EcoMeme: Green Rides and Energy Rules


In stark contrast with news of the devastating earthquake and loss of life in Haiti this week, greener vehicles, energy activism and conservation law enforcement gave the blogosphere reasons to hope (and post).

Hybrid, electric, and compact vehicles more fuel-efficient than what’s ever sold before – like the Cadillac XTS Platinum, the Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Nissan Leaf and the Toyota Scion iQ – won accolades at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, which began Monday Jan. 11th and will be open to the public Saturday, Jan. 16th through Sunday, January 24th.

Some auto brands predicted, like academic researchers before them, that fuel efficiency would “drive” car sales in 2010 and beyond.

Just in time to curry favor with the auto lobby that turns out for the Detroit Auto Show each year, the U.S. Department of Energy this week also announced awards of $187 million in funding, from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act would go to American auto- and parts-makers to create not just jobs, but more efficient “super trucks” (military and commercial vehicles mostly) and passenger vehicles.

The D.O.E. also pledged – perhaps inspired by some of the greener efforts at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month – to enforce “minimum appliance conservation standards,” established in the Energy Policy Conservation Act of 1975. In other words, if you make electricity-sucking, carbon-emitting refrigerators, air conditioners or other appliances that don’t meet U.S. standards, and if you don’t report what your gadgets use with accuracy, the feds will fine you! This time they mean it. It’s for the earth. And the U.S. government purse.

Innovative new vehicles and appliances and environmental law enforcement, of course, are just one piece of the energy puzzle.

All of the green news this week from the D.O.E. wasn’t enough to cover the hypocrisy of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week which allowed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a permit to Patriot Coal to proceed with some habitat thrashing, mountaintop coal mining projects in West Virgina.

Jan. 2010, Controversial Patriot Coal Mine gets green light from EPA
Jan. 2010, Controversial Patriot Coal Mine gets green light from EPA

To solve problems like ruinous coal mining, burning and oil consumption, on Thursday, Jan. 14th the United Nations Foundation gathered investors and world financial leaders to discuss climate change and the role of energy in the global economy.

UNF philanthropist and founding member Ted Turner stated on CNBC’s Squawk Box the first day of the foundation’s meeting: “[In the U.S.] we’re still subsidizing the coal and oil industry in various ways and should stop doing that… [We should] make sure with fees or cap and trade that the true cost of pollution from burning coal and oil is covered by the users. Then solar and wind power can become very competitive. The oil problem – that’s $750 billion a year we’re transferring over to countries that are not exactly our friends.”

Soak up a balance of optimistic and skeptical news and opinions about green vehicles and appliances, and the U.S. government’s environmental initiatives as they relate to the global, energy economy below. Then go forth, share links and comment.

Basic Reading:

“Eco cars are dominating this year’s Detroit Auto Show with a number of new concept hybrids being launched by both large and small automakers. The Ford Fusion Hybrid won the 2010 North American Car of the Year…” – news via

A preview of green cars at the Detroit Auto Show 2010 by John Voelcker for

“Coal releases more carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy produced than any other fossil fuel, but it also provides more than half the United States’ electricity supply. Mountaintop mining, a practice that has grown throughout the past 30 years, now supplies about 10 percent of U.S. coal.The EPA has a long history with trying to come to terms with the impacts of that destructive practice.” – A featured post at

“D.O.E. [is making a broad] effort to increase enforcement efforts for both Energy Star and the federal appliance standard program, which sets mandatory energy efficiency and water use requirements for a number of products, from air conditioners to urinals.” – News via the New York Times Green Inc. blog

The official home page for the Investor Summit on Climate Risk hosted by the United Nations

“The agenda includes speakers such as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Former Vice-President Al Gore, U.S. Climate Envoy Todd Stern and Media Executive/Philanthropist Ted Turner. The list of investors expected at the Summit underscores how climate change, an environmental issue, is increasingly gaining traction as a business issue.” – A news item on the Investor Summit on Climate Risk via

Further Resources:

News of hybrids, compacts at Detroit Auto Show from Chosun Ilbo, a Korean news organization

A muscle car enthusiast and critic worries that too much “hybrid” could amount to not enough speed, via the blog

Detroit Auto Show Round-Up: The Fully Monty, is a web page of short reviews and critiques of cars at the NAIAS 2010, from a decidedly not eco-centric source, Jalopnik

A blog post asking “How Do You Kill a Mountain?” and criticising coal mining practices approved by the EPA

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it would sign off on a Clean Water Act permit for a mountaintop removal coal mine operated by Patriot Coal Corp., drawing the ire of a coalition of environmental and community advocacy groups that says the decision opens the door for further environmental destruction in Appalachia…”- A news feature via Law 360

This is the latest installment of EcoMeme, a column featuring eco news, tech and business highlights by Lora Kolodny.

Nissan image via