlands. Some environmental advocates are concerned the move will put millions of acres of wetlands in jeopardy. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers recently announced
plans to change their policies on enforcing the Clean Water Act on some wetlands. The move is
in response to a Supreme Court decision that puts limits on the federal government’s jurisdiction
over wetlands. Some environmental advocates are concerned the move will put millions of acres
of wetlands in jeopardy. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports:
More than ten years ago, 23 suburbs in the Chicago area wanted to convert an old stone quarry
into a landfill to combat a shortage of space to put trash. But in the 25 years since the quarry was
abandoned, it filled with water and became home to birds, fish and plants.
The federal government called the site a
wetland and blocked the landfill project citing the Clean Water Act. The Corps said the old
quarry was now an important part of the environment because it provided plant and wildlife
habitats and protected the surrounding area from floods. The communities sued the Army Corps
of Engineers over the issue.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that the federal government
can’t enforce the Clean Water Act on bodies of water that were isolated and not part of a larger
water system. The five to four decision of the court put that responsibility in the hands of the
states. The U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers recently released plans to abide by those
Cameron Davis is with the Lake Michigan Federation, an advocacy group focusing on
environmental issues in the Great Lakes region. He says the federal government is backing
down too quickly:
“Well, I think what we’re seeing is another example of the administration scaling back the federal
environmental protections. Especially at the time when the states simply are not well equipped to
be able to pick up where those federal protections leave off. In an ideal world, the type of
proposal we are seeing would have been done in coordination with the states. It would
have been done in a way that will not leave wetlands out to dry.”
Davis says the Supreme Court decision only specifically relates to one case, and the federal
government was too quick to expand those thoughts to other wetlands. Davis says a longer
review process of exactly which wetlands the federal government can regulate would provide
better policy and more clarity on the issue. But the EPA says it is not sidestepping its
responsibility. Ben Grumbles is with the EPA’s Office of Water. He says the agency is doing
what it feels it has to do to comply with the Supreme Court decision.
“It’s our intent to take the interpretation that is the most reasonable and the most defensible one
that is also consistent with our mission of protecting wetlands and watersheds. We are fully
committed to protecting wetlands and watersheds to the full extent under the Clean Water Act
and the Supreme Court decision.”
Grumbles says while the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers are planning to abide by the high
court ruling, it will also be working with states to help them protect wetlands that fall outside of
the federal governments newly-defined jurisdiction. Grumbles also says the EPA is taking public
comment so it can better define what makes a body of water an isolated wetland. While the EPA
and advocacy groups have differing opinions of how to interpret the Supreme Court decision, the
legal debate might not be over.
Chris Shafer is a law professor at the Thomas Cooley Law
School in Lansing, Michigan. He says the high court made a mistake by
assuming isolated wetlands are not the responsibility of the federal government:
“I think the court also made a giant leap of logic by saying that, ‘Well, it’s not really a major issue
in terms of wetland protection because the states will take over this responsibility.’ That’s just
laughable because the states are not likely to take over wetland protection. It’s very
controversial, it’s very difficult, it’s very expensive.”
Shafer says the Supreme Court decision is so narrowly focused on such a small area of the law,
that clarification from Congress would remove any doubt as to where the federal government
could assert its authority in wetland issues. Right now there are no plans for such legislation, and
observers say it’s doubtful that a Republican-controlled Congress and the current administration
would address the issue. Environmental activists say in the mean time, they will turn their focus
to state legislatures to encourage them to pass laws to preserve these wetlands no longer protected
by the federal government.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jonathan Ahl.
The world’s largest automaker says it will offer hybrid engines on pickup trucks beginning this fall. The new type of engine is a combination of gasoline and electric motors. General Motors says it will expand its hybrid offerings to several types of vehicles during the next four years. Other automakers are also adding hybrids to their product lines. But as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland reports, GM says it will need help making the hybrid program a success:
The world’s largest automaker says it will offer hybrid engines on pickup trucks beginning this
fall. The new type of engine is a combination of gasoline and electric motors. General Motors
says it will expand its hybrid offerings to several types of vehicles during the next four years. Other
automakers are also adding hybrids to their product lines. But as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Michael Leland reports, GM says it will need help making the hybrid program a success:
(ambient sound up)
General Motors says it believes there is a strong market for hybrid vehicles, if those vehicles are
the larger models popular with most consumers. At the North American International Auto Show
in Detroit, GM C.E.O., Rick Wagoner said that’s why his company is putting the engines in
pickup trucks, SUVs and midsize cars.
“We play in the whole market. We sell the biggest trucks, we sell the smallest cars, we are going
to offer the full range of technologies, and you know what? The customer is going to buy what
they want to buy. What we are trying to do is, very importantly, offer products that people want
(fade ambient sound)
There are several types of hybrid engines, but most are a combination of a traditional gasoline,
internal combustion engine, and a small electric motor. The result is higher gas mileage and
lower emissions. Existing hybrid cars get as much as 68 miles to the gallon.
Later this year, GM will offer hybrid engines in its Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup
trucks. During the next few years, the company will offer them in other SUVs and midsize cars.
GM is not alone in planning larger hybrid vehicles. In a few months, Ford begins selling a hybrid
version of its Escape SUV, and within a couple of years, Toyota will offer a hybrid Lexus SUV.
David Friedman is with the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group that promotes a
cleaner environment. He says this is a good trend.
“This allows consumers to own their SUV, own their minivan, own their pickup truck and able to
afford paying gas every month.”
But while hybrids can save their owners money at the gas pump, they also cost more than
traditional gasoline-powered vehicles – as much as four-thousand dollars more. GM’s Rick
Wagoner says that’s why the federal government needs to help promote the new technology.
“Whether that is in the mandatory use of hybrid vehicles in government fleets or extensive
consumer tax credits to encourage retail sales. In our view, both of these will be required and
People who buy hybrid-engine cars now can qualify for a two-thousand dollar tax deduction. The
Union of Concerned Scientists and automakers say a tax credit would be better. They say a credit
would save car owners more money in the long run.
Analyst David Cole at the Center for Automotive Research says incentives could help persuade
more people to give hybrid technology a try.
“I think today that the consumer is extremely confused by all of the technology that’s out there.
Ultimately what really counts is whether it is going to deliver value at an affordable price, and that
question has not been answered yet.”
GM says it considers hybrid engine vehicles a way to help reduce emissions. The vehicles can
also help reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil now, while carmakers develop hydrogen-based
fuel cell engines. That technology is still considered a long way off for most drivers. David
Friedman of the Union of Concerned Scientists looks forward to a day when several types of
engines are available.
“When a consumer walks into a showroom, they should be able to choose conventional vehicles,
hybrid vehicles, fuel cell vehicles, and then the market will really shake out a lot of good options
for consumers who want to save money on fuel.”
Only about 40-thousand hybrid vehicles were sold last year. But, General Motors says it hopes to
sell as many as a million by 2007 if the demand is there. The automaker believes the way to
create that demand is through tax incentives.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Michael Leland.
Cars are among the largest polluters in the world. They contribute to the smog that hangs over many large cities and they’re a major culprit in the creation of greenhouse gas emissions. But most of us are reluctant to give up our cars altogether. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports, a growing number of North Americans are opting to share a car instead:
Cars are among the largest polluters in the world. They contribute to the smog that hangs over
many large cities and they’re a major culprit in the creation of greenhouse gas emissions. But
most of us are reluctant to give up our cars altogether. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Karen Kelly reports, a growing number of North Americans are opting to share a car instead:
(sound of stroller)
Nathalie Buu is pushing a stroller past the shops in a trendy neighborhood in Canada’s capital,
Ottawa. She’s heading for a car which is parked about four blocks from her apartment. It’s a
Toyota Echo and she shares it with about 15 other people. When she gets to the parking lot, Buu
wheels the stroller over to a black box attached to the side of a building.
“So you take the, umm, open the lock box and the keys for the car are inside.”
Buu belongs to Vrtucar, a car-sharing company based in Ottawa. There are almost 200
members, and they share 11 cars. The cars are parked all over the downtown area.
Buu has two kids and a regular commute. Still, she and her husband decided they didn’t really
need a vehicle.
“When we had a car, we just found it more of a headache to have to think about repairing it or
bringing it for an oil change, and having had a car in a busy city like Montreal, we don’t really
agree with having cars in the city. It’s just too busy a place and you should be able to use public
transport, I think.”
Nowadays, Buu takes the bus to her job as a doctor at a local hospital. And when she needs to
use a car, she calls an 800 number to reserve one.
The decision to share a vehicle has been quickly gaining in popularity. Car sharing began in post
war Europe. The first North American company opened in Quebec in 1994.
Today, there are 29 companies in North America, most of them in bigger cities like New York,
Chicago and Toronto.
Susan Shaheen is a researcher at UC-Berkeley who studies car-sharing. She says companies tend
to spring up in places where owning a car has become a hassle.
“These organizations tend to thrive when driving disincentives exist such as high parking costs or
congestion. Alternative modes are easily accessible, such as transit and something we see quite
often in the early adoption of this type of service is some environmental consciousness.”
Concern about the environment was one of the main reasons Wilson Wood and his business
partner Chris Bradshaw started Vrtucar. They bought the first car in 2000. They hope to have
twenty by the end of next year. The weird thing is, Wood says they’re actually opposed to
“I can’t think of two worse guys to run a car business. You know, we hate cars. We believe the
hierarchy of transportation needs should be: your first choice is your foot, your second choice is
your bike, your third choice is your bus, and the last choice should be an automobile.”
But Wood says the reality is, sometimes you need a car. He finds most members use them for
longer trips within the city, where public transportation isn’t convenient. Not surprisingly, the
cars are especially in demand on evenings and weekends. But the company keeps them in
parking lots spaced just a half mile apart. So if the closest car isn’t available, another one is
Nathalie Buu says she uses the car for big shopping trips or to attend meetings in the suburbs.
And she says she rarely has trouble getting one.
“I tend to be last minute and I’ll just call and say is the car available right now? And very often it
is. I’ve never had a problem that way, which has been great.”
Buu says car sharing is cheaper for them as well. They don’t have a car payment. They don’t pay
for parking, insurance, maintenance or gas on a car they’d only use a few times a month.
However, they do pay fees. It starts with a 500 dollar insurance deductible which is returned if
you leave the company. There’s also a monthly fee of either 10, 20 or 30 dollars, depending on
how often you drive. And you pay for time and distance, which averages about 15 dollars for a
three hour, 22-mile trip.
It’s cheaper than renting a car for the day. But still, 15 bucks may seem a bit pricey for 3 hours in
a car. Make this argument to Wilson Wood and he’ll pull out figures from the Canadian
Automobile Association. They estimate it costs about 5 thousand dollars a year to own a new car.
Plus, Wood argues, car share members use their cars more wisely.
“Our members are making more efficient and more environmentally intelligent choices because
they’re bundling their trips. They say, ‘oh geez, I know I’ve only got the car once this week and
I’m going to take it for 2 hours on Friday afternoon after work so I’m going to do this, this and
(sound in car)
Not everyone joins just to save money.
Nathalie Buu says her choice was a more personal one.
“If everybody was doing this sort of thing, then we’d have less pollution in the cities. And if
you’re thinking about the future, not only your future but the future of our own kids and the air
they’re breathing and the life they’ll live, I think it’s important to think about that and not just our
But it’s not always easy. And Buu says that’s okay. Because she feels like she’s helping to create
the kind of environment that she’d like to live in.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
An increase in the number of households throughout the world is threatening the environment, according to new research in the scientific journal Nature. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Erin Toner explains:
An increase in the number of households throughout the world is threatening the environment,
according to new research in the scientific journal Nature. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Erin Toner explains:
Researchers studied what they call “hotspot countries” – places where native species are
threatened by human activity. They counted 155-million more households since 1985. The study
says the reason for the increase is because fewer people are living under one roof. The number of
households grew even in countries where the population is going down.
Michigan State University researcher Jack Liu took part in the study. He says households with
fewer people aren’t necessarily more efficient.
“For example, in a two person household you would have one refrigerator. In a four-person
household you also have one refrigerator. So the energy efficiency in the two-person household
would be lower.”
Liu says reasons for the increase in households include the high divorce rate and a drop in the
number of generations living under the same roof.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Erin Toner.
The results of a survey released this week by the Joyce Foundation show people in the Great Lakes region have strong feelings about the importance of the lakes and the need to protect them. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Gretchen Millich has more:
The results of a survey released this week by the Joyce Foundation show people in the Great
Lakes region have strong feelings about the importance of the lakes and the need to protect them.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Gretchen Millich has more:
In it’s opinion polls over the past year, the Joyce Foundation found people have deep concerns
about the Great Lakes, including lower water levels and talk of exporting water to other regions.
Most people who were polled assumed the lakes were polluted, but were unsure of the causes of
that pollution. Spokesperson Mary O’Connell says the foundation will give out 16-million
dollars over the next three years to groups working to protect the lakes. She says the money will
also be used to improve policies on land use, agriculture and transportation, all of which affect
“There is very strong popular support for preserving the lakes and we would hope that through
our funding we could translate some of that support to our public policies that will protect the
lakes for future generations.”
The Joyce Foundation, which also contributes funding to the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, is
based in Chicago and has financed many efforts to clean up the lakes.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Gretchen Millich.
An environmental group is calling on Great Lakes states to ban drilling for oil and gas under Lake Erie. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Natalie Walston reports:
An environmental group is calling on Great Lakes states to ban drilling for
oil and gas under Lake Erie. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Natalie
At least four drilling companies have tried to gain access to oil and gas
deposits under Lake Erie since 1998. That’s according to a study by the Ohio
Public Interest Research Group. The group found a significant amount of
cooperation between the Council of Great Lakes Governors in considering
allowing companies access to the lake. Bryan Clark wrote the report for the interest
group. He says there are a number of problems associated with drilling for
oil and gas.
“Drilling operations routinely utilize dangerous toxic chemicals. Many of
these chemicals, such as those found in drilling mud, can cause problems as
diverse as wildlife cancers, developmental disorders, and shortened life
Ohio governor Bob Taft has stated he will sign an executive order banning
drilling under Ohio’s part of Lake Erie. The state of Michigan recently voted to ban
new drilling. Clark says New York, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana need to
consider a drilling ban as well.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Natalie Walston.
The Canadian government is under attack by environmentalists after it exempted car manufacturers from its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
The Canadian government is under attack by environmentalists after it exempted car
manufacturers from its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
Opponents say the government granted the exemption because the car assembly plants are located
The province is a stronghold of support for the leading Liberal party.
But federal officials say the auto plants were exempted because their emissions are already low.
Many industries are required to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions under the newly signed
Kyoto Protocol on climate change.
John Bennett of the Sierra Club agrees that the auto plants are relatively small polluters.
But he’s concerned that the feds lost some leverage as they try to convince automakers to create
more fuel efficient cars.
“It was a short term political tactic, but in the long term, it might mean we won’t get the kinds of
fuel efficiency improvements in cars that are absolutely essential if we’re going to meet the Kyoto
target and go beyond it.”
Thus far, the auto industry is resistant to building more efficient vehicles.
For The Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
The international commission that keeps an eye on the environmental health of the Great Lakes will hold public hearings later this month on a report that looks at water use in the basin. And as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports, the findings are not pleasing to some environmentalists:
The international commission that keeps an eye on the environmental health of the Great Lakes
will hold public hearings later this month on a report that looks at water use in the basin. And as
the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports, the findings are not pleasing
The International Joint Commission asked a team of experts to examine water issues including
use and diversion, climate change, and conservation. The report says the problem of water
overuse in the Great Lakes has been overstated in the past three decades, while conservation has
been underestimated. It also calls the prospect of diverting water to arid southwest states “a dead
Cameron Davis is with the Lake Michigan Federation. He says the report fails to recognize the
issues that will face the Great Lakes in the long term.
“One of the concerns that I have is that, in saying we’re not using that much water, that the
hidden message is don’t worry. We don’t have a problem.”
But the U.S. chair of the IJC, Dennis Schornack, says recognizing the pitfalls of faulty
projections is important to shaping future water policy.
The Commission will hear public comment on the report before drafting its own plan to present
to the governments of Canada and the U.S.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Sarah Hulett.
As businesses and governments struggle to find ways to revive the economy, Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator James Howard Kunstler says that it’s time to re-scale the marketplace. And, ultimately, to re-think how we live and work:
As businesses and governments struggle to find ways to revive the economy, Great Lakes
Radio Consortium commentator James Howard Kunstler says that it’s time to re-scale the
marketplace. And, ultimately, to re-think how we live and work:
Not long ago, The New York Times reported that car sales had fallen off 30 percent. The
paper commented that quote “strong auto sales this year have been a key contributor in
propping up consumer spending, which in turn has been the main impetus of economic
Is that all our economy is about? Buying and selling cars? In a way, the answer is yes.
The U.S. economy is now based on the creation and maintenance of suburban sprawl and
all its furnishings and accessories.
What keeps the cycle going? The easiest credit the world has ever seen. Often to people
with poor records of repaying loans. What happens when the music stops, and the zero
percent “miracle loans” stop with it? What other economic activity is there in the United
States? We don’t make anything here anymore except movies, TV shows, and pop music,
and only a tiny percent of Americans can be in show biz.
We’ve outsourced the actual making of most mundane products to distant nations where
people work for peanuts. Everyday retail trade is conducted through so-called “efficient”
national chain stores. Behind this mask of efficiency, though, lies the wreckage of
America’s communities, and the complex, fine-grained networks of economic relations
that once supported them. In rural America, ruin and depression are rampant among
small farmers. Today, we subsist on Caesar salads which travel an average of 2,500
miles from field to table.
This a system primed for unwinding. We are fast becoming a nation reliant on everyone
but ourselves. More tragically, as it unwinds, we will be stuck with all the unsustainable
furnishings: the far-flung subdivisions of commodity housing; the redundant chain stores;
the countless miles of blacktop in need of continual repair; the gazillion cars that we can
no longer afford to replace. We’ll be stuck living in places that are not worth living in,
and not worth caring about, far from any food supplies, and with no networks of local
These are our prospects, and they can only be worsened by looming international military
mischief, Jihad, de-stabilized oil markets, and terrorism.
There’s really only one reasonable way out of this predicament: the re-scaling of
America. We face the enormous task of reconstructing local economic networks that add
up to real communities, which in turn add up to places worth caring about. It’s time to
re-size and downscale everything we do from farming to schooling to shopping. The
future is telling us very clearly that we have to start living locally, but we are not
listening, and we are not prepared.
James Howard Kunstler is the author of The Geography of Nowhere and other books. He
comes to us by way of the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.