When you buy a hybrid car or truck you’re eligible for a credit on your taxes, but starting in October, the tax credit for all vehicles made by Toyota and Lexus will be phased out. The GLRC’s
Dustin Dwyer explains:
When you buy a hybrid car or truck you’re eligible for a credit on your taxes, but starting
in October, the tax credit for all vehicles made by Toyota and Lexus will be phased out.
The GLRC’s Dustin Dwyer explains:
If you buy a Toyota Prius in the next two months, you can get the highest hybrid tax
credit on the market, but if you buy after October 1st, you’ll only get half the current
credit, and the credit for all hybrids made by Toyota and Lexus will be phased out
completely within a year.
That’s because Toyota reached a total hybrid sales mark of 60 thousand vehicles in June,
and, according to rules that took effect in January, carmakers that have sold more than 60
thousand hybrids can no longer offer tax credits to their customers.
Bradley Berman is editor of hybridcars.com:
“This cap creates confusion in the marketplace. And that undermines the intent to send a
clear message that consumers should try out hybrids.”
Berman says Detroit carmakers pushed for the cap in an effort to catch up with Japanese
carmakers on hybrid sales.
Peter Gail holds his favorite weed: the spinach-like lamb's quarters.
It's not hard to find lamb's quarters in a suburban backyard.
Edible lilies in the same backyard.
Your barbeque grill isn’t the only place to find food in your backyard. There are lots of plants out there to eat, but most of us call
them weeds. The GLRC’s Julie Grant reports:
Your barbeque grill isn’t the only place to find food in your backyard.
There are lots of plants out there to eat, but most of us call
them weeds. The GLRC’s Julie Grant reports:
Peter Gail of Cleveland loves food. He’s got a lot of meat on his bones.
“Gee, you can’t get me to stop. I start eating this stuff and I can’t stop. It’s terrible, it’s terrible, it’s addictive (laughs).”
But his favorite foods grow right in his backyard, and probably yours. Gail is what’s
known as an ethno-botanist. He’s on a mission to teach more people about how to eat the
plants growing all around their houses. His latest converts are a troop of boy scouts:
“My grandson was one of the boys in this Boy Scout troop. And when I got over to his
house three days after we got back from scout camp, he grabbed the bag, the plastic bag
of weeds that his mother weeded out of the yard that day and dragged it over to me on the
patio and said find the edible plants in here and show me them.”
Gail says the yard becomes more exciting to most kids when they can sit down and
munch. His own love of the backyard snack started when he was just a boy. His family
faced some tough times. They were saved by a common weed known as lamb’s quarters.
“My dad died and left the family with no money. A friend told my mother we could live
off lamb’s quarters. For six months we went out and every day my brother and I would
gather the young tops of lamb’s quarters and then bring them into the house and my
mother would make them into every kind of spinach dish imaginable, until she learned
how to make a living. And then after that she still, we still liked the plant so we still ate it a lot.”
These days you could pay a lot for lamb’s quarters in a gourmet food store. They’re sold
as Belgium spinach. Or, Gail says, you could just take a quick look around your yard.
Today we’re walking around a backyard in suburban Cleveland. We find lamb’s quarters
at the base of a tree. Some say you can recognize the leaves because they look like the
hindquarters of a lamb. Gail thinks they look more like the silhouette of a Christmas tree:
“You’ll notice it has, when you’re looking down on it, it looks like somebody spilled a
little bit of talcum powder on the very top. It has that little dusting of white that is right on the top and on the underside of the leaves you see the same dusting, but taste one leaf, taste a leaf of that.”
And it does taste like spinach, but the USDA reports it’s even more nutritious than
Popeye’s favorite treat.
“It doesn’t take any cooking. It can be eaten raw, or it can be cooked. It will interfere, if you eat too much raw, with the assimilation of both iron and calcium, so you usually want to cook it. It makes a great addition to omelets, great cooked green, great quiches. Any recipe you use spinach in, you can use lamb’s quarters.”
There’s a lot more than just lamb’s quarters in the yard to eat. This time of year, Peter Gail also recommends sautiing the buds or petals from orange and yellow daylilies. He’s also a big fan of dandelions. He suggests looking for the young, tender leaves because they’re less bitter. Gail says he believes dandelions were brought to America by Italian
immigrants. They’re used in lots of Italian recipes:
“80 percent of the things we call weeds were vegetables brought here by immigrants.
That’s one of the reasons most of the things we call weeds in our backyards aren’t
indigenous plants. They aren’t plants that were from America. They’re plants that are
from Europe and Asia and from South America.”
Gail says over time those traditional foods escaped from gardens into the wild. After
World War II, things changed. Most people started buying food at the grocery store and foraging became unpopular. He says only the poor searched the yard for food:
“One by one, as generations went by, the kids didn’t learn as much the second generation,
the third generation they knew nothing. And by the time we reach where we are now,
almost everybody can walk right by the most nutritious plant going, the most commonly eaten
plant back in the 30s and 40s, and not even have a clue what it is.”
Gail is trying to change that. He wants people to become reacquainted with these plants
so we don’t recklessly destroy them. He travels around the country giving workshops,
taking people on neighborhood forages, and teaching cooking classes. Gail believes we
might need these plants again someday.
Chuck and Pam Wingo in the kitchen of their solar-powered home. (Photo by Tamara Keith)
Solar panels blend in with the shingles on the roof of this Sacramento, California home. (Photo by Tamara Keith)
The electricity meter indicates how much power is being produced by the solar panels on the roof of Chuck and Pam Wingo's home. They've had the home for a year and still sometimes just watch the meter spin. They recently paid just $16 for power in the hottest month in Sacramento. (Photo by Tamara Keith)
Solar panel technology has been around for decades…but not many people have panels on their roofs. Solar energy is the ultimate clean power source, but it’s also expensive and that’s kept most people away. But regulators in one state are hoping to change that. The state’s Public Utilities Commission recently approved a 3-billion dollar fund to give homeowners and businesses hefty rebates if they install solar panels. It’s the first program of its kind and size in the nation. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamara Keith reports:
Solar panel technology has been around for decades…but not many
people have panels on their roofs. Solar energy is the ultimate clean
power source, but it’s also expensive and that’s kept most people away.
But regulators in one state are hoping to change that. The state’s Public
Utilities Commission recently approved a 3-billion dollar fund to give
homeowners and businesses hefty rebates if they install solar panels. It’s
the first program of its kind and size in the nation. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Tamara Keith reports:
A little over a year ago, Chuck Wingo and his wife Pam moved into a
new house in an innovative housing development. Their house, like all
the others in the neighborhood, is equipped with bank solar panels, built
right into the roof like shingles.
“These are the 2 meters that are on the house. It’s simple. One uses for
our usage, what we use, and the other one is from the solar panels, what we
Chuck says sometimes he walks to the side of his California house and
just watches the solar meter spin.
“We check it all the time, what’s even better is checking the bills. The
bills are great, we paid 16-dollars for our usage in August, the hottest
month in Sacramento. So, it’s kind of cool.”
The Wingo’s weren’t big environmentalists before moving into this
house, but Pam says when she heard about this development, something
“The idea just sounded, if you’re going to move, do it right at least. Do
something pro-active about where you’re going to be living and spending
your money. It’s really good for everybody, for the country. We all
should be living like this so we’re not wasting out energy.”
And many more Californians will be living that way, if the California
Solar Initiative lives up to its promise. State energy regulators approved
the initiative, which will add a small fee to utility bills in order to create a
3-billion dollar fund. That fund is designed to make solar panels more
It starts by offering rebates to consumers who buy them. Bernadette Del
Chiaro – a clean energy advocate with Environment California – says
once those panels get cheaper, the marketplace goes to work…
“The problem with solar power today is its cost. Most of us can’t afford
an extra 20-thousand dollars to equip our home with solar panels, and
what we’re doing in California is saying, we’re going to get the cost of
solar power down. By growing the market 30 fold in the next 10 years,
we’re going to be able to cut the cost of solar panels in half.”
Last year, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to get the California
legislature to approve something similar. That plan got bogged down in
state politics … so he took it to the Public Utilities Commission. While
the commission can raise the money, there are some parts of this
revamped solar program that have to be legislated.
Democratic State Senator Kevin Murray has worked with the Republican
Governor on solar power issues. He says he plans to introduce a new bill
that would require solar panels be included as an option on all new
homes built in the state.
“Rather than some specialized left-wing alternative kind of thing, we want it to
be in the mainstream, so that when you go in to buy a new home, you
pick your tile and you pick your carpet and you pick your solar system.
So, that would have to be done legislatively and the other thing that would
have to be done legislatively is raise the net metering cap so that if you’re
selling energy back to the grid, you can get compensated for it.”
The new program would also target businesses, even farms. Public
Utilities Commissioner Dian Grueneich says she hopes this doesn’t stop
“I’m very, very excited. This is the largest program in the country
and I’m hoping that other states will look at this program as well, so that
it’s not just something in California but helping other states.”
And if the solar power initiative is a success in California, backers say
it’s good news for consumers all over the country. Much like the hybrid
car, made cool by Hollywood celebrities… California leaders hope they
can make solar trendy and more affordable for everyone.
People who buy a hybrid car or truck this year could get a bigger tax credit. The IRS has issued new tax credit guidelines for the purchase of hybrids. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Celeste Headlee reports:
People who buy a hybrid car or truck this year could get a bigger tax credit. The IRS has issued
new tax credit guidelines for the purchase of hybrids. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Celeste Headlee reports:
Beginning this month, hybrid owners will be eligible for a tax credit of up to 3,400 dollars. That
money will be subtracted directly from what the taxpayer owes the IRS. Under previous tax law,
hybrid owners could only claim a 2,000 dollar tax deduction.
Don McKenzie is a Vehicles Engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists. He says the new
law is a step forward because it’s performance based… vehicles with better fuel economy are
eligible for a higher tax credit.
But he says the credit is phased out after a company builds about 60,000 eligible vehicles… and
there’s another important component missing as well.
“It doesn’t require an increase in overall fleet fuel economy and it is possible that some
automakers could use increased sales of hybrid vehicles to offset increased sales of gas guzzlers.”
Automakers are responsible for getting their vehicles certified as eligible vehicles. They hope to
have vehicles certified beginning this summer.
Despite the recent defeat in Congress of a measure that would have raised fuel efficiency standards, carmakers are still feeling pressure to design and produce less polluting vehicles. Some companies are betting on new technologies to make those dramatic pollution reductions, and a debate’s emerging over how best to get there. Some observers say what’s at stake is nothing less than the future of the automobile. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Halpert filed this report:
Despite the recent defeat in Congress of a measure that would have raised fuel efficiency standards, carmakers are still feeling pressure to design and produce less polluting vehicles. Some companies are betting on new technologies to make those dramatic pollution reductions. And a debate’s emerging over how best to get there. Some observers say what’s at stake is nothing less than the future of the automobile. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Halpert filed this report:
It’s a clear battle between emerging technologies: what’s available now: hybrid engines, versus fuel cells, which aren’t due for at least ten years. Hybrids use current technology, a gasoline engine, and add an electric engine for additional boost. A hybrid car typically gets double the mileage of a non-hybrid.
Toyota and Honda have both opted for the quicker path. They’ve been offering hybrid cars now for the past few years. Toyota’s Prius is a sedan. Honda opted for a sporty, two-seater, the Insight. But whether sporty or practical, Honda’s Andy Boyd says consumers embraced the new engine.
“We had a great reaction to Insight – people really excited by the technology, very accepting of it. It’s very transparent technology, easy to use and we think it’s ready for prime time.”
Prime time for Honda means putting the hybrid engine on a more practical vehicle, which they’re doing. The Honda Civic is a company best seller. The hybrid Civic goes on sale in April. Priced around $20,000 the Civic will get 50 miles per gallon. And Boyd thinks it will result in even broader acceptance of hybrid technology.
A domestic automaker is also jumping on the hybrid bandwagon, hoping to broaden the hybrid’s appeal. Ford Motor Company will launch the hybrid Escape sport utility vehicle later next year. Ford’s Jon Harmon says that’s an even better vehicle choice than the Japanese offerings.
“Most of those vehicles have limitations because they’re such small vehicles and we think that by giving a vehicle with more functionality that customers are looking for, like the Escape HEV, that we’re really going to open up that market.”
The hybrid Escape will get 40 miles to the gallon in the city, twice the mileage of its gasoline engine counterpart.
But while hybrids make big dents in reducing pollution, they’re not considered the final answer to the environmental problem. The more promising contender is fuel cells.
“In a minute we’ll introduce a revolutionary concept, so revolutionary that we believe it’s no stretch to say it could literally reinvent the automobile.”
General Motors President and CEO Rick Wagoner unveiled his company’s first fuel cell car prototype, the Autonomy, at the North American International Auto Show earlier this year. Fuel cells run on a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. They emit only water vapor and heat, so they’re essentially pollution free. They’re also extremely fuel-efficient. But even the GM fuel cell car won’t be available for at least ten years. That’s because the technology still faces many financial and engineering hurdles.
Even so, GM spokesman Bill Nowak says that investing in fuel cell technology is smarter than putting money in less effective, near-term hybrids.
“It has a fair amount of potential to improve your efficiency but you’re adding another power plant. A hybrid combines an internal combustion engine with an electric motor so there’s some cost factors involved in that. That’s why we think the best technology by far is the pure fuel cell.”
Still, many experts and other automakers don’t expect to see fuel cells on the road very soon. David Hermantz is with Toyota’s Technical Center. He says it could take 20 or 30 years. And he’s concerned that by pushing for fuel cells; GM’s trying to postpone any near-term actions to reduce auto pollution.
“GM’s interim image appears to be that ‘leave us alone for now and we’ll get to fuel cells in the future’ and we think we need some kind of progressive path to get to the future.”
That path for Toyota is a commitment to offer 300,000 hybrid vehicles a year worldwide beginning 2005. Honda also will continue promoting hybrids. Again, Honda’s Andy Boyd.
“In the long-term, fuel cells are probably going to be the answer, but again, if we’re looking out about 30 to 40 years, do we want to wait that long to try and do something about fuel efficiency and reducing emissions? Reducing fuel consumption is the greatest thing we can do to cut emissions, so we’re trying to do that.”
Still, the federal government currently prefers the long-term option. The Energy Department recently scrapped an existing hybrid research program and instead decided to fund an effort to develop a fuel cell powered vehicle.
That concerns Mike Flynn. Flynn runs the University of Michigan’s office for the study of automotive transportation in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He says the government’s decision, which comes amidst a slump in the auto industry, will take pressure off automakers to pursue hybrids.
“They have tremendous demand on their resources right now, so why would I do other than what the government is telling me I should be doing, which is this longer term bet on fuel cells which I may be able to defer a little bit in the first few years and use my resources elsewhere.”
Flynn’s also worried about focusing only on fuel cells. He says that if another technology wins out, the domestic auto industry could be left behind.
But GM’s Bill Nowak says that’s unlikely. And he’s convinced that ultimately, the company’s bet on fuel cells will pay off.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Julie Halpert.
Automotive analysts say a new arrangement between Ford and the EPA may signal a significant change in the car company’s relationship with the government. Ford and the EPA are teaming up to create a new hybrid engine that is expected to be more efficient than current hybrids. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Matt Shafer Powell has more:
Automotive analysts say a new arrangement between Ford and the EPA may signal a significant change in the car companies’ relationship with the government. Ford and the EPA are teaming up to create a new hybrid engine that is expected to be more efficient than current hybrids. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Matt Shafer Powell reports.
One of the drawbacks to current hybrid vehicles is the electric batteries—they’re heavy and they’re expensive. But Ford and the EPA are working on a new model that uses pressurized liquid to store energy instead of batteries. Michael Flynn of the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute says this arrangement shows a departure from the contentious relationship the government and car companies have had in the past.
“There are problems and rather than hollering at each other, pointing fingers, trying to figure out who’s to blame and therefore, who gets hung out to dry, it makes much more sense to try to jointly resolve the problems.”
The EPA actually holds the patent for the pressurized liquid technology. Both Ford and the EPA say it should be available to the public in about ten years—possibly in an SUV. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Matt Shafer Powell.