Sunday, April 27, 2008

Grant boosts Maine biorefinery

Sun Journal

By Carol Coultas , Business Writer
Friday, April 25, 2008

AUBURN - A $30 million federal grant brings Maine closer to converting wood waste to fuel and eventually easing consumers' pain at the pump.

The Department of Energy awarded the grant this week to RSE Pulp & Chemical of Old Town and its partners, the University of Maine and American Process Inc. of Atlanta. On deck is Safe Handling Inc., the Rodman Road chemical transporter that opened the first ethanol distribution terminal in Maine in December.

"There's not a lot of local impact in the short term, but long term, this is very exciting for Maine," said Andy Meyer, Safe Handling's chief of sustainability. "The impact is pretty exciting for pulp mills (which can) start processing ethanol from waste pulp."

The university has been perfecting the technology for extracting hemicellulose from pulp waste and converting it to ethanol since 2004. The $30 million boost allows the partners to build a demonstration plant next to the former Georgia Pacific mill in Old Town, now owned by Red Shield Environmental. Total cost for the project is estimated at $90 million.

"This will be a working mill, making tons of pulp and making gallons of ethanol," said Meyer. The idea is once the process is perfected, any Maine pulp mill will be able to convert its waste to ethanol, which can be mixed with conventional gas and used as biofuel.

Meyer said Safe Handling is already distributing corn-based ethanol in Maine, transloading deliveries by rail from the Midwest. But the long-term objective of the bulk transporter has been to distribute wood-based ethanol from Maine's pulp mills.

"This is a giant step toward that goal," he said. The company put $3 million into its terminal so its distribution infrastructure would be ready for wood-derived ethanol.

Michael Bilodeau, director of the Process Development Center in the chemical and biological engineering department at the university, said the partners are getting ready to solicit bids for the construction of the ethanol plant. If all goes smoothly, it will begin producing about 2 million gallons of hemicellulose ethanol annually starting in 2010.

"We expect it will take about 18 months to complete," said Bilodeau of the construction.

Hemicellulose is now burned as a waste byproduct of pulp making. Meyer said converting it to usable energy doesn't require harvesting any additional trees or sacrificing any other natural resources.

The DOE also awarded a $30 million grant to a Kentucky company that is working on a project to convert corn cobs into biofuel, and $25 million to a Tennessee company that is developing a biorefinery for switchgrass and hardwoods.

Gas bargains hard to come by

Portland Press Herald

Mainers find slightly cheaper fuel in New Hampshire and look for decent deals closer to home.

By BETH QUIMBY, Staff Writer

April 25, 2008

With gas prices at $3.34 for a gallon of regular unleaded for club members, five cents cheaper than the statewide average in New Hampshire, waiting in line to gas up is making more sense after the price hikes of the past two weeks. It also explained why half of the vehicles pulling up to the 12 pumps had license plates from Maine, where the state gasoline tax is 7.2 cents higher than New Hampshire.

"I am probably saving $500 to $600 a year," Duncan Carson of Kittery said.

Carson figures he would pay 25 cents more per gallon if he filled his tank in his Maine hometown. So he waits to buy gas until errands take him to New Hamphsire. Buying gas at BJ's saves Carson $9 if he fills up his truck's 36-gallon tank.

Actual savings, however, may depend on timing. On Thursday, the average price of a gallon of regular gas was 9.5 cents lower in New Hampshire, according to AAA. Maine's average was $3.538.

Gassing up in New Hampshire is just one of the ways Mainers are coping with the escalating cost of gasoline. Others are carpooling for the first time, cutting back on errands and, for those who live far from the New Hampshire border, shopping for gasoline bargains closer to home. And bargains are often very short-lived. By Wednesday afternoon, BJ's prices had risen to $3.38 a gallon.

"Life is just a game of chess in this situation here," said James Sippel of Berwick, an attendant at the BJ's station. He said he and his wife have canceled a vacation to New Jersey this summer because of high gasoline prices.

Many Mainers used to long-distance commuting and the joys of unwinding alone in a car are biting the bullet and carpooling for the first time. Sport utility vehicle owner Yvonne Arnheim of Westbrook started carpooling this spring after watching her gasoline bills shoot up to $600 a month. She commutes daily from Westbrook to her sales job at Wentworth by the Sea Hotel in New Castle, N.H.

"It was ridiculous and there are tolls on top of that," Arnheim said.

When another Mainer joined the hotel staff, Arnheim said she jumped at the chance to carpool, which cut her commuting costs in half.

Others keep their eyes peeled for gas wars between nearby gas stations in the hopes that competition will drive down prices.

On Sundays, cars are lined up at the gas stations along Route 1 near the turnpike connector in South Portland. Every Sunday, the Mobil, 7-11 and Irving gas stations all lower their prices by 7 cents. None of the station managers knows exactly why or how the "seven-cent Sundays" came about, but they said they religiously observe it.

"We all try to stay the same," said Pauline McKinney, the manager at the Mobil station.

Drivers also can shop for cheap gas online, at sites such as, which tracks gas prices nationwide and in Canada. On Wednesday, the site said the cheapest gas in Maine was at the Big Apple convenience store and gas station in Sanford, where a gallon of regular was going for $3.43.

The low price draws customers away from the other stations in the area, said manager Jennifer Butler. She surveys her competitors and reports what she finds to C.N. Brown, the South Paris company that owns the store.

C.N. Brown tries to keep prices low in order to hold on to customers, said President Jinger Duryea. C.N. Brown operates the Sanford Big Apple store and 90 other convenience stores and service stations in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Duryea said company stores often wind up selling gasoline at a loss. On Tuesday, she said, the company's stations lost from a half-cent to 5 cents per gallon.

"I don't want to lose my customers. I worked too hard to get them," she said.

Dave Pratt of Shapleigh, who was filling up at the Sanford Big Apple, said knowing that he was buying the cheapest gas in Maine was not much of a consolation as he inspected the final tab on the gas pump after filling up his Toyota.

"Not when it costs me $50 to fill up my tank," Pratt said.

Pratt said he planned to use his motorcycle as much as possible this summer to save on his gas bills.

Which appears to be a wise strategy. By Wednesday afternoon, a gallon of regular unleaded at the Big Apple in Sanford had risen by 6 cents, to $3.49 a gallon.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

Copyright © 2008 Blethen Maine Newspapers

Environmental Cost of Shipping Groceries Around the World

NY Times

April 26, 2008
The Food Chain


Cod caught off Norway is shipped to China to be turned into filets, then shipped back to Norway for sale. Argentine lemons fill supermarket shelves on the Citrus Coast of Spain, as local lemons rot on the ground. Half of Europe’s peas are grown and packaged in Kenya.

In the United States, FreshDirect proclaims kiwi season has expanded to “All year!” now that Italy has become the world’s leading supplier of New Zealand’s national fruit, taking over in the Southern Hemisphere’s winter.

Food has moved around the world since Europeans brought tea from China, but never at the speed or in the amounts it has over the last few years. Consumers in not only the richest nations but, increasingly, the developing world expect food whenever they crave it, with no concession to season or geography.

Increasingly efficient global transport networks make it practical to bring food before it spoils from distant places where labor costs are lower. And the penetration of mega-markets in nations from China to Mexico with supply and distribution chains that gird the globe — like Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco — has accelerated the trend.

But the movable feast comes at a cost: pollution — especially carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas — from transporting the food.

Under longstanding trade agreements, fuel for international freight carried by sea and air is not taxed. Now, many economists, environmental advocates and politicians say it is time to make shippers and shoppers pay for the pollution, through taxes or other measures.

“We’re shifting goods around the world in a way that looks really bizarre,” said Paul Watkiss, an Oxford University economist who wrote a recent European Union report on food imports.

He noted that Britain, for example, imports — and exports — 15,000 tons of waffles a year, and similarly exchanges 20 tons of bottled water with Australia. More important, Mr. Watkiss said, “we are not paying the environmental cost of all that travel.”

Europe is poised to change that. This year the European Commission in Brussels announced that all freight-carrying flights into and out of the European Union would be included in the trading bloc’s emissions-trading program by 2012, meaning permits will have to be purchased for the pollution they generate.

The commission is negotiating with the global shipping organization, the International Maritime Organization, over various alternatives to reduce greenhouse gases. If there is no solution by year’s end, sea freight will also be included in Europe’s emissions-trading program, said Barbara Helferrich, a spokeswoman for the European Commission’s Environment Directorate. “We’re really ready to have everyone reduce — or pay in some way,” she said.

The European Union, the world’s leading food importer, has increased imports 20 percent in the last five years. The value of fresh fruit and vegetables imported by the United States, in second place, nearly doubled from 2000 to 2006.

Under a little-known international treaty called the Convention on International Civil Aviation, signed in Chicago in 1944 to help the fledgling airline industry, fuel for international travel and transport of goods, including food, is exempt from taxes, unlike trucks, cars and buses. There is also no tax on fuel used by ocean freighters.

Proponents say ending these breaks could help ensure that producers and consumers pay the environmental cost of increasingly well-traveled food.

The food and transport industries say the issue is more complicated. The debate has put some companies on the defensive, including Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket chain, known as a vocal promoter of green initiatives.

Some of those companies say that they are working to limit greenhouse gases produced by their businesses but that the question is how to do it. They oppose regulation and new taxes and, partly in an effort to head them off, are advocating consumer education instead.

Tesco, for instance, is introducing a labeling system that will let consumers assess a product’s carbon footprint.

Some foods that travel long distances may actually have an environmental advantage over local products, like flowers grown in the tropics instead of in energy-hungry European greenhouses.

“This may be as radical for environmental consuming as putting a calorie count on the side of packages to help people who want to lose weight,” a spokesman for Tesco, Trevor Datson, said.

Better transportation networks have sharply reduced the time required to ship food abroad. For instance, improved roads in Africa have helped cut the time it takes for goods to go from farms on that continent to stores in Europe to 4 days, compared with 10 days not too many years ago.

And with far cheaper labor costs in African nations, Morocco and Egypt have displaced Spain in just a few seasons as important suppliers of tomatoes and salad greens to central Europe.

“If there’s an opportunity for cheaper production in terms of logistics or supply it will be taken,” said Ed Moorehouse, a consultant to the food industry in London, adding that some of these shifts also create valuable jobs in the developing world.

The economics are compelling. For example, Norwegian cod costs a manufacturer $1.36 a pound to process in Europe, but only 23 cents a pound in Asia.

The ability to transport food cheaply has given rise to new and booming businesses.

“In the past few years there have been new plantations all over the center of Italy,” said Antonio Baglioni, export manager of Apofruit, one of Italy’s largest kiwi exporters.

Kiwis from Sanifrutta, another Italian exporter, travel by sea in refrigerated containers: 18 days to the United States, 28 to South Africa and more than a month to reach New Zealand.

Some studies have calculated that as little as 3 percent of emissions from the food sector are caused by transportation. But Mr. Watkiss, the Oxford economist, said the percentage was growing rapidly. Moreover, imported foods generate more emissions than generally acknowledged because they require layers of packaging and, in the case of perishable food, refrigeration.

Britain, with its short growing season and powerful supermarket chains, imports 95 percent of its fruit and more than half of its vegetables. Food accounts for 25 percent of truck shipments in Britain, according to the British environmental agency, DEFRA.

Mr. Datson of Tesco acknowledged that there were environmental consequences to the increased distances food travels, but he said his company was merely responding to consumer appetites. “The offer and range has been growing because our customers want things like snap peas year round,” Mr. Datson said. “We don’t see our job as consumer choice editing.”

Global supermarket chains like Tesco and Carrefour, spreading throughout Eastern Europe and Asia, cater to a market for convenience foods, like washed lettuce and cut vegetables. They also help expand the reach of global brands.

Pringles potato chips, for example, are now sold in more than 180 countries, though they are manufactured in only a handful of places, said Kay Puryear, a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble, which makes Pringles.

Proponents of taxing transportation fuel say it would end such distortions by changing the economic calculus.

“Food is traveling because transport has become so cheap in a world of globalization,” said Frederic Hague, head of Norway’s environmental group Bellona. “If it was just a matter of processing fish cheaper in China, I’d be happy with it traveling there. The problem is pollution.”

The European Union has led the world in proposals to incorporate environmental costs into the price consumers pay for food.

Switzerland, which does not belong to the E.U., already taxes trucks that cross its borders.

In addition to bringing airlines under its emission-trading program, Brussels is also considering a freight charge specifically tied to the environmental toll from food shipping to shift the current calculus that “transporting freight is cheaper than producing goods locally,” the commission said.

The problem is measuring the emissions. The fact that food travels farther does not necessarily mean more energy is used. Some studies have shown that shipping fresh apples, onions and lamb from New Zealand might produce lower emissions than producing the goods in Europe, where — for example — storing apples for months would require refrigeration.

But those studies were done in New Zealand, and the food travel debate is inevitably intertwined with economic interests.

Last month, Tony Burke, the Australian minister for agriculture, fisheries and forestry, said that carbon footprinting and labeling food miles — the distance food has traveled — was “nothing more than protectionism.”

Shippers have vigorously fought the idea of levying a transportation fuel tax, noting that if some countries repealed those provisions of the Chicago Convention, it would wreak havoc with global trade, creating an uneven patchwork of fuel taxes.

It would also give countries that kept the exemption a huge trade advantage.

Some European retailers hope voluntary green measures like Tesco’s labeling — set to begin later this year — will slow the momentum for new taxes and regulations.

The company will begin testing the labeling system, starting with products like orange juice and laundry detergent.

Customers may be surprised by what they discover.

Box Fresh Organics, a popular British brand, advertises that 85 percent of its vegetables come from the British Midlands. But in winter, in its standard basket, only the potatoes and carrots are from Britain. The grapes are South African, the fennel is from Spain and the squash is Italian.

Today’s retailers could not survive if they failed to offer such variety, Mr. Moorehouse, the British food consultant, said.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “we’ve educated our customers to expect cheap food, that they can go to the market to get whatever they want, whenever they want it. All year. 24/7.”

Daniele Pinto contributed reporting.

Home Brew for the Car, Not the Beer Cup

NY Times

April 27, 2008


WHAT if you could make fuel for your car in your backyard for less than you pay at the pump? Would you?

The first question has driven Floyd S. Butterfield for more than two decades. Mr. Butterfield, 52, is something of a legend for people who make their own ethanol. In 1982, he won a California Department of Food and Agriculture contest for best design of an ethanol still, albeit one that he could not market profitably at the time.

Now he thinks that he can, thanks to his partnership with the Silicon Valley entrepreneur Thomas J. Quinn. The two have started the E-Fuel Corporation, which soon will announce its home ethanol system, the E-Fuel 100 MicroFueler. It will be about as large as a stackable washer-dryer, sell for $9,995 and ship before year-end.

The net cost to consumers could drop by half after government incentives for alternate fuels, like tax credits, are applied.

The MicroFueler will use sugar as its main fuel source, or feedstock, along with a specially packaged time-release yeast the company has developed. Depending on the cost of sugar, plus water and electricity, the company says it could cost as little as a dollar a gallon to make ethanol. In fact, Mr. Quinn sometimes collects left-over alcohol from bars and restaurants in Los Gatos, Calif., where he lives, and turns it into ethanol; the only cost is for the electricity used in processing.

In general, he says, burning a gallon of ethanol made by his system will produce one-eighth the carbon of the same amount of gasoline.

“It’s going to cause havoc in the market and cause great financial stress in the oil industry,” Mr. Quinn boasts.

He may well turn out to be right. But brewing ethanol in the backyard isn’t as easy as barbecuing hamburgers. Distilling large quantities of ethanol typically has required a lot of equipment, says Daniel M. Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. In addition, he says that quality control and efficiency of home brew usually pale compared with those of commercial refineries. “There’s a lot of hurdles you have to overcome. It’s entirely possible that they’ve done it, but skepticism is a virtue,” Mr. Kammen says.

To be sure, Mr. Quinn, 53, has been involved with successful innovations before. For instance, he patented the motion sensor technology used in Nintendo’s wildly popular Wii gaming system.

More to the point, he was the product marketing manager for Alan F. Shugart’s pioneering hard disk drive when the personal computer was shifting from a hobbyists’ niche to a major industry. “I remember people laughing at us and saying what a stupid idea it was to do that disk drive,” Mr. Quinn says.

Mr. Butterfield thinks that the MicroFueler is as much a game changer as the personal computer. He says that working with Mr. Quinn’s microelectronics experts — E-Fuel now employs 15 people — has led to breakthroughs that have cut the energy requirements of making ethanol in half. One such advance is a membrane distiller, which, Mr. Quinn says, uses extremely fine filters to separate water from alcohol at lower heat and in fewer steps than in conventional ethanol refining. Using sugar as a feedstock means that there is virtually no smell, and its water byproduct will be drinkable.

E-Fuel has bold plans: It intends to operate internationally from the start, with production of the MicroFueler in China and Britain as well as the United States. And Mr. Butterfield is already at work on a version for commercial use, as well as systems that will use feedstocks other than sugar.

Ethanol has long had home brewers, and permits are available through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. (You must be a property owner and agree to make your ethanol outdoors.) But there are plenty of reasons to question whether personal fueling systems will become the fuel industry’s version of the personal computer.

For starters, sugar-based ethanol doesn’t look much cheaper than gas. It takes 10 to 14 pounds of sugar to make a gallon of ethanol, and raw sugar sells in the United States for about 20 cents a pound, says Michael E. Salassi, a professor in the department of agricultural economics at Louisiana State University. But Mr. Quinn says that as of January this year, under the North American Free Trade Agreement, he can buy inedible sugar from Mexico for as little as 2.5 cents a pound, which puts the math in his favor. While this type of sugar has not been sold to consumers, E-Fuel says it is developing a distribution network for it.

In addition, it’s illegal in the United States to operate a car on 100 percent ethanol, with exceptions for off-road vehicles like Indy cars and farm equipment. Mr. Quinn has a federal permit to make his own fuel, and believes that if MicroFuelers start popping up like swimming pools, regulators will adapt by certifying pure ethanol for cars.

Despite all the hurdles, Mr. Quinn and Mr. Butterfield may be on to something. There are plenty of consumers who want to reduce their carbon footprint and are willing to make an upfront investment to do it — consider the success of the Prius.

And if oil prices continue to rise, the economics of buying a MicroFueler will become only better and better.

Michael Fitzgerald writes about business, technology and culture. E-mail:

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Businesses discuss energy efficiency

Bangor Daily News

By Anne Ravana
Friday, April 04, 2008

AUGUSTA, Maine - The message was echoed by almost every speaker and pamphlet at the Governor’s Energy Efficiency Summit on Thursday: Investments in energy efficiency will pay off for businesses and the environment.

More than 500 Maine businesspeople, policy advisers, environmentalists and others crowded the Augusta Civic Center for the conference. Held in response to the pressure businesses are feeling from rising fuel costs, the daylong event consisted of speeches and panel presentations on what Maine businesses can do to conserve energy and reduce the amount they spend on heat and electricity.

"We can’t control what OPEC charges for oil, and we can’t control what the utility companies charge for electricity, but we can control, to some extent, how much of those products we use," said Brownie Carson, director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, one of the event sponsors.

Keynote speaker Thomas Casten, chairman of Recycled Energy Development in Westmont, Ill., said businesses need to find ways to capture and reuse the heat and gas often wasted in the process of creating electricity.

"The elephant in the room in terms of efficiency is electricity generation," Casten said. He said that two-thirds of the energy that goes into making electricity is "thrown away."

Several businesses of various sizes shared stories of how they had taken steps to reduce their bills and carbon emissions. Jim Wellehan, president of Lamey-Wellehan Shoes, said he requested an energy audit from the state’s Efficiency Maine program, which involves an expert coming to a business to evaluate the building and appliances and suggest cost-saving measures. Wellehan then changed all appliances and light bulbs to more efficient ones. He also switched his company vehicles to Toyota Prius hybrids, converted the company truck to run on biodiesel and replaced oil heating systems with natural gas or heat pump systems.

Wellehan said the improvements have kept his energy bills flat for three years, and the state estimates his carbon emissions were reduced by 21 percent.

The Efficiency Maine program offers free energy audits to small businesses, and the Finance Authority of Maine announced it will add $1 million to boost an existing Efficiency Maine program operated by the Maine Public Utilities Commission that makes 3 percent interest small-business loans for efficiency investments. The new program will raise the loan limit from $35,000 to $250,000.

Gov. John Baldacci was presented with a new report commissioned by the State Planning Office and written by Muskie School of Public Service professors Charles Colgan and Samuel Merrill, and Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center professor Jonathan Rubin.

The report, titled "Energy Efficiency, Business Competitiveness and Untapped Economic Potential in Maine," estimates that Maine businesses could spend six to eight times more on energy efficiency than they do now and still save $450 million a year in avoided energy costs. Those savings could lead to increased business spending and growth, which could create up to 2,500 new jobs by 2020, Colgan said.

Just before lunch, Albert Colson, a maintenance engineer for Lonza chemical and biotechnology company of Rockland, browsed the vendor booths and said he had attended the conference to learn more about solar heating and how his office building could distribute heat better.

"I’ve learned a few things today," Colson said. "I’m hoping to introduce solar-heated hot water and maybe talk to everyone at work about installing a geothermal pump."


Report: Efficiency key for Maine

Portland Press Herald

Improved energy efficiency would create jobs and save businesses $450 million a year, researchers say.

By TUX TURKEL Staff Writer
April 4, 2008

Maine businesses could save more than $450 million a year in energy costs by adopting cost-effective efficiency measures, according to a report released Thursday by university researchers.

These measures could help create between 1,500 and 2,500 jobs by 2020, the report said, and boost the state's gross domestic product between $170 million and $260 million, depending on energy prices.

The report was prepared for the Governor's Energy Efficiency Summit, which took place Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center. It was compiled by professors at the Muskie School for Public Service at the University of Southern Maine and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine.

Underscoring the rising energy prices and economic stresses being experienced today in Maine, the report said increased energy efficiency is perhaps the single most effective action that businesses could take to be more competitive. That's because Maine's economy is more energy-intensive than economies in the other New England states and that Maine pays more for energy than many other states.

Energy efficiency isn't a new idea for Maine businesses. But the report noted several barriers that stand in the way of making greater progress. Among them, the report said, is that many businesses aren't aware of opportunities to improve efficiency, the costs and benefits of doing so and how to finance the upgrades. Volatile energy prices also have made efficiency appear to be a risky investment.

To overcome these obstacles, the report suggested a comprehensive assessment of the economic potential for energy efficiency in Maine and more money for public-private partnerships, such as the state's Efficiency Maine program, to offer technical assistance.

Raising awareness and suggesting solutions is one of the motivations behind the energy summit. The event featured experts talking about how to carry out and finance efficiency projects in a range of business settings. An exposition staged by vendors displayed available technologies and services.

The report defines efficiency as a measure of output per unit input; a compact fluorescent bulb can produce the same light for less energy than an incandescent bulb. Conservation is defined as decreased energy use, such as installing programmable thermostats that automatically turn down heat at night.

Other strategies include installing new boilers, water heaters and pipe insulation, engineering heat recovery, adding insulation and new windows and upgrading motors and computers.

Energy prices are a national concern, but the report highlighted the added impact on Maine's economy and the case for greater efficiency and conservation in the business community. It noted, for instance, that the commercial and industrial sectors account for half the state's energy use.

And while industry has diversified its energy supply with hydro and biomass, other sectors, notably transportation and commercial, are heavily dependent on petroleum.

In calculating the benefits of efficiency and conservation to the Maine economy, university researchers looked at past studies in Maine, Vermont, Connecticut and Florida and used an economic model to compute the potential.

Staff Writer Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or:

Mainers Urged To Cut Back On Plastic Grocery Bags

April 2, 2008

Chris Rose

AUGUSTA (NEWS CENTER) -- The Maine Legislature, Governor Baldacci, the Department of Environmental Protection and the grocery industry are all supporting an initiative that calls on people to cut their use of plastic bags in half by Earth Day.

A shopper can take home more than a dozen plastic bags everytime he or she goes to the grocery store. Some get recycled and re-used, but many don't.

"Every single cleanup that the DEP does we find these bags strewn on the banks of streams, brooks, we find them on the tops and bottoms of lakes and streams," said DEP Commisioner David Littell.

People in the grocery business say there appears to be growing momentum for reusable bags.

Right now they say about one of every ten shoppers bring their own bags to the store. It's a stretch trying to increase that to five out of every ten in just three weeks.

But that's what some state leaders are calling for in their Earth Day initiative.

"With Earth Day coming up we thought it was a really good benchmark; an opportunity to showcase this issue and what we want is to try and encourage public spiritedness in the family, among individuals to start bringing their own bags if they haven't already," said State Representative Ted Koffman.

No matter what the ratio, the use of reusable bags is expected to increase in the coming years.

States hoping to force action on emissions

Portland Press Herald

Maine is among 18 states taking the EPA to court over its failure to address a greenhouse gas ruling.

From staff and news services
April 3, 2008

Maine and 17 other states are taking the EPA back to court in an effort to force it to take regulatory action regarding greenhouse gas emissions.

The states announced plans to file a petition Wednesday, one year after the Supreme Court rebuked the Bush administration for inaction on global warming. The 5-4 ruling in favor of the states required the Environmental Protection Agency to decide whether to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, from motor vehicles.

The EPA has done nothing, according to the plaintiffs.

"The Bush administration has ignored science, it has ignored policy makers, and now it is ignoring the Supreme Court of the United States. It is sad that the states must once again petition a court to force the EPA to deal with global warming." Maine Attorney General Steve Rowe said.

The petition asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to require the EPA to make a decision based on science within 60 days.

In last year's decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA has the authority to regulate emissions from new cars and trucks under the Clean Air Act, and said the reasons the EPA gave for declining to do so were insufficient.

EPA spokesman Jonathan Shradar said the Supreme Court required the agency to evaluate how it would regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles but set no deadline.

The EPA plans to include the evaluation in a broader look at how to best regulate all greenhouse gas emissions, not just those from vehicles, he said. Otherwise, a mishmash of laws and regulations could emerge rather than the "holistic" approach the administration favors.

"We want to set a good foundation to build a strong climate policy of potential regulation and laws we can work toward and actually see some success," Shradar said.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson said last week that the agency would conduct a public comment period as part of the review.

The plaintiffs in the latest court action are the attorneys general from Maine, Massachusetts, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia, plus representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the cities of New York and Baltimore.

Several environmental organizations also are involved.

The Conservation Law Foundation, a New England group with offices in Brunswick, is a plaintiff. It issued a statement Wednesday saying that emissions from cars and trucks are the largest and fastest-growing source of global warming pollution in New England.

An effort by Maine and other states to set emissions standards for motor vehicles at the state level has been blocked by the EPA, but that also is headed to court.

Staff Writer John Richardson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008 Blethen Maine Newspapers