Government Policies

Will creepy photos or eco facts get Americans to quit smoking?

Will creepy photos or eco facts get Americans to quit smoking? In the age of shock and awe it takes a lot of effort to get a person’s attention, especially smokers. They’ve been told by medical professionals dangerous impact of their habit, but addiction keeps them puffing away. The FDA hopes that adding shocking photos on cigarette packs may make people quit, but they may need more firepower than stock photos.

London gets juiced up with new electric car charging stations

London gets juiced up with new electric car charging stations Most drivers have a friendly neighborhood gas station, but what about electric car charging points? Chances are you’re more likely to find a one in your neighbor’s garage next to their shiny new Volt or Leaf than on Main Street. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, aims to make them as commonplace as gas stations with a plan to put an EV charging station within one mile of every resident.

The European Union looks at banning plastic bags

The European Union looks at banning plastic bagsPerhaps inspired by the recent Tainted Green article on plastic waste, the European Union is considering a tax or ban on single use plastic bags. The European Commission is taking public comments until August 2011 regarding such policies aimed at reducing plastic waste.

Although plastic carrier bags, such as HDPE bags used for groceries, are recyclable, the size and lightness of the bags allow many to escape the waste management stream. An estimated 500 metric tonnes (over a million pounds) of plastic debris float in the Mediterranean, causing havoc to the marine environment.

Japan embraces a new kind of air conditioning, Hawaiian shirts

Japan embraces a new kind of air conditioning, Hawaiian shirts In the humid summer months many of us rely on air conditioning to keep our homes and workplaces cool. However, this luxury may not be a reality in power-starved Japan after the Tohoku earthquake and damage to several power plants like Fukushima. Japan's Ministry of the Environment (MOE) hopes that an old plan that encouraged salarymen to get rid of stuffy suits can lessen the load that air conditioning places on the power grid.

Gulf oil spill shows the need to put a price tag on nature

Gulf oil spill shows the need to put a price tag on natureEcosystem services refers to vital services natural systems provide that, if damaged or degraded, are expensive or impossible to replace. In the rush to exploit non-renewable energy sources, the value of these services is not currently taken into account. As a result, private interests put public assets at risk to the detriment of both public and private enterprises.

The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill last year clearly shows the need to value ecosystem services. The Gulf Coast region provides important resources, such as nurseries for fisheries and wetlands to mitigate hurricane damage. These resources provide value simply by being there. Unfortunately, the economic benefits of wetlands and fish nurseries are not recognized until they are damaged by an event such as the BP oil spill.

Prius owners lose their cushy carpool lane pass July 1st

Prius owners lose their cushy carpool lane pass July 1st

Due to its homegrown car culture, California has been working hard to get drivers to adopt green cars like Toyota’s Prius. Some cities offered free parking to Prius owners and the state even bent the rules when it came to the carpool or “High Occupancy Vehicle” (HOV) lane. With the arrival of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, Prius owners are being pushed out of the carpool lane to make room for the new kids on the block.

Carbon footprints don’t raise environmental commitment

Carbon footprints don’t raise environmental commitmentCalculating ecological footprints is a technique to quantify a person’s impact on the environment. This calculation determines how much land and sea area is required to both provide for consumption and to absorb waste. A similar technique is determining carbon footprint, which calculates the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by a person or household.

The purpose of both these techniques is to give people a better grasp of the impact of their behavior and choices on the environment. The intent is that, armed with that such knowledge, people would make better choices. A recent study indicated, however, that such techniques might have the opposite effect, particularly for people who don’t have a strong commitment being environmentally responsible.

According to Santa Clara University psychologist Amara Brook:

The battery weight in Leaf and Volt is good for safety but bad for roads

The battery weight in Leaf and Volt are good for safety but bad for roadsThe battery packs that power electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt are extremely heavy. This feature improves the safety rating of the EV’s, but also leads to more road wear. Since road maintenance is financed mainly with fuel taxes on gasoline and diesel, drivers of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt get a free ride. Taxing drivers per mile rather than per gallon would be a fairer way to fund road maintenance.

Road maintenance is currently funded by the Highway Trust Fund, which is financed by federal fuel taxes set at 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel in 1993. Since 2008, however, highway spending surpassed the revenues from the trust fund. To make up the shortfall, the Treasury has had to provide $30 billon to the trust fund.

Prius and Volt owners need to pay for roads too

Prius and Volt owners need to pay for roads too

Although fuel taxes encourage people to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and Chevy Volt, these vehicles still use roads and cause road wear. But funding to repair roads comes from fuel taxes, and, as more people drive the Prius and Volt and other fuel-efficient cars, the revenue from fuel taxes can no longer cover required highway spending. A solution to this funding shortfall is to tax drivers per mile rather than per gallon.

The Highway Trust Fund, financed by federal fuel taxes set at 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel in 1993, provides funding to repair and build federal highways. Since 2008, however, highway spending surpassed the revenues from the trust fund. To make up the shortfall, the Treasury has had to provide $30 billon to the trust fund.

Building trails and open spaces requires open minds

Building trails and open spaces requires open minds From the country to the city, people oppose efforts for trails, bike lanes and open spaces. But in spite of homeowner’s fears, greenways and trails bring both economic and recreational benefits to communities. Even though the value of trails and greenways are well documented, the only way to convince people of these benefits is to persevere and build the greenway.

A recent study prepared by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, Econsult Corporation, and Keystone Conservation Trust quantified the value of the open space in a 5-county region in southeastern Pennsylvania, which includes Philadelphia. Around 14% of the region - 300 square miles – is protected as open space or trails.