Environmentalists are giving Canada’s new prime minister strong marks for his plans for the environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
Canadian environmentalists are giving Canada’s new prime minister strong marks for his plans
for the environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports:
Environmental groups see promise in the plans laid out by Canadian prime minister Paul Martin.
Martin has pledged an investment in new technology to meet Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto
Protocol. And he’s put a new emphasis on funding for cities.
Elizabeth May is Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada. She says a new deal for cities
could be a good deal for the environment.
“We hope to see better funding for mass transportation, better and smarter urban planning to
urban sprawl, reinvestments in a number of things that we really feel are environmental priorities,
but are seen through the lens of municipalities.”
Paul Martin has strong ties in the business community. May expects he’ll have a good rapport
with environmentalists, as well.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Kelly.
The auto industry seems to be growing a bit green. Car makers across the world are exploring new, more environmentally-friendly power systems for cars and trucks. But despite these new developments, it doesn’t appear that American car buyers think green when they go shopping for a new vehicle. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Poorman reports:
The auto industry seems to be growing a bit green. Car makers across
the world are exploring new, more environmentally friendly power systems
for cars and trucks. But despite these new developments, it doesn’t
appear that American car buyers think green when they go shopping for a
new vehicle. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bill Poorman reports:
Sales of environmentally-friendly vehicles are increasing in the U-S. Toyota is leading the pack,
with the debut in October of the second generation of its mid-size hybrid car, the Prius. The
small gas engine gets help from an electric motor, making for a much different kind of
(sound of Prius starting)
However, those sales are dwarfed by the sales of gas guzzling SUVs.
(sound of H2 starting)
That’s the H2 – the latest in General Motor’s popular line of Hummers.
These vehicles are so big that they’re considered a heavy truck, making
them exempt from the federal government’s fuel economy ratings, so you
won’t see the gas mileage on the window sticker.
But salesman Ed Arthur of Capitol Hummer in Lansing, Michigan, says
that’s not a big deal. Arthur says H2 customers are looking for
something else than fuel economy.
“They’re looking for something that’s unique. It’s different.
They want something to be where they can go off-road if they want to.
If they don’t want to, that’s fine. But they want the capabilities, but
they don’t want to sacrifice the comforts and the rides that they’ve
been getting in other cars and other types of vehicles in the past.”
These kinds of preferences aren’t just limited to the select customers
who can afford a 50-thousand-dollar Hummer. John Denove studies
customers’ car-buying priorities for JD Power and Associates, an
automotive consulting firm.
“Probably your top five include the quality/reliability issues, styling, safety, gas mileage, and
And Denove says, gas mileage only recently crept into the top five, as
gas prices have risen. As for pure environmental motives, he says he
recently developed a survey and, during a series of interviews, found
fifty different factors people consider when they’re choosing what car
or truck to buy.
“The funny thing is, nobody during those interviews ever mentioned green issues other than gas
mileage, so they never made it into the survey.”
But environmentalists think those findings might not capture what’s
really happening when people go into dealerships. Jon Coifman is with
the Natural Resources Defense Council. He says that people just assume
cars and trucks won’t harm the environment now. Regulations have
prompted automakers to develop and sell cleaner technologies.
“What we’ve learned over the years is that when you’ve got
good standards in place, the automakers have done a pretty good job of
delivering good solutions at a pretty good price.”
Detroit’s car companies argue that price and performance are both major
reasons for their delay in getting out newer and more expensive
environmental technologies, like hybrids and electric cars. Consumer
surveys show most car-buyers won’t pay more just to be green. And
electrics never caught on because they had a limited range and had to be
plugged in each night.
But Toyota now says that it’s making money on every Prius. And next
year, the Japanese automaker plans to put a new twist on hybrid sales.
It will overcome the lack of demand for green vehicles by marketing a
new hybrid SUV as a performance vehicle, with a four-cylinder engine
producing six-cylinder power, and by the way, it gets good mileage.
The NRDC’s Coifman says this makes him worry that GM, Ford, and Chrysler
are already losing this latest car sales skirmish.
“Our fear is that, as this revolution unfolds, that the
American manufacturers may have been dragging their feet too long and
are going to miss the boat.”
In the meantime, GM’s investment in the Hummer is paying off for the
company and its dealers. The vehicles bring in huge profits. GM is
even considering adding another, but smaller, Hummer to its line-up,
filling what seems to be an ever expanding taste for gargantuan, rather
than green, vehicles in the U.S.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bill Poorman.
It’s the height of the season for luscious, farm-grown fruits and vegetables. But most people, who get help from the government with buying their food, can’t take advantage of the fresh, nutritional food at their local farmers’ markets. The food stamp system was replaced in many states with new Electronic Benefit Transfer cards. And since vegetable stands don’t usually come equipped with electricity, both farmers and many poor people were missing the harvest. But one state hopes to change that with a new pilot program that’s bringing wireless EBT technology to farmers’ markets. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Joyce Kryszak has more on how the program is catching on:
It’s the height of the season for luscious, farm grown fruits and vegetables. But
most people, who
get help from the government with buying their food, can’t take advantage of the
food at their local farmers’ markets. The food stamp system was replaced in many
new Electronic Benefit Transfer cards. And since vegetable stands don’t usually
with electricity, both farmers and many poor people were missing the harvest. But
hopes to change that with a new pilot program that’s bringing wireless EBT
technology to farmers
markets. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Joyce Kryszak has more on how the
Six children form a low circle around Tammy Johnson’s skirt. They move together in
through the market, checking out overflowing baskets filled with crayon-colored
single mom from Niagara Falls comes to the city’s outdoor market regularly in the
Johnson says she has to.
“Because I no more than get stuff and it’s gone usually a day or two later, so I
prefer it over going
to the grocery store myself, because you can get a lot of your fruits and vegetables
a lot cheaper
here than in the grocery stores, plus it’s a lot cheaper, a lot better.”
But Johnson says even here it’s hard to stretch her limited budget. She’ll soon get
help from the
state. They granted her an Electronic Benefit Transfer card to buy food for her
family. It’s not
activated yet, but once it is, Johnson says she especially looks forward to using it
at the farmers
market. But Johnson’s enthusiasm for the EBT cards is rare. Most farmers here, and
at other test
sites, say they’ve made few EBT transactions. Johnson thinks it’s because people
still don’t know
they can use the cards at the farmers markets.
“Nobody really knows how the system works yet. They put an article in the paper,
farmers accept it, but nobody I know has actually used their cards.”
(natural sound – people making purchases)
Small signs reading “We Gladly Accept EBT” dangle from a handful of the farmers’
they go largely unnoticed. Crowds of people wait along the rows of tables to
dollar bills for crisp produce. It’s the way business has always been done at the
Farmer John Senek peers up from under the brim of his tattered green cap. He says
the old way is
good enough for him.
“Do you have the EBT machine here?”
(Senek) “No, we got one home but we don’t use it.”
“Why is that?”
(Senek) “Too much work. I don’t know how to run it. I’m too old for that stuff.”
Sixty of the hand held devices were given to farmers such as Senek who volunteered
for the pilot
program in May. They did get limited training and the promise that the machines
would be free
to use – thanks to a federal grant – for at least the first year. After that, there
could be a small
monthly charge, and per use fee. The payments take a day to transfer into the
accounts. The farmers say they signed on hoping the EBT’s would bring them more
But after the first couple months, optimism is wilting.
(Miller) “We just turn it on, but it takes a second for it to pop up.”
Even farmers who are still hopeful the idea will catch on are concerned about losing
business while punching in numbers.
As Farmer Jim Miller soon demonstrates, it takes more than just a second. It took
seconds for this trial transaction just to get started.
Miller says it might not seem like a big deal. But he says the lost time could mean
“It takes a little bit more time than taking two dollars from somebody, or ten
somebody. So, you’re wasting time while you could be working with other people.”
New York and the USDA are weighing the program carefully to see if it’s worth
Nathan Rudgers is New York’s Commissioner of Agriculture. He says they have faith
better promotion and education, the system will eventually help farmers and improve
food stamp customers.
“We are addressing the issue of education. We recognize the fact that it takes
to get new technology going, but we’re confident that business will pick up,” said
think it’s going to turn out to be a win for both the farmer and the food stamp
when we can do that, it’s a pretty successful endeavor.”
Single mom Tammy Johnson agrees. She says for her, and her six children, the EBT
system is a
fresh idea worth keeping.
“I just went today to get my card, so my card won’t be in effect until Monday, but
I’ll be back
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Joyce Kryszak in Niagara Falls.
Later this year, UPS will begin making some of its deliveries with a hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle. The road test is a partnership between the federal government and private industry. It’s expected to help make fuel cells widely available in passenger cars one day. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland has more:
Later this year, UPS will begin making some of its deliveries with a hydrogen fuel cell-powered
vehicle. The road test is a partnership between the federal government and private industry. It’s
expected to help make fuel cells widely available in passenger cars one day. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland has more:
To hear fuel-cell backers talk, this is what the future of the automotive industry sounds like:
(sound of engine)
It’s a fuel-cell powered engine, in this case, a Mercedes A-Class. UPS will use the station
wagon-sized vehicle to deliver express letters and small packages in southeast Michigan.
Outgoing EPA Administrator Christie Whitman calls this a big step for fuel cell technology.
“Those vehicles are going to be carrying more than just a package for an individual. They are
going to be carrying the future. The future of a new technology that holds enormous promise for
cleaner, healthier air for this nation.”
UPS hopes to expand the test next year, when it puts fuel cell-powered Dodge vans on the road.
Tom Weidemeyer is the Chief Operating Officer of UPS. He says the vehicles will be rolling
laboratories as the company looks for ways to be both competitive and environmentally-friendly.
“In our viewpoint, this is not a test. This is just part of our ongoing commitment to working with our
communities and improving the environment in which we operate.”
Hydrogen fuel cells use hydrogen gas and oxygen to create electricity to power a vehicle. The
only emission from these engines is water vapor. But, right now, a fuel-cell engine costs about
ten times more to build than a conventional engine. Daimler-Chrysler head Dieter Zetsche says
this and other tests of fuel-cell vehicles will help researchers find cheaper ways to make the
“And you can only solve those by starting to do it, by really putting the technology in the field and by
starting to get some manufacturing experience and driving the cost out of the system. You can’t do that in the lab or at a desk.”
The fuel-cell vehicles will be limited to southeast Michigan because they will have to refuel at a
hydrogen station to be built at the EPA in Ann Arbor. The test will also help researchers find
ways to safely and efficiently run the network of refueling stations that will be needed before
hydrogen fuel cells are widely available.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Michael Leland.
A Canadian firm is gearing up to produce a cloth–like solar panel that will cost less than current technologies. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
A Canadian firm is gearing up to produce a cloth–like solar panel that will cost less than current
technologies. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
This is a photo-voltaic solar panel, but instead of being a sheet of silicon on glass, it’s tiny beads
of silicon between layers of aluminum foil and sealed in a plastic sheeting. It’s strong, light
weight, and flexible.
Ron Jutras is a company officer with Spheral Solar in Cambridge, Ontario:
“The primary difference between this particular solar panel and others that people are used to seeing
maybe on highway signs or potentially on buildings, is the fact that it is a pliable system, meaning
that it can be bent and wrapped around products.”
So the solar panels can be put on facades of buildings or draped over a roof. It also will come
in different colors, giving architects some flexibility. Because it uses much less silicon than
current technology, the price is expected to be quite a bit lower. The first commercial shipments of
the flexible solar panels are expected next year.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
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.
Some weeds are developing a resistance to one of the most popular crop herbicides. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Johnson reports:
Some weeds are developing a resistance to one of the most popular crop herbicides. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Johnson reports:
Farmers like the Monsanto Company herbicide “Roundup” because it kills a wide variety of weeds
without harming crops genetically engineered to resist it. But in the past few years, crop
scientists say Roundup’s popularity has created some problems. Through survival of the fittest, a
very small number of weeds that were always resistant to Roundup have reproduced, and in some
areas now flourish. Mark van Gessel is a weed specialist at the University of Delaware. He says
it’s a situation some farmers are stuck with:
“I really don’t have a lot of hope that we are going to be able to reverse this trend. We just have to learn to live with it.”
van Gessel says that means farmers will need to get away from exclusive use of Roundup and
other less common herbicides that contain its active ingredient. So far, weeds resistant to
Roundup have popped up in Delaware, Maryland, and California as well as in Tennessee, Ohio,
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Shawn Johnson.
With another Mideastern conflict looming, many Americans are worried about the possibility of rising gas prices. But as Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Tom Springer points out, using less gas may be difficult for a generation that grew up admiring gas-guzzlers:
With another Mideastern conflict looming, many Americans are worried about the
possibility of rising gas prices. But as Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Tom
Springer points out, using less gas may be difficult for a generation that grew up admiring
It’s been 20 years since I rumbled through town in a fast car with wide tires and a big
hood scoop. But there, parked in front of me, was the mag-wheeled embodiment of a
teenage fantasy. Its electric blue paint job was flashing in the sun. It was more temptation
then a recovering car freak could resist.
The object of my affection was a 1970 Plymouth GTX. For two years, my brother-in-law
had worked nights and weekends to restore the old muscle car. Under the hood was a
gleaming V-8 engine, with enough horsepower to pull out tree stumps. And now, on a flat stretch
of country road, he casually asked the question: “Do you want to see what it can do?”
Did I want to see what it could do? It was an act of hypocrisy that no self-respecting
environmentalist should ever commit. Since my drag racing days, I’ve learned the truth
about the evils of fossil fuel. I know that America’s car culture is the driving force behind
urban sprawl, acid rain and the ongoing rift with a certain mustachioed Mideastern
But after about three seconds behind the wheel, my environmentalist notions flew out the
window. I stomped the accelerator, and the tires squealed. The engine roared. The
carburetors gulped down an ocean of high-octane racing fuel. Then, for a glorious
moment, the long-forgotten thrill of intense acceleration. The hormone rush was almost
enough to bring my adolescent acne out of remission.
We later drove the GTX to a car show. The hot rods on display were mainly pre-1971
gas-guzzlers. They get about 12 miles per gallon in city driving. Oddly enough, that’s
about the same mileage as a monster sports utility vehicle. The difference is, most
collector cars are driven only on sunny weekends.
And 35 years from now, we may be doing the same thing with SUVs. I can picture the
scene on a fall day in 2037. I’m with my grandchildren at an SUV collectors meet. The
kids are staring in disbelief at these mammoth, 8-passenger vehicles, which rarely carried
more than two or three passengers. And the only thing they can think to say is… “Why?”
The world’s not making any more oil, so our day of reckoning is coming. Some
Americans may think that dollar-fifty per gallon gasoline is their birthright. Yet it won’t
last forever. Fuel cells, electric cars and hybrids are the future of human mobility.
Americans like me, who neither car pool nor take the train, will have to change.
But change may be difficult. Because for my generation, the rich exhaust of an untamed
V-8 will always be like a rare perfume. And our memories of cheap gasoline, and the
freedom of an open road, will only grow fonder with age.
Tom Springer is a freelance writer from Three Rivers, Michigan.
Scientists are hoping that new technology will change the way
environmental testing is done. An electronic tongue may soon allow them
to “taste test” things like water, sediment, and other substances. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Wendy Nelson reports:
As more people become interested in alternatives to pesticides, theconcept of Integrated Pest Management is growing. The idea started inagriculture as a way for farmers to reduce or eliminate pesticides. ButIntegrated Pest Management – or I-P-M – is making inroads in the home.One group of products that are becoming more popular are specialtydevices that use things like negative ions and ultra-sonic waves torepel pests. But how well do they work? The Great Lakes RadioConsortium’s Wendy Nelson investigates: