Friday, February 29, 2008

Green Jobs in Richmond and Cleveland

What's a "green job"? I recently came across the term in a news article. Perhaps not surprisingly, a "green job" is one that contributes to the production of renewable energy--putting up/maintaining wind farms and installing solar panels are just a few examples. As people across the country have become more aware of environmental issues and what they can do to fix them, and as the economy has taken a turn for the worse, the demand for "green collar jobs" has increased; in addition to being an important part of the environmental policies of the various presidential hopefuls, green jobs have been the subject of an exciting experiment right here in the Bay Area.

The concept of "green collar jobs" is music to the ears of the presidential candidates: green jobs benefit the country economically, while being great for the environment. Thus, Clinton, Obama, and McCain have all stepped out in favor of increasing green jobs. This is one issue on which all three of the candidates seem to agree: all three promise to increase funding and incentives for green collar jobs across America, although few specific numbers have been disclosed by the campaigns.

Meanwhile, the city of Richmond has decided to take the matter into its own hands with an ambitious program designed to train low-income residents for green jobs. The program teaches workers how to install residential solar electric systems, and the hope is that at least some of these workers will be able to take these skills and convert them to a career, thus helping them out of poverty and helping the environment at the same time. To put these new green collar workers to good use, Solar Richmond oversees a project that offers free solar electric system installations to low-income Richmond families. With these combined efforts, Richmond hopes to

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New Poll: Choose your (green) President

Hi everyone. I just posted a new poll, in the spirit of the primaries and the election excitement that promises to continue until November. Pretty straight-forward. I think it'd be interesting to hear some comments on this one, too, so feel free to leave a message on this post after you vote.

Ask Dr. Green: What could we have done better with the SF Bay oil spill?

I got a question from the Green Screen's Tyler Jolley a little while ago, in response to my mini-article on the aftermath of the November oil spill in the SF bay: "I did the original interview about the oil spill right after it happened and well we were cleaning up. Personaly i think we did really good cleaning it up and handling the effects afterwards but i may be wrong do you think we could have done better and if so why would you say that?" In my article, I did say that many people were angry at the way the spill and the clean-up was handled. For the most part, though, I was referring to the efforts of the government agencies that should have been responsible for the clean-up efforts, like the US Department of Fish and Game. The spill was the legal responsibility of this agency, and many people feel that not enough help was provided in cleaning it up. The civilian clean-up efforts were great, I'm not criticizing or degrading them at all. But civilians have limited time, strength, and monetary resources, and thus the job could have been done more quickly, efficiently, and completely had the government stepped in.

Sound off in the comments if you'd like to respond.And here is the rest of it.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

February's Green Thing: Use Body Heat

There's a new Green Thing for February, and it's just perfect for Valentine's Day--instead of cranking up thermostats and radiators, the Green Thing is challenging members to "use their body warmth". What does that mean, though? The website suggests the obvious "put on a sweater," but also suggests snuggling up with someone as a great way to get warm. It works, people! See the inspiring, American Apparel-filled video below, and happy snuggling!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Ask Dr. Green: Where are the "green" cars?

A few weeks ago, Earthteam received a great question from Elizabeth Price at St. Mary's High School: "With all this talk about electric vehicles in today's expanding hybrid market, what's the deal? Are electric cars an important part of the green transportation industry, or have they not caught on as successfully as may have been expected? And whatever happened to those hydrogen fuel cell stations?"
I've actually been following this topic for a while now, and, especially in the midst of the primaries, with the various candidates making promises about fixing this issue, I did a little more research. So here's my attempted response to this very important and very complicated question.

While great strides have been made in the pursuit of a truly "green" car, especially in Europe (see the Smart cars and their various miniscule competitors) and Asia (Toyota and Honda are continuing to pioneer alternative energy research), a lot of these advances haven't made it to the US for various reasons. One major reason is a political one: it's no secret that the Bush administration has significant ties to the American oil and automobile industries, and importing new green energy technology (and imposing new green energy standards) would hurt the bottom lines of oil giants. Another big factor that shouldn't be underestimated, however, is the question of whether American culture and the American people are ready to commit to hybrid, fuel-cell, and e-85 vehicles. It might seem like a no-brainer in the Bay Area--where there are just as many Priuses on the streets of San Francisco and Berkeley as there are SUVs (maybe more). But American car culture is so deeply ingrained in people's thoughts, and Americans do love their SUVs. Thus, while legislation in favor of higher fuel-efficiency standards has been gaining a bit of steam (notably in California), and though the demand for hybrids has increased in recent years, neither of these factors have been enough to effect a major shift in the market, especially toward electric cars. There might be a change on the way, though.

This year's election is a big one for many reasons, not the least of which being the environment. The three front-running candidates--Clinton, Obama, and McCain--all have bold environmental plans, and the two Democrats are promising to devote major time and money to the issue of making our transportation more efficient. Clinton, for example, pledges to raise the fuel-efficiency standard to 55 miles per gallon in the next 20 years; whether or not that'll be achieved with electric cars is better left to the engineers. But a change in administration will almost certainly lead to better fuel-efficiency legislation, and as the market for fuel-efficient cars increases (and as the price of gas continues to soar), I predict that more and more companies, even American ones, will reconsider electric vehicles as a major business opportunity. 

Consider Chevrolet. Anyone seen those commercials? They're making a lot of noise about their new fuel-efficiency research (see image above). Chevy has been talking about their Volt concept for quite a while now--the good-looking, sporty sedan that runs on gas, E-85, biodiesel OR electricity. But whether it'll get made any time soon...that's the real question. As is whether other companies will follow its lead, or whether American consumers will buy into the idea.

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