Southern California environment news and trends

Electric car fans: Test drive a Leaf, celebrate EVs

If you ever want to start up a heated debate, bring up the topic of electric cars among a mixed group of environmentalists.


On one side you’ll have the electric vehicle (EV) fans with their converted plug-ins and Teslas, excitedly enthusing that the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are finally becoming a reality. On the other, cyclists and complete streets advocates will grouse about how electric cars still don’t solve a lot of transportation-related problems (suburban sprawl and gigantic parking lots, to name just two) and how so much more could be done to improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructures if those projects got the kind of federal and state money that electric cars attract.

I’m somewhere in the middle — I’m a ped and public transit advocate and reluctant car owner who’s cautiously happy that zero emissions vehicles are coming on the market, as a transitional technology while we build the infrastructure for easier, happier car-free living.


But what about the children? Calling climate champions.

The Air Resources Board announced today the creation of what they're calling a "Climate Generation Program" - it's modeled after the British Council's similar program in the UK and elsewhere. The idea is to compete through school and homework to connect their lives to the environment. The goal: to cut the carbon footprint at their school. ARN Chairman Mary D. Nichols in the release:

The name ’Climate Generation’ says it all. This is an opportunity for young people who will be living with the effects of climate change to focus their passion and enthusiasm on real-world projects and solutions in their school today. It will also help us identify our new Climate Champions, the leaders who will express the concerns of California’s youth about climate change.

Sixty countries have a Climate Generation Program now. In our state, the the California Education and the Environment Initiative, a new curriculum comprised of 85 units teaching select Science and History-Social Science academic standards will be promoted as an important element of the new Climate Generation program. The new curriculum, the result of a multi-agency education and environmental partnership, was developed to help students discover how science, history and social science relate to individual lives and connect to the world around them, focusing on their relationship to the environment. It was designed to engage students in a way that makes learning relevant and fun.


Morning greens: From clean diesel to flying Humvees


For the third time, California was told by a judge to consider giving endangered species protection to the pika. LA Times reports that the tiny mountain-dwelling mammal “is the first animal in the lower 48 states to be considered for endangered listing solely because of climate change.”

The campaign to pass Prop 21 launched its first TV spots yesterday. Prop 21 would add an $18 fee to annual car registrations, then use that extra money to fund state parks, allowing free admission to the public. If you haven’t seen the ads already, watch them at LAist.

In national news: Newer “clean diesel” trucks produce a lot less pollution than trucks of years past, say both trucking companies and the EPA. NY Times reports the announcements come as the Obama administration prepares to debut new proposed efficiency standards for trucks.


Scrapertown is on the scene

Bike culture is alive and well and growing in Oakland, and this video is awesome and hypnotic. All that is true and it's still not getting the lyrics of this song out of my head:

Blue yellow orange with bling. Scraper bikes is on the scene. Yep yep we on the scene.

Song's from a video dedicated to the Original Scraper Bike Team, a group of guys in Oakland who promote bike culture and positive attitudes to get away from gun violence. How do you make a scraper bike? These guys know how.

All respect to Tyrone Stevenson Jr. who makes the rules to be on the team:

"In order to become a member of the Original Scraper Bike Team, you must: Be a resident of Oakland, CA. Be at least 7y/o or older. Retain A 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA), Create your own Scraper Bike…(It Has To Be Amazing, Or Else You Can’t Ride.) A single-file line when riding. After 10 rides The Scraper Bike King and his Captains will decide if your bike is up to standards and if you can follow simple guidelines. After your evaluation we will consider you a member and honor you with an Original Scraper Bike Team Shirt. Only worn when Mobbin’ Stay posted to our website for all upcoming Scraper Bike Rides..." -- The Scraper Bike King


Will Los Angeles get beyond coal by 2020?


Where does Los Angeles get its power? If you’re an LA Department of Water and Power customer, about 40 percent of your power comes from coal.

That’s why Sierra Club’s got a campaign called LA Beyond Coal going. The goal’s simple — to get LA off coal. And getting there sounds like it should be simple too, since L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa said in Jul 2009 that L.A. will eliminate electricity from coal by 2020 — and L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti announced his commitment to getting L.A. off coal earlier this month. But according to David Graham-Caso, Sierra Club’s associate press secretary, environmentalists can’t sit back and relax just yet.

“The L.A. campaign is specifically trying to make sure that the Department of Water and Power actually follows through with Mayor Villaraigosa’s commitment,” David says. “This is a very big city with a bureaucracy to match it. It takes a lot of political will — which of course is another way of saying public will — to get things done. And while this is at its core a simple goal, there’s a lot of complicated policy that goes into fulfilling the commitment. So we need people to stand up and make sure DWP gets a very clear message that people in the city, customers they serve, want to get their power from sustainable sources and not dirty and dangerous coal.”