Expert’s advice: Don’t waste gas in idle time at fast-food windows

Expert’s advice: Don’t waste gas in idle time at fast-food windows

Friday, June 05, 2009

BY T.W. BURGER tburger@patriot-news.com

Robert Davis has a pet peeve.

The retired Navy submariner and PECO energy-efficiency expert sees long lines of vehicles sitting in line at fast-food restaurant drive-through windows and it drives him crazy.

Davis is no off-the-wall crackpot. He has done his homework, counting cars at fast-food joints near his home in South Lebanon Twp., doing research and interviewing the owner of one of the stores.

The way Davis figures it, drivers waste $103,000 or more in gas a year waiting in line for food at just those three restaurants. That’s a considerable amount of money for people to sit and wait for a burger and fries — while tables inside sit empty.

“It’s a big waste,” said Davis, 74. “I talked to the owner at the place down the road. He said 75 percent of his business is at the drive-through.”

So, what is the solution?

Davis has one of those, “well, DOH!” answers.

“People should just go into the store,” he said. “Half the time you go in and the drive-through will have a long line, and the inside isn’t busy at all. The only ones using the windows should be the disabled or people with kids in the back of the car. Is that good sense, or what? What’s hard about that?”

Critics have long said drive-through restaurants add to pollution and waste resources and fuel the nation’s collective obesity.

National Restaurant Association officials have said, through prepared statements, that the choice to use the drive-through or go inside is one made by consumers.

So, is the drive-through really faster?

In an admittedly unscientific test, a crack investigative team — namely, this reporter — picked a fast-food franchise at random in Lower Paxton Twp. at lunchtime Thursday to see how the drive-through compared to getting lunch from the counter.

There were eight vehicles in line. The 4×4 pickup ahead of us jackrabbited away each time the sedan in front of him moved forward. He gunned to the window too fast and stopped too far away to grab the bag from the attendant. He had to lean way out the window to get his lunch and change. Very cool.

The elapsed time from when we entered the line until we were handed the bag of food? Nine minutes, not including the time spent sticking change into a pocket after we left the line.

We parked, walked in, and ordered a coffee to go with the sandwich.

It took seven minutes, from car door to car door.

OK, it was only two minutes faster. But that was seven minutes when the car was not running.

Using the information that Davis has collected, the average wait in a drive-through line uses enough gas to go five to six miles. Those seven vehicles in line ahead of us sucked down enough fuel to drive about 40 miles.

By the way, about half of the tables inside the restaurant were open. At lunchtime.

Davis and a herd of environmentalists and economists with him believe that if Americans simply become more efficient in their lifestyles, dependence on imported oil would no longer be an issue.

“How many guys have spilled their blood so that we can drive our cars?” Davis asked, rhetorically. “We have to be more mindful of what we’re doing.

http://www.pennlive.com/news/patriotnews/index.ssf?/base/news/124416510232520.xml&coll=1

Humanity’s carbon budget set at one trillion tonnes

If emissions keep growing at the present rate, the carbon emissions budget for the 2 degrees target will run out in 2021.

Humanity’s carbon budget set at one trillion tonnes

No more than one-quarter: that’s the proportion of existing reserves of oil, gas and coal that we can burn if we are serious about keeping the planet from warming by 2°C or more.

These are the conclusions of the most comprehensive efforts yet to pin down just how much carbon dioxide can be emitted into the atmosphere.

If governments are to stick to their pledge to avoid “dangerous” global warming – which most politicians and many scientists take to be no more than 2°C – the models come up with roughly the same answer. Humans must not inject more than 1 trillion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere in total.

That, say teams led by Myles Allen of the University of Oxford and Malte Meinshausen of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, will give us a 50:50 chance of limiting global warming to 2°C.

To improve the chances that the planet remains this side of 2°C, Meinshausen’s study suggests we should emit no more than 750 billion tonnes of carbon in total. The risk of exceeding 2°C would then drop from 50% to 25%.

Halfway there

Industrial activity since the mid-18th century means we have already emitted 500 billion tonnes of carbon – half of the 1-trillion-tonne budget. “At some point in the last few years, we released the 500-billionth tonne of carbon,” says Allen. We can afford to dump only 250 billion tonnes more – or perhaps 500 billion tonnes, if we are willing to run the higher risk.

So how much longer have we got? Don’t let past emissions fool you, says Allen. “It took 250 years to burn the first 500 billion tonnes. On current trends we’ll burn the next 500 billion in less than 40 years.”

Busting the budget

That means that if we continue emitting carbon at the same rate as we are now, we will exhaust what Allen calls the trillion-tonne “carbon budget for the human race” by 2040. Anything that is emitted beyond that will commit the planet to more than 2°C of CO2-induced warming.

Meinshausen and colleagues calculate that we could exhaust the carbon budget within as little as 20 years. They also find that if we were to burn all the proven reserves of fossil fuels, this would inject nearly three times the carbon budget into the atmosphere.

To have a 75% chance of keeping to the 2°C target, “we can burn less than one-quarter of known economically recoverable fossil-fuel reserves between now and 2050”, says Bill Hare of the Potsdam institute. “This means that whilst a lot of the oil and natural gas can be burned, certainly not much at all of coals reserves can.”

None of these figures include “unconventional” fossil fuel reserves, such as tar sands.

Good effort, but try harder

Both papers show that, because CO2 takes so long to disappear from the atmosphere, governments need to aim for a global zero-carbon economy in the long run. This confirms results from earlier studies.

Regarding shorter-term goals, Meinshausen says that to have a good chance of staying below 2°C, global emissions must start falling after 2015. Achieving this will be no small feat: at present we emit between 1% and 3% more each year than we did the year before. That trend must be reversed within six years.

The researchers say that even the most ambitious climate plans tabled so far must be pushed further. The G8’s aim is that by 2050 we will have cut emissions to half their levels in 1990, but even that may not be enough. Depending on the timing, the cutbacks would have to be closer to 70% below 1990 levels, studies suggest.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17051-humanitys-carbon-budget-fast-running-out.html

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090502092019.htm

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/04/hit-the-brakes-hard

The Declaration of Cumaná, Venezuela | This is a Brilliant Read Based on How We are Currently Functioning as a Society

The Declaration of Cumaná

April 23rd 2009, by ALBA Member Countries

ALBA

Cumaná, Venezuela

We, the Heads of State and Government of Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela, member countries of ALBA, consider that the Draft Declaration of the 5th Summit of the Americas is insufficient and unacceptable for the following reasons:

– The Declaration does not provide answers to the Global Economic Crisis, even though this crisis constitutes the greatest challenge faced by humanity in the last decades and is the most serious threat of the current times to the welfare of our peoples.

– The Declaration unfairly excludes Cuba, without mentioning the consensus in the region condemning the blockade and isolation to which the people and the government of Cuba have incessantly been exposed in a criminal manner.

For this reason, we, the member countries of ALBA believe that there is no consensus for the adoption of this draft declaration because of the reasons above stated, and accordingly, we propose to hold a thorough debate on the following topics:

1. Capitalism is leading humanity and the planet to extinction. What we are experiencing is a global economic crisis of a systemic and structural nature, not another cyclic crisis. Those who think that with a taxpayer money injection and some regulatory measures this crisis will end are wrong. The financial system is in crisis because it trades bonds with six times the real value of the assets and services produced and rendered in the world, this is not a “system regulation failure”, but a integrating part of the capitalist system that speculates with all assets and values with a view to obtain the maximum profit possible. Until now, the economic crisis has generated over 100 million additional hungry persons and has slashed over 50 million jobs, and these figures show an upward trend.

2. Capitalism has caused the environmental crisis, by submitting the necessary conditions for life in the planet, to the predominance of market and profit. Each year we consume one third more of what the planet is able to regenerate. With this squandering binge of the capitalist system, we are going to need two planets Earth by the year 2030.

3. The global economic crisis, climate change, the food crisis and the energy crisis are the result of the decay of capitalism, which threatens to end life and the planet. To avert this outcome, it is necessary to develop and model an alternative to the capitalist system. A system based on:

– solidarity and complementarity, not competition;
– a system in harmony with our mother earth and not plundering of human resources;
– a system of cultural diversity and not cultural destruction and imposition of cultural values and lifestyles alien to the realities of our countries;
– a system of peace based on social justice and not on imperialist policies and wars;
– in summary, a system that recovers the human condition of our societies and peoples and does not reduce them to mere consumers or merchandise.

4. As a concrete expression of the new reality of the continent, we, Caribbean and Latin American countries, have commenced to build our own institutionalization, an institutionalization that is based on a common history dating back to our independence revolution and constitutes a concrete tool for deepening the social, economic and cultural transformation processes that will consolidate our full sovereignty. ALBA-TCP, Petrocaribe or UNASUR, mentioning merely the most recently created, are solidarity-based mechanisms of unity created in the midst of such transformations with the obvious intention of boosting the efforts of our peoples to attain their own freedom. To face the serious effects of the global economic crisis, we, the ALBA-TCP countries, have adopted innovative and transforming measures that seek real alternatives to the inadequate international economic order, not to boost their failed institutions. Thus, we have implemented a Regional Clearance Unitary System, the SUCRE, which includes a Common Unit of Account, a Clearance Chamber and a Single Reserve System. Similarly, we have encouraged the constitution of grand-national companies to satisfy the essential needs of our peoples and establish fair and complementary trade mechanisms that leave behind the absurd logic of unbridled competition.

5. We question the G20 for having tripled the resources of the International Monetary Fund when the real need is to establish a new world economic order that includes the full transformation of the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO, entities that have contributed to this global economic crisis with their neoliberal policies.

6. The solutions to the global economic crisis and the definition of a new international financial scheme should be adopted with the participation of the 192 countries that will meet in the United Nations Conference on the International Financial Crisis to be held on June 1-3 to propose the creation of a new international economic order.

7. As for climate change, developed countries are in an environmental debt to the world because they are responsible for 70% of historical carbon emissions into the atmosphere since 1750. Developed countries should pay off their debt to humankind and the planet; they should provide significant resources to a fund so that developing countries can embark upon a growth model which does not repeat the serious impacts of the capitalist industrialization.

8. Solutions to the energy, food and climate change crises should be comprehensive and interdependent. We cannot solve a problem by creating new ones in fundamental areas for life. For instance, the widespread use of agricultural fuels has an adverse effect on food prices and the use of essential resources, such as water, land and forests.

9. We condemn the discrimination against migrants in any of its forms. Migration is a human right, not a crime. Therefore, we request the United States government an urgent reform of its migration policies in order to stop deportations and massive raids and allow for reunion of families. We further demand the removal of the wall that separates and divides us, instead of uniting us. In this regard, we petition for the abrogation of the Law of Cuban Adjustment and removal of the discriminatory, selective Dry Feet, Wet Feet policy that has claimed human losses. Bankers who stole the money and resources from our countries are the true responsible, not migrant workers. Human rights should come first, particularly human rights of the underprivileged, downtrodden sectors in our society, that is, migrants without identity papers. Free movement of people and human rights for everybody, regardless of their migration status, are a must for integration. Brain drain is a way of plundering skilled human resources exercised by rich countries.

10. Basic education, health, water, energy and telecommunications services should be declared human rights and cannot be subject to private deal or marketed by the World Trade Organization. These services are and should be essentially public utilities of universal access.

11. We wish a world where all, big and small, countries have the same rights and where there is no empire. We advocate non-intervention. There is the need to strengthen, as the only legitimate means for discussion and assessment of bilateral and multilateral agendas in the hemisphere, the foundations for mutual respect between states and governments, based on the principle of non-interference of a state in the internal affairs of another state, and inviolability of sovereignty and self-determination of the peoples. We request the new Government of the United States, the arrival of which has given rise to some expectations in the hemisphere and the world, to finish the longstanding and dire tradition of interventionism and aggression that has characterized the actions of the US governments throughout history, and particularly intensified during the Administration of President George W. Bush. By the same token, we request the new Government of the United States to abandon interventionist practices, such as cover-up operations, parallel diplomacy, media wars aimed at disturbing states and governments, and funding of destabilizing groups. Building on a world where varied economic, political, social and cultural approaches are acknowledged and respected is of the essence.

12. With regard to the US blockade against Cuba and the exclusion of the latter from the Summit of the Americas, we, the member states of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of Our America, reassert the Declaration adopted by all Latin American and Caribbean countries last December 16, 2008, on the need to end the economic, trade and financial blockade imposed by the Government of the United States of America on Cuba, including the implementation of the so-called Helms-Burton Act. The declaration sets forth in its fundamental paragraphs the following:

“CONSIDERING the resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly on the need to finish the economic, trade and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba, and the statements on such blockade, which have been approved in numerous international meetings.

“WE AFFIRM that the application of unilateral, coercive measures affecting the wellbeing of peoples and hindering integration processes is unacceptable when defending free exchange and the transparent practice of international trade.

“WE STRONGLY REPEL the enforcement of laws and measures contrary to International Law, such as the Helms-Burton Act, and we urge the Government of the United States of America to finish such enforcement.

“WE REQUEST the Government of the United States of America to comply with the provisions set forth in 17 successive resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly and put an end to the economic, trade and financial blockade on Cuba.”

Additionally, we consider that the attempts at imposing the isolation of Cuba have failed, as nowadays Cuba forms an integral part of the Latin American and Caribbean region; it is a member of the Rio Group and other hemispheric organizations and mechanisms, which develops a policy of cooperation, in solidarity with the countries in the hemisphere; which promotes full integration of Latin American and Caribbean peoples. Therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to justify its exclusion from the mechanism of the Summit of the Americas.

13. Developed countries have spent at least USD 8 billion to rescue a collapsing financial structure. They are the same that fail to allocate the small sums of money to attain the Millennium Goals or 0.7% of the GDP for the Official Development Assistance. Never before the hypocrisy of the wording of rich countries had been so apparent. Cooperation should be established without conditions and fit in the agendas of recipient countries by making arrangements easier; providing access to the resources, and prioritizing social inclusion issues.

14. The legitimate struggle against drug trafficking and organized crime, and any other form of the so-called “new threats” must not be used as an excuse to undertake actions of interference and intervention against our countries.

15. We are firmly convinced that the change, where everybody repose hope, can come only from organization, mobilization and unity of our peoples.

As the Liberator wisely said:

Unity of our peoples is not a mere illusion of men, but an inexorable decree of destiny. — Simón Bolívar

Published in: http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/4390

Canada’s greenhouse emissions soaring: UN report

1) Canada’s Report to the UN attached.  Canada has the worst record of any G-8 country and one of the worst of all countries who signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol.  Spain actually is even worse but it signed through the EU agreement.

greenhouse-gas-emissions-2007

2) Unfortunately the global picture is also very bad.  Global emissions are rising at least as fast as the most pessimistic IPCC scenario of 2000.  Since 2000 the increase is more than twice the 1990s, on a per annual basis.


Canada’s greenhouse emissions soaring: UN report

By Margaret Munro, Canwest News Service

Canada’s greenhouse emissions are back on a ‘significant’ growth trajectory despite bold promises from federal and provincial leaders to get serious about cutting discharges.

Canada’s greenhouse emissions are back on a “significant” growth trajectory despite bold promises from federal and provincial leaders to get serious about cutting discharges.

The latest greenhouse-gas inventory from Environment Canada shows that after a slight dip in 2004-2006, Canada’s total emissions took off again, thanks largely to Alberta’s oilsands, an increase in the number of vehicles on the road, and greater reliance on coal-fired electricity.

“Long-term growth remains significant,” says an Environment Canada summary report, showing the country’s emissions are 33.8 per cent above Canada’s Kyoto commitment.

The figures are based on the 2009 national inventory report that Environment Canada quietly filed last week with the United Nations to meet its international reporting obligations. The full 673-page inventory is available on the UN’s website and shows Canada has the dubious distinction of having its emissions climb more since 1990 than any other G8 nation.

Canada ranks “first among the G8 nations” for increasing emissions, the report notes, even though Canada had committed to cut them. It notes that while Canada’s emissions have soared, Germany chopped its emissions by 18 per cent between 1990 and 2006, and the United Kingdom slashed its by 15 per cent.

“We’re laggards and obstructionists,” said climatologist Andrew Weaver at the University of Victoria who, like many scientists and environmentalists, has been urging the Canadian government to cut emissions for years.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he is committed to fighting climate change, and his government two years ago launched Turning the Corner: An Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gases by 20 per cent by 2020.

Weaver and other critics see little hope of the country living up to the commitment, given the Harper government’s enthusiasm for the oilsands.

“They’re turning the corner all right, but they are turning the wrong way,” said Weaver, pointing to the renewed upward trend in Canada’s emissions.

This 2009 Environment Canada inventory covers 1990 to 2007, the most recent year that details on human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are available.

It says total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada in 2007 were 747 megatonnes, an increase of four per cent from 2006 levels. That means Canada’s emissions in 2007 were about 26 per cent above the 1990 total of 592 megatonnes, and 33.8 per cent above Canada’s Kyoto target, which committed the country to be below 1990 levels by now.

Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and are widely believed to help drive climate change. Massive amounts of carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, is released through the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas.

There was a dip in Canada’s emissions between 2004 and 2006, which Environment Canada says was due primarily to changes in electricity production and petroleum extraction activities. The weather also played a role, with warm winters in 2004 to 2006 curbing Canadians’ need for heating fuels.

But the overall trend is up, Environment Canada notes. “Between 1990 and 2007, large increases in oil and gas production — much of it for export — as well as a large increase in the number of motor vehicles and greater reliance on coal electricity generation, have resulted in a significant rise in emissions.”

Alberta is responsible for the biggest jump in emissions since 1990, but Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Ontario also have seen emissions climb much more than other provinces, the report says.

While the country’s total emissions have soared since 1990, the report notes that Canadian homeowners have been doing their bit to cut emissions. “Residential emissions were essentially the same in 2007 as they were in 1990,” the report says, noting that improved energy standards and higher-efficiency furnaces and appliances have “served to reduce emissions.”

It is transportation and energy production that has driven emissions up, the report concludes. Between 1990 and 2007, emissions from energy industries such as the oilsands and transportation increased by about 143 million tonnes, or most of the overall increase of 155 million tonnes, the report says.

There has been a proliferation of light-duty trucks, the number of which increased 117 per cent since 1990, and a 94 per cent increase in the number of heavy-duty trucks on Canadian roads.

To avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, scientists and policy-makers say global carbon emissions must be slashed between 50 and 80 per cent by 2050. If nothing is done, they say the climate will change and there will be more extreme and unpredictable weather, Arctic ice will continue to melt and global sea levels will rise.

“In Canada, the impact of climate change may be felt in extreme weather events, the reduction of fresh water resources, increased risk and severity of forest fires and pest infestations, a reduction in Arctic ice and an acceleration of glacial melting,” the Environment Canada report says.

http://www.canada.com/Business/Canada+greenhouse+emissions+soaring+report/1516154/story.html

Every breath you take — air quality in Europe


Every breath you take — air quality in Europe
Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)
Originally published Mar. 2009

The characters in this story are fictional. However the data are real. The story is set on 27 July 2008 when an air quality warning was issued in Brussels. Anna is 37 years old and lives in the centre of Brussels. She and her young son Johan are planning a trip outside the busy city. Anna suffers from asthma and her doctor has warned of the dangers of air pollution, especially on hot summer days.

Anna has heard about the London fogs of the 1950s that killed 2 000 people in one week. She has childhood memories of evening news bulletins showing dead fish and dying trees as ‘ acid rain’ first came to popular attention in the 1970s.

Motherhood and a recent asthma attack have quite rightly brought air pollution back to mind. The fact is that emissions of many air pollutants have fallen substantially across Europe since Anna’s childhood. The air she and Johan breathe is much improved compared to the past, and air policy is one of the great success stories of the EU’s environmental efforts. In particular, EU policy has dramatically cut emissions of sulphur, the main component of ‘acid rain’.

In contrast, nitrogen — also a major component of ‘acid rain’ — has not been dealt with to the same extent and so continues to cause major problems. A significant proportion of Europe’s urban population still live in cities where EU air quality limits, protecting human health, are regularly exceeded. Each year, many more people die prematurely from air pollution in Europe than die in traffic accidents.

The European goal of achieving levels of air quality that do not damage people’s health or the environment has still not been reached. EEA analysis suggests that 15 of the 27 EU Member States will miss one or more of their legally binding 2010 targets to reduce harmful air pollutants.

Particulate matter and ozone
Two pollutants, fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone, are now generally recognised as the most significant in terms of health impacts. Long-term and peak exposure can lead to a variety of health effects, ranging from minor irritation of the respiratory system to premature death.

Particulate matter, a term used to describe a variety of tiny particles from sources such as vehicle exhausts and domestic stoves, affect the lungs. Exposure can harm people of all ages, but people with existing heart and respiratory problems are particularly at risk.

According to the latest EEA data, since 1997 up to 50 % of Europe’s urban population may have been exposed to concentrations of particulate matter above the EU limit set to protect human health. As much as 61 % of the urban population may have been exposed to levels of ozone that exceed the EU target. It has been estimated that PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) in air has reduced statistical life expectancy in the EU by more than eight months.

The EEA has noted that while emissions of these two key air pollutants have dropped since 1997, measured concentrations in the air we breathe have remained largely the same. As yet, we don’t know why there has not been a drop in ambient concentrations but it could be a combination of several factors: increased temperatures caused by climate change could be affecting air quality; perhaps we are on the receiving end of pollution from other continents or natural emissions of ozone forming substances released from trees, for example.

A day in the country
Anna is planning a day in the country with Johan. Before leaving her apartment she logs onto IRCEL, a government web service providing a host of regular information on air quality around Belgium. Using maps, Anna can scan readings and forecasts for particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide among many others. The data are relayed to the web from monitoring stations around the country.

Improvements in monitoring and availability of information on air pollution are another of the success stories of recent years. For instance, local data on ozone levels are now passed onto the EEA ‘Ozone web’ (1) service that provides an overview of the situation across Europe.

Anna scrolls across a map of Belgium, zooming in on a monitoring station in the centre of Brussels, less than two kilometres from her home.

The reading, taken minutes earlier, shows high levels of ozone in Brussels. Indeed the website forecasts that levels will exceed EU target values later that day and again the following day ( Figure 1).

Anna leaves her apartment building and makes for the nearest Metro station, a 10 minute walk away. Out on the street, the full impact of the city’s traffic problems are easy to see — and smell.

Exhaust emissions from cars in the centre of Brussels, and all major cities, irritate the respiratory tract and eyes and lungs. Anna and Johan turn into their local train station and head for the countryside.

Soon, Anna and Johan are entering a national park just outside Brussels. A sign tells them that they are visiting a Natura 2000 site — one part of a European-wide ecological network, set up to secure natural habitats and to maintain the range of plant and animal life.

Figure 1: The location and levels of ozone at air quality monitoring stations in Brussels on Sunday 27 July 2008

Nitrogen
But what’s that smell? A tractor is spraying liquid manure onto a field not far away. This is irritating, Anna thinks, but it’s also part of real country life which is shown in a rather more romantic way in Johan’s picture books.

The pungent smell is caused by as many as 40 different chemical substances emitted from the manure. Ammonia (NH3), a volatile nitrogen compound, is one of them. In very high concentrations NH3 is caustic and can damage the respiratory tract. However, the levels here are not dangerous for human health. Anna can breathe a sigh of relief, albeit a stinky one.
Nitrogen is an essential nutrient in nature. Reactive nitrogen forms are actually used by our bodies to produce proteins. However, excess nitrogen can lead to severe environmental and health problems.

‘Acid rain’ forms when high levels of sulphur and nitrogen oxides are present in the air. One of the great success stories of air pollution policy over the last decades has been the massive reduction in emissions of sulphur dioxide. The 32 EEA member countries reduced sulphur emissions by 70 % between 1990 and 2006. Nitrogen, on the other hand, has not been dealt with as successfully.

With sulphur emissions declining, nitrogen is now the principal acidifying component in our air. Agriculture and transport are the main sources of nitrogen pollution. Agriculture is responsible for more than 90 % of ammonia (NH3) emissions alone.

Suddenly Johan, who has been walking unsteadily loses his balance and falls into a clump of stinging nettles. Having picked him up and brushed him off, Anna notices nettles everywhere. She has vivid memories of them as a child in a neighbour’s garden. Then the nettles grew around a compost heap that was also used as a dump for poultry dung. That was no coincidence — the stinging plant is an indicator of high nitrogen concentrations in soils.

‘Eutrophication’ is the most likely cause of this explosion of stinging nettles surrounding Johan. It occurs when too many chemical nutrients (such as N) are available to an ecosystem either on land or in water. In water, excessive plant growth and subsequent decay occur, which in turn leads to further effects including oxygen depletion. Fish and other animals and plants ultimately suffocate as the oxygen supply is used up.

The abundance of the nettles here suggests that despite being a protected habitat, the Natura 2000 site is not immune from airborne nitrogen deposits. The fence protecting the area offers no defence — in fact building a greenhouse around the area would be the only way to protect it totally from airborne substances.

Looking ahead
Because air pollution pays no regard to national boundaries the problem needs to be tackled internationally. The United Nations Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) agreed in 1979, has been signed by 51 countries and forms the basis of the international fight to tackle air pollution.

In parallel, the EU has developed polices limiting the total emissions of each Member State, setting legally binding limits. The ‘ National Emissions Ceiling Directive’ (NECD) is a key EU policy. It sets ‘ceilings’ or limits for four pollutants: sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), and ammonia (NH3). Member States should meet these ceilings by 2010.

The EEA considers that further emission cuts are still needed in order to properly protect environment and health. An EEA analysis of the most recent NECD data (2) indicates that 15 Member States expect to miss at least one of their four ceilings; with 13 anticipating missing ceilings for the 2 nitrogen-containing pollutants NOX and NH3 (3).

In 2009 the European Commission plans to publish a proposal to revise the current NECD, including stricter ceilings for the year 2020. National limits are likely to be proposed for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) for the first time.

The NECD is mirrored by air quality directives setting limit and target values for major air pollutants. A new one called the Cleaner Air For Europe (CAFE) Directive was adopted in April 2008. For the first time it sets legally binding limit values for PM2.5 concentrations (fine particulate matter), to be attained in 2015. The European Commission is also taking countries to task for having missed earlier limits and, where sufficient measures have not been outlined to improve performance, has begun infringement proceedings.

Later that evening Anna, while watching the evening news, sees that an air quality warning has been issued by the government in response to high ozone levels beyond the EU threshold. The warning advises people with breathing problems to take precautions such as avoiding strenuous exercise while the ozone levels remain high.

Climate change mitigation efforts will improve air quality

In January 2008, the European Commission proposed a Climate and Energy package to:

  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 % by 2020;
  • increase the share of renewable energy by 20 % by 2020;
  • improve energy efficiency by 20 % by 2020.

The efforts required to meet these targets will also cut air pollution in Europe. For example, improvements in energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy will both lead to reduced amounts of fossil fuel combustion — a key source of air pollution. These positive side effects are referred to as the ‘co-benefits’ of climate change policy.

It has been estimated that the above package will cut the cost of meeting EU air pollution targets by EUR 8.5 billion per year. The savings to the European health services could be as much as six times that figure.

http://www.environmental-expert.com/resultEachArticle.aspx?cid=8909&codi=47906&loginemail=elle-provocateur@sympatico.ca&logincode=187521

What is the global-warming impact of the omnipresent drive-through?

February 25, 2009

Advice about recreational eating

Hey Mr. Green,
What is the global-warming impact of the omnipresent drive-through? Surely this has to be one of our biggest wastes of energy. –Robert in Biglerville, Pennsylvania

In drive-throughs or anyplace, idling is, to summon the old saying, the devil’s workshop. Every hour you idle, you waste up to 0.7 gallons of gas (depending on your engine type) going nowhere. So it pays to turn your engine off if you’re going to be still for more than 30 seconds.

In a given year, U.S. cars burn some 1.4 billion gallons of fuel just idling. Not to mention idling trucks, which waste another 1.5 billion gallons. Collectively, we emit about 58 million tons of carbon dioxide while we’re essentially doing nothing.

Taking the fast-food industry as an example, and taking into account that the average McDonald’s drive-through wait is 159 seconds, we can calculate that the company’s consumers burn some 7.25 million gallons of gas each year. The figure for the entire U.S. fast-food industry? Roughly 50 million gallons.

Though Wendy’s boasts that it zips you through in a mere 131 seconds, that’s about the amount of time it would take to slap together your own sandwich, or dump some leftovers in Tupperware, and bypass the lines (and perhaps a bypass) entirely.

The spread of American idle may be an exciting prospect for companies seeking to expand this lazy food-getting method to the rest of the world–but it’s a devastating one for the environment. Consider that McDonald’s plans to open 25 drive-throughs in China, following KFC’s lead. KFC installed its first drive-through there in 2002 and is working on 100 more. If China and India, which is also jumping aboard the drive-through bandwagon, get up to speed, they can idle away a truly staggering figure: 30 billion gallons of gas. Every year.

http://sierraclub.typepad.com/mrgreen/2009/02/advice-about-recreational-eating-.html

The High Cost to Society of Idling

Problems caused by idling

There are a number of problems associated with idling:


It’s expensive

Even if the vehicle isn’t moving, if the engine is running, gas and oil are being consumed. With fuel prices as high as they are, few of us can afford to be wasteful. But we are – and to a startling extent! A recent study suggests that during the winter, Canadians idle their vehicles for a combined total of more than 75 million minutes a day, the same as one vehicle idling for 144 years. If every driver of a light-duty vehicle in Canada avoided idling for just 5 minutes we would save 1.9 million litres of fuel worth more than $1.9 million.

Vehicle idling is a great concern to for many businesses and industries, particularly those that have fleets of vehicles for moving goods or people. The average long-haul truck idles away up to $1,790 in profits a year.

It’s bad for breathing

Burning fossil fuels like gas and oil produce emissions that aggravate existing heart and lung diseases, and cause respiratory illnesses. For example, two common tailpipe emissions – hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides – react to form ground-level ozone. Ozone irritates and inflames the respiratory tract.

Do you know anyone with asthma? They’ll thank you for not uselessly idling your car. Ground-level ozone has been implicated as a bronchoconstrictor, causing airways to shrink or close, precipitating deadly asthma attacks. According to Health Canada, more than 16,000 Canadians die prematurely every year because of air pollution.

It’s bad for children

Children are particularly vulnerable to poor air quality – they breathe faster than adults and inhale more air per pound of body weight. Air pollution tends to be worse in the late afternoon, precisely when driving parents gather to pick up their children, who excitedly rush from school into clouds of exhaust from idling vehicles. Idling vehicles are also a safety issue.  Children are unaware of a vehicles intent when it sits idling.

It’s ineffective

Contrary to popular belief, idling is not an effective way to warm up your vehicle, even in cold weather. The best way to do this is to drive. In fact, with today’s modern engines, you need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before driving away.

Idling only warms the engine, not the wheel bearings, steering, suspension, transmission, and tires. These parts also need to be warmed up, and the only way to do that is to get the vehicle moving.

It’s damaging

Idling isn’t good for your vehicle. Here’s why: an idling engine is not operating at its peak temperature, which means fuel combustion is incomplete. This leaves fuel residues that can condense on cylinder walls, where they contaminate oil and damage engine components such as spark plugs. When spark plugs are fouled, fuel consumption increases by 4 to 5 percent. Finally, idling can allow water to condense in the vehicle’s exhaust, causing rust in the exhaust system. As if the mean, salty winter roads weren’t enough to corrode your muffler to flaky brown bits.