The governors of Washington, Oregon, and California are considering plans for a “green freeway” that would see alternative fueling stations implemented along Interstate 5 from Canada to Mexico. As the plan stands, motorists eventually would be able to pull off at I-5 rest stops for more than a cup of coffee and roadside relief: They also would be able to charge, or swap out, their electric-vehicle batteries or fill their tanks with biodiesel, ethanol, hydrogen or compressed natural gas [The Seattle Times].
Opponents to the plan say it would compete with private businesses, but Jeff Doyle from Washington’s Department of Transportation said the state wouldn’t want alternative-fuel stations to disrupt rest-area traffic, so contract companies would have to provide small, low-profile setups. Doyle added that rest-stop fueling sites would be self-service and likely to have little or no on-site staffing [The Seattle Times]. While the plan is facing many rounds of approval before it can become a reality, it does fit into the new administration’s push for green jobs and it would most likely qualify for stimulus money that would get the project going [EcoGeek].
California is striking a blow against obesity and heart disease: On Friday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill outlawing the use of trans fats in all restaurants and bakeries. The bill creates the first state-wide ban of trans fats, but follows the path set out by cities like New York City and Philadelphia, which have already evicted the substance from restaurants within city limits.
Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen into liquid oil at high temperature, a process called partial hydrogenation. The process results in an inexpensive fat that prolongs the shelf life and appearance of packaged foods and that, many fast-food restaurants say, helps make cooked food crisp and flavorful [The New York Times]. The artificial fats have been shown to increase levels of “bad” cholesterol and decrease levels of “good” cholesterol, and are therefore linked to heart disease.
Just weeks after the U.S. Senate failed to pass a sweeping set of regulations to slow global warming, the state of California is pointing the way forward. California air regulators today announced a bold plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions that would alter the way utilities generate electricity, automakers build cars and developers construct buildings, and launch the nation’s broadest market in carbon-credit trading [Los Angeles Times].
The 99-page document really marks the beginning of negotiations over the finer policy details; that debate will continue until the end of 2010. One point of contention is the state’s proposal to force automakers to curb emissions of greenhouse gases from new California vehicles more quickly than required under federal mileage standards – a proposal currently blocked by the Bush administration [Sacramento Bee].
As Americans grimly fill up their cars with $4 per gallon gas and worry about turning up the air conditioning at home, they may well be wondering: Can’t we dig up some more oil and gas from somewhere? Well, their government representatives are feeling that pain, and are scrambling to offer new policies that would allow more oil and gas drilling.
Some U.S. Representatives have called, once again, for drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and the bill is reportedly gaining support among moderate Republicans. Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate John McCain is making headlines by calling for an end to a 27-year-old ban on offshore drilling. McCain says he still opposes drilling in the “pristine” natural setting of ANWR, but sees renewed domestic drilling as the only way out of the current energy crisis.
It’s official: California is in a state-wide drought, according to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Following the driest spring in 88 years, the state’s reservoirs are low, its farmers are complaining, and its forests are tinder-dry, which may lead to more forest fires like the one that scorched the Santa Cruz mountains two weeks ago.
In giving the current dry spell the official “drought” stamp for the first time since 1991, the governor cleared the way for water transfers to stricken areas and a possible infusion of federal aid to speed water conservation projects. But Schwarzenegger stopped short of declaring a water emergency, which would permit water rationing.
Some researchers have wondered whether the state is already suffering the early effects of global warming, which is predicted to alter California ecosystems by raising temperatures, and thus allowing less snow to build up in the mountains of Northern California.