Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Keanu Clips Paparazzi In Gas-Guzzling Vehicle

Dude, Where's Your Prius?

Displaying alarming insensitivity, Keanu Reeves reportedly grazed an aggressive photographer leaving a club here in Los Angeles in the early hours this morning driving a Porsche.

A Porsche, man!? Sheesh, Keanu. Not only is it poor form to be caught inside one of those things, but Porsches get under 1500 photographers per gallon! That is definitely not the way to deal with that kind of situation. If you're going to nail a 'Razzi here's our recommendation.

Keanu Reloaded !!

A Prius is the stealth-vehicle of choice when side-swiping privacy-infringing parasites. They're quiet, they're fuel-efficient and they don't leave marks. What were you thinking?

(This item is posted in partial fulfillment of the original stated mission of The Weekly Green Planet -- to bring you eco-celebrity-news)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

SAVING THE DAY (LITE) -- Brazil Bush; The EU Biofuel Goals

It will surprise no one who lived through the great 'Opec' oil crisis of the 70's that Congress's rush to implement an early start to Daylight Savings may result in zero net energy savings. What's hard to accept about Global Warming is that it admits of no easy solutions. It's a 'global' problem: Savings in one area produce costs somewhere else.

In a study last year, the U.S. Department of Energy estimated that, overall, this year's extension into March and November will save little — less than 1 percent of the nation's annual consumption. Another recent study, by the California Energy Commission, came to a similar conclusion. These estimates may be optimistic. The Golfing industry expects $200 million in added revenue from equipment sales and greens fees as a result of the extended evening hours. Factor in automotive use, multiply by millions of shoppers and what do you get?

Skeptics won't be heartened to learn its principle backers were Republican lawmakers who funded a post hoc $150 million study of the energy savings while tacking on subsidies for the oil and nuclear industry.

Like 'Evolution', Global Warming poses a hard set of facts. It doesn't care we suddenly 'care' and is fairly intractible. Consequently, like Darwin's Dangerous Idea, the public is prey to snakeoil salesmen, preferring hopeful solutions taken on faith to facing the grim realities.
The headlines from Brazil show Bush & Lula in an ethanol embrace. But bioethanol and biodiesel from energy crops compete for land that grows food and can return less energy than the fossil fuel energy squandered in producing them while doing serious damage to the environment. American corn-based ethanol, buoyed by trade-stifling subsidies, is less GHG-friendly (Green House Gas-friendly) than Brazil’s sugar cane-based ethanol, which currently can’t come to the U.S. due to stiff tariff barriers, but whose increased production will undoubtedly encourage more rain forest destruction.

A few years ago, politicians and green groups in the Netherlands were thrilled by the country's early, rapid adoption of "sustainable energy," in part by coaxing electricity plants to use biofuel. In particular, palm oil from Southeast Asia. But last year, when scientists studied practices at palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, this fairy tale began to look like a nightmare.

Spurred by government subsidies, enthusiastic energy companies designed generators that ran exclusively on palm oil. Rising demand brought about the razing of Southeast Asian rain forest and the overuse of chemical fertilizer. Worse still, space for the expanding palm plantations was often created by draining and burning peat land, sending huge amounts of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Factoring in these emissions, Indonesia had become the world's third-leading producer of greenhouse gases.

"If you make biofuels properly, you will reduce greenhouse emissions," said Peder Jensen, of the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen. "But that depends very much on the types of plants and how they're grown and processed. You can end up with a 90 percent reduction compared to fossil fuels — or a 20 percent increase."

"Its important to take a life cycle view," he said, and not to "just see what the effects are here in Europe."

Biofuelswatch, an environmental group in Britain, now say that "biofuels should not automatically be classed as 'renewable energy.'" It supports a moratorium on subsidies until more research is done to define which biofuels are truly good for the planet.

Unfortunately, biofuels from energy crops cannot substitute for current fossil fuel use. The major constraints are available land surface, crop yields, and energy conversion efficiency, although economics also plays a large role. A one mile-per-gallon increase in car fuel efficiency would, apparently, far outweigh any gains from ethanol at present and the near-term future.

And there’s a huge debate about ethanol’s real energy costs. Some contend it takes more fossil energy input to produce the equivalent energy in biofuel. Recent analyses show that current production methods offer only a small positive energy balance and little if any savings in greenhouse gas emissions, even with the most favourable assumptions built in.

The much joked-about switchgrass, however, appears to be the best biofuel candidate for subsidies. A perennial native to the USA, it’s prolific, does not require much nitrogen fertilizer, and does the least environmental damage.

Grown for burning, as biomass, it would be the cheapest biofuel both in energy and financial terms, as it requires minimum processing after harvest. Substituting for coal it is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 1.7 t CO2 per t switchgrass.

The economic consequences of excessive corn production in Iowa, the largest corn producer, has led to a 10-fold price decline between 1949 and 2005 as corn yields tripled. Today, Iowa farmers earn a third for the corn they sell compared to 1949, while their production costs have increased many times because they burn methane and diesel to produce corn.

The price of methane has increased several-fold in the last three years. "Corn crop subsidies supplemented the market corn price by up to 50 percent between 1995 and 2004." an expert writes, "the United States has already wasted a lot of time, money, and natural resources…..pursuing a mirage of an energy scheme that cannot possibly replace fossil fuels…The only real solution is to limit the rate of use of these fossil fuels."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cheney Contemplating ‘Vice Presidential’ Pardon For Libby

Dismayed by Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby’s conviction on obstruction of justice charges today, Vice President Cheney is considering granting his former Chief of Staff a pardon. Seen here examining the Constitution, when questioned the testy Veep sneered, "If I can reveal state secrets and expose a CIA agent with impunity, what makes you think I can't grant pardons? Might even grant myself one." Before returning to his reading, the irritable Vice Head of State was heard to chuckle sourly, "Besides, who’s going to gainsay me, Tony Scalia?"

Representative Men

IT IS NATURAL to believe in great men...The search after the great man is the dream of youth and the most serious occupation of manhood... Other men are lenses through which we read our own minds... A new quality of mind travels by night and by day, in concentric circles from its origin, and publishes itself by unknown methods… The genius of humanity is the right point of view of history. This is the key to the power of the greatest men - their spirit diffuses itself… We are as much gainers by finding a new property in the old earth as by acquiring a new planet.
Emerson, "The Uses Of Great Men" from REPRESENTATIVE MEN

Thursday, March 01, 2007


(The second in our not so long-running 'Truthiness' series)

bloomin' cotton

Given the popularity of WGP’s SOY UNDERWEAR column, today we answer the question:
What is ‘organic cotton’?

Simply put, 'organic' cotton is non-genetically modified cotton grown without the use of inorganic pesticides and fertilizers. Okay. That said, what’s the big deal?

The answer is tied to this fact -- less than a third of all cotton grown in the world today is GM, genetically-modified cotton. I.e., , it's not that GM cotton is so prevalent. But, less than 0.1 percent of all cotton is grown without using inorganic pesticides and fertilizers.

So the 'organic' label bears on the fact that the cotton is grown without "inorganic" pesticides and fertilizers. Not that it doesn't use some form of pesticide and fertilizers. Perhaps you can see where we're going with this.

The real issue with "organic cotton," it seems to us, is who is reaping the profits.

Cotton fibre is the fabric of life in Asia, Africa and South America. Globally, more than 50 million farmers grow it, but many receive a low price. There’s a fast-growing niche for organic, or low-input cotton. But the question, posed by Camilla Toulmin Director of the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), is, "How can we be sure that the increasing demand and premiums for organic, or low-input cotton, will bring better prices to farmers and not just benefit others in the supply chain?" In other words, those glossy, high-end marketers of the stuff we see on the internet.

Organic cotton sells for up to 20 percent more than non-organic cotton and the amount produced, not surprisingly, has increased by 35 percent a year since 2002.

The viability of cotton farming, however, hangs by a thread. Industry analysts attribute current low market prices for raw cotton to the oversupply of subsidized American cotton on the world market. American farmers receive $3.5 billion in subsidies. Most developing country farmers receive no subsidies but suffer the consequences of lower world market prices.

"Despite successful appeals led by Brazil, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Chad and a ruling by the World Trade Organisation that has stipulated to the US government that its cotton subsidies contravene global trade rules," says Toulmin, "the US seems happy to ignore the multilateral rules when it suits its interests."


After fierce lobbying from Spain, the European Union (the EU) has also recently postponed reducing its support to EU cotton growers.

' organic' cotton bloomers

So, if you’re going to buy right, here’s the cotton club you want to be a member of. To support the two million cotton farmers in West Africa, a number of initiatives to increase returns are underway. "Currently farmers in Mali get 165 francs per kilo of seed cotton," explains Toulmin. "But costs of production are more like 180-190 francs a kilo."

In Mali, organic cotton certified to European standards is supported by Helvetas, a Swiss NGO. Standards linking ecological criteria with fair trade and social justice concepts for cotton are also promoted by Max Havelaar and the Fairtrade Labelling Organisation to give growers a premium considerably above the conventional price.

In Benin and Burkina Faso an alliance (GTZ, the German technical agency, the OTTO clothing group and local textile companies) is pushing ahead with introducing reduced pesticide use, and forging closer links between growers and buyers.

On a more global scale, the Better Cotton Initiative of UNEP, WWF and others aims to set standards in West Africa, Asia and Brazil at a level, which could involve 50 percent of cotton producers; in contrast to the much smaller proportion likely to attain Fairtrade and organic certification, estimated at around five percent.

So, if you want to wear "organic cotton" with a social conscience it’s not the pesticides and inorganic fertilizers you should be most concerned with – it’s making sure the cotton itself comes from the above sources.