Fall 2011

Newsroom | Catalyst Fall 2011


Big Savings for Big Rigs
UCS analysis shapes new truck standards

On the heels of its agreement with automakers to significantly reduce the environmental impact of passenger vehicles, the Obama administration finalized the first-ever global warming pollution and fuel efficiency standards for new medium- and heavy-duty trucks (e.g., transit buses, big rigs, garbage trucks). These standards, which apply to trucks sold between 2014 and 2018, will spur manufacturers to adopt advanced engine technologies and aerodynamic designs that can cut fuel consumption across the nation’s trucking fleet.

This, in turn, will provide a major boost to the economy by saving truck owners thousands of dollars in fuel costs, reducing shipping costs, creating jobs, and boosting wages. An analysis commissioned by UCS, which we presented to the administration during the rule-making process, projected that standards nearly identical to those ultimately recommended by the administration could lead to a net increase of 40,000 jobs economy-wide in 2020 and nearly 80,000 jobs in 2030.

UCS is now pushing the administration to develop standards that would build on these gains by covering big-rig trailers as well. Our analysis shows that applying existing fuel-saving technology to trailers would improve big rigs’ fuel economy by an additional 10 percent at least. We are also calling on decision makers to begin developing standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks sold in 2019 and beyond.



Farmers Markets: More than Good Food
Our report describes the economic benefits

Market Forces author Jeffrey O'Hara shares his report findings at a press conference in Lansing, MI.

In recent years, thousands of farmers markets have cropped up across the United States, benefiting local farmers, consumers, and economies. But they could be doing even better, according to a UCS report released in August. Market Forces: Creating Jobs through Public Investment in Local and Regional Food Systems  found that diverting even a small amount of existing government subsidies from industrial agriculture to local systems would improve American diets and generate tens of thousands of new jobs.

Consider the fact that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) spent $13.725 billion last year on commodity, crop insurance, and supplemental disaster assistance payments made mostly to large industrial farms, but less than $100 million on support for farmers selling locally. UCS estimates that reauthorizing the USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program budget (which is scheduled to expire in 2012) at a level of $5 million to $25 million could provide support for 100 to 500 new and existing farmers markets each year, creating as many as 13,500 jobs nationally over a five-year period. The report outlines several other policies and incentives that would benefit local farmers and consumers, such as investing in small-scale meat processing or dairy bottling facilities, and allowing low-income consumers to redeem nutrition benefits at more farmers markets.

The day after UCS released Market Forces at a farmers market held in August on the lawn of Michigan’s state capitol, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan mentioned the report in a teleconference kicking off National Farmers Market Week .



Less Power Plant Pollution on Horizon
New rule helps reduce smog and soot

On July 6, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new rule that will help protect the health of millions of Americans who live downwind from power plants in the eastern United States. The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule will significantly reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from these plants that contribute to ozone and fine particulate pollution elsewhere.

The rule, which goes into effect on January 1, will encourage plant owners to adopt a variety of pollution-control strategies that, by 2014, could help reduce SO2 emissions 73 percent below 2005 levels and NOx emissions 54 percent below 2005 levels. It would prevent an estimated 13,000 to 34,000 premature deaths, 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.8 million lost work or school days in 2014 alone. UCS is working to ensure that this and other air quality measures are not delayed or weakened; to learn more, see the article  Climate Change May Be Hazardous to Your Health in this issue.



UCS Proves Scientists Capable of Laughter
And not afraid of a little advocacy

UCS was hard to miss at this year’s Ecological Society of America (ESA) annual meeting, held in August in Austin, TX. Over the course of the week, we hosted and participated in a series of events aimed to show how scientists, including the conference’s 3,500 attendees, can play a vital role in forming public policy.

In addition to leading several scientific sessions devoted to topics such as reducing nitrogen pollution in agriculture and mitigating climate change caused by deforestation, we hosted “Nerd Nite!” for nearly 150 young scientists, using humor to shed light on some serious issues. For example: “cars with drinking problems” (oil dependence) and “cookies that contribute to climate change” (the role of palm oil production in tropical deforestation). And in partnership with the ESA Student Section, we honored five young scientists for their contributions to the field of ecology through community-based projects. 

At the UCS booth, we met students, professors, government officials, and others interested in working together for a healthier environment. Nearly 100 visitors to the booth signed up for our online scientist network   and shared their suggestions for global warming “hot spots”—places where the impacts of climate change are being felt and observed—to add to our Climate Hot Map website .



UCS Enters the Blogosphere
Our experts have their say—so can you

As part of our ongoing effort to create dialogue between the public and scientists and policy experts, UCS launched  The Equation—a blog on “independent science + practical solutions”—in late August.

The Equation delivers updates on our work written by the people doing the work: UCS Climate Scientist Brenda Ekwurzel on the latest research into global warming, Clean Vehicles Research Director Jim Kliesch on what’s new in clean car technology, Food and Environment Senior Analyst Karen Stillerman on insights into how we can transform and modernize the American food system, and many others.

You’ll have the opportunity to not only communicate directly with our bloggers about important issues, but also learn from top subject experts about the best ways to actively engage policy makers, the media, and other organizations. And by subscribing to The Equation via RSS feed you can keep apprised of our work on a regular basis. Join the conversation.



Scientific Integrity a Year-Round Concern
UCS calendar pokes fun, makes a point

This cartoon by Maine resident John Klossner won the online vote for best entry in our 2012 Scientific Integrity Cartoon Calendar. (Click to see full image.)

For each of the last five years, UCS has invited editorial cartoonists to demonstrate the absurdity of political interference in science and earn a spot in our annual Scientific Integrity Cartoon Calendar. This year’s contest, in which nearly 17,000 people voted on the winning cartoon (which appears on the calendar’s cover), was particularly successful thanks to social media; we promoted it through our Facebook page and Twitter account, and our supporters in turn shared it with their networks.

Why a UCS calendar? Because although we successfully helped convince the Obama administration to pledge to “restore science to its rightful place,” and federal agencies are developing and implementing policies designed to protect science and scientists during the policy-making process, attacks on science and science-based laws  have continued.

The cartoons featured in our 2012 calendar bring attention to the many ways in which special interests confuse the public and policy makers about scientific issues, impeding the government’s ability to protect public health, safety, and the environment. Understanding these tactics can help us separate fact from fiction and ensure that our government’s decisions are informed by the best available scientific information. As Milton Berle once said, “Laughter is an instant vacation”—so take an easy vacation now by ordering your 2012 calendar .


A Close Look at Homegrown Energy

Last June, UCS brought members of our Henry Kendall Society to Hull, MA, for a tour of the town’s community-owned wind turbines. (Hull was the first town in the state to install utility-scale turbines.) Jeff Deyette, assistant director of energy research and analysis, spoke to the group about the environmental and economic benefits that renewable energy can provide to local communities.

Members of The Henry Kendall Society play a leadership role in supporting UCS (through gifts of $1,000 or more per year), and have opportunities such as this outing to connect with UCS staff and our work. Learn more about the Henry Kendall Society.