Green Building Pro

News and Resources for the Green Building Professional since 2007

Big Oil Gag Order Against Newspaper Thwarted by Twitter Users

twitter trafigura scandal trending map

“Trying to suppress information in the age of social media is like trying to put out a forest fire with a garden hose,” Catherine Mayer writes in Time. That seems to be more true than ever, if this latest bizarre case to hit the UK is any indication.

In an aggressive power play, representatives of the oil trader Trafigura, the London-based law firm Carter-Ruck, had obtained a secret injunction in September to prevent the country’s Guardian newspaper from revealing the existence of a report commissioned by Trafigura on an alleged dumping of toxic waste off the Ivory Coast in 2006. The corporate lawyers also tried to block the Guardian from covering a written question about the case that was submitted to Parliament this week by MP Paul Farrelly.

Twitter users began a heated debate about the actions of Trafigura, pushing the company name high into trending topics. Big-time Twitterer Stephen Fry posted there: “Outrageous gagging order. It’s in reference to the Trafigura oil dumping scandal. Grotesque and squalid.” While the buzz built, the Guardian met with Carter-Ruck. Soon the name of the MP and his question were out on Twitter, and Carter-Ruck responded by backing off the injunction.

Stephen Shotnes, a media-law specialist with the London law firm Simons Muirhead & Burton, then told Time, “It’s been enshrined in our law for 300 years that there’s freedom of reporting of parliamentary proceedings. I would like to think that what would have happened is that the Guardian would have trotted off to court today and the injunction would have been lifted anyway. The likely impact of Twitter was to speed up that process.”

This case of mobilizing social media to exert pressure on companies and get the truth out, despite opposition, is one more example of the power of the people, amplified by technology. From Jeff Jarvis’ Dell Hell to outrage over Facebook Beacon, it’s clear that everyone is increasingly under scrutiny, especially big companies and institutions. It’s getting harder and harder to stop news from spreading around the globe — which will hopefully help bring about more transparency and responsibility, and freedom for all.

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Will Low Rolling Resistance Tires Save Enough Gas to Justify Their Cost?

tire rack building and prius

Want to save gas? Well, you could buy a Toyota Prius and get 50 miles per gallon, or you could just swap the tires on your current clunker and get close to five percent better fuel economy. The key is low-rolling-resistance (LRR) tires, which are standard equipment on hybrid and battery electric cars, but rarely make it onto the average cars most of us drive. The Department of Energy says five to 15% of fuel economy is used for overcoming rolling resistance.

Of course, it’s not as simple as just switching tires and saving money. The extra cost of LRRs (some run as high as $170 each) means that you’ll probably come about even in spending. But your greenhouse gas and local pollution emissions will be better, and that’s the main reason people buy cars like the Prius in the first place. Save a gallon of gas, and you also prevent 20 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. The gas savings are secondary.

The Tire Rack, a big direct-response sales company, recently ran seven different LRRs (three from Goodyear, two from Michelin, and also entries from Bridgestone and Yokohama) through track tests on a small fleet of Priuses, using a set of Goodyear Integrity all-season radials as the base comparison. The results were interesting.

The best performer was the Michelin Energy Saver A/S, which delivered 53.8 mpg in a Prius, meaning a 4.74% improvement. The Bridgestone Ecopia EP100 was next, with 53.5 mpg and a 4.12%. On the other hand, both the Michelin HydroEdge with Green X and the Goodyear Assurance ComforTred (terrible name) actually did worse (down .59 and 2.64% respectively) than the control tires.

Company claims do not always jibe with Tire Rack’s findings. Goodyear claims a four percent improvement in highway fuel economy (and 27% less rolling resistance) with its Assurance Fuel Max, the tire that will be on the Chevy Volt, but Tire Rack recorded only a .37% improvement in the testing. A key issue is that the Tire Rack didn’t differentiate between city and highway driving, so that could be one explanation.

Matt Edmonds, a Tire Rack vice president, said in an interview that tiremakers have made major strides in producing eco-tires that perform well under both dry and wet conditions. Asked about noise — a frequent complaint about LRRs — he said, “We did notice that there was more road noise than usual, but we aren’t that familiar with the Toyota Prius so it may have been the car itself.”

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Surfing Big Green Waves

Filed under: Travel and Vacation, Activism, Fitness

C. Lincon/Lucky Cat Photography

Surfers are one of the greenest and most environmentally-active groups of athletes. It probably has something to do with all of the time they spend hanging out in the water, on their self-propelled boards, waiting for waves and contemplating the environment around them. Looking out for sharks really sharpens your awareness of your surroundings!

Surfrider Foundation is the best known of the surfing environmental groups. Their strategic initiatives (yes, these surfers have strategic initiatives, so much for stereotypes) includes clean water, beach access, beach preservation and protecting special places. They celebrated their 25th anniversary this year with several events, including a beach clean-up followed by a concert, sponsored by Barefoot wines.

A lot of people still think of surfing as male sport, but Smart Girls Who Surf would like to remind us that women are awesome on the board, too. They are a small natural skincare company in California that make environmentally friendly sun protection, soaps, lotions and conditioners. They also sponsor an inspiring team of young women surfers, including world-traveler Liz Clark.

Continue reading Surfing Big Green Waves

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Will You Have to Get a Ring Tone for Your Car?


Pedestrian safety advocates and spokespeople for the blind have warned for years that hybrid and electric cars may pose a menace at intersections. That’s because new green cars are so quiet on the road — a boon to sufferers of noise pollution and wildlife everywhere. The fear has been that some people, including children, won’t be able to detect a car coming, although as my article on today’s front page of the New York Times (“Hybrid Cars May Include Fake Vroom for Safety“) points out, there is no information to date to suggest that even a single accident has been caused by this issue.

As the article mentions, some people have argued that we don’t need to worry about quieter cars, since the responsibility ultimately lies with the driver not to hit someone. Even so, there is enough concern that there is legislation pending that could set standards for auto sounds. And as I write this, Fisker is in the process of developing a sound system in the bumper of it’s upcoming (and pricey) plug-in hybrid car, specifically to let others on the road know it’s coming.

There is talk of customizable “car tones,” sort of like cell phone ring tones, that may soon be appearing on future models from various manufacturers. Will this improve safety or annoy everyone like your coworker with the insipid Mexican hat dance rendition on his phone?

Read the Times article.

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