Report claims photovoltaic power is the greenest of all

According to a just-released report from a California environmental group “Photovoltaics provide the most long-term, abundant, sustainable source of electricity generation available”.

The report, Clean and Green: Best Practices in Photovoltaics, reports on environmental as well as health and safety risks in manufacturing photovoltaic panels. It concludes that many manufacturers are outperforming standards set for emissions, are reducing water use and reusing water on their own initiatives, and are participating in voluntary international programs related to worker safety. By presenting best practices, the environmental group As You Sow hopes to further improve sustainaility aspects of PV manufacturing and assist purchasers to identify PV panels made to the highest standards. The best news is that the group concludes that, despite some concerns about the toxic substances used in PV panel manufacturing, PV still out performs all other energy sources from an environmental perspective.

The 30 page report is available at http://www.asyousow.org/publications/2012/AsYouSow_BestPracticesinPhotovoltaics_PressRelease_20120328.pdf

Ontario Budget mostly ignores environment

It is difficult to assess the reason but today’s Ontario budget contains less for the environment than any provincial or federal budget in recent years. Maybe the McGuinty Liberal government has been reading too much into those headlines that state that environment has suffered a major decline in public policy importance, even though more than 40% of Canadians are still significantly concerned about the environment and understand the environment – economy connection.

The only energy or environment-related initiative to make today’s Budget speech is a plan to cap the Ontario Clean Energy Benefit at 3000 kilowatt-hours per month, meaning that the amount of electricity discount received by commercial and industrial users will be significantly reduced. GallonDaily sees that as a small but significant move in the right direction for full-cost pricing of electricity.

The Budget also announced that:

  • the Drive Clean vehicle emissions program is a proposed candidate for delivery through a Delegated Administrative Authority (DAA) model, ie. private sector administration with administrative costs recovered from vehicle fees. That despite the fact that Drive Clean has been a vehicle for scandal and, GallonDaily predicts, could easily be one again.
  • the ministry of the Environment has funding to manage hazardous wastes through a new grant program under the Selected Household Hazardous Waste Initiative. Funding was allocated to support the collection and management of some selected wastes through retail locations, such as pharmacies. The ministry is working on options for continued management of these wastes at a reduced cost. GallonDaily notes that this is one of the areas that has got caught up in the problems of the Ontario extended producer responsibility initiative and that a revamping of the program is overdue.
  • for the Ministry of Natural Resources, new legal requirements for permitting, licensing, and the stewardship of Crown land and resources are proposed as part of the Budget. These legislative amendments would change requirements, business lines and delivery structures within the ministry to enable a shift to permit by rule rather than individual authorizations; empower the Minister of Natural Resources to delegate approval to third parties; and adjust the frequency or scale of future resource planning activities.
  • for municipalities, the Budget states that the government remains committed to working with its municipal partners to help ensure the sustainability of core municipal infrastructure. Roads, bridges, water systems and wastewater systems account for approximately 70 per cent of the replacement value of municipal public infrastructure in Ontario, and are a critical component of a strong economy. Funding for municipal infrastructure has totaled approximately $13 billion since 2003. GallonDaily is disappointed, though not surprised, that this government has apparently not made a move towards full cost pricing of municipal infrastructure as proposed by former federal Liberal Finance Minister Paul Martin and as legislated but never implemented by the former Ontario Progressive Conservative government.
  • programs within the Ministry of Natural Resources are being redesigned to shift more financial and management responsibility to agencies outside of the provincial government. A list of these initiatives can be found at http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/ontariobudgets/2012/ch1.html#c1_ministryONRT
  • fees for water takings will increase
  • fees for environmental Certificates of Approval and other permits are likely to increase on a scale yet to be determined.
  • fees for tracking of hazardous waste will increase, apparently on an ongoing basis.

Where past GallonLetter Budget reviews have identified more than a dozen significant environmental initiatives, the above are all we have found so far in the 2012 Ontario Budget. If you are interested in digging further, the budget can be found at http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/budget/ontariobudgets/2012/

 

Environment and energy: virtually tied in US poll

Environmental protection is rising again in US public opinion, according to a Gallup poll conducted earlier this month. The poll results indicate that 47% of Americans say production of energy supplies should be prioritized while 44% say environmental protection should be.

Like many pollsters, Gallup states that environment has fallen below energy as a US public opinion priority in recent years. GallonDaily, with a longer memory than most pollsters, suggests that the fact that environment has remained over 40% as a public opinion priority during the entire past decade and into this decade suggests that environment has finally come of age and that a significant percentage of the public, even in the US,  consider that protecting our environment should remain a priority even during an economic downturn. In the 1980′s environment was a priority for less than 5% of the public.

The Gallup poll results are summarized in a very readable form at http://www.gallup.com/poll/153404/Americans-Split-Energy-Environment-Trade-Off.aspx?utm_source=tagrss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syndication

Oil production data

Debates on environmental issues are best when informed by facts. Last week the U.S. Energy Information Administration released piles of information on world oil production. GallonDaily found it interesting to note that, in 2011, Canada produced only about one third as much oil as the United States itself.

In 2011 Canada produced 22% of the oil produced in North America, Mexico produced 18%, and the United States produced 60%. On a global scale, Canada produced 4% of world oil production.

Canada’s production is 3.67 million barrels per day, compared to production of 10.1 million barrels per day in the United States. Canadian refinery capacity is 2.0 million barrels per day compared to 17.7 million barrels per day refinery capacity in the U.S.

Despite rhetoric one often hears from Canadian sources, the Energy Information Administration states that OPEC countries still control about 70% of the world’s proven oil reserves and they produce 41% of the world’s oil supply.

Gallon Environment Letter will be covering more of the useful data provided by the Energy Information Administration in upcoming issues.

The latest data on the major players supplying the world oil market is at http://www.eia.gov/energy_in_brief/world_oil_market.cfm

Scam conference

Emails and websites touting scam conferences are becoming more common. For some reason many of these fake conferences purport to be on environmental topics.

The reasons for these fake conference invitations are not always clear but are most often associated with extracting money from registrants or verifying email addresses.

One that very recently came by email to GallonDaily’s attention is the Global Warming International Conference 2012, purportedly to be held in London, UK, from 20th to 24th April 2012. According to the scamwarners.com website, this conference is a fake and even the conference hotel, which has a very sophisticated looking website ready to take your booking, does not exist.

GallonDaily intends to launch a service in the near future which will, for a small fee, verify whether or not an environmental conference is genuine. In the meantime we invite readers to ask questions about any environmental conferences that they wish to have verified. We will do our best to provide the information within 2 working days of the request for information.

You can view the invitation for the fake  Global Warming International Conference 2012 at http://www.scamwarners.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=40&p=91433

Concern over endocrine disruptors raised a notch

A review article published recently by the peer-reviewed journal Endocrine Reviews is raising further concern about endocrine disrupting chemicals. One of the main findings reported in the article is that EDCs do not follow the traditional relationship between dose and response, “the dose makes the poison”, that is seen in many toxic chemicals. Instead, EDCs, which are chemicals which mimic natural hormones, are non-monotonic, which means that exposure to very small doses may cause a significant response in the body of mammals, including humans.

The paper lists non-monotonic dose-response curves not only from bisphenol A but also for atrazine, dioxins, hexachlorobenzene, methyl paraben, nicotine, nonylphenol, PCBs, perchlorate, sodium fluoride, tributyltin oxide and other substances some of which are commonly found in products or the environment at very low levels.

The authors:

  • encourage scientists and journal editors to publish data demonstrating NMDRCs and low-dose effects, even if the exact mechanism of action has not yet been elucidated.
  • further recommend greatly expanded and generalized safety testing and surveillance to detect potential adverse effects of this broad class of chemicals. Before new chemicals are developed, a wider range of doses, extending into the low-dose range, should be fully tested.

The full article and an abstract are available at http://edrv.endojournals.org/content/early/2012/03/14/er.2011-1050.abstract

Cosmetic safety issues heading for big debate

Draft legislation to give the US Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate the ingredients of cosmetics may soon be discussed by a Congressional committee. The legislation stands essentially no chance of passage but the debate between the industry and Republican members of Congress on one side and environmental and consumer advocates along with some Democrats on the other side could become very heated with high media profile.

The bill, known as the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, H.R. 2359, includes provisions to:

  • establish labeling requirements;
  • establish a safety standard that provides a reasonable certainty of no harm from exposure to a cosmetic or an ingredient in a cosmetic and that protects the public from any known or anticipated adverse health effects associated with the cosmetic or ingredient; and
  • requires the FDA to issue guidance prescribing good manufacturing practices for cosmetics and ingredients.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics states “It’s up to Congress to close gaping holes in the outdated federal law that allows cancer-causing chemicals in baby shampoo, hormone disruptors in fragrance and lead in lipstick.” The cosmetics industry is less than enthusiastic about the proposed legislation.

The bill can be found at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr2359ih/pdf/BILLS-112hr2359ih.pdf

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics position in support of the bill can be found at http://safecosmetics.org/section.php?id=74

An industry view can be found by searching for 2359 on the personalcaretruth.com website and especially at http://personalcaretruth.com/2011/07/personal-care-truth-responds-to-cosmetics-bill-hr2359-safe-cosmetics-act-of-2011/

Environment Minister Peter Kent tries to reassure Canadians

In remarks today to the Globe conference, Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent seemed to be trying to reassure Canadians that the federal government continues to take science and environmental protection especially seriously. Key points included:

  • Our work is rooted in science, measurement, monitoring, analysis and the enforcement of rigorous rules and standards.
  • At Environment Canada, we are convinced that our status as a world-class regulator requires us to innovate at all levels of our operations, all the time.
  • The role of government is . . . to work to remove the barriers and impediments to growth and ensure the health and safety of our citizens and our shared environment.
  • People on either side are passionate about their position and are rooted in a deep desire to protect and preserve. . . All of these positions have merit and none are paramount.
  • If there is one word that characterizes Canada I believe it is “diversity”. Diversity of people and cultures. Diversity of beliefs and ideology… Diversity of geography and opportunity. The federal government’s role is to find common place among divergent perspectives and develop effective public policy.
  • My job as Environment Minister is not to shut down industry or deny development of our natural resources. . .My job is to ensure that Canada’s industrial operations are subject to robust environmental scrutiny.
  • Environmental assessments are required at all levels of government on projects big or small. Every jurisdiction doing its part to protect the environment by imposing what amounts to overlapping, duplicative and inefficient regulatory burden. But that process can get slow and bulky pretty fast. It’s always important to remember that when you’re talking about environmental rules–less can be more. And quantity should never be confused with quality.
  • We at Environment Canada take our role as a “world-class regulator” very, very seriously.
  • The rule of “one project, one review,” reduces expensive duplication and if anything, makes that one review even more focused and more stringent. We’re also using that same practical strategy to frame our domestic strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent over 2005 levels by 2020.

GallonDaily’s response: institutions are measured by what they do, not what they say they do. We will be listening more closely than usual to the March 29th federal budget.

The Minister’s speech to GLOBE 2012 can be found at http://www.ec.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&n=6F2DE1CA-1&news=BB188B8A-58E9-4CC0-8E6D-327D0675E1A3

More shoppers want green packaging: survey

A survey of consumers indicates that more shoppers want to see greener packaging, according to data collected by Perception Research Services in the United States. Findings include:

  • the percentage who would like to see more environmentally friendly packaging has increased from 28% in 2010 to 36% in 2012.
  • 59% state that seeing environmental claims on packaging positively impacts their behavior, to either buy more of the brands they usually do, or switch to other brands.
  • roughly half of shoppers continue to notice environmental claims at a high level.
  • the number that report that there is not enough environmental information on packages has increased from 20% in 2010 to 26% this year.
  • the number who say they are confused by all the different environmental claims has increased from 12% in 2010 to 20% this year.

More data are available in the Perception Research Services press release at http://www.prsresearch.com/about-prs/announcements/article/packaging-and-the-environment-shoppers-say-please-help-me/

Insulated window glass that darkens or lightens electronically

People love buildings with huge expanses of glass so that they can see what is going on in the outside world. However, buildings with large expanses of window typically get too hot in summer and can lose too much heat in winter. Window shades are often used to mitigate against the effects of too much sun entering the enclosed space.

A new product called SageGlass overcomes most of the heat and light transmission problems. Windows made of SageGlass can be made darker or lighter manually or automatically. At their darkest, SageGlass windows reduce visible light transmission by 98%. They are also LEED qualified, helping builders and building owners score up to 8 LEED points in 5 categories. LEED is rapidly becoming the dominant standard for energy efficient buildings in North America.

SageGlass is not the only product of its kind but it does appear to be taking a significant share of the market for both commercial and residential windows in new construction. GallonDaily suggests that it is certainly a window glass product that is worth looking into.

Details can be found on the manufacturer’s site at http://sageglass.com/