Congressional leaders are beginning to start thinking about a climate bill again.
Health care legislation has finally started
moving forward in Congress. Shawn Allee reports
the US Senate can now devote some attention to
its unfinished work on climate change:
Health care legislation has finally started moving forward in Congress.
Shawn Allee reports the US Senate can now devote some attention to its unfinished work on climate change:
The climate-change bill got a cold reception last year, but Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman say they’re making headway lately.
Margaret Kriz Hobson tracks climate legislation for the National Journal.
She says the Senate got stuck negotiating a complex carbon trading scheme.
That would have required most industries to trade carbon pollution credits.
Kriz Hobson says the three senators are now focusing mostly on power companies.
“A lot more people are letting them in the door because the proposal that they’re bringing forward would include some benefits for nuclear power, oil drilling in the United States and for more modern technologies for capture and sequestration.”
That last technology would basically bury carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.
That could save money and jobs in states that burn or mine coal.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new rules on how sewage treatment plants clean water after heavy storms. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee reports:
The US Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new rules on
how sewage treatment plants clean water after heavy storms. The Great
Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shawn Allee reports:
When rainstorms overwhelm sewage treatment plants, cities sometimes
blend raw sewage with clean water that can contaminate local rivers and
lakes with bacteria. To stop this, the EPA’s proposing a compromise
with local governments. Cities may blend waste when there’s no
alternative, but they must improve their waste treatment systems.
Alexandra Dapolito Dunn represents an alliance of city treatment
facilities. She says local governments need this flexibility.
“There are going to be some communities around the country where, due
to the low income and the distressed nature of an urban population, they
may have a difficult time affording the most cutting edge technologies
It’s not clear how much money cities will save under the proposed
guidelines. Upgrades can cost millions of dollars, and right now,
treatment centers compete for limited federal assistance.
Hybrid cars like the Honda Insight are becoming more popular with consumers. However, a study predicts a decrease in jobs if sales of hybrids increase sharply. (Photo by Paige Foster)
A new report says new automotive technology such as gasoline-electric hybrid engines could cost thousands of American jobs. Researchers say states with large numbers of autoworkers could be hurt the most. We have more from the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland:
A new report says new automotive technology such as
gasoline-electric hybrid engines could cost thousands of American
jobs. Researchers say states with large numbers of autoworkers
could be hurt the most. We have more from the Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Michael Leland:
Sales of gasoline-electric hybrids amounted to less than one-percent of all
the vehicles sold in the U.S. last year. But researchers at the University
of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute say hybrids, and vehicles
made with advanced diesel powertrains, could make up eleven percent of total
sales by 2009.
If that happens, the Institute projects it could cost the
U.S. about 200-thousand jobs. Pat Hammett directed the study. He says that
figure includes both actual jobs lost and new jobs not created.
“A lot of the hybrid components, for example, actually are new componentry
inside a vehicle. So, it isn’t necessarily that you are losing jobs in some
of that area, it could just be an example of not getting the growth.”
Hammett says auto-producing states like Michigan, Ohio and Indiana would be
affected more than others. The report says states could reduce jobs lost to
new technologies by offering tax credits to encourage production in the
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Michael Leland.
Mike LeBeau installs solar and wind energy systems.
He has put in more generators this year than in the last 10 years
combined, thanks to rebate programs offered by the state and local
governments. (Photo by Stephanie Hemphill)
Representatives of nearly 200 countries recently met in
Argentina to work out the next steps in dealing with climate change.
Seven years ago, many nations agreed to reduce fossil fuel emissions
and greenhouse gases. The U.S. didn’t agree to reduce its emissions.
Now, a report from the National Environmental Trust says that decision
is hurting American businesses. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Stephanie Hemphill reports:
Representatives of nearly 200 countries recently met in Argentina to
work out the next steps in dealing with climate change. Seven years
ago, many nations agreed to reduce fossil fuel emissions and
greenhouse gases. The U.S. didn’t agree to reduce its emissions.
Now a report from the National Environmental Trust says that
decision is hurting American businesses. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:
Mike LeBeau installs wind generators and photovoltaic solar
collectors. His business, Conservation Technologies, is in Duluth,
Minnesota. In the U.S., there are not a lot of contractors doing this
kind of work.
“This is a two and a half kilowatt photovoltaic system.”
Two panels about the size of a dining room table stand on the top
floor of a downtown garage. The only other equipment is an inverter
– a metal box the size of a shoebox – that transforms the direct
current from the solar panels to the alternating current we use in our
“The electricity is produced here by the sun, fed into the wiring in the
building here, and any excess is distributed out onto the utility grid.”
The solar panels were made in Japan. And the inverter is from
LeBeau has been installing systems like this for ten years. Demand
was slow until a year ago, when Minnesota started a rebate program.
LeBeau has put in more generators this year than in the last ten
With another rebate offered by the local utility, LeBeau says the cost
of installing a typical system can be cut nearly in half.
And he says the increased activity has persuaded some of the
naysayers to help rather than hinder renewable energy projects.
“Now the electrical inspectors don’t have any choice – it’s being
supported by the utilities, and by the state of Minnesota, so it’s really
changed the atmosphere and the climate that we work in.”
But LeBeau says the state rebate program is a drop in the bucket
compared to what’s being done in other countries.
Christopher Reed agrees. He’s an engineer who advises individuals
and businesses on renewable energy projects. He says U.S. policy
has been piecemeal and erratic. For instance, there’s a federal tax
credit for renewable energy production. But it’s only in place for a
year or two at a time.
“When the incentive is out there, everybody ramps up as fast as they
can, and we slam projects in to meet the deadline before the credit
expires, and then everybody sits until the credit gets reintroduced
again. This has happened three times now.”
Reed says that discourages long-term investment.
Reed’s business is one of several American firms studied for the
report from the National Environmental Trust. The report says Japan
and most countries in Europe are providing major and consistent
incentives to encourage production of renewable energy. The report
says this approach is saving money, creating jobs, and putting
businesses in a position to export their new technologies and
Reed says he’s frustrated to see European and Japanese companies
thrive, using American inventions such as photovoltaic, or PV,
technology, while American manufacturers fail.
“It’s almost embarrassing. The PV technology, that came out of Bell
Labs in the U.S. We should be the world leaders.”
But some observers say the worry is overblown. Darren McKinney is
a spokesman for the National Association of Manufacturers. He says
the U.S. has nothing to fear from German or Japanese businesses.
He says fossil fuels are doing a good job of stoking the American
“The fact of the matter is that wind and solar and biomass and
geothermal simply aren’t ready for prime time. If someone wants to
make an argument ‘well, they could be ready for prime time if they
received x-amount of tax cuts,’ I won’t necessarily argue against that
because I don’t know enough about the technologies. What I do
know is it would be cutting off our nose to spite our energy face if we
turn our backs on fossil fuels.”
Right now, oil and natural gas get the lion’s share of federal subsidies
in the U.S. Subsidies for renewable energy sources are very small in
comparison. As other countries shift to new technologies, American
companies could be left behind.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Stephanie Hemphill.
Sewage overflows during heavy rains have long been implicated in illnesses in people. For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency has come up with an estimate of just how many people are getting sick from swimming at contaminated beaches. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports:
Sewage overflows during heavy rains have long been implicated in
illnesses in people. For the first time, the Environmental Protection
Agency has come up with an estimate of just how many people are getting
sick from swimming at contaminated beaches. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Tracy Samilton reports:
The EPA estimates that somewhere between 3,500 and 5,500 beachgoers get sick
every year when untreated sewage is flushed into rivers, streams and lakes
by heavy rains. The EPA’s Ben Grumbles says the report is another reason
for cities to fix their aging sewage systems – despite the high cost.
“And it can literally add up to hundreds of millions, a couple of billion dollars, for
very large cities, to fix the problem for the long-term.”
Grumbles says many communities can avoid that bigger expense by investing
in new technologies to better manage existing systems – and keeping pipes
well-maintained and free of debris.
Environmental groups say they hope legislators are listening. Congress just reduced
the fund from which communities can get loans for sewer projects by 500 million dollars.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tracy Samilton.
For the past few years, people who have wanted to buy a more energy-efficient car have had to think small. That’s about to change. The floor of this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit offered a look at several new energy-efficient models due out later this year or within the next few years. The auto industry hasn’t sold very many of the cars carrying one type of new technology so far, but officials hope more choices will boost sales. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland has more:
For the past few years, people who have wanted to buy a more energy-efficient car have had to
think small. That’s about to change. The floor of this year’s North American International Auto
Show in Detroit offered a look at several new energy-efficient models due out later this year or
within the next few years. The auto industry hasn’t sold very many of the cars carrying one type
of new technology so far, but officials hope more choices will boost sales. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland has more:
At the Toyota display at this year’s auto show, a small crowd formed around the newest version
of the gasoline-electric Prius. Toyota’s sold the car since 1997, and has made it bigger for this
year. What makes this car different is it’s powered by a gasoline-electric hybrid engine. A few
months ago, Denny Jones of Toledo, Ohio ordered a new Prius. He’s still waiting for delivery, so
he drove to Detroit to sit in one at the auto show.
“First of all, I’ve had other Toyotas, so I like the quality. They’ve made improvements on this
one. There’s hatchback. On the first style you couldn’t have a hatchback. They get better
mileage than the first one. And, overall it is a larger car.”
Gasoline-electric hybrid engines have lower emissions and get better mileage than cars with
standard gasoline engines. Toyota says the Prius gets about 50-miles per gallon. But the only
hybrids on the market so far have been small cars like the Prius and the Honda Civic.
Later this year and next, larger hybrids will roll into showrooms. Honda will offer a hybrid
Accord. And Ford will sell a hybrid version of its Escape SUV. Jerry Bissi braved an afternoon
snowstorm to come to the auto show, and was checking one out.
“I prefer to have an SUV-type vehicle for driving back and forth, all-wheel drive, the weather
conditions we have today outside. So I prefer something like that rather than the car.”
There will be several hybrid SUV’s available by next year. Toyota will sell a hybrid Highlander,
and its luxury division Lexus will offer its own model.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce the world’s first luxury hybrid vehicle, the
Denny Clements is a vice-president at Lexus. He says there seems to be a pent-up demand for
“Our dealers have taken a huge amount of orders just off word of mouth about Prius, I think. I
think what we have when you talk to our customers is there is a lot of very affluent people who
would like to make a statement about Middle East oil, would like to make a statement about who
they are, but they don’t want to make the sacrifices in terms of luxury amenities.”
Toyota says Americans bought about 21-thousand hybrid Priuses last year. But that’s a drop in
the bucket compared to the almost 16-million vehicles sold in the U.S. last year.
“If you added up all the hybrids that have ever been made since the beginning of time, they don’t
equal the production of one high-volume auto plant in one year.”
That’s David Cole. He heads the Center for Automotive Research. He says some people have
shied away from hybrids because they’ve only been available as small cars, and others have been
wary of the new technology. But mostly, Cole says a lot of people aren’t willing to pay more for
“Where it is going to be in the future is dependant on one thing in my judgment and that is
economics. Can it be done at a cost that consumers will pay for?”
So far, Toyota, Lexus and Ford aren’t saying what their new hybrids will cost. Right now a new
hybrid Honda Civic costs about two-thousand dollars more than the most expensive gasoline
model. The federal government offers a tax deduction to hybrid-buyers to help close that gap, but
it is being phased out during the next few years. Some automakers and environmental groups say
it’s not enough anyway. They want Congress to pass a federal tax credit for people who buy
David Friedman is with the Union of Concerned Scientists. He says the automakers’ decision to
offer hybrid engines in more models is an opportunity for the country to become less dependant
on imported oil – if enough people can be persuaded to buy the vehicles.
“If automakers put some of their 10-to-15 billion dollars of advertising muscle behind this, and if
the government is willing to get these tax credits out there, I think we can see hybrids grow into a
significant portion of the market.”
Back at the auto show, Jerry Bissi says he’d consider buying a hybrid SUV. He says he thinks
others will too, if the price is right and they prove to be reliable.
“I think there are a lot of people sitting on the fence. They’re going to watch the first one, see
how it does. If it does prove to be good, they’ll jump on the bandwagon and be late joiners.”
Buyers might need some convincing, though. On this afternoon at the auto show, Ford’s hybrid
version of the Escape SUV drew only a few visitors compared to the crowds surrounding the
standard gasoline-engine Escape and the company’s larger Explorer SUV.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Michael Leland.