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[1THING] Blog: Archive for November, 2012

[ Oil Train Revival: Booming North Dakota Relies on Rail to Deliver Its ]

In the booming North Dakota’s Bakken Shale region, producers aren’t waiting for pipelines. In a reprise of the industry’s pioneering days, they’re loading oil on railroads.


[ Holiday Treat… ]

The first weekend of December, I thought I would try an Eggnog cake. Grab your organic ingredients and enjoy! Even if it’s going to be in the lower ’80s in ATX!

Eggnog Breakfast Crumble Crunch Cake

Makes one 9×13 cake

Ingredients: Organic Rock for Mama Earth and for you!

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon + an extra 1/4 teaspoon
1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar + and extra 1/3 cup
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup eggnog –HorizonOrganic /Low Fat

Crumble topping
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Eggnog glaze
1/3 cup eggnog HorizonOrganic/Low Fat
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of nutmeg


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. In a small bowl, combine 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. In another small bowl, combine flours, baking
powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon, then whisk to combine.

In a large bowl, add butter and sugars and whisk until smooth. Whisk in eggs one a time, mixing until
completely combined, then stir in vanilla extract. Stir in dry ingredients,
mixing until a batter forms, then whisk in eggnog until smooth. Pour half of the
batter in the baking dish, then sprinkle the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture over
top. Cover with remaining batter, gently using a spatula to spread over sugar
if needed. Don’t worry if some of the sugar peeks through. Top with the

To make the crumble: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over cake, then
bake for 30-35 minutes, or until cake is set in the middle. While cake is
baking, make glaze below. After removing cake from oven, immediately poke holes
all throughout the cake with a toothpick, then drizzle glaze over top.

To make glaze: Whisk all ingredients together in a small saucepan over medium heat, and allow to come to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat and let sit until
cake is finished.

Note: You can use dairy or non-dairy eggnog. In the last month I’ve made this with cow’s milk eggnog and coconut milk eggnog – great result each time!


[ Car Sharing Redefines the Value of a Parking Space ]

For many cities, car sharing has presented a compelling solution to public transit crowding and traffic snarls (see related story: “Car Sharing Widens the Lanes of Access for City Drivers“). Services such as Zipcar and Car2go offer the opportunity to cut the number of cars on city streets, but a price for hosting those services’ fleets is paid in the loss of precious, centrally located parking spots.

The potential impact of car-sharing fleets on parking availability for car owners was enough to make the community of Manhattan Beach, California, pause this week before approving a deal with the Daimler-owned Car2go. City council members said that a parking study was needed before they could support Car2go’s proposal to bring the service into nine cities in the South Bay area of Los Angeles.

Ironically, taking curbside parking spots out of the general pool and dedicating them to shared vehicles is seen as part of the solution to the parking and congestion problem. It’s an idea that has met some success—as well as some complaints from residents—in Hoboken, New Jersey, one of the most densely populated areas in the United States.

Located just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, Hoboken has dedicated more than 40 of its 9,000 on-street parking spaces to a car-share program known as Corner Cars. Hertz operates the program and pays the city $100 per spot each month, while charging members $5 to $16 an hour for the cars. Bright green paint marks off pairs of spots reserved for Corner Cars every few blocks.

Two years after the program’s launch, about a quarter of Corner Cars’ 3,000 members have reportedly given up their own cars or put off buying a new one because of access to the shared wheels. (See related story: “To Curb Driving, Cities Cut Down on Car Parking“)

Of course, some residents complain that they would gladly pay $100 to rent a prime parking spot—never mind the city’s argument that one spot can provide convenience to many more residents if it is occupied by a shared vehicle instead of a private car.

Some cities, on the other hand, are capitalizing on the high value of convenient city parking. Washington, D.C. has opted to auction off dozens of spots formerly awarded for free to Zipcar. Last year, the District set a minimum bid price of $3,600 per space, and drew offers from three car sharing companies. Zipcar went from having 86 parking spots to only 12 spots in the slightly smaller pool of 84 spots now dedicated to shared cars.

In San Francisco, meanwhile, securing on-street parking and charging locations remains one of the challenges for BMW DriveNow electric fleet, which launched in the city this past August. For now, says DriveNow CEO Richard Steinberg, the solution is to seek private parking locations.

On the other side of the globe, in a country with one of the highest car ownership rates of all the advanced nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Sydney, Australia, is now home to more than 9,000 car-sharing members. That’s up from 4,000 members two years ago, and by 2016 the city aims to boost car-sharing among its residents to 10 percent of all households for an estimated 15,000 members in all.

Among other forms of support for the shift, the city provides parking at curbside and in city car parks while integrating car sharing into urban renewal areas. Viewing car sharing as a “crucial complement to a sustainable transport system,” the city writes that “The availability of shared cars provides the peace-of-mind and flexibility needed for residents who have chosen to base their travel predominantly on public transport, walking and cycling.”


[ Ford Fusion Named the Green Car of the Year 2013 ]

With two of its cars among the five finalists, Ford took the Green Car of the Year Award for its 2013 Fusion on Thursday at the LA Auto Show.

The newly redesigned, midsize sedan is offered with three different engines: gas-electric hybrid, plug-in hybrid and gasoline. The base model starts at $21,700, while the gas-electric hybrid, rated at 47 mpg for both city and highway driving by the EPA, starts at $27,200.

The Fusion was recognized for its low petroleum use and low carbon dioxide emissions, as well as for its competitive pricing, reported the LA Times.

The Green Car Journal’s award is decided by a prestigious panel of judges, including environmental leaders such as Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, Global Green USA President Matt Petersen, and Ocean Futures Society president Jean-Michel Cousteau, along with car enthusiast and late night comedian Jay Leno and the journal’s staff.

“We’ve moved our brand from laggard to leader in fuel economy,” said Dave Mondragon, Ford’s general marketing manager as he accepted the award.

“The 2013 Ford Fusion approaches the market with a ‘game-on’ attitude,” said Ron Cogan, publisher of The Green Car Journal.

U.S. automakers were well represented in the group of finalists for the recognition. The Fusion was up against Ford’s own C-Max, the Dodge Dart Aero, the Mazda CX-5 SkyACTIV and the Toyota Prius c.

For its mileage, the Fusion is second only to the Prius c, which gets 53 mpg, according to the Detroit News.

Previous winners of the award include the 2012 Honda Civic GX Natural Gas, 2011 Chevrolet Volt, 2010 Audi A3 TDI, 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid, 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid, and the 2006 Mercury Mariner Hybrid.

Not everyone is impressed with the accolade, which is in its eighth year.

Michael Vaughn wrote in The Globe and Mail earlier this month that, “the five Green Car finalists … are all yawners. There are glaring omissions from the list and the ones that did make it all feature worthwhile but unexciting technology that we have seen before.”

But Ford’s Mondragon called it “a great testament for Ford,” and the award adds to some of the press attention that the car, which went on sale this fall, has already gotten. By several accounts, the 2013 Fusion is a very important model for the automaker, which is entering the popular (and crowded) midsize sedan market. Ford is betting that the Fusion, which it has billed as “the most fuel-efficient sedan in America,” will help it dominate that market.

(Related Photos: “Eleven Electric Cars Charge Ahead, Amid Obstacles“)


[ Ukraine Crushed in Fraudulent $1.1Billion Gas Deal ]

What should have been a landmark natural gas deal for Ukraine has devolved into a bizarre and embarrassing debacle, as it became apparent this week that the $1.1 billion agreement the government signed Monday was not legitimate.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and Energy Minister Yurly Boyko presided over a live televised signing ceremony for the supposed deal with Spain’s Gas Natural Fenosa, which would have secured $1.1 billion in investment for the construction of Ukraine’s first liquid natural gas (LNG) terminal on the Black Sea and a pipeline connecting the country’s vast gas network to the terminal.

More to the point, the deal would enable Ukraine to import by tanker up to 10 billion cubic meters of European gas at a price 20 percent lower than that charged by Russia’s Gazprom. That would be a major first step toward reducing Ukraine’s dependence on Russia.

Here’s the rub: Fenosa apparently had no idea it was signing a landmark agreement with Ukraine. The man supposedly signing on behalf of Fenosa, identified as Jordi Sarda Bonvehi, has no affiliation with the company, according to Fenosa. It remains unclear how Ukrainian authorities were led to believe—during multiple rounds of negotiations—that Bonvehi was a Fenosa representative.

Authorities in Kiev said that Bonvehi was under the impression that Fenosa would sign the deal with Ukraine and that he would be given the authority to sign the deal retroactively.

But Fenosa denies it has ever considered such a deal and continues to deny any relationship at all with Bonvehi.

The collapse of the deal leaves Ukraine in the lurch, with much-needed funds for the terminal’s construction potentially up in smoke. Ukraine’s state investment agency reportedly said Thursday that it was in contact with Fenosa “to settle the question of the Spanish company’s participation in the LNG terminal project.”

A version of this post originally appeared at OilPrice.com and has been republished with permission.


[ Avoid the ‘Dirty Dozen’… ]

I got this email from a co-bud Christian…

I saw this very cool show about this High School girl who started her own Cosmetics line after learning about all the Toxins in our Cosmetics. I thought I would forward this to you with another link to the “dirty dozen” toxins in our beauty products.

Here are 2 sites to check out:


Here is the list of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ to look out for in your cosmetics. I never thought much about this until seeing all of it in a list. It’s a bit overwhelming how many chemicals we put in our bodies, and may not realize it!

Click the photo to download  the list so you have it with you the next time you go shopping.

Dirty Dozen:

1. BHA and BHT
Used mainly in moisturizers and makeup as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disruptors and may cause cancer (BHA). Harmful to fish and other wildlife. Read more »

2. Coal tar dyes: p-phenylenediamine and colours listed as “CI” followed by a five digit number
In addition to coal tar dyes, natural and inorganic pigments used in cosmetics are also assigned Colour Index numbers (in the 75000 and 77000 series, respectively).
Look for p-phenylenediamine hair dyes and in other products colours listed as “CI” followed by five digits.1 The U.S. colour name may also be listed (e.g. “FD&C Blue No. 1” or “Blue 1”). Potential to cause cancer and may be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain. Read more »

3. DEA-related ingredients
Used in creamy and foaming products, such as moisturizers and shampoos. Can react to form nitrosamines, which may cause cancer. Harmful to fish and other wildlife. Look also for related chemicals MEA and TEA. Read more »

4. Dibutyl phthalate
Used as a plasticizer in some nail care products. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant. Harmful to fish and other wildlife. Read more »

5. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives
Look for DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine and quarternium-15. Used in a variety of cosmetics. Slowly release small amounts of formaldehyde, which causes cancer. Read more »

6. Parabens
Used in a variety of cosmetics as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disrupters and may interfere with male reproductive functions. Read more »

7. Parfum (a.k.a. fragrance)
Any mixture of fragrance ingredients used in a variety of cosmetics — even in some products marketed as “unscented.” Some fragrance ingredients can trigger allergies and asthma. Some linked to cancer and neurotoxicity. Some harmful to fish and other wildlife. Read more »

8. PEG compounds
Used in many cosmetic cream bases. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Also for related chemical propylene glycol and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., polyethylene glycol). Read more »

9. Petrolatum
Used in some hair products for shine and as a moisture barrier in some lip balms, lip sticks and moisturizers. A petroleum product that can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may cause cancer. Read more »

10. Siloxanes

Look for ingredients ending in “-siloxane” or “-methicone.” Used in a variety of cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant (cyclotetrasiloxane). Harmful to fish and other wildlife. Read more »

11. Sodium laureth sulfate
Used in foaming cosmetics, such as shampoos, cleansers and bubble bath. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Look also for related chemical sodium lauryl sulfate and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., sodium laureth sulfate). Read more »

12. Triclosan
Used in antibacterial cosmetics, such as toothpastes, cleansers and antiperspirants. Suspected endocrine disrupter and may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Harmful to fish and other wildlife. Read more »

Download the backgrounder for more information.


[ Green Cities Lead the Way ]

Green Cities Lead the Way

Some of the best green ideas are coming not from leaders at
the national or international level, but from the people right in our own
communities who know the region best. Working with government, nonprofit and
private sector supporters, people around the country are transforming their
towns for the better. EarthShare’s many national and local members
are involved in a great number of these projects.

We gathered some inspiring stories of work being done at the
local level on building a more sustainable society. What is your community
doing? Let us know in the comments section!


Denver, CO


SeaDour / Flickr


Denver is the first municipality to be recognized as a Solar
Friendly Community under an innovative new program designed to help bring down
the costs of solar energy.  “Denver
provides a great model on how a large city can make it easy for solar
installers to do business,” said Rebecca Cantwell, senior program director for
Solar Friendly Communities. “The streamlined permitting, inspection and
educational practices translate into lower costs for consumers and a more
welcoming climate for solar energy.” – American
Solar Energy Society


Baltimore, MD


A.Currell / Flickr


In Baltimore, the frequency of crime decreased as the number
of trees increased. Overall, a ten percent increase in tree canopy was
associated with a 12 percent drop in crime… Baltimore officials and the study’s
authors have speculated that the shading effect of a robust tree canopy both
encourages neighbors to spend more time outside and offers the impression of a
community where people take care of their surrounding and each other. – Arbor
Day Foundation


Philadelphia, PA


Philly Painting


Volunteers with Philly Painting are bringing beauty to
neglected parts of the city with a fresh coat of paint. “I love the spirit of
innovation in Philadelphia right now, from the city’s leadership
in green stormwater infrastructure
to the reclamation
of vacant lots for neighborhood green space
, from the new “front
porch” at the train station
to the city’s overall
sustainability plan
.  Philly Painting can be seen as an extension of
these efforts, and a highly creative one.” – Kaid
Benfield, NRDC 


New Orleans, LA


Editor B / Flickr


The Lafitte Corridor is a largely
derelict strip of land along the old Norfolk Southern corridor connecting the
French Quarter to the Bayou. Residents in the surrounding neighborhoods have
been working to preserve this open space by creating a multi-use linear
greenway…  Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
and the Friends of the Lafitte Corridor (FOLC) developed a Greenway Ambassadors
program to train local residents on the history and greenway planning process
of the corridor, so that they could share their knowledge with friends, family,
and neighbors at community meetings and events. – Rails-to-Trails


Chicago, IL




Chicago's sprawling south side, once
thrumming with steel mills and factories, is now covered by large swaths of
weedy land strewn with the rubble of faded industries. But last year, a 40-acre
patch not far from what was once home to the famous Pullman rail car factory
sprouted a crop of 32,000 solar panels. The photovoltaic arrays move
automatically to follow the sun, a glistening aberration in an otherwise drab
and decrepit landscape. – On Earth, NRDC


New York, NY


City Farmer


Across New York City, gardens and miniature farms — whether
on rooftops or at ground level — are joining smart boards and digital darkrooms
as must-have teaching tools. They are being used in subjects as varied as
science, art, mathematics and social studies. In the past two years, the number
of school-based gardens registered with the city jumped to 232, from 40,
according to GreenThumb, a division of the parks department that provides
schools with technical support.  – City
Farmer News


Toledo, OH

ES Rain Garden 2009 001

Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments


In Northwest Ohio, American Rivers has been working with the
Toledo government to incorporate low impact development practices like rain
gardens and bioretention into the existing zoning code. They’ve also helped remove
barriers to using permeable pavement in parking lots. – American


Davis, CA


UC Davis


The California city, located 11 miles west of Sacramento,
has more bikes than cars, operates two bicycle advisory committees and employs
two full-time bike coordinators, and has bike lanes on 95-percent of its major
streets. It’s innovative approach and long-term commitment to creating and
maintaining bicycle-friendly infrastructure and policy has led many to hail the
city as the number one bike friendly communities in the United States. - Wired


[ Giving Feels Good! ]

The holiday season is about sharing and
giving, but it’s so easy to lose the spirit when we get caught up in
to-do lists and shopping crowds and other stressful activities. Want to
know an easy way to give yourself a lift and get back in touch with what
really counts? No matter what ails you – giving back is a proven way to lift your spirits and offer positive physical benefits!

According to the experts, there is an
underlying biology to the effect. While it’s not completely clear how
giving can lead to mental and physical changes in health, studies
suggest that altruism may be an antidote to stress.

If you need a pick-me-up this holiday season, we hope you’ll consider giving through EarthShare.
Just one gift can help all of our member charities accomplish amazing
things, and give you a lot to feel good about. Just click here:

Here are just a few
examples of the accomplishments our supporters have helped make

  • Secured 70,000 square miles of protection for
    Pacific Leatherback turtles
  • Helped raise fuel economy standards to 54.5 mpg
    by 2025
  • Fought for a moratorium on uranium mining in the
    Grand Canyon


Want to know more? Here’s a message from an EarthShare donor and board member about why she gives through EarthShare.


[ Clean Coal Turnabout? ]

A clean-coal lobbying group talks of a “shared … commitment” with the Obama administration on the environment. Hmm.

Okay, it’s past Thanksgiving and the election is long over, but a series of ads I saw on television on election night keep playing in my mind. They were about the virtues of coal. Why would such ads stay with me? Let me explain.

The ad campaign to throw the ‘bums’ out

It all starts with the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a trade lobbying group made up of coal-mining companies and utilities with coal-based power, which, according to its website, “supports policies that will ensure affordable, reliable, domestically produced energy, while supporting the development and deployment of advanced technologies to further reduce the environmental footprint of coal-fueled electricity generation.” (Emphasis mine.)

All good stuff in principle. In practice the ACCCE has had a hard time balancing the objective of using coal with the objective of protecting the environment.

That problem was in full display in the runup to the election when the ACCCE launched a blitz of ads telling voters “that now is the time to stand up to the EPA’s anticoal agenda.” While technically nonpartisan, the message was pretty clear — get Obama and those environmental-regulating crazies out of the White House.

Take for example the “Home Field Advantage” ad above (uploaded on October 3, 2012) with the following voiceover:

“Our current leadership in Washington has taken us down a … path paved by heavy-handed EPA regulations, a path relying on fads not fuels, a path leading away from energy independence, a path that fails to recognize the connection between low-cost energy and desirable, high-paying jobs. … It’s time to send leaders to Washington who will build a future on a solid foundation. Your vote is your voice. Now is the time to make it heard.”

Other salient quotes from the ads include:

“The regulations coming down are going to increase the cost of producing electricity which is going to make the power bills go up even more so, and I don’t understand why we’re getting rid of the cheapest form of electricity we’re set up to make and put it out of business.” (“Losing Power”)

“The rules and regulations they’re making at the EPA are affecting real lives,” says J. Howard Spencer, the town manager of Glen Lyn, Virginia. ”It takes the hope away from children. Where can they get a job? (“Losing Power”)

“I think we need an EPA; however, I think that they have far overstepped their reach and we’re feeling it as consumers in every aspect of our lives.” (“Coal = Future”)

But still claiming the green banner

Paradoxically, while bashing the Environmental Protection Agency, the ads also claim coal-industry credit for environmental progress:

“The technology exists for clean coal.” (Watch video.)

“The time is ticking, America. … It’s time we recognize that the nearly $100 billion spent on clean coal technologies have resulted in real environmental progress.” (Watch video.)

And this is where I call foul and ask for help from the fact-checkers. You want to promote coal, that’s your business. You want to promote coal while also claiming to be champions of the environment — not so fast.

  1. While the coal industry takes credit for the sizable reductions in SOx and NOx emissions — about 90 percent per unit of electricity generated since 1970 — these reductions actually came about as a result of regulations promulgated by the EPA via the authority granted it under the Clean Air Act and its amendments. Laws and regulations that the coal industry fought against tooth and nail, and predicted would result in dire consequences (see here and here). Not only did the predicted doom and gloom not occur; the air-quality benefits and savings in health-care costs have been substantial. (See also here.)
  2. EPA is now in the process of developing and promulgating updated regulations for SOx and NOx emissions to take effect with landmark regulations for mercury. In its pre-election rhetoric — those ads we’re talking about — the ACCCE was against those regulations and actively encouraged people to cast their ballot to prevent such measures from going forward.

A kinder, gentler clean coal coalition speaking out now?

But an interesting thing happened on November 6th, at least on CNN where I watched the election returns. While there was still a plethora of clean coal ads — including some from Exxon Mobil, the sponsor of “CNN live election night coverage” — the spots showed a softer side.

Gone was any bashing of the administration or the EPA, and all that remained, in warm, lush tones and pretty pictures of nature in all its glory, were the virtues of coal as a homegrown, plentiful and clean energy source.

Could it be that the coal lobby had gotten the message from the polls and decided that there would not be a change in the White House (their ads notwithstanding) and they’d better clean up their clean-coal image as an Obama administration-basher before the election was called? Maybe so.

More importantly, were those ads a sign that the coal industry was ready for a détente with the Obama team including the folks at EPA? Not likely, but you never know. The ACCCE has not released a press release since late October. And this quote from its Web page on “Clean Coal Technology” suggests that an olive branch to the administration could be in the offing:

“We share the Obama administration’s commitment [to clean coal]. As an industry, we are committed to a clean energy future with coal — and that future involves the use of advanced technologies to further reduce emissions including the capture and safe storage of [carbon dioxide] CO2.”

In trying to read the tea leaves from such a statement, the critical issue ultimately comes to be what is meant by “clean coal.”

What about reducing air pollution?

Clean coal is often thought of as technology (like carbon capture and storage) that removes the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from the effluent that is produced when coal is burned. (And, by the way, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office report, the technology for carbon capture and storage may “exist,” but it is a long way from becoming commercially viable.)

But in fact clean coal, in the ACCCE’s own parlance, means a whole lot more than that — clean coal technology is actually a range of different technologies that, among other things, remove, in the ACCCE’s words, “traditional pollutant emissions like sulfur dioxide (SO2); nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are a precursor to smog; and particulate matter.” (Now if we’re really talking clean, we’d need to also consider issues related to mountaintop mining and disposal of coal ash, but let’s not for now).

The ACCCE claims to on board with all this:

“We’re committed to ensuring that America’s energy future is a clean one. Of course, commitment is more than a word — it requires action. We have a long history of deploying clean coal technologies to reduce air emissions.”

Of course, claiming a commitment that goes beyond words is just that — words. How could they really demonstrate that commitment?

Here’s an idea: remove opposition to the new EPA regulations that promise cleaner air using existing technologies. And while you’re at it, try being a constructive partner with EPA as it develops a sound policy for dealing with the roughly 130 million short tons of toxic coal ash we generate each year. Deal?


[ Back to Nature… ]

Not the happiest topic, What do you want done with your body when you pass?  If you are thinking burial,how would you want it to be done?  Well,  the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is working toward a pilot project to bury the dead in state parks.  In areas that are designated for that purpose.  Click here to check out the story. What do you think?